Posts Tagged ‘spies’

Ansar Abbasi Fearmongering Misrepresents Facts

Friday, September 7th, 2012

The News (Jang Group)Ansar Abbasi had a sensational piece featured on the front page of The News on Thursday which claims that ‘850,000 US spies given clearance WP reveals that growth of agents has gone beyond all bounds since 9/11 incident’. This is a shocking revelation. It’s also not true.

Ansar Abbasi’s investigative research is based on his apparently just now discovering an investigation published in The Washington Post over two years ago. That research, conducted by more than 20 journalists “describes the huge national security buildup in the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks”. It does not report that the US employs 850,000 spies. Neither does it mention “265,000 contractors like Raymond Davis”.

What the article did report is that “An estimated 854,000 people…hold top-secret security clearances”. The Washington Post divided top-secret work into 23 different categories that include intelligence, but also include:

  • Border control
  • Building and personal security
  • Counter-drug operations
  • Disaster preparedness
  • Facilities management and maintenance
  • Law enforcement
  • Management and administration
  • Staffing and personnel

If we are to believe Ansar Abbasi, “normal administrative human resource functions” and “construction associated with…fencing and barriers” is the work of ‘spies’.

Obviously some of the estimated 850,000 people with ‘top secret’ clearance are spies, but hardly all of them. In fact, Ansar Abbasi has no idea how many are really spies, or what fraction of those have any connection with Pakistan. This is probably because that was not the subject of The Washington Post report, which is more concerned with the growth of American defence spending and the American government using war time monitoring techniques to monitor its own people. In other words, American investigative journalists are conducting careful research to hold their own government and military accountable. Instead of doing something similar, Ansar Abbasi misrepresents their findings to weave a conspiracy against Pakistan out of thin air.

If Ansar Abbasi had conducted more research into his subject, he might have easily discovered another report in The Washington Post which quotes the American spy chief revealing that “the United States intelligence community comprises almost 100,000…Americans in 16 federal departments and agencies”. We checked with a Maths professor and he confirmed that “almost 100,000″ is over 8 times less than “almost 850,000″. It is also worth noting that, despite being concerned with the number of American spies operating in Pakistan, Ansar Abbasi’s investigative research failed to discover the following:

  • In March 2011, ‘as many as 331 US officials, most of whom are suspected of being engaged in espionage under diplomatic cover, have been identified to leave the country’
  • In June 2011, ‘Ninety of the 135 US service personnel training Pakistan’s Frontier Corps have left the country after Islamabad officials said they had “reassessed our requirements”.
  • In December 2011, ‘the Central Intelligence Agency has vacated an air base in western Pakistan that it had been using for drone strikes against militants in the country’s tribal areas’.
  • In September 2012, ‘Pakistan has given foreigners working for Save the Children a week to leave the country after becoming convinced that the aid organisation was used as cover by US spies hunting Osama bin Laden.’

If anything, the number of US spies in Pakistan appears to be decreasing. Unfortunately, readers of Ansar Abbasi’s column in The News would not know that.

Do Sovereign Nations Let Spies Get Away?

Friday, March 18th, 2011

The Nation logoThe Nation today weighs in on the conclusion of the Raymond Davis episode with an editorial that mostly asks the same questions that are on the minds of many citizens without making any pronouncements or judgments of the court’s decision. However, the editorial concludes by once again flogging the dead horse of ‘sovereignty’ in the case by saying that, “letting a spy get away is not the act of a sovereign country”. Actually, it is quite common.

It would not be too far off the mark to say that every country has spies in every other country, both friends and foes alike. Because every country is looking out for the interests of its own citizens, it will naturally want to know what other countries are planning and doing, and no two countries will have 100% trust of another. The result is sending spies, quite often under the cover of diplomatic status in Embassies. The US does this. We do this. All nations do this.

But what happens when a spy is caught? This is usually the only time these ‘spy versus spy’ dramas are revealed to the public, and obviously people are curious. Movies make spies out to be dashing action heros like James Bond or Jason Bourne with super-human abilities and futuristic technologies. The reality, however, tends to be less romantic.

Last summer, international media became obsessed with the story of a Russian spy ring operating under ‘deep cover’ in the United States. These were covert agents not unlike Raymond Davis, gathering intelligence on America’s nuclear weapons and personnel changes at the CIA. In fact, even diplomatic cover was used to spy on the US.

The indictment says the alleged spies used a number of methods to communicate with the SVR including unique wireless networks to transfer encrypted data. One of the wireless networks was run from a van in New York that on one occasion parked outside a coffee shop where one of the accused , named as Anna Chapman, was sitting. The FBI said it observed as she established a connection with the wireless link in the van and transmitted data. A few weeks later she did the same from a bookshop.

The FBI said it also observed a car with diplomatic plates registered to the Russian government park outside a Washington DC restaurant where another alleged spy who went by the name Mikhail Semenko, who is still being sought by the authorities, used a computer to establish a connection with a wireless signal from the car.

Once this spy ring was caught, were they made to explain what they were doing and who they were working for? Were they brought before the court to shed the light on all of their activities and expose the secret workings of Russia’s intellgience agencies? No. The US sent them home.

The group were flown out of the country after pleading guilty in a New York court to acting as agents for Moscow. They were warned never to return to the US and were taken straight to the airport from the courtroom.

The spies were arrested 12 days ago at various locations in the eastern United States where they had led middle-class, all-American lives as part of a long-term effort to infiltrate the US establishment and society at large.

A judge sentenced the defendants to time served – 11 days – though the maximum sentence they faced was five years. More serious charges of money-laundering, which carried a maximum term of 20 years, had been dropped as part of the swiftly negotiated agreement between Washington and Moscow.

No one would argue that the US is not a sovereign country. If it is not, then what nation is? And yet the US is also spied upon and the US also lets spies go under terms negotiated between intelligence agencies. The Nation may be interested to know all of the details of Raymond Davis’s adventures and what exactly he was trying to do, but the claim that sovereign nations do not let spies go is incorrect.