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Archive for November 29th, 2016

Book Excerpt: The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell: A Dyslexic Traitor, an Unbreakable Code, and the FBI’s Hunt for America’s Stolen Secrets

Before Edward Snowden’s infamous data breach, the largest theft of government secrets was committed by an ingenious traitor whose intricate espionage scheme and complex system of coded messages were made even more baffling by his dyslexia. His name is Brian Regan, but he came to be known as The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell. The hunt that led to Regan’s arrest began in December 2000 when the FBI was tipped off to an anonymous package mailed to the Libyan consulate in New York. The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of the book, “The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell.”  Reprinted by arrangement with NAL, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2016 by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee.  Links to purchase the book are at the end of the excerpt.

 By Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

On the morning of the first Monday in December 2000, FBI Special Agent Steven Carr hurried out of his cubicle at the bureau’s Washington, D.C. field office and bounded down two flights of stairs to pick up a package that had just arrived by FedEX from FBI New York. Carr was 38 years old, of medium build, with blue eyes and a handsome face. He was thoughtful and intense, meticulous in his work, driven by a sense of patriotic duty inherited from his father – who served in World War II – and his maternal and paternal grandfathers – who both fought in World War I. Because of his aptitude for deduction and his intellectual doggedness, he’d been assigned to counterintelligence within a year after coming to the FBI in 1995. In his time at the bureau – all of it spent in the nation’s capital – he had played a supporting role in a series of high profile espionage cases, helping to investigate spies such as Jim Nicholson, the flamboyant CIA agent who sold U.S. secrets to the Russians.

spy-who-couldnt-spell-cover-jpg

But like most agents starting out in their careers, Carr was keen to lead a high stakes investigation himself. A devout Catholic, Carr would sometimes bow his head in church and say a silent prayer requesting the divine’s help in landing a good case. That’s why he had responded with such alacrity when his squad supervisor, Lydia Jechorek, had asked him to pick up the package that morning. “Whatever it is, it’s yours,” she had said.

Carr raced back to his desk and laid out the contents of the package in front of him: a sheaf of papers running into a few dozen pages. They were from three envelopes that had been handed to FBI New York by a confidential informant at the Libyan consulate in New York. The envelopes had been individually mailed to the consulate by an unknown sender.

Breathlessly, Carr thumbed through the sheets. Based on directions sent from New York, he was able to sort the papers into three sets corresponding to the three envelopes. All three had an identical cover sheet, at the top of which was a warning in all caps. “THIS LETTER CONTAINS SENSITIVE INFORMATION.” Below, it read, in part:

“This letter is confidential and directed to your President or Intelligence Chief. Please pass this letter via diplomatic pouch and do not discuss the existence of this letter in your offices or homes or via any electronic means. If you do not follow these instructions the existence of this letter and its contents may be detected and collected by U.S. intelligence agencies.”

In the first envelope was a 4-page letter with 149 lines of typed text consisting of alphabets and numbers. The second envelope included instructions on how to decode the letter. The third envelope included two sets of code sheets. One set contained a list of ciphers. The other, running to six pages, listed dozens of words along with their encoded abbreviations: a system commonly known as brevity codes. Together, the two sets were meant to serve as the key for the decryption.

Read more »

FBI, NSA, CIA Expected to Expand Surveillance Powers Under Trump

computer-photoBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI, NSA and CIA are expected to receive expanded surveillance powers under President-elect Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress, drawing opposition from privacy advocates and some lawmakers.

Trump’s first two appointment to law enforcement and intelligence agencies – Republican Senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Republican Representative Mike Pompeo for director of the Central Intelligence Agency – are proponents of expanded domestic government spying, Bloomberg Technology reports. 

Bloomberg wrote:

The fights expected to play out in the coming months — in Senate confirmation hearings and through executive action, legislation and litigation — also will set up an early test of Trump’s relationship with Silicon Valley giants including Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. Trump signaled as much during his presidential campaign, when he urged a consumer boycott of Apple for refusing to help the FBI hack into a terrorist’s encrypted iPhone.

An “already over-powerful surveillance state” is about to “be let loose on the American people,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director for Demand Progress, an internet and privacy advocacy organization.

Retired Army General Petraeus is Trump’s Top Contender As Secretary of State

Former CIA Director David Petraeus

Former CIA Director David Petraeus

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Retired Army general David Petraeus, who resigned as head of the CIA after divulging classified information, is President-elect Donald Trump’s top contender as secretary of State.

In November 2012, Petraeus resigned from the CIA amid the scandal of an extramarital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell, who received classified information from Petraeus.

Petraeus accepted a plea agreement in March 2015, admitting he leaked a massive amount of sensitive material to Broadwell and then lied to the FBI about it, USA Today reports. 

Petraeus said last week that he would serve in Trump’s administration if asked.

Trump’s Potential Choice for Homeland Security Director Has Extreme Views on Handling Domestic Terrorism

Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke

Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Controversial Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr., who is reportedly being considered to head Homeland Security, supports suspending the constitutional rights of up to 1 million people and sending them to the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay.

Clarke, an outspoken conservative who has downplayed police brutality, advocates treating terrorism suspects from the U.S. as “enemy combatants,” Mother Jones reports, citing his upcoming memoir.

Clarke also supports questioning Americans suspected of terrorism without an attorney and holding them indefinitely.

Last year, his position was even more extreme after calling for the roundup of Americans who sympathize with terrorists and sending them to an offshore prison.

ATF Headquarters to Be Named After Special Agent Killed in 1982

Ariel Rios

Ariel Rios

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The ATF National Headquarters in Washington D.C. will be renamed on Friday to honor Special Agent Aerial Rios, who was killed during an undercover operation in Miami in 1982, Guns.com reports. 

Rios, who was a special agent for five years before his death, met with two suspects at a Miami hotel to buy large quantity of cocaine and machine guns on Dec. 2, 1982.

When one of the suspects became suspicious, a struggle ensued and Rio was shot. Fellow agent Alex D’Atri also was shot but he survived after numerous surgeries.

The former ATF headquarters was named after Rios in 1985, but when the agency left, the EPA took over the building and renamed it the William Jefferson Clinton Federal Building.

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