Category Archive 'Intelligence Operations'

12 Mar 2020

A Cold War Legend

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Did Gus Weiss, a secretive White House and Intelligence Community insider, informally mastermind a plot to bring down the Soviet Union by sabotaging the crucial technologies stolen from the West that were required to prop up its failing economy? Did Weiss’s Operation Kudo successfully blow up, circa 1982, a Soviet gas pipeline delivering to Moscow some $30 billion-a-year in hard currency, resulting in an event classified by NORAD as the largest non-nuclear explosion in recorded history? Was Weiss’s death in 2003 a suicide or Moscow’s belated revenge? The stories are out there, but Wired Magazine’s Alex French found no official sources will confirm any of this. How odd!

Is it a tale too far-fetched to be true, or too bizarre not to be? Allegedly, a disgruntled KBG agent code-named “Farewell” gave away Soviet secrets to the French, who then promptly shared them with the US — giving the American government a veritable shopping list of the US technology most coveted by the Soviets. Enter Gus Weiss, an eccentric and brilliant insider in the US intelligence community. According to Alex French at Wired, Weiss devised the perfect plan to thwart the Russians: sell them what they want, but first make sure that technology is programmed to self-destruct, taking down a natural gas pipeline vital to the cash-strapped Russians.

Weiss proposed using the Farewell shopping lists to supply the Soviets with the products they sought.

But Weiss wanted the gadgets altered, pre-improved so that they would eventually fail. “The scheme was so goober-pea simple that nobody had come upon it,” Weiss wrote of his solution. Even if the Soviets sniffed out the American trickery, Weiss wrote, “the stratagem would still work as the Agency’s Red Star clientele would be forced to test and retest each recalcitrant unit, provoking delays and finger pointing in the Center, its puffed up potentates sniffing a Gulag behind their next performance appraisal … Real fake devices, false fake devices … The Soviets had set themselves up in exquisite fashion.”

That alternative plan is at the core of the legend of Gus Weiss. The best-known version of the tale goes like this: High up on the Soviet tech shopping list was software to regulate the pressure gauges and valves for the critical Siberian gas pipeline. According to Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes, the Soviets sought the software on the open market. American export controls prohibited its sale from the US. However, a small industrial software company located in Calgary called Cov-Can produced what the Soviets wanted. As Weiner writes, “The Soviets sent a Line X officer to steal the software. The CIA and the Canadians conspired to let them have it.”

The faulty software “weaved” its way through Soviet quality control. The pipeline software ran swimmingly for months, but then pressure in the pipeline gradually mounted. And one day—the date remains unclear, though most put it in June 1982—the software went haywire, the pressure soaring out of control. The pipeline ruptured, igniting a blast in the wilds of Siberia so massive that, according to Thomas C. Reed’s At the Abyss, “at the White House, we received warning from our infrared satellites of some bizarre event out in the middle of Soviet nowhere. NORAD feared a missile liftoff from a place where no rockets were known to be based. Or perhaps it was the detonation of a nuclear device. The Air Force chief of intelligence rated it at three kilotons.”

The pipeline explosion is said to have cost Moscow tens millions of dollars it could ill-afford to waste.

RTWT

06 May 2018

How Israel Stole Iran’s Secret Nuclear Files

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Michael Daventry gives the inside scoop on the Intelligence coup of the century.

The spectacle of Benjamin Netanyahu barely able to contain his excitement as he paced back and forth around the stage, pointing out his props and slides, was remarkable enough.

But that was as nothing compared with what was truly remarkable — an intelligence coup that is already regarded as legendary.

The Israeli prime minister had just uncovered — literally, by pulling away dust sheets to reveal shelves of filing — the evidence that showed Iran had for years been engaged on a secret nuclear programme.

“Iran lied, big time,” Mr Netanyahu told a hastily-assembled room of journalists on Monday. “A few weeks ago, in a great intelligence achievement, Israel obtained half a ton of material”.

His presentation was closely coordinated with the United States, coming just days before President Trump decides whether to abandon the international deal that was said by its supporters to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Mr Netanyahu’s words were dramatic. But they barely came close to conveying the drama of the Mossad’s unprecedented operation.

The cache — containing tens of thousands of pages, many of them handwritten — was snatched by Mossad agents in a single night, from a ramshackle warehouse in a suburb south of Tehran, the Iranian capital. Sources say the building had been under constant surveillance by Israeli intelligence from the moment it was first discovered in February 2016 until the decision to act was taken.

That moment came one night in January this year.

This was not a data transfer of the kind that has made the Mission Impossible movies so thrilling. The documents were not copied onto a portable hard drive, nor transferred electronically back to Israel.

Every file and CD — weighing a collective half a ton — was transported physically in a single night.

And not one of Mossad’s “human assets” — Israeli agents and Iranian informants — was harmed in the operation, intelligence minister Yisrael Katz told Israeli radio on Tuesday.

It is no exaggeration to say that all of this happened under the Iranian government’s nose; Iran’s foreign ministry building was so close to the warehouse that the Mossad agents could have driven to it in the centre of Tehran in barely half an hour.

“This was a highly complex operation, over a long period of time, in a deeply hostile environment,” said James Sorene, chief executive of the Bicom think-tank.

“To remove so much physical material in such circumstances is nothing short of remarkable.

“When you consider it alongside Israel’s apparent ability to identify Iranian arms shipments to Syria as they leave Tehran, you can only conclude that the Iranian regime is severely compromised by the brilliance of Israeli intelligence.”

RTWT


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