Author: mrkoot

New brochure on espionage from the Dutch General Intelligence & Security Service (AIVD) – unofficial English translation

Note: this post is only of interest to those not already (self-)informed about the basics of intelligence and espionage and those who in general take an interest in what the AIVD communicates to the public.

On 26 May 2020, the Dutch General Intelligence & Security Service (AIVD) released a new brochure (.pdf, in Dutch) to inform the general Dutch public about threat of espionage. The post below is an unofficial English translation of that brochure (a manually corrected version of an automated translation by The AIVD will likely release an English translation itself; when it is released, I will add a link to it here.

Parts in [] brackets were added by me.

Espionage – How do you recognize it and what can you do about it?

Espionage is of all times and poses a major threat to the Netherlands. At the same time, espionage is almost invisible and few people are aware of its dangers. All kinds of foreign countries are spying in the Netherlands. Not only via digital means, but also in the classic way: humans. Why does espionage happen and why is it harmful? How do you recognize it and what can you do about it?

What is espionage?

Passing on knowledge about Dutch foreign policy, copying and, for a fee, handing over documents from the European Commission, or hacking into a high-tech company to steal business secrets. They’re all examples of espionage. But what is espionage? Espionage is the surreptitious gathering of intelligence (information) or objects (e.g. products or machines). It may involve sensitive (personal) information, technology or state secrets, for example.

The Netherlands is an attractive target for espionage. Our country is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU) and has interesting information at its disposal. We are also host to numerous international organizations such as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the International Criminal Court (ICC). Dutch universities and the private sector also have a great deal of knowledge and high-quality technology at their disposal. The task of the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) is to identify and help end espionage and to raise awareness of it.

Who is spying and why?

All kinds of foreign countries are spying within and against the Netherlands in order to obtain information or objects from which they can benefit. There are various reasons to spy. A foreign country can, for example, keep an eye on its emigrated countrymen abroad to check whether they pose a threat to the foreign country’s regime. Or they can map out the political situation and the decision-making process in the Netherlands in order to influence it. They can also steal economic knowledge to advance their own economy.

Some countries spy on a large scale and have professional intelligence services at their disposal that carry out this work to the best of their ability. The AIVD investigates these countries. Which foreign countries pose the greatest threat depends very much on the (inter)national situation. Relations between countries can change rapidly, leading to new players appearing on the espionage scene.

How are they spying?

Foreign intelligence services spy in various ways. Nowadays a lot of spying is done digitally: intelligence services hack into computers to steal information without being seen. Ministries, research centers and companies in the high-tech, chemical and energy sectors are frequently attacked digitally.

Espionage is also still done in the traditional way, by approaching people to gain access to information through them. Employees of intelligence services look for interesting interlocutors (sources) such as civil servants, scientists, top officials and journalists. Supporting personnel can also be interesting to intelligence services, because they can also have access to confidential information.

Why is espionage harmful?

Espionage takes place out of sight from society. For many people it is hard to imagine that espionage is harmful to national security, but this surreptitious way of gathering information can have a major impact. If, for example, another country gains access to secret information, that country can use the information to influence decision-making or take other measures. Countries can use information about their own population abroad to intimidate or even eliminate opponents.

Espionage can also cause economic damage. As soon as other countries have access to confidential business information, it has an impact on the financial position of those companies. If blueprints and unique equipment are copied, the country that is spying no longer has to pay the (often high) R&D costs itself. This can result in the Dutch company selling fewer products or being unable to compete with the foreign company. Scientific projects whose results and methods are secretly copied for use in another country may result in the financing no longer being profitable. There is also a risk that knowledge about atomic technology will fall into the wrong hands. It is therefore important that confidential information or technology cannot simply be diverted to other countries.

How do you recognize espionage?

Espionage is largely human work. Let’s say you have interesting information, and you stand out to a foreign intelligence service because of it. They then try to get in touch with you through one of their employees. That person will try to establish a relationship of trust with you. For example, he or she poses as a diplomat, journalist or entrepreneur in order to get in touch with you in a natural way [i.e., inconspicuous]. However, you may notice certain signs indicating that you are dealing with an employee of a foreign intelligence service.

Intelligence services often carry out extensive preparatory investigations into people who may be of interest to them. On the Internet, for example, they look for people who have access to sensitive files. They also look for information about a person’s private life, such as hobbies or membership of a sports club, to get to know someone better. This information is used to get in touch with you ‘spontaneously’.

Was the first contact successful? Then more meetings often follow. You will be taken out to dinner, receive gifts and may think you are building a friendship. Appointments mainly take place outside, and the foreign intelligence employee appears to be extremely interested in your private affairs. But all this time he or she has only one goal: get you to spy. Eventually, the intelligence officer will ask you to provide information for a fee. In the beginning this may be trivial information, a test to see how far you are prepared to go, but later on it will also include sensitive documents to which you have access.

What can you do against espionage?

It already helps to be aware of the fact that espionage exists. If you get a strange feeling during a contact, it is always wise to exercise restraint and report this to your employer’s security department. By recognizing signals, you can be ahead of espionage. Do you suspect espionage by a foreign intelligence service? Then report this to your employer and the AIVD:

Be aware of the potential value of information about your work and network. Information you can easily access, such as innocent-looking files or working conditions [note: it’s unclear what the AIVD is referring to with the Dutch word “werkomstandigheden” – perhaps salary information, corporate structure, culture, and/or internal policies], can be of interest to an intelligence service. An intelligence service may also be interested in your relationship with important people.

Find a good balance in what you share online about yourself and your work. For example, do not mention on LinkedIn or Facebook that you’re working on sensitive files. Be aware of what you share and especially with whom.

Protect your equipment. Intelligence services may be interested in the information on your phone or laptop. Be alert to phishing mails, make use of security software and keep software up to date. During business trips it is wise to keep equipment that contains valuable information with you and not to check it in as luggage. Also read the AIVD publication ‘On a trip abroad – Security risks en route‘.

Getting in contact with someone from another country does of course not automatically mean you are dealing with an intelligence service.

However, it is good to be aware of the nature of the relationship. Make sure you do not become dependent on the other person and be aware of the underlying intentions of your contacts.

Want to know more?
Would you like to know more about espionage and the role of the AIVD? Then go to

This brochure is a publication of:

The General Intelligence and Security Service
P.O. Box20010|2500ea The Hague
May 2020

Dutch Council of Ministers approves establishment of committee to evaluate the Dutch Intelligence and Security Services Act of 2017 (Wiv2017)

On 9 April 2020 the Dutch government announced (in Dutch) that the Council of Ministers approved the establishment of an independent committee to evaluate the Intelligence and Security Services Act of 2017 (“Wiv2017”). In the legislative process that followed the draft bill — back then referred to as “Wiv20xx” — released in 2015, the House of Representatives and the Senate had requested the government to add an evaluation clause to the law, which the government accepted and was subsequently included in the Coalition Agreement 2017-2021 (.pdf; coalition partners being VVD, CDA, D66 & CU).

The announcement states that the committee’s task is broad: it evaluates the entire law. Based on prior official documents it can be expected that the committee will also explicitly examine, from a legal perspective, the way of working of the new ex ante oversight committee introduced by the Wiv2017, the “Toetsingscommissie Inzet Bevoegdheden” aka TIB. According to the coalition agreement, specific attention will also be paid to whether “arbitrary mass collection of data of citizens in the Netherlands or abroad” is (not) taking place. Be reminded that the Wiv2017 introduced so-called “OOG interception”, which for the first time ever in the Netherlands laid down explicit legal provisions for bulk-like interception of communications on non-ether links, e.g. optic-fiber & copper cables. Prior to the Wiv2017, legal provisions only existed for bulk interception of ether links, e.g. HF radio & satcom. Also, the prohibition of so-called “sigint search” on domestic-domestic communication was removed per the Wiv2017 (“sigint search” is that phase that precedes “sigint select”. “Sigint search” is, roughly speaking, browsing/searching network links that can be intercepted to identify channels/links/places of possible interest to the legal tasks of the intelligence services. Data can be intercepted in bulk from there for subsequent querying in the “sigint select” phase to obtain communication matching specific persons, organizations and/or keywords as part of an ongoing investigation). Depending on outcome of the evaluation it is possible that changes will be proposed to the current law, for instance the addition of new legal safeguards and improvements to the oversight mechanisms.

The remainder of this post consists of an (unofficial) translation of the announcement that the government released yesterday.

Evaluation Committee for the Intelligence and Security Services Act

News release | 09-04-2020 | 14:45

The Council of Ministers has approved the establishment of an independent committee to evaluate the Intelligence and Security Services Act of 2017. This implements the decision, laid down in the coalition agreement, to evaluate the Act no later than two years after its entry into force on 1 May 2018.

The evaluation committee is chaired by Mrs R.V.M. (Renee) Jones-Bos and will start its work as of 1 May 2020 insofar the measures to combat the Coronavirus allow. In addition to the chairperson, six other members will be appointed. Their appointment will take place as soon as the AIVD has concluded their security screening procedure with positive results. The composition of the committee will take into account the knowledge and expertise required for the evaluation in the areas of legislation, operational knowledge of the work of intelligence and security services, digital security and data analysis, human rights and privacy.

The committee is charged with evaluating the law itself, not with evaluating the proper functioning of the services. The evaluation has a broad scope. An important research question is whether the objectives of the law, i.e., modernisation of the powers of the intelligence services and strengthening of the safeguards, are being achieved. The committee must also examine whether the new law has proved to be a workable instrument in practice for the performance of the services’ tasks and what bottlenecks and points for attention exist in the application of the law.

The committee will release its findings in a public evaluation report. The date of delivery of the report will be determined after consultation with the chairperson and will depend on the impact that the Corona measures have on the progress of the committee’s work. For the time being, publication is expected before the end of this year.

Outlines of priorities and focus for the Dutch General & Military Intelligence and Security Service in 2020 (AIVD & MIVD)

On 19 December 2019, the Dutch government sent the outlines of the 2020 year plan (in Dutch) of the General Intelligence & Security Service (AIVD) — here — and the Military Intelligence & Security Service (MIVD) — here — to the parliament. In Dutch it is referred to as “Jaarplanbrief”, which literally translates to “Year Plan Letter”.

The remainder of this post consists of a translation of the section “Priorities and focus” in both letters, ±1000 words in total.

AIVD Priorities and focus 2020

Jihadist terrorism

The jihadist-terrorist threat picture is generally unchanged and is an important priority for the AIVD. The situation is still characterised by a threat of attacks in the West emanating from both globally active jihadist organisations and local networks and individuals. Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and al-Qaeda (AQ) have been the main exogenous jihadist threats for some time. Both organisations are still focused on carrying out attacks in the West. In addition, ISIS and AQ encourage their jihadist supporters in the West to carry out attacks independently.

The threat picture is also determined by returnees. In general, returnees have a higher threat profile than jihadists who have never travelled to a combat zone). Among the men in particular there is evidence of combat and explosion training, combat experience, tenacity and transnational jihadist contacts. When they return they can use these experiences and contacts to strengthen and/or mobilise local networks into violent action. The AIVD continues to deploy a substantial part of the available resources and capabilities to investigate terrorist threats by maintaining its intelligence positions at the desired level. In this context, the (inter)national cooperation with partner organisations, including the Counter Terrorism Group (CTG), is also being shaped.


Radicalisation of various population groups In the Netherlands, the AIVD is concerned about and prompted to intensify its investigations into this issue. In its investigations into radicalisation from an Islamic perspective, the AIVD focuses on non-violent radical Islam in the Netherlands in general. Extra focus is placed on the drivers of non-violent radical Islam. The AIVD also investigates Salafist institutions in the Netherlands. The focus here is on the funding itself and its influence and interference.


The research efforts in the field of extremism will be continued. The focus of research remains on the, sometimes violent, hard core of left-wing and right-wing extremists.

Anti-Islam feelings, fear of loss of national identity and ethnonationalism are the most important motives within the current right-wing extremist movement. An increasingly violent discourse is visible among right-wing extremists on social media in particular. In addition, right-wing terrorist attacks abroad can lead to copying behaviour. This broadens the AIVD’s field of attention from a right-wing extremist to (potentially) a right-wing terrorist threat. Clarification of the potential threat is essential if we are to offer our chain partners and authorities the prospect of action at national and local level.

Left-wing extremism in the Netherlands is characterised by individual or group activities in areas such as anti-fascism, asylum and immigration policy and anarchism. Dutch left-wing extremists/activists are often active on several themes.


Weapons of mass destruction pose a major threat to international peace and security. The Netherlands has signed treaties aimed at countering the proliferation of such weapons. The AIVD and the MIVD jointly investigate countries suspected of developing or already possessing weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery in violation of these treaties.

Investigations on countries

The AIVD conducts investigations in other countries in order to provide the Dutch government with background information and prospects for action. This information can be used in consultations on subjects affecting Dutch national and international political interests. Geo-political and other developments around the world determine which countries are investigated by the AIVD.

Espionage and undesirable foreign interference

States often use digital means to gain access to vital parts of Dutch society, such as the energy or telecom sector, in order to be able to commit sabotage in this way. Russia, China and Iran, among others, show excessive interest in information from the Netherlands and companies operating in the Netherlands. All these activities can damage Dutch national security, sovereignty and economic interests. In 2020 the AIVD will expand its investigative capabilities against the use of digital resources by other countries.

In addition to the deployment of digital means of spying, in 2020 foreign powers will also continue to carry out traditional intelligence activities in the Netherlands or against Dutch interests. The main objective of espionage activities is the gathering of (secret) information in the fields of politics, defence, science and economics. In addition, they develop activities to surreptitiously influence political and economic decision-making or public opinion.

Information security

High-quality digital attacks, by Russia, China and Iran among others, aimed at espionage, influence, sabotage or terrorism pose a major and increasing threat to the integrity and confidentiality of the Dutch government. The AIVD provides (external) stakeholders with information security advice. This is done by the National Communications Security Agency (NBV), which also develops and evaluates security products for securing state secret and sensitive information.

Unprecedented threat

The AIVD’s investigations are aimed not only at providing an insight into all aspects of existing, already known threats, but also at the timely identification and identification of as yet unknown threats, both within and outside the GAI&V.

MIVD Priorities and focus 2020

Investigations on countries and mission areas

In 2020, the MIVD will conduct research into Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, among other things. It also supports the deployment of Dutch military personnel in the context of enhanced forward presence (eFP). Together with the AIVD, the MIVD also investigates developments in the Kingdom’s overseas territories.


The MIVD and the AIVD jointly investigate countries suspected of developing or already possessing weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery in violation of treaties. This investigation will be continued in 2020.

Military technological developments and proliferation

The MIVD also conducts research into military technological developments and the proliferation of high-grade military technology and weapon systems to crisis areas, so that the Dutch armed forces can be properly equipped against existing and future threats. This research will also be continued in 2020.

Espionage and influence

Espionage, influence and sabotage are a constant threat to the Netherlands and its allies. States with great geopolitical ambitions are looking for information to modernise their armed forces, strengthen their economies or influence political decision-making. This can be classic espionage, digital espionage or a combination of both. Hacking offers opportunities for sabotage and influencing political and administrative decision-making or public opinion. By means of takeovers or investments, states also try to obtain information or create strategic dependencies. The MIVD investigates these themes from a military perspective. In 2020, the MIVD will increase its commitment to these themes.

Radicalisation and extremism

Research into possible forms of radicalisation among defence personnel will be continued in 2020. The aim of this research is to identify undesirable behaviour in good time. The MIVD advises on the measures to be taken to identify and deal with these threats. Promoting awareness and understanding requires permanent attention.

20 December: Russian state security officers’ annual professional holiday (since 1995)

In April 1995, KGB-successor FSB was born under president Boris Yeltsin. In a presidential decree that Yeltsin issued that same year, 20 December aka Chekist Day was appointed as annual professional holiday for Russian state security officers.

The choice for that date can be traced back to 20 December 1917: the day Cheka agency was born, “the first of a succession of Soviet secret-police organizations”. The UK government has a short piece on it: What’s the Context? 20 December 1917: formation of the Cheka, the first Soviet security and intelligence agency. Also, on 20 December 1920, the Cheka’s Foreign Department was born — a predecessor of the KGB’s First Chief Directorate.

From a layman’s perspective I’m curious what meaning that day holds to present-day officers, considering that the date also bears an association with historical political persecutions by Cheka. I have no answer that question; but did find a relevant interview with FSB director Nikolai Patrushev that was published in daily tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda on 20 December 2000 (a few months after Vladimir Putin was elected).

The remainder of this post consists of an automated translation (using DeepL) of that interview; some 2800 words. The translation is legible, but beware non-obvious inaccuracies. That being said, I found it worth taking note of.


Nikolai Patrushev

“Komsomolskaya Pravda”, December 20, 2000.


  • Mykola Platonovych, you always emphasize that the FSB is a new domestic intelligence service. And at the same time, the Day of Chekist is celebrated on December 20 – on this day in 1917 the Chekist Committee was created. Is there no contradiction here, which gives the ill-wishers an excuse to claim that “the spirit of nostalgia for the former omnipotence of the Soviet intelligence services is hovering on Lubyanka”?
  • We’re not sneaking around, calling the FSB a new security service. It was created in April 1995 on the basis of the Federal Counterintelligence Service. That year, laws were adopted that opened a new stage in the development of domestic security agencies – “On Bodies of the Federal Security Service” and “On the Operational and Search Activities”. For the first time in the history of the country, including the Tsarist period, the legislator regulated the activities (including tacit) of intelligence services, outlined the tasks and functions of the FSB, defined its rights and powers, prescribed mechanisms of state and public control over its activities. This is a qualitative difference from those times when the activities of state security agencies were dominated by the principle of partyhood, i.e. the supremacy of interests of the ruling party (or, more precisely, its top). Loyalty to the law, not to anybody, work only in the legal field – a guarantee of not repeating the tragic pages of the past. This is a sensible position of today’s generation of Lubyanka employees.

We have not given up our past, honestly said: “The history of Lubyanka of the passing century is our history, no matter how bitter and tragic it may be”. Everything in it that works for the benefit of Russian statehood, serves the interests of development and prosperity of Russia, its national security, should be preserved and multiplied.

It was December 20 that was unofficially celebrated for many decades as “the day of the Chekist” in the teams of state security officers. The decree on this, signed exactly five years ago, demonstrated demand for and social significance of the work of security service employees. And the departmental sign of the FSB combines the two-headed eagle of Tsarist Russia and “shield and sword” – a traditional symbol of the Soviet era security services.

  • What toast, by tradition, will be the first in the circle of counterintelligence on the day of professional holiday?
  • You must be impressed by movies like “National Security Agent” and think that the whole FSB will be “buzzing” in the morning. No, of course not. The units will hold personnel meetings, hand out certificates and departmental insignia, congratulate the veterans, visit the families of the victims. And when we gather at the festive tables in the evening, we will definitely wish good luck to our colleagues who are currently on a mission: in Chechnya, at checkpoints, in operations – to get out of the fight alive. And a third toast to those who haven’t returned – that stack will be very bitter… After all, the FSB is a fighting organization. We honor the memory of our fallen comrades, constantly taking care of their families, helping widows to solve domestic problems, raising children. This is one side of our corporate brotherhood, our best traditions.


  • What tasks were a priority for your department in the past year?
  • First of all, it’s the fight against terrorism. We should not have allowed a repetition of the terrible tragedies of “black September” last year, when 305 people died. I would like to note at once that in 2000 law enforcement agencies prevented another 13 explosions of powerful explosive devices, including six in Moscow, five in Pyatigorsk, one each in Buynaksk and Vladikavkaz.

Investigations into the September bombings of residential buildings clearly showed that the traces of the crime were in Chechnya, which during the years of the Dudayev and Maskhadov regimes became a springboard for the forces of international terrorism. It would have been impossible to protect the population of Chechnya from terror without defeating the militant groups, depriving them of their training bases and resources, and freeing the republic from the criminal and terrorist clique that had seized it.

Modern terrorism is a complex social and political phenomenon, and Chechnya is only one of the nodal points on its map. The ability of our people to defend themselves is being tested there. If we break down, leave the Caucasus, the process of irreversible collapse of the country will begin. The state will expressed in 1999 – for the first time in recent years – is the guarantee that this will not happen.

  • “Komsomolka” has repeatedly written about the threat of pseudo-Islamic Muslim extremism. Does the FSB share this concern?
  • To the fullest extent, and you are right to raise this issue. The threat is really great, but you can only fight it in the legal field. For example, Wahhabism is prohibited by law in the Republic of Dagestan.
  • According to your estimates, in what condition are the leaders of Chechen fighters currently in? Have the military, border guards, the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service managed to seriously impede the inflow of mercenaries into gangs, limit the flow of money and arms of the terrorist?
  • One of the tasks is to uncover and cut off the channels of resource supply for the militants. But we are also responsible for investigation and prevention of terrorist attacks, search for the leaders of the separatists, participants in the attacks on Budennovsk, Kizlyar and Pervomaiskoye and armed invasion of the Republic of Dagestan. Recently our officers detained former chief of the so-called “special service of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria” Atgeriev. Work on the leaders of the militants continues…

I will highlight the problem of mercenarism in particular. Recently FSB officers detained in Chechnya a native of Iraq, Abd al-Aziz Mohammed Abd al-Wahhab. This adherent of “Wahhabism ideas” not only took part in illegal armed formation, conducted ideological processing of its members, but also kidnapped, tortured and raped 4 women, turning them into slaves.

In the passing year illegal activities of foreign security services in the North Caucasus that were carried out under the cover of international organization Khalo-Trust were revealed. Its activists assisted Chechen militants in training local subversives.

The separatists continue their attempts to stir up tension in the neighbouring Russian regions of Chechnya – Ingushetia, Dagestan, Karachay-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria. There is information about attempts by extremist leaders to establish militant bases here and to involve certain ethnic groups and supporters of various Islamic currents in armed conflict with federal forces. Therefore, there will be a long and difficult struggle to preserve the territorial integrity of the country, interfaith harmony and peace and tranquillity of our multi-ethnic people. I am talking about this directly, without hiding anything in front of the million audience of Komsomolka.


  • Coming to the higher echelons of power of people who started their way in special services, generates different conversations – up to categorical statements about “threat to democracy”…
  • This thesis, willingly picked up in some media, is, in my opinion, an attempt to “demonize” the former employees of SVR and FSB who came into power. The aim is understandable – to create an image of some “dark force” defending not the national, but its own narrowly corporate interests, and thus to weaken the resource of people’s trust in the new leadership of the country. The appearance of people in the Old Square, in the Kremlin and in the regions who have completed the school of leadership in the national security structures is a vital necessity to pour “fresh blood” into the Russian management corps, an aspiration to use the potential of responsible and organized people who have preserved, despite everything, the “spirit of public service. I know many of them well. They are modern thinkers, educated people. They are not unwilling idealists, but tough pragmatists who understand the logic of international and domestic political developments, emerging contradictions and threats. At the same time, they understand well the impossibility of returning to the old, the need to develop the country based on a reasonable combination of liberal and traditional values.


  • What other priority lines of work did the FSB have in the past year?
  • These are the fight against the intelligence and subversive activities of foreign intelligence services, work to identify and prevent threats to economic security, fight corruption, illegal export of goods, smuggling of drugs and weapons, cultural values.
  • Can we elaborate on the fight against espionage?
  • Special services of foreign states have made significant efforts to expand operational positions in Russia. One of the main goals was to identify the true plans of the new government of Russia on both domestic and foreign policy issues. The activities of foreign intelligence services in the Russian direction are now more coordinated than ever. Intelligence of the leading NATO countries today is “welcome guests” in most European countries that were formerly part of the Warsaw Pact, as well as in the Baltic States. However, the main danger is that Western intelligence, through its residences, conducts its own intelligence from the territories of these states, including operations of communication with Russian citizens’ agents. Thus, this year counterintelligence arrested a British and Estonian intelligence agent. In the recent past, he was a senior officer of one of the Russian security services and used his connections among the security services, political and business circles to gather information.

The FSB bodies were aimed at protecting our scientific and technical potential, unique breakthrough technologies and developments, without which the country’s revival is impossible. Here too, the case of Edmond Pope, a former career U.S. Naval Intelligence Officer, is landmark. In the muddy waters, foreign intelligence businessmen were very comfortable. For a penny, it was possible to acquire know-how that had been created by thousands of people. In the Pope case, Russia showed that time was running out. The country’s leadership let the international community know that it was defending its national interests strictly and fundamentally. And the president’s decision to pardon Pope, the very time of its adoption, is a demonstration of good will.

In October 1999, Sutyagin, an employee of the US and Canadian Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, was detained. The investigation revealed the facts of spying activities of his connection – an American citizen Joshua Handler, a specialist in nuclear safety, who is now in the United States. It has been preliminary established that Handler received from Sutyagin secret information about the Russian Armed Forces and passed it on to U.S. intelligence agencies. Unfortunately, some journalists, unaware of this, show Sutyagin in their publications as “an honest and courageous citizen who advocates democratic freedoms.


  • What does the FSB keep smart people who, as far as we know, work for a modest salary?
  • I do not want to say high words, but our best employees, the honor and pride of the FSB, do not work for money. When I have to hand out government awards to our guys, I look at their faces. High intellectuals-analysts, broad-shouldered weathered Special Forces fighters, silent bomb technicians, strict investigators, discreet opera scouts… Outwardly, they are different, but there is one important quality that unites them – these are serving people, if you like, modern “neophytes”. On the obelisk to an FSB officer, Hero of Russia, who died in the Caucasus, there are lines, it seems to me, accurately conveying the moral “core” of our people: “Service to the Fatherland, friendship to comrades, heart to loved ones, honor to no one. Service gives a sense of involvement in a great state affair, the excitement of struggle, when you defeat an opponent better equipped and “paid”, an enemy brazen and confident, who thinks that there are no real professionals left on Lubyanka. This will not replace even the highest salary of a private guard. He works for his master, and we – for the state. Remember the words of the protagonist in the movie “Brother-2”: “Not in money strength, American, but in truth”? That’s the truth the FSB is fighting for…

Although I do not condemn those who have to leave the service due to the difficult financial situation of their families. It’s only bitter that I can’t do anything… People in epaulets hope that the state, the new leadership of the country, which knows their problems firsthand, will approach with attention the long overdue issue of improving the living standards of soldiers.

  • Tell us about those of your subordinates who did heroic deeds in the passing year.
  • This year six employees of the FSB were awarded the title of Hero of the Russian Federation. Captain Igor Yatskov was posthumously awarded the title of Hero of the Russian Federation. As part of the advanced units of the 136th Motorized Rifle Brigade near the village of Kiri of the Cheberloyevsky district of the Chechen Republic on January 11, 2000, he took part in a battle with superior forces of the militants. Having received several serious wounds, the officer, bleeding out, remained in the ranks. Captain Alexei Gorbunov, Major Andrei Chirikhin, FSB special forces officers Valery Alexandrov, Mikhail Seregin, Nikolai Shchekochikhin, Major Alexander Alimov and others were awarded the Order of Courage (posthumously).
  • You are a man, for obvious reasons, “closed”. And yet, how do you rest? What do you manage to read?
  • I’m the one who really likes the phrase: “My hobby is work” (laughs). Our work needs to be given in its entirety, it requires you everything. How am I resting? I like to play volleyball. I was serious when I was a student. It’s a collective sport. And it’s like our job: defense and assault… It’s a good way to switch hunting. I’ve been into it for a long time, just like fishing.

I start my day by watching fresh newspapers, and of course, “Komsomolka” is one of the first…

  • What would you like to wish your employees today through “Komsomolka”?
  • I wish them and their families, our veterans, everyone who helps us in the difficult task of protecting the homeland, I wish them health and fortitude.

Patrushev Nikolay Platonovich was born in 1951 in Leningrad in the family of a sailor. After graduating from the Leningrad Shipbuilding Institute, he worked there for some time. After joining the state security bodies, he received professional training in Minsk KGB school. Then he worked for a long time on various positions in the KGB in Leningrad region. In 1992 he was appointed Minister of Security of Karelia. In 1994, he was transferred to Moscow. Since August 1999, he has been Director of the FSB of Russia. Colonel-General.

Patrushev’s wife – doctor, specialist in ultrasound. The family has two sons.

At leisure, Nikolai Platonovich manages to read books, but, as he himself admitted, prefers “short forms” – it’s painfully short time. For example, he reads Chekhov and Zoshchenko’s stories in the mood.

Experts have not yet “come to terms” with a specific date on which to count down the history of national security. But its milestones have been established precisely: the Order of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich’s Secret Affairs, the Preobrazhensky Order, the Secret Search Cases of Peter the Great’s Office, the Secret Expedition to the Senate, the Special Chancellery of the Ministry of Police of Alexander I, the III Division of Emperors Nicholas I and Alexander II’s own Office, the State Police Department, the Special Division of the Police Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and a number of other structures. As for counterintelligence itself, its “birthday” in the course of scientific discussions was determined on January 21 (old style) 1903. On this day, Nicholas II decided to create in the structure of the General Staff of the Russian Army, the first in the history of the country, a permanent special unit to fight against espionage – the “Exploration Department”. Its first chief was gendarmerie company minister Vladimir Nikolaevich Lavrov. The Day of the Security Bodies Employee is also a professional holiday of the employees of SVR, FAPSI, FSO, GUSP, FPS – structures that were born in the early 90s on the basis of a number of departments of the USSR KGB. It is a holiday of all those who protect the interests of the Fatherland.


Physical Counter Surveillance – Dry Cleaning and Evading Capture

In a meeting with a former counter-intelligence practitioner I first learned of ‘dry cleaning’ as tradecraft jargon in the realm of countersurveillance. Willam E. Dyson’s book Terrorism – An Investigator’s Handbook, 4th Edition (2015; first edition published in 2011) defines it as follows:

dry cleaning A process by which a subject takes actions that enable him to “lose” anyone who is attempting to follow him. A person may “dry clean” himself by entering a crowded movie theater and leaving soon after through a rear door. Undercover officers and informants should also undertake “dry cleaning” maneuvers before meeting each other.

The Terms & Definitions of Interest for DoD Counterintelligence Professionals (.pdf, 2011) from the U.S. Office of Counterintelligence (DXC), part of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), contains a definition taken from an old manual of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI):

Dry Cleaning. [Tradecraft jargon] Any technique used to elude surveillance. A usual precaution used by intelligence personnel when actively engaged in an operation. (AFOSI Manual 71-142, 9 Jun 2000)

Following the meeting I did a bit of self-study and came across a reposted text apparently once shared at the now-defunct forum at I’m reposting it here because 1) it is IMO a useful read that covers (a subset of) aspects that also came up in said meeting, and 2) LOCKSS. I could not readily identify whom to contact to ask for permission to re-post it here. If you’re the author, feel free to contact me (see sidebar).

Further reading on this topic (friendly reminder: always apply critical thinking):

Traditional humint tradecraft presumably remains a key aspect of modern intelligence, notwithstanding the tech-heavy era we now live in. And be reminded that technology can fail — for instance by accident, by sabotage or (indirectly) by adversarial interception/surveillance.

NOTE: everything below this line is NOT authored by me, except for one [NOTE: (…)] block that I added.

I recently underwent some counter surveillance training, and it was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done. As such, I thought I’d write up a short tutorial based on what I was taught and what I went through. This is all related to personal counter surveillance – i.e. preventing people following you.

There are 3 major parts to counter surveillance:
1) Planning
2) Identification – Spotting people who may be following you and verifying their intent.
3) Evasion – Making it difficult to follow you by performing certain maneuvers and following certain rules.

These principles, when put together, form something called a cleaning run. Its objective is to get you to a destination whilst identifying and losing any tail you might have.

The basic rules of a cleaning run are as follows:

  • Give yourself roughly double to triple the amount of time usually needed to get to the destination. A cleaning run can last up to 3 hours!
  • Plan your journey before heading out.
  • Move across a large geographic area.
  • Act naturally.
  • Try to spend at least 50% of your journey in areas that are not covered by CCTV.
  • Vary your transport method. Travel by bus, tram, train and taxi as well as on foot.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and the people nearby.
  • Be prepared! You need a pen, paper, envelope, stamps and enough cash for transport and visits to cafes / coffee shops. If you smoke, take some cigarettes and a lighter too.

The first step is to plan your journey. Start in an arbitrary direction, heading nowhere near your destination. You need to visit a variety of locations including quiet suburbs and busy city centres. Try to make the path you take relatively realistic (e.g. don’t walk round a block twice) and make it look like you have a reason to go to certain places along the way. You need at least two locations that will be almost entirely deserted – large open areas like parks are excellent for spotting someone following you. Make sure that your route crosses a few bridges and goes down some small side streets. You need to be able to stop off frequently at shops and other attractions. Look up timetables for buses, trams and trains, and use these services in your journey. You’ll also want to find places with post boxes and phone boxes, as they can provide some useful distractions.

Before you can shake a tail, you need to identify it. The best way to do this is to spot people you have seen before. A professional team can consist of 10 or more people, of which 2 or 3 at a time will follow you. They do a hand over periodically and try to avoid re-using the same members so that you don’t notice the tail. The “tried and tested” positioning system is to have one person follow directly behind you and another follow on the other side of the road further behind. If a third person is used, they are usually kept further back. If they think you’ve identified an agent, they’ll pull them out and replace them if possible.

The following things about a person can help you identify them as a tail:

  • If there are multiple agents, expect 90% of them to be 30 years old or less.
  • A professional team member usually has a precise watch. You can spot these quite easily if you’re close by.
  • They will change their course when you stop or change your course.
  • They will avoid looking directly at you, or stare.
  • Untrained people in a team might talk into their sleeve or talk to themselves.
  • If there are only one or two agents and they are associated with the police (CID, SOCA, etc), they will usually be wearing a suit (this is true for the UK, at least).
  • When waiting, they will usually loiter aimlessly or appear fascinated by a mundane sign or poster.

When walking down quiet roads it is easy to notice someone following you. However, it is difficult to turn round and get a good look at them without them noticing. One great method to this is to enter a shop and purchase something. As you enter, glance behind you to see if anyone is there. If there is, hold the door for them. When you leave, go back the way you came for a while, then turn off and go another direction. You can usually identify at least one surveillance member this way.

In places with some traffic, cross over at an intersection. If you’re on the left of the street turn right and vice versa. This gives you chance to stop and look around as if you were checking for traffic. If you cross at a pedestrian crossing, pretend to press the button but don’t. This gives you time to stop and look around longer, making anyone following you quite obvious.

Small bridges and alleys can make great choke points. Be aware that isolated areas might be problematic because they might confront you, so try to pick areas with at least a few people around. If you smoke, stop to light up as you walk down a choke point. Stand sideways so that you can see both directions. This means that anyone following you will have to walk straight past, so you can easily identify them. You could also stop to write an SMS message – it’s feasible that you can’t walk and text at the same time. If you do this, start writing it and stop after the 4th or 5th letter. Most people will at least try to write and walk before failing!

In larger shops, stand and browse the magazines. You can use the short periods between picking up each magazine to glance in a direction to look for anyone you remember from before, or anyone looking at you. Untrained people will often behave unusually and can easily give themselves away in certain situations. They may stare intently at you, or completely avoid making eye contact. In the case of the ones who are quite obviously attempting to watch you without directly looking, orchestrate your path so that you walk past them, then stop and ask the time. This usually shocks and disorientates them, and they’ll usually get flustered and stutter their reply.

Use your pen and paper to jot down short descriptions of people that might be following you and anyone that you see twice. You can buy a newspaper and use the crossword to jot things down too. If you see someone twice in two far apart areas, you’re probably being followed. The same applies if you see the same person three times as you’re performing your run.

A clever trick is to scan for Bluetooth devices nearby when sat around. If you see the same name twice, you have a tail. [NOTE: one probably should not carry any electronic device to a secret meeting to begin with, except burners — which still requires tradecraft. Radio emissions — and not only Bluetooth or Wi-Fi — should be assumed to be unique fingerprints.]

Once you’ve spotted the people you want to escape, you need to start doing things to divert their attention from you to thin out the crowd. The text-book stuff like dodging down an alley or switching back on yourself is way too obvious and a professional will be able to handle it easily.

Organise your journey so that you arrive at a train station, get your tickets, then have to wait 10 minutes in the coffee shop before boarding a train. If possible, use the automated ticket machine and jump in just before someone else gets in the queue behind you. This helps stop agents from shoulder-surfing to find out where you’re going, or listening in on your conversation with the ticket office person. Wait until the last minute before moving to the platform, or sit on the wrong platform until your train is announced and then move to the correct one. Sit as close to a door as possible so you can see the entire carriage.

When travelling by bus, pay for a ticket to the furthest destination it goes to, then get off before that stop. This helps divert resources and prevent any surveillance teams from setting up in a target location. If you can sit at the back do so, as you can see where everybody is. On double-decker buses you might want to sit up top to make it more obvious if you’re being followed.

Towards the final quarter of your run, make it look like you’re doing something sinister. Go to a phonebox and call the number of a small computer shop. Ask something like “how much is your cheapest SATA hard drive?” and write down the price and a random postal code that’s near the computer shop. Write a single letter on the bottom of the paper to make it more confusing, then place it on top of the phone unit and leave the box. This will look like you’re trying to perform a dead-drop, so an agent would investigate. This reduces the number of people following you. You can then go into another phone box, fumble around underneath it to make it look like you’re grabbing something that’s taped to the bottom, get out an envelope and pretend to put this non-existent thing inside it, attach a stamp, write an address on there (somewhere around five miles away) and go post it in a postbox. An agent will need to get someone to open the phone box, so this will delay them further.

Strike up a conversation with someone in the street to make it look like that’s who you went to go see. This is best done in a quiet area, so you can watch the people nearby.

You can perform a covert U-turn by walking past a shop and showing some interest in it (stare at it as you walk) and then stopping 20 feet down the road as you very obviously check your watch. Stare at your watch for a second, then turn back and go to that shop. This makes it look like you couldn’t decide if you had time to go to the shop. Some poorly trained agents might just stop still and stare at you gormlessly if you do this.

In extreme circumstances, you can go for certain overt techniques that give away the fact that you know you’re being followed:

  • Do a U-turn whilst walking and check out everyone who looks at you.
  • Do the whole “tying my shoelace” thing. It can mean agents have to be dropped because they have to pass you, but it’s very obvious and you can’t actually identify them easily.
  • Ask someone you think is tailing you for a lighter. Strike up conversation about the weather or contemplate them on their hair, shirt or watch if they have to spend more than 5 seconds fumbling around for it.
  • Dodge down an alleyway quickly or move in a circuitous through a store with multiple exits. These allow you to shake a tail, but make it obvious that you are immediately wary of someone following you.
  • Sit in a coffee shop and wait until you see someone that you know is following you. As you get up to leave, they will look over. Stare directly at them and wave before leaving.
  • Use a payphone to call for three taxis. Book one from your current location (or nearby) to position A, and book the other two from near position A to position B. Take only one of the second taxis, then have them drop you off slightly outside location B. If they’re resourceful enough to be able to pull phone records, they’ll spend resources trying to find out who you called and where you asked to go to. Once they discover you have called 3 taxis, they’ll know something is odd.