Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Red Stix: Links and Articles - Appendix 3: Where The Web Thugs Are: Inside Russia's Cyber Underworld

Russian mole had access to wealth of CSIS, RCMP, Privy Council files

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The Canadian mole at the centre of an international espionage scandal was after more than military secrets – he accessed computer networks filled with files from the Privy Council Office, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the RCMP, as well as databases maintained by foreign allies.
Revelations about the Jeffrey Delisle spy case have been found in a treasure trove of documents obtained by The Globe and Mail – including his confession to police and the apocalyptic postmortems by federal officials.

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These documents reveal the Canadian Forces intelligence officer’s astonishing breadth of access to state secrets, and precisely what the Russian GRU spy service was asking him to look for.
He spied for more than 50 months before being caught. A naval “threat assessment analyst,” he had been cleared to acquire reports from civilian agencies – including CSIS, Canada’s spy agency, and the PCO, Ottawa’s bureaucratic nerve centre.
“We spy on everybody. Everybody spies,” Sub-Lieutenant Delisle told police after his arrest. “I tried to just give them [the Russians] stuff that shows them that ‘Hey, we’re just paying attention.’ ”
The bulk of what he divulged, he said, was picked up by electronic eavesdropping, and not by any undercover spies. “There’s not human assets listed on our machines,” he explained. “It’s SIGINT [signals intelligence] really.”
Still, officials reckoning with his betrayal fear the worst about blown identities and blown surveillance.
“He has access to CSIS reporting … they were in places in the Middle East,” SLt. Delisle’s boss at the Trinity naval-intelligence-fusion centre in Halifax told police. “The fact that he could disclose that to other nations could embarrass the government.”
Placed under surveillance only days before his January, 2012, arrest, SLt. Delisle was caught copying two CSIS reports, in addition to unspecified foreign material, before trying to e-mail that information to the Russians.
Under Vladimir Putin, Russia has greatly reinvested in espionage. The GRU, the intelligence branch of the Russian armed forces, hired SLt. Delisle after he walked into the Ottawa embassy to volunteer his services in July, 2007.
Once interrogated, he admitted to some breaches. He said he passed along a U.S. Chief of Defence Intelligence contact list and similar contact lists to the Russians.
He denied blowing the cover of any Canadian or allied spies. “They wanted Western agents in Russia, which we never had,” he said.
SLt. Delisle’s “Top Secret Five Eyes Only” clearance provided him access to what one source calls the “motherlode” database – the “Stone Ghost” repository of intelligence from English-speaking powers, especially the United States and Britain.
It’s unclear what foreign material he purloined from it; but there is little doubt he took volumes.
“It was never really Canadian stuff,” SLt. Delisle told police. He later added, “There was American stuff, there was some British stuff, Australian stuff – it was everybody’s stuff.”
For Canadian military intelligence, he had turned to “Spartan” – a Department of National Defence network. For civilian intelligence reports, the “Mandrake” system was one-stop shopping. “So you got PCO, you got CSIS, you got RCMP, you got Transport Canada, you got CBSA – you get ’em all,” he told police.
Documents suggest some of SLt. Delisle’s Top Secret clearances may have been pulled for 18 months, but it’s not clear why they were pulled or why they were restored.
The Russians, he said, were fixated on counterespionage but wanted files on the “energy sector government of Canada” as well as Russian organized crime and political figures. The GRU also tapped SLt. Delisle to learn what he could about a specific but unnamed “GRU agent” in financial trouble.
SLt. Delilse pleaded guilty to espionage early this month. He is still to be sentenced, with his next court date set for January. His closest colleagues told police the damage he wrought was “unfathomable” and “astronomical.”
“He had robust access to all source intelligence from our partners … Australia, Canada, Great Britain and the United States … Straight through to Canada’s only reporting, such as CSIS reports or Privy Counsel Office reports.”
On Sunday, U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson characterized the leak as “a lot of highly classified material”.
“I will say this: he pleaded guilty to selling secrets of the United States and secrets of Canada to the Russians. That is obviously not good,” the ambassador told CTV’s Question Period.
How he did it
On the 10th day of every month for nearly five years, Jeffrey Delisle sold secrets to the Russians.
First, he downloaded military secrets from his secure office computers onto a floppy disk. Then, he put the data on a memory stick, took it home to his laptop, and then input the data in a “Draft” e-mail.
He used <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> – a Web-based e-mail provider hosted in the Middle East. He and his Russian handlers shared a password to one account. That way, they could communicate via draft e-mails, without ever having to send more traceable messages across the Internet.
For this, Sub-Lieutenant Delisle was paid $3,000 a month. The amount was capped because, he told police, anything more than $3,000 “gets flagged.”
His paymasters told him not to be too “flashy” with his money .
He was paid by money orders. Records show SLt. Delisle picked up his funds at a number of Money Mart locations, regardless of whether he was stationed in Kingston, Ottawa or Halifax .
– Jane Taber, Colin Freeze
What he took ...
Two days before his arrest on Jan. 13, Sub-Lieutenant Jeffrey Delisle was observed by police as he attempted to send two “secret” CSIS documents to Russia
What he took
Two days before his arrest on Jan. 13, Sub-Lieutenant Jeffrey Delisle was observed by police as he attempted to send two “secret” CSIS documents to Russia.
CSIS later determined the risk to national security was “high” given the documents could have helped identify intelligence officers, as well as a “shopping list” of other valuable reports.
That was one breach. But the vast amount of spying that SLt. Delisle committed over four and a half years of treachery was never observed.
Under interrogation, he said he passed Russia material originating from Canada, Britain, the United States and Australia. He also said he sent over conversations gleaned from electronic surveillance as well as “contact lists” of intelligence officials.
He denied ever giving up undercover spies.
“The full scope and nature of the injury, if ever fully known, can only be determined once the Service and its partners (domestic and foreign) have additional insight,” CSIS wrote in its “injury assessment.”
CSIS later determined the risk to national security was “high” given the documents could have helped identify intelligence officers, as well as a “shopping list” of other valuable reports.
That was one breach. But the vast amount of spying that SLt. Delisle committed over four and a half years of treachery was never observed.
Under interrogation, he said he passed Russia material originating from Canada, Britain, the United States and Australia. He also said he sent over conversations gleaned from electronic surveillance as well as “contact lists” of intelligence officials.
He denied ever giving up undercover spies.
“The full scope and nature of the injury, if ever fully known, can only be determined once the Service and its partners (domestic and foreign) have additional insight,” CSIS wrote in its “injury assessment.”
Canadian Security Intelligence Service
Mandate: Human source spying
Delisle damage assessment: “Severe and irreparable”
Implications: “The unauthorized release of [CSIS] reports to a hostile foreign intelligence service could have allowed this foreign intelligence service to identify CSIS sources ... The service is unaware at this time if and how many other CSIS employees’ names were potentially passed to the Russians. Their association to the service might put might put these employees at risk by hostile intelligence services and terrorist groups.”
“Delisle admitted to providing contact lists of intelligence-related individuals .. he has put at risk the security of these individuals and the partnership of Canada’s closest allies.”
“[Delisle] may have 1.) damaged the Service’s relationship with its closest foreign partners... 2.) affected the safety/security of Service sources and that of its closest foreign partners; 3.) informed the Russians of the extent of the Service’s investigations; and 4.) compromised service methodologies including how it assess, reports and communicates information and intelligence.”
Communications Security Establishment Canada
Communications Security Establishment Canada
Mandate:Electronic-eavesdropping agency
Delisle Damage assessment:“High”
Implications: “Should a non-allied foreign government have acquired the [CSIS] reports uploaded on 11 January 2012 it would have gained insight into matters of national security well beyond the intended intelligence purposes of the reports themselves. ... Analysis of the contents of these reports could reasonably lead a foreign intelligence agency to draw a number of significant conclusions about allied and Canadian intelligence targets, techniques, methods, and capabilities. Countermeasures taken as a result of insight (real or perceived) into intelligence capabilities could be costly in terms of lost sources and additional work to re-establish – where possible – these intelligence capabilities.”
Trinity centre at CFB Halifax
Mandate: Intelligence “fusion centre”
Delisle damage assessment: “Astronomical”
Implications: “I can’t fathom the response the globe will be facing . It’ll stop. We’ll lose our intelligence ... it could lead to the death of our sailors in the worst-case scenario.
“We’ll lose our intelligence. If he passed information about what the [CENSORED] reporting was doing, he could expose or provide information to whoever. And that puts either their operations or their lives in jeopardy ... civilian members, government members.
“If we lose information from our allies we might not get that indication of an impending terrorist attack. ... I think this is going to push us back to the Stone Age ...
“It’s the worst case scenario and it’s unfathomable.”
Department of National Defence
Mandate: Canada’s military
Delisle damage assessment: “Exceptionally grave”
Implications: “The release of this information by the accused puts Canada’s relationships with our partners in jeopardy. The inability to provide the assurance to our allies that we can and are safeguarding their intelligence could in extremis result in the termination of access. Canada’s closest intelligence allies are the United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and NATO …
“This compromise could put Canadians, Canadian Forces members, and allies in the field at risk. This disclosure may also negatively affect our ability to receive timely and essential intelligence and information from our allies, which in turn puts the safety of Canadian citizens and of our Canadian Forces members in jeopardy.”
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Through the Eyes of the Enemy: The Autobiography of Stanislav Lunev (9780895263902): Stanislav Lunev: Books

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Where The Web Thugs Are: Inside Russia's Cyber Underworld

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MOSCOW — Whether an organized crime expert or a solitary con man, an intelligence services agent or the Kremlin's cyber soldier, Russian hackers are often at the heart of Internet fantasies. An ambiguous and protean figure, the hacker has as many faces as Russia itself. The country, from which many of these nefarious crimes originate and where Edward Snowden remains in asylum, is both a nation of cyber censors and IT experts. Welcome to Russia's Internet underworld.  
The 28-year-old hacker I'm interviewing establishes the rules of the game. He won't give his name — only his pseudonym, "X311" — and won't answer all of my questions. "If I reveal too much, it could go badly for me," he says. A strong code of silence prevails in the Russian hacking world. It took me recommendations from about 10 mutual acquaintances for "X311" to finally agree to speak to me. 
After a long and perilous hunt, his conditions are finally mine. Our interview takes place online, in the middle of the night in Moscow, and on an Internet Relay Chat — one of many online communications protocols. Our exchanges are protected by the cryptography protocol Off-the-Record Messaging (OTR). This is the essential prerequisite to our conversation, and the token of his trust. 
"X311" writes in unusual but decent French. The hacker found refuge in France when his "personal situation became way too dangerous" for him to stay one more week in Russia, he says. He agrees to unveil some aspects of his country's cybernetic underworld, only because he's now joined "the white side of the force." In the hacker community, people are clearly divided in five different color groups. 
The deep web's golden era 
First off, there are the "black hats" — hackers driven by profit and the desire to wrong the market's actors. These are criminals who are either isolated or organized in mafia. On the opposite end are the "white hats," the cyberspace avengers who track down pirates and those threatening their interests — "the grey hats." Then come the "blue hats," who specialize in Windows hacking, and the "red hats," experts in the UNIX operating system.
None of them ever says what color group they identify with. "A real hacker never discloses he's one," X311 says. Our man did, out of choice and necessity. 
The Moscovite was a 15-year-old high school student when he first entered the "black hat" Russian underworld. He studied programming in Moscow and developed secured software during his spare time. "Back then, you had to find mentors to learn and practice," he says. X311 found these code masters — with questionable ethics — on IRC chats. These are all solitary and experienced souls, navigating the deep web. 
Up to 90% of online content slips through the pages of classic search engines. This is what we call "the deep web," the submerged part of the digital iceberg where the "black hats" hide and thrive. These hackers buy, sell and trade sensitive data — debit cards, confidential information, hacking programs. They do so via the Tor network (an acronym for The Onion Router), which provides them with secured protection of information. 
Quickly, X311 built a solid reputation, earning respect among other hackers. "I was young, experienced, I was a good worker," he says via chat. Trading data and sensitive information with another "black hat" just for the love of risk, he quickly became an expert in "cracking" and "phreaking." These practices consist of breaking into security safeguards to hack debit cards, or phones. 
"Back then, it was heaven," the hacker says. "There wasn't as much security on debit cards or on logins." He could easily hack into news websites or user accounts of large hosting service providers. Apart from the "American and European banks," things were easy for young hackers like him. 
"When I saw a growing interest for the competition of this data, I started selling it," he acknowledges. But he won't say for how much. "A hacker has power through the data he owns, not for the money he earns." 
So, how do they work? 
The notion of Russian hackers is that they are unattainable — feared, admired and hunted. An immersion into the deep web dispels these clichés. Let's start by talking about how young these hackers are. Hackers younger than 25 gravitate to Saint Petersburg and its universities.
The area is the most dense "black hat" community in the country. "They tend to be pushed toward the city because of a shortage of legal job opportunities," says Sergueyv Vishnyakov, a 24-year-old information security researcher at a Russian bank. He is an expert of the "black hats." He is featured as an "hacktivist" on a website that hosts the largest database of IT flaws and weaknesses to date. 
A Kaspersky training course — Photo: Questar
In Moscow, these cowboys of the web are lured by money. The majority of them earn more than 17,000 rubles a month — about $550. "The best hackers earn 10 times more," adds Vishnyakov, "but they only represent about 1% of the Russian "black hats." And the game is definitely worth it: Russian laws aren't deterrent enough to scare these hackers. 
To find out how they operate, we head to the Moscow area headquarters of security company Kaspersky. The firm competes with U.S. companies such as Symantec and McAfee fighting cyber crime. Inside the headquarters, elite teams relentlessly battle new IT attacks. More than 315,000 are registered every day, coming from and targeting Russia. 
Russia has the dubious distinction of ranking No. 3 globally in generating cyber attacks, after China and Brazil. Aleks Goltsev, a 37-year-old Ukrainian, heads the company's security unit, and with the help of international police forces, he investigates the Russian "black hat" underworld and tracks down its members. 
Each country, he says, has its own specialty. "The Chinese hack online gaming platforms," he says. Brazilians take care of online banking websites," Goltsev explains. The Russians, on the other hand, are the pioneers. They develop most of the hacking technologies then sell to other countries," he adds. 
Cybercrime in Russia is built around small groups, themselves made up of about 10 hackers whose tasks are clearly defined. Two developers design the spy software, and then try to sell it on IRC forums. The market runs on two economic models. "They either sell the entire program for $10,000, or rent it weekly," Goltsev says. Some clients are Russian, but most of them are foreign — Chinese and Thai. 
Russia's ambivalent stance 
With the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Goltsev has become even busier. Russia and Ukraine are engaged in an intense data cyber war. The security expert is convinced that denial-of-service (DOS) attacks, which aim at taking down Internet servers, come from "Russian and Ukrainian patriots."
They could also originate from the Russian government. Back in 2007 and 2008, Estonia and Georgia, then in conflict with the Kremlin, were given the same treatment from Moscow as Ukraine is today. 
This is what makes Moscow so ambiguous about cyber defense and security matters. The country, known for training the best IT experts, granted asylum to Edward Snowden, a former computer engineer who disclosed revelations about the U.S. spying program. At the same time, Russia stands among the most Internet-censoring countries around the world. 
The Kremlin recruits its Internet soldiers in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk. Not far from there, authorities established a scientific city named the "Silicon Taiga" in 1957. 
Russia has an impressive and feared cyber army. The GRU, the Main Intelligence Directorate, is the largest supplier of cybersoldiers. Highly trained, they develop new protection systems and manage Russia's listening stations across the globe. At the government level are the Russian Federation Federal Security Service (FSB) and its 76,000 contributors. The organization, the main successor of the KGB, has an entire center devoted to fighting cyber crimes. There is also a special unit in charge of protecting the government's Internet. 
The NSA has nothing on the FSB. The Russian service created one of the most powerful systems in communications interception, the one used during the Sochi Olympic Games in February. Russia can also count on its Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), a 15,000-person organization that is particularly active in economic, industrial and technological spying. 
Back in the Moscow night, behind the screen of our encrypted chat, X311 declines to elaborate on what led him to flee Russia for France. "At some point, you need to think about settling down," he says. "I was going on a bad path."
He won't say if he was arrested. "Sorry, but I won’t answer any question. What do you think?" The 28-year-old Russian now works for a French IT security company. Maybe a former victim of his hacking? He replies with a smiley emoticom and suddenly leaves the chat. 
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Front organization - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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This article is about a particular use of the term connected with intelligence gathering, organized crime and religious or political groups. For Covert organization, see 
Covert operation
front organization is any entity set up by and controlled by another organization, such asintelligence agenciesorganized crime groups, banned organizations, religious or political groups,advocacy groups, or corporations. Front organizations can act for the parent group without the actions being attributed to the parent group.
Front organizations that appear to be independent voluntary associations or charitable organizationsare called front groups. In the business world, front organizations such as front companies or shell corporations are used to shield the parent company from legal liability. In international relations, apuppet state is a state which acts as a front (or surrogate) for another state.

Intelligence agencies[edit]

Intelligence agencies use front organizations to provide "cover", plausible occupations and means of income, for their covert agents. These may include legitimate organizations, such as charity, religious or journalism organizations; or "brass plate firms" which exist solely to provide a plausible background story, occupation, and means of income.
The airline Air America, an outgrowth of Civil Air Transport of the 1940s, and Southern Air Transport, ostensibly a civilian air charter company, were operated and wholly owned by the CIA, supposedly to provide humanitarian aid, but flew many combat support missions and supplied covert operations inSoutheast Asia during the Vietnam War.[1] Other CIA-funded front groups have been used to spread American propaganda and influence during the Cold War, particularly in the Third World.[2] When intelligence agencies work through legitimate organizations, it can cause problems and increased risk for the workers of those organizations.[3] To prevent this, the CIA has had a 20-year policy of not using Peace Corps members or US journalists for intelligence purposes.[4][5]
Another airline allegedly involved in intelligence operations was Russian Aeroflot that worked in a close coordination with KGBSVR and GRU.[6] The company conducted forcible "evacuations" of Soviet citizens from foreign countries back to the USSR. People whose loyalty was questioned were drugged and delivered unconscious by Aeroflot planes, assisted by the company KGB personnel, according to former GRU officer Victor Suvorov .[7] In 1980s and 1990s, specimens of deadly bacteria and viruses stolen from Western laboratories were delivered by Aeroflot to support theRussian program of biological weapons. This delivery channel encoded VOLNA ("wave") meant "delivering the material via an international flight of the Aeroflot airline in the pilots' cabin, where one of the pilots was a KGB officer" .[6] At least two SVR agents died, presumably from the transported pathogens .[6]
When businessman Nikolai Glushkov was appointed as a top manager of Aeroflot in 1996, he found that the airline company worked as a "cash cow to support international spying operations" according to Alex Goldfarb:[8] 3,000 people out of the total workforce of 14,000 in Aeroflot were FSB, SVR, or GRU officers. All proceeds from ticket sales were distributed to 352 foreign bank accounts that could not be controlled by the Aeroflot administration. Glushkov closed all these accounts and channeled the money to an accounting center called Andava in Switzerland .[8] He also sent a bill and wrote a letter to SVR director Yevgeni Primakov and FSB director Mikhail Barsukov asking them to pay salaries of their intelligence officers in Aeroflot in 1996.[8] Glushkov has been imprisoned since 2000 on charges of illegally channeling money through Andava. Since 2004 the company is controlled byViktor Ivanov, a high-ranking FSB official who is a close associate of Vladimir Putin.

Organized crime[edit]

Many organized crime operations have substantial legitimate businesses, such as licensed gamblinghouses, building construction companies, restaurants and bars, trash hauling services, or dock loading enterprises. These front companies enable these criminal organizations to launder their income from illegal activities. As well, the front companies provide plausible cover for illegal activities such as drug traffickingsmuggling, and prostitutionTattoo parlors are often used as fronts foroutlaw motorcycle clubs.[9]
Where brothels are illegal, criminal organizations set up front companies providing services such as a "massage parlor" or "sauna", up to the point that "massage parlor" or "sauna" is thought as a synonym of brothel in these countries.[10]



The Church of Scientology uses front groups either to promote its interests in politics or to make its group seem more legitimate. The FBI's July 7, 1977 raids on the Church's offices (following discovery of the Church's Operation Snow White) turned up, among other documents, an undated memo entitled "PR General Categories of Data Needing Coding". This memo listed what it called "Secret PR Front Groups," which included the group APRL, "Alliance for the Preservation of Religious Liberty" (later renamed "Americans Preserving Religious Liberty").[11] The Cult Awareness Network (CAN) is considered by many[who?] to now be a front group for the Church of Scientology, which took the group over financially after bankrupting it in a series of lawsuits.[12][13][14]
Time identified several other fronts for Scientology, including: the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), The Way to Happiness FoundationApplied Scholastics, the Concerned Businessmen's Association of America, and HealthMed Clinic.[15] Seven years later the Boston Herald showed how Narconon and World Literacy Crusade are also fronting for Scientology.[16]Other Scientology groups include Downtown MedicalCriminon and the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE).


In politics, a group may be called a front organization if is perceived to be disingenuous in its control or goals, or if it attempts to mask extremist views within a supposedly more moderate group. Some special interest groups engage in astroturfing, which is an attempt to mask lobbying as a grassroots movement.

Pro-Israel lobbying fronts[edit]

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee has been accused of using front organizations as a means of circumventing limits on campaign spending[17] These front organizations have names unrelated to AIPAC. Delaware Valley Good Government Association (Philadelphia), San Franciscans for Good Government (California), Beaver PAC (Wisconsin), Cactus PAC (Arizona), and Icepac (New York) are examples of former AIPAC front groups.[18]
"According to a computer-aided analysis of 1986 Federal Election Reports, despite AIPAC’s claims of non-involvement in political spending, no fewer than 51 pro-Israel PACs—most of which draw money from Jewish donors and operate under obscure-sounding names—are operated by AIPAC officials or people who hold seats on AIPAC’s two major policymaking bodies. The study shows that 80 pro-Israel PACs spent more than $6.9 million during the 1986 campaigns, making them the nation’s biggest-giving narrow-issue interest group." [19]

Apartheid government fronts[edit]

South Africa's apartheid-era government used numerous front organizations to influence world opinion and to undertake extra-judicial activities and the killing of anti-apartheid activists; these included[20] the following:

Communist fronts[edit]

Communist and other Marxist-Leninist parties have sometimes used front organizations to attract support from those (sometimes called fellow travellers) who may not necessarily agree with Leninist ideology. The front organization often obscures its provenance and may often be a tool for recruitment. Other Marxists often describe front organizations as opportunist. The concept of a front organization should be distinguished from the united front (a coalition of working class or socialistparties) and the popular front. Both the united front and popular front usually disclose the groups that make up their coalitions.

United States[edit]

According to a list prepared in 1955 by the United States Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, theComintern set up no less than 82 front organizations in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s. This tactic was often used during the Red Scare of the 1950s, when a number of organizations in thelabor and peace movements were accused of being "Communist fronts". Sometimes, Communist fronts worked at an international level, as has been alleged with the World Peace Council.[23]
Soviet intelligence infiltrated many peace movements in the West. In addition to WPC, important communist front organizations included the World Federation of Trade Unions, the World Federation of Democratic Youth, and the International Union of Students.[24] Richard Felix Staar has also suggested that these organizations were somewhat less important front organizations: Afro-Asian People's Solidarity OrganizationChristian Peace ConferenceInternational Association of Democratic LawyersInternational Federation of Resistance MovementsInternational Institute for PeaceInternational Organization of JournalistsWomen's International Democratic Federation andWorld Federation of Scientific Workers.[25] There were also numerous smaller organizations, affiliated with the above fronts such as Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.[26][27]Numerous peace conferences, congresses and festivals have been staged with support of those organizations.[28]
More recently, the Workers' World Party (WWP)[29] set up an anti-war front group, International ANSWER. (ANSWER is no longer closely associated with WWP; it is closely associated with a WWP splinter, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, but PSL plays a more open role in the organization.) Similarly, Unite Against Fascism, the Anti-Nazi League, the Stop the War Coalition and Respect – The Unity Coalition are all criticised as being fronts for the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (UK).


In April 1991, CPSU leadership and the KGB has created a puppet political party inside Russia, theLiberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), which became the second officially registered party in the country.[30] According to KGB General Philipp Bobkov, it was a "Zubatov's pseudo-party under KGB control that directs interests and sentiments of certain social groups".[31] The former CPSU Politburomember Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev described in his book how KGB director Vladimir Kryuchkovpresented the project of the puppet party at a joint meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev and informed him about a selection of LDPR leaders, and the mechanism of funding from CPSU money.[31] The book includes an official copy of a document providing the initial LDPR funding (3 million rubles) from theCPSU money. The leader of LDPR, Vladimir Zhirinovsky proved to be an effective media performer.[30] He gained 8% of votes during the 1991 Presidential elections.[32] He also supported the August 1991 coup attempt.


Some anti-Islamist feminist groups in the Muslim world have also been accused of being front organizations. The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan has been accused of being a Maoist front, while the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq has been accused of being a front for the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq .[33][34]

Banned paramilitary organizations[edit]

Banned paramilitary organizations sometimes use front groups to achieve a public face with which to raise funds, negotiate with opposition parties, recruit, and spread propaganda. For example, bannedparamilitary organizations often have an affiliated political party that operates more openly (though often these parties, themselves, end up being banned). These parties may or may not be front organizations in the narrow sense (they have varying degrees of autonomy and the relationships are usually something of an open secret) but are widely considered to be so, especially by their political opponents.
Examples are the relationship between the IRA and Sinn Féin in 1980s Ireland or between theBasque groups ETA (paramilitary) and Batasuna (party) in Spain. Similarly, in the United States in periods where the Communist Party was highly stigmatized, it often operated largely through front groups. In addition, the Provisional IRA also operated a vigilante front group, called Direct Action Against Drugs.
During the Weimar Republic in Germany, the antisemitic and nationalist Organisation Consulreportedly had a front company named the Bavarian Wood Products Company.[35]

Corporate front organizations[edit]

Corporations from a wide variety of different industries set up front groups.
Some pharmaceutical companies set up "patients' groups" as front organizations that pressure healthcare providers and legislators to adopt their products. For example, Biogen, set up a campaign called Action for Access, which also claimed it was an independent organization and the voice of MS sufferers. People who visited the website and signed up for the campaign did not realise that these were not genuinely independent patient groups.
It has been alleged that computer software giant Microsoft created and funded the Association for Competitive Technology to defend its interests against charges of antitrust violations.[citation needed]
Tobacco companies frequently use front organizations and doctors to advocate their arguments about tobacco use, although less openly and obviously than in the 1980s.
A list of some alleged corporate front groups active in the US is maintained by the Multinational Monitor.[36] Some think tanks are corporate front groups. These organizations present themselves as research organizations, using phrases such as "...Institute for Research" in their names. Because their names suggest neutrality, they can present the commercial strategies of the corporations which sponsor them in a way which appears to be objective sociological or economical research rather than political lobbying.
Similarly the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness has been criticised as a front organization for various industry bodies which seek to undermine regulation of their environmentally damaging activities under the guise of 'regulatory effectiveness'.[37]


Astroturfing, a wordplay based on "grassroots" efforts, is an American term used pejoratively to describe formal public relations projects which try to create the impression of a groundswell of spontaneous popular response to a politician, product, service, or event. Corporations have been known to "astroturf", but are not the only entities alleged to have done so. In recent years, organizations of plaintiffs' attorneys have established front groups such as Victims and Families United to oppose tort reform.[38]

See also[edit]


  1. Jump up ^ Leary, William M. "CIA Air Operations in Laos, 1955-1974 Supporting the "Secret War"". From Studies in Intelligence (CIA), volume 43, number 1, winter 1999-2000.
  2. Jump up ^ Powers, Thomas, "The Man Who Kept the Secrets : Richard Helms & the CIA", Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1979, ISBN 0-394-50777-0
  3. Jump up ^ Joe Davidson, "I Am Not a CIA Agent". 2002-04-11. Retrieved 2007-12-13. 
  4. Jump up ^ "Press briefing by Mike McCurry". Clinton Presidential Materials Project. 1996-07-17. Retrieved 2007-12-13. 
  5. Jump up ^ "Exclusive: Peace Corps, Fulbright Scholar Asked to 'Spy' on Cubans, Venezuelans". ABC News. 2008-02-08. Retrieved 2008-02-15. 
  6. Jump up to: a b c Alexander Kouzminov Biological Espionage: Special Operations of the Soviet and Russian Foreign Intelligence Services in the West, Greenhill Books, 2006, ISBN 1-85367-646-2
  7. Jump up ^ Viktor Suvorov Aquarium (Аквариум), 1985, Hamish Hamilton Ltd, ISBN 0-241-11545-0
  8. Jump up to: a b c Alex Goldfarb, with Marina Litvinenko Death of a Dissident: The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB, The Free Press, 2007, ISBN 1-4165-5165-4
  9. Jump up ^
  10. Jump up ^
  11. Jump up ^ Kent, Stephen A.; Krebs, Theresa (1988). "When Scholars Know Sin: Alternative Religions and Their Academic Supporters"Skeptic 6 (3): 36–44. Retrieved 2006-06-06. 
  12. Jump up ^ Knapp, Dan (1996-12-19). "Group that once criticized Scientologists now owned by one".CNN. Retrieved 2007-05-07. 
  13. Jump up ^ Kent, Stephen A. (January 2001). "The French and German versus American Debate over 'New Religions', Scientology, and Human Rights"Marburg Journal of Religion 6 (1). Retrieved2007-05-07. 
  14. Jump up ^ Russell, Ron (1999-09-09). "Scientology's Revenge - For years, the Cult Awareness Network was the Church of Scientology's biggest enemy. But the late L. Ron Hubbard's L.A.-based religion cured that -- by taking it over"New Times LA. Retrieved 2011-10-21. 
  15. Jump up ^ Behar, Richard (1991-05-06). "The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power"Time. Retrieved2010-05-03. 
  16. Jump up ^ Mallia, Joseph (1998-03-03). "INSIDE THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY; Scientology reaches into schools through Narconon"Boston Herald. 
  17. Jump up ^ Top Pro-Israel Contributors to Federal Candidates and Parties (1992), Jewish Virtual Library. Accessed online 8 October 2006.
  18. Jump up ^ Richard Curtiss (1997): U.S. Aid to Israel: The Subject No One MentionsThe Link 30(4):10.
  19. Jump up ^ John Fialka, Linked Donations? Political Contributions From Pro-Israel PACs Suggest CoordinationWall Street Journal, June 24, 1987 p1 c6
  20. Jump up ^ "Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report, Volume 2,". 2003. pp. 525–527. 
  21. Jump up ^ Pretoria Leaders Face Published AllegationsChristian Science Monitor, July 23, 1991
  22. Jump up ^
  23. Jump up ^ Richard Felix Staar, Foreign policies of the Soviet Union, Hoover Press, 1991, ISBN 0-8179-9102-6, p.79, p.84
  24. Jump up ^ Richard Felix Staar, Foreign policies of the Soviet Union, Hoover Press, 1991, ISBN 0-8179-9102-6, p.84
  25. Jump up ^ Richard Felix Staar, Foreign policies of the Soviet Union, Hoover Press, 1991, ISBN 0-8179-9102-6, p.80-81
  26. Jump up ^ Richard Felix Staar, Foreign policies of the Soviet Union, Hoover Press, 1991, ISBN 0-8179-9102-6, p.82-83
  27. Jump up ^ Richard Felix Staar, Foreign policies of the Soviet Union, Hoover Press, 1991, ISBN 0-8179-9102-6, p.86
  28. Jump up ^ Richard Felix Staar, Foreign policies of the Soviet Union, Hoover Press, 1991, ISBN 0-8179-9102-6, p.85
  29. Jump up ^ Adrienne Weller, Millions in the streets! ...and here come the redbaitersFreedom SocialistFreedom Socialist Party, Vol. 24, No. 1, April–June 2003.
  30. Jump up to: a b White, Stephen (2005). "The Political Parties". In White, Gitelman, Sakwa.Developments in Russian Politics 6. Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-3522-0. 
  31. Jump up to: a b Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev Time of darkness, Moscow, 2003, ISBN 5-85646-097-9, page 574 (RussianЯковлев А. Сумерки. Москва: Материк 2003 г.)
  32. Jump up ^ Hale, Henry E. (2010). "Russia's political parties and their substitutes". In White, Stephen.Developments in Russian Politics 7. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-22449-0. 
  33. Jump up ^ Karsten Kofoed, Lackeys of the occupation disguise as progressives, The Committee for a Free Iraq, Denmark, October 28, 2004
  34. Jump up ^ Megan Cornish, Iraqi Women Face Double Jeopardy, March 3, 2005
  35. Jump up ^ Waite, Robert G L. (1969). Vanguard of Nazism. W W Norton and Company. , page 217
  36. Jump up ^ Corporate Front Groups and Corporate-Backed Groups, Multinational Monitor Links Page
  37. Jump up ^ Chris Mooney, Paralysis by AnalysisThe Washington Monthly, May 2004
  38. Jump up ^ Astroturf in the liability wars, <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> (sponsored by the Manhattan Institute and American Enterprise Institute), July 1, 2005

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GRU | In Moscow's Shadows

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Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 12.03.10I was delighted to be invited to speak to the 2015 Annual Symposium ofCASIS, the Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies, in Ottawa. I was discussing Russia’s Intelligence System and to try and say something meaningful in just half an hour, I concentrated not just on the ‘who’–which agencies there were within the Russian intelligence and security community–so much as what was distinctive about how they operate in real life. My final conclusions were that the Kremlin ought to beware what it wished for, that it had agencies which were functional in appearance, but politically often counter-productive:
  • They are technically highly capable, even if sometimes badly tasked
  • They now reinforce Putin’s assumptions, not inform his world view
  • They reinforce the world’s view of Putinism
  • They are cynical opportunists at home, loyal to themselves
(To this end, I still suspect they may be key elements of what I have called the “Seventh Column,” the insiders who may ultimately turn on Putin.)
The slides for my talk (© Mark Galeotti 2015) are at: 150123-Galeotti-CASIS-RussiasIntelSystem

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Posted by Mark Galeotti on January 24, 2015
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General Evgeny Murov - the stabilising silovik
General Evgeny Murov – the stabilising silovik
It’s not been confirmed, but there are reports that Evgeny Murov, head of the FSO (Federal Guard Service) is stepping down from his position, probably this autumn. Not a great surprise–he’s turning 69 this year and there have been reports that he’s wanted to step down for a few years now. Nonetheless, I view this with some concern because this is a time in which there are considerable pressures bubbling beneath the surface of the Russian intelligence and security community and Murov–the longest-serving of all the security agency chiefs currently in place–performed a quietly useful role as a stabilising force. Yes, his men are the besuited bullet-catchers with earpieces of the Presidential Security Service, the black-clad marksmen up on the roofs around the Red Square on parade days, the goose-stepping Kremlin Guard at the eternal flame and the guys guarding the State Duma and the like. But the FSO also plays an unofficial role as the watchers’ watcher, the agency that keeps tabs on the other security services to keep them in line, and gets to call bullshit if one or the other is briefing too directly for their institutional advantage–I discuss the FSO’s role in more detail here.
Murov’s reported successor is Alexei Mironov, his deputy and the head of Spetssvyaz, the FSO’s Special Communications Service. Fair enough: this should ensure a smooth handover at a time of tension. But it remains to be seen if Mironov has the stature, thick skin and independence of mind both to stay largely out of the silovik-on-silovik turf wars and also to help the Kremlin keep the agencies in check. If not, and this is a theme I’ll be touching on in a talk at Chatham House on Friday, there may be troubling times ahead both for Russia (as the spooks may end up in another internal war) and the outside world (as they may seek to gain traction with the Kremlin by aggressive moves abroad). I’ll be developing these issues more later.

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Posted by Mark Galeotti on June 18, 2014
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Vostok Battalion 2.0
Vostok Battalion 2.0
It seems contradictory: on the one hand Moscow is moderating its rhetoric on Ukraine and calling for talks with newly-elected President Petro Poroshenko, on the other we have reports that a large contingent of heavily-armed Chechens, the ‘Vostok Battalion,’ is now in eastern Ukraine, something that could not have happened without Russian acquiescence–and which probably was arranged by them. However, I think that they actually fit together to suggest that the Kremlin is looking to position itself for potential talks with the new presidency in Kyiv, something that requires reversing not just the rhetorical trend towards hyperbole but also the slide towards warlordism on the ground. After all, for Moscow meaningfully to make a deal, it must be able to offer more than just a willingness not to destabilise the east any more, it must be able to deliver at least a partial peace on the ground.

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Posted by Mark Galeotti on May 27, 2014
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GRU logoIt would seem on the surface that the GRU, the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff–in other words, Russian military intelligence–is coming in for some flak for its operations in Ukraine. Kyiv has just outed and expelled a naval attache from the Russian embassy, Kirill Koliuchkin, as a lt. colonel in the GRU, while the GRU’s chief, Lt. General Igor Sergun, was on the latest EU sanctions list.
Personally, I’d assume the ‘Aquarium’–the GRU’s headquarters at Khodinka–must be delighted.

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Posted by Mark Galeotti on May 1, 2014
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In what will be the first I hope of a regular series of comments for Business New Europe, today I explore to greater depth the way that Putin’s political techniques in Ukraine in many ways are a counterpart to the military tactics of the successful guerrilla. Here are the first and last paragraphs as a taster:
Successful guerrillas master the art of asymmetric warfare, making sure that the other side has to play the game by their rules and doesn’t get the opportunity to take advantage of its probably superiority in raw firepower. Appreciating the massive military, political and economic preponderance of the West, Russian President Vladimir Putin is demonstrating that he is a master of asymmetric politics.
In this new Great Game, spies and political operators will be every bit as crucial as tanks and helicopters. More to the point, it demands flexibility, ruthlessness and clarity of aim. This is, let’s be honest, the ideal kind of contest for Vladimir Putin and his Russia.
(I’ve also explored this theme from different angles elsewhere, including a blog post here on “Great Game II” to a consideration of the tools and techniques used not just by Russia but in what is, I think, a wider global trend, in Russia! magazine: “The New Great Gamers“.

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Posted by Mark Galeotti on April 14, 2014
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ukraine-pro-russia-activists-seize-kramatorks-interior-ministry-buildingAs western Ukrainian security forces reportedly seek to dislodge ethnic Russian paramilitaries from government buildings in Slaviansk (although that’s now being questioned) and anti-Kyiv forces muster in other eastern Ukrainian cities, allegations are flying thick and fast about the presence of Russian troops in these disturbances. (I should mention that The Interpreter‘s liveblog is an invaluable service in keeping track of all the claims, counterclaims and reports on the ground.)
The facts on the ground are confused, the claims are often overblown, but there does seem to be some basis for believing that limited numbers of Russian agents and special forces are present. However important that undoubtedly may seem, I think focusing on actual bodies on the ground misses the main point: Russia’s real role in this new Great Game is not so much direct but to incite, support and protect the local elites and paramilitaries who are driving the campaign against Kiev.

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Posted by Mark Galeotti on April 13, 2014
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Ukraine: a perversely “good” war for the GRU

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GRU logoIt would seem on the surface that the GRU, the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff–in other words, Russian military intelligence–is coming in for some flak for its operations in Ukraine. Kyiv has just outed and expelled a naval attache from the Russian embassy, Kirill Koliuchkin, as a lt. colonel in the GRU, while the GRU’s chief, Lt. General Igor Sergun, was on the latest EU sanctions list.
Personally, I’d assume the ‘Aquarium’–the GRU’s headquarters at Khodinka–must be delighted.
After all, this was a service whose very status as a Main Directorate was until recently in question. Lest that sound like a trivial question of nomenclature, had the GRU become simply the RU, the General Staff’s Intelligence Directorate, it would have meant a massive diminution of the service’s prestige, access and, by extension, role and budget. As was, in 2009-11, it went through a savage round of cuts, losing over 1,000 officers, and of 100 or so general-rank officers in the GRU, fully 80 were dismissed, retired or transferred to other department. Meanwhile, of the eight Spetsnaz commando brigades, three were disbanded and the rest transferred again to regular military commands. As for the GRU’s “residencies”–the separate intelligence offices it ran inside Russian embassies abroad–some had been closed down, or reduced to a single officer working as a military attaché.
In part this reflected bureaucratic infighting, not least ground lost to the SVR (the Foreign Intelligence Service) and the FSB (the Federal Security Service, not least as it coveted some of the GRU’s electronic intelligence capacities). It was also a result of lacklustre performance during the 2008 Georgian War.
Ukraine may well change all that. Being “persecuted” by Kyiv and Europe is a mark of pride in Putin’s new Russia, and is as good as a medal. More to the point, it is clear that GRU operators, Spetsnaz, are active on the ground in eastern Ukraine, just as they were in Crimea, and they seem to be doing their nefarious job well. In this new age of asymmetric military-political conflict, such assets are a key strength of Russia’s regional power-projection capability; they are less valuable as straightforward war-fighters and much more so as covert operators and the facilitators of other deniable operations. Not only may the Ukraine conflict help stop–or at least bring a temporary ceasefire to–internecine struggles within the Russian security apparatus, it may well prove the saviour of the GRU in its current configuration.

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