The Washington Times Online Edition
By Bill Gertz & Ralph Z. Hallow
Inside the Ring: Counterspies hunt Russian mole inside National Security Agency
The National Security Agency (NSA) is conducting a counterintelligence probe at its Fort Meade, Md., headquarters in a top-secret hunt for a Russian agent, according to a former intelligence official close to the agency.
The former official said the probe grew out of the case of 10 Russian "illegals," or deep-cover spies, who were uncovered last summer and sent back to Moscow after the defection of Col. Alexander Poteyev, a former SVR foreign intelligence officer who reportedly fled to the U.S. shortly before Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited here in June.
Col. Poteyev is believed to be the source who disclosed the U.S.-based agent network.
NSA counterintelligence officials suspect that members of the illegals network were used by Russia's SVR spy agency to communicate with one or more agents inside the agency, which conducts electronic intelligence gathering and code-breaking.
One sign that the probe is fairly advanced is that FBI counterintelligence agents are involved in the search.
"They are looking for one or more Russian spies that NSA is convinced reside at Fort Meade and possibly other DoD intel offices, like DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency]," the former official said. "NSA is convinced that at least one is at NSA."
Some of the 10 illegals who were posing as U.S. citizens helped service Russian agents working inside the U.S. intelligence community, the former official said.
No other details of the investigation could be learned.
NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said in e-mail: "I don't have any information to provide regarding your query."
An FBI spokesman had no immediate comment.
NSA has been the victim of several damaging spy cases dating back to the 1960s, when two officials defected to the Soviet Union.
In 1985, NSA analyst Ronald Pelton was caught spying for Moscow. He had provided the Soviets with extremely damaging secrets, including details of an underwater electronic eavesdropping program on Russian military cables called "Operation Ivy Bells."
China in Kyrgyzstan
A confidential State Department cable made public this week highlights China's role in the U.S.-led war on terrorism.
The U.S. ambassador in far-off Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, confronted China's ambassador about a covert attempt by Beijing to bribe the government there to shut down the strategic U.S. military transit base at Manas in exchange for $3 billion in cash.
The Feb. 13, 2009, cable signed by Ambassador Tatiana C. Gfoeller revealed that Chinese Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Zhang Yannian "did not deny categorically" the covert cash offer to close the base, which is a major transit and refueling point for U.S. troops and supplies heading into northern Afghanistan.
"After opening pleasantries, the ambassador mentioned that Kyrgyz officials had told her that China had offered a $3 billion financial package to close Manas Air Base and asked for the ambassador's reaction to such an allegation," the cable stated.
"Visibly flustered, Zhang temporarily lost the ability to speak Russian and began spluttering in Chinese to the silent aide diligently taking notes right behind him. Once he had recovered the power of Russian speech, he inveighed against such a calumny, claiming that such an idea was impossible, China was a staunch opponent of terrorism, and China's attitude toward Kyrgyzstan's decision to close Manas was one of 'respect and understanding.' "
The cable highlights what observers say has been China's behind-the-scenes, anti-U.S. strategy of seeking to undermine U.S. global counterterrorism efforts.
Gen. Hwang Eui-don, chief of the General Staff of the South Korean Army, patrols with soldiers along the fence of the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea, on Wednesday.
Mr. Zhang insisted that China's interest in Kyrgyzstan, which shares a border with China's restive Xinjiang province, is purely commercial. He then said China rejected calls by "some Kyrgyz" for China to set up a military base there to counterbalance Russian and U.S. influence.
"We want no military or political advantage. Therefore, we wouldn't pay $3 billion for Manas," Mr. Zhang was quoted as saying.
Chinese intelligence personnel, however, are another story, according to U.S. officials who have said Beijing's intelligence presence is very large in the country.
Mr. Zhang advised the U.S. ambassador on how to keep the base. "Just give them $150 million in cash [per year, and] you will have the base," he said.
The Chinese official also said several times during the meeting that a "revolution in China" is possible if the economy failed to improve and millions remain unemployed.
"In our experience, talk of revolution at home is taboo for Chinese," the cable said.
However, observers have noted that Chinese diplomats used similar language in meetings with U.S. officials as scare tactics, warning of a coming Chinese collapse as a way to stave off political pressure for democratic change.
Braced for attack
Amid high tensions, U.S. and allied militaries are braced for another North Korean attack - more artillery shelling, missile test launches or possibly another underground nuclear blast.
The next incident is expected in coming days after U.S.-South Korean joint naval exercises in the Yellow Sea that ended on Wednesday, said intelligence sources familiar with the region.
North Korean military forces remain on heightened alert, as do South Korean forces, and the sources said the South Korean military is set to counter any further artillery strikes.
One possible target being watched closely is the northernmost of South Korea's five northwest islands, called Baengnyeong Island, a major intelligence base that has been a safe harbor for North Korean defectors fleeing the communist state in the past.
South Korea's military is prepared to carry out aggressive counterattacks against any new strikes.
Intelligence analysis of the Nov. 23 artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island, which killed four people and wounded 17, indicates that the surprise bombardment is connected to the ongoing leadership succession of Kim Jong-il's third son, Kim Jong-un, as well as to the recent disclosure by the North Koreans of a covert uranium-enrichment program.
Kim Jong-un was recently promoted and has aligned himself with North Korean generals involved in artillery forces, according to the intelligence sources. Reports from North Korea indicated that both Kims visited the 4th Corps, whose unit carried out an artillery barrage before the Yeonpyeong attack.
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