An international mobile subscriber identity (IMSI) is a unique number, usually fifteen digits, associated with Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) and Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) network mobile phone users. An IMSI catcher is a device, used by the NSA drone program, the police, criminals, Chinese spammers and spies all around Washington DC and the world to spoof the identity of a GSM cell tower and intercept cellular voice and data communication. They come in all sizes and flavors, from tiny or body-worn professional surveillance devices, to easy to order off the shelf solutions, to Chinese DIY (links in Chinese) and have spawned efforts to retaliate with an IMSI-catcher-catcher. IMSI-catcher technology has become increasingly widespread, with far-reaching constitutional and technical implications.
A Soviet take on Rambo (brief clip; Rutube) is "unique in its violence and anti-Americanism." A Russian point of view on James Bond remarks that "so widespread was the interest in Bond that an official Soviet spy serial ... was released." But the spy novel / miniseries Seventeen Moments of Spring (somewhat digestible in 17 highlights with commentary: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17) is for interesting reasons not a Soviet counterpart to James Bond or Rambo. See also Seventeen Moments fanfic, two pages of jokes about its hero, and how he figures in the present. [more inside]
Philby's boss was Sir Stewart Menzies, who, we are told, "rode to hounds, mixed with royalty, never missed a day at Ascot, drank a great deal, and kept his secrets buttoned up behind a small, fierce mustache. He preferred women to men and horses to both." Menzies was an amateur at a time when his adversaries were professionals. Philby's fellow Soviet spy Donald Maclean was a mess. But since he was a mess with the right accent and background he easily found a home in the British spy service. At one point, Macintyre says, Maclean "got drunk, smashed up the Cairo flat of two secretaries at the U.S. embassy, ripped up their underwear, and hurled a large mirror off the wall, breaking a large bath in two. He was sent home, placed under the care of a Harley Street psychiatrist, and then, amazingly, after a short period of treatment, promoted to head the American desk at the Foreign Office."Kim Philby, the Soviet spy who infiltrated MI6, is the subject of a Malcolm Gladwell article in The New Yorker. Gladwell argues that Philby's story is not about spying but "the hazards of mistrust." He is interviewed on a New Yorker podcast about his article. Gladwell's article is also a review of Ben Macintyre's book on Philby, A Spy Among Friends. Gladwell reviewed Macintyre's previous book, Operation Mincemeat and argued that spy agencies might be more trouble than they're worth.
In a survey performed in 2012, Incapsula found that 49% of the visitors to 1,000 selected sites were human, compared to a growing percentage of "good bots" like search engines, and "bad bots" including hackers, scrapers, spammers and spies of all sorts. Last year, human web visitors accounted for 38.5% of site visitors, with an increased percentage of search engines and other good bots, and similar ratios for the "shady non-human visitors." [more inside]
The only known recording of the Cambridge spy Guy Burgess, made just before he defected to Russia in 1951, has been recovered from FBI files by researchers at City University London. Speaking late at night, and clearly the worse for drink, Burgess describes his meeting with Winston Churchill in September 1938, shortly after the Munich Agreement, and recreates Churchill's side of the story with a number of amusing impressions.
What do you need to be an international CONTROL super spy fighting the forces of KAOS? A Shoe-Phone. A Cone of Silence. A Bulletproof Invisible Wall and a Laser Blazer. Then, and only then, can you Get Smart. [more inside]
"Generation Z will arrive brutalized and atomized by three generations of diminished expectations and dog-eat-dog economic liberalism. Most of them will be so deracinated that they identify with their peers and the global Internet culture more than their great-grandparents' post-Westphalian nation-state. The machineries of the security state may well find them unemployable, their values too alien to assimilate into a model still rooted in the early 20th century. But if you turn the Internet into a panopticon prison and put everyone inside it, where else are you going to be able to recruit the jailers? And how do you ensure their loyalty?" Charlie Stross on the future demographic peril faced by spy agencies.
It doesn't matter whether you hate the spies and believe they are corroding democracy, or if you think they are the noble guardians of the state. In both cases the assumption is that the secret agents know more than we do. But the strange fact is that often when you look into the history of spies what you discover is something very different. It is not the story of men and women who have a better and deeper understanding of the world than we do. In fact in many cases it is the story of weirdos who have created a completely mad version of the world that they then impose on the rest of us.—Bugger: Maybe the Real State Secret Is that Spies Aren't Very Good at Their Jobs and Don't Know Very Much About the World by Adam Curtis. It's about the checkered history of the MI5.
John le Carré on The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Interview recorded for the BBC Proms Literary Festival. Includes actor John Shrapnel reading extracts (SLYT). It's slightly longer than the version which appeared in that night's concert interval and includes audience Q&A as well as pictures.
In the same way that the detective movie is a fantasy about city life, the spy movie is a fantasy about tourism.
Fade Away: music by Vitalic (previously), directed by Romain Chassaing. Multiple assassins try to get their hands on an attaché case, and (briefly) they all succeed. NWS for action-movie gore.
A former top female North Korean spy gives an exclusive interview, saying Kim Jong-un is posturing on the world stage because he is too young and too inexperienced to gain control of the military. [more inside]
"De Villiers has spent most of his life cultivating spies and diplomats, who seem to enjoy seeing themselves and their secrets transfigured into pop fiction (with their own names carefully disguised), and his books regularly contain information about terror plots, espionage and wars that has never appeared elsewhere. Other pop novelists, like John le Carré and Tom Clancy, may flavor their work with a few real-world scenarios and some spy lingo, but de Villiers’s books are ahead of the news and sometimes even ahead of events themselves." (SLNYT)
Whenever a new Bond film is released, the promotional push for it is huge. Sony, which is distributing the movie in many territories, has taken the bull by the horns with this one and commissioned a text adventure game loosely based on the character of James Bond.
"The six CIA officers were sweating. It was almost noon on a June day in the Middle Eastern capital, already in the 90s outside and even hotter inside the black sedan where the five men and one woman sat jammed in together. Sat and waited. They had flown in two days earlier for this mission: to break into the embassy of a South Asian country, steal that country’s secret codes and get out without leaving a trace. During months of planning, they had been assured by the local CIA station that the building would be empty at this hour except for one person—a member of the embassy’s diplomatic staff working secretly for the agency." [The CIA Burglar Who Went Rogue]
Christine Granville was, at least apocryphally, Winston Churchill's favourite spy. Born Maria Krystyna Janina Skarbek, daughter of a charming but dissolute Polish aristocrat and a Jewish banking heiress, she was described in 1939 as "a flaming Polish patriot … expert skier and great adventuress". So she was.
In 1941, the Special Operations Executive forged documents, including passports, in order to help the resistance. Here's the one they made for Adolf Hitler, with a better view of the photos available on this site.
Winston Burdett, one of the original Murrow's Boys, was a reporter for CBS Radio. He covered World War II, the invasion of Norway, the Axis retreat in North Africa (mp3), the invasion of Sicily (mp3), the invasion of Italy (mp3) and the capture of Rome (mp3). But from 1940 - 1942 Winston Burdett was also a spy for the Soviet Union. [more inside]
The mystery of American Raymond A. Davis, currently imprisoned in the custody of local police in Lahore, Pakistan and charged with the Jan. 27 murder of two young men, whom he allegedly shot eight times with pinpoint accuracy through his car windshield, is growing increasingly murky. Also growing is the anger among Pakistanis that the US is trying to spring him from a Punjab jail by claiming diplomatic immunity. from The Deepening Mystery of Raymond Davis and Two Slain Pakistani Motorcyclists [more inside]
Before the CIA, there was the Pond -- a highly secret, unacknowledged, and semi-autonomous intelligence agency created by the US military in 1942 as an alternative to the OSS. According the Associated Press, "The organization counted among its exploits an attempt to negotiate the surrender of Germany with Hermann Goering, one of Adolf Hitler's top military leaders, more than six months before the war ended; an effort to enlist mobster Charles 'Lucky' Luciano in a plot to assassinate Italian dictator Benito Mussolini; identifying the location of the German heavy water plants doing atomic research in Norway; and providing advance information on Russia's first atomic bomb explosion." But the CIA says that its record was "largely one of failure and impermanence."
The US Department of Justice has announced arrests in four states of ten alleged members of a “deep-cover” Russian spy ring whose ultimate goal was apparently to infiltrate U.S. policy-making circles. So much for burger diplomacy? [more inside]
In 1948, when John was five, Guy Burgess came to stay for a holiday. John's mother resented Burgess and his close relationship with her husband, and began staging accidents to claim attention; she once reported being mugged in her car, and on another occasion set fire to the living room, suffering serious burns. She was later sent to a Swiss clinic for treatment. Philby was posted to the United States the following year. The strange life of John Philby, the son of "the most hated man in England", Kim Philby, a member of the notorious Cambridge Five spying ring. (via)
For Graham Greene he was "unquestionably our best thriller writer". John le Carré once called him "the source on which we all draw". With the six novels he wrote in the years leading up to the second world war - five of which have just been reissued by Penguin Modern Classics - Eric Ambler revitalised the British thriller, rescuing the genre from the jingoistic clutches of third-rate imitators of John Buchan, and recasting it in a more realist, nuanced and leftishly intelligent - not to mention exciting - mould. - The writing of Eric Ambler
Interested in Soviet era spying by the KGB in the United States? Bummed that you cant get into the KGB archives? Well it turns out that someone copied all the good stuff already, and you can take a peek. [more inside]
Wired: Obama Sides With Bush in Spy Case. "The Obama administration fell in line with the Bush administration Thursday when it urged a federal judge to set aside a ruling in a closely watched spy case weighing whether a U.S. president may bypass Congress and establish a program of eavesdropping on Americans without warrants."
"Well behaved women rarely make history," said Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. Scandalous Women brings you the lives, loves, and sexual adventures of some of the most fascinating women who rocked the world. Like Olimpia Maidalchini who managed to achieve something that no woman ever has, for the 11 years of her brother-in-law Innocent X's reign as pope, Olimpia was the real power at the Vatican; or Elizabeth Armistead, wife of a cabinet minister, courtesan to many. Read the bios and follow the tales of nearly a hundred women of scandalous pursuit from Mata Hari to Typhoid Mary.
"Once Upon A Time... there were two very special airplanes that lived.... far.... far.... away on a tiny island in the Bering Sea. One was named Rivet Ball and the other was named Rivet Amber. Very few people knew anything about these two planes or the men that flew them. Even family members knew very little. That's because their mission was... TOP SECRET." (some photos and language within are NSFW) [more inside]
"My defection was the major failure of the Russian intelligence, probably in all of history," - Sergei Tretyakov, former colonel in the Russian intelligence service and the subject of Comrade J: by Pete Earley. His claims of Russian turned Canadian politicians, Russian scamming of the UN for millions, and of a Russian duped ranking member of the Clinton Administration have been denied, while legal action has frozen plans to sell Comrade J in Canada.
Two contrasting reviews of Comrade J, here and here.
Two contrasting reviews of Comrade J, here and here.
In October, Vladimir Putin posthumously awarded the Hero of the Russian Federation to George Koval, who, using the code name Delmar, successfully penetrated the Manhattan Project as an agent for the Soviet Union. But, he wasn't the only one. Some think the award is just a disinformation campaign orchestrated by the Russians.
The Mystery of Ales :: a new take on the Alger Hiss problem
There may be some among us who can imagine 20 days in captivity; perhaps a fraction of those can imagine a full year deprived of liberty and most human contact. But 20 years? Downey and Fecteau have consistently sought to downplay their period of imprisonment; and neither has done what arguably too many former CIA officers do these days with far less justification: write a book. Downey has said that such a book would contain "500 blank pages," and Fecteau says the whole experience could be summed up by the word "boring."Extraordinary Fidelity: Two CIA Prisoners in China, 1952–73 [secure link] by Nicholas Dujmovic, a CIA historian and a veteran intelligence analyst. Time article about Downey and Fecteau from 1954.
WANTED: The Limping Lady. The Gestapo's poster read "She is one of the most valuable Allied agents in France and we must find and destroy her" but Virginia Hall, who used a prosthetic limb after losing a leg years before in a hunting accident, eluded them and saved countless Allied lives while working as a spy during WWII. Additional biographical information, as well as the biographies of other famous female spies, at WWII Female Spies (which has many outgoing links to other great informational resources about female spies in WWII).
Richard Tomlinson is a former spy. Jailed under the Official Secrets Act in 1995 for publishing his memoirs, famed for claiming there's a cover up surrounding Princess Diana's death and allegedly leaking a list of active MI6 agents, he is still fuming about his dismissal from the Secret Intelligence Service. So he started a weblog, complete with posts containing sensitive information. The British authorities are displeased.
Global Options, Inc. Have you been unfairly attacked by: the media? trial lawyers? disgruntled workers? terrorists? overzealous federal regulators? competitors? hackers? industrial spies? one-issue activists? extortionists? intellectual property thieves? or even the Russian mafia? Global Options has your back. [warning: radar beeps.]
$110 gets you last 100 calls made by any cellphone. Apparently it is legal.
Why outing Plame mattered. If you wonder what's really at stake behind all the media buzz around the Fitzgerald indictments, read this lengthy and cogent analysis by Stratfor's no-nonsense George Friedman. "Rove and Libby had top security clearances and were senior White House officials. It was their sworn duty, undertaken when they accepted their security clearance, to build a 'bodyguard of lies' -- in Churchill's phrase -- around the truth concerning U.S. intelligence capabilities... The minimal story -- that they talked about Plame with a reporter -- is the end of the matter."
The Secret Intelligence Service, aka MI6, now has its own website. MI5 has had one for a while, and apparently now gets most of its job applications that way.
Where there's smoke there's fire. The AIPAC spy scandal, new developments with foreign lobbies compromising our nation's security, major government officials involving themselves in drug money laundering, military weapons procurement for dangerous nations, penetration of our intelligence agencies and the pentagon by foreign spy agencies. When will the smoke turn to fire?
Espionage and the Orange Revolution -or- How Ukranian spies prevented a crackdown on protestors in Kiev. (NY Times)
Has your local supplier of ninja stars dried up? Want to set your truck up with armor plating, oil slick, and caltrops but not sure where to go? Been wondering where to go to get something to eat the paint off your boss' Benz?
Well then! Brandon Enterprises has got you covered!
Well then! Brandon Enterprises has got you covered!
U.S. Clandestine Radio Equipment catalogs "facts, observations, anecdotes, and stories about clandestine radio equipment as used by the United States." Includes a section on "mystery" equipment.
National Security Letters and John Doe --once only issued against suspected terrorists and spies, NSLs now can be used, thanks to the Patriot Act, against all and any of us. John Doe, the currently gagged owner of a small ISP was targeted for the political speech of his customers and is fighting, along with the ACLU and others. More here (and more inside)
Report on 9/11 Suggests a Role by Saudi Spies If this article in the NY Times is accurate, then The Saudi request that the classified pages be made public, and the Bush refusal to do so, is a cooperative effort to keep the public from knowing the Saudi involvement rather than an attempt to protect intelligence methods etc as had been claimed by Bush. Ot, Bush is right (we won't know) and the Times wrong. Take your choice.
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