Archive for the ‘Intelligence Gathering’ Category

has-nsa-leaker-edward-j-snowden-given-classified-data-to-chinaIt took me a long time to come to a decision about NSA leaker Edward Snowden. First of all, because I was too busy doing other things to research the issue, and also because there’s not a lot out there right now to research. I agree that he did terrible damage to our country. But what puzzled me from the beginning was: why did he do it? Whistle-blower or traitor?

And then I remembered some the research I did in writing ROOFMAN. In his memoirs, former CIA officer Harry Rositzke writes about why Eastern European intelligence officers defected to the West during the Cold War:

“In the black-and-white days of the Cold War it is easy to see such men opting with their feet for ‘freedom.’ They were allegedly men who changed sides out of principle, who saw our side as the ‘good guys.’ ”

Rositzke then airbrushes some reality onto this cartoon-like view: “(We deceive) ourselves to see them as heroic fighters for freedom, recurrent testimonials to the rightness of our cause.” (Rositzke, Harry, The KGB: the Eyes of Russia, Doubleday, c1981, p250-251).

Rositzke added that when CIA set up boards and committees to look into patterns of personality and background in those men that might be exploited to encourage more defectors, they found nothing. The Agency concluded that there had been no strictly ideological defectors, only individual intelligence officers who defected for personal reasons. (Roofman: A True Story of Cold War Espionage, Roofman the Spy Publishing, c2011, p31)

What Rositzke wrote back then has convinced me now that Snowden did what he did, not for ideological reasons, but for personal reasons. He is no whistle-blower. Whatever those reasons are, someone will eventually find out.

Maybe David Petraeus would still be the DCI if  FBI agent Frederick Humphries had not gone to his congressman. Don’t you just hate it when some guys take it upon themselves to mess in national security?

I’m being factitious, of course, because that’s exactly what I did back when I was Roofman The Spy: I injected United States Customs into the Katkov Affair.

Here is my initial phone conversation with United States Customs:

Audio 15-2 (2:09)

To purchase ROOFMAN for $9.95 (every transaction safe using Google Checkout®) choose a format:

Please remember this content is © 2011

… there was an ad in the New York Times. I answered it, and one day an undercover GRU officer, Mikhail Katkov, phoned me and invited me to lunch. He said he wanted to discuss a business arrangement of mutual benefit with me.

His words sounded familiar, like I come across the exact same phrase once before. It didn’t take me long to find out where.

Excerpt from Chapter One:


Russia's Federal Security ServiceLooks like Russia still has ballistic missiles, and they’re still aimed at U.S. Why am I not surprised? And according to this Associated Press article, we are still spying on them — and them on U.S. Again, why am I not surprised?

Speaking only for myself, I miss the good ole days of the cold war, because nothing terrible ever happened. There was certainty: we would never launch against the U.S.S.R and they would never launch against U.S.

The only thing that does surprise me about this story, click on this link   Russian officer convicted of spying, is that Lt. Col. Vladimir Nesterets only got 13 years and not a bullet in the head. But then, people die in American prisons all the time, so I can only assume the same holds true in Lubyanka.

This quote from the article I find particularly intriguing:

“Political scientist Pavel Salin said the case against Lt. Col. Nesterets should be seen in the context of the (Russian) presidential election.

‘The Russian authorities are pushing the idea of Russia as a besieged fortress, and in order to buttress this idea they need big, scandalous cases to show that the Western special services are active on the country’s territory,’ Salin said.”

The above quote came from the audio tape below. And, yes, I did feel like a real spy. I had a large sum of money in my pocket, and the Soviets had given me a secret mission.

This excerpt comes from Chapter Eleven:


I was working as a reference librarian in Columbia University’s engineering library. Who knew that that place would be such a hotbed of intrigue.

And who knew my working there would make the Soviets so uncomfortable.


 “There’s something that isn’t quite clear to me,” FBI Agent Dan Parrish asked me on December 12, 1983. “He says he’s Russian, works at the UN. You call us. Why?”

A deep breath before letting loose my theory: “For many reasons, beginning with computer networks. It’s true that all the information I have access to is unclassified and publicly available, but–”

“You mean there’s nothing to stop him from sitting down at his own terminal and doing it himself?” my other FBI questioner, David Neahle asked.

“I’m not sure. Some databases may not be open to Soviets. Regardless, unclassified technical information can still be of interest to the Soviets. My services as an information specialist can save them a great deal of time and effort tracking down certain documents. And even if Katkov’s not a spy, the information he requests is obviously on behalf of his government. Knowing what he is requesting gives us clues to the Soviet State of the Art, so in a sense, we’ll be spying on them.” I paused to let that filter through the shit-for-brains that floated around in their hard as porcelain skulls. “Finally, I suspect that this may be part of a much larger effort: to use Americans like me to infiltrate our nation’s computer networks.[1] You guys probably know better than me” — a bit of diplomacy on my part because I didn’t think these guys knew a damn thing — “that there are plenty of classified databases out there. Wouldn’t the Russians just love to have someone who could plug into them?”

Everything old is new again; nothing changes; same old same old — pick any cliche you like. They all fit in this case. What I was involved in over a quarter century ago is still going on today.


On Monday, March 11th, I went to the Engineering Societies Library to photocopy some American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) papers that Katkov had given me. The citations dealt with articles for spacecraft design. One in particular caught my attention. It came off the handwritten index card list. Someone had written in the word “em-dash” as part of the title. I thought nothing of it until I held the actual document in my hands. It contained a title and subtitle punctuated by what proofreaders call an em-dash (a long hyphen). Most computer printers circa 1985 could not print em-dashes or other special characters like Greek letters, subscripts in chemical compounds, and other scientific notation. Database vendors like DIALOG worked around this problem by printing out the name of the special character; i.e. in the case of this particular document, DIALOG printed the word “em-dash” in the title. Therefore, the citations on this list must have come from an online search. And whoever copied these citations off the printout did not know proofreading symbols. He or she simply copied the title word-for-word.

Fig 8-1 Top: handwritten list Katkov gave me. Middle: the “em-dash” on the actual document (see red underlines). Lower: title as it appears on a computer printout.

This minute detail, coupled with a book I’d just read, answered a question that had been nagging at me for a long time: Why were so many of Michael’s want lists handwritten? Now I had the answer.


 You might think I’m stepping out of bounds on this one, but since it does involve intelligence and intelligence gathering, I will add my two cents. Ninety-eight more and we’ll have a dollar.