Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Russian Tip: Radioactive Smuggling In London

On Dec. 7, 2006, US Ambassador Henry Crumpton dined in Paris with Vladimir Putin’s special representative, Anatoly Safonov. Both men had deep experience in the spy game. Crumpton ran the CIA’s operation in Afghanistan in 2001 and Safonov, a former Colonel-General in the KGB, was the deputy director of its successor agency, the FSB in Moscow. What occurred at this extraordinary meeting emerged when Wikileak released a December 26,2006 State Department cable classified “secret.” The cable revealed that the subject of the meeting was the strange death of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian KGB officer, who had died in London two weeks earlier, from exposure to Polonium 210. This was in no way an ordinary death. Polonium 210 is a rare radioactive isotope that can be used to begin the chain reaction in early-stage nuclear bombs.

According to the cable, “Safonov claimed that Russian authorities in London had known about and followed individuals moving radioactive substances into the city, but were told by the British that they were under control before the poisoning took place.” , Safonov was certainly in a position to know that had reported to British intelligence on Nuclear material smuggling. He was the FSB representative on the joint British-Russian counter-terrorism task force, which, among other things, concerned itself with nuclear smuggling.

Presumably, Russian intelligence had a self-serving purpose for passing such information to American intelligence, whether it was true, partly true, or false. For one thing, it was a warning that the Litvinenko affair could prove highly embarrassing to the British, if indeed its intelligence had received a Russian heads-up on radioactive smuggling prior to Litvinenko’s death. If true, it meant that more was involved in the prelude to his death than has been publically disclosed.

It also casts new light on the involvement of Russian intelligence. The most plausible way that Russian intelligence could have been aware of radioactive smuggling activities in London was that it had an informant attempting to follow or penetrate the people involved. Consider the activities in London of Andrei Lugovoi. A former KGB officer, who owned a security business in Moscow, he had become involved with both Litvinenko and billionaire Boris Berezovsky, who was Litvinenko’s chief backer, in late 2005. He had also been contaminated with Polonium 210 more than a month before Litvinenko’s death, which made him a suspect. When I later interviewed him, he told me he had many meeting with both of Litvinenko and Berezovsky in London, and that he had entered into a “joint venture” to sell information about security conditions in Moscow to Berezovsky’s contacts in London. His involvement became such that Berezovsky seated him next to Litvinenko at his gala 60th birthday party in January 2006. Since both Litvinenko and Berezovsky were at that time engaged in a well-publicized campaign to discredit and overthrow Putin, I asked Lugovoi about his own vulnerabilities: Wouldn’t Putin government view his work in London as collaboration with the enemy. He answered that he had no such concern because he acted “patriotically,” kept no secrets, and even handed over items that Litvinenko had given him in London in September 2006 to the authorities in Moscow. When I pressed him further about the extent to which he was sharing information about his year long liaison with Litvinenko and Berezovsky, he did not answer directly but pointed out that he had been allowed to run for, and win, a seat in the Duma in 2007 (which he still holds). The implication was that his contacts with Putin’s enemies in London had the sanction of the Russian authorities, and the FSB. If so, it is likely that whatever information Lugovoi shared about the activities of Litvinenko and Berezovsky would reach Safonov in his role as the FSB’s representative on the Russian-British counter-terrorism task force. Since Russia in 2006 had been trying to extradite both Litvinenko and Berezovsky for alleged crimes, Safonov might also have had reason to tell his British colleagues on the task force about any alleged involvement they had in smuggling radioactive materials (even if it was untrue). Yet, if British intelligence ever received such a tip from Safonov, it has not made it public. Nor could it be expected to reveal it since Britain has been anything but transparent in the Litvinenko case. Indeed, it still keeps secret Litvinenko’s 2006 autopsy results, toxic analysis, and other data that could pinpoint the crucial date of his initial exposure. It is therefore doubtful that many pieces in this murky jigsaw puzzle will ever see the light of day.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


The heart of the espionage business is the theft of secret documents. Up until the computer age, this was usually done either by stealing the documents themselves or copying them,. One of the most massive thefts of top secrets of top secret documents occurred in November 1979 when Iranian students captured the US embassy in Tehran before security officers could destroy the tens of thousands of classified CIA and State Department documents stored there. Even many of those that had been shredded into thin strips were painstakingly pieced together by the Iranian intelligence service. These stolen documents covered a vast range of covert CIA activities over two decades in both friendly and hostile nations, including everything from spying operations in the Soviet Union to the secret CIA and Saudi financing of the Jihad in Afghanistan. They also revealed extremely sensitive US espionage operations against allies including Israel, Turkey, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait as well as juicy gossip about sex lives of politicians. In 1982, to embarrass the United States, the Iranians published a large number of these stolen documents in 54 volumes entitled "Documents From the U.S. Espionage Den." Despite the revelations they provided about the activities of American intelligence, and their ready availability, no major newspaper in the United States, including the New York Times, lent credibility to them by publishing a single document from them. Nor were there any front page news stories about them. Except for the few scholars who ordered the 54 volumes for $248, this huge archive of top secret documents attracted little public notice.

In 2010, another huge archive of secret documents was made available. These classified documents did not accidentally leak onto the Internet through the work of some mischievous Internet hacker. Indeed, they were not even on the Internet. They were intentionally stolen from a private Defense Department network, the so-called “intranet.” The perp allegedly was a 23 year old US Army intelligence analyst named Bradley Manning, who had the clearances necessary to use this private network. If so, the operation was not conceptually different than that of Robert Hanssen, the KGB mole inside the FBI, who, among other things, broke into the private FBI computer network. Both were break-ins aimed at acquiring state secrets, which is, by any definition, espionage. The US Army intelligence analyst allegedly provided the fruits of his theft to an organization called Wiki-leaks, whose founder Julian Assange termed him a “hero.” Wiki-Leaks, in turn, made the fruits of this espionage available to the press, as had the Iranians with their stolen documents. The difference was that Julian Assange, unlike the Iranians, managed to negotiate arrangements with a number of leading news organizations, including the New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and The Guardian in which they would get advance access to the stolen documents in return for not publishing them before a designated date. As a result the Wiki-leaks had simultaneous front page stories in many of the world’s most prestigious publication. Such stories may have had great value to media, and even helped enhance their circulation, but what they were publishing, and lending their credibility to, was not Wiki-leaks but Wiki- Espionage.

Friday, August 6, 2010

When Did Castro Know He Was Targeted For Assassination?

On September 7th 1963, Fidel Castro sent a message to America. Rushing into a diplomatic reception at the Brazilian Embassy in Havana, he pulled aside Daniel Harker, the Associated Press correspondent in Cuba, and told him in front of other journalists, "If US leaders are aiding terrorist plans to eliminate Cuban leaders, they themselves will not be safe. Let Kennedy and his brother Robert take care of themselves since they too can be a victim of an attempt that can cause their deaths." The AP story made headlines in the United states. Just eleven weeks later, President John F, Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas .
Castro’s message did not go unnoticed by James Jesus Angleton at the CIA. As head of its Counterintelligence Staff, he knew that the CIA had a top-secret plans to eliminate Castro. Had Cuban intelligence somehow learned of it?
The plots to kill Castro began in the halcyon days of the Eisenhower Administration. In the summer of 1960, the CIA gave Colonel Sheffield Edwards, the director of its office of security, $150,00 to organize an untraceable assassination of Castro. Working through intermediaries, he subcontracted the job to a group of Mafia figures, including John Roselli, Sam Giancana, and Santo Traficante. The advantage of using the Mafia was that if their assassin was captured, the plot could be plausibly blamed on organized crime. Roselli planned to use a waiter to poison Castro, and had the CIA provide him with botulinus toxin pills. But, as the years dragged on, he was unable to execute the plan. The Kennedy Administration suspected that Roselli was conning the CIA to get immunity from an FBI investigation. So under unrelenting pressure from the Administration, the CIA decided to handle the kill itself. Desmond FitzGerald, the chief of the CIA’s Cuba operation, and a personal friend of the Kennedy brothers, then recruited a 30-year old Cuban named Rolando Cubela Secades. Unlike the Mafia contractors, Cubela had direct access to Castro who was a personal friend of his. He also had experience as an assassin. Before Castro came to power in 1959, Cubela had killed Batista's chief of military intelligence, Blanco Rico, on behalf of Castro. And as an organizer of international support for Castro, Cubela had the freedom to travel. After contacting the CIA, Cubela said he had become disillusioned with Castro and was willing to kill him. So he was fashioned in 1963 into the CIA’s secret instrument to eliminate Castro. Was this the plot Castro was referring to in his outburst?
What really shook Angleton was that Castro had chosen the Brazilian Embassy to deliver the warning. On that very day, September 7th, Cubela was in Brazil was meeting with his CIA case officer Nestor Sanchez to discuss the assassination. Since the CIA’s psychological profile showed that Castro was prone to taunting behavior, Angleton believed it was more than a coincidence that Castro had chosen the Brazilian embassy to warn of an assassination plot that was being formulated that day in Brazil. Then when Angleton reviewed Cubela’s CIA file, his worst fears were confirmed. Not only had Cubela had steadfastly refused to take the CIA’s polygraph examination, but his mistress, who was an airline hostess in France, was working for the Cuban intelligence service. The danger was that Cubela was a "dangle," someone sent by the Cuban intelligence service to feign disloyalty to test the CIA's intention. He sent a memo warning that the Cubela operation was "insecure."
Despite Angleton’s intervention, the assassination mission was not aborted. FitzGerald was under "white heat" from Robert Kennedy to get rid of Castro, and Cubela, secure or insecure, was the CIA’s only candidate for the job. At the September 7th meeting in Brazil, Cubela said that before he murdered Castro he needed proof that Kennedy was personally behind the assassination. He then asked to meet personally with Attorney General Robert Kennedy. Such a meeting was out of the question, but FitzGerald found an alternative way of satisfying Cubela's demand. On October 29th 1963, using the pseudonym "Jim Clark," he met personally with Cubela in Paris, telling him he was a special emissary for Robert Kennedy. To prove he bona fides, he said he would write a conformation "signal" into a speech that President Kennedy was due to give in Miami in mid November. The phase they agreed upon was that the Castro regime was a "small band of conspirators" that needed to be "removed." Then president Kennedy himself delivered those very words in Miami on November 18, 1963 .
The meeting, in which Cubela would be given the murder weapon was scheduled to take place in a hotel room in Paris on November 22nd 1963. In the midst of that meeting, Cubela’s case officer was handed the horrifying news that President Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas. The meeting abruptly ended.
Cubela returned to Cuba and had no further contacts with the CIA. He continued working for the Cuban government and he was not charged with acting as the CIA’s assassin against Castro. In 1966, he was jailed for post-1964 subversion in Cuba, but unlike more than 500 other Cuban officials who were executed for similar subversion, he was granted clemency by Castro. Later, after serving a prison sentence, he was allowed to resettle in Spain, where he died of old age. Cubela’s close associate Carlos Tepedino eventually admitted to the CIA that Cubela "had strong connections with" and was "probably cooperating with" Cuban intelligence. If so, when Castro issued his extraordinary warning in September 1963, he knew that the CIA planning to kill him. He also knew his warning had gone unheeded when Desmond Fitzgerald flew to Paris to meet with in October 1963. And he knew on November 18th 1963 that President Kennedy had provided in his speech the signal to move the assassination plot ahead.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Why Russia Spies On America

Anna Chapman (nee Anna Kushchenko) was a comely Russian agent living on Exchange Place in Manhattan and masquerading as a Wall Street real estate agent. In spytalk, she was an "illegal" because, unlike an agent working under diplomat cover, she had no immunity from arrest. On June 26, 2010, she met with "Roman," an undercover FBI agent, masquerading as an officer of the Russian intelligence service. He then assigned her a task that "illegals" are trained to do: to surreptitiously deliver a bogus passport to a putative Russian secret agent (who was actually another FBI undercover agent.) But instead of carrying out her assignment. she called her control officer in Moscow who instructed her to immediately turn in the fake passport to the nearest police station and report the fake Russian spy. This move effectively ended the cat and mouse game between Moscow Center and FBI counterespionage. When called by the police, the FBI arrested Chapman and 9 other Russian illegal agents, and then, after making a deal with Moscow, released them in Vienna in exchange for 4 Russian prisoners, three of whom had been for allegedly working for the CIA and British intelligence.
While the 10 "illegals" were part of the Russian espionage apparatus in America, they were not spies, at least not in the sense that they stole secrets. Whereas their cover was sufficient for them to blend into American society, rent apartments, join Facebook, and get ordinary jobs , it was far too shallow to withstand the sort of security investigation necessary to get access to classified information. Indeed, if asked, these "illegals" could not even furnish their high school records. But they did not need a deeper cover to perform the courier work done by an "illegal": picking up data from a spy who has penetrated the US government– such as, for example, Aldrich Ames, Harold James Nicholson, Robert Hanssen and Earl Pitts-- and delivering it to a Russian case officer. For this basic mission, the "illegal" needs to be able to surreptitiously service a dead drop, make a so-called "brush pass," or make a delivery– as Anna Chapman was supposed to do with the bogus passport. Unlike a "legal"Russian diplomat in America, who is under 24/7 FBI surveillance, an "illegal," who only may be called upon once every few years to go somewhere, provides a relatively safe means of servicing a mole so long as the FBI is unaware of his or her existence.
In this decade-long case, however, the FBI identified these 10 illegals via a source in Moscow soon after they began arriving in America in the 1990s, and had each of them under full surveillance. The fact that none of them ever led their FBI tails to a mole suggests that Moscow Center was not totally blind to its operation. After all, up until November 2000, the Russian intelligence service had its mole Robert Hanssen strategically placed in FBI counterintelligence. Sp it might have learned from him (or other sources) about the FBI surveillance.
The criminal complaint filed in federal court against these 10 illegals shows just how transparent this spy game had become to both sides. The FBI gratuitously reveals that it had decrypted the Russian code used by Moscow Center to communicate with these illegals. Under most circumstances, security services such as the FBI go to extraordinary lengths to keep secret their sources and methods, especially communication intelligence that allow them to read adversaries' coded messages. Certainly, the FBI would only reveal that it had decrypted the Russian cipher if it had fully established that Russian intelligence already was aware that it had cracked its code and was reading itd messages. But this meant Moscow would likely use it to send messages to an FBI audience. Consider, for example, the mission statement it sent to its agent "Richard Murphy" in the final stages of the game in 2009 and which the FBI duly decrypted. It informed its audience which included the FBI: "You were sent to USA for long-term service trip. Your education, bank accounts, car, house etc. all these serve one goal: fulfill your main mission, i.e. to search and develop ties in policy making circles in US." What made this mission statement exceedingly odd was that the recipient had been operating in America for more than a decade and would not need to be told again at this late date over a compromised channel the nature of his mission. So its purpose may have been to divert the FBI focus away from the possibility that their mission was to service a mole.
Whatever their actual mission, they were part of an ongoing Russian espionage enterprise in America. Though the arrests were largely treated by the media as some bizarre throwback to the Cold War, they show that the Russia intelligence has been expending resources over the past 20 years to install the plumbing necessary to service penetration agents and other sources. This raises the question: Why does Russia continue to spy on America after the end of the Cold War?
The short answer is that the spy war never ended. The CIA still has a division dedicated to recruiting and managing moles inside the Russian government. And the Russian intelligence service, though it may have changed its name from the KGB to the SVI or FSB, continues to recruit its own moles such as Ames and Hanssen at the heart of American intelligence. Nor can either side stop without leaving itself vulnerable to undetected penetrations. The Game of Nations is thus self-perpetuating.

Why The CIA Went Wrong On Iran's Nukes

US intelligence proved disastrously wrong in concluding in 2007 that Iran had ended its quest for nuclear weapons, including, as it stated in a footnote, its "nuclear weapon design and weaponization work and covert uranium conversion-related and uranium enrichment-related work". In reaching this flawed verdict the CIA depended heavily on information supplied by its secret agents in Iran. This raises the question: was the CIA misled by its own spies into believing that the threat of sanctions had worked in ending Iran’s surreptitious effort to obtain nuclear weapons?When US intelligence analysts prepared to write the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) for 2007, they were confronted much the same mountain of evidence that led their predecessors to conclude with high confidence in the 2006 NIE that Iran was secretly engaged in a nuclear weapons program. The CIA still had verified reports that Iran had experimented with Polonium 210, a key ingredient in the trigger of early-generation nuclear bombs. It had documents recovered from a stolen laptop describing Iran’s efforts to fit a warhead in the nose cone of its Shahab 3 missile that would detonate at an altitude of 600 meters, which is too high for anything but a nuclear warhead to be effective. It had a detailed Iranian narrative, written in Farsi, describing how a Russian scientist helped Iran conduct experiments to configuring high-tension electric bridge wire to detonate simultaneously at different points. And according to IAEA experts, the only use for such precise coordination is to detonate a nuclear weapons. It also had found Iranian technical drawings for a 400-meter long tunnel rigged with the kind of precise remote sensors used to measure pressure from a nuclear underground test. They had reports that Iran had most likely acquired a digital copy of a Chinese nuclear warhead design from the A. Q Khan’s network. It had further established that Iran had the blue prints for a high voltage block, called a TBA 480, necessary to assure the proper compression of the nuclear core in the warhead. And it had satellite surveillance of Iran’s crash program at Natanz to build a nuclear enrichment plant– a facility US intelligence estimated could house up to 50,000 high-speed centrifuges.To be sure, taken individually, such suspicious activities might have a non-nuclear explanation. For example, according to Iran, the purpose of its Polonium 210 experiments was merely to find a power source for an Iranian spacecraft (though Iran did not have ant known space program at the time of their Polonium 210 extraction.) But taken together these efforts added up in all the CIA’s estimations prior to 2007 to an inescapable conclusion: Iran was going Nuclear.So what had changed in 2007? One answer is that the CIA was the receipt of new secret intelligence from Iran. It provided convincing evidence that the facilities of the weapons-design program revealed on the stolen laptop, code named Project 111, had been closed down by Iran in 2003. This was confirmed by satellite photographs showing that a buildings involved in it had been bulldozed, communications intercepts revealing that scientists were no longer working at the location, and a high-level defector from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard reporting that "Project 111," had stopped functioning. Since the CIA had revealed it knew about Project 111, and even supplied technical drawings from it to the IAEA, it was not that surprising that the Revolutionary Guard, which runs Iran’s nuclear activities, would shut down a compromised project.The real intelligence issue was how to interpret the closure of Project 111. Had the design work been secretly moved to another location by the Revolutionary Guard to avoid further scrutiny by the CIA and IAEA? Had it been closed because the warhead design had been solved with the acquisition of the digital blueprints of the Chinese nuclear weapon which Iran got from the A.Q. Khan network? Or had the Revolutionary Guard closed it because Iran had abandoned its decade-long quest for a nuclear weapon?Deciphering the intentions behind a Revolutionary Guard action is no easy task in a closed and terrorized society in which the US has no diplomatic relations and little direct access to decision-makers. It therefore had little choice but to rely on the human "assets" in its espionage apparatus to illuminate the intentions behind the shut-down of project 111. Over the years, the CIA had recruited a network of Iranian agents which had, or claimed to have, access to nuclear work. These agents provided reports about Iran's nuclear program that allowed the authors of the 2007 NIE to cite secret evidence in support of the conclusion that "Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been [previously] judging."As a result, in a stunning departure from the previous assessments on Iran by US intelligence, the 2007 NIE declared in its summary: "We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program." Even more astonishingly, It attributed the "halt" to "increasing international scrutiny and pressure resulting from exposure of Iran’s previously undeclared nuclear work" which meant that the threat of sanctions had worked in ending Iran’s surreptitious effort to obtain nuclear weapons.As we now know the Revolutionary Guard, instead of ending its secret nuclear program, was secretly completing new facilities in 2007. For example, at Fordo, 20 miles north of the holy city of Qum, it was reinforcing tunnels leading inside a mountain cavern designed to house a new uranium enrichment plant. (This underground facility was only disclosed by Iran to the IAEA in late 2009.) Clearly, Tehran’s intentions was not to abandon, a nuclear program in which it had invested tens of billions of dollars.What may have misled the CIA was a gaping flaw in its espionage apparatus in Iran after 2004. New York Times reporter James Risen reveals in his book "State of War" that since the CIA had no embassy base in Iran, it relied on state-of-the-art satellite transmissions to communicate with its agents. Then, in 2004, a CIA communications officer made a disastrous mistake. She accidentally included in a satellite transmission to an agent the data that could be used to identify "virtually every spy the CIA had in Iran." The error was compounded, , according to Risen, because the recipient of the transmission turned out to be a double-agent controlled by the Iranian security service. If so, the Iranians knew the identity of all the agents that the CIA had arduously maneuvered into positions of access as well as the technical methods by which the CIA communicated with them after 2004. The CIA's putative agents in Iran would have little choice but to allow the Iranian security service to control all the information they delivered to the CIA. If not, they would be eliminated and replaced. One of the agent who the CIA used for its 2007 NIE was Shahram Amiri. In 2004 and 2005, he had been working at Malek Ashtar University of Technology in Tehran, where research was done for Project 111. He reportedly provided details to the CIA about the termination of Project 111. Of course, to be credible, misinformation is designed so it will check out. And, according to the CIA, it did check out with the information it was receiving from its other sources. So it, and the 2007 NIE, had "high confidence" in its conclusion that Iran had given up on weaponization. In 2009, Amiri agreed to meet a CIA officer in Saudi Arabia. After that rendezvous, he was flown back to America (he now claims against his will.) The CIA, according to the Washington Post, offered to pay him $5 million. Meanwhile, Iran claimed he had been drugged and kidnapped. Then this July, he re-defected back to Tehran via a taxi trip to the Pakistan Embassy in Washington DC. Rejoined with his wife and young son at a press conference, Iran claimed that he had been operating as its double-agent in an espionage game. That he was willing to walk away from the CIA's $5 million bonus and into the waiting arms of Iranian intelligence officers leaves little doubt that the Iranian security service had the ultimate leverage over him. Did they control his secret reports when the CIA was preparing its NIE in 2007? That question no doubt will be hotly debated within the intelligence community for years to come. If Risen is correct that the CIA's sources and methods had been compromised after 2004.But the willful blindness factor should not be underestimated. The most effective deception tells an audience what it wants to hear. Members of the newly-reorganized Nation Intelligence unit who authored the NIE may have wanted to believe that Iran would quit its nuclear weapons program, since it confirm their hope that US sanctions were working.Whether the misleading conclusions in the CIA’s 2007 NIE proceeded from Iranian deception or American self-deception, they were not without consequences. The immediate effect of the 2007 NIE was to undercut the case for taking more drastic action. To the extent that it was believed that Iran had already ended its nuclear program, other countries had little incentive to join in imposing further sanctions. It also provided time for Iran to upgrade its centrifuges and increase its stockpile of lowly-enriched Uranium gas. Indeed, by 2009, it had enough fuel, if it chose to further process it in its centrifuges, for at least one nuclear bomb.The moral of this sad spy story is that the information exchanged in an espionage game cannot be taken for granted. Spies that are viewed "assets" in a closed country can turn out to be a very risky liabilities.***

Willful Blindness

Even as the Cold War was winding down, the KGB succeeded in deeply penetrating US Intelligence. Between 1986 and 1994, it had no less than three moles burrowed deep in the heart of the American apparatus. At the CIA, it had Aldrich Ames. Ames, a counterintelligence officer in the CIA’s Soviet Bloc division, worked in a section called "Counterintelligence Center Analysis Group," which gave him access to the identities of all of the CIA’s sources reporting on Russia. This strategic placement allowed him to pass on these identities to the KGB. At the FBI, the KGB had two well placed moles. In the FBI’s New York bureau which handled the recruitment operations of Russian intelligence officers, it had Earl Edwin Pitts. Since Pitts helped organize FBI’s double agent operations, he had access to operations targeting Russian intelligence officers (including illegals) and the surveillance schedules of Russian and UN diplomats in the New York area. Then, at FBI headquarters in Washington DC, it had Robert Hanssen. Hanssen first had the job of evaluating the bona fides of all Soviet agents providing intelligence to the US, which allowed him to feed back to the KGB the extend to which their double-agents were successful. He then was tasked with tracking down Russian moles (such as himself). This latter job provided him with access not only to FBI files but also those of the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency (since the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover was given the responsibility for all counter-espionage work in the US.)
These three moles-- Ames, Pitts, and Hanssen-- thus provided Russian intelligence with, among other things, the identity of the Russian officials and other sources that US intelligence had recruited over an eight year period. With such information, the KGB could eliminate those who refused to cooperate and control the information provided the CIA by those who did cooperate. It could then tailor the secrets they provided to mislead or manipulate the CIA.
Given the extent that American intelligence was compromised during this period, it is not surprising that a retrospective investigation in the late 1990s by the CIA inspector general found that the CIA had served as a conduit of information controlled by Russian intelligence between 1986 and 1994, a finding first disclosed by Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Tim Weiner in his book Legacy Of Ashes. According to the CIA's inspector general, the disinformation from this KGB-controlled agents actually made its way into of the CIA's highly classified "blue border" reports that the CIA director gives directly to the president, secretary of defense and secretary of state, .
But here is the truly astonishing part of the inspector general's report. At a certain point during this 8 year deception, CIA officers realized that some of the Russian "assets" reporting secrets to them were controlled by the KGB. Yet, these officers did not reveal this development. Instead, they continued to pass on the Russian disinformation and it continued to go into the blue-bordered reports read by the President.
How could these CIA officers in effect tacitly collaborate with the KGB by not exposing its disinformation? The answer may be a form of willful blindness. Intelligence officers develop such a high stake in the integrity of information elicited from their agents that they would cannot cope with the embarrassment of admitting they had been duped.