The revelation that President Biden had stacks of classified documents stashed in his garage — alongside jugs of anti-freeze and piles of cleaning rags — comes as little surprise. For several years I have been working on a new book, “SpyFail,” that examines the collapse of the country’s counterintelligence and security operations. And by far, no administration has had a more disastrous record than those of Barack Obama and Biden. For years, insiders at the hyper-secret National Security Agency were able to walk out the door with more than half a billion pages of documents classified higher than top secret, some dealing with nuclear weapons and many of which ended up in Russia. And that was after the supposed crackdown following the million or so documents removed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, also on Obama and Biden’s watch.
Still another NSA insider was able to steal nearly all of the agency’s highly dangerous cyberweapons — the tech equivalent of loose nukes — and put them up for auction on the internet in 2016. Eventually, the weapons ended up in Russia and North Korea, where they were used to cause a worldwide cyber pandemic that shut down hospitals and medical facilities all over the world, including in the US, thus turning our own weapons against us.
It was the worst cyberattack in world history, yet the NSA didn’t have a clue as to how to stop it.
Instead, it was a young American on vacation in London who luckily discovered a temporary “kill switch.” And although the cyber thief left many clues, the counterintelligence agents have never come close to catching him. As a result, he continued to sell the NSA’s cyberweapons to whatever government or terrorist would pay for them.
And then there were the foreign moles under Obama/Biden. At the same time the FBI counterspies were hunting under every rock for non-existent Russian spies within the Donald Trump campaign, they completely missed two top foreign moles within Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Both were secretly working for the government of the United Arab Emirates with orders to insert themselves into Clinton’s inner-circle, collect intelligence, and pass on pro-UAE influence. And thanks to millions of dollars in dirty money passed to Clinton’s campaign, they were enormously successful. For a demand of $2 million dollars, Clinton even allowed the spies to host her and former President Bill Clinton at the private home of one of the spies, along with another party for her in Las Vegas. “Had a terrific meeting with my Big Sister H,” the spy wrote to his spymaster, using a code for Hillary. “You will be most delighted!”
What is astounding is that neither spy was detected by either the FBI counterspies or the Secret Service during the entire campaign, even though one was a serial pedophile with multiple arrests. The other spy was a professional swindler who would eventually be charged with bilking the public out of more than $100 million. It was only by accident, more than a year after the campaign, that the two were discovered. Although one was arrested, the other managed to flee the FBI and get asylum in Lithuania.
The key question is why Clinton herself was not investigated for conspiracy. It seems hard to believe that a former secretary of state didn’t know that the two odd characters were foreign agents. After all, for six months they constantly pumped millions and millions of dollars into her campaign coffers for endless questions, spin, and face time with her.
Around the same time that the US suffered the worst loss of classified documents in US history, the worst theft of cyber weapons in US history and the worst penetration of a presidential campaign in US history, it also suffered the worst corporate cyberattack in US history. North Korean intelligence secretly attacked Sony Pictures, stealing millions of confidential documents and unreleased films. Yet as the attack was secretly taking place, an oblivious James Clapper, America’s top spymaster, was having dinner in North Korea with the man conducting the operation, North Korea’s top spy master. It was only after tens of thousands of Sony computers around the world had been turned into useless bricks that the operation was finally discovered.
Not only is the FBI deficient in finding foreign spies, it can’t even keep them out of its own counterintelligence force. For nearly four decades, the bureau has been constantly infiltrated by high level Russian and Chinese moles, resulting in the tragic death and imprisonment of scores of cooperative clandestine agents in both “hard target” countries. From 1979 to 2001, FBI Counterintelligence Supervisory Agent Robert Hanssen was a highly paid Russian agent, sending bag-loads of secrets to Moscow. He was finally arrested in February 2001. Less than a month later, Chinese intelligence allegedly recruited a former CIA officer, Alexander Ma, who applied to work for the FBI and became a highly paid mole for China. Assigned to the Bureau’s Counterintelligence Division in Hawaii, a critical office focused on China, Ma would simply fly to Shanghai every few months with a briefcase packed full of FBI and CIA secrets. Many identified key US agents, yet it wasn’t until 2020 that Ma was finally arrested. He is currently awaiting trial.
In addition to missing dangerous spies, moles, cyber thieves and saboteurs, the Obama administration was even unwitting when four former agents went to work for a political party planning a violent Russian-backed coup in a friendly European country about to join NATO. In 2016, a former CIA officer and three former FBI agents were hired by Montenegro’s “Democratic Front” which was conspiring with Russia’s GRU spy agency to overthrow the Montenegrin government. The American agents were to act as the front’s “exfiltration team” in case the coup went sideways, which it did. Afterward, the agents returned to the US, where the entire matter was brushed under the rug with no embarrassing investigations, arrests, or Congressional hearings.
A key reason for the dangerous and damaging security breaches is the total lack of accountability within the FBI and intelligence community. After NSA Director Mike Rogers, a 3-star admiral, lost hundreds of millions of top secret documents and most of the agency’s cyberweapons, he paid no price, keeping his stars, job and salary intact.
The same was true of former NSA Director Michael Hayden, who after completely missing the 9/11 terrorist attacks also managed to get the war in Iraq completely wrong by declaring that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Rather than getting the boot, he instead got promoted to deputy head of the Office of Director of National Intelligence.
Nor were any FBI directors fired for allowing the bureau to be infiltrated by Russian and Chinese spies for more than four decades. Such disasters would never be tolerated in most of the corporate world. And until there’s accountability, there will likely be more spies, moles and saboteurs.
James Bamford is the bestselling author of The Puzzle Palace, Body of Secrets and other books on intelligence. His latest is SpyFail: Spies, Moles, Saboteurs and the Collapse of America’s Counterintelligence.
Comments are closed.