August 20, 2012

Saudi Nuclear Program Between Symbolism and Ambiguity


Saudi Arabia, the US and Pakistan united by interest in missiles that are nuclear capable.

Comments written Aug 20, 2012.

I suspect the Saudi's envisaged the Chinese (made CSS-2 and more current boosters such as the CSS-5 (DF-21)) would:

- be a preliminary move towards indicating Saudi Arabia can build a nuclear weapons system (obviously with continuing  extended deterrence from the US as backup .

- form an initial test weapons system to accustom senior Saudi rulers to the value of deterrence against Iran or a future(?) Shiite dominated Iraq. 

- form at least the boost portion of a missile system but nothing else? 

- even non-nuclear warheads might act as a limited deterrent. Other WMDs (particularly chemical) would be significant but not as effective as nuclear. Conventional warhead's, such as fuel-air, would also make an impression)

The Sino-Saudi Connection by Thomas Woodrow, ex DIA, provides some context.

August 19, 2012

China stole US W88 thermonuclear warhead secrets in 1990s

 Click to enlarge diagram of the US W88 themonuclear warhead at issue. Stealing the warhead design continues to benefit China - including land missile forces and also the SLBM  deployed on the Chinese Type 094 SSBN .

 See  including Summary from Congression Research Service report - which reads in part  :

"This CRS Report discusses China’s suspected acquisition of U.S. nuclear

weapon secrets, including that on the W88, the newest U.S. nuclear warhead. This
serious controversy became public in early 1999 and raised policy issues about
whether U.S. security was further threatened by China’s suspected use of U.S.
nuclear weapon secrets in its development of nuclear forces, as well as whether the
Administration’s response to the security problems was effective or mishandled and
whether it fairly used or abused its investigative and prosecuting authority. The
Clinton Administration acknowledged that improved security was needed at the
weapons labs but said that it took actions in response to indications in 1995 that
China may have obtained U.S. nuclear weapon secrets. Critics in Congress and
elsewhere argued that the Administration was slow to respond to security concerns,
mishandled the too narrow investigation, downplayed information potentially
unfavorable to China and the labs, and failed to notify Congress fully...."


US SLBMs & Massive Ordinance Airblast Bombs (MOABs)

August 18, 2012

US to deploy drones over Diaoyutais

Aug 8, 2012  

[An Link> RQGlobal Hawk unmanned -4 aerial vehicle conducts tests over Naval Air Station Patuxent River in the US state of Maryland in an undated photo supplied by the US Navy. ]


 Taipei Times - Aug 8, 2012

US to deploy drones over Diaoyutai Islands (aka Link> Senkaku Islands)

 "The US will use its most advanced unmanned reconnaissance aircraft to monitor Chinese activity in waters surrounding the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), the object of an acrimonious dispute between Beijing and Tokyo, Japanese media are reporting.
The decision was made during a meeting between Japanese Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto and US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta at the Pentagon on Sunday, NHK and the Yomiuri Shimbun said, adding that the drones would also conduct surveillance around Okinawa.
At least three unarmed Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk drones have been deployed at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam since September 2010, bolstering the operational intelligence capabilities of US forces in the Asia-Pacific.   "



August 3, 2012

Great Spooks 2 - Sir Francis Walsingham

Following the potted biography of Sidney Reilly in the “Great Spooks of History Series” I present Sir Francis Walsingham (c. 1530 – April 6, 1590)..

Walsingham was the main "spymaster" to Queen Elizabeth I of England. An admirer of Machiavelli, Walsingham was very temperamental, often capable of biting sarcasm and, of course, devious (goes with the job).

He never hesitated to use torture when questioning a man (or woman) if he thought it necessary. However, some charitably say he only used it as a last resort, and he surprisingly had a reputation for being charming and generous at times.

He studied at King's College, Cambridge from 1548 under Protestant teachers. In 1550, according to contemporary custom of young gentleman, he went on a “grand tour” of Europe and returned in 1552 to enroll as a law clerk (and student) at Gray's Inn, London.

The death of Edward VI and accession of Queen (“Bloody”) Mary, a Catholic, forced him to escape overseas (with many other Protestants) to continue his studies. A great irony is that this time he was a law student of the famous Jesuit University at Padua (now in Italy).

In those days religious differences (and violent religious persecution) were accepted and uppermost in people’s minds.

When Elizabeth I acceded to the throne in 1558, Walsingham returned to England and, through support of Sir William Cecil (Elizabeth’s Secretary of State and chief adviser) was elected to the House of Commons.

While Cecil and Walsingham were politicians they firstly saw themselves as servants of the Queen – synonymous then with being defenders of the Protestant (specifically Church of England) faith.

England does not appear to have had a formalised secret service until the early twentieth century so to serve the Queen Walsingham created his own personalised spy service. He cultivated languages and contacts that would later form his espionage network on the continent. The main intelligence target was Catholic (frequently Jesuit) activity and then to capture and execute Catholics seen as a threat to the English throne.

His network of spies may have included Christopher Marlowe, the playwright, and more certainly the cryptographer, Thomas Phelippes. He trained agents in intercepting and deciphering letters, creating false handwriting and breaking and repairing seals (on letters) without detection.

Walsingham's first major operation stemmed from the Elizabeth's order to unravel the
Ridolfi plot – a Catholic plot in 1570 to assassinate her and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots.

In an early form of covert action Walsingham became active in soliciting support among English clergy for the (French Protestant) Huguenots. This was partly to destabilise that Catholic country and thereby prevent France from becoming an overwelming threat to England.

In 1570 Walsingham became Ambassador to France. After the
St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 1572 (in which 70,000 Huguenots may have been killed) his house in Paris became a temporary sanctuary of protestant refugees. He returned to England in April 1573.

Walsingham’s overt and covert foreign policy role was so successful that he was promoted to joint Secretary of State and in 1577 was knighted.

His most high profile operations were uncovering the
Throckmorton and Babington plots. The latter, to some more a case of entrapment by Walsingham than "discovery," would lead to the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1587. He was an active participant in her trial.

Dispatches from his agents from mercantile communities and foreign courts also provided some advance warning of the buildup of the Spanish Armada, although the warnings were initially disregarded by Elizabeth.

Americans might be particularly interested to know that recent research has uncovered evidence that the abortive first attempt to establish a permanent English settlement in North America, the famous lost colony at
Roanoke Island, might have been sabotaged by Walsingham. The sponsor of the colonization attempt, Sir Walter Raleigh, was Walsingham's rival at court.

Although a devout Protestant and an advisor on whom Elizabeth came to depend during the middle part of her reign, Walsingham received little in the way of material reward from the Queen. But he used considerable amounts of his personal income to maintain his intelligence network on the continent, paying the expenses of at least 50 (frequently aristocratic) spies.

Francis Walsingham died in April 6 1590, leaving considerable financial debt. One of the men who made England, which then became, Britain, “Great”.

By today’s standards the means that he used to extract confessions, by torture, would be considered criminal. But at that time the protection of the Queen (whose position was seen as “God given”) was considered paramount to the survival of the country. Active torture and prolonged imprisonment under hard conditions (eg. The Tower) were also considered useful deterrents to assassination plots.

If the term “assassin” is placed alongside “terrorist” I think the parallels to contemporary issues are obvious.

August 2, 2012

Sidney Reilly - Great Spooks

On a more interesting note the first in this blog's series of "Great Spooks of History" is Sidney Reilly.

Reilly (1874?-1925) was a Russian-born adventurer who worked for British Secret Intelligence Service (commonly known as MI6) for a time. His legend grew after his death and Ian Fleming used him as a model for James Bond.

Reilly told various tales about his origins. Apparently the most widespread version is that he was born Georgi Rosenblum in Odessa, (former) Russian Empire, on March 24, 1874.

According to himself, he was arrested as a young man for carrying messages for a "radical" group called Friends of Enlightenment. When he was released, he was told that his mother was dead and that his real father was actually her Jewish doctor Rosenblum. Newly "christened" as Sigmund Rosenblum, he hid as a stowaway in a British ship on its way to South America.

In Brazil he adopted the name Pedro. He worked in odd jobs and in 1895 became a cook for a British intelligence expedition and saved the life of his group when angry natives attacked them but did not eat them. Appropriately for such a story, British agent Major Fothergill gave him £1500 and arranged him a passport and a trip to Britain where he adopted the name Sidney Rosenblum.

He began to work for MI1c, forerunner of MI6, was briefly trained and sent to Russia. After a successful mission he received British citizenship to become an official agent. Later he adopted the Irish surname "Reilly", which was the surname of his first wife's father.

He also told various tales - about how he:

- earned and lost several fortunes in his lifetime
- had many wives and numerous mistresses
- during the Boer War he had disguised himself as a Russian arms merchant to spy on Dutch weapons shipments to Boers
- procured Persian (Iraqi/Iranian) oil concessions for the British
- reported on the Russian fleet in Port Arthur in the disguise of a timber company owner
- spied on the Krupp armaments plant in Germany
- seduced a wife of Russian minister of marine to find out German weapons shipments to Russia
- sat in on a meeting with a German high command in German officer's uniform during World War I
- saved diplomats from South America
- and how he attempted to engineer the downfall of the Russian Bolshevik government.

He must have been a hero yet he was disliked and distrusted by his British employers because he was (theoretically) Jewish and therefore not of "gentle" birth.

Reilly was sent to Moscow in 1918, by his own account to assassinate Lenin or attempt to overthrow the Bolsheviks. He had to escape after Cheka unraveled the so-called Lockhart Plot against the Bolsheviks.

In September, 1925 agents of OGPU, Cheka's successor, lured him to Russia ostensibly to meet the supposed members of "The Trust" - an OGPU front organisation designed to entrap anti-communists (who in Lenin's Russia must have been truely suicidal and stupid)

After Reilly crossed the Finnish border, the Soviets captured him and brutally interrogated him at Lubyanka Prison. Afterwards the Soviets claimed that Reilly had been shot trying to cross the Finnish border.
In fact, he was shot in a forest near Moscow on November 5, 1925.

Unlike most spooks Reilly has been remembered. In 1983, a superb television series, Reilly, Ace of Spies, was made about his adventures, in which he was portrayed by Australian (actually an ex Kiwi) Sam Neill.

The US has no such equivalent - maybe Elliot Ness - but he was really a cop rather than a "robber"