New York Times National Security Correspondent David Sanger sees cyber-espionage as a whole new “field of conflict” on the global stage — and that the U.S. isn’t having an open discussion about it:

"The Obama administration has pressed more leak investigations, conducted more leak investigations, launched formal inquiries, or in some cases, criminal cases, than all previous [administrations] combined. And these investigations all have a chilling effect on later stories that you do even if the later stories are on completely different subjects.

I think there’s a lot more concern inside the U.S. government right now about being found to be talking to reporters, even if you’re talking about something that is unclassified. … It’s understandably difficult to get American officials to talk about their plans for potential cyberattacks of cyberdefenses. I understand that, but it’s also very difficult to get officials to talk about our policy about using these cyberweapons as a tool of American power. And that’s what worries me, because in a healthy democracy, I think the American citizens have to be at least informed of — and maybe participate in the debate about — how we want to use these weapons since we are vulnerable to them ourselves.”

4

David Greenglass, member of the infamous Rosenberg atomic spy ring, passed away in July of this year, as was widely reported earlier this week.

Arrested in 1950, Greenglass was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union along with his sister Ethel Rosenberg, brother-in-law Julius Rosenberg, and another member of the ring, Harry Gold.  Unlike the Rosenbergs, Greenglass avoided the death sentence by pleading guilty and providing testimony against them.

During World War II, David Greenglass was a U.S. Army machinist working on the secret Manhattan Project to develop atomic weapons. His brother-in-law Julius Rosenberg was a Soviet sympathizer and spy, and recruited Greenglass into passing secrets, such as the drawing shown above, from his workplace at Los Alamos National Laboratory to Soviet agents.

But what about the Jell-O box?

Like a “Best Friends” necklace, pieces of the Jell-O box could be matched, and the spies would be able to confirm their identities.

The Greenglasses were living in Albuquerque when a man (Harry Gold) came to their home, introduced himself saying “Julius sent me,” and produced a piece of Jell-O box. It matched the one David Greenglass was holding. 

A Jell-O box was introduced at the trial. It was not the original box, but “trial transcript shows that the prosecution introduced this facsimile Jell-O box to represent the recognition signal.” The evidence is now part of the holdings of the National Archives at New York City.

During the subsequent trial, the Rosenbergs denied all espionage allegations, but on April 5, 1951, the couple were ultimately convicted and sentenced to death for their role, with Greenglass’ testimony helping to seal his sister’s conviction.   

Supporters of the Rosenbergs lobbied for a pardon and their  two children, ages 10 and 6, even petitioned for their parents’ lives in a poignant letter to President Eisenhower, but no avail.  Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed on June 19, 1953. (The letter from Michael and Robert Rosenberg to Eisenhower is currently on display in the Making their Mark exhibit at the National Archives.)

More at Prologue: Pieces of History » Fat Man, Little Boy, A Packet of Jell-O

(See also the recent post from obitoftheday: “The Man Who Turned His Family In”)

Never doubt that America’s intelligence services are ever vigilant, radical, cowabunga.

5 Attempts at Espionage That Seem Too Dumb to Be Real

#5. CIA Spies Cannot Think Up a Good Code Word

In 2011, [Lebanon’s] Hezbollah caught a break. Through a few informants, Hezbollah found that the group of spies they were looking for met with their CIA contacts at a place referred to by a single code word. That word was “pizza.” … Sure enough, when staking out [a Lebanese] Pizza Hut, Hezbollah quickly busted a meeting of double agents squealing to members of the CIA. The bust reportedly led to the capture of dozens of U.S. spies in Lebanon and the loss of its entire espionage foothold in the country. In his own words, one intelligence official admitted that they had to “fly blind” for several months on Hezbollah’s activities due to either the CIA’s laziness or their unflagging, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle levels of enthusiasm for pizza.

Read More

8

Putin is everywhere, so it seems. A living metonym for Russia, Putin has lately begun to inhabit the consciousness of the West itself, literally put-in there by a kind of force. It is tempting to attribute Putin’s ubiquity to Russia’s current, and quite likely temporary, geopolitical resurgence: Putin is (in) on our minds because Putin is in (on) the news. But the truth is that Putin has been in our heads for longer than he has been making headlines. Mitt Romney saw him at an election debate with Obama. More recently, thousands have seen his likeness in the viral photograph of young man with a camera looking at Ronald Reagan during his visit to Red Square.

Perhaps Putin has always been here among us. Indeed, for all his overt appeals to Russian conservatism, a glance at the ever growing album of Putin photo-shoots shows the remarkable Western thrust of his alter-egos: Putin as Marlboro Man, bareback; Putin as Tarzan in the weeds; as Teddy Roosevelt astride a shot wild animal; as Amelia Earhart impersonating a crane; as Rambo clutching a rifle, as James Bond in a suit with a gun; as a Hell’s Angel mounting a trike; as a balding Bruce Lee, eyes, epicanthically folded by Botox and fixed on a prostrate opponent; as Maverick Mitchell (alas, in a MiG); all the way back to Adonis, wading out of the water clutching urns.

The Marlboro man is dead; Earhart is lost; there are no more Roosevelts in the White House. Putin is everywhere because it is we who have changed, and he remains: a talisman of our pasts.

Images: John Lee, Aurora Andrews, Zaq LandsbergDerrick Dent and Steven Sultan

Text: Vadim Nikitin, nostalgia editor

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