On the Shoulders of Giants

Things rarely spring full blown into existence.  Even espionage.  Things that surprise us turn out, on inspection, to have roots that seemed unimportant at the time.  The media are now caught up in the drama of possible Russian espionage in high places.  But Ali Watkins at Politico notes that Russian espionage in the United States progressively grew after a decade of neglect.  “After neglecting the Russian threat for a decade, the U.S. was caught flat-footed by Moscow’s election operation. Now, officials are scrambling to figure out how to contain a sophisticated intelligence network that’s festered and strengthened at home after years’ worth of inattention.”


For years, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle pressed a hesitant Obama White House to crack down on some of the Kremlin’s more brazen stateside maneuvers.

“There was a general feeling that this was not getting the attention it deserved,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee who has supported the panel’s efforts in pressing the White House to tow a harder line with the Kremlin.

The public record is horrifying enough.  Many readers are probably familiar with the Edward Snowden fiasco, the loss of 250,000 diplomatic cables, the Office of Personnel Management hack which led to loss of 21.5 million personnel records and the embarrassing online sale of NSA tools by the Shadow Brokers.  As if that were not enough the liquidation of CIA’s China network between 2010 and 2012 was recently reported by the New York Times.

WASHINGTON — The Chinese government systematically dismantled C.I.A. spying operations in the country starting in 2010, killing or imprisoning more than a dozen sources over two years and crippling intelligence gathering there for years afterward.

Current and former American officials described the intelligence breach as one of the worst in decades. It set off a scramble in Washington’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies to contain the fallout, but investigators were bitterly divided over the cause. Some were convinced that a mole within the C.I.A. had betrayed the United States. Others believed that the Chinese had hacked the covert system the C.I.A. used to communicate with its foreign sources. Years later, that debate remains unresolved.


These intelligence disasters, like the brazen Russian spying reported by Politico, share one common characteristic: they took place in the BT era.  Before Trump. While concerns about security in the current administration may be well founded — how could they not be given the record of widespread penetration? — the current compromises must stand, to paraphrase Newton, on the shoulders of giant breaches.  They are the cherry atop a towering sundae that goes down God knows how far.

The investigations by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian influence though wide, can realistically never be wide enough to address the breaches of the last decade. Digging that up is a gargantuan undertaking.  But something wicked has crept into the woodwork and merely refocusing national intelligence efforts on Climate Change will not fix things. Yet hunting moles is an extraordinarily difficult and traumatic process.  It is so painful that to avoid trouble the political system sometimes just lives with it, like a man who never has a bullet dug out.

The Smithsonian Magazine noting many unsolved cases in decades past observes that “in the history of U.S. intelligence, only three major moles—men whose betrayals had lethal results—have been identified.”  Just three.  The rest is bad luck.

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Support the Belmont Club by purchasing from Amazon through the links below.


The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam, This book by Douglas Murray is not only an analysis of demographic and political realities, but also an eyewitness account of a continent in self-destruct mode. Declining birth-rates, mass immigration and cultivated self-distrust and self-hatred have come together to make Europeans unable to argue for themselves and incapable of resisting their own comprehensive change as a society. Murray includes reporting from across the entire continent, from the places where migrants land to the places they end up, from the people who appear to welcome them in to the places which cannot accept them.


Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders, by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton. Every page shows how strange and marvelous the world really is. With compelling descriptions, hundreds of photographs, charts, and maps for every region of the world. Tagged as addictive by readers.

The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy – What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny, by William Strauss and Neil Howe. First came the postwar High, then the Awakening of the ’60s and ’70s, and now the Unraveling. In this book, published in 1997, Strauss and Howe apply their generational theories to the cycles of history and locate America on the brink of a crisis. Are you ready for the Fourth Turning?

For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.

Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.
The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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