Health espionage

"The Central Intelligence Agency has a Medical and Psychological Assessment Cell. It employs or consults with doctors, sociologists, political scientists and cultural anthropologists to examine the conditions of top officials.

In the late fifties and early nineteen sixties, the CIA decided that they had expertise to look more carefully and in a more rigorous, analytical way at the health of foreign leaders in order to help give policy makers some forewarning of a transition in a government, stability of foreign governments, and also looking for potential points of diplomatic leverage.

The concern is not just the illness, it's also the medication that people take while they are ill and how that can compromise their decision-making ability, cognitively and intellectually. So they don’t make the same kind of decisions, their decisions may not be as predictable. They certainly may not be as, quote unquote, rational.

It can be decisively important because it can really change the stability of governments, particularly in authoritarian or totalitarian regimes, where there’s really a limited number of people who have powerful decision-making authority."

More: http://www.voanews.com/learningenglish/home/Medical-Spies-Keep-Watch-on-Leaders-130699748.html


Hiding messages in gene-modified microbes

"Forget invisible ink or lemon juice – spies can now send messages hidden in genetically engineered bacteria. The new method, dubbed steganography by printed arrays of microbes (SPAM), uses a collection of "Escherichia coli" strains modified with fluorescent proteins that glow in a range of seven colours.

Each character of the message is encoded using two colours, creating 49 possible combinations – enough for the alphabet, the figures 0 to 9 and a few other symbols. "You can think of all sorts of secret spy applications," saysDavid Walt, a chemist at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, who led the research.

The new technique is not the first example of biological encryption – researchers have previously hidden messages in DNA
 – but Walt says his method is easier to use. "If you're out in the field and trying to send a message, you're not going to have access to a DNA synthesiser," he says, whereas you could carry vials of bacteria.

The bacterial code has a much lower information density than DNA, however, which would limit the size of a message. "You probably could send 500 to 1000 symbols on a regular piece of paper," says Walt – enough for a quick mission update, but it probably won't let you smuggle state secrets out of a country."

More: http://www.newscientist.com/mobile/article/dn20965


Too much of a good thing | LitBash 41

Here's one example of when it may be "too much of a good thing" (on the other hand it's likely a case of not having enough time to read all these wonderful books) - writers who were...

Born this week:

Tryggve Andersen, Norway

Grazia Deledda, Italy

Josef Skvorecky, Czech

"Lovers of literature will look for the remains of the golden treasure in that shipwreck on the bottom of the sea of criticism."

Prosper Merimee, France

Miguel de Cervantes, Spain

"Can we ever have too much of a good thing?"

Johan Falkberget, Norway
"It is the result of the good word or the great, not the narrow-minded or petty criticism. These have not yet changed the world one louse's step."

Truman Capote, USA

Graham Greene, UK

"The moment comes when a character does or says something you hadn't thought about. At that moment he's alive and you leave it to him."

Doris Lessing, UK
"In university they don't tell you that the greater part of the law is learning to tolerate fools."

Died this week:

Hugh Lofting, UK / USA

Alberto Moravia, Italy

"Good writers are monotonous, like good composers. They keep trying to perfect the one problem they were born to understand."

Ivan Goncharov, Russia
"It is a trick among the dishonest to offer sacrifices that are not needed, or not possible, to avoid making those that are required."

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, Brasil

Vladimir Zazubrin, Russia

Joe Bousquet, France

Andre Breton, France

"The man who can't visualize a horse galloping on a tomato is an idiot."

John Dos Passos, USA
"The only excuse for a novelist, aside from the entertainment and vicarious living his books give the people who read them, is as a sort of second-class historian of the age he lives in. The "reality" he missed by writing about imaginary people, he gains by being able to build a reality more nearly out of his own factual experience than a plain historian or biographer can."

Elia Kazan, USA

Emile Zola, France

"There are two men inside the artist, the poet and the craftsman. One is born a poet. One becomes a craftsman."

Shusaku Endo, Japan

Patrick White, Australia

"Possibly all art flowers more readily in silence."

History's unsung spies


"Surely the most eccentric unsung spy was Maxwell Knight, known to his friends as Max or M. Although he did later become well known, it was not as a spymaster. To children growing up in the late Fifties and early Sixties he was Uncle Max, the BBC radio naturalist.

He had always had a passion for fauna; indeed, when he was head of B5(b), an autonomous department within MI5 in the Thirties and Forties, those who worked with him also had to work with his menagerie of animals. He could recite trivia about them endlessly, from the correct method of mounting a llama to the breeding cycle of the laughing hyena. His daily help, Mrs Leather, would complain of the way grass snakes used to flop down the stairs of his flat in Chelsea. He kept them in the bath. He also kept a blue-fronted Amazonian parrot in the kitchen and a Himalayan monkey in the garden. And he was known to have raised a nest of adder eggs in his pyjama pocket. Ian Fleming, who worked in the Department of Naval Intelligence, was fascinated by Knight’s mysterious persona and used him as the model for “M”, James Bond’s boss.

But for all his eccentricity he was an effective spymaster. As early as 1927, the bisexual Knight had been put in charge of infiltrating the Communist Party of Great Britain. To this end he recruited Tom Driberg, the (homosexual) writer and future MP, and ordered him to join the Communist Party while at Oxford. He also infiltrated the British Union of Fascists and developed a rather sinister fascination with the occult which he shared with his friends Dennis Wheatley and Aleister Crowley.

When war broke out he recruited an astrologer as an MI5 agent and sent him to Germany to infiltrate the occult court of Rudolf Hess. The agent is said to have briefed Hess that the Duke of Hamilton was prepared to meet him to act as a peace negotiator between the German government and the British. Hess’s fateful flight to Scotland followed in 1941.

With the war against the Nazis over, Knight became increasingly obsessed with the Soviet Union, specifically with the idea that a communist spy ring had infiltrated MI5. But his colleagues no longer took him seriously – indeed, they ignored the numerous reports he wrote on the subject. Knight was by then regarded as paranoid and unstable and, even though his theory was proved right in 1951 when Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean fled to the Soviet Union, his reputation within the service never recovered. He left MI5 a few years later and embarked upon a successful second career as a naturalist on radio and television. He soon became a household name and was awarded an OBE. In 1967 he published How to Keep an Elephant, a guide to keeping off-beat pets. The following year he wrote a sequel: How to Keep a Gorilla."

More: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/world-war-2/8749894/Double-O-Who-Meet-historys-unsung-spies.html


What is to be done with the CIA

"The simple but unworkable solution would be to abolish the Clandestine Service.  (The CIA can’t do its job, but is adept at managing the U.S. news media and Congress so that their budget is never cut but always increased—to fight Communists, terrorists, or other imaginary enemies.)  A better way would be to keep them out of the State Department entirely, giving them tourist or official passports for use while conducting their nefarious activities abroad.  If the spooks want to think of themselves as a secret intelligence service beholden to no one and no thing, then make them that way.  Let them hide in plain sight, “under non-official cover”, as James A. Everett did during his career operating inside U.S. firms in Scandinavia and elsewhere. "

More: http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2011/08/17/crime-really-does-pay-but-only-if-you-work-for-the-cia/


What is Life without Reading

"without reading, there can be no learning; without learning, there can be no sense of a larger world; without the sense of a larger world, there can be no ardor to find it; without ardor, where is joy?

Without reading, there can be no learning. The humanities are essentially a reading practice. It is no accident that we say we “read” music, or that we “read” visual import. The arts (music, art, literature, theater), because they offer themselves to be “read,” generate many of the humanities—musicology, art history, literary commentary, dramatic interpretation. Through language, spoken or written, we investigate, describe, and interpret the world. The arts are, in their own realm, silent with respect to language; amply showing forth their being, they are nonetheless not self-descriptive or self-interpreting. There can be no future for the humanities—and I include philosophy and history—if there are no human beings acquainted with reading in its emotionally deepest and intellectually most extensive forms. And learning depends on reading as a practice of immersion in thought and feeling."

Source: http://harvardmagazine.com/2011/09/reading-is-elemental


Omnipresence of spies and informants

On the occasion of last month's 50th anniversary of construction of the Berlin Wall the press published pieces on the omnipresence of spies and snitches for dictatorial regimes, such as that of East Germany's, taking aim at Stasi. Its spies and informants penetrated every aspect of society, from professional groups to the bedrooms:

"Just to have an idea of the magnitude of interference, the Stasi used a network of informants in a ration of one in ninety East German citizens."

To illustrate the pervasive nature of Stasi's spy network, the Washington Post quoted the Cold War bureau chief of Associated Press, who doubled as a spy for U.S. intelligence...

Ah, the pervasiveness of spies and informants in dictatorial countries!

Source: http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/israel-goodwill/2011/aug/15/berlin-wall-and-stasi-most-powerful-espionage-serv/


Hiding messages in digital images and audio files

"Steganography literally means 'covered writing.' A Greek term, it refers to hiding one message inside another. While the concept has been around for centuries, the marriage of computers and the Internet has brought it to fruition.

Both picture and audio files are ideal for containing hidden messages, he explained; they tend to be very large, and software that substitutes single bits of data at the end of an eight-bit packet creates differences so subtle they can't be detected by the human eye or ear.

In steganography, or stego for short, the visible or audible message is called the carrier, while the hidden message is the payload. Together they form the covert message." More: http://gcn.com/Articles/2005/05/13/Hidden-in-plain-sight.aspx?Page=2

If that isn't enough consider that the hidden text may contain an executable command...


How long can you hold your breath? | LitBash 40

If "All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath" then you'd better learn to swim first. Then plunge with writers who were...

Born this week:

Mika Waltari, Finland
"Life is a hot day, perhaps death is a cool night. Life is a shallow bay, perhaps death is a clear, deep sea."

William Golding, UK
"The man who tells the tale if he has a tale worth telling will know exactly what he is about and this business of the artist as a sort of starry-eyed inspired creature, dancing along, with his feet two or three feet above the surface of the earth, not really knowing what sort of prints he's leaving behind him, is nothing like the truth."

Upton Sinclair, USA

"American capitalism is predatory, and American politics are corrupt"

Arturo Barea, Spain

Albert Ehrismann, Swiss

Hanns Cibulka, Germany

H. G. Wells, UK

"Nothing could have been more obvious to the people of the early twentieth century than the rapidity with which war was becoming impossible. And as certainly they did not see it."

Ivan Vazov, Bulgaria

Emmuska Orczy, Hungary / UK

Horace Walpole, UK

"Men are often capable of greater things than they perform. They are sent into the world with bills of credit, and seldom draw to their full extent."

Francis Scott Fitzgerald, USA
"All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath."

Ladislav Fuks, Czech

William Faulkner, USA

"Even a liar can be scared into telling the truth, same as an honest man can be tortured into telling a lie."

Died this week:

Italo Calvino, Italy

"I set my hand to the art of writing early on. Publishing was easy for me, and I at once found favor and understanding. But it was a long time before I realized and convinced myself that this was anything but mere chance."

Walter Scott, Scotland
"Revenge is the sweetest morsel to the mouth, that ever was cooked in hell."

Pierre-Henri Simon, France

Prosper Merimee, France

Wilkie Collins, UK

"Men ruin themselves headlong for unworthy women."

Francoise Sagan, France

"Of course the illusion of art is to make one believe that great literature is very close to life, but exactly the opposite is true."

Erich Maria Remarque, Germany
"Work does not take much of an artist’s time, on the contrary, it takes
the least time. The idea, however, and its long maturing period is
equally important. Creative work is divided into active and passive."


Just why do writers write?

Do writers write solely for the money?

"Even for those of us lucky enough to have won a book deal, being an author is a pretty ghastly way to earn a crust. If being paid was our primary motivation, we'd have been far better off working in advertising or PR or posing as African princes to con idiots out of their savings. The reality is, those of us who write books for a living do so because we choose to: either because we have some burning desire to tell a story, or because we've tried real jobs and found ourselves lacking. We'd write for free (and frequently have done so)—but winning a book deal means we get to sleep till noon and spend our afternoons dicking around on YouTube when we should be typing. Moreover, the notion that authors have to choose between writing and a proper job has no basis in reality. Trollope, Kafka, Faulkner, Heller, Bukowski, Eliot, Grisham, King, Fleming, Chaucer... the list of authors who held down day jobs while working on their masterpieces is likely longer than those who didn't."

More: http://www.theawl.com/2011/08/mr-swifts-moronic-proposal-ebooks-will-keep-writers-from-writing


How to use your Invisibility Cloak?

"British defense company BAE Systems has developed an “invisibility cloak” that can effectively hide vehicles from view in the infra-red spectrum.

The patented system — called Adaptiv — uses a matrix of hexagonal “pixels” that can change their temperature very rapidly. On-board cameras sweep the area to pick up the background scenery and display that infra-red signature on the vehicle.

This allows even moving tanks to be effectively invisible in the infra-red spectrum, or mimic other objects. “The tank skin essentially becomes a big infra red TV,” BAE Head of External Communications Mike Sweeney told Wired.co.uk. “You can display anything you want on it — including a cow — while the rest of the vehicle blends into the background.”"

From: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/09/invisibility-cloak-tanks-cows/

I can see using the idea, somewhat tweeked, in thrillers / suspense novels: an invisible spy, or the most obvious - a bank robber...


Swallows and Ravens

"The first honeytrap in recorded history come in the Bible where the two honeypots in chief were Delilah and Judith. The latter seduced the enemy commander Holofernes and assassinated him, and famously Delilah seduced Samson and got him to reveal the secret of his enormous strength (his hair), before she went on to be immortalised in song by Tom Jones.

In the modern era honeypots (of both sexes) were used by both sides in the Cold War but perhaps because they were ultimately defeated, we know a lot more about the honeypot techniques of the KGB and Stasi (the East German secret police) than we do of the techniques employed by the Americans and British. In the Soviet Union, for instance, “swallow” was the KGB codename for women honeypots, and “raven” the term for men. An ex-CIA officer has claimed that the West “found that offers of money and freedom worked better.”

Cases of female honeypots entrapping men are so common that even very recent history is littered with them."

Source and more: http://www.sabotagetimes.com/people/the-spy-who-fucked-me/

Espionage terms

Why are we here? What's life all about? | LitBash 39

"Why are we here? What's life all about?" Find out the truth... in tales "that never have been and never will be." Start with writers who were...
Born this week:

Stanisław Lem, Poland
"Good books tell the truth, even when they're about things that never have been and never will be. They're truthful in a different way."

Elsa Triolet, France

Ursula Hontsch, Germany

Sherwood Anderson, USA
"I don’t want to frighten you, but I would like to make you understand the import of what you think of attempting. You must not become a mere peddler of words. The thing to learn is to know what people are thinking about, not what they say."

Roald Dahl, UK
"It doesn't matter who you are or what you look like so long as somebody loves you."

Manuel Tamayo y Baus, Spain

Agatha Christie, UK
"Crime is terribly revealing. Try and vary your methods as you will, your tastes, your habits, your attitude of mind, and your soul is revealed by your actions."

Adolfo Bioy Casares, Argentina
"Life is a game of chess and you never really know when you are winning or losing."

Masaoka Shiki, Japan
"I had thought that satori is to die without fear anytime. But it is a wrong guess. The satori is to live unconcernedly anytime."

Ken Kesey, USA
"I'm for mystery, not interpretive answers. ... The answer is never the answer. What's really interesting is the mystery. If you seek the mystery instead of the answer, you'll always be seeking. I've never seen anybody really find the answer, but they think they have. So they stop thinking. But the job is to seek mystery, evoke mystery, plant a garden in which strange plants grow and mysteries bloom. The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer."

Standish James O'Grady, Ireland
Died this week:

Janis Rainis, Latvia

James Fenimore Cooper, USA
"The common faults of American language are an ambition of effect, a want of simplicity, and a turgid abuse of terms."

Oriana Fallaci, Italy
"There are moments in Life when keeping silent becomes a fault, and speaking an obligation. A civic duty, a moral challenge, a categorical imperative from which we cannot escape."

Dan Andersson, Sweden

Alfred de Vigny, France
"History is a novel whose author is the people."

Herman Melville, USA
"Whoever is not in the possession of leisure can hardly be said to possess independence."

Sean O'Casey, Ireland
"Wealth often takes away chances from men as well as poverty. There is none to tell the rich man to go on striving, for a rich man makes the law that hallows and hollows his own life."


Operation Susannah: False Flag Operation Gone Bad

"The Lavon Affair refers to a failed Israeli covert operation, code named Operation Susannah, conducted in Egypt in the Summer of 1954. As part of the false flag operation, a group of Egyptian Jews were recruited by Israeli military intelligence for plans to plant bombs inside Egyptian, American and British-owned targets. The attacks were to be blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptian Communists, "unspecified malcontents" or "local nationalists" with the aim of creating a climate of sufficient violence and instability to induce the British government to retain its occupying troops in Egypt's Suez Canal zone. The operation caused no casualties, except for those members of the cell who committed suicide after being captured.

The operation became known as the Lavon Affair after the Israeli defense minister Pinhas Lavon, who was forced to resign because of the incident, or euphemistically as the Unfortunate Affair or The Bad Business.

In the early 1950s the United States initiated a more activist policy of support for Egyptian nationalism; this was often in contrast with British policies of maintaining its regional hegemony. Israel feared that this policy, which encouraged Britain to withdraw its military forces from the Suez Canal, would embolden Egyptian President Nasser's military ambitions towards Israel. Israel first sought to influence this policy through diplomatic means but was frustrated.

In the summer of 1954 Colonel Binyamin Gibli, the chief of Israel's military intelligence, Aman, initiated Operation Susannah in order to reverse that decision. The goal of the Operation was to carry out bombings and other acts of terrorism in Egypt with the aim of creating an atmosphere in which the British and American opponents of British withdrawal from Egypt would be able to gain the upper hand and block the British withdrawal from Egypt.

According to historian Shabtai Teveth, who wrote one of the more detailed accounts, the assignment was "To undermine Western confidence in the existing [Egyptian] regime by generating public insecurity and actions to bring about arrests, demonstrations, and acts of revenge, while totally concealing the Israeli factor. The team was accordingly urged to avoid detection, so that suspicion would fall on the Muslim Brotherhood, the Communists, 'unspecified malcontents' or 'local nationalists'.

The top-secret cell, Unit 131, which was to carry out the operation, had existed since 1948 and under Aman since 1950. At the time of Operation Susannah, Unit 131 was the subject of a bitter dispute between Aman (military intelligence) and Mossad (national intelligence agency) over who should control it.

Unit 131 operatives had been recruited several years before, when the Israeli intelligence officer Avram Dar arrived in Cairo undercover as a British citizen of Gibraltar called John Darling. He had recruited several Egyptian Jews who had previously been active in illegal emigration activities and trained them for covert operations.

Aman decided to activate the network in the Spring of 1954. On July 2, the cell firebombed a post office in Alexandria,[5] and on July 14, it bombed the libraries of the U.S. Information Agency in Alexandria and Cairo and a British-owned theater. The homemade bombs, consisting of bags containing acid placed over nitroglycerine, were inserted into books, and placed on the shelves of the libraries just before closing time. Several hours later, as the acid ate through the bags, the bombs would explode. They did little damage to the targets and caused no injuries or deaths.

Before the group began the operation, Israeli agent Avri Elad (Avraham Zeidenberg) was sent to oversee the operations. Elad assumed the identity of Paul Frank, a former SS officer with Nazi underground connections. Avri Elad allegedly informed the Egyptians, resulting in the Egyptian Intelligence Service following a suspect to his target, the Rio Theatre, where a fire engine was standing by. Egyptian authorities arrested this suspect, Philip Natanson, when his bomb accidentally ignited prematurely in his pocket. Having searched his apartment, they found incriminating evidence and names of accomplices to the operation.

Several suspects were arrested, including Egyptian Jews and undercover Israelis. Colonel Dar and Elad had managed to escape. Two suspects, Yosef Carmon and Hungarian-born Israeli Meir Max Bineth committed suicide in prison." From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavon_Affair

More espionage terms: http://spywriter.com/terms.html

Is reading books different from listening to audio books?

"37 percent of people say they’ve listened to an audio book, and the medium continues to become an important substitute for old-fashioned reading.

[...] research that predates CDs suggests that reading and listening are strikingly similar cognitive processes. For example, 1985 study found listening comprehension correlated strongly with reading comprehension – suggesting that those who read books well would listen to them well, also. In a 1977 study, college students who listened to a short story were able to summarize it with equal accuracy as those who read it.

“The way this is usually interpreted is that once you are good at decoding letters into sound, which most of us are by the time we’re in 5th or 6th grade, the comprehension is the same whether it’s spoken or written,” explained University of Virginia psychology professor Dan Willingham.

What’s more, Willingham says there isn’t much individual variance in the way people absorb information (it’s an idea he touched on during a recent NPR interview, which debunked the myth of so-called “learning styles.”) Those who prefer one medium or the other simply like the feel of a physical book or the spoken kind."

From: http://www.forbes.com/sites/olgakhazan/2011/09/12/is-listening-to-audio-books-really-the-same-as-reading/


The man behind CIA assassination plots and drug experiments


"There are stories that have come to light, over the years, that make the Central Intelligence Agency look like a collection of Looney Tunes shorts. The violence, the slapstick, and the over-the-top ridiculousness of the experiments that have been conducted over the years boggle the mind. They came from the (slightly-boggled) mind of one man: Sidney Gottlieb.

When Gottlieb wasn't trying to break someone's brain, he was trying to poison people. He was the one to come up with the infamous 'poison cigar' and 'exploding seashell' gags which failed to take out Fidel Castro. When he didn't aim to kill, he simply aimed to annoy. He wanted to spray thallium on Castro's shoes. Supposedly this was to make his beard fall out, but more likely it was yet another murder plot. Thallium is an element that is so toxic it has earned the nickname of "The Poisoner's Poison," or "Inheritance Powder." Although it can be treated with dialysis or chemicals that absorb the element, thallium isn't just a depilatory.

One idea Gottlieb oversaw, meant to poison Castro, was instead used on an Iraqi general. It involved a poisoned handkerchief tucked into a suit pocket. It did not work. Another failed assassination scheme involved a tube of poisoned toothpaste meant for Patrice Lumumba, the Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo. This toothpaste was meant to be doused with a biological agent, rather than a chemical one. This was a bit outside Gottlieb's experience, so he experimented with many different possible agents, including smallpox, tuberculosis and equine encephalis. Lumumba eventually died in 1961, the victim of an uprising against him."

More: http://io9.com/5838255/every-crazy-cia-plot-youve-heard-of-originated-with-one-man

The SS too had a man who experimented with drugs. His name was Dr. Mengele.


Psychological effects of reading fiction

"The question of the psychology of fiction is one that Keith Oatley, professor emeritus in the department of human development and applied psychology at the University of Toronto, has been working on for 20 years. He and some colleagues started the website On Fiction in 2008 to track work related to the psychology of fiction.

“The idea was to say, ‘OK, now what really are the psychological effects of reading?’ ” Oatley says. To try and work out an answer, he and Maja Djikic put together a study to measure how personalities can be changed by literature. Participants were given either Anton Chekhov’s story “The Lady with the Little Dog” or a version of the story rewritten in a nonfiction style by Djikic, which included all the same information, was the same length and at the same reading level. Participants did personality tests before and after reading.

“The people who read the Chekhov story, their personalities all changed a bit,” Oatley says.

“We’ve talked a lot about the importance of reading with respect to language – increasing vocabulary, verbal ability, that sort of thing,” he says. “I think it’s possible that reading could also have important consequences for other realms of our life, like the social realm, our ability to understand other people, our ability to think in abstract terms, imagination, these sorts of things.”

From: http://arts.nationalpost.com/2011/08/24/why-that-book-changed-your-life/


Cervantes improves health and makes better writers


"Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes hailed the legacy of Miguel de Cervantes, saying his masterpiece 'Don Quixote' paved the way for all modern-day novelists.

In an interview here with EFE, Fuentes said he reads Cervantes' most famous work every year 'as a matter of personal health' and always has the sense that he is 'reading it for the first time'.

'Cervantes lets you know what you can't do as a writer because he already did it better, but he also gives you clues about what you can do because he paved the way,' the 82-year-old author said."

From: http://www.ibna.ir/vdcf0tdyyw6dyva.r7iw.html


Top British Spies

"British spies are back this month. Of course they never went away. The shadowy world of MI5 and MI6 is rarely more than a microdot's distance from everyday life, especially if you live in London, the world capital of the surveillance state, and mise en scene for the popular BBC drama, Spooks. It's tempting to confuse spy fiction with real life, especially as its traditions and antecedents are so mixed up with the history of the secret state in the 20th century. But there is a difference, and here's one guide to the nine lives of the British spy, from the beginning of the 20th century – arguably, the source of the modern spy story – to the present:"


Where thriller writers find Inspiration

The answer is, naturally, life. Imagination plays a role, to be sure, but life provides the necessary inspiration to fill the pages with intrigue, conspiracy, corruption, backroom-dealing, and all that, which delivers the necessary thrills to keep the book pages turning:

"Dear Editor,

I think the American government has gone rogue and no longer follows the will of the people. There is no reliable independent oversight of the CIA or the National Security Agency. The telephone switching systems are run by Israeli companies with direct ties to Mossad, who intercepts calls and intelligence, and Congress does nothing.

Presidents use lies to initiate wars, and Congress does nothing.

The U.S. engages in a so-called war on drugs for 40 years, spending more than what was spent on World War II with the result being more drugs, more citizens in jail, the U.S. arming drug gangs, the U.S. being invaded by those gangs, and nothing done about it. Drug money is laundered by the biggest banks, funding clandestine programs, and used to buy off police, enforcement agents, and politicians. The real solution is decriminalization, regulation, tax, and treatment. If we did that, all drug violence and crime would end. Politicians, banks, intelligence agencies, and enforcement agencies don't want that because they are making too much money off the drug war and will fight tooth and nail to keep it going.

The so-called war on terror is an unending war on an abstract idea that is impossible to "win" as the number of things called "terror" increase at officials' whims. It is not a coordinated activity by a shadowy group, unless you are talking about the CIA, which created al Qaeda. The so-called "terror events" are staged by our intelligence services in coordination with the media to scare the public and ram through unconstitutional laws that take away our liberty.

All the airport "security measures" are theatre used to intimidate and scare the public, reducing us to submissive concentration camp slaves to have the most intimate parts of our persons and our loved ones radiated and groped. And the criminal congress-persons go along with it. Too much money is being made to end it, and it is one more step to control and a police state.

Our politicians are part of this cabal of control. We all need to wake up and take action before it gets any worse. Speak up. Push back. We still have freedoms, and we need to use them before this horrid police state goes any further."

Source: http://www.austinchronicle.com/postmarks/2011-07-12/1215604/


Back to school for the CIA


"The Central Intelligence Agency and the 15 other agencies that make up the so-called ‘US Intelligence Community’ are by definition secret. They will not tell you how many employees they have, what their budget is and how it is allocated, who their employees are or where they come from. They will not publish all of their research or share their discoveries with everyone. The shredder, the burn bag, the ‘bug,’ the ‘Top Secret’ classification, the covert operation and the sealed lips are among their standard operating procedures.

The sanctuary that is the university has always been vulnerable. Today, as in the past, the Central Intelligence Agency seeks to penetrate the academy to access the best brains in the country, skew research, recruit students, burnish its image, and spy on faculty. As former CIA Personnel Director F. W. M. Janney wrote: “It is absolutely essential that the Agency have available to it the greatest single source of expertise: the American academic community.”

CIA projects on campus involve recruitment (they need to generate 10,000 applicants each year), and ‘curriculum modification,’ to teach courses their way, and have drawn faculty and students into dangerous mind control experiments, election fraud, and the training of police torturers and military death squads. Such projects always involve secrecy and the subversion of an independent faculty. They have been so successful that in 1988, CIA spokesperson Sharon Foster announced: “The CIA has enough professors under Agency contract to staff a large university.”

From: http://www.themonitor.com/articles/public-54486-eyes-wants.html

What ever happened to books?

"On a recent visit to one of my old haunts, I was taken aback by the number of "best-sellers" on display. On closer inspection I realised, almost without exception, they were all potboilers. In an attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator, themes such as sex, love, betrayal abounded. To underscore this dumbing down of literature, they were poorly written, full of spelling mistakes and poorly bound, as if the publishers themselves didn't care about the dross they were churning out. Speed was clearly paramount, low-brow appeal the name of the game with a bid to rake in as much money as possible.

It seems sensationalism has become the mantra of the publishing in general, and the old adage that sex sells is as true today as ever.

It really is difficult to find something worth reading. It's not just me; I've seen lots of people standing outside bookshops looking bored with the offerings on show.

[...] literature is not just about recreation. Sure escapism and entertainment are important, but books have a moral obligation to inform, awaken conscience and instill compassion. If they don't meet these criteria then they are simply "nonsense"."

From: http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/Talk-Around-Town/215098/Whatever-happened-to-the-written-word.html


First Lady Eva Peron protected Nazis in exchange for looted treasures


"The former first lady of Argentina has been accused of accepting Nazi treasures stolen from wealthy families during the Holocaust in return for using her country as a safe haven.

According to a new book, Eva Peron and her husband, former president Juan Peron, kept quiet about the number of Nazis who were hiding out in Argentina after the Second World War.

In 'The Politically Incorrect Guide to Latin America,' authors Leandro Narloch and Duda Teixeira wrote: 'It is still suspected that among her [Eva Peron's] possessions, there were pieces of Nazi treasure that came from rich Jewish families killed in concentration camps.

In 1947, then First Lady Eva Peron included a brief trip to Switzerland during a publicity tour of Europe to try and boost the image of her husband's regime abroad.

According to historians, she may have opened at least one secret Geneva account to stash funds and valuables she allegedly received from Nazis in exchange for Argentine passports and visas."

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2033084/First-lady-Eva-Peron-allowed-Nazis-hide-Argentina-exchange-treasures-looted-rich-Jewish-families.html


Operation Windsor

"Secret documents declassified Friday by Britain's MI5 security service reveal in dramatic and everyday detail how the U.K. under Prime Minister Winston Churchill overthrew the elected government of British Guiana — now Guyana — because he feared its left-wing leader and his American wife were leading the British colony into the arms of the Soviet Union.

The documents reveal how British spies kept up intense scrutiny on Cheddi and Janet Jagan, who founded the People's Progressive Party to campaign for workers' rights and independence from British rule for the sugar-producing colony in northern South America. [...]

After the party won a huge majority in British Guiana's 1953 election, making Cheddi Jagan prime minister, Churchill decided to act.

"We ought surely to get American support in doing all that we can to break the Communist teeth in British Guiana," Churchill wrote to his colonial secretary.

In the end, Britain acted alone, mounting a military operation code-named Operation Windsor. Churchill dispatched a warship, HMS Superb, and brought hundreds of troops by air and sea to secure key sites.

On Oct. 9, Britain suspended Guyana's constitution, fired its legislators and arrested the Jagans."

From: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gPvzqBPqgNbtyhk901ZEM6oYbcsg

In other words nothing changed over the decades and the Empires employ same tactics when their interests are threatened.

Great reads for labor day | LitBash 38

Enjoy great literature from writers who were:

Born this week:

Alexei K. Tolstoy, Russia

Alexander Kuprin, Russia
"Do you understand, gentlemen, that all the horror is in just this—that there is no horror!"

Elia Kazan, USA / Greece

Alfred Jarry, France

"To be weird! That is my goal!"

Leo Tolstoy, Russia
"In all history there is no war which was not hatched by the governments, the governments alone, independent of the interests of the people, to whom war is always pernicious even when successful."

Vytautas Bubnys, Lithuania

D. H. Lawrence, UK

"God is only a great imaginative experience."

Died this week:

Auguste Comte, France
"The dead govern the living."

Emilio Cecchi, Italy

Kir Bulychev, Russia

Lucien Descaves, France

Paul Zech, Germany

Karen Blixen, Denmark

"God made the world round so we would never be able to see too far down the road."

Mary Wollstonecraft, UK
"The endeavor to keep alive any hoary establishment beyond its natural date is often pernicious and always useless."

Eleanor Dark, Australia


A World Without Books

Le Clezio, recipient of Nobel prize for literature: "books have played an essential role in the development of the world, by granting universal access to knowledge and turning it from the privilege of dominant classes into ordinary people's rights a role it performed especially well during Enlightenment.

Without printed books we would be living in a totally different world. It may prosper as well, but it will be a closed world resistant to progress, desperately imbalanced, filled with unfairness and injustice." He cites the ancient Mayan civilization as an example. What was once illuminating and ripe disappeared for want of print: "There was no democracy and hardly equality before the law while the quality of citizen dwelled on a relatively low level.

In such a world, knowledge would not serve interaction or social progress, but only draw a new line between those who have knowledge and those who don't There can still be marvellous wonders like the Pyramid, but the people will only build them like slaves, not understanding the meaning of their labor.

The book, however old-fashioned it may be, is the ideal tool. It is practical, easy to handle, economical. It does not require any particular technological prowess, and keeps well in any climate."

More: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2011-08/31/content_13224456.htm


How Spies Will Find You Through Your Pics

IARPA, the research body of the intelligence community, wants to know where you took your vacation:

"In an announcement for its new “Finder” program, the agency says that it is looking for ways to geolocate (a fancy word for “locate” that implies having coordinates for a place) images by extracting data from the images themselves and using this to make guesses about where they were taken.

More and more digital cameras today don’t just take pictures but also capture what is called metadata — often referred to as data about data — that can include everything from when the picture was taken to what kind of camera was used to where the it was taken. This metadata, often stored in a format called EXIF, can be used by different programs to understand different aspects of the image — and also by intelligence analysts to understand different aspects of the user who took it, and the people who are in it. Like who they are, what they are doing, and where and when they did it."

More: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/07/spies-find-you-through-pics/

Most of the metadata can be read already by anyone. Don't want to share this data with the world? Process your images through a photo-editing software before posting them online.


Cold War Foe Rebranded

"Back in the Cold War days, the US propaganda ignited fears of Soviet expansionism and espionage in Latin America to frighten the continent's governments into cooperating with Washington in the fight against the fictitious threat posed by the USSR and the Eastern bloc. Under the resulting arrangement, the CIA, FBI, and the US Defense Intelligence Agency used to impose their own long-term agendas on the police and counterespionage agencies of Latin American countries (with the obvious exception of Cuba) and generally kept them on a short leash, while the Soviet missions the countries hosted and individuals deemed to be suspicious faced constant close surveillance.

Washington continues to sell Cold War-era stereotypes - the images of Russia as an evil country and a nuclear-armed monster - to Latin American countries. US-made computer games and movies supplied in quantities to Latin America employ the story line by which the Russian mafia grabs Russia's nuclear arsenal and puts it to work for global blackmail. The message the Empire thus sends to the continent reads that Russians are disreputable and treacherous partners to be be avoided at all costs."

Source and more: http://www.tiwy.com/news.phtml?id=199