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Intelligence Tradecraft 101

Tool Box Has Seen Better Days. (Photo: Stitch on flickr)

Tool Box Has Seen Better Days. (Photo: Stitch on flickr)

I haven’t been on here in a bit, but I felt it was important to add a few insights into the recent news regarding the breaking “terror plot foil” that is streaming across newsrooms and tv sets this day.

The story is about an American citizen of Iranian descent who was caught by the FBI in attempting to pull off a terror plot on behalf of the Iranian government.  So the official line goes.

The authorities say that the man had 1.5 million dollars in cold hard cash to pay the Mexican Drug Cartel, the Zetas, to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States in Washington D.C. and that he knows all this and he knows that the Iranian Government hired him because the person who gave him the 1.5 million dollars told him as much.  And it turns out that the Zeta contact man he gave the money to was all along a DEA/FBI informant.

Being here in Texas, I heard some local news about this guy.  He is a Texas resident.  He lived in Corpus Christi, Dallas, and Round Rock.  His business was in wholesale car deals, and he owned a minute mart.  They interviewed a civil attorney he hired in Corpus about 10 years ago and some of his old neighbors.  Nobody pegged him for being the type.  He had some outstanding arrest warrants already for petty theft, fraud, and evasion of arrest.  He had some traffic tickets he didn’t pay, etc.

Okay, lets process this.

1.  Intelligence Agencies have handlers who handle assets.  Rule 1 – the handler never tells the asset who they really are, who they really work for, and what their missions really are about.  CIA, Mossad, MI6, FSB, etc, never never never tell their civilian assets who the hell they really are.  Nobody ever says, “Hey, I am CIA and I need you to infiltrate the Chinese embassy on your next business trip.  Make sure to poison Mr. X and grab a certain document for me.  And oh, here’s 1.5 million dollars.  I hope you can pull it off.  And my real name is John Smith!”

2. If the Chinese government captured that civilian asset, the CIA would have made sure that at least 3 operatives killed the asset before he could talk. Simple.  No intelligence agency hands over 1.5 million dollars to civilian assets and tells the asset the exact nature of the operation and leaves the asset untended and unguarded.

3.  The Zetas send about 100 assassins to locate 1 informant every day. They hunt down informants.  Kill them.  And make examples of them.  For this buffoon to have stumbled onto an informant BY ACCIDENT is the kind of luck the Zetas could only have wished for.

4. The Iranian Government already likely does business in money laundering and arms trafficking with the Zetas and a dozen other cartels.  On a regular basis.  Their people talk to their people.  They have unknown contacts that the CIA and the FBI would LOVE to crack open.  So, why the hell would the Iranian Intelligence apparatus hire a civilian to make contact with the Zetas for them?

5.  If they wanted to kill the Saudi Ambassador, don’t you think they could have found a location a little less security-intensive than on American soil in Washington, D.C?!?  I mean, Saudi Arabia is across the gulf from Iran.  They could have found 100 other ways to kill the guy than to pick the HARDEST target in the world, with the TIGHTEST security in the world.  Any other capital city in any other country.  And if they were intending to use the USA as a target, then don’t you think they would have put a little bit more effort into secrecy of their mission than to hire THIS guy?

6.  This guy had outstanding arrest warrants.   Intelligence Agencies don’t hire convicted felons and wanted fugitives to pull of these kinds of “outsourced” operations and then give them the details of the operation so that the authorities will be able to back track it.

7. If the Intelligence Officer who approached this guy really had his nation’s sanction to pass 1.5 Million Dollars in cold hard cash to the guy, don’t you think there would have been a little bit better oversight of that asset?   When the Cartels give money to their operatives, they put two goons on the shadow of that operative who then trail the guy for the rest of the time he possesses the cash.  If he tries to run with the money, he usually ends up dead 30 minutes later.  That fast.  Especially in TExas.  They don’t play.  Not with 1.5 Million Dollars.  And if he talks to somebody, they are calling in back up to trail that person.   So, the moment this guy talked to his “Zeta” Undercover informant, the Iranian Intelligence apparatus would have tailed that informant immediately.  They would have made sure the guy was legit.  OF course, since Iran already does business with the Zetas, this entire scenario would be ridiculous anyway.

8.  Finally, the Iranian Government would not have hired an IRanian-descent American to do this job.  Do you think that if China was going to run a mission against the US government, that a single Chinamen or American of Chinese descent would be anywhere within 10 layers of the intrigue or would have any connection to the plot?  No way. The Chinese intelligence officers would be running money from French and Spanish banks into South American business contacts.  They would hire a black or hispanic asset to run disinformation into different assets to throw everybody off and they would probably come up with an ethnically different hit man to do the final job.  And the Hit man would NEVER NEVER NEVER know who his real target was, why he was doing it, or who had really hired him. NEVER.

If the Iranian government wanted to do this, they would not have hired the Zetas to make a hit on a Washington, D.C. hotel.  That is outside the Zetas area of operation.  That is not what the Zetas do, and they would not have needed some ex-con buffoon to do it for them.  No intelligence agency would need this.

So, whoever gave this guy the money obviously LIED TO HIM for the purpose of making it LOOK LIKE Iran did it.  If I was a US officer interogating this guy right now, I would probably take the first 3 hours of what he said and call it garbage.  If a real intelligence agency was behind this, then the only thing I would care about is the physical features of the person who talked to him.  I would run the photo recognition system we have and I would try to figure out the REAL identity of the person who gave him the cash.   I would not believe his confession of who gave him the money.  Because any intelligence operative worthy of being employed by their home nation would have learned Tradecraft 101.  Never tell your assets your real name, your real mission, or your real employer.  Never.

If they wanted a hotel blown up, they would never tell the person with the trigger WHY it was being done.  They would simply say, “Here’s the cash, here’s the date, here’s the time.  Now do it.  For all you know, its my ex-wife and I want her dead.  That’s all.”  They would not trust the trigger man with any more information than that.  Too much risk.  They would do their OWN surveillance to determine when the target would be in the hotel, the time, and the date.

And in most cases, the only people involved in the mission would be badged-employees of the service itself.  Mossad and CIA and MI6 and FSB do not outsource this level of mission.  The hiring of civilian assets is for very low level work.  This Iranian American would never have been hired.  He is useless to the Iranian intelligence service in this nation. Why?

Because he is obviously of Iranian Descent!!!!  He is a sore thumb sticking out like a lightning rod!  Assets are hired from the local indigenous population.   They are used and selected by their handlers for the fact that they are easy to mix in. They don’t have criminal records.  They aren’t likely to attract the attention of law enforcement.  And they are never given large sums of cash to negotiate the outsourcing of a hit!!!

No, the only time civilian assets are hired is to be informants, information gatherers, and reliable on-the-ground backup of other forms of intelligence.  Like surveillance of structures, convoys, work schedules, local economic factors, etc.  They are there to verify the decoy vehicles from the legit ones.  They are used to infiltrate industrial infrastructure.  They are used to mask bank account transfers.  They are used in white collar operations more than anything.  They are used more by domestic counter-intelligence than by foreign intelligence services.  To protect the “homeland” of whatever country is hiring them.  The FBI is going to hire Iranian Americans for the purpose of infiltrating the Iranian population in the US.  The Iranian government doesn’t need to hire Iranian Americans.  They hire Iranian Iranians already!  They may use Iranian Americans for very limited purposes, but those assets are never going to know what their intel is being used for, and may not even know who is hiring them.  They are more likely to hire people who don’t look middle-eastern.  They are going to hire people who don’t look Muslim.  They are going to hire and use assets that can actually walk into the White House of Capitol Hill without being stopped on sight.

Think about it.  This entire “plot” makes little sense.  1.5 Million Dollars was not just handed to some ex-con buffoon who was too stupid to even realize he was dealing with a DEA informant!  If he couldn’t spot an informant on that end, then who is to believe he had any sense in spotting the true identity of the person who gave him the money in the first place?!  Whoever gave him that money probably also gave him the name of the informant so he would go there.  They wanted him to be caught.  Because if they didn’t want him caught, they would have killed him before the DEA or FBI had a chance to take him into custody.

It is hard to believe that the Iranian intelligence services are less competent than the Drug Cartels or La Cosa Nostra.  Seriously?  If the American Organize Crime families can shut up their assets so quickly, don’t you think a Nation-State’s intelligence apparatus would have figured this out by now?


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Attorney and Activist in Texas