August 2020

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The links below are organised by the month in which they are published



The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War

If anyone could be considered a Russian counterpart to the infamous British double-agent Kim Philby, it was Oleg Gordievsky.

The son of two KGB agents and the product of the best Soviet institutions, the savvy, sophisticated Gordievsky grew to see his nation's communism as both criminal and philistine.

He took his first posting for Russian intelligence in 1968 and eventually became the Soviet Union's top man in London, but from 1973 on he was secretly working for MI6.

For nearly a decade, as the Cold War reached its twilight, Gordievsky helped the West turn the tables on the KGB, exposing Russian spies and helping to foil countless intelligence plots, as the Soviet leadership grew increasingly paranoid at the United States's nuclear first-strike capabilities and brought the world closer to the brink of war.

Desperate to keep the circle of trust close, MI6 never revealed Gordievsky's name to its counterparts in the CIA, which in turn grew obsessed with figuring out the identity of Britain's obviously top-level source.

Their obsession ultimately doomed Gordievsky: the CIA officer assigned to identify him was none other than Aldrich Ames, the man who would become infamous for secretly spying for the Soviets.

Learn more here



South China Sea: Photos reveal secret underground base off Hainan Island

A cavern built into the side of a mountain had defence analysts perplexed. But then a satellite image captured a nuclear submarine slipping out – laying bare the extent of China’s military ambitions.

Just a few pixels on a commercial-grade Earth-observation satellite photograph, it portrays a piece of Hainan Island – a strategically significant 35,400sq km land mass off the south coast of China.

It’s the location of a major naval base – much of it concealed in a bunker built deep under a mountain peninsula. What was captured appears to be two tugboats manoeuvring a nuclear-powered attack submarine out of a camouflaged tunnel.

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Ex-CIA officer charged with giving China classified information

A former Central Intelligence Agency officer was arrested and charged with spying for China in a scheme that involved a relative who had also worked for the CIA.

Alexander Yuk Ching Ma was arrested on Friday on a charge that he conspired with a relative, also a former CIA officer, to communicate classified information to Chinese intelligence officials.

A naturalised American citizen, Ma started working for the CIA in 1982, holding a Top Secret security clearance, according to investigators. Prosecutors said Ma left the CIA in 1989 and lived and worked in Shanghai, China, before arriving in Hawaii in 2001.

Court documents allege that Ma and his relative conspired with Chinese spies to share US classified defence information over a decade.

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US Senate committee concludes Russia used Manafort, WikiLeaks to boost Trump in 2016

Russia used Republican political operative Paul Manafort, the WikiLeaks website and others to try to influence the 2016 US presidential election to help now-US President Donald Trump's campaign, according to a Senate intelligence panel report.

WikiLeaks played a key role in Russia's effort to assist Republican Trump against Democrat Hillary Clinton and likely knew it was helping Russian intelligence, said the report [pdf], which is likely to be the most definitive public account of the 2016 election controversy.

The report found President Vladimir Putin personally directed the Russian efforts to hack computer networks and accounts affiliated with the Democratic Party and leak information damaging to Clinton.

The panel, formally called the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, also alleged Manafort collaborated with Russians, including oligarch Oleg Deripaska and an alleged Russian intelligence operative, Konstantin Kilimnik, before during and after the election.

► Read more here

► The U.S. SSCI latest report offers the most definitive public account of Russian active measures in the 2016 Presidential election. Read the report here



Home Affairs shifts national real-time intelligence system to Azure cloud

The Department of Home Affairs has shifted Australia’s new national criminal intelligence system (NCIS) off its in-house infrastructure after a “change in technical direction”.

The long-awaited national system, which remains in development, made the jump to Microsoft’s protected-level Azure public cloud environment earlier this year.

The NCIS will eventually replace the legacy Australian criminal intelligence database (ACID) to provide federal, state and territory policing agencies with a “unified picture of criminal activity”.

It has been on the cards since at least 2014 due to the declining effectiveness of ACID, which was first introduced in 1984.

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From the archives: Who killed the 20th century’s greatest spy?

2015: When Ashraf Marwan fell to his death from the balcony of a London flat, he took his secrets with him. Was he working for Egypt or Israel? And did the revelation of his identity lead to his murder?

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A Sea Change For Intelligence Analysis?

TIDE (Team Information Decision Engine) is a new software tool which could increase efficiency for intelligence analysts.

In recent years there has been a significant increase in the type (e.g. CCTV, UAV) and amount (e.g. open source) of information available for intelligence analysis.

The analyst is asked to make sense of this ‘firehose’ of information. To do so involves reading multiple reports before making a decision about whether the collective information is significant enough to issue a security threat warning.

This decision must be made as quickly as possible, lest an immediate response is required.

But each report may differ in terms of various characteristics, such as unique identifier, time, date, source, geographic location, various text fields or imagery, depending on the intelligence type.

To further complicate matters, within each report some of these characteristics may indicate a high threat (e.g. the intelligence comes from a well-known and reliable actor within a terrorist group) whilst others may be less concerning (e.g. the intelligence is somewhat dated).

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ASIO has never acknowledged its chamber of secrets exists. Here's what's inside

It's one of the most heavily guarded buildings in Australia.

Though clad in glass, few ever get to see what happens within the Ben Chifley Building, an imposing structure overlooking Canberra's Lake Burley Griffin and the nation's Parliament.

Inside the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, (ASIO), the domestic spy agency established by Chifley in 1949, a major transformation is underway.

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The man who said no: how Iran coerces expats to inform on friends

Behdad Esfahbod was forced by the Revolutionary Guard to enlist as a foreign agent. But when they tried to activate him, he went public instead.

On 14 June, Behdad Esfahbod, a Facebook software engineer, received a text from a strange Instagram account, supposedly from “a friend of your aunt’s son”. But he knew exactly who it was. Esfahbod had been bracing himself for weeks, knowing it was inevitable.

The “aunt’s son’s friend” was the intelligence division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the message was a prearranged code.

► Read the full story here



The Ties That Bind: The CIA in the Face of Presidential Attack

My recent retirement in July 2019 from the CIA and the current journey I am enjoying, involving public speaking and writing about my career, has led me to engage in a great deal of introspection and soul-searching as I try to explain to the American people what life in the CIA was all about.

What did I enjoy most about my 26 years at CIA? What do I miss most in retirement? In speaking with former colleagues and reminiscing about our many decades at CIA, we always come back to a theme that is not always easy to put our fingers on, but to this day keeps drawing us together.

It is quite simply the bond we felt for each other, as we served in the shadows with no fanfare or distinction. While at times we fought like cats and dogs like a close-knit family, in the end, we were a brotherhood and sisterhood, one we would defend to the bitter end when attacked by outside forces.

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Australia needs to face up to the dangers of facial recognition technology

State and federal governments must follow the lead of cities here and abroad to suspend its use and develop a regulatory framework.

In the 20 years of the “war on terror” Australia has led from the front in expanding powers for law enforcement and ramping up surveillance at the expense of public rights and freedoms.

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Security Intelligence Analyst | Sydney Trains | Sydney, New South Wales

At Sydney Trains, our vision is to keep Sydney moving by delivering safe, customer-focused, reliable and clean rail services.

We have an exciting opportunity for a Security Intelligence Analyst to be a part of our Security team within Sydney Trains. This position will focus on analysis of the security reporting & reliability systems as well as the preparation of all required regular and specific reports to management.

One of the main responsibilities will be to analyse and report on criminal intelligence and security incident data in an efficient and effective manner to optimise decision making and resource allocation.

► Find out more and apply


Misinformation, Disinformation and Fake News


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The subjects, thoughts, opinions, and information made available in AIPIO Acumen reflect the author’s views, not those of the AIPIO.