‘Why are covert CIA agents operating in allied EU countries?’

Annie Machon
Annie Machon is a former intel­li­gence officer for MI5, the UK Secur­ity Ser­vice, who resigned in the late 1990s to blow the whistle on the spies’ incom­pet­ence and crimes with her ex-partner, David Shayler. Draw­ing on her var­ied exper­i­ences, she is now a pub­lic speaker, writer, media pun­dit, inter­na­tional tour and event organ­iser, polit­ical cam­paigner, and PR con­sult­ant. She has a rare per­spect­ive both on the inner work­ings of gov­ern­ments, intel­li­gence agen­cies and the media, as well as the wider implic­a­tions for the need for increased open­ness and account­ab­il­ity in both pub­lic and private sectors.
‘Why are covert CIA agents operating in allied EU countries?’
After a CIA memo explaining how to get through tighter EU border security checks was leaked to WikiLeaks, the question arose why are there covert agents in the countries the US is meant to share intelligence with, former MI5 agent Annie Machon told RT.

RT:You might have heard what we were talking about there. Some of the CIA tips, are they similar to what MI5 tells its agents?

Annie Machon: They are similar to what you can read from any similar spy pot-boiler, actually. I think my first point on this would be, it’s good to see that WikiLeaks is back doing what it does best, which is providing a secure platform for leakers who are concerned about what’s going on in intelligence agencies to get the information out.

But also I find it rather ironic reading this document when the US has been setting the standard for raising barriers for anyone trying to get into the US, so they of all people know quite how difficult it can be to get into their own country and what they’re advising in this CIS document is quite low grade and fairly logical if you think about it.

RT:It’s quite fascinating as well to get an insight into what they’re told. Just put it into perspective first. Say, an agent is out in the field gets uncovered and gets taken in, what’s next? What happens then?

AM: I think we need to clarify what you mean by agent, because what this document is talking about is intelligence officers apparently officially working for the CIA who then adopt a false identity to travel and carry out covert operations in apparently the EU, allied countries. So these people tend to be very protected and they will be given good official proper false identity documents, there’s no doubt about it. So why they would be concerned about the security checks and things, unless they are employing people who really just can’t bluff their way through the most basic security, I don’t know.

So we have a situation - this document is dated 2011 - we have a situation where it appears that even though the torture program had been finished in 2009, even though apparently the black sites across Europe would have been closed by 2009, we have covert rather than declared CIA intelligence officers roaming free across Europe. Now the question, I think, here is actually why? What is the CIA trying to do secretly when it could be working openly with its allies across Europe?

RT:The list of tips is long - I was just having a look through them - but what are the tools the spy agencies like the CIA have up their sleeve?

AM: They have plenty of tricks, the same sort of tricks that most hacktivists would use now as well, which is using secure communication, making sure that when you travel through airports knowing you could have your electronic devices taken off you and forensically tested, that you make sure they are clean, that there is nothing on there that is suspicious. So that’s one basic thing, if you have official documentation to take you through that shouldn’t be an issue any way. But even down to the basic things, like I think it was mentioned in the document issues like pocket litter, or little bits that might have other indications that you are not who you say are. I think that’s very basic and, like, are the sort of little tricks that can often trip people up.

RT:Annie, you are saying some of the information is basic. We know that the EU is of course aware of this leak, but can they use the information to possibly improve border security?

AM: Well the question is ‘Why should they have to?’ because they are allied to America and they are working very closely in tandem with America, particularly around the NATO issues, around the [sic] Ukraine and things like that. So most CIA intelligence officers would work overtly, they would be declared to their allies and they would work from the embassies as all the intelligence officers do abroad. So obviously the CIA is trying to implement covert, undeclared agents in their allies-countries – that’s just the key question I think here: ‘So what are they up to?’ We can but speculate.

Perhaps there might be new black sites for the rendition of prisoners. Perhaps they might be trying to infiltrate corporations as we’ve seen with GCHQ and the NSA with the operation Center Eagle. We just don’t know, but I think there are some serious questions to be asked here about exactly what undeclared, covert CIA officers are trying to do when they infiltrate the EU countries.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.