by Trowbridge H. Ford
In the so-called war on terror, securing secrets obtained is just as important for intelligence services as obtaining them in the first place, though the Western powers, especially the United States, have been quite slow in realizing this, thanks to its beliefs that its technology is too complicated to be seriously broken, and its agents are completely trustworthy. Of course, traditionally counter-intelligence – protecting what one already has, and making sure that it is not stolen in the future – has been as important as obtaining or stealing them in the first place. But the end of the Cold War – where organized systems of the combatants faced off against one another, has greatly blunted the process – leading individual states and alliances to believe that they only need worry about hackers, thieves of specific expertise, and criminal organizations. Current intelligence agencies have been until quite recently confident that their vetting processes, and periodic checks on the bona fides of agents -thanks to all the feedback from notorious spies such organizations experienced during the Cold War – are enough to insure that nothing serious leaks out.
In doing so, intelligence services have been slow to recognize that older ideologies – nationalism which made monsters like Hitler, socialism that made ones like Stalin, and pacificism that produced utopian one-worlders – have been replaced by other ones, perhaps not so powerful as those but still militating against assumptions about loyalties, priorities, and outlooks of citizens likely to become their agents. Rights of all kinds – those of humans, women, races, animals, the unborn, the poor, international and domestic law, the oppressed, the uneducated, the unknown, etc. – have taken on a priority which have replaced traditional beliefs about nations, societies, and individuals. Wars are now being fought or opposed in the name of human rights, doctors are being killed or protected for doing abortions, political leaders are being assassinated or hated for their actions regarding fur and factory farms, etc. The intelligence game has not fundamentally changed, only who are the participants, where are they located, why are they doing this, and how can they be discovered and stopped.
I personally find this most blunted interest in counter-intelligence most bizarre, having been an intelligence analyst aka clerk typist in the US Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps in Paris during the end of the Korean War. We did nothing but look for spies, especially communist ones, everywhere, recruiting the French Army agency like ours to help out in the process. My job was essentially to see to the processing of all security checks pertaining to French citizens working for the American Army. Any French national who was considered for employment, mostly for the most menial jobs like cleaning up all kinds of places, from offices to motor pools, had to get the okay from Uncle Sam.
The process must have been employed because of a hangover from the Dreyfus Affair, and that damned bordereau found in the German Embassy by that cleaning lady. Still, we – rather I – had to do it, prepare the agency checks for the Service de la Securité de la Défence Nationale, Section Guerre, for every job applicant, and type up the results in sextuplicate for the higher ups back in Orleans and Washington. I don’t recall ever receiving any unfavorable report from the French Army, but I vividly remember the mountains of paper I produced in the process.
Of course, if that was all we were doing in France, it would have been quite harmless, though most unnecessary, but there was much more to what was afoot. The commanding officer when I left had put us on a war footing when he came, having someone in the office 24/7 to help prevent the Russkies from stealing our worthless information – what I volunteered without much appreciation that we make readily available to them just to confuse them about our mission – and seeing to the recall of our independent Liaison Officer there on the grounds that he might be a leaker because of his alleged homosexuality.
Our commanding officer also wanted us to break into the apartment of a Army civilian in the hope of finding literature to prove his being a communist – what the rest of us kiboshed by stating that we had similar literature in our own digs, and when we learned that the Boss would take no responsibility if we were caught. Then we had an eager-beaver agent who independently set out to prove that Suzanne Bidault, the wife of French diplomat and often Cabinet minister Georges Bidault, was a leading member of the French Communist Party, only to discover at the last moment before a serious diplomatic incident occurred that she was another Suzanne Bidault.
The pìeces de résistance occurred when our counterparts in the Air Force, the Office of Special Investigations, wondered if anyone in our office would vouch for the fact that Max Asoli’s Reporter magazine was communist-dominated. Since I took the magazine, and my brother-in-law was a frequent contributer to it, I told that Air Force snoops that they had it all wrong, as it was a CIA-funded one, apparently killing off the whole alleged exposé. Then Hoover’s FBI got CIC to do a surveillance on a leader of the American Communist Party, a guy named Burns who also had burns on his hands, when he visited Paris for some unknown reason. Of course, there was no legal basis for the operation, though that did not stop J. Edgar as he demanded that we go through with it after Burns had even canceled his flight. Seems a Canadian with the same name booked a flight to Paris about at this time, and we had to make sure that he wasn’t the American one. Well, when he arrived at Orly, we quickly lost sight of him, and our people had a hectic 24 hours until Mike Gravel, later Senator from Alaska, and recently a Democratic candidate for President, caught up the the guy, discovering that he had no burns on his hands.(1)
I mention this experience to show just how deep this anti-communism, especially of a Russian nature, had developed by the end of the Korean War – what has persisted among Western intelligence services, especially Anglo-American ones, ever since, particularly by those agents who got burned in some way subsequently by it. Cambridge University spies Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess had just fled to the USSR in May 1951, and while I was in Paris, there were terrible riots outside the American Embassy when the Rosenbergs, really surrogates for the really important spies – and there were some – were executed. Instead of seeing the trouble in some kind of proportion, though, Western counter-intelligence preferred to see communists almost everywhere, particularly when their Apostle associates, Kim Philby, Anthony Blunt and John Cairncross, did not follow them. Little wonder that historians of these betrayals have made careers out of continuing to see fellow communists amongst us, and roaming free right down to today.(2)
Little wonder with intelligence agencies stirring up so much trouble – and even MI5 was deeply involved in such wild-goose chases if Peter Wright is to be believed – the Kennedy administration consolidated all the service counter-intelligence agencies under the Defense Intelligence Agency, and all of them put increasingly less emphasis upon counter-intelligence as the Cold War dragged on, leaving the protection of their secrets to offices within them. Then vetting process were improved to make sure that the occasional bad-apple didn’t join their ranks, and periodic checks on their reliability, including lie-detector tests, were established to ensure that they did not turn after joining them. By the time the Cold War ended – thanks to the belated discovery of NSA’s Robert Lipka spying for the KGB by its own admission, and the Agency’s Aldrich ‘Rick’ Ames having similarly spied for the Soviets – Anglo-American intelligence agencies were quite sure that serious spying had essentially become a thing of the past, though there was still the most belated discovery that the Bureau’s Robert Hanssen had worked for the KGB too, something that could be left to the West’s security services.
There are still growing signs that other loyalties rather than expected patriotism are at play, like other countries’ progress, human and animal rights, etc., though security services are reluctant to recognize them. Jonathan Pollard’s spying for Israel – what resulted in his being sentenced to life imprisonment without parole – continues to be justified in terms of American national security, though what he did was not so important if Washington was not attempting a sudden, non-nuclear conclusion to the Cold War – triggered by Olof Palme’s assassination, and at everyone’s risk – what could have resulted in Armageddon if it had not been for the spying by more important ones.
Holland’s Pim Fortuyn was left unprotected despite his disregard of animal rights – what his assassin Volkert van der Graaf used, among other things, to explain the killing. The killing of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko remains unsolved because MI5 conveniently maintains that he is another victim of the Cold War, refusing to admit that he was threatening to blackmail all its participants, particularly Britain.(3) Then there is the unfortunate case of plasma expert J. Reece Roth who had not paid strict attention to whom he allowed to be his research assistants while helping out Beijing in such matters when the USA was actively using his research and others in triggering the deadly earthquake in Sichuan province in May 2008.
The places to look for potential turncoats are in the feedback from the Cold War, especially when spies involved in it see results which directly conflict with what made them spy for the West in the first place. These tensions are particularly noticeable with the unification of Germany which made former residents of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) who risked their lives in spying for the West, especially those working for MI6 and CIA, suddenly have to put up with former communists who are doing things for a united Germany which they most opposed when still living in the GDR. It could result in a situation where a former MI6 spy is confronted with a political situation where he or she is doing for London what they had risked their lives a generation before to prevent and stop. Then other loyalties and concerns could threaten to override tradiional state loyalty when it engages in ‘false flag’ efforts to blame others, especially former communist opponents, for what it is attempting in order to get back for former betrayals, especially if key players in the ruse don’t know about it, and are vigorously opposed to such methods if they do find out.
This all seems most germane when talking about the killing of German linguist and leading Oxford academic Gudrun Loftus, though given her role in preparing analysts for the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), her intelligence status has prevented any disclosure, official or unofficial, about who she really is. Loftus was born in the GDR, and grew up there as a devout Catholic, perhaps around Leipzig where she was subjected to all its recruiting methods for joining its elite communist ranks. She did not take to this most intrusive process, most likely because of the Stasi’s eavesdropping on everyone, especially growing troublemakers like herself.
Seems she met her future husband, Gerry Loftus, through the Brtish Council’s programs of English As A Foreign Language (EFL), noted for its connections to the Secret Intelligence Service, and soon was recruited by it as a spy – what forced her to flee the country in the early 1980s when it threatened being exposed to Marcus Wolf’s agents. While in West Germany, she finally finished her higher education at Tubingen, Germany’s university most noted for its religious tradition. From there, she went on to Oxford where we have already seen she accomplished a lot.(4)
Gareth Williams became a similarly most important agent in an entirely different way, though still without any serious vetting about who he really was. While the media, apparently thanks to input from Britain’s covert government, has portrayed him as a one-dimensional loner, he was obviously much more than that. He had serious interests in politics and religion, especially in Wales, though he was, of course, a practical maths genius, and a great expert on electronic gizmos involved in cryptography, as his Ph.D. from the University of Manchester demonstrated. He, coming from Anglesey, might well have been a Welsh nationalist since he spoke English with a Welsh accent, committed to restoring the country to an independent one which honored its language and traditions – what would explain why people who knew him are so tight-lipped about what they say. The big problem for Britain with Gareth was allowing him to write his own ticket about anything he touched without knowing what he might do with it. It reminds me of how MI6 allowed Kim Philby and George Blake to do whatever they wanted when it came to spying for Moscow. Blake became Britain most destructive double-agent because of how he was treated as a South Korean prisoner during the Korean War.
Williams’ independent interests started surfacing shortly after he arrived at Cheltentham’s GCHQ. He learned, it seems, of the Foreign Office’s communications with its embassy in Moscow about the activities of the GRU’s Colonel Sergei Skripal, the spy who MI6 had developed in the mid-1990s to expose its spies sent into Europe, and Russia’s military plans in case of war, and apparently told Putin’s people about it. Williams could not abide by the idea that he was serving HMG when it was just trying to keep the Cold War going, like it had been doing for centuries in Wales.
Skripal received $100,000 for his efforts, far more than Williams was being paid. The retired Colonel’s spying could have played an important role in the sinking of the Kursk in 2001 by the USS Toledo – an operation that the Royal Navy’s submarine Splendid was apparently involved in.(5) Skripal was arrested in December 2004, and convicted in 2006, sentenced to thirteen years in prison, setting his release for 2017 for time already served. Little wonder that Skripal’s exposure set off alarm bells in Whitehall, causing a raft of rumors about who had exposed him. Former MI6 double agent Oleg Gordievsky was left asking if Britain had another George Blake on its hands.(6)
Loftus’s independent activities started surfacing after Angela Merkel became chairman of the SDU-CSU right-wing coalition in Germany, and went on to become its first female Chancellor. Obviously, Gudrun knew something of her past, having grown up in the GDR too, but she did know how deeply Merkel was involved not only in its covert activities but also that of the KGB too until, it seems, I wrote my article about it.(7) Its closing sentence must have had an impact on Loftus, especially given the activities she had engaged in to stop her from rising to the top of a united Germany. Whether Merkel was just a Stasi asset or a KGB spy, she had certainly lost her credibility to lead a reunited Germany, especially since she was providing the growing use of German forces, and eavesdropping techniques reminiscent of the former communist regime to put down the insurgents in Afghanistan by the harshest means. Gudrun’s major problem, like Williams’, was how to make her concerns public and credible.
By this time, Williams was more interested in disclosing more counter-terrorist officers, and their intelligence collecting techniques as he worked away at Fort Meade with NSA to catch an alleged Russian sleeper cell of spies that it had discovered and the Bureau was putting the finishing touches on catching, and in Afghanistan to help NATO forces track down Al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents. The only trouble was that the security services had belatedly come to suspect him of treachery. The only trouble with going after him directly was that he would bring out these covert, illegal operations in his defense if prosecuted, so they set up a clever sting operation in the hope that it would keep him occupied, and possibly dissuade him from continuing while they had more time to finish these eavesdropping operations. A fledgling MI6 software engineer, Daniel Houghton, was persuaded to leave the service, and to befriend Williams – who he had apparently gotten to know through their rabid interest in cycling – so that he went along with a plan to sell such secrets, only unbeknownst to Williams, to a friendly power of Britain, Dutch intelligence agents. It was to be the crowning achievement of Scarlett’s tenure as MI6’s ‘C’. (8)
In the counter-intelligence race against time, the British pulled off their sting operation before Williams was able to completely ruin theirs with NSA in the States, and then NATO’s pursuit of insurgents in Afghanistan. In early March 2010, MI5 agents, feigning to be those of a foreign power, arrested Houghton when he was leaving a London hotel after he received £900.000 for the DVDs and video tapes upon which he, it seems, had copied the data regarding MI5’s and MI6’s personnel, and operating procedures. He understandably stated that they had the “wrong man”, as he was only Williams’ intermediary, later explaining that he had been tricked into doing so by voices in his head.(9) While Judge Bean at the Old Bailey trial of the case said that that did not permit him to escape responsibility, Houghton had not done it for ideological reasons nor to hurt Britain since he had sold the information to a friendly power! After he pleaded guilty in July to committing one offense of the Official Secrets Act, he was sentenced to one year in prison in early September, as if it were essentially an uncomplicated case of theft – what resulted in his release in February, as he was credited with serving time while on remand.(10)
Williams was quite confused by this rigmarole, but as Houghton’s trial was stretched out to make sure that his own spying was successfully terminated, he began to act again in Russia’s interest. Just after the Manhattan 11 were arrested, and charged with spying, NSA feared that he might come to their defense, given his freedom to say what he wanted about the Bureau’s sting, so their crimes were reduced like Houghton’s were in the process of being marginalized. Once ten of them, headed by the sultry Anna Chapman, pleaded guilty to the lesser charges, the Kremlin sought out Williams to determine if he would be willing to see them exchanged for Colonel Skripal, and three other Western spies it was holding. It would make no sense to lose Williams while exchanging Skripal.
Williams’ visitors were apparently the ‘Mediterranean-looking’ couple who had sought him out in his safe apartment in Pimlico in late June.(11) Williams agreed to the exchange as it would help embarrass NSA/GCHQ over the ‘false flag’ operation – turning the tables on Washington and London on how they treated ignorant Russians who they had set up.
Shortly afterwards, Williams learned that Houghton had really set him up by dealing with the Dutch rather than the Russians with his copied material, and went to Afghanistan to gather material showing just how serious NATO forces there, especially the British, American, and German ones. had been in violating human rights in trying to suppress the insurgents. In the process of making the logs understandable to those not familiar with the languages used, particularly German, Mrs. Loftus, it seems, helped out in the translations because Angela Merkel’s government was increasing its assistance to the Afghan mission while other countries were reducing theirs or were thinking of doing so.
Once they were completed, Williams handed them over in July to Julian Assange’s Wikileaks, apparently with the expectation that material would be redacted to protect the identity of forces and personnel involved. Wikileaks turned the Afghan Logs over to The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel to pass on to the public.The choice of the German outlet as a source seemed to show Loftus’s contribution to the project.
While the logs were redacted to prevent the identity of the forces involved, excesses by German forces around Kunduz were particularly notable. In September 2009, the German commander there, Colonel Georg Klein, ordered the bombing of a crowd north of the city, looting two hijacked fuel tankers in the Kunduz river bed. Klein ordered the attack after Task Force 47, an elite special forces group, had been informed by a single source that it was a completely Taliban operation, and he agreed to the targeting of the two groups with 500-pound bombs from missiles, killing at least 142 people.
The rules of engagement allowed such action if there were no civilians in the area, and the German troops acted as if this were so, and so claimed, though the vast majority of those killed were civilians.(12) Actually, those killed were essentially civilians who the Taliban had mobilized to move the tankers. As in Britain’s suppression of IRA terrorism, as Richard Norton-Taylor pointed out, the killing of ‘high value’ targets was done with no attempt to capture them, warning shots were hardly ever fired, and winning ‘hearts and minds’ of the Afghans was largely a myth, intended merely for the benefit of the folks back home. Lady Neville-Jones, Britain’s Security Minister, hit the nail on the head when she said that the logs appeared to be the product of both leaking and hacking – what Williams could best provide.
What really infuriated Mrs. Loftus was that Merkel’s government really did nothing about it – only accepting the resignations of Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung whose attempted cover up of the incident was exposed, and the retirement of German President Horst Köhler, another graduate of Tubingen University, after he said that German involvement in Afghanistan was good for world stability and its economy. Though Chancellor Merkel had belatedly promised a full investigation of the tragedy, the charges against Klein were ultimately dropped, and nothing has really been done about it.(13)
The unredacted leaks by Williams and Loftus, of course, just put them in greater jeopardy, as Julian Assange explained after an apparent meeting with one of them:”We have delayed the release of some 15,000 reports from the total archive as part of a harm minimization process demanded by our source. After further review, these reports will be released, with the occasional redactions and eventually, in full, as the security situation in Afghanistan permits.” (14)
Unfortunately, this explanation and future changes were far too late to save Williams who was by then on his way back to the States, trying to obtain more information about the entrapment of the ten Russians, apparently in the hope of improving his position with Moscow. By this time, Williams knew that he was really the target of the Houghton sting, and his best chance of avoiding a long imprisonment or murder was to flee, like Maclean and Burgess had when MI5 was finally closing in on them. He had no chance of being freed, as Blake had, if he ever went to prison
Williams might have tipped his hand by the complicated travel arrangements he contemplated to get to Moscow. He certainly indicated his intentions by where he went, and the questions he asked, especially to the female associate and her husband at GCHQ who had taken his place at Fort Meade after he left – what resulted in their being transferred to Denver on a mission which made them unavailable for any questioning about the matter. While Williams undoubtedly collected valuable information about it and other Scarlett missteps on his laptop – what would have made the disclosures by other Russian double agents tame by comparison – he had also ingested the poison which would kill him before he ever got to Moscow.(15)
The most interesting aspects of his murder were the lengths that the securocrats went to in order to best hide his poisoning, and his killing so that it could be so clouded with rumor that most interest in what had really happened would be lost. Clearly they had complete access to his Rodina apartment or they would have reported his unexplained visit by that couple at the end of June. The fact they didn’t showed that they were hoping to implicate the Russians in the murder – what some of the disinformation after the discovery of his body was intended to achieve. Obviously, they wanted to see where it was really headed before they finally acted overtly.
When he was poisoned in the States, they believed that he would die, and could be disposed of before anyone suspected what was occurring. To facilitate this, he was dumped naked into the carryall, and padlocked in to make sure that he was only discovered after there had been vast decomposition of his body, making the discovery of a natural poison almost impossible to discover. His nakedness was the result of the clothing he had been wearing while he was dying, being removed from the apartment to make his last moves in London nearly impossible to retrace.
The only trouble was that the police did find those security videos of him entering the Holland Park tube station, and walking along the front of Harrods. The photographs clearly show that he, so sickly that he is hardly recognizable, was suffering jaundice from the toxins of the poisonous mushroom, apparently amanita phalloides, the most damaging evidence about official lies about his condition when he, it seems, just suddenly was killed. The photographs, especially the one of Williams in the descending lift at Holland Park station, show this, though disinformation agents and skeptics claim that its light is the cause of the yellowness, not his skin color. Actually, the light shows its light making his skin at the top of his head more white, giving him a kind of halo, while the rest of it is quite yellow.(16) And the other photographs show him in a jaundiced condition, with his arms and his head being a darkish yellow while the red of his T-shirt, and the light color of his trousers are not made to look pink or yellow.
His having been poisoned was overlooked when the securocrats cleared his safe house of medicine he had bought at Harrods Dispensing Pharmacy, missing the receipt he had about the purchase. Williams paid for most of the items he purchased in cash – what his killers were ignorant of when they finished taking him out.
Mrs. Loftus must have been at a loss to account for his killing, given all the disinformation provided about it, until, it seems, I provided essentially the above information. She apparently provided support for my continuing investigation of his murder after I posted its background (17), and no sooner had I finished it than she too was murdered. She was even more important as a witness to Williams murder, explaining what and why he did what he did, than what she herself could disclose. The article was posted on October 4th, and she was apparently pushed backwards down the steep stairs leading to the Senior Common Room of St. John’s College, Oxford early the next morning. She had apparently gone there to discuss the disclosure of the Afghan logs, and Williams killing with someone she thought knew something about it – what was discovered by GCHQ’s eavesdropping on the conversation setting up the meeting – and was met at the landing at the top of the stairs by the person she sought by a hefty push back down them to her death.
The police are still officially investigating both murders, preventing anyone from divulging any information about them to the press and the public, and, of course, government employees are prevented from doing so under the strictest penalties. The families of the deceased have apparently been belatedly informed that their killings were a matter of national security – what has been so successful that they have not uttered a peep about them while the heads of MI5, GCHQ, and MI6 have gone out of their way to state that such disclosures of secret information – whatever their source – cannot be allowed not matter what is required to stop it.
In explaining intelligence assurance, the Cheltenham Director Lain Lobban said most pointedly but without any clarification: “Cyberspace lowers the bar for entry to the espionage game, both for states and criminal actors.” (18)
MI6 Director Sir John Sawers added about the problems such actions caused allied intelligence services: “They will not work with SIS (Secret Intelligence Service), will not pass us the secrets they hold, unless they can trust us not to expose them. Our foreign partners need to have certainty that what they tell us will remain secret, not just most of the time, but always.” (19)
Counter-intelligence in the Anglo-American world has returned with increased vengeance.
1. For more, see this link: http://codshit.blogspot.com/2004/01/confessions-of-american-counterspy-in.html
2. For examples of this, see Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB, Nigel West, VENONA: The Greatest Secret of the Cold War, and Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes, and Fridrikh Firsov, The Soviet World of American Communism.
3. For more, see this link: http://cryptome.quintessenz.at/mirror/mi5-litvinenko.htm
7. For more, see this link: http://cryptome.info/0001/merkel-spy.htm
8. For an account of what Scarlett had to make up for, see this link:
9. For more, see this link: http://cicentre.net/wordpress/index.php/2010/07/16/sting-operation-that-caught-mi6-spy/
11. For a most ignorant account of the visit, see this link:
12. For more, see this link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/jul/25/guardian-civilian-deaths-rules-engagement
14. Quoted from Curt Hopkins, “Wikileaks Releases 91,900 Afghanistan War Documents Online,” July 25, 2010.
15. For more, see: http://codshit.blogspot.com/2010/10/why-americas-nsa-and-britains-gchq-had.html