posted on Jan, 27 2015 @ 06:16 PM
I have some knowledge of espionage practices in general, which have come about due to my studying of military history. I wouldn't say I am incredibly
knowledgeable, but I know enough to conclude that the earlier, non-technical practices have never gone away. Robert Hanssen was caught in 2001 after
making a dead-drop of state secrets in a garbage bag, a practice which had been going on for probably decades. This is because the main problems of
espionage agents have essentially remained the same since the beginning of time. The main problem of course is not only acquiring the information, but
getting that classified information to another party without being detected.
I can see how someone would think that in the modern age this would occur via digital means, but they are overlooking one simple fact: the majority of
computers with sensitive information on them do not allow for the saving of data to any external device. There is basically no way to copy the digital
information. So the copying of sensitive documents, or the photographing of documents, are still in use. Photographing the documents has gotten
slightly easier, but it still requires physical access to the documents in the first place. Of course hacking certain information is possible, but
doing this from the outside is virtually impossible where the most sensitive data is concerned, and the set of problems faced by the espionage agent
are quite different. For instance, a hacker cannot be physically caught in the act like they could if they were physically stealing documents.
Anyway, there is one thing that blows my mind, and has done so for quite some time. A nation like Russia, with a rich espionage history, especially
during the Cold War, is actually tasking agents with gathering information from inside the country, but these agents have virtually no "in." It is
not as if they are stationed in diplomatic positions, like many espionage agents. They could still recruit assets I suppose, but the part that blows
my mind is that some of this information is OSINT, or open-source intelligence. I mean the financial state of the country is a matter of public
record. Any intelligence agency worth their salt has a department that specializes in open-source intelligence, mainly intelligence that can be
gathered from non-classified sources, thus why would you put a ground asset at risk by tasking them, in part, with gathering open-source information?
It is a risk vs. reward situation, where the risk outweighs the reward. So at the very least do not task your agents with gathering open-source
information and classified information, because suspicion could be brought upon just from gathering OSINT. It just seems idiotic to me.
Anyway, this is nothing new. There are plenty of Russian agents within the United States. This is not the first time they've been caught either. I
know nothing of the background of the agents in this particular instance, but I can bet that they have received the training necessary for collecting
and passing secret information, among a wide variety of other tradecraft skills. Another reason that the conventional, non-technical tradecraft
methods have remained in place is because these are tried-and-true methods of operation. Russia has plenty of experience, and they know what works and
what does not work. The books are still being written on espionage in the modern, digital age. Plenty of room for mistakes. The simple fact is that
counter-espionage in cyberspace is much harder than counter-espionage in the traditional sense. It is relatively easy to cover your tracks and know
the various ways in which you can be caught when physically doing something, as opposed to electronically doing something, when someone could be
watching you without your ever knowing it. In the physical world it is much easier to ensure you are alone, as a simple example. Plus, it takes many
more resources to perform espionage electronically. You have to not only have technical experts, which the spy is usually not, but you have to place
faith in your technical experts being better than the technical experts of the counter-espionage teams that are trying to catch you in the act. Plus,
in my opinion it is easier to ensure you leave no physical trace, as opposed to trying to erase a digital record of what you've done. And then
you've got to ensure that no one can tell the data was compromised.
Suffice it to say that conventional espionage means are easier, and can be just as fruitful, and even more so in some cases. If this were not the
case, does anyone think Russia would be utilizing covert field agents? And America has covert field agents of the same type in Russia, and even in
allied nations. Just like allied nations have espionage agents in the US. That is just how it works. Everyone was outraged over the revelation that
the US tapped German phones, but this is something that all nations would have done if given the opportunity. That doesn't make it right, but that is
just the way things are. Plus, you never know what they're up to in Germany, lol. Just kidding of course. Germany is a great country. Don't care for
the food, but that's just me.