I was an intelligence officer with the Central Intelligence Agency for 12 years, working a number of issues counter intelligence, counternarctics, counter terrorism and others. I worked operations overseas but also, as an engineer, managed technical development when I was not traveling. I helped design a number of collection and analytical systems, and I knew well the goals and requirements of the Agency.
I chased Pablo Escobar in Colombia, ran flight missions over Somalia and Liberia, and even traveled to Turkey with notorious spy Aldrich Ames for a “motherhood and apple pie” meeting with former Soviet nations. I worked in more than 25 countries in all.
I remember vividly the day it was announced that Ames had been arrested, the devastated look in my boss’s eyes and the shock throughout the Crime and Narcotics Center where a suspected Ames had been moved while the FBI closed in. The Ames compromise was so bad that (several years earlier) I was asked to take my shoes off before walking into the CIA station in Moscow – they had no idea how our agents were being compromised.
In all, Ames compromised (and caused the deaths of) at least 8 of our Russian agents and it has been said that American CIA officer Freddie Woodruff was killed to protect Ames’ identity. Our entire window into the Soviet Union disappeared and could not be re-constituted.
Ames caused a huge amount of damage, but not as much as Hillary’s unsecure communications.
The epitome of the spy game is to know exactly what your opponents are thinking, what their capabilities are and be able to predict exactly what they will do, given a situation or provocation.
The number one target in the world is the President of the United States.
The number two target in the world is the Secretary of State, whose foreign policy authority is the highest in the world when it comes to trade deals, military disposition, foreign aid, basically any interaction the United States has with the rest of the world.
Intelligence agencies focus hard on “leadership comms” for this very reason. To know what is in the head of a key decision maker is their ultimate utility to their government. In fact, the major intelligence services might have 20 or more analysts, psychologists and substantive experts dedicated to studying the possible decisions and characterizing a major player like Hillary Clinton was. That’s 20 or more professionals at the top of their fields, full time, who do nothing else. And its worth it. A single concession in a single trade deal could be worth billions of dollars.
An intelligence officer who gains access to a communications channel or recruits an access agent to such a leader experiences a skyrocketing career and becomes a legend. The rewards are lavish.
Who might be interested? Everyone. The Russians, the Chinese, the French (their intel services often work with private French corporations), the Germans (yes, they spy on us too), the Japanese, the Koreans, the Saudis, etc, etc. Plus non-state actors, ISIS, Al Qaeda, Anonymous, Guccifer and several hundred independents who happen to run across it.
Online too? Have you ever seen the log file of your computer’s firewall? You are constantly be probed by robot software designed by hackers, whose purpose is to check your computer for the possibility of compromise. Last I looked, I was being hit about about every 20 seconds. There are hundreds of thousands of robots checking every IP address on the internet, 24/7/365.
I get a daily email with a list of about 30,000 of the latest “zombie” computers, i.e. computers found easy to attack, to add to my own firewall. This is the tip of the iceberg. Governor Terry McAullife of Virginia cited 54 million compromise attempts on Virginia state government computers, just in 2016.
So was is possible for Hillary Clinton’s unsecure email server to be under the radar, with no one noticing and no one attempting to hack into it?
The answer is no. Not for a single day.
In fact the opposite is true. The first independent hacker who realized what he had, likely told all of his friends and possibly had dreams of selling the information. Of course, the professional services (Russia, China, etc.) likely have tentacles into the hacker community and would know in short order of a breach like that of the American Secretary of State – if their own services didn’t find it first.
In Hillary Clinton’s case where her email and blackberry communications were compromised, the damage should be clear. I speak from experience from the CIA’s point of view, however I know most of the major intelligence agencies are very good and would pursue this the same way.
First, let’s look at her network. Even in my day, we had something called “Criss Cross” and other link analysis tools which could, from data acquired from her blackberry, analyze all of the channel data, draw a link chart of who she talked to, when she talked to them, and how long she talked to them. By using this data we know how she is making her decisions, who she consults with and of what importance they are in her decisions. The technique was developed for telephone data, but you can “Criss Cross” email the same way. And if you have the content, even a fraction of it, your behavior model is verified.
This also generates secondary targets. Huma Albedin, John Podesta, Blumenthal are obvious, but with basic analysis and free access you can determine the entire decision chain. Obviously, each of the known advisors was targeted by intelligence services and their unsecure communications were also likely acquired.
The analysts and psychologists would now have a clear picture of who contributes to each kind of decision Hillary Clinton makes. They would know the expertise, background, tendencies and prejudices of each contributor. And they would have a model of that decision making process to predict the outcome of her reaction to any stimulus or provocation. They might even be able to influence her decisions by influencing a part of her support network. There is a straightforward statistical way to analyze this, it’s 90% accurate or better.
How important is this? With this kind of access and analysis, the American Secretary of State, and by extension the whole Department of State was completely compromised, our opponents were always one step ahead. They knew decisions, bottom lines, pressure points, whatever data she spilled, plus they may have had the ability to influence her through her support network.
If you don’t understand why this is important you should read this.
No, not just the Russians, but this information was also available the Chinese, the Saudi’s, most of our trading partners, etc, and anyone whose interests might have aligned with one of our more sophisticated adversaries. Intelligence agencies will readily share information when it serves the interest of their country or sponsor.
This was a major intelligence coup for any service, to completely compromise the second most important foreign policy position in the world. Any agreement, negotiation or treaty was compromised before it happened. Any action she was about to take, was already countered by the opposition. We will never know the total cost of her failures, perhaps in the hundreds of billions or even trillions in bad deals, treaties and dead Americans.
Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen didn’t do nearly this much damage.
Since Clinton erased 33000 emails, it’s tough to know everything that was compromised. We know a lot of it have made some educated guesses over the past year. I wrote these articles independently, but in every case, other experts have suggested and in most cases confirmed the worst case scenarios.
Author’s final note: I hate talking about my past, but it is important that people know the devastating degree to which Hillary compromised the American Department of State and failed her country.