Canada's National Post newspaper has a fascinating story today about how Russian spies are as active now in attempting to uncover U.S. secrets and technology as they ever were during the Cold War. Russian spies are second only to China in their activities, and both countries like to work their spies through Canada, which has access to U.S. technology. This heightened activity comes as the United States and other Western countries have shifted their attention away from counter-espionage and toward counter-terrorism since the end of the Cold War and the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
The story is particularly interesting in light of the May 15 agreement allowing Canadians with dual citizenship greater access to U.S. defense goods. The deal gives Canadian citizens, including dual nationals, with Canadian security clearances access to defense technology controlled by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations provided that Canada can ensure the security of U.S. technology.
The National Post leaves some doubts about Canada's ability to hold up its end of the deal. The article, which was pieced together through interviews and documents, says there is a revolving door for foreign spies who use bribery and old-fashioned spy trickery to gain access to secrets. That's because no one wants the unpleasantness of spy work to muck up cordial diplomatic relations. When a spy is caught, a Canadian intelligence officer simply calls his or her counterpart in the foreign government to say the spy is persona non grata. The spy is sent home only to be replaced by someone new. And the game begins anew.
Canadian Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day calls this era the "Cold Peace."
Here's an excerpt on the activities of one Russian spy, who was caught and returned home:
Col. Androsov arrived in Ottawa in July, 2001, as the assistant military, naval and air attache of the Russian Federation. But several experts said his clandestine activities suggest he was really working for the Main Intelligence Administration, the military intelligence service better known by its Russian acronym GRU. Within months of assuming his diplomatic post, he approached a Canadian who, through his job, had access to classified defence-related government information. The colonel used textbook spy tactics. He paid thousands of dollars to the Canadian, who became his recruited agent. He also went to great lengths to avoid getting caught. He worked hard to make his spy outings look like everyday business appointments. He would schedule meetings with his agent between a full agenda of legitimate meetings to make it all look innocent. Before meeting his agent, Col. Androsov would conduct lengthy surveillance detection runs. He would turn down dead-end streets, enter empty parking lots and drive well below the speed limit -- all standard spy tricks to see if he was being followed. On some days, he spent hours making sure nobody was tailing him. He would park far from the rendezvous point, which was always in a public but secluded area. And after the meetings, he would do it all again, cleansing his trail before returning to the embassy. Secrecy was paramount. He needed to convince his agent to bring him a disc containing a classified military technology database. The GRU did not want anyone to know what the colonel was seeking. That would reveal that Moscow had a specific technological weakness, and adversaries can exploit weaknesses.
--Catherine MacRae Hockmuth