The two sides in the Cold War, finding each other irresistible, ended up in a contrapuntal relationship where, as George Urban put it, ‘they marched in negative step, but in step all the same.’ They had their spies, we had ours. They had their files, we had ours. True, we didn’t have gulags. But what kind of democracy is it that congratulates itself on not having gulags? Never mind the dragnet surveillance, the burglaries, the smearing of reputations, the bugging of public telephone boxes, cafés, hotels, banks, trade unions, private homes, all this legitimised by the thesis that everyone is a potential subversive until proven otherwise – the problem is that the defenders of the realm took on the symptoms of the disease they were meant to cure.– In the essay Stuck on the Flypaper historian and journalist Frances Stonor Saunders goes through the recently released MI5 file on Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm [previously] to explain how the British secret service surveilled and interfered with the lives of British citizens during World War II and the early part of the Cold War.
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.
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.
"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.
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]
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).
Bug Bug Buggy - Electronic bugging devices have been found at offices used by French and German delegations at European Union headquarters in Brussels. I think I can guess where fingers will get pointed....
Despite the FBI's best efforts, the spy only passed public domain information to North Korea In Graham Greene's hilarious "Our Man in Havana", a salesman-unlikely-turned-spy passes vacuum-cleaner blueprints as plans of a nuclear plant to his superiors at MI6. Turns an American of Korean origin has been doing pretty much the same with North Korea and thus cannot be charged with espionage. One can only hope that the current bullish attitude of North Korea is all based on the info passed by this guy (who, BTW, sold it for cash).
You've probably heard of the WWII Navajo "code talkers" who managed to baffle crack Japanese cryptanalysts and were credited with enabling US success at Iwo Jima. Civil engineer, journalist and photographer Philip Johnston was the determined mind behind the "windtalkers". The son of missionaries, Johnston grew up on a Navajo reservation and was one of only a handful of outsiders fluent in the Navajo language. A bit of his background is included this article, and you can read a complete history of his plan, view an archive of photos by Johnston, and see copies of his enlistment application letter to the Marine Corps commandant, as well as a recommendation letter from the Commanding General. (more inside...)
An official Q&A with the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, alludes to some extremely scary/interesting tidbits-- the Office of Strategic Influence is still alive, John Poindexter can do anything he pleases with DARPA, we just might renew nuclear weapons testing. Don't worry, though. Rummy sez: "Anyone who is concerned ought not be. Anyone with any concern ought to be able to sleep well tonight. Nothing terrible is going to happen."
The Art of Espionage. The ongoing tale of the massive spy ring that the U.S. media won't talk about. "The basis of the spy allegations is a 60-page document -- a compilation of field reports by Drug Enforcement Administration agents and other U.S. law enforcement officials."
FBI software cracks encryption wall The FBI is developing software capable of inserting a computer virus onto a suspect’s machine and obtaining encryption keys...
Nazis planned Palestine subversion. British secret intelligence files have been released in London about a German wartime plan for subversion in Palestine. Nazi Gold, secret parachute drops and the Grand Mufti.