The spying game
Move over James Bond: these guys are the real deal. Kipp checks out the world of international espionage, and find it’s a profession that is still alive and thriving.
June 30, 2010 2:17 by Katherine Azmeh
Admittedly, it was a forgettable film: A 2001 martial arts movie starring Jackie Chan as Buck Yuen, an unofficial agent of an unnamed American intelligence agency. His dangerous, action-packed adventures led him, unknowingly, to gather intelligence on behalf of the US government. He becomes their “Accidental Spy,” pursuing his unique brand of street justice and self- defense for the greater good. The “Accidental Spy,” like generations of espionage films before it, puts a sympathetic slant on the spy profession – there’s plenty of glitz, glamour, and greenbacks to go along with the job.
And as it turns out, in reality the spy business does seem to incorporate some of the big screen appeal, including money, intrigue, and upscale neighborhoods.
Earlier this week, US federal prosecutors accused 11 people of participating in a Russian espionage ring, complete with fake identities and great looking homes with expensive landscaping. Arrests in New York, Boston and Virginia were announced Sunday, with prosecutors detailing the ambitious efforts of Russian intelligence agencies to gather information on nuclear weapons, American foreign policy toward Iran, the CIA, and Congressional politics.
“Criminal complaints filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan on Monday read like an old-fashioned cold war thriller,” the New York Times reported Tuesday. “Spies swapping identical orange bags as they brushed past one another in a train station stairway. An identity borrowed from a dead Canadian, forged passports, messages sent by shortwave burst transmission or in invisible ink. A money cache buried for years in a field in upstate New York.” All of these were elements of the case, according to the paper.
But alongside all the intrigue, secrecy, and danger, there’s a remarkable quality of the ordinary to the spy profession, at least in this case. When a New Jersey couple known as Richard and Cynthia Murphy were arrested Sunday evening, incredulous neighbors called them “suburbia personified,” and one joked, “They couldn’t have been spies, look what she did with the hydrangeas.”
With all the press it’s getting lately, you’d be forgiven for thinking the spy business is back with a vengeance, but really it never went away. It’s robust a business sector, and a popular one, too. Following the Dubai assassination of a senior Hamas commander earlier this year, reports are that job enquiries for positions with the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, have spiked dramatically (Mosaad is accused in the assassination). Evidently, since the hit, a career in intelligence has gained a new luster of drama and excitement. The website for the Israeli security service lists a selection of careers in need of new talent, including “special assignments, intelligence, and security.”
Speaking of the Mossad, in Lebanon earlier this week there were yet more reports of spy activities. Army intelligence authorities reported the arrest of “Charbel Q,” alleged to have planted monitoring devices that allowed the Israelis to tap directly into one of the country’s major cell phone providers, Alfa.
The case is intriguing on a number of fronts, not the least of which is that Alfa is a state-owned company. As a transmission officer with Alfa, experts say Charbel Q had access to a highly sensitive segment of the network, particularly from the perspective of military intelligence. The compelling case has sparked outraged in Lebanon’s Arabic press, and caused many to question the lack of legislative oversight in the telecom sector, as well as the “vulnerability of the Lebanese phone system and the government’s culpability,” the LA Times reported Monday.
The spy business, it seems, is alive and thriving.