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October 28, 2013

So Childish: Germans Shocked, Shocked to Find Espionage Going on In a Foreign Embassy

Some people don't realize this, I guess, because they've never read an espionage book or a factual book about espionage: Every embassy in every country is a central hub for espionage.

The spies are mixed in with the diplomats. This is the way it's always been.

I realize the Germans maybe feel required to react with Outrage. But there are CIA assets posing as diplomats at the Berlin embassy, just as there are German intelligence agents posing as diplomats in the DC embassy.

This is what is meant by "diplomatic cover." It's cover... as a diplomat.

Perhaps Germans don't understand simple word combinations. You'd think they'd be outstanding at two-word combinations, as that's half of their language.

"Official cover" also means "diplomatic cover." "Non-Official Cover" -- NOC -- is especially dangerous precisely because you don't have diplomatic immunity if you're not a diplomat.

This is why spies are usually asked to leave the country -- declared persona non grata, person no longer welcomed -- rather than arrested: Because they have diplomatic immunity. (NOCs are arrested, held for a while, then usually ransomed back to their country in exchange for something, usually the release of any spies that country is holding.)

The Soviet Embassy in DC, IIRC, was built on a hill between two important cellular traffic antennae. (This was in the days before cell phones, but I think long-distance connections were still handled by relay antennae.) The site was chosen precisely so the Soviets could tap every single signal passing right through their damned building.

And that was actually our bad for permitting them to build on that site. It was a colossal oversight that no one noticed the hill they wanted to build on just so happened to be right between two telephone relay antennae. They couldn't believe their good luck -- or their opponents' incompetence ---when we gave them the okay.

Maybe some people believe that only "Bad" countries would dare lie about their spies and implant them in foreign countries as "diplomats." Maybe that's where this silly outrage comes from -- that there is a belief that only Bad Actors engage in such Dirty Pool.

Nope. Every single embassy since diplomacy existed has had the secondary (and in fact usually primary) function of serving as a hiding place for spies.

But Der Spiegel is very incensed that the CIA bugged Angela Merkel's phone right from the American Embassy.

Imagine that! The CIA acting right out of CIA Central. Why, the next thing you know and they'll be claiming the CIA Station Chief for Germany is actually posing as the Senior Vice Diplomat for German-American Economic Unity and chairs the Bilateral Salmon Fishing Promotion committee.

According to SPIEGEL research, United States intelligence agencies have not only targeted Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone, but they have also used the American Embassy in Berlin as a listening station. The revelations now pose a serious threat to German-American relations....

[The embassy is] an ideal location for diplomats -- and for spies.

Really? A property that is technically United States sovereign land but located right in a city's economic and political capital is ideally suited to host an espionage operation targeting that country?

Who knew?

Research by SPIEGEL reporters in Berlin and Washington, talks with intelligence officials and the evaluation of internal documents of the US' National Security Agency and other information, most of which comes from the archive of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, lead to the conclusion that the US diplomatic mission in the German capital has not merely been promoting German-American friendship.


What about the Bilateral Salmon Fishing Promotion Committee? Are you saying that was all just one big lie too?

On the contrary, it is a nest of espionage.

I shan't believe it. The deuce you say.

From the roof of the embassy, a special unit of the CIA and NSA can apparently monitor a large part of cellphone communication in the government quarter. And there is evidence that agents based at Pariser Platz recently targeted the cellphone that Merkel uses the most.

The NSA spying scandal has thus reached a new level, becoming a serious threat to the trans-Atlantic partnership. The mere suspicion that one of Merkel's cellphones was being monitored by the NSA has led in the past week to serious tensions between Berlin and Washington.

Now, this is a diplomatic discomfort, and I can't blame the Germans for being annoyed. They have to be annoyed -- after all, this revelation means that for years and years, the CIA was eating their lunch in the espionage-counterespionage game.

And I can't blame them for kicking up a fuss, because that's what you do when you've been owned.

Still, this whole thing is kind of silly. So many people are acting outraged to learn that spies spy.

On Capital Cities: Most countries' political capital is also their economic capital. That means spying is especially easy -- one stop shopping, if you will.

The US always had a minor advantage here, because DC was our political capital, but economically, it was a backwater. (Until government became our main economic product, that is.)

Then after WWII the rest of the world decided it didn't just want spies in DC, but wanted them in our financial capital (New York City) as well, and so proposed "Hey let's put up new embassies in New York City and put up a... let's call it a United Nations of Espionage center, I mean a United Nations building, there, to justify all those new spies posing as diplomats."

And for some reason we said "Yes."

We really should put the UN (if we keep it at all) someplace like Detroit. Throw Detroit some foreign dollars, and keep the spies away from the unofficial US second capital.

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posted by Ace at 02:28 PM

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