Terrorism versus Fake Terrorism, Part II

One of the regular issues this blog tries to shed light on is the shady problem of provocation in counterterrorism. When intelligence services systematically penetrate terrorist groups – which is, bar none, the most effective way to defeat them – things get murky fast, and it can become rather unclear who’s actually doing what, why, and for whom. In that confusion the terrorists usually lose. In some cases, the spies have so many agents inside the terrorist groups that they are functionally in control; this is a morally ambiguous, and sometimes downright nasty, game, but it works a lot better in the long run than using drones (see: Algeria).

Provocation is effective but complicated, not to mention difficult for outside observers to make sense of. The United States has its own experience with this, and the FBI’s highly successful penetration and provocation operations against domestic extremists in the 1960s left a lingering bad taste in the mouths of civil libertarians. The Bureau continues to run informants inside terrorist groups – practically every wannabe jihadist since 9/11 in this country has been stopped well “left of boom” when a secret FBI representative enters the picture – which is unquestionably effective in operational terms but leaves political and ethical questions open. J.M. Berger of the excellent INTELWIRE has explained how good the FBI has gotten at thwarting terrorism domestically through aggressive employment of confidential informants, and that this may raise as many questions as it provides answers. One need not be a dues-paying member of the ACLU to worry where this might lead, not least since when FBI informants go bad, it can be more than a little embarrassing.

Yet this problem exists everywhere, and even societies which worry a lot about civil liberties can get themselves into politically and morally ambiguous situations when provocation comes into the picture. Take Germany, where more than anywhere else in Europe, for obvious reasons of history, right-wing extremism is – shall we say – frowned upon. Since its creation in 1949, the Federal Republic has taken a hard line on groups espousing any affection for the Nazis, and German authorities have banned several fringe parties over the decades when they crossed public redlines (though brownlines seems more apt here). It’s also long been the worst kept secret in Germany that any groups that veer towards Hitlerphilia are surely penetrated by German domestic intelligence, which keeps its eagle-eye on right-wing radicalism.

This can take a vaguely comic turn at times. The National Democratic Party (NPD) is the legal far-right group in the country, though it hardly exists in electoral terms (its performance in federal elections rarely exceeds one percent), but it is an embarrassment to authorities, who periodically try to ban it on the grounds that it engages in neo-Nazism, which is illegal there. A decade ago, the government’s last effort to get the NPD banned failed when the case went to Germany’s highest court, which determined that the NPD’s leadership was so filled with government informants that it was impossible to determine what were the party’s actual views and what were the actions of (many) agents provocateurs. Moves are again afoot to ban the NPD, which unquestionably does have ties to people who think the Nazis were merely misunderstood, but the issue of provocation will doubtless come to the fore again here.

Nevertheless, the German government’s confidence that it has the neo-Nazi problem “under control” (as the spies put it) was badly shaken recently by the revelation that a lone-wolf cell of violent extremists had managed to perpetrate a decade-long wave of terror across Germany. The National Socialist Underground (NSU), as it grandly called itself, consisted of exactly three radicals, two men and a woman, who formed a threesome of a cancerous sort (both the men were named Uwe, conveniently for Beate, the sole female member, who was the intermittent lover of the Uwes) which between 2000 and 2006 murdered nine immigrants – eight Turks and one Greek, whom they mistakenly took to be a Muslim – in random-appearing shootings all over the country. Since the NSU spaced its shootings well, in time and geography, and chose their targets somewhat carefully, they evaded detection for years. They also pulled off some bank robberies, a few small bombings, and killed a cop before they were taken out of business in late 2011; when the authorities finally caught on to them, the Uwes shot themselves while Beate was arrested and is awaiting a very long prison sentence.

The NSU story caused an earthquake in Germany far beyond its direct criminal impact. The press and bien-pensants have expressed horror that such a thing could have happened, despite the fact that Beate and the Uwes were quite moderate serial killers compared to a Ted Bundy or a John Wayne Gacy. For their part, Germany’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies, which were always confident about their handle on this sort of thing and therefore are wearing egg on their faces now, have been in full meltdown mode over the fact that there actually was a small bunch of violent neo-Nazis not under their control.

The recriminations for the cops and spooks have been considerable and embarrassing. Since the NSU were a secretive and malignant triumvirate unto themselves, living off the grid and possessing little contact with established neo-Nazi groups, they were never on the authorities’ radar. To make matters worse, Der Spiegel, Germany’s top newsmagazine, has published a detailed article which establishes that the issue is a good deal worse than it seems, raising awkward questions about the long-term impact of penetration and provocation.

It has never been in doubt that German domestic intelligence (the mouthful Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, BfV for short) has deeply penetrated known neo-Nazi groups for decades, often at the very highest levels. But that, it turns out, may be part of the problem. In 1997, before the NSU ever got off the ground, the German federal police (BKA) issued a secret report elaborating the shortcomings of the infiltration approach to the far right. This detailed assessment painted a disturbing portrait of just how deeply the BfV had penetrated neo-Nazi groups, and how that was actually making the problem worse. BfV agents inside radical groups, some handsomely paid, were egging each other into ever-greater extremism, even violence, while the BfV was protecting its “stars” from unwanted BKA attention. These agents provocateurs were often criminals, and many seemed quite authentically radical, creating what the BKA, which wondered who was really in charge here, called  an “incendiary effect.” Not to mention that some BfV officers seemed awfully cozy with their agents, whom they got to know well, and in some cases bonded with personally. It seemed more than coincidental that certain well-placed radicals seemed to be tipped off about impending police raids. The bottom line, the BKA concluded, was that German domestic intelligence, instead of preventing extremism, was instead actively encouraging it through its extensive use of confidential informants, many of whom acted as agents provocateurs, but whose ultimate loyalty was questionable. Unfortunately, this assessment fell on deaf ears – whether due to interagency rivalry or willful obtuseness is impossible to say – and the BfV’s tricky game has now been exposed in the aftermath of the NSU’s murder spree.

None of this will be new to anyone who is familiar with provocation – the rivalries among agencies, the problems of working with morally dubious people, the need to do bad things to “protect cover,”  plus the perennial doubts about ultimate loyalties. These enduring challenges are a feature, not a bug, of the counterintelligence approach. Yet the NSU scandal has put it all into the German public’s view for the first time, with negative effects. As a counterintelligence officer by background, I have no doubt that agents provocateurs are the most effective weapon against terrorists and extremists. But the German case illustrates why some activities ought to remain secret, since the public cannot be expected to stomach certain things over the weekend paper with a nice breakfast.

ALL IN: The Unraveling of Dave Petraeus

Yesterday saw a remarkable story break: the surprise resignation of CIA Director David H. Petraeus over an extramarital affair. Any day this would have been a biggie, since CIA directors seldom leave the job with so detailed a press release regarding salacious personal (mis)conduct. Not to mention this was just a couple days after the election and a couple days before the director was slated to testify about what exactly his Agency was up to back in September when our ambassador in Benghazi along with three other Americans, two of them CIA contractors, were killed in the line of duty by rampaging mobs of well-armed Libyan radicals.

Plus, this is Dave Petraeus we’re talking about, the best-known American general officer of his generation, heralded nearly universally as the Man of the Hour for pushing a decade now. This was the brainy, can-do soldier who, the story went, through his genius and determination reeducated the U.S. Army in counterinsurgency and then applied the new wonder-doctrine successfully in Iraq, snatching victory-lite from the jaws of defeat. Stars, accolades and glory fell on Petraeus and he became something of the Magic Man for many in and around the seat of power of Washington, DC. Even the increasingly obvious failure of his generalship and ideas in Afghanistan – where so many American projects go to die of late – could not really tarnish his stellar reputation.

There were always dissenters from the official story about Dave: some hard-lefties who saw in Petraeus the embodiment of all they disliked about the military and its impact on American life. Additionally, there were always those in the Department of Defense, in uniform and out, who sensed in Petraeus more than a whiff of hokum. Some who had gotten close to Petraeus Inc., which included a raft of young and hungry officers on the make, sensed the inner emptiness of the whole enterprise, that it was more about PR and bluster than actual accomplishment. Whispers abounded that only in an institution as intellectually bereft as today’s Army could someone like Petraeus seem like a genius. Still, none of it really mattered, and after expressing that politics (the vice-presidency, just to start) did not interest him, Petraeus retired from the Army and took over the CIA in September 2011 and Dave’s greatness moved ever forward.

Then came Paula.

For those who are professing shock that an affair happened here, I must hasten to add that the, ahem, exceptionally close relationship between Petraeus and his biographer-mentee-number one fan-running buddy, who also happened to be younger, chesty, super-fit, and fawning all over the guy at every opportunity, was something of an open secret in certain DC circles. I heard about it a couple years ago, and I have no claim to be the most networked guy on the planet. Besides, Paula’s hot-schoolgirlish repartee about her subject-mentor-boyfriend on camera was more than a little revealing. When you title your laughably hagiographic book about the guy ALL IN, you ought to expect questions. Now that weird letter to the New York Times agony-aunt, by one very unhappily cuckolded husband, takes on new significance.

So the CIA director gets caught having some sort of long-term affair – they first met in 2006; when the naked pushups began is not officially known – with a woman not his wife. Reporting to date indicates that the FBI got wind of shenanigans through an investigation of an IT compromise unrelated to where, and with whom, the director had been having extracurricular fun. (That Paula may have had stalkerish tendencies perhaps did not help her paramour here.) Surely such conduct is unbecoming by such an esteemed personage, but Petraeus would hardly be the first Big Person in the Intelligence Community to have found the burdens of marriage so heavy that he required some help to carry the load – as a former counterintelligence guy off the top I know of a half-dozen similar cases – yet Petraeus’s resignation is unique.

We are hearing from journalists who suddenly profess intricate knowledge of personnel security policy about how people with TS/SCI access have their clearances pulled over infidelity … yeah, right. Only when it’s with a suspect foreigner or there are other “issues” involved. And Mrs. Broadwell is quite American and a major in the Army Reserve, with clearances of some kind, surely. Notions that Petraeus could be compromised by a foreign intelligence service due to his zipper problems (I can see it now: the GRU illegal living as an insurance adjuster in Falls Church starts jogging with him and one day blurts out: “Meester Dave, I hear you are liking ze Paula very much, yes?”) are mostly fantasy. So, what gives?

Perhaps that FBI investigation dug up more, and worse, than we’re hearing about – and, since Petraeus has fallen on his sword and closed the door on l’affaire Paula officially, we’ll never get the full story. As a counterintelligence guy I always think there’s more to the story, and that’s often, but not always, the case. Additionally, the perfect timing of Dave’s relieving himself is so terribly convenient for the Obama administration vis-a-vis the election and Benghazi that something almost has to be up. A great deal of speculation is out there, but I wonder if we’ll ever get that story fleshed out either.

We’re being assured by Dave’s legions of fanboys and fangirls, in their current state of shock, that he will be back. Like MacArthur – another supremely self-regarding yet only intermittently successful general who fostered a remarkable personality cult with the public – he shall return. Perhaps. Time will tell, as it always does.

For now, we can begin the process of evaluating Petraeus with a bit more balance and dispassion: less worship, more analysis. The dissenters from the myth, who were always there, may now get a seat at the table in discussions of the putatively great man and his legacy. Once their current schadenfreude wears off they will have helpful contributions to make to writing the history of the Petraeus era. There were always contrary indications in the Petraeus story – the obsession with fitness, the aloofness, the slightly weird personal requirements – which will now get incorporated into the narrative, along with Paula.

David Petraeus deserves the nation’s gratitude for his leadership during the darkest years in Iraq, where he deserves credit for trying to fix a wicked problem. His solutions were flawed, but they were at least a serious effort to mend something very broken. His drive and determination were never in doubt and ought to serve as a model to our military, even if some of his other choices seem less inspired.

The only people in this suddenly rather sordid story who need sympathy are Mrs. Petraeus, Mr. Broadwell, and their children.

UPDATE (1455 EST): The FBI’s involvement in this case began with threats by Paula towards another, yet unnamed, third woman, which scared the woman so badly that she asked for help from law enforcement. Stay classy, Paula. We need Lifetime to get working on a script. We have now officially left the espionage realm and have entered the Roissysphere.

UPDATE (1030, 12 Nov): The third woman is Jill Kelley, a FL socialite/hanger-on at MacDill AFB (ie CENTCOM HQ, where she met GEN Dave a few years back). While there is no indication of any sexual relationship between Petraeus and this third woman, this did not stop Paula from sending Jill nastygrams (“I know what you did”, “stay away from my man”) which caused her to go to the FBI. Jill, who like Paula is married to a physician, is of Lebanese background, looks like she walked off the set of The Real Housewives of Tampa, and is laying low right now.

Uncovering Iran’s Espionage-Terror Apparatus in the Balkans

As the Western world moves inexorably closer to a full-blown crisis with Iran over its nuclear program – and make no mistake, whether or not bombs get dropped, we (by which I mean NATO as well as the U.S. and Israel) are in a major league crisis with Tehran – the issue of malign Iranian influence in the West continues to rise in importance.

Tehran has not exactly helped itself by engaging in bizarre behavior like using a used car salesman to plot acts of terror in the United States, but Iran lacks a well developed infrastructure for espionage and terrorism in America, and much the same is true in many Western countries. A couple months back Canada shut the Iranian embassy in Ottawa, since its diplomats spies had brazenly surveilled and harassed Iranian emigres and regime opponents in Canada for years. Even in Germany, where Iranian spies used to be thick on the ground, their presence is less than it used to be due to excessively public and nasty misdeeds by Iranian operatives, like gunning down regime opponents in Tony Montana style. Western Europe isn’t quite the benign operating environment for Tehran’s spies that it once was, unlike the Middle East, and even Turkey, where Iranian operatives are notably active.

The one place in Europe where Iranian spies are not hard to find, and they have a relatively free hand, is the Balkans, especially Bosnia, where Tehran’s spooks have a second home, amounting to a reasonably secure operating base close to the heart of Europe. This has taken on new urgency given Iran’s apparent involvement in July’s terrorist bombing in Burgas, in nearby Bulgaria, which killed five Israeli tourists. In recent months, the U.S. government and its allies have put pressure on the Bosnian government to cut some of the too-cozy ties between Sarajevo and Iranian intelligence, and three months ago Western ambassadors read Bosnia’s security minister the riot act about ridding the country of its substantial Iranian spy network.

There’s a lot of excavation to be done, since Iran’s spy network in that country has deep roots, being over twenty years old, dating to even before Bosnia and Hercegovina (BiH) declared independence from ailing Yugoslavia. As I’ve written about previously in detail, beginning in 1990, Iran cultivated a tight clandestine relationship with the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), the dominant political faction among Bosnian Muslims. For years, Tehran lavished men, money, and guns on the SDA and established a deep and wide agent network that penetrated Bosnia’s security services, military, and political cliques. Beginning in 1995, when NATO came to BiH to enact the Dayton Peace Accords which ended the country’s terrible three-year war, U.S. pressure caused Iran to whittle down its espionage operations in Bosnia, which included robust ties to mujahidin groups affiliated with Al-Qa’ida, but it never shut them down altogether.

Just how much of that espionage-terror network remains in BiH today has been laid bare by an exclusive report in Slobodna Bosna, the country’s leading investigative newsmagazine. Entitled “Iranians’ Secret Diplomatic Offensive in Bosnia,” and clearly based on a lot of leaked intelligence reports, this is the most detailed description yet of what Tehran’s clandestine activities in BiH actually are, and what they mean for European security.

Iran’s outsized embassy in Sarajevo hosts a lot of Iranian spies, most of them serving under diplomatic cover, but there are plenty more operatives across Bosnia working for Iranian and Islamic NGOs. Although the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS or VEVAK in Farsi) has a station inside Iran’s embassy which is headed by Abolghassem Rafie Parhizkar, VEVAK is largely dependent on operatives who come to BiH, short-term, from Vienna, which is the main VEVAK base in East Central Europe.

Far more active in Bosnia is the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC or Pasdaran), which has a much bigger and more active footprint in BiH than VEVAK, Tehran’s conventional spy organization. The Pasdaran chief in the country, according to Slobodna Bosna, is Hamzeh Doolabi, and his deputy is Jadidi Afsaneh, while the report identifies as other senior IRGC officers Shir Del Ali Asghar, Ali Akbar Dadrasi Iranji, and Abouyasani Ramezanali, who work under cover at the Iranian embassy. Given the IRGC’s active involvement in terrorism in many countries since 1979, this large presence must be assessed a serious concern.

In addition to a busy Iranian Cultural Center, a longtime front for Iranian espionage in the country, Bosnia has a plethora of Iranian-financed NGOs, many of which seem to have only modest official duties, and the report names several of these organizations and the suspected Iranian intelligence operatives in them:

Ibn-Sina Scientific Research Institute (Soleimani Amiri Mohammed Bagher, recently the institute’s director, his deputy Abassi Valadi Mohammad Hossein, director’s advisor Abedpour Saeid)

Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (TV director Ramin Mansouri)

Mullah Sadra Foundation (director Shaykh Akbar Eydi)

Persian-Bosnian College (PBC head Mohamed Jafer Zarean).

Observing that there are many Iranian businesses operating in BiH, the report explains that Mellat Bank, an Iranian financial institution under UN sanctions due to its role in suspected nuclear activities, previously attempted to open a branch in Sarajevo, but was blocked by authorities. Last year Star Commercial Company, an Iranian firm located in the Sarajevo neighborhood of Hrasno, opened its doors as a management consulting shop, but Slobodna Bosna states that it appears to be a front company designed to give Iran illicit access to European markets. Another cause for concern are the hundreds of Bosnian citizens annually who are sponsored for travel to Iran and other Islamic countries, often for religious educational purposes, all arranged and paid for by Iranian intelligence.

The report names as a key figure in the Iranian spy network Fikret Muslimovic, who is roughly the gray eminence of the extremist underworld in BiH. His biography is one of the strangest in the annals of recent jihad. A career counterintelligence officer in the Yugoslav Communist military, who made his career rooting Islamic extremists out of the army, when Yugoslavia collapsed Muslimovic underwent a conversion as total as it was sudden. He quickly became the SDA’s top intelligence official, noted for his fanatical newfound faith, and during the 1990s he was responsible for handling Sarajevo’s relationships with Al-Qa’ida and Tehran. Slobodna Bosna‘s report makes clear that Muslimovic, who ostensibly retired from his day job over a decade ago, maintains his tight relationship with Iranian spies, and he meets with them regularly.

Recent developments in this story ought to cause deep concern across Europe. The report notes that in the first half of 2012, Sarajevo approved visas for 200 new Iranian businessmen to enter the country, many of whom are suspected of having ties to VEVAK or Pasdaran. Additionally, Iranian spies (the report names Hamid Roughani and Sohrab Jadidi, who are ostensibly cultural workers) have visited the mujahidin community at Gornja Maoca, which has been linked to several terrorists and terrorist attacks in recent years, including Mevlid Jasarevic, the young man who shot up the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo in October 2011.  Pasdaran has established ties with Nusret Imamovic, who resides at Gornja Maoca and can be considered the de facto emir of violent extremism in Bosnia today.

Of perhaps greatest concern, Slobodna Bosna reports that, among the many suspicious Iranians who have entered Bosnia in recent months are several senior intelligence operatives who have perpetrated acts of terrorism abroad. One of them, whom the report does not name, is known to have recently been in India, Georgia, and Thailand – the exact countries where, over the past year, Pasdaran operatives have plotted attacks on Israeli targets. Bosnian security officials are preparing for the worst, with good cause

Doesn’t anybody just die?

One of the themes of this blog is the notion that there are mysteries out there which can be tough to solve since the perpetrators of the crime wanted it all to be murky. Unraveling the story, getting to the truth, can be difficult and sometimes impossible. Good spies and saboteurs cover their tracks well.

This past week has seen a couple big stories hit the international media – sadly yet typically with too little reflection in the U.S. press, which is presently caught up in presidential polling – which ought to raise some high-level questions about what’s really been going on in a couple major NATO allies.

Poland, where political life remains uneasy since the tragic death of pretty much the whole government in a plane crash in Russia in April 2010, got another taste of unpleasantness this week when the Smolensk disaster reappeared on the front pages. Rzeczpospolita – one of the country’s leading dailies, not the Polish equivalent of The National Enquirer – caused an uproar when it reported that investigators had found explosive residue on several parts of the doomed Tu-154 which crashed, killing 96, including President Lech Kaczynski along with dozens of top politicians and the country’s entire military and security leadership. The late president’s twin brother Jaroslaw, who has always insisted that the tragedy was no accident, jumped on the story to demand a real investigation.

Then, almost immediately, the Polish military prosecutor’s office which is charged with the investigation denounced the report and stated that no explosive residue had been found. In response, Rzeczpospolita backed off its account a bit, yet not entirely, without explaining its sourcing for the bombshell reportage. This, like so much else about the Smolensk disaster, seems fated to remain mysterious for a long time, perhaps forever.

While there has never been much evidence to back up the claims of those who feel something is missing from the official account of the crash, most of whom come from Poland’s congentially Russophobic right wing, it is abundantly clear that Warsaw and the government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk have mishandled important aspects of the tragedy. The Russians, as is their wont, have played games with handing over wreckage and evidence, neither Moscow nor Warsaw has been as transparent about the investigation as many Poles would like given the extent of the tragedy, and most embarrassingly several bodies of victims have been misidentified and require reburial. This weekend Ryszard Kaczorowski, the last president in exile, who handed over the presidency to Poland’s new and freely elected government in 1990, was buried in Warsaw, after it was revealed that his family had been given the wrong body.

Not to mention some of the strangeness surrounding certain aspects of the case, by no means all of which can be dismissed as fringe obsessions. Last week a Polish flight engineer who had flown into Smolensk shortly before the doomed Tu-154 and had provided key evidence in the case, not all of it apparently in accordance with the official story, was found dead in Warsaw, in what authorities said appeared to be a suicide. In January, a colonel from the military prosecutor’s staff, who defended his office’s account of the disaster, at the conclusion of a press conference on the matter promptly shot himself in the head more or less on camera (amazingly he survived).

One need not be a hardcore conspiracist to find this all a tad strange. Small wonder that the Tusk government, which had been doing well with the public until recently, is tanking in the polls, and suddenly the government looks unstable. Few Poles seem to have much confidence that the full story of the Smolensk disaster will come to light anytime soon, and it’s difficult to counter their skepticism. Instead, Poland likely faces an enduring mystery about a profound national tragedy, something which bodes ill for the country’s political health.

Much the same can be said of Turkey, where a big story has broken about a similar sort of presidential mystery, one which is perhaps less traumatic but every bit as mysterious as the Smolensk saga. Authorities recently exhumed the body of Turgut Özal, the country’s president who died in office in 1993 under less than clear circumstances. Best remembered as a reformer who brought an end to military rule and set the stage for the country’s remarkable economic growth over the last couple decades, he was reported to have died of heart failure, and Özal, who was not exactly svelte, did have a history of heart problems. Yet he had also been the victim of a failed assassination attempt in 1988 by shadowy right wing plotters, he had a host of enemies not all of whom were above murder, and his ostensibly natural death five years later led to a seriously botched job by Ankara: no proper autopsy, lost blood samples, and his family’s insistence that the president had been poisoned.

Hence the effort, nineteen years later, to get to the bottom of the mystery. Which has only, it seems, led to more questions. Yesterday, Zaman, one of Turkey’s top newspapers, reported that the president’s body, which was well preserved, indeed had traces of poison. Yet the very same day, Hürriyet, a leading Turkish daily, reported just the opposite: citing the head of the forensic institute charged with the matter, it said that the autopsy is not complete and nothing suspicious had been found. The forensic boss added that the public should pay no attention to the matter until the investigation is complete. Which is what he is supposed to say, one assumes.

So who knows? All very Byzantine, as perhaps it is fated to be, given history and geography. Perhaps the truth about the death of Turgut Özal will eventually come out, but it’s more likely that half the population will accept the official story and the other half won’t, with the Turkish press equally divided. Nothing healthy for a democracy in that, but perhaps nothing unusual either.

[UPDATE, 24 Nov: The autopsy has revealed that President Özal died of poisoning by four (!) different agents: the radioactive chemicals Cadmium, Americium, and Polonium, plus DDT. It is suggested that Özal’s body was weakened by radioactive chemicals before he was assassinated with DDT, an insect poison. As for who murdered the president … that will have to wait for another day.]

Canada’s Big Beta Spy Scandal

Canada is a very nice country, indeed one of the nicest in the world (I used to live there, I certify that), but not exactly … exciting. Considering how big a country and economy Canada is, globally speaking, not to mention its proximity to the United States, it’s amazing how little Our Neighbor to the North charts in American news.

The New Republic‘s former editor Michael Kinsley back in the 1980s came up with a real DC knee-slapper with what he termed the most boring headline in world history: “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative.” That was Kinsley’s first, and last, Canadian joke, since he abandoned the Potomac in the mid-1990s for Seattle and, like that other resident of the Pacific Northwest, Bigfoot, he’s not been reliably sighted since. But his humor struck a nerve because, let’s face it, Canada’s so nice and tranquil that it’s something of a snoozefest, newswise.

Sure, Canada has a military, in fact a rather respectable one these days under the government  of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is the first resident of 24 Sussex Drive (“1600 Pennsylvania Avenue” in Canadian) in decades who thinks the country ought to have a real and properly funded military. Canada, on a per capita basis, has lost more killed in Afghanistan since 2002 than the U.S.

Canada has intelligence services too, even if nothing like the huge, sprawling, multi-headed interagency hydra of sixteen different organizations we call the Intelligence Community. Ottawa’s spy services generally keep a pretty low profile, and they are even less in the news than the Canadian military. Except when something really bad happens, like a major espionage scandal.

And Canada has just gotten hit by a whopper, by anyone’s standards. Perhaps they’re overdue, since except for a few big-in-Canada, yet ultimately backpage incidents over the years (burning down a barn used by Quebec separatists, failing to prevent Sikhs from blowing up a 747, etc.), espionage isn’t a big source of news in Canada. Arguably the Second Oldest Profession hasn’t been a headline there since 1945, when the Soviet code-clerk Igor Gouzenko jumped ship in Ottawa, causing consternation since the Canadians didn’t really quite know what to do with the defector.

International Man of Mystery … NOT

Now Jeffrey Delisle has put espionage – his own – back on Canada’s front-burner, and the case is so bad that Ottawa’s close allies have taken notice.  Ottawa has tried, unsuccessfully, to keep the case of Delisle, a junior officer in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) who was spying for Russia for five years before his arrest in January 2012, out of the papers, since it reveals a basic lack of security and counterintelligence awareness.

The damage, based on current information, appears to be enormous. Delisle passed everything he could get his hands on to Russian military intelligence (GRU), and he had his hands on a lot from where he sat in Halifax, at the RCN’s Trinity intelligence fusion center.

He passed a lot of Canadian information, including reporting from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the country’s domestic intelligence agency which has a small foreign intelligence (FI) mission (anomalously for a major Western democracy, Canada lacks an actual FI agency like CIA or SIS AKA “MI6”), as well as law enforcement intelligence from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), plus lots of political insider information from Ottawa.

A quick run-through of each Canadian agency’s damage assessment from the Delisle debacle tells the tale … CSIS: “severe and irreparable”; RCN Intelligence: “astronomical”; Department of National Defence (i.e. Canada’s Pentagon): “exceptionally grave.”

Last, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) assessed the damage as “high” which might be understating things, since CSE – don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of it, most Canadians haven’t either – is Ottawa’s crown jewel of intelligence, its signals intelligence (SIGINT) agency, equivalent to America’s National Security Agency.

In the SIGINT realm, what Delisle wrought appears to have terrible consequences, beyond the spook world. Thanks to his access to STONEGHOST and related databases where Anglosphere countries share intelligence seamlessly, the damage from this case is probably felt more severely in Washington and London than in Ottawa. Under the so-called Five Eyes system, which dates to the Second World War, the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and (mostly) New Zealand, cover the globe with SIGINT, and share most of the take with each other. Hence, as Delisle explained about what he betrayed, “It was never really Canadian stuff,” he told police, later adding, “There was American stuff, there was some British stuff, Australian stuff – it was everybody’s stuff.” Last week, after Delisle accepted a plea agreement admitting his guilt, the U.S. ambassador in Ottawa, David Jacobson, characterized the case as the loss of “a lot of highly classified material,” adding with consummate diplomatic tact, “That is obviously not good.”

It can be safely assumed that Delisle gave GRU the store on what Anglosphere SIGINT agencies knew abut Russia, which is always a lot – politics, military, economics. He appears to have betrayed a great deal of Canadian insider information too. True to form, GRU was most interested in – Delisle said they were “fixated on” – counterespionage data, i.e. finding Western spies in Russia, but thankfully that, at least, was something the junior officer could not access from his desk in Halifax.

As an espionage case, the Delisle affair is numbingly mundane; this one does not cry out for a screenplay. He walked into the Russian embassy in Ottawa in July 2007, offering his services to GRU, not out of hatred for his own country, nor for the desire for a Bondian lifestyle, not even for money, exactly. He was depressed because his wife was screwing around on him.

His career was stalled too: as Delisle is a diabetic he never deployed overseas nor, in sixteen years in the RCN, did he ever go to sea. No fast-tracker, he. His soon-to-be-ex-wife’s extracurricular activities left him feeling “so dead inside” that walking into the Russian embassy seemed like a not-totally-insane thing to do. In other words, this is another case of the sad plight of the beta male.

I’ve looked closely at a lot of spy cases, especially ones where an intelligence insider goes over to the other side, and Delisle is typical in that he was a “volunteer,” as the Russians say, meaning he went over of free will without coercion or even recruitment. He’s also typical in that his life was a complete and total mess. He didn’t even seem particularly interested in the money, since the Russians were only paying him $3,000 a month – a tiny sum compared to the damage he was causing.

Every month, Delisle simply downloaded information from Trinity’s antiquated computers and walked out with it, passing it to the Russians on a USB stick. As a onetime counterintelligence officer, I have to wonder how nobody noticed Delisle doing this, regularly for years, on very classified information systems. I also question how someone whose life was such a hot mess – personally, maritally, and financially – escaped security scrutiny for that long.

At least the Canadians caught him eventually and now the repair work, which promises to be vast, can commence. Ottawa has a lot of explaining to do to its closest allies, and a whole bunch of agencies have some really big damage assessments to complete. Score this one to GRU.

The Delisle case is a biggie in terms of intelligence losses, as big or bigger than the notorious case of the FBI’s Bob Hanssen, the sexual weirdo and devout Catholic who gave the store to the Russians in the 1990s. Delisle is arguably worse, since the international dimension here is large and important. He safely seems to be the most damaging traitor in Canadian history.

Jeffrey Delisle looks like a safe bet to go down as the Beta Spy, the anti-007. What else can you say about a diabetic, depressed cuckold who broke under RCMP interrogation when discussing his passion for videogames? His sentencing won’t be announced until 2013, but it’s a safe bet too that Delisle will have quite a few years behind bars to ponder his actions.

Great story … but is it true?

Al-Qa’ida has repeatedly warned would-be jihadists that women can be a temptation and a problem for even the most committed holy warrior. Especially blondes.

In one of my favorite passages of unintentional muj hilarity, back in the 1990s, al-Qa’ida cautioned its fighters headed to the Balkans that Europe presented all sorts of temptations and troubles of the female variety, and blondes in particular were to be avoided.

Now we know what they were talking about.

It’s recently hit the news with a splash that Imam Anwar al-Awlaki, the prolific jihad propagandist from New Mexico who was killed in Yemen by a U.S. drone strike in September 2011, was set up in a complex CIA-run operation involving a Danish agent, a Croatian blonde, a lot of cash, and ultimately a Hellfire missile.

At the center of the plot to get Awlaki was Morten Storm, a thirtysomething Danish convert to Islam and also an agent of Danish intelligence (PET). In a long-term operation to find and finish Awlaki, Storm eventually passed a USB stick to the imam which allowed the U.S. to track his whereabouts and … you know how it ends.

The bait here was “Amina,” a Croatian convert to Islam who had been chatting up Awlaki online and offered to become his third wife. Clearly Awlaki did not get the briefing about Balkan blondes being nothing but trouble, and Storm used Amina to get to the imam, with deadly consequences for the would-be bridegroom.

Since the imam’s jihad career, and life, ended last year, Amina reportedly has stayed in Yemen and is helping edit Inspire, the glossy, English-language magazine aimed at jihad fanboys everywhere.

PET is keeping quiet about the matter, while Storm (who has left Islam) has gone into hiding, amid death threats, since he blew his cover with his interview. The Croatian media has been aflutter with the tales of a Zagreb girl gone wrong, converting to Islam and getting caught up in the sensational saga, complete with international intrigue, online romance gone bad, and fiery explosions. The whole thing demands a screenplay.

Great story, but is it, well … true? Croatian intelligence is keeping mum about it all, sensibly enough, but there may be reason to doubt the story Storm has told us, at least the Amina angle.

Sevko Omerbasic, Zagreb’s mufti and the former head of Croatia’s Islamic Community, has questioned who Amina really is. Noting that hardly more than a few handfuls of Croats have converted to Islam in recent years (Amina supposedly accepted Islam in 2009), Imam Omerbasic claims he knows them all, and he does not know any Amina. As a public critic of terrorism and extremism, the mufti is concerned that the affair will bring discredit on Croatia’s small Muslim community.

So we don’t know. The whole thing sounds so bizarre that the former counterintelligence officer in me, who accepts that truth frequently is odder than any fiction, thinks it might well be true. Except, maybe, for the Amina part …

Who killed Bruno Bušić?

Yesterday marked the 34th anniversary of the assassination of Bruno Busic.

Who? you might well ask, even if you’re a seasoned spywatcher.

Even in his native Croatia, where he’s not been forgotten altogether, the anniversary of his brutal killing  was hardly front page news.

Bruno Busic shortly before his death

Yet his murder at the hands of UDBA, Communist Yugoslavia’s nasty secret police, ranks as one of the best-known cases of the nearly one hundred “state enemies” assassinated abroad by Tito’s spies during the Cold War. Unlike the vast majority of those victims of a now-forgotten dirty war, waged in the streets of Stuttgart, Sydney, and Chicago, Busic’s death at least got some media attention, for a few days.

Busic was a well-known dissident in Croatian diaspora circles, an intellectual with a public profile. And unlike many of UDBA’s victims, Busic was an anti-Communist activist but not a terrorist. While he flirted with Croatian groups trying to unseat Tito’s dictatorship, he wrote pamphlets and arranged protests but did not build bombs. Yet he met the same fate as the terrorists.

He was gunned down at the door of his Paris apartment, killed close-up by a 7.65 mm pistol, UDBA’s weapon of choice. From the outset there was little doubt who was behind the killing. Yet, as they usually did, Tito’s assassins covered their tracks well, spreading disinformation along the way, and French police never brought anyone to justice for the murder.

It is perhaps remarkable that Busic survived as long as he did, as he had been on UDBA’s radar since he was a teenager active in peaceful anti-regime activities. He was in and out of Communist jails for years until finally leaving Croatia permanently in 1975 for a life in exile, where he was at least allowed to write freely. Until UDBA caught up with him.

The customary outcome for those who fell afoul of UDBA

After the fall of the old regime, newly independent Croatia honored its martyr, reburying him in Zagreb with public fanfare, but the government of Franjo Tudjman – a onetime dissident who knew Busic – showed little enthusiasm for putting his killers behind bars. This probably had something to do with the fact that Josip Perkovic, the UDBA senior officer who in the late Communist period headed the department charged with assassinating troublesome Croatian emigres like Busic, wound up heading the intelligence apparatus in Tudjman’s Croatia in the 1990s. (Perkovic retired some years ago, but his son Sasa is just as well networked as his old man and is currently national security advisor to Croatia’s President Ivo Josipovic). Efforts to pin the assassination on the notorious UDBA killer Vinko Sindicic led to an embarrassing debacle of a trial, and no convictions. It seems unlikely, 34 years after the fact, that anyone will ever be held accountable for Bruno Busic’s murder.

What is perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that Western governments and human rights groups never made much fuss about the assassination of Busic, and dozens of other emigres who fell afoul of Tito and therefore fell victim to UDBA’s “black program” (as they called it). There was a big double standard during the Cold War: dissidents who were killed by Soviet Bloc intelligence – there were very few after the 1950s, despite what Hollywood would have you believe – received the full attention of Western security services and journalists, while the many more victims murdered by UDBA were essentially ignored. Killings perpetrated by UDBA that were even more shocking than Busic’s fell down the memory hole too.

Almost exactly one month before UDBA killed Bruno Busic, the Bulgarian secret service, the very unpleasant DS, assassinated Georgi Markov in London. The Bulgarian dissident, who worked for the BBC, was a thorn in Sofia’s side, and Yuri Andropov eventually agreed to the KGB providing the DS with the infamous umbrella weapon which killed Markov. The case received wide attention as the “umbrella murder” and remains open as far as British police are concerned; the Markov matter occasionally appears in the European press even today. Bruno Busic’s assassination just a month later  got only a fraction of that attention from European officialdom and the media.

Why that was so is a troubling question, but it had a great deal to do with the fact that NATO governments didn’t want to call attention to how awful Yugoslavia’s human rights record actually was, nor publicize the fact that UDBA was a much more effective killing machine than the KGB and its satellites, since Tito and his regime – Communist yet outside the Soviet orbit – performed a useful strategic function for the West during the Cold War. “In the Tito era, the police and security forces of certain NATO nations were warned off taking any firm action against the notorious UDBA, the Yugoslav secret service,” explained a British intelligence officer who tried to investigate Belgrade’s Murder, Inc., “I was told to cool it; we had to leave them alone, we had to keep Tito sweet.”

Keeping Tito sweet in practice meant not looking closely into the violent crimes UDBA was perpetrating in abundance across the Western world. Bruno Busic was one of dozens of UDBA’s victims, yet his was a case which ought to have gotten more media attention, police investigation, and diplomatic involvement than it did. It is proper to note that independent Croatia since 1991 has done a terrible job of getting to the bottom of Communist crimes at home and abroad, which is the inevitable outcome of not ridding the police and intelligence services of serial killers when Tito’s regime finally collapsed. Yet the West deserves no credit either for putting scant pressure on Yugoslavia’s secret police for their dirty deeds in Western countries – then or down to the present day.

Friends from the Institute

Just in time for Mitt Romney’s trip to Israel – where he is reported to be focused mainly on not making a fool of himself before the media, London-style – the AP dropped a bombshell disguised as an article on the taboo subject of Israeli espionage against the United States. The detailed piece, which was sourced from several places in the Intelligence Community, has been met with shock and horror in the usual places; Prime Minister Netanyahu issued a denial as vociferous as it was quick. Aggressive Israeli spying on the U.S. is something polite people are never, ever supposed to discuss; mentioning it will not get you invited to the right Georgetown parties.

But there was nothing in the piece which was exactly news to anyone who knows how the global intelligence game is actually played. That CIA considers Israel to be the number-one spy threat in the Middle East is a revelation only to neophytes. Counterintelligence officers for decades have been aware of the extent of Israeli espionage against the U.S., at home and abroad, though politicos are customarily wise enough to never mention it. Indeed, CI experts for years have spoken of the Big Four threats to the USG: Russia, China, Cuba, and Israel.  

I prefer my spies to look like this …

Russia remains as big a spy threat to the West and the U.S. as it was at the height of the Cold War. Their operations are as aggressive as ever, and their playbook is the same. Although the round-up of a big Russian illegal network in the U.S. two years ago was treated as a comic-opera affair in the media, with emphasis on hot redheads (and, let me say, who doesn’t like hot redheaded spy-vixens?), that story justifiably caused deep concern in CI circles and indicated big problems, including possible penetrations of U.S. intelligence.

The Chinese spy threat is less popularly understood, and there is a lot less written about it, with some happy exceptions, but Beijing’s espionage against the USG has risen in recent years and shows no signs of abating, rather the contrary. That said, Chinese HUMINT operations are seldom successful outside their ethnic millieu – though that may be cold comfort given the size of the overseas Chinese community in the West today.

The inclusion of Cuba on the Big Four list may surprise, given the comically pathetic condition of that country, but Havana’s intelligence agencies have long punched above their weight in the global spy game. Cuban operations against the USG are widespread and pernicious, including long-term penetrations of our intelligence agencies. Castro’s case officers for decades have had no trouble recruiting spies among Cuban exiles – usually they have more volunteers than they can handle – and Cuban-American groups are deeply penetrated (usually the crazier and more right-wing an exile pontificates, the more likely s/he is a mole for Havana). Not surprisingly, Florida is a hotspot for Cuban espionage. Neverthless, like the Chinese, the Cubans operate best among ethnic kin, save the occasional oddball lefty Anglos who actually lose money spying for Cuba.

The Israeli espionage threat to the United States, however, is different, because DC and Tel Aviv are such close partners, and Israel is the world’s biggest recipient of American aid dollars.  In the real world, allies do spy on each other. Per the counterspy’s mantra: There are no friendly intelligence agencies. Yet America’s closest intelligence partners, the Five Eyes of the Anglosphere (U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and usually New Zealand), have preserved a remarkable amount of the sincere spy-friendship borne of shared hardship in World War II, and come pretty close to being friends who don’t spy on each other.

Not like this.

Israel emphatically is not that sort of spy-buddy. The AP article included glimpses of just how aggressive and duplicitous Israeli HUMINT operations against American interests actually are, and have been for decades. Anyone who has looked closely at the infamous Pollard case, including Israel’s continuing lobbying to get their boy out of his jail cell, gets some sense of how the Israelis play the game.

It’s no secret inside the Beltway that Israel spies on everybody, America included, and uses its close partnership with the USG to further its espionage against it. None of this is new, and as far back as 1954 Israeli dirty tricks targeted the U.S., including the false-flag bombing of the U.S. Information Agency office in Egypt, the so-called Lavon affair. Espionage is a messy business, to be sure, but what sets the Israelis apart is that they act so aggressively even towards their closest friends.

Israel’s intelligence agencies are small – certainly compared to America’s multi-headed espionage leviathan – and professional. Foreign HUMINT and dirty tricks are handled by the Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations (the legendary MOSSAD), while domestic intelligence is conducted by the impressive Security Agency (SHABAK), yet the biggest piece of the puzzle is Military Intelligence (AMAN), which includes Israel’s substantial and effective SIGINT effort.

The “MOSSAD myth” is a real force-multiplier, even though it’s only partly true. Israeli spies are far from super-human, as a long string of missteps and own-goals will attest, yet they are undeniably super-aggressive, including against America. Their small numbers are boosted abroad by sayanim (“helpers”), mainly diaspora Jews who provide material support to Israeli intelligence. From a CI perspective this makes Israeli operations a tough nut to crack, not to mention that MOSSAD relies on an array of fronts and cut-outs in many countries to assist its espionage. It was no surprise to CI hands that DoD’s Larry Franklin was convicted in 2006 of passing classified information to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, since although AIPAC is widely known to be one of the most powerful lobbying groups on Capitol Hill, the counterspies understand that it has an, ahem, exceptionally close relationship with Israeli intelligence. CI professionals were likewise less than shocked when it turned out that Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House’s intelligence committee, was reported to be having spooky conversations with AIPAC too.

There is a long history of Israeli espionage against America and its interests, and an equally long history of the American MSM showing little interest in delving deeply into some of the more intriguing Israeli ops in the United States (see: Israeli art students). In this sense, the weekend’s AP story was a surprise, and a welcome one. As a former CI officer I have nothing but professional admiration for what Israeli spooks manage to pull off, and in their shoes I’d do exactly the same stuff. Yet as an American I have questions about what our ally is doing, and why we tolerate the worst of it.

For a long time, American journalists and politicians have denied there is an issue here. The AP has blown the lid on that one, and good on them. Henceforth, those who deny that Israel spies mightily on the USA are either playing politics or they don’t know what they are talking about.

Terrorism versus Fake Terrorism

One of the big, if largely unspoken, issues in counterterrorism is the considerable role played by intelligence agencies in manipulating terrorist groups – penetrating their cells, confusing them, sometimes wrecking them altogether. This sort of thing, termed provocation by insiders, is a messy business which is understood by counterintelligence hands worldwide yet seldom gets mentioned by BigTerror “experts” since it doesn’t fit the neat and tidy “good guys v. bad guys” narrative they prefer.

Yet provocation happens in the real world and plays a big part in defeating terrorists. The most successful campaigns against terrorism have usually incorporated provocation, often with great operational success and baleful humanitarian consequences. Provocation works, so many intelligence services employ it. But provocation isn’t nice, indeed it’s a nasty business, so BigTerror “experts” usually avoid mentioning it.

When provocation is employed effectively by your intelligence agency – you take your time, you place agents carefully inside the terrorist group – you wind up taking effective control of one terror cell, then another, until eventually you’re running the show. At which point you run the terrorists into the ground, encouraging them to do stupid and self-defeating things, and you declare victory. Sounds like a bad movie, but the Russians, who invented this sneaky tactic, have been taking it to the bank for over a century. They call it provokatsiya.

Others do it too, and it leads to situations where it can be difficult to determine which terrorists are legit and which are “under control” as the pros say. Unraveling it all can be challenging, and sometimes nearly impossible. It makes analysis tough, which is why conventional analysts simply avoid the issue altogether … and thereby miss the real story.

One of my favorite examples goes back over thirty years. Back in the 1970s, strange as it may sound today, Croatians were one of the world’s biggest terrorism problems. Emigres living in the West who hated the Communist regime in Yugoslavia waged a shadow war against Tito by attacking Yugoslav embassies, shooting up regime facilities, hijacking airplanes – ah, the good old days, when terrorists took over commercial planes to win sympathy and not just fly them into buildings – and even staging commando raids into the motherland. Most of their activities were in Western Europe, but the Croatian freedom fighters brought terrorism to Australia, Canada, and even the United States, where they did bombings, killed rivals, and are the top suspects in one of the bloodiest terrorist outrages in U.S. history.

I’m from the Yugoslav government, and I’m *not* here to help.

Naturally, these shenanigans got the attention of the Yugoslav secret police, the dreaded UDBA, which successfully penetrated many of the terrorist groups deeply. During the Cold War, UDBA waged a very successful and very nasty campaign against troublesome emigres which involved assassinating over eighty people in the West – some of them actual terrorists, some of them people Tito just didn’t like. By the 1970s UDBA was in functional control of several of the Croatian terrorist groups and proceeded to eliminate them one by one. By the mid-1980s Yugoslavia’s emigre terrorism problem had been liquidated (just in time for Yugoslavia to collapse under its own weight, but that’s another story).

One of UDBA’s top successes was the case known as the Croatian Six, which remains a big story in its native Australia and offers an ideal study in provocation. In February 1979, Australia was rocked by the arrests of six Croatian immigrants who according to police were plotting to blow up a long list of prominent targets around Sydney, including a major theater packed with innocent people, several businesses, and even an attack on Sydney’s water supply. The police were tipped off by the seventh member of the group, Vito Virkez, who called the cops and dimed out his co-conspirators.

1979 … when terrorism suspects knew how to dress.

The Croatian Six from day-one protested their innocence, and from the outset there were whispers that things were not quite right. In the first place, the six guys were actually two groups of three, and they didn’t seem to know each other.  The cops went hard on them and coerced confessions, and may have planted explosives. No one bothered to ask why six average immigrants, who hated Tito but had no grudge against Australia, would want to blow up a bunch of innocent Australians. How that would help liberate Croatia from the Communists and endear Aussies to their cause remained a mystery. Above all, the prosecution failed to disclose that ASIO, Australia’s domestic intelligence service, suspected that the whole thing was an UDBA set-up and knew that, shortly before calling the Australian cops, Vito Virkez had phoned the Yugoslav consulate in Sydney, which ASIO knew was staffed by UDBA officers.

As expected, Virkez testified as the star witness against the Croatian Six, who were convicted of a raft of charges and sentenced to hefty prison terms. That Virkez promptly left Australia to return to Communist Yugoslavia, which he allegedly had been fighting against, got less attention than it should have. To this day the case remains the highest-profile terrorism trial in Australian history, despite the fact that as far back as 1991 it’s been confirmed that this was all a fake. Australian TV reporter Chris Masters tracked down Mr. Virkez in his native Bosnia, who admitted that his real name was Misimovic and he was actually a Serb, not a Croat. He was an UDBA agent provocateur who’d been dispatched to Australia in the early 1970s to penetrate and discredit Croatian groups down under. By tarring the Croatian emigration with extremism and terrorism, UDBA gained a big political victory and neutralized its enemies in Australia.

A lot has come out since “Virkez” had his cover blown in 1991, including an excellent report earlier this year by Hamish Macdonald (full disclosure: I was a source for that story), and lawyers and activists are trying to get justice for the poor guys who got set up and falsely convicted of terrorism over thirty years ago. Let’s hope they succeed – better late than never.

UPDATE: Australian journalist Sasha Uzunov, who has closely looked at just-declassified intelligence documents, reveals that in January 1977, ASIO reported that Yugoslavia warned Australia that, if Australian authorities didn’t act to suppress anti-Yugoslav activities down under, Belgrade would take matters into its own hands … this appears to be UDBA’s warning shot across the bow before setting up the Croatian Six. Nice job, Sasha!

Algeria – The Ugly Truth

What if everything you know is wrong? What if what you’ve been told is international terrorism, Al-Qa’ida even, really …. isn’t?

The world is a complex place. More complex than the media usually allows. Seldom does the MSM deal with the unpleasantness of the real world of terrorism and, especially, counterterrorism: the operations, the penetrations, the provocations. Not something the Big Terror industry talks about much.

I’ve got an op-ed in today’s National Interest Online which pulls back the curtain a bit on the Algerian unpleasantness of the last twenty years – one of the world’s nastiest wars in recent memory, and one of the least understood.

If you like this kind of thing, you like this kind of thing.