The Headquarters of the Ministry of State Security (above). The primary civilian intelligence service engaged in the political warfare struggle against the US is the Ministry of State Security (MSS). Yet, while fully involved in that work, MSS has adhered to its bread and butter mission of stealing national security and diplomatic secrets with specific regard to the US. It has also robustly enhanced another mission of grabbing intellectual property and an array of advanced technologies from the US. This essay’s focus is not the political warfare effort by MSS. Rather, it provides a few insights on this topic from outside the box on MSS tactics, techniques, procedures, and methods used to keep its ears to the ground and to collect what it needs to improve China’s capabilities and capacity to compete and struggle with the US.
This post should be considered a direct continuation of the preceding one. The complete essay focuses on what the Ministry of State Security (MSS) is and what it does, day-to-day, for China. It is presented in two sections. “Part 1,” published on July 31, 2020, provides greatcharlie’s insights from outside the box on the MSS and the tactics, techniques, procedures, and methods it believes both help to keep China secure and help to improve China’s capabilities and capacity to compete and struggle with the US. That discussion is buttressed by a few celebrated and trusted sources. This section, “Part 2,” completes discussion begun in “Part 1,” and then it calls attention to how, over recent years, a number of less-familiar, self-inflicted wounds have hindered the prosecution of a successful campaign by US counterintelligence services against the MSS as well as other Chinese intelligence services. The extent to which those same issues concerning US counterintelligence services have impacted the Trump administration is also touched upon. Without pretension, greatcharlie states that there is no reason for it to believe policymakers and decisionmakers in the White House and among US foreign affairs, defense, and intelligence organizations, would have a professional interest in its meditations on MSS intelligence operations in the US. However, it is greatcharlie’s hope that if given some attention, perhaps in some small way it might assist those who work on matters of gravity in this province improve their approach to defeating and displacing the MSS networks and operations as well as those of its sister organizations in the US. Bonus adiuvate, conservate popular Romanum. (Help the good (men) save (metaphorically in this case) the Roman people.)
People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping (above). President Xi Jinping is the man in charge, the top decisionmaker in China, therefore he has ultimate responsibility for what China has done, is doing, and will do. How China has responded to the crisis turned pandemic so far has been a source of curiosity and absolute outrage globally. The Communist Party of China and the National Party Congress were unapologetic and frightfully defensive concerning all discussion of China’s role in what was happening. They became particularly warm toward US President Donald Trump. It seems as if China’s leadership will continue to assail the global media with waves of distortions. In the meantime, around the world, the number of people infected by the coronavirus continues to increase, the death toll rises, and the financial loss is being calculated in the trillions. Hopefully, Chinese President Xi Jinping is genuinely aware of what is transpiring and has set some type of guidance on just how far this whole cabaret should go.
A primary mission of the MSS counterintelligence service is the infiltration of all the foreign special service operations: intelligence, counter-intelligence, police forces all over the world. Its primary targets assuredly are its chief competitor, the US, the bordering Russian Federation, and Australia and New Zealand. The advanced industrialized countries of Western Europe would also fall under its watchful eyes although China has not achieved prominence in their space. Second would come Taiwan, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Mongolia, and Iran which it trusts up to a point. China must also measure its national interests, and particularly its national security against Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore. China has also stepped up intelligence operations throughout Africa to support and facilitate its effort to extend its geopolitical influence and acquire oil, rare Earth minerals, and fish. Africa is estimated to contain 90 percent of the entire world’s supply of platinum and cobalt, 50 percent of the world’s gold supply, 66 percent of the world’s manganese, and 35 percent of the world’s uranium. Africa accounts for almost 75 percent of the world’s coltan, which is a key mineral required for the construction of electronic devices, including cell phones. Well over 10,000 Chinese firms are operating on the continent with 25 percent located in Nigeria and Angola. China has also expanded its military presence in Africa, rivaling the level of US military equities there.)
Certainly, counterintelligence would do whatever possible to intercept, neutralize, and recruit foreign intelligence officers, as well as their operatives and informants in China and those working in locations close to, and on matters concerning, Chinese interests in other countries. As with almost any other counterintelligence organization worldwide, necessary attributes must be present to initiate a counterintelligence investigation on a suspected “foreign spy.” The primary means to confirm their identity is through careful study and observation of the subject and thorough research of all available information. It is a process similar to selecting a target for recruitment. Covert audio and video monitoring in the residences, vehicles, offices, hotels frequented and homes of friends of the suspected foreign spy. Passive collection by informants will also be used to eavesdrop on the individual’s conversations. The surveillance effort may not always be easy going. A foreign intelligence officer’s trade craft may be superb and all of his or her interactions and moves might appear authentic. The foreign intelligence officer’s movement technique could make maintaining surveillance on the subject difficult. For any counterintelligence services, that type of professionalism in an opponent can pose a challenge. Oddly enough though, it will result in increased suspicion among some.
Chinese intelligence services are capable of constructing a sophisticated profile of the online activities of individuals. It does not appear, however, that the MSS and supporting agencies have established the capability to identify espionage in the offing. Every now and then, though, they are lucky enough to identify espionage underfoot with hum shoe detective work, online. In an excellent essay published May 7, 2014 on Jamestown, Mattis relays that in May 2014, Guangdong State Security Department (GSSD) of the MSS revealed brief details of an espionage case in which the chief suspect received a ten-year prison sentence. An unnamed foreign intelligence service reportedly recruited the suspect, dubbed “Mr. Li,” in an online chat room. Electronic prowling led him to documents of immense value, a variety of classified military documents and publications. Recognizing that a long price could be had for what he might acquire, “Mr. Li” turned to an online contact “Feige.” GSSD counterintelligence discovered that “Feige” had more than 40 other contacts—12 in Guangdong—spread over 20 provinces and provincial-level cities. Additionally, “Feige” had been an active online persona since 2007, collecting information off of military enthusiast (junmi) discussion boards and using services such as QQ to meet others like “Mr Li.” Those who “Feige” recruited collected military information through friends and contacts, subscribed to sensitive and internal military publications, and even took pictures of local military installations. Although a long price could surely have been had for what he had collected and provided the foreign intelligence service, “Mr. Li” was paid only a few hundred renminbi per month. Chinese authorities did not identify the foreign intelligence service behind the theft of the military secrets. Nevertheless, the case compounded an apparent sense of siege in Beijing over what then called US Internet hegemony, and the prevalence of foreign-made communications technology in sensitive Chinese systems. There were also allegations that the US had managed to exploit Huawei’s equipment, a concern that has since flipped the other way. For a state known to be as controlling of information as China, the reality is that an incredible amount of sensitive information was publicly accessible. It was all overwhelming for China which was well-aware of that its counterintelligence services could not stem figurative waves of attempts to penetrate its systems. The MSS will always want Chinese citizens to believe its elements such as the GSSD are as present as “air and water” with “information on everyone.” However, contradicting that, Chinese security officials were also reported at the time that more than 70 percent of state secrets cases involve information being leaked or passed to a foreign intelligence service online It led to changes.
It goes without saying that Chinese military and civilian intelligence services have immensely improved their cyber capabilities. Efforts by the, have tormented advanced industrialized countries. However, lessons learned in the past decade by MSS counterintelligence concerning foreign intelligence services’ cyber operations against China apparently stuck. Perhaps, the main lesson was that it was not safe to continue creating and maintaining secret communications or reports, any truly important documents, electronically. It was the same as leaving an open door to foreign intelligence service penetration. The transition back to paper would be the best answer and easy enough. Indeed, the use of hard documents and files was what the most seasoned foreign intelligence and counterintelligence officers were most familiar with using. Moreover, they are very likely individuals of conservative habits, and never became so familiar with computer work as their younger counterparts. The return to paper files would certainly lead to the collection of what would now be thought of as considerable amounts of documents. File rooms and vaults have very likely been rebuilt or returned to service. Urgent issues concerning diplomatic matters were likely communicated via encrypted transmissions. There was very likely a sharp increase in transmissions once the consulate received notice that it was being forced to close. Use of that medium would provide some reasonable assurance that content of the communication would be protected. Nothing of any real importance was likely communicated by telephone given that the US would surely successfully eavesdrop on the conversation. One might venture to say that a move to hard documents was evinced when the world observed presumably Ministry of Foreign Affairs security officers and MSS intelligence officers using fire bins to burn bundles of documents inside the compound of the People’s Republic of China Consulate in Houston, Texas as it prepared to close. It might be the case that burning the documents is standard operating procedure for Chinese diplomatic outposts in such instances as an evacuation. MSS counterintelligence would hardly think that US intelligence and counterintelligence services would pass up the fortuitous opportunity to search through or even keep some or all of the documents consulate personnel might try to ship or mail to China while evacuating the building, even if containers of documents were sent as diplomatic pouches.
Staff burning massive bundles of documents within the compound of the People’s Republic of China Consulate in Houston, Texas (above). Lessons learned in the past decade by MSS counterintelligence concerning foreign intelligence services’ cyber operations against China apparently stuck. Perhaps, the main lesson was that it was not safe to continue creating and maintaining secret communications or reports, any truly important documents, electronically. The transition back to paper would be the best answer. One might say that a move to hard documents was evinced when the world observed presumably Ministry of Foreign Affairs security officers and MSS intelligence officers using fire bins to burn bundles of documents inside the compound of the People’s Republic of China Consulate in Houston, Texas as it prepared to close. MSS counterintelligence would hardly think that US intelligence and counterintelligence services would pass up the fortuitous opportunity to search through or even keep some or all of the documents consulate personnel might try to ship or mail to China while evacuating the building, even if containers of documents were sent as diplomatic pouches.
Once MSS foreign intelligence officers are lucky enough to recruit operatives and informants in the US, federal indictments and criminal complaints against those caught indicate that they task them as intelligence collection requirements demand. However, in almost all of those taskings, certain counterintelligence aspects can also be discerned. Those aspects appear aimed at providing ways to assist MSS counterintelligence in identifying and locating foreign intelligence officers, operatives, and informants, particularly in China, or assist in devising ways to intercept, neutralize, and recruit them. Typical counterintelligence aspects in takings that include collecting information on how the US intelligence services communicate with officers, operatives, and informants overseas. In August 2016, Kun Shan “Joey” Chun, a Chinese-born naturalized US citizen, pleaded guilty to illegally acting as an agent of the Chinese government. Chun, an electronics technician and veteran FBI employee who had a top-secret security clearance, reportedly passed sensitive information to China concerning, among other things, surveillance technologies used by the FBI. Prosecutors said that while working for the agency in New York he sent his Chinese handler, “at minimum, information regarding the FBI’s personnel, structure, technological capabilities, general information regarding the FBI’s surveillance strategies, and certain categories of surveillance targets.” Chun’s Chinese intelligence contacts provided him with financial payments and partially paid for a trip to Italy and France, during which he met with a Chinese intelligence officer.
In order to develop ways to counter FBI efforts against MSS foreign intelligence officers, operatives, and informants, MSS counterintelligence would want to know how the organization is set up to confront adversarial networks of spies, who is who, where they are situated, and what exactly are they doing. Understanding FBI surveillance strategies, would inform MSS counterintelligence of what layers of surveillance are usually being pressed on MSS foreign intelligence officers, operatives, and informants in the US and how to devise better ways to defeat them. Technological capabilities would inform MSS counterintelligence whether all along the FBI has had the capability to monitor its activities or whether they have the capacity and have simply failed to use it effectively. The collection of information on what MSS foreign intelligence has been doing ineffectively in the face of US counterintelligence surveillance strategies and technological capabilities would undoubtedly inspire audits to better assess how closely its operatives were being monitored and how US counterintelligence managed to see a number of MSS efforts straight.
Kun Shan “Joey” Chun, (above). Once MSS foreign intelligence officers are lucky enough to recruit operatives and informants in the US, federal indictments and criminal complaints indicate that they task them as intelligence collection requirements demand. However, in almost all of those taskings, certain counterintelligence aspects can also be discerned. Typical counterintelligence aspects in takings that include collecting information on how the US intelligence services communicate with officers, operatives, and informants overseas. In August 2016, Kun Shan “Joey” Chun pleaded guilty to illegally acting as an agent of the Chinese government. Chun, an electronics technician and veteran FBI employee who had a top-secret security clearance, reportedly passed sensitive information to China concerning, among other things, surveillance technologies used by the FBI. Prosecutors said that while working for the agency in New York he sent his Chinese handler, “at minimum, information regarding the FBI’s personnel, structure, technological capabilities, general information regarding the FBI’s surveillance strategies, and certain categories of surveillance targets.”
In the case of former CIA case officer, Jerry Chun Shing Lee, who, in November 2019, was sentenced to 19 years in prison last year after pleading guilty to conspiring with MSS intelligence officers after he left the agency in 2010. According to the US Department of Justice, Lee had created a document including “certain locations to which the CIA would assign officers with certain identified experience, as well as the particular location and timeframe of a sensitive CIA operation.” Lee also possessed an address book that “contained handwritten notes” related to his work as a CIA case officer prior to 2004. These notes included “intelligence provided by CIA assets, true names of assets, operational meeting locations and phone numbers, and information about covert facilities.” Allegedly, Chun’s espionage activities led to the deaths of a number of the CIA’s Chinese informants.
The damage done to CIA networks and at least one ongoing operation in China, accompanied by the tragic loss of any operatives or informants as suggested by news media reports would create a sense of immeasurable anger and betrayal within CIA. However, the Agency has been through similar situations before with notables such as Edward Howard, Aldrich Ames, and Harold Nicholson. MSS counterintelligence would capitalize on Lee’s efforts by creating an active template based on how its case officers operated, the types of operatives and informants targeted and methods of their recruitment. Further, typical locations for meetings could be plotted and ways and means to surveil new operations and collection efforts could be developed. Most importantly, the information could allow for the conceptualization of the potential moves that CIA might make to resurrect lost networks and activities against China. Countermeasures would put in place to potentially thwart new recruitments and stymie new technologies that could support operations in the field and run alongside human intelligence collection.
Much ado was made in the US Intelligence Community about the espionage case of Ron Hansen. In a May 2019 guilty plea and plea agreement, Ron Hansen acknowledged attempting to communicate, deliver, or transmit to MSS intelligence officers, information concerning US national defense with intent or reason to believe that information would be used to harm the US and provide advantages to China. Hansen was a retired US Army Warrant Officer with experience in signals intelligence and human intelligence and former Defense Intelligence Agency civilian intelligence case officer, fluent in Mandarin as well as Russian, with top secret security clearance, In early 2014, the MSS targeted Hansen for recruitment and he began meeting with them regularly in China. During those meetings, the MSS intelligence officers described the type of information that would interest them. One of the most important taskings Hansen received was collecting forensic software and sending it to the operatives in Beijing without first obtaining the license from the US Department of Commerce which constituted a crime. As Hansen described events, he partnered with two Chinese nationals, to whom he identified “Amy” and “Robert,” via an office he maintained for his company, H-11 in Beijing. Amy and Robert operated Beijing Hua Heng (Infosec) which partnered with H-11 to sell computer forensic products in their company. Robert informed Hansen that he maintained close connections to several contacts in Chinese intelligence. In November 2016, Amy instructed Hansen to purchase and send to her in China, Recon software from Sumuri LLC, a Delaware based firm. She specifically requested the Recon Mac OS X Forensics with Paladin 6 software, which contained cryptographic capability. Despite being aware of US laws forbidding the export, Hansen did so despite being aware of US laws forbidding the export. In December 2016, Arny instructed Hansen to purchase the Intella 100 software from Vound LLC, a US company that provided products related to forensic search, e-discovery, and information governance. He obediently bought it and had it shipped it to her in China in January 2017. Again, he did so, despite being aware of US laws forbidding the export.
Tasking Hansen to grab forensic software could surely have served a counterintelligence requirement. Software forensics is the science of analyzing software source code or binary code to determine whether intellectual property infringement or theft occurred. Advanced forensic software could allow MSS counterintelligence officers to conduct in depth analysis of user files to collect evidence such as documents, pictures, internet history and more. MSS counterintelligence could use the software to monitor communications and collect information on dissidents, ethnic groups, suspected foreign intelligence operatives and informants, even foreign intelligence officers of some countries, visiting foreign officials, businessmen, and tourists alike. It could support the theft of intellectual property and trade secrets.
Counterintelligence may very well be the greatest manifestation of the paranoia business, but it, as all other elements of the intelligence industry, requires wisdom, reason, and logic to be performed well. A MSS counterintelligence officer was not supposed to be the same as his internal security service or law enforcement counterpart. Unlike such, displeasure and frustration over denials of intercepted foreign intelligence officers and agents in interrogations generally should not manifest in violence.
There is no reason for frustration over denials of intercepted intelligence officers, operatives, or informants to result in violence. If progress through interviews indicates that an investigator is on the right track, there will be an attempt to find another door inside to open and pass through in order to get deeper on matters. Such technique is honed and polished over the years. When MSS managers have determined the situation demands rough treatment, typically some sort of exigent circumstance, and when the decision will align with the thinking and plans of the Communist Party of China leadership, coercive measures are employed to include forms of torture. Expectedly, “good managers” will be ill at ease with that. Much to the grief of foreign intelligence officers, foreign agents, and Chinese citizens, it is that style of pursuit which has been honed and polished over the years by MSS counterintelligence officers.
Sensation seekers might believe that being involved in authentic espionage would be thrilling. However, there is plenty of real danger involved. Once the MSS officer is in the ground working in a foreign land, there is always the chance of arrest while carrying out one’s duties or expulsion of the officer persona non grata. From what has been observed, when US counterintelligence and law enforcement ensure that such interceptions of Chinese intelligence officers, operatives, and informants receive high profile reporting, to include conducting press conferences and widely disseminating press releases, it is akin to hanging out MSS’ dirty laundry for all to see.
MSS counterintelligence officers surely caution their counterparts in MSS foreign intelligence to keep their eyes and ears open. The MSS foreign intelligence officer in the field must be able to intuit when a situation is right and when it is wrong. Experienced hands will take counsel not from their fears, but from their intimations. They know when to seize up and walk away. Still, there would be a natural concern among counterintelligence officers everywhere that as a human habit, sometimes what is obvious is often immediately accepted as true. The result can be catastrophic. MSS took a big hit in October 2018, when Yan Jun Xu, a Chinese citizen and Deputy Division Director, Sixth Bureau of Jiangsu Province of the MSS, was arrested and charged with conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and steal trade secrets from multiple US aviation and aerospace companies. US counterintelligence officers were able to lure Xu, a successful MSS intelligence officer, to Belgium in April 2018 where he was arrested pursuant to a federal complaint, and then indicted by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Ohio. Belgian authorities provided significant assistance with the arrest and extradition of Xu to the US. Among Xu’s tasks as a MSS foreign intelligence officer in the US was to obtain technical information, including trade secrets, from aviation and aerospace companies not only in the US but throughout Europe. Xu often cloaked the true nature of his employment, by representing that he was associated with Jiangsu Science & Technology Promotion Association. From December 2013 to October 2018, Xu worked, traveled, and communicated with individuals associated with or employed by MSS and a number of Chinese universities and institutions, particularly Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Xu also actively targeted specific companies in the US and overseas that were acknowledged to be leaders in the field of aviation and aerospace technology, design, and manufacturing. Within these aviation companies, Xu and other individuals, some of whom were already known to law enforcement, would spot individuals who they deemed to be “experts” in those aviation companies, and who could potentially be targeted and recruited to travel to China, manipulated under the belief that they were traveling to China merely for “an exchange” of ideas and to give a presentation at a university. Xu and others would pay the “experts” stipends and would arrange for and pay expenses associated with their travel to China. To achieve their objective of collecting specific aviation technology documents and information, Xu and others exchanged messages concerning the types of information that they desired, and actively discussed methods for obtaining the desired information. That effort would include the use of codes and series of letters in place of the technology being discussed and the name of the company targeted. The arrest of Xu, who handled both Ji Chaoqun and Weiyun Huang, (whose circumstances were discussed in “Part 1” of this essay) preceded their arrests.
Xudong Yao, also known as Yan Jun Xu ( above). MSS counterintelligence officers surely caution their MSS foreign intelligence counterparts to keep their eyes and ears open. The MSS foreign intelligence officer in the field must be able to intuit when a situation is right and when it is wrong. They must know when to seize up and when to walk away. Still, there would be a natural concern among counterintelligence officers everywhere that as a human habit, sometimes what is obvious is often immediately accepted as true. The result can be catastrophic. MSS took a big hit in October 2018, when Yan Jun Xu, a Chinese citizen and Deputy Division Director, Sixth Bureau of Jiangsu Province of the MSS, was arrested and charged with conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and steal trade secrets from multiple US aviation and aerospace companies. US counterintelligence officers were able to lure Xu, a successful MSS intelligence officer, to Belgium in April 2018 where he was arrested pursuant to a federal complaint, and then indicted by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Ohio.
Doubtlessly, if MSS officers are caught they will be told what they can say if “pressure” is severe enough. The information would likely be designed as an active measure to help distort a foreign counterintelligence services understanding of MSS tactics, techniques, procedures, and methods. Given estimates by experts on the potential volume of their intelligence activities in the US, a casual observer might expect the impact of a loss here and there would likely be viewed as nominal with respect to the overall picture. However, intercepted MSS officers, who stumble due to poor tradecraft, a simple misstep, or for reasons unknown to MSS counterintelligence, may not recover beautifully if returned to China. To start, the MSS would not at all like having its officers identified in China, identified in the US, or even worse, see them apprehended by US counterintelligence services or law enforcement. Further, it would not appreciate having an entire operation or network in the US detected and effectively neutralized
For the MSS officer, Commandment 11, “Thou shall not get caught!”, applies. Being caught while on the beat will never be chalked up as a sword scratch or a badge of courage. Yet, the greatest problem would be the embarrassment that it would cause the MSS as an organization, the Chinese government, and the Communist Party of China. The intercepted officer would have to face the reality that he failed at his task. Facetious managers and colleagues would likely say he or she was not up to the job. If there was some error in judgment, failure to do things by the book, or wilful dereliction for failing to attain proper authorization before acting, the size of the failure would grow exponentially. Doubtlessly, the officer would be held out as an example of how an MSS officer should not operate. Concerning the situation of the hypothetical errant MSS officer, Il a foutu la merde dans sa vie.
The manner in which the Communist Party of China might come down on the officer for the failure would likely depend upon the political temperature at the time in Beijing. One could use the Party’s response to the bad news of the coronavirus outbreak as a yardstick. There would be no way to conceal the matter from the Communist Party of China. Even if the attempt was made to do so, informants inside the organization would likely report the matter up to Party leaders, making them familiar with the case before the matter even moved through MSS channels and managers and senior executives there were read-in on everything. The Communist Party of China would be especially interested if it concerns the US. One could only imagine the reaction of Party leaders if they were to find out about the arrest or PNG of a MSS officer via the US news media before hearing from its own government.
Putting aside the reality that a vital MSS intelligence operation may have been disrupted or destroyed and putting aside the potential negative reaction by the Communist Party of China, one might consider that for MSS senior executives and managers at headquarters, the saving grace would be that if the US counterintelligence were doing so, it meant attempts recruit the officer and compel him or her to play the double-game against their former colleagues and bosses as a counterespionage operative for the US failed. To advance a step further on this point, MSS managers would also recognize that burning the MSS offficer would be a palliative step and the only “constructive” option left for US counterintelligence. Holding a captured MSS officer in prison instead of putting them out of the US, PNG, would almost ensure some type of retaliation against an US intelligence officer or merely a suspected officer would be taken in China. In effect, a de facto modus vivendi exists. As for the future of the MSS officer caught, by burning him or her with heavy news media coverage of his or her identification or arrest could possibly destroy the officer’s prospects for receiving another overseas posting or participating in future intelligence operations leaving them in a solitary despair. MSS can always hire and train another.
A considerable concern for any counterintelligence service regarding foreign intelligence officers and their operatives and informants functioning in foreign territory is the threat of betrayal. Indeed, intelligence organizations in general spend much time and energy hunting among their own ranks for foreign spies. Of course, concerns are always raised among Chinese citizens when anyone with whom they may have just met or were in contact for other reasons, suddenly showed what could be considered under the circumstances as an eccentric interest in them. They could imagine that such inquires could be a trick perpetrated by the security services to test their loyalty. That surely causes the most fear. Defections from the MSS do happen, but as aforementioned, they are somewhat rare. Nevertheless, it is guarded against as surely not all MSS officers are gun barrel straight. At least, this would be the most likely presumption of Chinese counterintelligence officers. Certainly, all intelligence services have their share of problems with errant officers. Some, such as MSS, likely have less problems than most. However, even the clean, loyal, and obedient will occasionally look over their shoulders because of that. Bent intelligence can serve any preconceptions, and it often does in many intelligence services; sometimes purposefully and wrongfully to destroy an innocent officer’s career.
MSS counterintelligence managers with practiced hands know the first step of a breakdown in a officer’s sense of duty to China and the Communist Revolution can take place as far back as when an individual is hired who might manifest reactions such as jealousy and envy over the success of others faithfully operating in the field and achieving many victories. The second step of that breakdown usually happens when those less-than qualified hires are placed in a position to monitor, audit, and evaluate the work of those in the field. Those inner rumblings are often more than just a matter of maturity or being uptight. They are character issues that should have been resolved long before those particular individuals met their MSS recruiters. Their varied emotional disorders subsequently became most apparent after they began working.
A satellite image of the imposing MSS Headquarters in Beijing (above). In the abstract, one might conceptualize that a foreign technology analysis office with specialized units likely exists within one of its analytical departments to perform that task. One might consider further how tasks are divided within it and how it logically manages the mass collection of information and data collected. The overall aim of the hypothetical advanced foreign technology assessment unit would be to enhance the analytic capability of the MSS to enable it to more effectively provide to the Communist Party of China, ministers, and MSS senior executives the highest quality intelligence on advanced technological developments in the US and in other advanced industrialized countries. For the obvious security reasons, the workplace of these supposed technology analysts would likely be situated In some prohibited place, if not within the depths of the massive Beijing Headquarters of the MSS, itself.
MSS Large Data Processing of Technologies Stolen from US Conceptualized
Facilius per partes in cognitionem todus adducimur. (We are more easily led part by part to an understanding of the whole.) With dozens of operatives moving about the US with their eyes wide open and ears pinned back attempting to obey instructions from MSS officers either back in China or on the ground in the US, a backlog of information collected would be expected. The volume might be seen as problematic by experts in the US. However, MSS senior executives and managers, much as the MPS and all the parallel PLA and Communist Party of China intelligence services and units and all of the iterations of Chinese intelligence services that came before them, would apply reason to find a way to handle bundles of reports from intelligence operatives and informants. It stands to reason that a division exists which is engaged in piecing together information and data stolen from the US to advance its own technologies. China would hardly vouchsafe such.
In the abstract, one might conceptualize that a foreign technology analysis office with specialized units likely exists within one of its analytical departments to perform that task. One might consider further how tasks are divided within it and how it logically manages the mass collection of information and data collected. The overall aim of the prospective advanced foreign technology assessment unit would be to enhance the analytic capability of the MSS to enable it to more effectively provide to the Communist Party of China, its minister and deputy ministers, and senior executives, the highest quality intelligence on advanced technological developments in the US and in other advanced industrialized countries. For the obvious security reasons, the workplace of these supposed technology analysts would likely be situated In some prohibited place, if not some inner sanctum of the massive Headquarters of the MSS in Beijing, itself. Visualize, in some edifice in China, several MSS analysts, all of whom are experts on US and other advanced industrialized countries’ military, scientific, medical or artificial intelligence technologies, engaged daily in an intelligence practice of uncovering the latest, most advanced, and most desired information of foreign technologies from collected intelligence. In an intelligence tradition from the earliest days of CDSA, they can be imagined mining through foreign sources in a time consuming process akin to sifting through dust, yet enjoying the hunt so to speak.
One might say the work of such prospective foreign technology assessment analysts would be something similar to that of codebreakers of World War II in the United Kingdom, yet they are isolated from the conditions of the past. That art, as with many aspects of intelligence collection, has become electronic. The label analyst should be interpreted widely to include researchers who regularly use secret intelligence. Individuals drawn to and hired for such work would have an acumen for being able to work on what are essentially puzzles. Solving puzzles is actually a science dubbed enigmatology. The analysts turned “enigmatologists,” or visa-versa, would most likely be elated to keep their brains on edge. They would have little difficulty remaining occupied forever long it takes to put together pieces of information to create the picture of a new technology or new research and development project. When such a figurative puzzle is cracked, new ones would very likely be immediately placed before analysts.
Bletchley Park, a country house in Buckinghamshire, was bought by the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) in 1938 as a site to which the Government Code & Cypher School and MI6 could be evacuated when war came. However, Bletchley Park’s great success was as a result of the mechanization of the decryption process keeping pace with the mechanization of encryption. Although the decryption of Enigma is the best known of Bletchley Park’s exploits, other successes, such as the decryption of Luftwaffe hand ciphers, and the development of Colossus, the world’s first computer which solved the enciphered German teleprinter, made a significant contribution to the Allied victory. One might say the work of such prospective foreign technology assessment analysts would be something similar to that of codebreakers of World War II, yet they are isolated from the conditions of the past as that art, as with many aspects of intelligence collection, has become electronic.
While the supposition may sound a bit ordinary, perchance there would be some sort of analytical triage by the most experienced analyst, perhaps senior leaders and best experts from the analytical team might gather weekly or daily to perform that task. It would also give the supervisors a good sense of what might be coming down the pike for examination. The participating supervisors, themselves, would reflect countries from which the technologies would be stolen and would be proficient in the respective languages of the industrialized countries from which the reports, plans, schematics, charts, and other data would originate. The final sorting would be done by supervisors intimately familiar with at least one area of the technologies stolen. There may be information gathered on a new US technology or ongoing research and development project that is already in sufficient quality and quality to send up to higher levels of management to create additional collection requirements for MSS officers and operatives in the field to help complete the picture. Even if there is a relative paucity of information on a foreign technology, if it is a technology discovered that is so advanced that it would have the potential to be a game changer in terms of the development of Chinese technologies or might be of the utmost importance regarding China’s defense and national security, it would very likely be brought up to senior executives who would decide how to pursue it. Counterintelligence would also likely be involved to make certain that any miracles are not simply sophisticated material dangled as bait for some elaborate trap. The supervisors speculated upon here would also be the ones to deliver information in formal reports or as presentations and desk-level briefings to customers in government.
After they receive a batch of information, the emphasis of the analysts’ search through it will be to identify and consider new discoveries, as well as determine whether the information is simply interesting or can be given higher meaning. Much as case officers may run more than operative in the field, each analyst or team would likely work on, not many, but very likely more than one puzzle at a time. The foundation of the puzzle would most likely be formed by a pattern of information. Each bit of new information may be a possible missing piece. Each new piece gives one an idea of what the next piece might look like. In a mosaic, stone fragments are cut to for a particular image the artist has in mind, a preconception. With a puzzle, the image is created with each new piece. There is something to learn every time the image is developed. Eventually the image figuratively begins looking back at the one working on the puzzle telling its story. Priority is likely given to those puzzles closest to solution or those that begin releasing information about some new exquisite US technology that MSS senior executives, and thereby the Communist Party of China wants to get its hands on. As a next logical step, the collection of pieces for the remaining parts of the puzzle by operations departments from Beijing or the provinces can be directed through collection requirements. Perhaps the same analyst or analytical team or a group of troubleshooting technological experts would take over the case at that point.
One exercise would be to find commonalities among reports on a US research and development project. The likely thinking in each unit would be that there is always something in what has been collected, it just needs to be fully twinkled out. Imaginably, instead of having too few clues, in some cases there would be too many. To pull out a particular strand from a mass of information requires a very clear sense of priority. Doing that would also serve a counterintelligence purpose. The analysts would likely be trained to know there are patterns in reporting. A new technology will rarely simply emanate from a single source, with no other references to it and no communication about it.
When pieces of information might be missing, there would always be the possibility that the next batch of reports from the US might help to do that. If that telling piece of information is not in the next batch, it may be in the batch after that. There are no blind alleys. If a report says something is there then it is there. The analysts would be fully cognizant that a considerable effort is being made within the US to conceal secret projects. Success at their work is likely invigorating, and likely impel more strenuous efforts. No matter how slowly any puzzle would develop, there would unlikely be any case regulated to something akin to a cold case file. If any information exists on a technological project, MSS managers know that there is metaphorically something cooking in the US. With several civilian informants working inside and around technological development centers, the day might come at any time when pieces of puzzle take on greater meaning and the puzzle starts telling the analysts something considerable.
While the image that the puzzle presents may not yet be completely in focus, the most experienced, knowledgeable, and resourceful eyes, masters in the business of sorting these puzzles out will be put on the matter. Such a case would likely become a collaborative focus. After a while of that, the newly discovered technology would very likely come into focus and resources of operations would be directed to the effort to hunt down the remaining elements and get them to China. In some cases, the few stray pieces of the puzzle could be conceptualized and reproduced by technology experts in China. What one can invent, another can surely reproduce.
Students of Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics studying in the library (above). One might say the work of such prospective foreign technology assessment analysts would be something similar to that of codebreakers of World War II, yet they are isolated from the conditions of the past as that art, as with many aspects of intelligence collection, have become electronic. Chinese colleges and universities graduate a near endless list of qualified candidates for every year. The Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics in particular is a happy hunting ground for MSS recruiters. Given in part to the availability of a highly qualified pool of potentials, Chinese intelligence services surely have the personnel capacity to handle the loads of stolen information coming in from the US and other advanced industrialized countries. The two female students at the bottom right of the photo are apparently taking a short break from all of their serious academic work with a little diversion.
There must be a balance in all of their analyses without a smidge of bias. In their analytical product, they would need to guard against apophenia, seeing patterns in unrelated things. Engaging in informal speculation would be appreciated, some US technologies would possibly seem so advanced as to be called exotic. However, assessing any to have a potential bordering on science fiction would face disapproval. No one would be allowed to attach importance to anything purely arbitrary. Latching on to something definitively trivial will be proven when nothing ever follows to assist in solving the matter.
Reports that the analysts received would unlikely solely focus on technologies although that information would have primacy. Reports that identify government agencies, offices, supporting specific cutting-edge research and development of technologies. Where those government agencies are, that is where the MSS will very likely be prowling. Names of experts from US government departments and agencies or from private organization experts that came up related to a particular technology may among other things help to understand the project’s importance. Reports on how information is kept secure would certainly be useful. Information on security officers associated with protecting a project may be important for operational purposes. It may become necessary to know who they are, what they are doing, what they are saying, and what their routines, interests, habits and health are, particularly if it is determined that the door should be left open to possibly conducting a covert collection effort against the office or facility for which he or she might be responsible.
Assumably, morale would be high in such a foreign technology assessment office given its victories. In terms of supervising performance and ensuring a quality work product, there would very likely be a nose to the grindstone, deadly serious, scholarly approach demanded of analysts in their work. One would unlikely hear much jolly chatter in the workplace. Imaginably, there would unlikely be any of the peculiar infernal squabbling in morning meetings and weekly reviews that has been dubbed part of a creative process within certain Western intelligence and counterintelligence services. It is unlikely that competitive urges, ego and ambition impell the work of the MSS enigmatologist. Again, as they are only human, there may be some elements of each that pushes each to be their best. While there is an urgency to the work, getting things right would be most important and to that extent accuracy would equate to speed. There would surely be one-to-one mentoring, with more experienced team colleagues who offer support, in addition to that offered by line managers. Nearly everyone appreciates acknowledgement for a job well-done and pat on the back from colleagues and managers, coaches and mentors. Respectful, motivated, and dedicated, younger members of teams usually want to make a good impression upon older, more experienced ones, and typically thrive on recognition, attention, guidance, approval, and praise from them. (Supervisors must reinforce good work, extinguish bad habits and that sort of thing.) If Beijing would even discuss the existence of such an analytical group, it undoubtedly has the world believing that the desire to do a good job for China and the Communist Revolution provides all of the impetus needed.
Unlike other analysts who might rotate between operational, analytical and managerial duties, analysts would essentially work in a professional closed shop. Successful analytical work of this kind would require unbroken contact with information on new technologies as it arrives to avoid gaps in specific knowledge and assessment capabilities that would naturally occur if the analysts most familiar with the technology were moved out and replaced with analysts from some other area such as foreign military operational analysis, counternarcotics, or organized crime. Technology assessment would be a high priority specialization and any advancement would take place within it.
Provincial and local departments and bureaus of the MSS often use cover names inside China such as “Shanghai Municipal Government Office number seven.” It could be the case for Shanghai State Security Bureau (SSSB) that Municipal Government Office number seven is actually the Shanghai State Municipal building (above). Two satellite dishes are often found on office building roofs of MSS departments and bureaus. (See the satellite dishes on the left and right sides of the municipal building roof. In a photo in Part 1 of this essay, notice two similar model satellite dishes atop the roof of the Wuhan Hubei National Security Office which is the home of the Ministry of State Security Bureau.) Going out on a rather slender thread, greatcharlie ventures to say the fact that two “MSS-style” satellite dishes sit atop Shanghai State Municipal building, makes it a candidate for being where SSSB resides or at least some shop of the active spy organization resides.
An Ugly Truth the MSS Surely Knows About the US Counterintelligence Services
MSS senior executives and managers have much with which they can be satisfied regarding their organization’s performance against the US. Certainly, their enthusiasm over the performance of their personnel has been ineffectual within the organization. MSS foreign intelligence officers, operatives and informants have amassed a record of considerable success in the US and continue to plow ahead. Some analysts of Chinese intelligence might say the extraordinary success of MSS was partly founded on luck. The organization was smart enough to ratchet up its operations at a time when US concerns over the capabilities and capacity of Chinese intelligence were astonishingly lax especially in person contacts. Employees at lower levels, drivers, housekeepers, managed to insinuate themselves into the offices and homes of US Senators, US Representatives, hotels, resorts, military bases, government departments and agencies, and important offices of major US industries. Needless to say, that is the kind of luck that tends to follow those who usually become pre-eminent in their field. However, MSS managers are comfortable enough to operate so boldly in the US not because they feel their officers, operatives, and informants are so superb. Its managers feel less threatened because, as aforementioned, it recognizes US counterintelligence services have allowed themselves to deteriorate to some degree in nearly all areas, but especially concerning personnel, over recent years.
Multi cives aut ea pericula quae imminent non vident aut ea quae vident neglegunt. (Many citizens either do not see those dangers which are threatening or they ignore those that they see.) US intelligence, counterintelligence, and law enforcement have all but admitted that they are somewhat baffled by what the MSS and its sister Chinese intelligence services are doing. They literally advertise their limitations. Surely, US counterintelligence knows all of this is a part of the reason why it is somewhat in the woods regarding Chinese intelligence operations in the US. They are happy that very few are aware as to why, too! There has been a never-ending rosy US news media narrative about US intelligence and counterintelligence services and law enforcement which has influenced the US public’s understanding of how well the counterintelligence job is being done. That new media narrative intensified immediately after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the US. The US public’s impression of US counterintelligence work has also been shaped for decades by Hollywood via bedazzling images of near supermen and superwoman catching wretched enemy intelligence agents, terrorists, and international organized crime figures. Even greatcharlie must accept some responsibility for creating a certain image of US intelligence and counterintelligence services and law enforcement by typically referring to the “somber and astute” professionals among them.
True, the majority of officers within the civilian US counterintelligence services, energetically and earnestly do all they can to thwart and defeat the activities of foreign intelligence services operating in the US. Those proper US counterintelligence officers indeed have their eyes on the MSS and other Chinese intelligence services. Expectantly, the presence of such professionals in US counterintelligence should have been enough to cause concern and caution for the MSS as they ventured into the US. MSS officers should literally tremble as they approach, and as they begin to move about on the beat, they should be constantly and carefully looking over their shoulders. Unfortunately, in the larger world of US intelligence and counterintelligence there are other officers who could hardly be characterized as such.
Fate would have it that there are a number of US counterintelligence officers who do not perform in such a praise worthy way. While the type of errant officer identified here may not be present in every office of a US counterintelligence organization. The errant officers described do not move around much as gremlins doing wrong at every turn, breaking every rule. Their numbers are still sufficient enough that they are noticeable to their adversaries as much as they are to their colleagues. What the MSS doubtlessly picks up about the errant officers that arguably presents much hope and perhaps even joy when MSS senior executives and managers in charge of US operations. MSS managers have very likely observed the errant officers thinking and behavior either rising to insanity or sinking to imbecility. They have likely heard all of their tales of woe. Most are distraught by the denial of overtime, reductions in allowances for expenses, and relatively modest salary. Some feel benefits such as medical and dental insurance are insufficient. Others are angered not only by those factors, but also by having to distribute significant payments to informants and multiple operatives greatly in excess of their salaries. Trouble really begins when a case or cases allow the errant officers access to funds for the payments to operatives and informants. As it is done under the honor system, the door is opened wide for embezzlement. (The details of the varied devilish artifices used to embezzle are too hefty to detail here. The decision to allow case officers of US intelligence and counterintelligence services access to such considerable amounts of taxpayer dollars in this day and age without the strictest forms of oversight is of questionable judgment.)
MSS managers surely have noticed that when engaged in investigations against their intelligence officers, operatives, and informants, such errant US counterintelligence officers are satisfied in performing poorly and being incompetent. Indeed, when it comes down to identifying, intercepting, neutralizing, and recruiting foreign intelligence officers and operatives, the errant officers are hardly game for the trudge. Typically, a history of rarely being able to get anything started in a recruitment will fill the performance records of their sort. Even when given an opportunity to bring in a foreign intelligence officer or operative, the whole case is usually muffed. It is the practice of most US counterintelligence services to give officers full control of their cases, with supervision from other special agents or case officers on a management track–often with less experience on the field than themselves. Having been given the authority from managers and those novice supervisors, the have no reservations about chasing down a false lead regardless of the fact that they have been read-in on all that indicates there is nothing at all to follow. Interestingly, money somehow never seems to be short for their cases. Bringing a case to resolution would not allow for the use of varied tricks to enrich themselves as the continued reconnaissance and surveillance of a target and use of informants without having any real counterintelligence goals. The operatives or informants in contact with the adversary are kept active enough and encouraged enough to hold their interest and to compel them to stay involved. In some cases, everything might abruptly stop if some change in the office, some feeling–call it intuition–causes the errant officers to be concerned. Most of the time, however, the errant officers become so comforted by the ease with which they managed to collect their ill-gotten gains, they become slow to notice any nuanced changes that may happen around them. Supervisors may push for results but they typically become accustomed to getting nothing from the errant officers. At best, they will push to shut down the case, but the damage will already have been done to the effort against the foreign intelligence service. In some rare exception, the errant officers will collect enough on an innocent citizen to secure an indictment. An offhand remark or joke made to a clandestine contact or false statements signed by the errant officers’ operatives tied to arbitrary evidence wrongfully cooked to take on higher meaning may be enough to prompt eager prosecutors to move against the innocent.
Bewildering to MSS managers but perhaps the most noticeable of the errant officers behaviors that immediately benefits not just the MSS, but all foreign intelligence services operating in the US, is the employment contractors who will bizarrely hire untutored surveillance operatives right off the street even for an intended clandestine operation that is supposed to be finely calibrated. In most foreign intelligence services, great care is placed in the selection of operatives for a task as important as surveillance. Due to the heavy reliance on the competence of observers, reports they produce, and even their immediate impressions. All of that information will impact data extrapolated and inferences made. Nevertheless, money hungry contractors to whom those services often outsource such work could apparently careless about such matters. If one were to put a good spin on the practice, the grand thought behind the practice would ostensibly be that placing more eyes, even nonprofessional, untrained eyes, on the target allows for better coverage of the targets activities, better. Yet, the real result is simply the accumulation of several observations, varied in accuracy and quality. False observation can often be provided by nonprofessionals in an ordinary case seeking to puff themselves up, as if to say: “Hey, look at me! I am a real spy!” Indeed, this lesser form of “spying” may bestow a certain dignity to the mixed bag engaged in it. However, the real magic behind the practice is the potential for dishonor that it creates. Since the hires are essentially transient, not all names on a list of impromptu operatives may be genuine. Errant officers can benefit themselves by collecting the recompense of nonexistent operatives added to the list. Experienced counterintelligence hands are well-aware that repeated, considerable hiring for surveillance, especially in massive bundles for any case could be a beckoning initial indicia of someone trying “to give themselves a pension.” When that surveillance and investigation results in nothing, it is a red flag.
How MSS has likely benefited from this is obvious. MSS operatives would only need to put themselves in a position to be hired in any more formal process of becoming a surveillance operative for a contractor for US intelligence and counterintelligence services and law enforcement. As some will tend to seek a diverse pool of operatives, they will usually consider all applications with scant vetting in part to accelerate the hiring process but mostly to avoid the expense. After making certain they have presented themselves as qualified candidates, the MSS operative is very likely hired. If they can situate themselves in the vicinity of a diplomatic installation of the Chinese government or the proximity of a site in which MSS or another Chinese intelligence service might be operating, like a canary in a coal mine, a call or text from a US counterintelligence contractor request the operative participate in a surveillance nearby will notify the MSS that their people may be under observation. In addition, the MSS operatives can make a few extra dollars courtesy of the US taxpayer. (While it may strike one as daylight madness, one can rest assured that it is actually happening daily!)
What may be shocking and surprising to MSS managers are those occasions when errant officers, in an effort to manufacture a case, will submit knowingly false information to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court) to secure warrants and authorizations for warrantless searches and surveillance against a wrongly targeted citizen. It happens more than the average US citizen could imagine. The bigger the lie that they tell about the innocent citizen, the more significant the case will be. That means greater resources will be alloted for it. In the process of obtaining FISA Court warrants and. authorizations, administrative personnel in the errant officers’ counterintelligence organization, particularly attorneys, who have the responsibility to oversee the correctness of applications to the court, have been known to simply rubber-stamp them. As for FISA Court judges, they tend to simply accept whatever is in the applications as valid.
A counterintelligence focus on the innocent US citizen will always be at the errant officers instigation. On one end of the chain are errant officers focused on enriching themselves with taxpayers dollars on the other end is some poor chap, knowing by God that he is innocent, who is nevertheless having his life turned upside down wrongfully. The errant officers will not hesitate to manufacture false information to submit to include tutoring so-called informants in preparing false statements for them. Sadly enough, as mentioned earlier, the errant officers can pick out informants who would be willing to prepare such statements and they will be handsomely paid. To paraphrase a recent remark by US Senator Charles Schumer of New York on the tactics, techniques, procedures, and methods of the US Intelligence Community, they can come at you six ways to Sunday. Indeed, under the incredible weight of the US intelligence and counterintelligence services and federal law enforcement, some of the innocent are unable to survive without being harmed psychologically and physically. To enlarge on the point of damage done by errant US counterintelligence officers who misused and abused power and the tools provided them to protect the US, there are more than a few cases that are well-known to those who have worked in the intelligence industry. Rest assured, MSS managers have kept track of US news media reporting and collected information about those cases. Among the high-profile cases is that of Wen Ho Lee.
Wen Ho Lee leaving a Washington, DC courthouse in 2000 (above). In a December 1999 federal indictment, Wen Ho Lee was charged in 59 counts concerning the tampering, altering, concealing, and removing restricted data, the receipt of restricted data, the unlawful gathering of national defense information, and the unlawful retention of national defense information. Reportedly, the US Intelligence Community received information from an intelligence source revealing that China had obtained details of the W88, a US nuclear warhead. The FBI investigation into the case erroneously pointed them to Lee. Lee was arrested in December 1999 and held without bail for 278 days. The FBI later eventually determined that Lee could not plausibly have been the source of information on the W88 to China. Still, the FBI moved forward with its investigation of Lee. Lee was charged with the improper handling of restricted data. In September 2000, Lee pled guilty to one count as a part of a plea bargain arrangement. The other 58 counts were dropped. Lee would file and win a lawsuit against the US government and five news organizations for leaking information that violated his privacy.
Circumstances concerning Wen Ho Lee were complicated, but not so much as to evolve into an episode so tragic and regrettable. Boiled down, his life, liberty, his ability to go on quietly pursuing what made him happy as a US citizen was torn to shreds based on a rush to judgment and the wrongful use of the awesome powers provided to the US intelligence and counterintelligence services and law enforcement to protect the US public. In a December 1999 federal indictment, Wen Ho Lee was charged in 59 counts concerning the tampering, altering, concealing, and removing restricted data, the receipt of restricted data, the unlawful gathering of national defense information, and the unlawful retention of national defense information. Reportedly, the US Intelligence Community received information from an intelligence source revealing that China had obtained details of the W88, a US nuclear warhead. Allegedly due to certain pieces of evidence, the FBI investigation into the case, Operation Kindred Spirit, pointed them to Lee. Lee was arrested in December 1999 and held without bail for 278 days. The FBI was made aware that Lee, a US citizen and University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, travelled twice to China in the 1980s to meet with scientists. During a interview with the FBI, Lee admitted that he had been asked by them to supply information that would assist China in developing a nuclear missile force. On a polygraph test administered by the FBI, it was indicated that Lee was not always being truthful in his responses. An examination of his computer revealed that he had transferred classified documents to an unsecured network and in the process deleted the security classification in the material. Reportedly, the information was accessed 40 times on a computer at the UCLA student union by an unknown user.
As the investigation into his alleged espionage began, Lee was fired from his job at Los Alamos by UCLA on March 8, 1990, under pressure from the US Department of Energy, which oversees the laboratory. The news media was informed of his dismissal by an unknown source and the stories were widely reported. While his alleged espionage was being reported, the FBI had determined that Lee could not plausibly have been the source of information on the W88 to China. The normative hope, yet perhaps a bit optimistic one given the players involved, would be that once exculpatory information existed that should prove one’s innocence, a FBI investigation would be halted. Nevertheless, the FBI moved forward with its investigation of Lee. Although the original espionage charge was dropped by the FBI, Lee was still charged with the improper handling of restricted data. In September 2000, Lee pled guilty to one count as a part of a plea bargain arrangement. The other 58 counts were dropped. Later, Lee filed a lawsuit against the US government and five news organizations–the Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, ABC NEWS, and the Associated Press–for leaking information that violated his privacy. In August 2004, a US District Court judge in held reporters from four of the news organizations in contempt for not revealing the source that identified Lee as a spy. The government would pay over $895,000 to cover Lee’s legal fees and taxes. The news organizations paid Lee $750,000.
From the ostensible professional side of what occurred, one might say FBI investigators may have measured the impact of what they were doing in terms how they looked before managers and whether their case at least had the appearance of being viable. They did not measure their impact in terms of the population of which he was part, Chinese-American professionals working in national security areas, many of whom were left fearful of being looked at or pursued whenever an espionage case had a China nexus. Indeed, Lee and his supporters have argued that he was unfairly singled out for investigation because he was Chinese-American. Wen Ho Lee was not the enemy but has been called a victim of the blind, unfettered power of a few men hiding behind the shadows who possessed a little brief authority. That bit of humanity that should exist in each human heart was in such insufficient quantity in the counterintelligence special agents handling his case. In his book Securing the State, David Omand, former United Kingdom intelligence and security coordinator, wrote security intelligence operations—such as counterterrorism and counterintelligence—require cooperation between security officials and civilian populations among whom threats wish to hide. In the case of Chinese intelligence, this includes ethnic Chinese émigré communities, which, at least in the US, are now suspicious of the FBI. The botched investigation of Wen Ho Lee, in Ormand’s view, appeared to be politically (or racially) motivated witch hints rather than the serious security investigations they were. To Chinese-Americans, these suspicions and resulting investigations are the natural result of an unwillingness to analyze Chinese intelligence more rigorously on the basis of evidence.
For the MSS, the Wen Ho Lee case undoubtedly provided considerable lessons and the possible makings for a countermeasure to thwart efforts by US counterintelligence against its foreign intelligence operations inside and outside of the US. MSS managers would know better than anyone that Wen Ho Lee was not functioning as an intelligence operative for their organization or any other Chinese intelligence service. Given that Lee’s visits to China, professional discussions with scientists, and conversations with MSS, which its officers furtively initiated and to which he did not respond to positively, apparently served as indicia that he was a Chinese operative, US counterintelligence services, in this case the FBI, made the decision to act aggressively toward him. Doubtlessly, repeated authorizations for searches and surveillance were secured from the FISA Court and the pressure placed on Lee was intense. MSS managers surely from a distance, and at times likely up close, monitored how US counterintelligence resources were poured into Lee’s case. Meanwhile, they would smile as MSS officers, operatives, and informants, on the ground in the US, perhaps in the very locations in which US counterintelligence officers were surveiling and investigating Lee, were functioning with seeming impunity. What shrewd MSS managers likely reasoned from the episode was that calling more Chinese-American scientists, engineers, academics, and other scholars to China for conversations with their counterparts, would allow for the creation of dozens of potential decoys, or, to use the parlance of the intelligence industry, unwitting “dangles” out of those visiting experts which US counterintelligence services perchance would chase around whenever true MSS officers, operatives, or informants stole highly-prized information and data from the US. The tactic would be relatively low cost, low risk, and US counterintelligence services would really do all the work to make the effort successful. There would likely also be the hope among MSS managers that US counterintelligence would even chase Chinese-Americans that the MSS had no contact with whatsoever. What is presented here is by no means an unwarranted extrapolation. The question that should really pique interest is whether the MSS had such a countermeasure in place long before Lee first visited China to speak with scientist counterparts. While one might expect they have been interviewed regarding such a possibility, defectors, whose own foreign intelligence activities were likely compartmentalized, would unlikely know about a secret Chinese counterintelligence program such as the one hypothesized.
Robert Mueller (above). Perhaps one of most disturbing abuses of power by US counterintelligence elements was the continued clandestine use of powers and tools designed to deal with terrorists and actual foreign intelligence operatives against candidate Donald Trump to prove that he and his campaign colluded with the Russian Federation. In what was hands down a sham investigation, there was a total breakdown of the rule of law. Facts were manipulated. There were deliberate efforts to defraud the FISA Court to secure warrants, authrizations for warrantless searches and surveillance, and near unlimited powers to use against US citizens. A host of other nefarious acts were committed system wide. One can hardly imagine that one morning a group of civilian US counterintelligence officers from the very top to the rank and file decided to take on the US President and give some new tactics a try. Every step taken against Trump’s campaign and administration was undoubtedly well-rehearsed in prior cases. A significant advancement of their cause occurred when former FBI Director, Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel to Investigate Russian Interference with the 2016 Presidential Election and Related Matters on May 17, 2017.
Perhaps one of most disturbing abuses of power by US counterintelligence elements was the continued clandestine use of powers and tools designed to deal with terrorists and actual foreign intelligence operatives against candidate Donald Trump for collusion with the Russian Federation and the subsequent investigation of the administration of US President Donald Trump. Investigative journalists and concerned Members of the US Congress have informed that the wrongful, ghastly spying was conducted under the name, “Operation Crossfire Hurricane.” In what was hands down a sham investigation, there was a total breakdown of the rule of law. Facts were manipulated. There were deliberate efforts to defraud the FISA Court to secure warrants, authorizations for warrantless searches and surveillance, and near unlimited powers to use against US citizens. A host of other nefarious acts were committed system wide. Incontrovertibly, the activities of US counterintelligence officers, themselves, ironically could have impacted the outcome of the 2016 US Presidential Election. One can hardly imagine that one morning a group of civilian US counterintelligence officers from the very top to the rank and file decide to take on the US President and give these tactics a try. Every step they took against Trump’s campaign and administration was undoubtedly well-rehearsed in a great number of prior counterintelligence cases. The conspirators were seemingly absolutely confident in the prospects for their success. A significant advancement of their cause occurred when former FBI Director, Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel to Investigate Russian Interference with the 2016 Presidential Election and Related Matters on May 17, 2017. Mueller’s office has issued more than 100 criminal counts against 32 people. Among those ensnared in the investigation was Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser. Flynn was coerced into a plea agreement requiring him to admit gulit to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian Federation ambassador to the US.
As of this writing, much attention is being given to senior executives and managers involved in the illegal activity against both President-Elect Trump and then President Trump. However, the willingness of a number of line officers in US counterintelligence to commit wrongful acts, and failing to report malfeasance and illegal actions of their superiors leaves no doubt about the complicity of more line officers than at least publicly acknowledged on the matter. They operated against a trusting presidential candidate, and that candidate became president, and members of his administration. Hands down, the evidence points to an overarching culture within the US counterintelligence service that it’s members were above the law. It is always far easier for one to betray those who give one their trust. It was the impressive intuition and intimations of Trump over what was happening around him which provided the initial faint signal, largely dismissed by friend and foe alike, that something wrong was going on.
Tragically, concern over the harm caused to the innocent is a feeling senior executives, managers, and supervisors notoriously lack. Typically, when private citizens have been put in such dreadful situations as to be falsely accused or mistakenly identified, one would get the impression that in the minds of senior executives and managers of those organizations that only person who really has a problem is the one to whom all of the wrongful actions are being perpetrated against. Too often senior executives and managers seem in greater fear for the reputation of their organizations if real corruption is unmasked than fear failing their duty to support and defend the US Constitution, to uphold the rule of law, and protect the well-being of US citizens. Further, as long as their organization is considered a trusted, reliable government source, and few would accept the word of an innocent US citizen accused of espionage or worse over their organizations, they tend to behave as if the problem will take care of itself. Much damage has been done to US counterintelligence capabilities today as a result of their delinquency. (Given some of the publicly known facts of the counterintelligence operation against Trump, senior executives and managers of counterintelligence organizations involved actually pushed the case forward despite lacking an authentic legal cause for doing so. That lack of obedience to the law and procedure could lead one to believe they knew that the opportunity would be created for all types of wrongdoing as described to transpire in the field, but senior executives and managers showed little concern over that. The whole enterprise was scandalous. Nemo repente fuit turpissimus. (No one suddenly becomes bad.))
Michael Flynn (above). Among those ensnared in the investigation was Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser. Flynn was coerced into a plea agreement requiring him to admit guilt to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian Federation ambassador to the US. Tragically, concern over the harm caused to the innocent is a feeling senior executives, managers, and supervisors notoriously lack. Typically, when private citizens have been put in such dreadful situations as to be falsely accused or mistakenly identified, one would get the impression that in the minds of senior executives and managers of those organizations that only person who really has a problem is the one to whom all of the wrongful actions are being perpetrated against. Too often senior executives and managers seem in greater fear for the reputation of their organizations if real corruption is unmasked than fear failing their duty to support and defend the US Constitution, to uphold the rule of law, and protect the well-being of US citizens.
MSS intelligence and counterintelligence officers have had ample opportunities over the years to get an even closer look at personnel and performance of US counterintelligence organizations. Certainly, in planning meetings, strategy and operational reviews, as well as in debriefings of MSS officers upon their return home, much time is spent collecting information that will allow for the construction of an outline of the psychological foundation of adversarial counterintelligence services and law enforcement organizations. However, one could imagine that information most prized is that acquired through passive collection by operatives and agents quietly placed where the counterintelligence officer could easily make the mistake of dismissing them. Surely, that elucidating information, most likely sent directly to Beijing from the US, from an intelligence perspective, would be among the most important collected. It could be counted among the bread and butter operations in the US, having undoubtedly been going on for years. Interestingly, few to none of the fellow case officers or special agents in the errant officers respective offices or organizations ever report them to superiors. MSS managers undoubtedly view that as supportive of the Communist Party of China line about the moral and ethical weaknesses of the US system, and evidence of the figurative cracks that will lead to its eventual collapse.
When MSS managers consider what makes these errant officers tick, collected information would undoubtedly support possible answers as varied as their behaviors. The mindset that makes engaging in corruption so comfortable that may perchance be the result of being exposed to the mindset of senior officers in their organizations who came of age the free-wielding era of War on Terror and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in which the manual was often tossed aside by members of the US Intelligence Community. There was a go get ’em mentality in place in which procedures were ignored, wrongful short-cuts were taken, and countless rules were broken. Billions in taxpayer dollars remain unaccounted for. Authority that many legal experts still insist went far beyond what any Member of Congress would normally countenance under the US Constitution were granted under the USA Patriot Act. One might suppose that the exposure of recent generations of counterintelligence officers to such thinking has allowed such negative behavior to become inculcated among those in the field. The thirst to control the lives of others negatively becomes unquenchable. Perhaps the uneven thinking, and aberrant attitudes and behavior of these misplaced errant officers is stimulated by the unique responsibilities, authority, activities, and stressors of intelligence work. Stoicus noster, “Vitium,” inquit, “non est in rebus sed in animo.” (Our Stoic philosopher said, “Vice is not merely in one’s actions but in the mind itself.”)
The misfortune of having such misanthropes as the errant officers in what should be an elite organization is something with which MSS officers are somewhat familiar. Indeed, the corruption of those sworn to protect their nation, and in China’s particular case, those sworn to uphold the values and ideals of the Communist Movement, and obey the edicts of the Communist Party of China, is a deficiency that has been dealt with in China on occasion. by MSS, sometimes at the very top of the organization. In April 2015, Zhou Yongkang, a former member of the 17th Politburo Standing Committee and Secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission (Zhengfawei) between 2007 and 2012, was formally charged in April with taking bribes, abuse of power and intentionally leaking state secrets. As Secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, Zhou oversaw China’s security apparatus and law enforcement institutions, with power stretching into courts, prosecution agencies, police forces, paramilitary forces, and intelligence organs, to include the MSS. At the end of a closed door trial that began on May 2015 in the Tianjin No.1 Intermediate People’s Court, it was ruled that Zhou and his family had taken bribes totaling 129.7 million yuan (approximately $18,835, 317) from his close allies. The court declared that Zhou abused his power by requesting Jiang Jiemin, the former head of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission and former chairman of the state-run China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), where Zhou was a top official for 10 years. Li Chuncheng, former Sichuan deputy party chief, directed more than 2.13 billion yuan of illegal gains to his son and other businessmen, causing a loss of 1.48 billion yuan to the Chinese economy. Zhou also provided Cao Yongzheng, who is a “qigong (ancient Chinese exercise and healing technique) master,” six classified documents, of which five were top secret. Since some evidence of his crimes involved state secrets, the trial was not open to the public. The maximum punishment for bribery is death; both the abuse of power and the state-secret charges each carry up to seven years in prison. However, the court stated that although Zhou had accepted a “huge” amount of bribes, but given the mitigating circumstances that he had confessed his crimes, pleaded guilty, and most of the bribes had been taken by his relatives, he had asked them to hand back the money, and all the money had been confiscated, he was given a “lenient” punishment. On the charge of abuse of power, he received seven years’ imprisonment. For the charge of leaking state secrets, he received four years’ imprisonment. Zhou, 74 at the time, was essentially sentenced to life imprisonment by the court. Further, Zhou was stripped of all political rights for life and all his personal assets were confiscated.
Former Secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, Zhou Yongkang, in court (above). The misfortune of having such misanthropes as the errant US counterintelligence officers in one ranks is something with which MSS officers are familiar. In April 2015, Zhou Yongkang, a former member of the 17th Politburo Standing Committee and Secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission between 2007 and 2012, was formally charged in April with taking bribes, abuse of power and intentionally leaking state secrets. As Secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, Zhou oversaw China’s security apparatus and law enforcement institutions, with power stretching into courts, prosecution agencies, police forces, paramilitary forces, and intelligence organs.
Returning to the matter of errant officers in US counterintelligence, make no mistake, however, the errant officers’ disregard of the counterintelligence mission are characteristics doubtlessly most favored among MSS senior executives, managers, and officers in the field. MSS would surely try to collect concrete information on them such as their education and employment experience, financial reports, family relations, friends, personal habits, tastes, and dislikes. MSS would very likely possess some of the most thorough studies prepared on the capabilities and capacity of US intelligence, counterintelligence, and law enforcement, and put enough faith in what they have amassed and know, given it has committed such enormous numbers of officers to the great intelligence game being played inside the US.
MSS managers, while still cautious, may have deduced that due to the presence of so many bad apples in the US counterintelligence services, they cannot pose any real threat to their operations. Any portion of the figurative noose US counterintelligence organizations might try to put around the neck of MSS officers, operatives, informants, or overall operations would surely be frayed because of the errant officers presence. To go an adage further, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Certainly, in planning meetings, strategy and operational reviews, as well as debriefings of MSS officers when they return home, time is spent attempting to outline the psychological foundation for US counterintelligence officers that opposed them and the nuance of tradecraft they observed being used against them. MSS would likely make assessments of the extent to which any of the errant officers encountered might allow for small gaps or gaping holes in the US defense and how they deplete morale. Perhaps they are even familiar with their names and postings. Assumably, they would want to be familiar with those among that sort of errant officer who have actually moved up to become managers.
MSS managers may determine that the errant officers display all the telltale signs of being misanthropes. There is a palpable bitterness of spirit in their hearts. They loathe their organizations. Everyday, they condescend in order to even sit with the other officers in their organization. They likely feel an aberrant sense of sacrifice. Professionalism, collegiality, gentleness seen in supervisors is viewed as a weakness. They look upon their adversaries with disdain, too! That sensibility would not be expressed with gymnasium locker room joviality, but rather a red hot mean spirit. They typically are unwilling to respect their adversaries capabilities. They do not try to understand their adversaries. They certainly never attempt to learn from their adversaries. In their offices, a MSS operative or informant might also passively hear them speak poorly of operatives and informants. One might ponder when seeking to insult, ridicule, humiliate, and bully, ever become required aspects of counterintelligence work. Officers of such stripes will typically speak far worse of subjects of investigations. Perhaps they spend so much effort doing down their adversaries, operatives, and informants in order to make up for their own lack of self-esteem.
Ralph Waldo Emerson has been misquoted as stating: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” The correct provenance is Henry S. Haskins in his book, Meditations in Wall Street (William Morrow & Company, 1940). Nonetheless, the adage holds true. Since the errant counterintelligence officers have already proven themselves willing to go so far in the wrong direction for such things, imaginably the affections of a few could still change. Uncovering the nucleus of the wrongful behavior is not the goal, or should not be. The chief feature to be found is some aspect or aspects of the errant officers’ character that can be capitalized upon for MSS purposes. On this particular point, it could be imagined that MSS counterintelligence officers will never cease keeping their eyes open and ears perked up for opportunities. It would be a dereliction of their duty not to do so. From one perspective, it might be assumed that although they have recruited US counterintelligence officers, albeit paltry numbers, they would not bank on catching such breaks on some regular basis. They understand that a usual part of the errant officer’s line of thinking is to have more and to have something better, not to have something different somewhere else. On the other hand, the temptation of easily acquired wealth could be too difficult for some errant officers to resist. Semper avarus eget. (A greedy man is always in need.)
While there is no public evidence that would allow one to allege either engaged in the behavior ascribed to errant officers discussed here while they worked in their respective US intelligence services, the cases of both Kevin Mallory and Rob Hansen provide further support to the idea that US traitors will generally place their own financial gain over their country’s national security and well-being. Mallory’s case was outlined in “Part 1” of this essay. However, adding to what was already relayed from the US Department of Justice criminal complaint stating on May 5, 2017 is the fact that Mallory used a special phone that he received from his MSS handler. With it, he sent the message: “Your object is to gain information, and my object is to be paid for.” In the case of Ron Hansen, mentioned earlier here, prosecutors claim he was paid as much as $800,000 over several years.
Former MSS operative Ron Hansen (above). There is no public evidence that would allow one to allege he engaged in the behavior ascribed to errant officers discussed here when he worked in the Defense Intelligence Agency. However, the case of Rob Hansen, mentioned earlier here, provides further support for the idea that US traitors will generally place their own financial gain over their country’s national security and well-being. Prosecutors claim Hansen was paid as much as $800,000 over several years.
In the case of errant officers, MSS managers may deduce that the pursuit of money would certainly be a weakness to exploit, considering how secure most of them likely feel after being allowed for so long to pursue cunning schemes to acquire personal gain through the system wrongfully. A clever MSS manager could potentially devise a scheme to make them anxiously grab for more. MSS may even apply patience, and decide to approach the errant officer after retirement. In retirement, the money and gifts might have greater meaning for them. For MSS counterintelligence, recruitment of US intelligence and counterintelligence officers, active or retired, with access is always the matter at hand when specifically conducting research on a US counterintelligence officer. Bringing in a US counterintelligence officer is always a huge victory for the MSS and for China. Note that MSS would hardly be the only foreign intelligence service aware of problems in the US apparatus. However, circumstances may be worse than leaders, senior executives, and managers in some US counterintelligence services might imagine or care about. Again, the caveat must be expressed that the ugly characteristics discussed cannot be attributed to all US counterintelligence officers in the field. However, the point is being made that they have likely been observed enough to convince decision makers in the MSS that officers deployed in the US may act boldly, ubiquitously, voraciously, and with greater intensity everyday in their efforts to collect all technologies China lacks as well as any other information demanded by their masters in Beijing.
The Desultory Pursuit of the MSS by US Counterintelligence
Quidquid dicendum est, libere dicem. (Whatever must be said, I shall say freely.) As noted earlier, the trickle of successes publicly announced are perhaps soothing to an unknowing public, creating the appearance that the US is pushing back on Chinese intelligence operations. However, everything that has been announced has hardly been enough to put the US on track to defeat, disrupt, the networks of the Chinese Intelligence services relative their size and strength in the US. It would seem that senior executives in the US intelligence, counterintelligence services and law enforcement have not expended much time on pondering the unanswered question of why MSS has proceeded with such confidence in the US. When leaders of civilian US counterintelligence services and law enforcement go as far as to publicly admit lacking a knowledge of how severe an adversaries efforts and successful penetration has been, it almost seems as if they try to convince all that their adversaries were using some sort of witchcraft to accomplish all that they have. However, they are really only discussing symptoms of an illness that is making their organizations sickly and may eventually incapacitate them.
The preceding discussion on errant US counterintelligence officers does not depend upon any detailed inside story. While there will doubtlessly be endless knee-jerk reactions rebuking the expression of this reality, it is nevertheless a reality sufficiently known in the intelligence industry inside and outside the US. The US might have a better chance defeating MSS operations with Chaldean Numerology as long as enough errant counterintelligence officers are discussed here within the system. What has been happening so far concerning leaders, senior executives, and managers of US counterintelligence services is that they usually satisfy themselves by striking a happy medium between stellar work by those officers who are determined to do their jobs right and bring down adversaries’ intelligence operations in the US and the poor performance of others for reasons unknown. Indeed, while problems as those emphasized here concern day-to-day performance in the ranks, leaders, senior executives, and managers will more often look at the overall performance of officers in the organization statistically, by which everything likely evens out nicely.
Where there is some indication of problems being caused by errant officers, supervisors and managers will often compound the wrongdoing of errant officers not only by sitting on their hands on the matter, but by denying and covering it up. Such responses have had their impact. One might imagine colleagues, officers working the same shop, or close, at a workstation neighboring that of the errant officers, passively acquiring information about what they are doing, observing attitudes and behavior might become aware that unseemly and illegitimate activities are afoot in their cases. However, it is also hard to imagine them coming to supervisors or over their managers’ heads knowing how little is actually done to deal with such situations. There is also the potential threat of finding themselves being investigated for being too interested in the work of a fellow officer or in retaliation for trying to make the supervisors, the managers, the office and perhaps even the counterintelligence organization look bad. One might imagine that officers of other counterintelligence services, working the same area of operation, against the same target country, might occasionally get wind of something foul going on in a sister service in activities against an US adversary. However, if not an inquisitive officer’s supervisor, perchance managers would become dismissive or even angered at the news, and express the view that it is neither their organization’s job to point out deficiencies in, nor to investigate, sister organizations. With regard to innocent US citizens being targeted by errant officers, few to none of the fellow case officers or special agents in their respective offices or organizations, upon discovering what is transpiring, will make even the slightest effort to establish the wrongfully targeted citizen’s innocence. The climate is never really right in US counterintelligence organizations to report any wrongdoing. The miracle of the citizen’s rescue will need to come from an external source if that rescue comes at all.
One might imagine that local police departments in large cities in which counterintelligence activity may be taking place might come across some stories of aberrant federal activities given their ears are closer to ground listening to everything than anyone else. It may actually be the case that an innocent US citizen may go into the local police department to complain about odd surveillance activities or the harm of “dirty tricks” being played on them as part of the errant officers false counterintelligence effort. Typically, the local police officers, much as officers of sister counterintelligence organizations, will not desire to get involved, pointing to fact that it is not the responsibility of the local police department to point out deficiencies in, or investigate, federal counterintelligence organizations. In fact, those officers in local police departments, not so worldly wise that they would know to keep their distance from such wrongful activities, might find themselves sucked into them after some convincing by the errant officers. They would perhaps unwittingly make themselves co-conspirators and place their own careers in local law enforcement in jeopardy. Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (But who will guard the guards?)
Each one of these typical and expected responses will with some certainty aid adversaries operating in the US more than one might imagine. The type of counterintelligence officer described here will be stopped by higher authority only if somehow someone shines a great light on their activity that might be seen by the news media or the US Congress. However, no one should count on that as a means to curb such wrongful, wasteful behavior.
The French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte explained, “In war, three-quarters turns on personal character and relations; the balance of manpower and materials counts only for the remaining quarter.” One must recognize that in any organization, when elements such as good oversight, employee satisfaction, dedication, and motivation, comradeship, an overarching esprit de corps, and mentoring and encouragement from senior leaders who are present on the line, just to name a few, some employees may begin to fall out of step, not in the form of lateness and absenteeism, but drift away from rules and regulations, practices and procedures. Very often, that reality about employee performance can remain unknown to managers and senior executives of the organization. They may only know what is reported on paper and what little they may see. The choice of what to believe is often limited to the most convenient answer. Performance reports, even if read, may contain anything glaring depending on the nature of relationships between line employees and the supervisors; levels of performance may likely be evaluated as nominal generally. In some cases, levels of performance might even exceed expectations. (That was the case with a number of prominent US pharmaceutical companies recently.) After enough time passes, the organization’s policies on how employees are to perform their tasks, that have been crafted with due consideration of how to respond to a variety of seen and unforeseen contingencies, may be matter-of-factly ignored, supplanted by a collection of employee-styled practices that hardly reflect what managers and senior executives originally put in place, want, or should expect. When the organization’s situation looks good enough, and work is certainly getting done to some acceptable degree, a complacency can set in at the top and performance problems can continue to persist for an unimaginably long time until there is some sort of breakdown, perhaps catastrophic. The employee-styled approach, based on what looks good rather than what is good, may offer no answers, no solutions when a crisis ensues at that organization.
The honor system does not work so well in today’s world. Ambition and the need for immediate gratification turn one’s mind to taking short-cuts, bending the rules, to get what is desired quickly. In today’s intelligence industry, which exists in today’s world, too, the threat to the system is not simply disloyalty and defection, founded on corrupted thinking and moral ambiguity similar to that lately found in civilian businesses. There will be those case officers and special agents who, after a time in service, may not want to accept what they are given but take what they believe they deserve. Certainly, not all embody maturity and secure, friendly, unflappable authority as one might expect. Even if those few errant case officers and special agents are able feign the possession of such qualities by emulating their betters. Given enough time, they will find the way back down to their true “Animal House”-level, and disappoint to the fullest. If you take away their gas allowance, stipend for use of privately owned vehicles and other property they may take something else. If you cut reimbursement levels for meals with informants and operatives, they may take something else. If they are not allowed overtime for late night work as meetings with informants and operatives, they may skim off payments to informants and operatives for services rendered. (This particular wrongful practice, embezzlement, has been called “making a extra pension for oneself!”) Certainly, the human mind tends to struggle with the incomprehensible. However, that should not be the case. Again as mentioned not all civilian US counterintelligence are the same. Others are in cracking form, and work diligently and professionally.
As it directly concerns relations between rank and file with senior executives and managers, much as a virus, those on the beat who begin to act on contemptuous feelings may soon find others to take down the same destructive path. The “us-them” mentality that can develop among those in the field toward managers and bureaucrats in the upper echelons makes the decision of errant, dishonorable officers and special agents to engage in and conceal malfeasance easier, more comfortable. Not to offer an excuse, but such insouciance toward right and wrong at the lower levels may actually be learned by errant officers in their respective organizations. It very likely became inculcated in their organizations perhaps because managers as a practice for years may have turned a blind eye to wrongdoings.
As witnessed during the years of the repugnant US counterintelligence attacks against Presidential Candidate and President-Elect Trump as well as during the attack against Wen Ho Lee, both aforementioned, a private citizen is typically falsely accused and made a subject for investigation with little real evidence except surmisal, animus, or worse bigotry. Management must keep an eye out for that sort of thing. Admonishment from managers and supervisors in both cases expectedly should have been to stick with the primary problem instead of rooting around at extraneous matters. Nothing was done. Apparently, nothing out of the ordinary was happening. Attendant to having a counterintelligence investigation levelled against them, the innocent citizen can become a target for dirty tricks by US counterintelligence organizations and their contractors as well. Further added to the citizen’s problems is the willingness of federal, state, and local counterparts working as a task force on other matters as counterterrorism will usually make their manpower and other resources available to support the efforts of the counterintelligence organization. Regarding the federal case against Carter Page, which was directly linked to the inarguably fraudulent investigation of Trump, it was revealed by investigative journalists and Members of the US Congress that US counterintelligence officers engaged in what is apparently a regular practice of dragging friendly foreign intelligence services and counterintelligence services into their wrongful investigations. Under cooperative arrangements, foreign intelligence services, not knowing the true nefarious nature of a case, are often asked to engage in surveillance activities and initiate clandestine contacts with innocent US citizens outside and inside the US. (Many foreign intelligence services of other countries, particularly medium to small sized organizations actually love being brought into US intelligence operations of any kind. It gives them the opportunity to have a place at the table with the US, there will usually be important lessons learned, supposedly good relationships with US counterparts will be enhanced or created, and most of all, there will be financial benefits courtesy of the US taxpayer.) Once a single individual’s freedom is trodden on, everyone’s freedom is lost! When all of this wrongdoing occurs, every employee’s work in a US counterintelligence organization has less value, meaning, purpose. The organization ceases being a force for good and simply becomes a pit of evil.
Carter Page (above). In the federal case against Carter Page that was directly linked to the inarguably fraudulent investigation of Trump, it was revealed by investigative journalists and Members of the US Congress that US counterintelligence officers engaged in what is apparently a regular practice of dragging friendly foreign intelligence services and counterintelligence services into their wrongful investigations. Under cooperative arrangements, foreign intelligence services, not knowing the true nefarious nature of a case, are often asked to engage in surveillance activities and initiate clandestine contacts with innocent US citizens outside and inside the US!
When leaders are delinquent in cracking down on such “malfeasance,” or actual criminality, the dishonorable act as if dishonor is sanctioned. The errant officers engaged in odious behavior would only feel protected by the belief that no one wants to find out whether they are doing their jobs right, and no one will know as long as they keep their activities concealed. When a Procrustean bed of standards and practices exists, deviation from the correct path is essentially assured. Sadly, much damage has been done to US counterintelligence capabilities today as a result of the delinquency of many senior executives and managers over the years. As a result of these ugly situations, counterintelligence organizations have suffered, too, albeit not remotely to the degree of the innocent citizen.
Virtus est vitium fugere, et sapienta prima stultitia caruisse. (To flee vice is the beginning of virtue, and the beginning of wisdom is to have gotten rid of folly.) It is essential that senior executives and managers ensure that all of their line officers are performing their duties correctly at all times and the system is working optimally. They must travel to field offices of their organizations and find out what is really going on. That does not mean going to the offices of the organization to skylark, taking a cursory glance at everything, asking prosaic questions, merely accepting glowing reports of how great every is and being satisfied. That sort of desultory examination would serve no purpose. Instead, with whatever powers they may possess, they must engage in gumshoe detective work to see what they can see. Usually, where there is smoke, there is fire. Embers can serve as evidence of some activity hastily halted or What leaders and senior executives cannot see or confirm with their own eyes during such tours of their respective organization’s field offices, they must use all concrete indicia to conceptualize what may be happening. When everything is right, everything will be gun barrel straight. To be successful in an intelligence or counterintelligence service, a leader must know a lot about humanity. The leader must especially know a lot about human relationships. The leaders have got to know “how people tick.” There are said to be certain secrets and knowledge of human existence, human circumstance. Whatever knowledge a leader of such an organization might possess, full use of it must be made, too, along the lines of excellence. Visits “downstairs” by leaders should not be allowed to devolve into self-serving investigations into their own popularity among line officers and administrative personnel.
As a suggestion, leaders might look through files of officers in search of exorbitant numbers of payouts, massive distributions of gifts, and relatively excessive expenditures on contractors surveillance activities for cases that ended up being marked failed and closed. The errant officers often provide a cloak of legitimacy for unsuspecting eyes is the establishment of cooperative arrangements between their organization and counterintelligence elements of sister organizations to pursue their cases. The fact that money would be coming in from an additional source and that there were managers of other organizations who saw value in the case, would usually be enough to confirm for errant officers’ managers that the decisions, activities, and expenditures by them were viable. Another place for auditors to look in the errant officers files would be code names for both the subjects of investigations as well as informants and surveillance operatives. With the intent of being discreet and not providing a tutorial, suffice it to say that often there will be multiple code names used for one informant or operative. Payments secured for the multiple code names from finance offices may be deposited in multiple personal bank accounts.
Ad mores natura damnatas fixa et mutori nescia. (Human nature ever reverts to its depraved courses, fixed and immutable.) During the Cold War, it was the case in the US Intelligence Community that a highly suspicious senior CIA official, James Jesus Angleton, reigned as the figurative high priest of counterintelligence. He conducted vigorous and plentiful internal investigations against case officers, defectors, and informants, creating a frightful degree of apprehension and insecurity within the rank and file of intelligence and counterintelligence services. This is certainly not a call for a return to those days.
Many members of US intelligence and counterintelligence services and law enforcement would very likely be touchy if they came across the meditations of greatcharlie presented here. However, far more than anything else, those feelings would be due to an emotional response. A manifestation of the thinking that has prevented those organizations from finding what is wrong and being satisfied with the 1870 attitude similar to that of the Supreme Command of the French Imperial Army on the eve of the Franco-Prussian War of debrouillez-vous (“We’ll muddle through somehow”). Those leaders of those organizations are too comfortable living a superficial existence, underestimating their own destiny, dignity, and nature. Ideally, they would be able to put their pride in their pockets and properly see it all as an opportunity to make use of an examination from outside the box as presented by this essay to make real, positive change to greatly improve their capabilities.
Taking simple steps as those mentioned here will do more than anything else to help close the distance between US counterintelligence and the MSS to allow for the leveling of more successful and decisive blows against their networks and operations. Given half the chance, US counterintelligence would perform far better. Given the unforgivable, illegal treatment and great harm civilian US intelligence and counterintelligence services have caused Trump, one would reasonably think that they would attempt to do as much as possible, perform well beyond expectations in the right way, to make amends for their sins. One should not be able to presume comfortably that such thinking is a degree of humanity that may be lacking within the heads and hearts of leaders of the respective organizations. Plus novisti quid faciendum sit. (You have learned more what has to be done.)
The Way Forward
Rapiamus, amici, occasionem de die. (Friends, let us seize the opportunity from (of) the day.) As stated earlier, the fact that the Chinese government initiated all of the ongoing difficulties cannot be credibly argued against. However, very sadly, Beijing so far has not demonstrated any interest in acting voraciously concerning the present matter of the coronavirus. Surely, the two countries are not at a point yet when the dark waters of despair have overwhelmed their leaders. When diplomats from both sides meet, they must approach each other with a certain buoyancy and hope. In the face of that the US, as the true dominant power in the world must maintain its poise. There remains a plethora of bilateral and some multilateral issues of great importance between the US and China that are seemingly distanced enough from all that is happening in the forefront and are in the process of being resolved. There are the issues of: trade, intermediate nuclear weapons, North Korea denuclearization, the border dispute with India, Hong Kong, Taiwan, international terrorism, transnational organized crime, counternarcotics policy, and space. Of course, there are adverse matters that may arise related to the coronavirus that cannot be ignored. The US must not react to them. It must always act in a measured way using effective means, at a time and place of its choosing. For the US Intelligence Community, the political warfare effort tied to the coronavirus being pressed on the US from the Chinese intelligence services may hold primacy on the agenda given the diplomatic and political importance given to it. However, for it, defeating and displacing the networks and operations of Chinese intelligence services in the US, as permanently as possible, is job one.
When unexpected and unfamiliar things are explained the romantic sense of mystery stirred in readers about their nature can be smothered. The world is not always as one would have it. What is required is seeing beyond appearances to what is truth. No one is making a mountain out of a molehill here. Leaders, senior executives of US counterintelligence services might really want to take a deeper look, perform their own empirical studies of the actions of their respective organizations, to discover how other organizations with which they should be cooperating, such as military ones, and how adversaries of the US, likely see their organization. Perhaps the combined sense of sadness, anguish, betrayal, and anger might coalesce to prompt questions about what is really going on in the rank and file.
Reading federal indictments, criminal complaints, and judgments of those caught engaging in espionage for MSS over the past decade, one develops a picture of US counterintelligence having some success intercepting those who had already delivered a considerable amount of classified information concerning US national security equities, projects, strategies, operations, and policies, US tactics, techniques, procedures, and methods and US defenses against foreign intelligence penetration, and of course, cutting-edge technologies had been put in MSS officers’ hands. One can discern US counterintelligence has had great difficulty in devising ways to deter, disrupt, and destroy the intelligence efforts of MSS and other Chinese intelligence services before any secret government information or intellectual property of private firms and academic institutions that is the product of intense and gifted research and development work is lost. What should really be happening is MSS recruitment efforts should be leading over and over to traps. Information to which very costly, devious maneuvers might capture should prove to be cooked and valueless. MSS networks should be regularly penetrated by US counterintelligence, they should be rolled up in waves at times chosen by US counterintelligence services. Ongoing and developing MSS operations should have already been heavily infiltrated and those infiltrated operations which are not destroyed should be used as conduits to push disinformation back to China. As for individuals recruited by MSS, many should have already been identified as a result of US counterintelligence infiltration of MSS networks and at appropriate moments, those operatives and informants should have been intercepted, neutralized, and recruited as counterespionage agents. These tacks have been successfully performed to defeat the efforts of foreign intelligence services operating in the US going as far back as World War II.
Perchance the notion of setting out to attain such goals may seem pie in the sky, even Quixotic to those in US counterintelligence who may albeit be tired and uninspired, but such can be accomplished. Such things have been accomplished in the past against other foreign intelligence services under a similar set of circumstances. Smart people are known for being able to find answers to very difficult problems. An immediate thought is that new ideas for achieving such goals might be acquired from new types of sources. A reality about any system is that dogma exists, it can color the thinking of members of an organization, and it can insinuate itself into analysis. Additionally, supervisors in the analytical departments, knowingly and occasionally unknowingly because it would only be human, may place limitations on what directions, albeit even reasonable and logical ones, that analyses can move along. New thinkers may rejuvenate the analytical process, effectively serving to unearth directions and areas for examination and offer hypotheses, good ones, that otherwise would be ignored. In effect, surface layers could be peeled off to reveal what may have been missed for a long time. From the inside, one might characterize observations and hypotheses offered by outsiders as mere surmisals and suppositions from those perceived lacking the necessary depth of understanding that long time analysts bring to an issue. With no intent to condescend, one might assess responses of that type would be defensive and emotional, and least likely learned. The purpose of using such perspectives is to have a look at issues from other angles. Outside the box thinking would hopefully move away from the usual track, the derivative, the predictable, especially in special cases that may be hard to crack. Indeed, what outsider brings to the analysis of an issue, through the examination of people and events and interpretation of data, is the application of different sensibilities founded on knowledge acquired after having passed through a multitude experiences that might very well have thwarted the recruitment of the outside the box thinker. One could say the length and breadth of that knowledge and experience allowed for an alternative understanding of humanity. Such an understanding also could have been sought through personal study. Well-worn thinking would still have its place in other simpler issues. Hiring individuals for such out of the box assistance should be done with delicacy. There should be a certain exactness about the selection process. Those sought should be already known and possess the ability to present what may be unorthodox innovative, forward-looking perspectives. Hiring eccentric, whimsical, and outlandish thinkers would be unhelpful and undesirable. The projects on which the individuals would work on would be very compartmentalized and limited in scope and duration. The worst possible outcome would be to create some dreadful security problems. (Not that anyone would ask, but alas, greatcharlie’s editor is now a bit too long in the tooth to provide such outside the box assistance.) The actions of the MSS and other Chinese intelligence services, stealing away cutting-edge technologies and research and development, if left unchecked, could cause the US to face a difficult and reduced future. It is not just a scare story, designed to terrify US citizens. That is reality. The choice is to allow a set of unfortunate circumstances against US interests to slowly take shape or act now and begin to shape events in a manner that will ensure the US will retain its place as the world’s leader as time goes on. Deus hæc fortasse benigna reducet in sedem vice. (Perhaps God by some gracious change, will restore things to their proper place.)