It is not for nothing that Vladimir Putin, the president of the Russian Republic, is a former member of the KGB. From its earliest days, Soviet Russia maintained a vast army of spies around the world and penetrating the United States remained high on its list of priorities.
In 2001, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Robert Hanssen, a FBI special agent who was a Russian spy, judged to be one of the most damaging moles in U.S. history. As Bill Gertz, a Washington Times reporter, notes in his latest book, “Enemies: How America’s Foes Steal Our Vital Secrets—and How We Let It Happen”, “Today, nearly 140 nations and some 35 known and suspected terrorist groups target the United States through espionage, according to intelligence officials.”
“Over the past several decades, foreign agents have penetrated every U.S. national security agency except the Coast Guard. That includes the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Department, the State Department, and the Energy Department.”
My thoughts turned to espionage as the saga of the murder of Alexander Litvenko, a former member of the KGB’s counterintelligence now known as the Federal Security Service (FSB) unfolded. In 2000, he had fled with his wife and son to Great Britain where he was granted asylum. He became an author and outspoken critic of the Putin regime.
Silencing the enemies of Russian ambitions has a very long history including the famed ghulags of the Stalinist era.
Americans these days are prone to worry about whether the government is listening into their phone conversations, despite repeated confirmations that the National Security Agency is listening to calls from overseas to suspected Islamic terrorists located here. The notion that everyone’s phone calls are being monitored is fairly idiotic given the volume and the utter waste of resources with which to spy on Americans who pose no threat of terrorism.
There was a bit of a flurry of outrage over recent remarks by Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, who suggested that listening in on our enemies, particularly those here in America, was a good idea since they intended to kill us all. Common sense like that always gets liberals atwitter. As some sage noted, the First Amendment is not a suicide pact.
Some lunatic Muslim convert, seized with “Instant Jihad Syndrome”, was recently arrested by FBI agents after he confided to informants that he intended to kill a lot of people while they did some Christmas shopping in a mall. Kudos to the FBI.
However, Gertz notes that “The FBI has continually resisted efforts to change, even in the aftermath of the Hanssen case and the September 11 attacks. The need for change applies at all levels, from high-level officials to agents in the field.” This is not good news. Indeed, Gertz asserts that, “The FBI has failed to protect its people, its secrets, and U.S. national security.”
“Enemies” devotes an entire chapter to “Russia’s Aggressive Espionage” and this included planting a spy in the U.S. Central Command’s warfighting headquarters in Doha, Qatar, where he transmitted the details of the 2003 invasion plans to his controllers who, in turn, gave them to Saddam Hussein.
The two most devastating spy cases in recent times involved Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames, both Americans and both of whom were spying for Russia. According to Gertz, “There are as many Russian spies in the United States today as there were during the Cold War.” The book also documents Red China’s successful espionage program.
There is, in fact, no good news in Gertz’s book. “The CIA’s once-proud Directorate of Operations has been decimated by retirements and low morale. By 2005, the agency had fewer than 1,000 case officers in the field. Many CIA stations had been reduced to single CIA officers who acted as little more than liaison officers with local services.”
On the cusp of 2007, this should signal why we probably do not know what Iran is up do. Or North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and a laundry list of nations and non-state groups like al Qaeda that would like to see the greatest experiment in democracy and capitalism come to a nasty end.
And, finally, Americans have just put the power of Congress into the hands of a group of people who would much rather “talk” to our enemies than kill them. Our enemies have no such qualms. As easily as they would kill Alexander Litvinenko, we can look forward to more efforts to encourage America to self-destruct.
The ancient Chinese military strategist, Sun Tzu, long ago wrote that the greatest skill in war is to defeat of one’s enemy without firing a shot.