As I’ve noted at length already, the drama surrounding the continuing leaks of classified information from the U.S. National Security Agency, care of the defector Edward Snowden, has now taken center stage in Germany. Which is not altogether surprising because Germany is such a close partner with the United States in security and other matters, and also because a significant component of the Wikileaks apparat lives in Berlin.
To anyone versed in counterintelligence, specifically the modus operandi of Russian security services, the Snowden Operation* is a classic case of Active Measures, in other words a secret propaganda job. That its ultimate objective is fracturing the Western security and intelligence alliance is made increasing clear in the tone of the reporting coming from the Operation, especially its German mouthpiece, the newsmagazine Der Spiegel. Relying on fronts, cut-outs, “independent” journalists, plus platoons of what Lenin memorably termed Useful Idiots, is just what the Kremlin’s intelligence services do when they want to engage in Active Measures. We’ve been down this road before – in many ways what’s going on now is merely a replay of the operational game from the 1970s based on the CIA defector Phil Agee (KGB covername: PONT), but with broadband access – yet the Snowden Operation is unusually successful and brazen, even by Moscow’s high standards in this regard.
This is also the conclusion of the German security services, based on a new report in the Berlin daily Die Welt. The recent Moscow visit of the leftist Green Party parliamentarian Hans-Christian Ströbele with Snowden caused a global sensation. It was also transparently the work of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). Noting the stage-managed aspect of the photo op, “There is no doubt that this was a room that was prepared by the intelligence service,” concluded a German senior intelligence official, adding that this was “a typical FSB room ” – meaning fully wired. To expand on Die Welt‘s reportage:
The three-hour conversation had been recorded in this room with microphones and video cameras. After analyzing the course of the visit, German security experts came to the conclusion that the FSB completely organized and monitored Ströbele’s visit to Moscow, and effectively used it for its purposes. The goal of the visit had been to rekindle the debate about the NSA spying affair, thus burdening relations between Germany and the United States even more. “This is playing into the hands of Russia,” said the intelligence official, criticizing Ströbele’s action. That the Green Party official allowed himself to be used by Russia for that country’s interests was to be regarded as “borderline,” he explained.
The Snowden Operation is far from over, and more German-related Active Measures are to be expected. That said, it’s somewhat reassuring that, no matter what politicians may say, German intelligence is at least aware of the real game that’s afoot here.
*Until some future Vasili Mitrokhin tells us what Edward Snowden’s actual FSB covername is, I’ll be terming what’s going on the Snowden Operation (Операция Сноудена).