The past week saw a number of espionage cases around the globe involving Russia, China, Iran, or North Korea, the four countries which view the United States as a formidably adversary.
Russian spy in NATO
According to French media, a lieutenant-colonel, based in Italy working on assignment with NATO has been arrested by the French internal security agency (DGSI) for passing sensitive documents to Russia. Russian media identified the French officer as Russian speaking and having been seen with a known Russian military (GRU) officer. He was arrested in Italy as he was about to leave for holiday in France. The man is being held in a prison in Paris on suspicion of espionage. This is not the first time NATO has been targeted by Russia, nor will it be the last, as Russia targets for the long-haul.
Iran uses LinkedIn to target U.S. State Department
In a research report, from ClearSky, Iran created cloned and false profiles on LinkedIn which targeted a plethora of sectors and entities to include the U.S. Department of State, COVID-19 related entities (Gilead and WHO), and miscellaneous U.S. government employees. The creating of an account, essentially a clone of a real person for the purposes of engagement and cyberespionage, is not unique to Iran, as we shared in August North Korea’s use of a similar technique.
The arraignment of Peter Debbins on spying for Russia’s GRU
Peter Debbins was arraigned in federal court, and statements from Debbins, the FBI, and the DIA were all entered into the public record. The handwritten confession crafted by Debbins, on July 11, 2019 provided the grist for what was contained in the grand jury indictment. What is not provided is the timeline of his actions from 2011-2020, as he insists that his last contact with Russian military intelligence occurred in 2010.
Interestingly, Debbins claims that in 2012, his father-in-law was contacted by the GRU in Chelyabinsk. The GRU asked what Debbins was doing in Washington D.C. and were told he was working as a management consultant for a rocket company.
Debbins describes his motivation as “I had a messianic vision of myself in Russia, that I was going to free them from their oppressive government, so I was flattered when they reached out to me. This is why I went to Russia in the first place. I thought they would be my allies in overthrowing the government. In addition, I was concerned what they could have done with my wife’s family. I didn’t tell U.S. authorities because I thought it would have destroyed my military career and left a black mark on my permanent record.”
In addition, his resume was entered into the record in which he details his work from 2020 back to 2005 to include the specific courses in which he participated as faculty while in the UK at the Regional Joint Intelligence Training Facility and his work within the DoD’s Defense Security Service (DSS) where he provided training on “indications of compromise” and developed “insider threat programs” with DSS field offices.
Three Chinese scholars arrested in the United States
In separate cases, three Chinese scholars were arrested by the FBI. The three cases involved a professor/researcher at the University of California Los Angeles who has been charged with destruction of evidence; a separate researcher at the University of Virginia charged with stealing bio-inspired research simulation software; and a third researcher at Texas A&M University of providing NASA funded research to China.
Russia detains soldier accused of spying for Ukraine
The world of espionage is a two-way street. Russian media is reporting the arrest by the Russian internal security service (FSB) of a military service member in the city of Barnaul (Siberia). A video that captured the arrest was published concurrent with an FSB statement, “A serviceman of the Strategic Missile Forces, who was collecting and sending state secrets to the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defenсe Ministry, was detained in the city of Barnaul”
Russia – Austria espionage TUSSLE
In June ClearanceJobs wrote about the case of the Austrian Army colonel who spied for Russia’s GRU. The colonel, who was a 25-year spy for the GRU was sentenced to three years in prison and then released for time served. At that time, the Austrian’s kicked out of Austria a member of the Russian official staff at their embassy. Russian media reports that the Russian shoe dropped on the government of Austria this week in a bit-of-tit-for-tat, with the Russian foreign ministry declaring an Austrian diplomat as persona non grata.