If you thought it couldn’t get worse than Edward Snowden, you’d be quite wrong. It just did.
It’s happened again. An employee at the National Security Agency, our largest and most powerful intelligence service, has gone off the rails, stealing documents on an unprecedented scale.
When the case of Harold Thomas Martin III, an NSA contractor, broke earlier this month, I explained that the fact the FBI caught him taking classified information home was a bad sign, since it’s often a tell that espionage may be involved. As I stated:
Let me say that, as a former NSA counterintelligence officer, people seldom take classified information home with them just once. There are only two reasons why anybody risks jail by illegally removing secrets from the office. Either you’re seeking to sell them to a foreign intelligence service, or you’re just a weirdo who does that sort of thing for fun.
Martin, who was arrested in late August, was not initially charged with espionage, rather with mishandling classified information, a far less serious crime. An overweight nerd, he gave the impression of being the sort of “weirdo” I described rather than a mole.
Now, however, it’s apparent that the theft of classified information perpetrated by Martin over many years was truly astonishing and unprecedented in scope. This week, Federal prosecutors used the word “breathtaking” to describe what Martin had done and indicated they intend to charge him with crimes under the Espionage Act.
Read the rest at The Observer…
With FBI help, Czech authorities nabbed a Russian wanted for hacking against Americans—is he tied to cyber-attacks on Democrats?
Kremlin cyberespionage against the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign has become a prominent feature of this election year, particularly as we close in on November 8. The torrent of revelations exposed by Wikileaks with its stolen emails in recent weeks about the inner workings of Team Clinton has proved an embarrassment to the Democrats at the worst possible time.
This, of course, is no coincidence. It’s been obvious for years, to anyone acquainted with Russians and counterintelligence, that Wikileaks is a front for the Kremlin. In the past, Julian Assange and his self-styled “privacy organization” tried to obscure its true allegiance, but in 2016 that mask fell. In truth, there is no “Wikileaks,” which is no more than a fence for Western information stolen by Russian spies. What we call Wikileaks is really just the figurehead Assange, a few hangers-on, and the Kremlin’s powerful intelligence agencies.
The Russian hand behind Wikileaks is now so evident that our Intelligence Community recently took the unprecedented step of outing the group as a Kremlin pawn. For four years, Assange has waged Moscow’s online propaganda war against the West from the safety of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he’s been hiding from rape charges in Sweden, with impunity. That’s over now.
Western governments have had enough and are finally getting serious about Wikileaks and its Kremlin ties. This week the Ecuadorian foreign ministry cut off Assange’s internet access—his transparent efforts to meddle in an American presidential race and elect Donald Trump had become too much for his hosts to stomach. That the British bank accounts of RT (formerly Russia Today), Moscow’s government propaganda network, were frozen the same day Assange lost his wifi indicates that Western countries are now working together, fighting back in the SpyWar against Russia.
Read the rest at The Observer…
Sons seeking to exonerate their long-dead parents for their spying for Stalin are resorting to dishonest evasions
On Sunday night, CBS broadcast a moving segment on its 60 Minutes program. Entitled “The Brothers Rosenberg,” the piece delivered a deeply personal account of how the young sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg—the Soviet spies executed in 1953 for passing secrets to Moscow—coped with that terrible event and got on with their shattered lives.
Robert and Michael Meeropol (they took the surname of their adoptive parents), just 6 and 10 years old when their birth parents went to the electric chair, are now old men, and they have campaigned for decades to clear Julius and Ethel, the only people executed by the United States for espionage during the Cold War.
None can deny that their story is chock-filled with pathos. CBS has them explaining how they asked to see the electric chair where their parents were soon to die, then recounting how there wasn’t exactly a long line of volunteers to take in the orphans of traitors back in 1953.
Getting their father off the hook for his service to Stalin, including passing atomic secrets to Moscow that helped the Soviets get “the bomb” years before anybody in Washington thought they would, became all but impossible in the mid-1990s, when the National Security Agency declassified top secret intercepts that made it crystal-clear that Julius Rosenberg was a Soviet spy.
Since then, the Meeropols have focused their attention on clearing their mother instead. Last year they sent an open letter to President Obama, asking him to exonerate Ethel. “Our mother was not a spy,” they stated, demanding that the White House “acknowledge that Ethel Rosenberg was wrongly convicted and executed.”
Read the rest at The Observer …
Cuban intelligence will have a field day in the United States thanks to Obama’s latest outreach to Havana
Normalization of relations with Fidel Castro’s Cuba has been one of the big foreign policy initiatives of Barack Obama’s presidency. During his two terms in the White House, Washington has overturned more than a half-century’s worth of American policies toward the Communist regime in Havana.
Calling that legacy a “failed approach,” Obama’s outreach to Havana, particularly in his second term, has been pronounced, including a visit by the president and the first lady to Cuba. By the time he leaves office in three months, Obama will have substantially re-normalized relations with the Castro regime.
Obama has pressed forward over the opposition of many Cuban-Americans and human rights groups, who note that Washington’s gifts to Havana have not been reciprocated with greater respect for democracy and the rule of law in Cuba, as many had anticipated. In the words of Amnesty International, “Despite increasingly open diplomatic relations, severe restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and movement continued. Thousands of cases of harassment of government critics and arbitrary arrests and detentions were reported.”
Obama seems unperturbed by all this, and today he issued revised guidance for the U.S. Government in its re-normalized dealings with Havana. Presidential Policy Directive 43 is likely to be this president’s last push on Cuban matters, and its call to Congress to drop the Cold War-legacy embargo on the Castro regime seems like to fall on deaf ears.
Most of PDD-43’s guidance won’t impact average Americans, unless they happen to travel to Cuba. Obama has now permitted them to bring back as much Cuban rum and cigars as they like—something Americans were last able to do when Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House.
Read the rest at The Observer …
U.S. President just ignored his Cuban Missile Crisis
Late last week, Vladimir Putin went all-in and executed the brazen geopolitical move of transporting nuclear-capable ballistic missiles to Kaliningrad, the Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea north of Poland that’s surrounded by NATO countries.
As I told you on Friday, the Kremlin’s deployment of Iskander missiles, what NATO calls SS-26s, into Kaliningrad is a direct challenge to the Atlantic Alliance, since it puts all of Poland and the Baltic republics into range for a sudden nuclear strike. An Iskander’s flight time from Kaliningrad to Warsaw is just two minutes, so NATO would functionally have no warning.
In military terms, this is a game-changer for the Baltic region. Politically, it’s deeply destabilizing too. It’s nothing less than a regional version of the Cuban Missile Crisis, with Moscow placing nuclear missiles close to the Western camp for strategic advantage. Why Putin would do this when Obama has just three months left in the White House is the key question—and answering it reveals disturbing truths. As I said on Friday:
This constitutes a direct challenge to Washington by Moscow—and by Vladimir Putin to Barack Obama, personally. The KGB officer in the Kremlin is seeking to get in one last, grand strategic humiliation for our president before he leaves office. And why not? Such reckless antics have worked well for the Russians so far, given Obama’s preference to avert eyes and hope for the best whenever Moscow misbehaves.
The Kremlin’s no longer hiding its actions, even when they are profoundly destabilizing to European security. Knowing that President Obama will do nothing, Moscow is now openly boasting of its Iskander gambit. Stating the move is “no secret” and just part of military drills, Kremlin media isn’t shying away from the story.
Read the rest at The Observer …
The KGB officer in the Kremlin seeks one last, grand strategic humiliation for our president before he leaves office
It’s long been obvious that Vladimir Putin and his inner circle view Barack Obama with utter contempt. To the hard men in Moscow, who got their schooling in the KGB, our diffident, wordy Ivy League lawyer president is a weakling—almost a caricature of everything they despise about the postmodern West.
Here the Kremlin mirrors most Russians, who find Obama a puzzling and contemptible man. This is nothing new. I’ve heard remarkable put-downs of our commander-in-chief for years, going back to 2008, even from the mouths of highly educated Russians. Their comments are invariably earthy, insulting, and nowhere near politically correct.
It’s therefore no surprise that Russians view Obama with contempt—and so does their leader. As our president winds up his second term and prepares to move out of the White House, the Kremlin simply isn’t bothering to hide that contempt any longer, even in high-level diplomacy, where a modicum of tact is expected.
Take Syria, the foreign policy nightmare that hangs darkly over Obama’s legacy. The pathetic attempts of John Kerry, Obama’s sad-sack secretary of state, to assert America’s role in that sordid conflict have been rudely rebuffed by Moscow. The Kremlin has made it indelibly clear that it has no interest in further parley with Washington about Syria: We won, you lost, get over it.
This has now descended into farce, with Russia’s foreign ministry tweeting mocking insults at America’s top diplomat. Like the infamous honey badger, the Kremlin simply doesn’t care one whit what we think. We can at least count our blessings that Secretary Kerry hasn’t dispatched James Taylor to Moscow.
Read the rest at The Observer…
The FBI has a yet another defense contractor in custody on espionage charges—what did he really do?
Six weeks ago in this column I explained that the National Security Agency, our nation’s most secretive spy service, almost certainly remains penetrated by one or more Russian moles. Not only is Edward Snowden hardly the super-spy he’s claimed to be, in truth he’s no more than a patsy whose purpose has been to distract attention from the real Russian intelligence penetrations of NSA.
The idea that the Kremlin has more moles lurking inside NSA made front-page news in August with the public appearance of Top Secret hacking tools apparently stolen from the Agency. Embarrassingly, those were posted online by the mysterious “Shadow Brokers,” which gave every appearance of being yet another front for Moscow and its spy services. How had it obtained such closely guarded secrets?
Today we learned from the Justice Department that, just four days after my column appeared, the FBI executed a search warrant on the residence of Harold Thomas Martin III of Glen Burnie, Maryland, which is an NSA bedroom community. The 51-year-old Martin was employed with Booz Allen Hamilton, the very same big-league defense contractor which employed Edward Snowden at the time of his fleeing Hawaii and subsequent defection to Moscow.
Inside Martin’s residence and his car, the FBI found evidence of criminal activity including possible espionage. The arrest affidavit (which on security grounds never mentions NSA, though that was Martin’s place of employment) spells out what Bureau agents found: information that was classified at the Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information level—including six documents of recent vintage from an unnamed government agency which is certainly NSA.
Read the rest at The Observer….