Tom Diaz

Archive for the ‘Russian Active Measures’ Category

Bar-B-Q GRU Style—Who Was That Colonel Burned Alive for Treason?

In Cronatos Hybamper, Espionage, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Nuclear Weapons and War, Obama, Putin, Russia, Russian Active Measures, Russian Army, Russian Intelligence Operations, War and Rumors of War on December 31, 2016 at 6:11 pm

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Looming over the sergeant’s internal ruminations was the inescapable fact that Minister of Defense and General of the Army Vyacheslav Maximovich Biryukov—recently returned from a secret trip to America—had no patience for mistakes. None. And, like most senior Russian military and security service commanders, the Minister was also clinically paranoid. He often perceived innocent failure as deliberate sabotage, gossip around the samovar as whispering intrigue.

If a room fell silent the instant he entered, he was known to seal the door and call everyone who happened to be in the room into his office, one at a time. His unblinking gaze pinned each to a chair, like a butterfly in a museum of natural history, treated as a prime suspect in a vague crime, the specifics of which only Biryukov knew. He saw no need to explain the offense to his specimens. Each suffered a thorough interrogation, a talent for which had helped make the general’s fame as a junior officer of the GRU, the Russian military intelligence service. Most survived the ordeal. An unlucky few were referred for “further processing” and fell from favor. One or two disappeared and were never seen or heard from again.

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

Well, isn’t this timely?

No sooner do I write a novel in which an alumni of the GRU (Glavnoye razvedyvatel’noye upravleniye) is a prominent character than the “real” news accommodates me. President Obama expels a pot full of GRU officers from the USA!

Long regarded as the understudy of the infamous KGB and its successor services, Russian military intelligence is now front and center in the Moscow-Washington showdown…But on Thursday the GRU suddenly emerged from the shadows when the waning Obama administration imposed sanctions on the four top-ranking GRU officers for their roles hacking the private email correspondence of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief John Podesta. The entire spy agency, along with the FSB, was also sanctioned institutionally.

Michael Weiss, “The GRU: Putin’s No-Longer-So-Secret Weapon,” The Daily Beast.

I am not sure that “understudy” is a word properly applied to the GRU, but Weiss mentions the story of Col. Oleg Penkovsky, who played a key role in preventing war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Penkovsky was “a GRU colonel and… a double agent being jointly run by Britain’s MI6 and the CIA…When Penkovsky’s betrayal was discovered it cost him his life.”

“Cost him his life” may be an understatement. Therein hangs a gruesome tale. Or not, depending on whose version of which story you believe.

A GRU defector who wrote under the pen name of Victor Suvorov described the horrible execution of an unnamed colonel in one of his books, Inside the Aquarium: The Making of a Top Soviet Spy (New York: Macmillan, 1986), pp. 2-3. Supposedly, his class of GRU recruits were shown a film of an anonymous colonel being cremated alive. The black and white silent film was a cautionary lesson in keeping one’s mouth shut.

The fire doors open smoothly to each side, the coffin is given a gentle push and it bears its unknown occupant into the roaring flames. Then the camera gives a close-up of a living person. A face swimming in perspiration. It is probably very hot near the furnace A face is displayed from all sides of what seems an eternity. At last the camera pulls back to show the person full length. He is not in a gown. He is dressed in an expensive black suit, terribly crumpled. His tie is tightly screwed round his neck. The man himself is bound fast with steel wire to a stretcher, and the stretcher has been propped up against the wall so that the man can see the furnace…At last it is the turn of the man bound to the stretcher…I study the man’s face in the hope of finding there signs of madness. It’s easier for madmen in this world. But there are no such signs on that handsome face. It is simply that he doesn’t want to go into the furnace and is trying somehow to make that clear. But what can he do except scream? So he screams…Then his patent leather shoes go into the fire, and that is that.

Some believe that the unfortunate colonel was Penkovsky. Some think it was not. Others think the whole story is fiction.Who am I to judge?

Here is how that every-ready open source Wikipedia sums up the matter.

GRU agent Vladimir Rezun, known for his controversial books under the pseudonym Viktor Suvorov following his defection from the Soviet Union to the United Kingdom, claimed in Aquarium to have been shown a black and white film in which a GRU colonel was bound to a stretcher and cremated alive in a crematorium as a warning to potential traitors and since Penkovsky is the only GRU colonel known to have been executed, Suvorov’s story was taken by many to be an account of Penkovsky’s execution. A similar description of the process was later included in Ernest Volkman’s popular book and Tom Clancy’s novel Red Rabbit. However, Suvorov in an interview in 2010 denied that the man in the film was Penkovsky, and claimed that he had been shot. Greville Wynne in his book ‘The Man from Odessa’ claimed that Penkovsky committed suicide.

There is more grist for the imagination.

One of the 24 episodes of the CNN-BBC documentary Cold War is about the spies on each side. It includes actual footage of Penkovsky’s interrogation and an interview with his interrogator, Alexander Zagvozdin. Here is the relevant excerpt from a brief cut posted on YouTube:

“I know for sure that Penkovsky was shot. I can’t tell you anything else. I know his body was cremated. I don’t know anything more. And I’m not interested.”

There’s a lot of wiggle-room in that answer. Was he shot to death? Or just enough to let him savor the smoke on the way in? And, just by the way, why wouldn’t you be interested?

For a brief and very sober account of Penkovsky’s story, you can find the CIA’s version at “The Capture and Execution of Colonel Penkovsky, 1963.”

[Oh, wait, I guess one should properly write “CIA’s version,” rather than “the CIA’s version,” as the article “the” is tres gauche when applied to either the name or the acronym of the organization. Get it? It’s CIA. Not, the CIA.]

WAIT…THIS PLOT IS TOO CRAZY. WOULD THE RUSSIANS REALLY TRY TO TAMPER WITH AN AMERICAN ELECTION? GET REAL!

In Corruption, Cronatos Hybamper, Ethics in Washington, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Political Satire, politics, Putin, Russia, Russian Active Measures, Russian Intelligence Operations, Transnational crime, Trump on December 21, 2016 at 5:08 pm

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President Roger Wilson Lane was hurtled into his high office by a shocking, tragic twist of fate.

Only hours before the dawn of Inauguration Day, a terrorist’s bomb…murdered the President-elect, his wife, and a fair number of functionaries, auxiliaries, hangers-on, media stars, waitpersons, passersby, and other ordinary innocents…

Blame for the gruesome bombing was officially laid on the Chechnyan splinter of an obscure Islamist extremist organization—the Ansar ibn Muqadimmah—that had hitherto been most active in the Northern Caucasus, on the southwestern periphery of Russia…

Within moments of the official finding’s release to the public, President Alexander Arkadyavitch Gribov was on the phone to President Lane, proposing an immediate alliance to combat the scourge of Ansar ibn Muqadimmah specifically, and more generally “radical Islam,” “Jihadism,” or whatever term with which one might prefer to label the wider threat. Lane…was surprisingly tepid to the proposal.

The Russians had never in their wildest imaginings expected this unenthusiastic reception. Lane’s dawdling demurral threw a serious wrench into the gears of their strategic machinations. They had vigorously if surreptitiously backed [the late President-elect] Del Fuller for the simple reason that they were quite sure that he would be enthusiastic about their plan to carve the world up into two, or perhaps three at most, old-fashioned 19th century-style spheres of influence. A discreet exchange of signals between the Fuller campaign and Gribov’s court confirmed the Russian expectations. To seal the deal, Gribov’s operatives quietly salted a few Swiss numbered accounts among two or three key players in the Fuller campaign menagerie. The fix was firmly in.

 From Cronatos Hybamper—An Extraordinary Incident

By Tom Diaz

Hmm. What the hell was I thinking when I wrote that into my novel months before the 2016 election? I mean,  would the perfidious Russkies really try to fool around with our election? That’s a bit far-fetched, isn’t it?

It’s just a novel. Fiction. Right?

But.

But, then, there are the discussions of “Russian Influence” in the Real News. Not fiction. For example, there’s this story by Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima in The Washington Post on December 16, 2016:

FBI in agreement with CIA that Russia aimed to help Trump win White House

FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. are in agreement with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House, officials disclosed Friday, as President Obama issued a public warning to Moscow that it could face retaliation.

New revelations about Comey’s position could put to rest suggestions by some lawmakers that the CIA and the FBI weren’t on the same page on Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s intentions.

And, then there is this troubling observation from former CIA Acting Director Michael Morell in an interview with The Cipher Brief:

 “…we need to see this for what it is.  It is an attack on our very democracy.  It’s an attack on who we are as a people.   A foreign government messing around in our elections is, I think, an existential threat to our way of life.  To me, and this is to me not an overstatement, this is the political equivalent of 9/11.  It is huge and the fact that it hasn’t gotten more attention from the Obama Administration, Congress, and the mainstream media, is just shocking to me.”

I don’t know. You tell me. Is Cronatos Hybamper ahead of the curve? Are the Russians really attacking our democracy, just like in that novel, that fiction, Cronatos Hybamper?

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