Archive for the ‘spy’ Category

Yet more stupid giant floating radar news. Not only can’t it keep the sea if the weather turns bad, not only is there no sea boat, and no security – but its support vessel won’t be able to go alongside it most of the time, according to the US Coast Guard. This really is one of the poster children for Stupid Defence Procurement, no?

Speaking of stupid defence procurement, Richard North has issued a Christmas list of stuff he thinks the armed forces need. Predictably, all but one item on it comes from either BAE or the United States, and it’s all very expensive, electronic and Rumsfeldesque, not to mention tactically defensive. For example, he advocates we buy a “system” (a word that is usually the key indicator of useless expensive kit) whose manufacturers claim it can shoot down mortar rounds in flight.

Well, when it’s working, if the enemy chooses to shoot at the camp that got the scarce gadget, and until they invent a countermeasure (like chaff stuffed in the tail of their 107mm rockets, say). This is a classic example of cheap, highly available 4GW that entrains incredibly expensive technofixes on the part of conventional armies. Far better to take the money Northo wants to give Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Rockwell, Raytheon and Co and pay a large bonus to recruit more linguists and agent handlers for the Intelligence Corps, so there might be a chance of finding out who is firing the mortars. And that way, perhaps we wouldn’t just have discovered that General Richards’ interpreter was an Iranian spy.

(Seriously, the guy is a nightclub owner and salsa instructor as well as a TA I-man. How could he not be a spy of one persuasion or the other?)

In other North-related news,
HRW picks up the “ambulance hoax” bullshit and hoofs it into Row Z.
Bloggers were said to be collapsing with asphyxia awaiting Dick’s apology.

Yet more stupid giant floating radar news. Not only can’t it keep the sea if the weather turns bad, not only is there no sea boat, and no security – but its support vessel won’t be able to go alongside it most of the time, according to the US Coast Guard. This really is one of the poster children for Stupid Defence Procurement, no?

Speaking of stupid defence procurement, Richard North has issued a Christmas list of stuff he thinks the armed forces need. Predictably, all but one item on it comes from either BAE or the United States, and it’s all very expensive, electronic and Rumsfeldesque, not to mention tactically defensive. For example, he advocates we buy a “system” (a word that is usually the key indicator of useless expensive kit) whose manufacturers claim it can shoot down mortar rounds in flight.

Well, when it’s working, if the enemy chooses to shoot at the camp that got the scarce gadget, and until they invent a countermeasure (like chaff stuffed in the tail of their 107mm rockets, say). This is a classic example of cheap, highly available 4GW that entrains incredibly expensive technofixes on the part of conventional armies. Far better to take the money Northo wants to give Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Rockwell, Raytheon and Co and pay a large bonus to recruit more linguists and agent handlers for the Intelligence Corps, so there might be a chance of finding out who is firing the mortars. And that way, perhaps we wouldn’t just have discovered that General Richards’ interpreter was an Iranian spy.

(Seriously, the guy is a nightclub owner and salsa instructor as well as a TA I-man. How could he not be a spy of one persuasion or the other?)

In other North-related news,
HRW picks up the “ambulance hoax” bullshit and hoofs it into Row Z.
Bloggers were said to be collapsing with asphyxia awaiting Dick’s apology.

Rare feature, this, but the Observer has news: the Stevens report says, apparently, that the US National Security Agency was monitoring her phone calls the night of her death. A couple of questions: didn’t they have anyone better to bug? And, more importantly, what was the French government’s position on this?

The Obscurer makes the point that this, and especially the fact that MI6 wasn’t informed, raises some difficult questions about the so-called “intelligence special relationship”. Well, it’s not as if there wasn’t plenty to be getting on with in terms of scrutiny there – CAZAB, UKUSA and the rest being the world’s most highly secret treaties. But it’s hard to see the direct relevance – bugging the French phone system would have needed access to it, or else the use of some super-fancy platform like Rivet Joint, and the chances of the French permitting that are between zero and zero.

Else, there would have had to be folk physically on the ground, or some special arrangement with France Telecom, and presumably with the DST or SDECE. Still, we can always blame the French for this one, so no chance of anyone learning anything there.

Update: 1900 16/12/06: The Obscurer was sold a furphy. Spyblog explains, having read the 782 page report.

Rare feature, this, but the Observer has news: the Stevens report says, apparently, that the US National Security Agency was monitoring her phone calls the night of her death. A couple of questions: didn’t they have anyone better to bug? And, more importantly, what was the French government’s position on this?

The Obscurer makes the point that this, and especially the fact that MI6 wasn’t informed, raises some difficult questions about the so-called “intelligence special relationship”. Well, it’s not as if there wasn’t plenty to be getting on with in terms of scrutiny there – CAZAB, UKUSA and the rest being the world’s most highly secret treaties. But it’s hard to see the direct relevance – bugging the French phone system would have needed access to it, or else the use of some super-fancy platform like Rivet Joint, and the chances of the French permitting that are between zero and zero.

Else, there would have had to be folk physically on the ground, or some special arrangement with France Telecom, and presumably with the DST or SDECE. Still, we can always blame the French for this one, so no chance of anyone learning anything there.

Update: 1900 16/12/06: The Obscurer was sold a furphy. Spyblog explains, having read the 782 page report.

SpyBlog hits the nail on the head: isn’t it time for the government to disclose the actual numbers on how much po-210 (and anything else) was floating around Alexander Litvinenko’s carcass? Scaramella walked from UCH two days ago, just after having told his boss’s pet paper back in Italy he was dying of radiation sickness. Now, Kotvin vanishes into a sealed hospital ward just as the Yard pitch up in Moscow. It’s possible he’s really ill, of course. It’s very strange that – seeing as he was exposed, presumably, at the same time as Litvinenko – he should suddenly fall ill now.

After all, the biological half-life is 50 days. So, assuming his argument is that he got a smaller dose, he’s hardly likely to keel over now. And – seeing as he flew to London to see Litvinenko on a plane that somehow got contaminated, saw him, returned on another plane that is hot, and seems to have left traces in all kinds of places – there are some questions he needs to answer. It’s certainly convenient that he’s in an isolation ward, no?

Only the data will clear up even a little of the fog of bullshit floating around the case.

Remember this post? Not only did it have rockets, plausible deniability and much more comments-rocking stuff, it also had a gigantic sea-going radar station. Chris Williams remarked in comments that

“We only need a submarine and a glamorous lady spy and we’ve got an Alastair Maclean thriller.”

I disagree. The giant floating radar turned up off Hawaii, the Hawaii Star-Bulletin reports, in need of dockyard assistance after spending the last few months on its sea trials around the islands (so it certainly wasn’t anywhere near its station off Alaska when the missile crisis-ette was going on). And it’s not Alistair MacLean it calls to mind. Take a look.

Mr. Bond - I've been expecting you..

If that isn’t the spitting image of deranged shipping tycoon Karl Stromberg’s secret submarine base in The Spy who Loved Me, I dunno what is. It’s 28 storeys high, 282 feet long and displaces 50,000 tons.

Remember this post? Not only did it have rockets, plausible deniability and much more comments-rocking stuff, it also had a gigantic sea-going radar station. Chris Williams remarked in comments that

“We only need a submarine and a glamorous lady spy and we’ve got an Alastair Maclean thriller.”

I disagree. The giant floating radar turned up off Hawaii, the Hawaii Star-Bulletin reports, in need of dockyard assistance after spending the last few months on its sea trials around the islands (so it certainly wasn’t anywhere near its station off Alaska when the missile crisis-ette was going on). And it’s not Alistair MacLean it calls to mind. Take a look.

Mr. Bond - I've been expecting you..

If that isn’t the spitting image of deranged shipping tycoon Karl Stromberg’s secret submarine base in The Spy who Loved Me, I dunno what is. It’s 28 storeys high, 282 feet long and displaces 50,000 tons.

Blogs covered the news that the Forest Gate raid was down to the unsuppported word of a man with an IQ of 69 quite copiously. But there is more to the problem than just bad sources, Sir Ian Blair and the ACPO grandstanding for their new political role, or whatever. Simply, they have lost the plot regarding how intelligence works. Compare and contrast this report from the LA Times on how the Jordanian secret service tracked down al-Zarqawi.

In April, when Zarqawi showed up in a highly publicized online propaganda video boasting of his group’s prowess, Jordanian analysts scrutinized the surrounding scenery as well as his blustery talk.

The tape confirmed suspicions that Zarqawi was in the Yousifiya area, a volatile insurgent stronghold south of Baghdad, which became the focus of U.S. and Jordanian intelligence efforts, Burjaq said. Throughout the spring, U.S. military officials, too, were publicly identifying the area south of Baghdad as a likely Zarqawi stronghold.

“At a certain stage, more intelligence [resources] were being devoted to Yousifiya,” Burjaq said, noting that Jordan’s familiarity with the region and intelligence networks played a key role in monitoring Zarqawi’s movements there.

“It’s not an easy area to get in and out of.”

The two Jordanian officials declined to confirm whether they had turned any of Zarqawi’s followers against him.

But Dahabi noted, “Some of the people I arrest, I recruit. Some of those who were in my jails helped me to carry out operations.”

“Sources,” Burjaq said. “To us, this is the tool.”

Once it became clear that the Yousifiya information was accurate, the Jordanians became more confident of their sources. Then when information was received about Zarqawi being in the Baqubah area, northeast of Baghdad, they were confident of that as well.

“We started to locate him and the Americans started to locate him,” Burjaq said.

Several sources, including a U.S. counter-terrorism official, credited both U.S. and Jordanian intelligence with developing information that led to the targeted hit on Zarqawi and subsequent raids at other locations.

“At a certain point, some of the sources connected,” Dahabi said.

What the two Jordanian spooks are describing is a classic method of investigation. Note that they didn’t begin by looking for people who might be able to say, just like that, where he was. Rather, they identified the area to look in and began collecting background information, specifically, information that they could check. Checking reduces the number of leads to follow up, and it also provides more information about which sources are trustworthy. And in the process of checking, more background information is available, which further refines where to look. Eventually one reaches the point at which the number of possibilities is small enough to round up the usual suspects.

In the UK, this ought to be familiar, as it’s precisely the approach General Sir Frank Kitson codified in the 1960s. The crucial advantage is that it minimises the possible wrongness at each point. If you post huge rewards, seek tip-offs on where “a chemical vest” might be, then act on everything you receive, not only will you not be able to cope with the data-dump, but your activities running after the false positives are likely to have consequences. Hence Kitson’s insistence on the importance of background information – it can be of lower quality than operational information without causing fiascos – and checkable information, which even if falsified leaves you with a net gain of information (i.e. that Curt Weldon’s sources cannot be relied on, or that the enemy is unlikely to be found in area Y, or Mr. Z can be eliminated from the inquiry).

Now compare, for example, this. You might also want to read this Ken Silverstein report on the intelligence effort before the war with Iraq.

“They say everyone else was wrong,” said this former official, “but we conditioned them to be wrong. We spend [tens of billions of dollars per year] on signals intelligence and when we reach a conclusion, the people who spend less than that tend to believe us. They weren’t wrong, they chose to believe us. The British, Germans, and Italians don’t have all those overhead assets, so they rely on us. Historically they have been well-served, so they believe us when we tell them the earth is round. The French have their own assets—and guess what? They didn’t go with us.