The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'cia'

2010/6/15

A 1978 article on how to identify a CIA agent under diplomatic cover; back then, it was fairly easy to do so by simple techniques such as looking at US embassy personnel records and seeing who hangs out with whom at diplomatic dos.

  • The CIA usually has a separate set of offices in the Embassy, often with an exotic-looking cipher lock on the outside door. In Madrid, for example, a State Department source reports that the Agency occupied the whole sixth floor of the Embassy. About 30 people worked there; half were disguised as "Air Force personnel" and half as State "political officers." The source says that all the local Spanish employees knew who worked on what floor of the Embassy and that visitors could figure out the same thing.
  • CIA personnel usually stick together. When they go to lunch or to a cocktail party or meet a plane from Washington, they are much more likely to go with each other than with legitimate diplomats. Once you have identified one, you can quickly figure out the rest.
  • The CIA has a different health insurance plan from the State Department. The premium records, which are unclassified and usually available to local employees, are a dead giveaway.
  • The Agency operative is taught early in training that loud background sounds interfere with bugging. You can be pretty sure the CIA man in the Embassy is the one who leaves his radio on all the time.
Of course, they may well have tightened things up in the past 32 or so years.

(via Schneier) cia deception espionage sousveillance surveillance tradecraft 0

2010/3/12

In 1951, residents of a small French village named Pont-Saint-Esprit were struck by a wave of violent hallucinations. At least five people died, and dozens ended up in mental asylums. The hallucinations were believed to have been caused by bread contaminated with ergot (such incidents had occurred from time to time throughout history, and in the Middle Ages, were known as "Saint Anthony's fire"); but newly revealed information suggests that the hallucinations were the product of a CIA experiment into the use of LSD as a weapon:

One man tried to drown himself, screaming that his belly was being eaten by snakes. An 11-year-old tried to strangle his grandmother. Another man shouted: "I am a plane", before jumping out of a second-floor window, breaking his legs. He then got up and carried on for 50 yards. Another saw his heart escaping through his feet and begged a doctor to put it back. Many were taken to the local asylum in strait jackets.
Mr Albarelli said the real "smoking gun" was a White House document sent to members of the Rockefeller Commission formed in 1975 to investigate CIA abuses. It contained the names of a number of French nationals who had been secretly employed by the CIA and made direct reference to the "Pont St. Esprit incident." In its quest to research LSD as an offensive weapon, Mr Albarelli claims, the US army also drugged over 5,700 unwitting American servicemen between 1953 and 1965.

(via Boing Boing) bizarre cia conspiracy theories drugs lsd mind control 1

2005/9/9

A fascinating article from the CIA describing, in some detail, the working career of a spy in the Soviet Union, from his volunteering to help the US in the late 1970s, through his delivery of key details of Soviet aircraft technology, and ultimately to his arrest in 1985 (he was subsequently found guilty of high treason and executed), and describing points of tradecraft such as methods of covert communication under the noses of the KGB, as well as mundane details of his daily life and psychological motivations:

Another technique that was used to defeat KGB surveillance was to disguise the identity of the case officer being sent out to meet with Tolkachev. This technique was first used in this operation in June 1980. John Guilsher drove to the US Embassy building at about 7:20 p.m., ostensibly having been invited to dinner at the apartment of an Embassy officer who lived there. Once inside, he disguised himself so that when he later left the compound in another vehicle, he would not be recognized by KGB surveillants waiting outside. Checking to ensure that he was free of surveillance, Guilsher, while still in the vehicle, changed out of his western clothes and made himself look as much as possible like a typical, working-class Russian by putting on a Russian hat and working-class clothes, taking a heavy dose of garlic, and splashing some vodka on himself. Guilsher then left his vehicle and proceeded on foot and by local public transportation to a public phone booth, where he called the agent out for a meeting at a prearranged site.
The periodically heavy KGB surveillance on various case officers, often without any apparent logic, did, however, force the CIA to become more creative in its personal-meeting tradecraft. A new countersurveillance technique that was used for this operation involved what was called a "Jack-in-the-Box" (JIB). A JIB (a popup device made to look like the upper half of a person) allowed a case officer to make a meeting with an agent even while under vehicular surveillance.
Typically, a JIB would be smuggled into a car disguised as a large package or the like. Subsequently Tolkachev's case officer and other station personnel would set out in the car many hours before a planned meeting with the agent. Following a preplanned route, the driver at some point would make a series of turns designed to provide a brief period when the trailing surveillance car would lose sight of the car containing the case officer and other CIA personnel. After one of these turns, Tolkachev's case officer would jump from the slowly moving vehicle, at which time the driver would activate the JIB. The JIB would give the appearance to any trailing surveillance team of being the missing case officer. The car would then continue its route, eventually arriving at a given destination, usually the home of one of the other CIA personnel in the car. The JIB, again concealed in a large package, would then be removed from the car.
One of Tolkachev's former case officers recalls that Tolkachev would periodically brainstorm on the subject, suggesting wildly improbable scenarios, such as having the CIA fly a specially made light aircraft into a rural area of the Soviet Union, where Tolkachev and his family could be picked up. When discussing that particular possibility, he noted that the only problem might be that such an aircraft designed to evade Soviet aircraft detection systems might have trouble accommodating his wife, due to her weight!
The piece concludes, quoting grudging praise from KGB officers for the way the CIA ran this model agent, and noting that his son is apparently now a prominent architect in Russia, suggesting that he successfully protected his family from the consequences of his capture.

(via Schneier) cia cold war espionage kgb russia tradecraft 1

2005/8/11

In 2003, the CIA found what it thought were al-Qaeda terrorist instructions encoded in the al-Jazeera news ticker. The "instructions" detected by the CIA's steganalysis software included dates, flight numbers and the coordinates of targets including the White House and the small town of Tappahannock, Virginia, and resulted in the national terror alert level being raised from "extra-severe" to "brown trouser time" and almost 30 flights being cancelled. That is, until it emerged that the "hidden messages" were just the result of random noise, coincidence and the human pattern-finding instinct:

The problem with hunting messages hidden by steganography is that there are so few of them, any computer program will come up with false positives - messages that aren't really there. "The false positive rate, even if it's vanishingly small, starts to throw signals at you that makes you want to believe you're seeing messages. And somebody could be fooled by that if they didn't understand the nature of steganography," says Honeyman.
This happened some time after it was discovered that al-Qaeda weren't hiding terrorist instructions in images on internet porn sites.

al-jazeera al-qaeda cia paranoia steganography terrorism the long siege 0

2005/1/11

A militant Islamist group's website recently published a report saying that the CIA has opened a facility for training agents to impersonate muezzins and infiltrate mosques:

The CIA opened its first muezzin school at a deserted army airstrip in Virginia in 1989, with the school being specially equipped with six minarets from which its agents could practise, the report said. It added that the CIA was now capable of producing up to 100 qualified muezzins each year.

Unbeknownst to them, the original story was a piece of satire, published by British satirical website The Rockall Times in 2001. Apparently the members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, who republished the story almost unchanged, either did not notice the satirical content on the rest of the site or wrote it off as authentic reportage of the corruption and decadence of British society.

amusing cia islam propaganda satire usa 0

2004/5/7

Out of work? Got a Top Secret clearance and a sadistic streak? US military contractors are looking for an Interrogator/Intel Analyst Team Lead in Baghdad, to assist in interrogating recalcitrant Iraqis, under minimal supervision. Since the applicant will not be a US military officer, military codes of conduct do not apply.

Meanwhile, how much do you want to bet that Arab-torturing good-ol'-girl Lynndie England will be getting lots of marriage proposals from Little Green Footballs readers and the like? Step aside Lara Croft and Sigourney Weaver; there's a butt-kicking heroine for the Bush Era.

"To the country boys here, if you're a different nationality, a different race, you're sub-human. That's the way girls like Lynndie are raised. Tormenting Iraqis, in her mind, would be no different from shooting a turkey. Every season here you're hunting something. Over there, they're hunting Iraqis."

And Charlie Stross has weighed in on the Iraqi torture controversy. (Sorry, did I say torture? I meant abuse. Torture, like terrorism, is something only the bad guys can do.) Apparently the British did similar things in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, and the results weren't pretty.

Which is to say: I think the torture is symptomatic of a much deeper malaise at the heart of the neoconservative program to restructure the Middle East. It's the same disease that enabled another cultured, well-educated western society two thirds of a century ago to efficiently and systematically brutalize half a continent: the conviction that the Other is backward, ill-educated, unworthy of tolerance, brutish, must needs be governed for their own good and punished for rebellion against the self-evidently correct policies of the superpower ... you can't justify the invasion and occupation of other nations these days without espousing a belief that their citizens are morally, intellectually, or ideologically inferior. To view someone as inferior in one of these ways is to dehumanize them. And, once dehumanized, they become fair game for the most odious of practices: collective punishment, suspension of civil rights, torture, and finally mass murder of civilians -- whether by gas chamber or cluster bomb makes no difference.
This is a wake-up call. We aren't just on the slippery slope, we're two-thirds of the way down it and trying on the jackboots for fit.

Gee, it's a lucky thing that the US isn't bound by the Geneva convention; otherwise they may be guilty of war crimes.

charlie stross cia guantanamo iraq war torture 2

2003/10/30

The CIA have created a robot catfish, which looks just like a real fish and may or may not have been used for unspecified purposes. The catfish, named Charlie, is being exhibited at the CIA museum, along with robotic bumblebees and dragonflies (which turned out too hard to navigate for practical use) and the usual assortment of miniature cameras and such; the exhibition, however, is off-limits to the public. So next time an innocuous-looking 600mm-long catfish swims past, smile.

cia fish robots surveillance tech 0

2002/10/15

A former spy claims that Anthony Burgess' most famous novel, A Clockwork Orange was inspired by his work with the CIA; the "Ludovico technique", and the use of images to trigger emotional responses for Skinnerian conditioning, was based on top-secret trials of a mind-control technique, and the Russian-based slang used by Alex and his droogs comes from Burgess' dealing with secret agents. Apparently the location of Fort Bliss, a US military base used in mind-control research, is encoded fnord in writing on Alex's bedroom wall. (via Unknown News)

a clockwork orange anthony burgess cia espionage mind-control 0

2002/9/12

Those comsymps at the Grauniad are having a minute's silence for September 11 victims -- September 11, 1973, when the CIA-backed Pinochet regime overthrew Allende in Chile. Mind you, the estimated 30,000 men, women and children who were killed were all Communists, who would have enslaved Chile under a hellish Stalinist dictatorship had the CIA not intervened in the name of defending freedom worldwide.

(Wasn't it Kissinger or someone who articulated the difference between "totalitarianism", which is uniformly evil (and ideologically "left-wing"), and "authoritarianism", which can be benign, a strong state concerned about defending cherished values and such?)

On a similar tangent, I once heard that one of the reason for the West's toleration of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor was that Fretilin had troublingly leftist leanings; an independent East Timor would have been a probable Soviet client state, and Australia could have had its own Cuban Missile Crisis. And what better experts on Communist eradication in the asia-pacific region than Suharto's New Order?

9/11 authoritarianism chile cia pinochet totalitarianism usa 4

2002/9/11

Shortly after the CIA has failed to find any link between Iraq and terrorist groups, the UN's chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, has said that there is no evidence of Iraq having or trying to build weapons of mass destruction. Nonetheless, Bush, Blair and Howard are still going on about how there must be terrorist links, and how with international help, Iraq could easily make a nuclear bomb to give to Al-Qaeda. Call it faith-based geopolitics.

Evidence or no evidence, there will almost certainly be an invasion of Iraq. Bush will not be robbed of his statesmanly stature and turned into just another bumbling idiot politician again, and nothing short of Saddam Hussein giving himself up to U.S. authorities (and not those UN/EU pinkos either) will suffice to stop the machinery now in motion. And as soon as Saddam is safely in his supermax cell in Colorado and the insurrections across the Middle East have been put down, they can go after Castro or Gaddafi; the possibilities are endless.

al-qaeda cia iraq iraq war terrorism 0

2001/9/12

A piece on some of the CIA's research projects, from spy planes to psychics and eavesdropping cats:

Another project, known as "Acoustic Kitty," involved wiring a cat with transmitting and control devices, allowing it to serve as a mobile listening post. A heavily redacted 1967 government memo released by the archive Monday suggests that cats can be altered and trained, but concludes the program wouldn't work.

Reminds me of a mind-control/conspiracy rant I saw on Psychoceramics, which suggested that, since it is possible to get video out of a cat's optic nerve and (theoretically) to control a cat's motivation with direct stimulation of the brain, then cat-owning paranoids should beware if their cat disappears and subsequently reappears and starts taking an undue interest in their actions.

bizarre cats cia surveillance 0

2000/12/23

And while we're on the subject of US spy agencies, The tree at the CIA's Christmas party is apparently quite a sight to see, festooned with ornaments designed in the agency's spy-gadget labs.

A dragonfly ornament's wings move at hummingbird speed when the tree lights are clear. The wings are made of sheer material that could be used to construct a microphone that would be almost impossible to detect... And if you put on a pair of special cardboard glasses, the words "happy holidays" appear dancing around the star, showing off a way to conceal messages.
One straggler with perky short brown hair and black-frame glasses snapped into a sandy-haired corporate type by shedding her disguise. Agents in the field can don a new look in two minutes, she said.

Myself, I wouldn't mind some of those compact speakers that can produce the sound equivalent of a 50-foot woofer.

christmas cia espionage fun tech 0

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