Servicios secretos

Putin’s Keystone Spies

In 1985, Viktor Suvorov, a defector-turned-historian of the G.R.U., the Soviet military intelligence agency, penned a novel, “Aquarium.” It was a brilliant tableau of that deadly Soviet organization, in which ruthlessness was equaled only by efficiency. The book’s most shocking scene was of a traitor being burned alive. It was made into a video shown to all new recruits. The message: There was no way to quit the organization alive. “A ruble for entry and two for exit” became the agency’s informal motto.

But earlier this year, in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, this grandiose image of the Great Evil was forever destroyed in a Chernobyl-scale meltdown experienced by the G.R.U.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘While working as a police officer in the Russian interior ministry, I began passing information to agents of the CIA ... I felt that I could help fight the government from inside my country.’ Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

I have always acted on the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

The United States may be an enemy of Russia, and I love my country very much. But I consider this Russian government to be the enemy of the Russian people.

Vladimir Putin and his cronies have plundered our country and are oppressing its people. Corruption and extortion is all around. Russians feel intimidated and fear repression by the state. We have a resource-rich country yet our people are poor.

So I decided to help the US as a friend.

While working as a police officer in the Russian interior ministry, I began passing information to CIA agents.…  Seguir leyendo »


This summer, the fifth anniversary of Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA surveillance passed quietly, adrift on a tide of news that now daily sweeps the ground from under our feet. It has been a long five years, and not a period marked by increased understanding, transparency, or control of our personal data. In these years, we’ve learned much more about how Big Tech was not only sharing data with the NSA but collecting vast troves of information about us for its own purposes. And we’ve started to see the strategic ends to which Big Data can be put. In that sense, we’re only beginning to comprehend the full significance of Snowden’s disclosures.…  Seguir leyendo »

Can we clear something up at the outset? The Russian government is not coming over all outraged because it knows it is being falsely accused of complicity in the attempted murder in Salisbury of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. It has more knowledge of the nature of its own involvement than anyone.

No, its theatrical expressions of outrage stem from quite other feelings. The feeling that it should be allowed to get away with poisoning “traitors” in the UK, as it did with Alexander Litvinenko. The feeling that London, having been more greedy than any other financial centre for Russian mafia money, is not showing appropriate respect to the capo di tutti capi himself — Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Russian embassy in Ottawa. Canada joined Britain and other allies in expelling Russian diplomats in response to the Salisbury attack. Photo: Getty Images.

Soon after the Salisbury nerve gas attack on Sergei and Yuliya Skripal, James Nixey and I set out principles that should govern the UK’s response, and assessed potential actions against them. We argued that Britain should:

  • impose measures that are not merely symbolic, but impose costs to deter future unacceptable actions;
  • target key Russian interests, not the wider population; and
  • accept that an effective response will impose costs on some UK interests.

The UK response set out by Theresa May on 14 March comprises three sets of measures:

  1. Diplomatic sanctions: high-level bilateral contacts have been frozen, and no ministers or members of the royal family will attend the World Cup.
…  Seguir leyendo »

Un domingo tranquilo en Madrid me sorprendió el artículo en ABC «Negación, distracción y confusión» del señor Simon Manley, embajador del Reino Unido en España. Simon es un colega a quien aprecio por su alta profesionalidad y a quien tengo una simpatía personal. Como veo, los representantes del Reino Unido han recibido las instrucciones desde Londres para promover insistentemente la postura británica sobre el llamado «caso de los Skripal» a través de la prensa. Nosotros, los diplomáticos, estamos convencidos de que «los canales diplomáticos» son los más adecuados para resolver problemas. Pero si la parte británica se siente incapaz de convencernos a través del diálogo profesional y escoge la prensa como el canal de comunicación, no me queda otra opción sino responder por la misma vía.…  Seguir leyendo »

Un domingo tranquilo en Salisbury, una ciudad con una de las catedrales más bonitas del Reino Unido, un padre y su hija fueron víctimas del primer ataque con agente nervioso cometido en Europa desde el fin de la Segunda Guerra Mundial.

Serguéi y Yulia Skripal todavía están en el hospital y un agente de policía que acudió en su ayuda también se encuentra en estado crítico. Sin olvidar a las otras 35 personas que tuvieron que recibir tratamiento médico por encontrarse en aquel momento cerca del lugar del ataque.

El ataque en Salisbury el pasado 4 de marzo fue un descarado intento de asesinato de civiles en suelo británico que puso en peligro a cualquier persona, de cualquier nacionalidad, que por azar se encontrase allí.…  Seguir leyendo »

A police officer stands near the scene of the attack on Sergei Skripal in Salisbury. Photo: Getty Images.

There can be little doubt that the Russian government is behind the attempted assassination of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter. While there were the typical official denials, the Russian state has ways of communicating its innocence to foreign governments. In this case, it has not done so.

The use of a nerve agent fits a pattern established by the murder of Alexander Litvinenko with polonium in 2006. This was not a McMafia-style operation commissioned by ‘rogue elements’. If they were to blame, Moscow would be even more alarmed than London. Since the chaos of the 1990s, Putin has restored the state’s traditional prerogatives in foreign covert operations, as well as the president’s prerogatives within it.…  Seguir leyendo »

How Britain Can Respond to the Skripal Attack

If confirmed, the attack on double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter would be the second known Russian state-sponsored murder in the UK, following the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. Other suspicious cases are now being reopened.

What principles should guide an effective response?
  1. Effective measures are more than symbolic. They impose costs that punish unacceptable actions and deter future ones. The UK’s response to Litvinenko’s death – expelling four diplomats, imposing visa restrictions for officials, and suspending security service liaison – was clearly not sufficient enough to deter the latest attack. Symbols matter, but only if they credibly convey intentions about the consequences of further action.
…  Seguir leyendo »

Until 1994, GCHQ, the British signals intelligence agency, didn’t officially exist. Now, it has emerged out of the shadows to take a very public role at the heart of British cybersecurity.

Public accountability for intelligence services is crucial to any democracy but, as the recent WannaCry ransomware attack showed, there are inevitable conflicts of interest between the role of intelligence services and network safety.

The past seven years have seen a dramatic change in profile for GCHQ. While the number of police officers has been cut by 14 per cent since 2010, GCHQ’s staff numbers – according to the Home Office – have grown by more than ten per cent in the same period.…  Seguir leyendo »

Counterintelligence is long, hard work. Investigators need time to string along suspects — seeking the who, what, when, where and why of the case. The Federal Bureau of Investigation tries to build 3-D chronologies of who did what to whom. Agents usually follow the money, the best evidence. That’s how the feds got Al Capone: for tax evasion.

The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, is running the most explosive counterintelligence case since Soviet spies stole the secrets of the atom bomb more than 70 years ago. Some of those atomic spies didn’t speak Russian: They were Americans. We now know that President Vladimir V.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Tuesday morning, WikiLeaks released an enormous cache of documents that it claimed detailed “C.I.A. hacking tools.” Immediately afterward, it posted two startling tweets asserting that “C.I.A. hacker malware” posed a threat to journalists and others who require secure communication by infecting iPhone and Android devices and “bypassing” encrypted message apps such as Signal and WhatsApp.

This appeared to be a bombshell. Signal is considered the gold standard for secure communication. WhatsApp has a billion users. The C.I.A., it seemed, had the capacity to conduct sweeping surveillance on what we had previously assumed were our safest and most private digital conversations.…  Seguir leyendo »

Amid the political and diplomatic chaos in the US since Donald Trump assumed the presidency, Russian leadership has been experiencing its own turmoil, until recently kept under wraps, but now emerging into the open. To be sure, Russian President Vladimir Putin is still firmly in power, as evidenced by his hour-long conversation last Saturday with Trump and by Putin’s high ratings in opinion polls (which far surpass Trump’s). Yet we have now learned that, since the US election, there has been an unprecedented, and perhaps still continuing shakeup of top officials in Putin’s main security agency, the FSB, and that a top former intelligence official in Putin’s entourage died recently in suspicious circumstances.…  Seguir leyendo »

The last time I saw Edward Snowden, while on assignment for The Financial Times in September, he was not holding out any great hope that President Obama would show the kind of clemency to him that he just granted to Chelsea Manning.

Of course, he would prefer to return home to the United States: It was never his intention to be stranded in Russia, his passport revoked. Although a petition to pardon Mr. Snowden has now attracted more than a million supporters, he is a realist.

I had not met Mr. Snowden in June 2013 when I was the editor of The Guardian and we broke the first revelations from the National Security Agency documents he leaked revealing the scope of modern state surveillance.…  Seguir leyendo »

It is familiar, the outrage and alarm that many Americans are feeling at reports that Russia, according to a secret intelligence assessment, interfered in the United States election to help Donald J. Trump become president.

I have been through this before, overwhelmed by a similar outrage and alarm.

To be specific: On the morning of Oct. 22, 1970, in what was then my home in Santiago de Chile, my wife, Angélica, and I listened to a news flash on the radio. Gen. René Schneider, the head of Chile’s armed forces, had been shot by a commando on a street of the capital.…  Seguir leyendo »

Es tristemente familiar para mí la indignación y alarma que muchos estadounidenses sienten ante la noticia de que sus servicios de inteligencia han confirmado que Rusia intervino en las recientes elecciones con la intención de que Donald Trump fuera el próximo presidente.

He vivido antes esa misma indignación, esa misma alarma.

Para ser más específico: la mañana del 22 de octubre de 1970, en lo que por entonces era mi casa en Santiago de Chile, escuché, junto a mi mujer Angélica, un flash extraordinario por la radio. Un comando de ultra-derecha había atentado contra el General René Schneider, jefe de las fuerzas armadas chilenas.…  Seguir leyendo »

This is an article from Turning Points, a magazine that explores what critical moments from this year might mean for the year ahead.

Edward J. Snowden, a former C.I.A. employee and National Security Agency contractor, leaked top-secret documents in 2013 that exposed the extent of the N.S.A.’s classified cybersecurity program, revealing that the agency was seizing the private communications records of hundreds of millions of people around the world. Mr. Snowden, who is living in asylum in Russia, is wanted in the United States on several charges, including two under the United States Espionage Act of 1917.

Speaking by video link during the Athens Democracy Forum in Greece, convened by The New York Times in September, Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

I’ve never been enamored of the cliché about an “October surprise”; it’s an artificial construct for anything unexpected in the final weeks before an election. Actually, the only surprise in this turbulent election would have been if nothing out of the ordinary happened in the closing days. It felt a bit weird that—up until about 1:00 PM on Friday, October 28—we seemed to be drifting toward an inexorable and overwhelming victory for Hillary Clinton, while Donald Trump was headed toward a humiliating defeat. The esteemed political analyst Charlie Cook predicted that the Democrats would win five to seven Senate seats and take over that body in the next session; even the highly gerrymandered House of Representatives was seen as possibly in play.…  Seguir leyendo »

The second act of the Trump-Putin farce seems to be playing out faster than the first act, but following the same general trajectory: apparent revelations followed by exaggerated interpretation followed by a subdued debunking, all of it somehow giving weight to what, in the end, has never been much more than a matter of speculation. The theory is that Russian President Vladimir Putin is actively trying to bring Donald Trump to office and in fact has direct ties to the onsandidate. The evidence is scant, but the assumption is strong. The reality-based world view is further weakened and American political culture is the loser.…  Seguir leyendo »

Is FBI Director James Comey “fiercely independent,” as President Barack Obama described him three years ago when nominating him for his current job, or fiercely self-serving? That’s the question that looms large in the wake of Comey’s unprecedented decision to wade into a presidential race eleven days before election day by announcing that he’d reopened an investigation into Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton concerning her private email server—an investigation that he had brought to close in a major press conference in July. The announcement, which came in a very short letter to members of Congress Friday, violated two long-established rules governing criminal investigations. …  Seguir leyendo »