Why Russia is a top CIA hard target – Washington Examiner,

Why Russia is a top CIA hard target – Washington Examiner,







AsCNNand theNew York Timesreported on Monday, the CIA extracted a high-level Russian government source in 2017. Both publications suggest that the CIA was increasingly concerned the agent was at risk of being compromised.


It’s an exciting story that raises many questions.


For my two cents, I note that the 2016 – 2017 period saw an unusually large number of senior Russian foreign policy officials die. While these deaths were ruled accidental or natural,I’ve had doubts. The theatrical nature in which Russia described some of the deaths as occurring – falling out of a window and dying while swimming, for example – fit with Russia’s particular penchant fortheatrical assassinations. Perhaps these Russian officials were suspected of spying for a foreign nation and thus executed. Perhaps not.


Regardless, the question mark itself is a perfect example of why the 2017 extraction is so important. Because in the wilderness of mirrors that defines America’s intelligence struggle with Russia, there are many more shadows than certain forms. Still, from the Cold War to the present day, Russia has been a top target for the CIA’s human agent recruitment efforts. Today, only China stands as a higher priority target.


That’s because Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a determinedkeystone adversaryof the United States.


Second, because the Russians are completely paranoid about being caught out by other means of intelligence collection – signal intelligence, especially, i.e. intercepted phone calls, emails,or otherdigital-electronic communications. The Russians know that the U.S. and its allies, especially Britain, have exceptional signal intelligence capabilities and they are extremely careful about using signal platforms to discuss the most critical issues. Sometimes they make mistakes, but in equal measure they spread misinformation over encrypted channels in order to trick American ears into false understandings.


That leaves limited other means to understand what Vladimir Putin’s inner circle is thinking, planning, and doing. While U.S. satellites and other measurement platforms can detect military activities, they cannot show what people are thinking. That’s where human agents play their role.


But the catch here is that Russia is an extremely hard target for human agent recruitment. The Russian FSB intelligence service makes it extremely difficult for CIA officers to move freely in Moscow and other Russian cities, let alone meet and pitch a prospective official to share secrets with the CIA. Russia sometimes engages in particularly aggressive techniques to harass CIA officers.


Russian officials also know the FSB’s resources and reach. In turn, they are hesitant to meet U.S. officials even where they would like to. This often applies even where the CIA approaches Russian officials while they’re traveling outside of Russia. Thanks to the Russian intelligence community’s perpetually paranoid state it often prioritizes tedious surveillance operations of its own people over serious efforts to recruit foreign officials to spy for the Kremlin. Russia also benefits fromunreliable U.S. alliesin these efforts.


The result?


Only the most talented teams of CIA “targeters” (who identify those might work with the CIA) and operations officers (those who approach, cultivate, and handle the target) can recruit agents inside the Russian government. The best operations officers must also bemasters of nuance. Interestingly, current CIA Director Gina Haspelexcelledagainst the Russians here.


But the basic sustaining point here is that the recruitment of Russian agents is dangerous and difficult work. Where, as in the case now reported, a Russian official can operate in place for decades, share intelligence regularly (one mistake and you’re doomed) and then escape to America, it is a landmark success. The agent and the CIA officers who handled him will have shared a well-deserved Russiantoast: Давайте выпьем за успех нашего дела! To the success of our project!





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