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Russian Espionage Back on the Radar

It appears that Russia has "turned up the heat" on the espionage cauldron if the amount of chatter about it can be likened to a bubbling pot. People are talking around the world about a renewed Kremlin effort to re-establish itself as a world leader in the spy business. Furthermore, the right people are denying such allegations - the people you would expect denials from.

While there have been incidents of Russian espionage in the US, and elsewhere, over the past several years, most of them have involved legacy agents from the Soviet era.

FBI Special Agent Earl Edwin Pitts, was arrested for spying for Russia in 1996. Pitts was handled by Aleksandr Karpov, an associate and friend of President Putin.

In 1997, A US Naval Intelligence Officer and A Canadian military pilot were blinded by a laser beam directed at their helicopter, which was emitted from a Russian trawler, the Kapitan Man, of the coast of Washington state. The Kapitan Man was suspected of espionage activities, prompting the April 4 flight.
    Daly said he believes a Foresite laser was the likely weapon because of its applicability. One of the main functions of that kind of laser, he told the committee, is "to record the acoustic signature of the propeller" on nuclear submarines. That day, he said, the nuclear sub U.S.S. Ohio was steaming above water a short distance from the Kapitan Man, outbound from Port Angeles. Furthermore, Daly told the committee, the Kapitan Man and other ships like it "transit the Puget Sound on a regular basis and are suspected by the intelligence community to be conducting surveillance against (U.S.) ballistic missile subs and the carrier battle groups operating out of Bangor (Maine) and Bremerton-Everett," in Washington. He also told the panel that similar operations were being undertaken in Southern California and in the "vicinity of the Kings Bay, Georgia SSBN base and elsewhere." He testified that the Kapitan Man was owned by the Far East Shipping Company -- a cargo outfit based in Vladivostok, Russia with known ties to the Russian military.
    As further evidence of the espionage being conducted by FESCO, a joint U.S. Customs and Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) inspection of the Kapitan Man in April, 1993 found environmental data equipment used solely to conduct anti-submarine warfare (ASW). Daly told congressional investigators that the joint inspection team reported Sippican Corporation of Marion, Massachusetts, manufactured the equipment "for the sole purpose of improved sonar prediction in ASW and other military applications." When questioned, Sippican said these devices "have no practical use aboard a cargo vessel," and the company denied that it had ever sold any of the machines to Russia.
In 2001, FBI agent William Hanson was caught "red handed" using a Moscow Rules dead drop to pass intelligence to his Russian handlers. He had been working for the Soviets for several years, but it didn't stop when the the Soviet Union collapsed.
In October of 2004, There were reports that Russia was flooding the UK with spies and Oleg Gordievski, who was head of the KGB espionage effort in the UK, until his defection in 1985, stated,
    " The strength of the KGB is that there are so many Russians living here and working for British companies. Each second Russian in a position of some importance is acting as an informer to the KGB.
    "The information is about individuals who might be of interest to the Russian authorities and technology. They also want information about politicians. They have become much more active under Putin. Russia is under the foot of the KGB now."
One could debate Gordievski on the basis of the arrest of Aldrich Ames, who was presumably still an active double agent for Russia when he was arrested in 1994, yet does it disprove Colonel Gordievski's claim? Colonel Gordievski's comments were echoed in Russia in early 2005, but with more vehement denials than were previously heard.
    A number of veterans of the Russian and Soviet intelligence services discounted the idea that Russian spy efforts are growing.
    The stories are "premeditated disinformation," said the last head of the KGB's foreign intelligence department, retired Lieutenant General Leonid Shebarshin. Given friendlier relations with the United States and Germany, "I don't accept the possibility that an increase in espionage activity is possible in this situation," he said.
    "I think this is all in the past," said Mikhail Lyubimov, a retired KGB colonel. "With the current relations with the West, why step up the number of agents?"
Now, British business travelers are warned to be alert for Russian espionage scams while they are in Russia. Australia is tending to an influx of spies from Russian (and elsewhere) and it appears US counter-espionage resources are busy as well. I recently found J.R. Nyquist, while doing some research on Alexander Kouzminov - a former KGB agent who worked in the directorate responsible for Russian "illegals" - Russian deep cover agents, posing as Westerners in the target nation. Nyquist is brilliant in that he shares the same ideas, and for generally the same reasons, I have about President Putin and the Russia he is creating. About Kouzminov, Nyquist writes,
    In his book Whittaker Chambers wrote: “Why, then, do men cease to be Communists? One answer is: Very few do.” Men rarely change. The appearance of change, more often than not, is deceptive. Personal experience will verify this statement, as history bears witness to its truth. What has happened before will happen again. Political crisis, revolution, war and destruction continually recur. Perhaps they “eternally recur.”
Indeed - very few do.

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