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Posted at 11:47 AM ET, 03/15/2011

Charlie Sheen, Anna Chapman marry, flee in UFO

Now that I have your search-engine’s attention …

Thank you, thank you very much, dear readers, for spending another year with me at SpyTalk.

Alas, however, SpyTalk is going dark.

It’s time to get off the blogging hamster wheel, at least for awhile. I'll be elsewhere in The Post from time to time, as well as other media outside the company, but the daily deal here is done.

Do please stay in touch, however, with your usual tips, suggestions and even bug-eyed thoughts in the middle of the night, per usual. You can now e-mail me here.

Until then, I just wanted to say thank you so very much for being such great and loyal pals.

By Jeff Stein  |  11:47 AM ET, 03/15/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 06:41 PM ET, 03/14/2011

Green Berets should take over Army some day soon

Nearly 10 years after U.S. special operations troops rode horses into battle on the Afghan plains, one might think that the brass hats at the top of the Army would include a Green Beret.

But one would be wrong, as a military friend pointed out to me today. It’s true that Gen. David Petraeus and his two top guys in Afghanistan, generals David Rodriguez and William Caldwell, are career airborne officers — the jumping-off point for a career in the Rangers and Special Forces.

But back in the E-Ring, as well as in Korea, Europe and now Africom, it’s the straight legs, mostly tankers and mechanized infantry guys, who are still running things. Army Chief of Staff George C. Casey; his vice chief, Peter Chiarelli; Chiarelli’s named successor, Martin E. Dempsey; and the major theater commanders, except for Petraeus, are all heavy-equipment guys.

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By Jeff Stein  |  06:41 PM ET, 03/14/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 05:29 PM ET, 03/04/2011

Couples, CIA-style

Robert Baer, whose CIA exploits and exasperations in the Middle East were immortalized in the 2005 George Clooney thriller “Syriana,” has a new role: conjugal co-author.

The Company We Keep: A Husband-and-Wife True-Life Spy Story,” Baer’s fifth book, is his first written with his wife, Dayna, a CIA security specialist. They met during a covert mission in Sarajevo in 1994.

Love blossomed--cautiously, of course.

“Truth is,” Dayna writes, “I think Bob’s a little nutty.”

“It’s chick lit,” Baer shrugs, via e-mail.

That’s true, to a point. Like doing the dishes after dinner, the Baers alternate chapters, he writing one, she another, beginning with her evolution from “just a California girl, born into a comfortable lifestyle, looking for adventure and a way to serve her country,” into a street operative in some of the world’s hairiest neighborhoods.

As one advance review put it, “they describe their careers, ... their romance, and the difficulty they have in establishing a balanced life outside the world of secret agents.”

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By Jeff Stein  |  05:29 PM ET, 03/04/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 01:31 PM ET, 03/02/2011

Spy bloggers not ‘friending’ U.S. targets, Centcom says

The U.S. Central Command says its new “Persona” social media "infiltration" software is designed to cozy up to extremist bloggers overseas, not law-abiding Americans chatting on Facebook or similar sites.

Earlier this month, the Web buzzed with a report that the software was designed to “manage ‘fake people’ on social media sites and create the illusion of consensus on controversial issues,” implying that the Defense Department was targeting critics of the war in Afghanistan and other conflicts.

Further compounding a sinister view of the software was the discovery of e-mails from the head of a company implicated in “dirty tricks” against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and a pro-labor organization, which discussed how such technology could be used.

"There are a variety of social media tricks we can use to add a level of realness to all fictitious personas...” wrote Aaron Barr, the chief executive officer of HBGary Federal, a Colorado Springs company whose hacked e-mails revealed plans to attack critics of Bank of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Barr resigned Feb. 28 “to allow the company to move on after an embarrassing data breach,” according to the technology Web site ThreatPost.

Centom's June 22, 2010, contract, offered through the U.S. Air Force’s Air Mobility Command, specified that “Individual applications will enable an operator to exercise a number of different online persons from the same workstation and without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries…while hiding the existence of the operation…and provid(ing) excellent cover and powerful deniability.”

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By Jeff Stein  |  01:31 PM ET, 03/02/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Foreign policy, Intelligence, Media, Military | Tags:  Gen. David Petraeus; Aaron Barr; HBGary Federal; Gen. Michael V. Hayden; Shannen L. Rossmiller

Posted at 02:55 PM ET, 03/01/2011

Gaddafi poison-gas videos fakes or frauds

You Tube videos purporting to show Moammar Gaddafi’s preparations for using chemical weapons on protesters are either crude propaganda or the product of Libyans who simply don’t know what they are looking at--or both, experts say.

One of the videos shows a Libyan protester handling what he says are “chemical and biological explosives” captured in Misurata, which was overrun by anti-Gadaffi forces on Feb. 24.

"These are the biological and chemical weapons that look like bombs of different sizes, used to eradicate people, found in Misurata in the storage facilities of the security forces' battalion,” the narrator says, picking up a number of canisters with his bare hands and displaying them for the camera.

“This sample has some various types of poison gas and some germ bombs,” he continues. “It…would have been horrifying if these bombs had been used to eradicate the Libyan citizens….They (the weapons) are in a safe place thank God after a furious battle [that] took place last night.”

In reality, they are mostly aircraft ejection-seat canisters, which a close examination of the blurry videos clearly shows.

“There is nothing in this video that is indicative of chemical ordnance,” says a Libya arms expert whose diplomatic position prohibits him from being quoted by name. ”At least some of the canisters are clearly labeled as ejection seat cartridges for aircraft, or similar purposes.”

“The video in question,” he added, “looks more the product of jumpy civilians who can't tell a CW [chemical weapon] from a can of Raid and are anxious to aid the agit-prop efforts against the government.”

Another video shows a man identified as a Libyan army general who joined the protesters during the takeover of Misurata air field, waving a gas mask and shouting that “Gaddafi is now using poison gas against…Libyan citizens,” according to a caption accompanying the video. It adds, “He says this type of mask is used only to protect from POISON GAS and CHEMICAL WEAPONS.” [Emphasis theirs.]

In reality, other experts said, the mask might protect its wearer against tear gas or pepper spray, but not chemical or biological weapons, whose handling requires full-body hazardous-materials suits.

By Jeff Stein  |  02:55 PM ET, 03/01/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Categories:  Foreign policy, Intelligence, Media, Military


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