Espionage Files: The Spy Who Went Into the Cold



Kim Philby is without a doubt one of the most notorious traitors in U.S. and British Intelligence History.

Numerous books, films and documentaries have been done about him over the past 3 decades. John Le’ Carre, Robert Littell and numerous other spy authors have based characters on Philby and the notorious “Cambridge 5”.

A BBC Documentary currently on Netflix right now called The Spy Who Went Into the Cold is an in-depth different kind of documentary on Philby that focuses more on the duplicitous nature of the man and how for decades he fooled some of the most well-trained intelligence officers in the world in MI6 and the CIA.

It is a study as much in the duplicity of human nature as it is the nasty business of Espionage.

If you are a Cold War or Intelligence buff, I highly recommend it.

Stay Alert, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!

Espionage Files: Why Computers May Never Replace Human Spies


If legendary British spy-turned-KGB mole Kim Philby was alive to offer arrested U.S. Navy officer Edward Lin advice — regardless of his guilt or innocence — we know what it would be.

Despite repeatedly coming under suspicion, Philby fed British and American secrets to Moscow for three decades before ultimately defecting in 1963. His survival, he told officers of the East German Stasi spy service in 1981, was partly down to organizational ineptitude and his privileged position as a member of Britain’s ruling class.

But it was also, he said, simply down to the fact that when challenged, he always maintained his innocence. Even when confronted with incriminating evidence in his own handwriting, he simply denied having anything to do with it.

“All I had to do really was keep my nerve,” said Philby according to a recording found by the BBC and published this month. “So my advice to you is to tell all your agents that they are never to confess.”

For Taiwanese-American Lieutenant Commander Lin, it may already be too late for that. The United States government remains remarkably tight lipped — for now, it remains unclear whether he is suspected of spying for mainland China or only Taiwan. All that is known for sure is that he faces charges of espionage, attempted espionage and a charge of patronizing a prostitute.

Lin was a member of an elite U.S. Navy reconnaissance aviation unit flying from Hawaii and said to operate some of the most sophisticated equipment and sensitive missions in the Pacific.

Still, in an era which has seen growing emphasis on electronic surveillance and the exploitation of cyberspace, the case acts as a stark reminder that much more old-fashioned human spying has not gone away.

The degree of focus on more sophisticated techniques is hardly a surprise. The information revolution has dramatically transformed how much data can be collected remotely, sometimes without its loss ever being discovered. While governments almost never comment on such activities, few doubt that officials in signals intelligence agencies in the United States, Russia, China, Britain and elsewhere continuously probe each other’s defenses in the hunt for clandestine information and insights.

Experts say intelligence agencies such as those of China and Russia are often now simply looking for sheer volume of information. Beijing, in particular, is able to exert considerable resources to going through it all and pulling signal from noise.

Russian and Chinese spies have been suspected of dropping thumb drives in parking lots used by U.S. military and other personnel in the apparent hope they would be picked up and plugged in out of curiosity. The drives contained malware designed to penetrate sensitive computer systems and find ways of sending classified data back to its creators. (This attack, from 2008, is still seen probably the most serious].

Truly turning an insider, however, can provide something deeper still. At best, they can provide a degree of insight that even the most informed outsider would struggle to match.

If well motivated and imaginative, they can also have the best ideas about what they are best able to steal for maximum effect.

During the 1980s, the Soviet Union ran a number of spies in the United States to remarkable effect. CIA official Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen at the FBI betrayed so many Russians working for the United States that the CIA almost ceased recruiting foreign agents out of fear they could not protect them. From 1965 to 1985, U.S. Navy Chief Warrant Officer John Walker provided Moscow secrets of a variety of submarine and other naval equipment that experts say allowed the Soviet Navy to considerably close the gap.

Such espionage tactics are, of course, as old as time. Some current and former officials, however, say the end of the unipolar era of U.S. global dominance and emerging challenge from Russia and China in particular is putting them back on the table in a way not seen since the Cold War.

The current era of open borders and relatively free travel, of course, makes infiltrating agents across national boundaries easier than ever. Operating without detection, however, is that much harder — as is maintaining false identities. Just like militant groups, spy agencies have found that governments are now much better at using sophisticated technology to join the dots, crack down on and penetrate networks. The multi-person suspected Russian spy ring uncovered by the FBI in 2010, for example, was discovered by U.S. authorities and neutralized before it ever managed any espionage.

Persuading individuals to betray their country is also no easy task. If found guilty, suspected U.S. Navy spy Lin could face the death penalty — even though the United States has not executed anyone for espionage since 1953. Authoritarian states like Russia and China, of course, are even less forgiving.

Governments and militaries remain very much on guard for vulnerabilities among personnel with access to secret information — particularly those with access to classified technology, as appears to have been the case with Lin. One major recruitment tool that security agencies fear is always blackmail — although for that to work, the victim has to be more scared by whatever the blackmailer has over them than they are of the consequences of being caught spying.

In 2015, the U.S. government revealed that hackers — widely suspected of working for the Chinese government — compromised some 20 million records held by the Office for Personnel Management. The records included personal information declared by employees as part of the security clearance process. But as it had already been declared, it is hard to see how it could have been used for blackmail.

In a much more permissive 21st century, many people might also simply be less susceptible to such pressure. “By all means sleep with her,” one former U.S. official said a more senior colleague had told him when he reported the approach by a suspiciously enthusiastic Russian woman. “Just don’t tell her anything.”

The Cold War era Soviet Union, of course, had the advantage of ideology. Many of the foreigners who spied for it — such as the “Cambridge spy ring” that included Philby — were ideologically committed communists. (Philby himself is reputed to have found the realities of living in the USSR in the 1990s somewhat disappointing.)

Pure human greed can also go a long way. It appears to have been the primary motivating factor in persuading both Ames and Walker to spy for the Soviet Union. Their financial good fortune, though, also allowed them to be caught.

It is often a mix of factors. Markus Riechel, a former clerk at Germany’s BND external security service jailed last month for spying for the CIA, was paid for his services. But he said another major motivating factor was frustration and feeling underappreciated. Passing secrets made him feel important. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like that,” he told the court. He was captured shortly after attempting to start delivering documents to the Russians as well. It was a reminder that friendly governments, too, spy on each other.

U.S. officials have not yet revealed whether Lin is believed to have revealed information to Taiwan, China or both.

The latter would probably be more damaging. Whatever the truth, however, the case is likely to deepen the sense of suspicion with which mixed race or nationality personnel and contractors working with the U.S. government and military — particularly Chinese — are already sometimes held.

Like all insider spies, his greatest legacy may be a lingering sense of distrust that itself might make the U.S. government slightly less effective.

Read the Original Article at Reuters

Historical Non-Fiction Book of the Month: Britannia and the Bear


This book was one of the most pleasant surprises I have had in a while. I won this book and another entitled God and Uncle Sam: Religion and America’s Armed Forces in World War II, (which I will be reviewing this summer) in a contest I had forgot I had even entered!

Being a History nut, I subscribe and follow quite a few Online History Magazines, one of them being the British oriented Military History Monthly. By the way, the competitions or giveaways are open to the public, you do not have to be a subscriber to enter. Just look near the top right hand side for the tab titled COMPETITIONS. Sometimes it is a “caption” contest, where they show you a history picture and challenge you to write a funny caption, other times it is simply a prize giveaway like it was in my case.

This book is a literal GOLD MINE for the serious Intelligence buff. It covers a period of time in history that has been ignored and/or forgotten by writers and historians mostly because of the tremendous overshadow cast by the Cold War. Also, a defining characteristic of most Cold War literature was the battle between the KGB and CIA. Britannia and the Bear focuses on a period of time in the early part of the 20th Century when the new-born Soviet Union and it’s fledgling foreign intel apparatus (INO) focused all of it’s energy almost exclusively on Great Britain.

The book goes into great detail on the History of both MI6 (Foreign Intelligence or SIS) and MI5 (Domestic Security Service) during the 12 years discussed (1917 to 1929). At the beginning of the book is a very thorough breakdown of the Heads of Agency of both branches to include the Metropolitan Police (Scotland Yard). Also included is an outstanding Abbreviation and Glossary sections to help guide you through the dizzying array of 3 and 4 letter Acronyms often associated with British and Soviet Government Agencies and Intelligence work in general.

In closing, the one thing that stuck out to me about this book without giving too much away, is the amount of penetration that actually occurred by the Soviets into all areas of British culture. You see, one of the things that makes this book so incredible is that the Soviets during this time in history were not so much trying to STEAL military and state secrets (as they were during the Cold War) as much as they were trying to foment REVOLUTION and subvert British culture into a Communist state. The Soviets penetration into such places as the Metropolitan Police, Large Labor Unions and one of their biggest targets, Large, well established British Universities is well documented. It is because of these penetrations into Universities to include Cambridge, that the the Cambridge Spy Ring (or Cambridge Four as they would come to be known) to include Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Anthony Blunt would become some of the most notorious (and worst) traitors in British Intelligence History. As a interesting sidenote,  a very rare recording of Kim Philby speaking to a group of East German Stasi in 1981 has been found and released on BBC. It is definitely worth a listen.

Whether you are a student of Intelligence History or just like a good TRUE spy yarn, I highly recommend this book!

Stay Alert, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!




Espionage and Cold War Files: Extraordinary Lecture by Legendary Soviet Mole and Spy Kim Philby Emerges


A videotaped lecture by Kim Philby, one of the Cold War’s most recognizable espionage figures, has been unearthed in the archives of the Stasi, the Ministry of State Security of the former East Germany. During the one-hour lecture, filmed in 1981, Philby addresses a select audience of Stasi operations officers and offers them advice on espionage, drawn from his own career. While working as a senior member of British intelligence, Harold Adrian Russell Philby, known as ‘Kim’ to his friends, spied on behalf of the Soviet NKVD and KGB from the early 1930s until 1963, when he secretly defected to the USSR from his home in Beirut, Lebanon. Philby’s defection sent ripples of shock across Western intelligence and is often seen as one of the most dramatic moments of the Cold War.

The videotaped lecture, which was never intended for public consumption, was found recently by the BBC in the archives of the BStU, the Federal Commissioner for Stasi Records in Berlin, Germany. Excerpts can now be viewed publicly for the first time.

The recording begins with an introduction by Markus Wolf, one of the most high-profile intelligence operatives of the Cold War, who was head of East Germany’s Main Directorate for Reconnaissance, the foreign intelligence division of the Stasi. Then Philby takes the stand and for about 15 minutes recounts his recruitment by the Soviet NKVD, the forerunner of the KGB. He tells his audience that the Soviets recruited him despite his extremely young age and joblessness, seeing him as “a long range project”. They did so, he says, because they knew he was part of “the ruling class of the British Empire” and was thus bound to end up in a position of power. His NKVD handler was clear as to his agent’s task, says Philby: his mission was to join the Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, Britain’s external intelligence agency. The young Philby then spent years trying to work his way into the intelligence agency, and did so successfully.

With extreme candidness, Philby proceeds to tell his East German audience about his mission, given to him by his NKVD handler in the late 1940s. It was to unseat Felix Cowgill, his boss in MI6’s Soviet counterespionage division, and take his place. He achieved that, he says, even though Cowgill was a man he “rather liked and admired. It was a very dirty story”, admits Philby, “but after all our work does imply getting dirty hands form time to time, but we do it for a cause that is not dirty in a way”.

Of particular interest to intelligence observers is Philby’s justification of his role in Operation VALUABLE/FIEND, in which the Central Intelligence Agency, in association with MI6 and other Western European intelligence agencies, secretly sent Western-trained Albanian agents into communist-controlled Albania. The agents were tasked with organizing an armed popular revolt against Albania’s communist rulers. But Philby, who had been given the job of overseeing the operation on behalf of MI6, betrayed the entire program to the Soviets, thus ensuring its complete failure. In his lecture, he justifies his betrayal by arguing that it helped prevent World War III. Had VALUABLE/FIEND succeeded, claims Philby, it would have been expanded to Bulgaria, at which point the USSR would have intervened, causing World War III.

Following the end of his prepared remarks, Philby takes a series of questions from his audience, including one about how he managed to “stay ideologically pure” while living in a capitalist society. In responding, the British defector praises his Soviet handler, who looked after his “political as well as physical health”, and advised his audience, which presumably included dozens of Stasi case officers, to do the same. A summary report of the recently unearthed videotape can be read on the BBC’s website, here. There is also an audio podcast on Philby’s lecture, which includes commentary from Professor Christopher Andrew, of Cambridge University, and Hayden B. Peake, most recently curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection.

Read the Original Article at Intel News

You can get more Background on Philby’s Story HERE

There is also an Outstanding book published in 2015 by Ben Macintyre entitled A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal that is well worth a read.


Espionage Files: WW2 British General Bernard Law Montgomery was Best Man at Philby’s Wedding


Things I didn’t know: When St. John Philby got married in India in 1910, his best man was Bernard Law Montgomery.

The Philby marriage of course produced H.A.R. “Kim” Philby, the greatest traitor of the 20th century.

From the same book, Anthony Cave Brown’s biography of Sir Stewart Menzies, I learned the old World War II headquarters for British intelligence stood on or near the land where there was a house in which Milton began writing “Paradise Lost.”

Read the Original Article at Foreign Policy