Thursday, May 25, 2023

Books: "Spyfail" By James Bamford On U.S. Counterintelligence


Spyfail: Foreign Spies, Moles, Saboteurs, and the Collapse of America's Counterintelligence

By James Bamford

Twelve; hardcover, 496 pages; $32.00

James Bamford is a bestselling author of The Puzzle Palace and Body of Secrets, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker for PBS, award-winning investigative producer for ABC News, and winner of the National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of the Iraq war for Rolling Stone. Also of note is that he has circumnavigated the surface of the Earth, crossing every meridian of longitude by land and sea, and was elected to membership in the Explorers Club.

In the new engrossing book Spyfail, Bamford unveils a hidden cabal of foreign powers that have spied against America to reveal the incredible spygames, secrets, and cyberweapons they've hatched, unlocked, and stolen. United States intelligence has failed to stop them.

Foreign countries now have the highly dangerous and growing capability to conduct large-scale espionage within the United States. These covert operations are run by countries like North Korea, Russia, Israel, and China, and their methods include cyberattacks, espionage, psychological warfare, the infiltration of presidential campaigns, the smuggling of nuclear weapons components, and other nefarious actions.

Bamford is known for his deep investigative style, and he digs as deep as one can go into these clandestine invasions and attacks to find who's involved, how these spygames were carried out, and why none of this was stopped. To uncover all the revelations throughout the book, there is access to previously secret and withheld documents, such as never-before-seen parts of the Mueller Report, and interviews with confidential sources.

This eye-opening account demonstrates how large a role politics, special interests, and corruption play in allowing these shocking foreign intrusions to continue, leaving America and its secrets vulnerable and undefended. It is a story that is as relevant as ever, as the Durham Report on former President Donald Trump's foreign dealings was recently released, and geopolitical issues such as the U.S.'s dealings with China and Russia continue.

In this excerpt, Bamford writes about the raid of President Trump's residence in Florida last summer, "On the morning of August 8, 2002, a conga line of black SUV's, crowded with several dozen heavily armed FBI agents and escorted by local police cruisers, arrived at 1100 South Ocean Boulevard in Palm Springs, Florida. Ahead were a pair of closed white doors beneath an elegant archway covered in glazed Spanish tiles, and in front was a small squad of armed Secret Service agents. For the first time in history, the home of a former United States president was about to be raided by federal law enforcement agents, as if on a drug bust or the arrest of a wanted fugitive. The unprecedented operation was being carried out by the Justice Department's counterintelligence section, responsible for catching spies. And the search warrant indicated that there was probable cause that the occupant was committing a crime under the Espionage Act by refusing to return classified documents.

The man behind the unprecedented raid was an obscure bureaucrat in a little known job in a nameless, nondescript building in downtown Washington, DC. He was Jay I. Bratt, the chief of the counterintelligence section of the Justice Department, who began his career prosecuting used car dealers for fraudulently changing odometers, and fruit drink companies for watering down orange juice containers. With an office behind the door to Room 10100 on the top floor of 600 E Street NW, a red-brick building plastered with torn handbills for the rapper YoungBoy and a march on Washington for voters' rights, Bratt was the country's top counterspy. And now instead of hucksters and secret agents, he was going after a former president of the United States.

Long before the raid at Mar-a-Lago, I began looking deeply into U.S. counterintelligence and security operations. And as detailed extensively in SpyFail, I discovered dangerous incompetence and vast politicization. Under both presidents Obama and Trump thieves were able to walk away with more than half a billion pages of documents classified higher than top secret, some dealing with U.S. war plans, many of which ended up in both Russia and China. And that was after the supposed crackdown following the million or so documents removed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, many of which were made public.

During the Obama administration, another thief was able to steal nearly all of the NSA's highly dangerous cyberweapons, the cyber equivalent of loose nukes, and put them up for auction. Eventually they ended up in the hands of Russia and North Korea, where in 2017 they were used to cause a worldwide cyberpandemic that shut down hospitals and medical facilities all over the world, including in the United States, thus turning our own weapons against us. And although the cyber thief left many clues, the counterintelligence agents have never come close to catching him. As a result, he continued to sell the weapons to whatever government or terrorist would pay for them. Instead, the FBI counterspies spent much of their time going after low-level whistleblowers like Thomas Drake, Chelsea Manning, John Kiriakou, Daniel Hale, Terry Albury, and Reality Winner, who was sentenced to nearly five years in prison for leaking a single document to the press.

Due to extensive politicization and incompetence, under both Obama and Trump, the country also became flooded with spies and covert operations. Many are Americans who have agreed to spy on and conduct operations against other Americans on behalf of a foreign government. And then there are the moles. During the entire 2016 election season, foreign moles went completely undetected and were able to penetrate the very highest levels of both the Trump and Clinton campaigns. In the same way, the FBI's own counterintelligence division - the people hunting for spies - was penetrated almost continuously for nearly forty years, until just recently, by both Russian and Chinese moles, resulting in dozens of deaths to cooperative agents in both countries."

No comments:

Post a Comment