May 18, 2013

America owes Russia a big apology for the embarrassing case of bumbling CIA spy Ryan Fogel caught red-handed in Moscow trying to recruit a Russian agent.

Shame on the US. What ever happened to professional respect? Russia has always been the grand master of espionage. In Russia, spying is a high art form, like ballet.

Having been given an exclusive visit to the KGB’s museum of espionage, I can heartily attest to Russia’s mastery of spying. Too bad most people don’t known how masterful and patient the Russian were – and continue to be.

Sending an amateur American spy on a ham-handed attempt to recruit a Russian agent was an insult to the profession. Russia deserves the top US agents, not bumblers from the backwoods.

Agent Fogel, under thin diplomatic cover as third secretary at the US Moscow Embassy, was certainly no James Bond. More like agent 000. According to the Ruskis, he even had a nifty little spy kit with a Swiss Army knife, map of Moscow, two wigs, and compass. And a letter offering a bribe of “up to” $1 million to work for CIA.

Why didn’t CIA just run a spy-wanted ad in Moscow’s “Pravda” newspaper?

A counter-story was immediately spread that the bumbling Fogel was somehow trying to glean information related to the recent Boston bombing.

Coming just before crucially important US-Soviet talks over Syria, the Fogel affair was either incredibly inept or a crude attempt to sabotage the peace talks.

Agent 000’s case underlines concerns of veteran US intelligence professionals that CIA has become too absorbed running its own paramilitary operations around the globe and hunting so-called terrorists to pay proper attention to its basic business of gathering information.

The Cold War is long over, but intelligence operations continue at a higher intensity than during the long US-Soviet confrontation. China’s spies are increasingly active across the globe, particularly so in the US and Canada, but also in Russia.

Even allies spy on one another, most often to acquire advanced technology. The venerable “honey trap” where an attractive female agent seduce a target remains a favorite of the Russians, French, Israel’s Mossad, and, yes, the prudish CIA.

I recall nights in my awful Moscow hotel waiting for lovely Soviet female agents called “swallows” to tempt my devotion to the Free World. Alas, none ever came.

This writer has closely followed Soviet, then Russian intelligence operations . In 1989, I was the first journalist ever allowed into KGB headquarters at Moscow’s dreaded Lubyanka Prison. I interviewed two senior KGB generals who told me the Soviet Union was about to collapse due to the ineptitude of the Communist Party.

“What we need,” said one, “is a leader who will make Russians work at bayonet point, like Chile’s Pinochet or South Korea’s Park Chung-hee.” A decade later, they got their wish in the form of a former tough KGB/FSB agent, Vladimir Putin.

In spite of America’s self-congratulation over its victory in the Cold War, there is little doubt in my mind that though Moscow’s empire collapse into ruins, the Soviet KGB bested America’s CIA and other western spy agencies.

KGB and GRU(military intelligence) put agents into President Roosevelt’s White House. At the infamous Yalta Conference that divided up Europe, I saw the palace where Roosevelt and the US delegation stayed that was bugged from basement to roof by the KGB. The naïve Americans didn’t even think to look for bugs. In the early 1990’s, I saw the new US Embassy in Moscow that was so filled with bugs it was a giant microphone. The US had given the construction contract to a Russian company!

Soviet moles Aldrich Ames and John Walker handed America’s most precious secrets to Moscow. KGB spies like Philby, Burgess, Lonsdale and Blake came very close to destroying Britain’s intelligence agency MI6, and wrecking France’s spy outfit, SDECE.

In the end, the Soviet KGB managed to survive the Soviet collapse, re-emerging as FSB and SVR foreign intelligence from the KGB’s elite First Directorate. While CIA and the 15 other US intelligence agencies enjoy leadership in electronic, air and space-based intelligence(ELINT), their human intelligence (HUMINT) has lagged way behind the Soviets/Russians. US HUMINT about the Mideast, Iran and especially North Korea is poor.


copyright Eric S. Margolis 2013

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5 Responses to “SECRET AGENT 000”

  1. solum temptare possumus says:

    Nulla est bellum, pacem, et non malum
    From Mr Margolis’s most recent past commentary, quoting Benjamin Franklin.
    While the Cold War may be over, the Grand “game” of Intelligence gathering is alive and well, some of it within Diplomatic channels. While the CIA was the only “Independent” Agency, its perview was mainly foreign intelligence gathering; the FBI’s turf was domestic. Since September 11 2001, by Congressional Law and Presidential Executive Orders, the Department of Homeland Security has added another layer, while the CIA’s mandate has added “hunter/seeker” with the help of a non-military standing army and the use of drones to decapitate the “snake”.
    It seems the CIA has emerged from its chrysalis to adapt and show relevance; competing for federal funding with other agencies within the Intelligence Community.

    Some of the other agencies you may not be familiar with:
    Under ODNI, The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the current DNI, Lt General (Ret’d) James R Clapper:
    The only “Independent” Agency: The CIA
    Under the United States Department of Defense:
    DIA Defense Intelligence Agency
    NSA National Security Agency
    NGA National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
    NRO National Reconnaissance Office
    AFISRA Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency
    INSCOM Army Intelligence and Security Command
    MCIA Marine Corps Intelligence Activity
    ONI Office of Naval Intelligence
    As part of the US Department of Energy:
    OICI Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence
    Within US Homeland Security:
    I&A Office of Intelligence and Analysis
    CGI Coast Guard Intelligence
    Under the umbrella of the US Department of State:
    INR Bureau of Intelligence and Research
    Part of the US Department of the Treasury:
    TFI Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence
    And the US Department of Justice of course with the:
    FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation
    DEA/ONSI The Drug Enforcement Administration, Office of National Security Intelligence
    So tell me… you feel safer? Do all these agencies, layer upon layer, assuage your fears, so you will go out and watch a marathon or a parade on the Fourth of July? No matter how many agencies are set up, they cannot stop all random acts of terrorism.
    I posit that within my lifetime there will be at least one more intelligence agency, created to counter a hereto unknown direction of threat.
    Here’s a possible choice:
    The National Electrical Grid and Power Generation Protection Agency
    No matter what political flavor controls Congress, the Intelligence Community will grow. At least a Trillion dollars a year so far, wouldn’t you say?
    Perhaps we should be looking at this from a different perspective; a Jobs Program for Intelligent Americans, spread around the country in almost every congressional district.
    Cibum cogitatione (Food for Thought)
    ad iudicium

  2. If the Soviet Union had not invaded Afghanistan, they would still be the other world power and we would all be better off for it.
    But I believe, that it was a matter of who was to come up with the first excuse to invade Afghanistan with its immense wealth and strategic location, and coveted by both superpowers
    I will never forget the propaganda about the backwardness of the Russian people and a lot of people in the west swallowed that crap line, hook and sinker. And today multitudes still fall for the same garbage. Hollywood had all those smartly dressed men and beautiful curvaceous women, who all lived on those beautiful tree-lined streets and drove fancy convertibles and the Russian women were all dumb like the hillbilly population of the US, except they were never mentioned. Then came Raisa Gorbachev with her doctoral titles and fantastic looks and anybody daring to think for him/herself saw, that all the hullabaloo was just propaganda. That`s when the world could see, that the emperor had no clothes.
    When Gorbachev allowed the Soviet Union to collapse for whatever reason may have motivated (or forced?) him, we saw the flipside. The US is in worse financial straits than they ever have been and so dependent on the benevolence of other countries, that it behooves them to eat a humble pie and not just a slice. What a curse greed turns out to be.
    George Carlin once remarked, that Germany lost the war and fascism won it. Upon due reflection I tend to somewhat agree with that statement

  3. I remember the stories of Rudolph Abel, a true spymaster… hollowed out coins, and bolts and a gold leaf code book… It’s a shame to label Fogel as a spy!

  4. This is an interesting story indeed….but nothing really that surprises me.To many it is a well known fact that the Russians (KGB) was and still remains undefeated when it comes to spying.The West has become much too dependant on technology as Mr. Margolis had mentioned in his last paragraph.Technology has evolved to the point where it is actually doing us more harm than good and that is because of the “race” amongst western companies to out do each other.

    What ever happened to plain ordinary people not being able to do tasks that the technology industry has taken out of our hands.I have worked in this industry,indirectly,and have found that in many cases,modern technology has even worked detrimental than to what it was intended for.I have seen people severely wounded and almost killed because technology was supposed to “protect them”.

    Going back to the topic,I am not much of a Hollywood fan when it comes to heroes in movies and the American triumph over evil,but I did manage to view several spy and espionage movies,several years ago, where the subject (evil) of the movie involved the KGB….and even though it was only a movie,the superiority of this agency was even obvious in a Hollywood produced film.So the producers obviously had known this fact,that US intelligence agencies did not measure up when it came to the then Soviet KGB….and this was only a movie made for entertainment.Technology today may have it’s advantages in avoiding needless deaths (perhaps),but the human factor will always be superior to any machine that is ever developed,whether it is a drone or Promo the Robot.Machines run by computers are only as “smart” as the people that program them.Thanks for the story Mr. Margolis.But I did have a good laugh here.Maybe the US should have brought Scottish actor Sean Connery ex-James Bond,despite his age,out of retirement….he couldn’t have done any worse!

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