A riveting feature story: (GQ) The Mystery of the Immaculate Concussion.
Mainstream journalism: (CNN) US investigates second suspected case of mystery ‘syndrome’ near White House. Quoting,
The twin incidents in downtown Washington, along with a previous suspected case in northern Virginia in 2019, have raised concerns that the wave of episodes first seen only among Americans overseas is now occurring in rising numbers on US soil — and maybe even at the President’s front door.
If this is as real in every instance as may be, policy revisions are mandated.
Soviet Operation RYAN, initiated by then KGB chairman Yuri Andropov in 1981, was a search for proof and timing of a surprise nuclear attack by the U.S. The extreme paranoia, which could have lead to an actual nuclear exchange, was thought to be due to the isolation of the two societies.
It was thought that if we facilitated Soviet observation in the U.S. of unclassified activities, even with the inevitable cost of espionage, the Soviet bias towards paranoia would be reduced. Up until about 2008, this manifested in a degree of mutual tolerance of foreign intelligence presences.
Multiple factors involve the transition of Russian attitudes towards intolerance of U.S. activities, and disinhibition of active measures in the West, such as assassination:
- Enlargement of NATO, 2002-2020.
- Financial crisis of 2007–2008 , when Putin turned philosophically away from the West as a model.
- 2014, Russo-Ukrainian War, which drove a wedge between Russia and the West of indefinite duration.
- With the dissolution of the Politburo in 1991, a loss of political inhibition of violence in the clandestine/covert apparatus.
In 2018, following the spate of high profile Russian assassinations in Europe, I began to contemplate the unthinkable. Individuals targeted for assassination were traditionally selected by these criteria:
- Extrajudicial punishment, with similar activity by the West towards terror targets.
- Grudge, as per Skripal, who was received by the UK as part of a spy swap.
The attempt on the Skripals had new elements. Obtained by swap, we understood Skripal to be “ours” free and clear. Yet he was selected for assassination in an operation that incurred massive collateral damage. Prior, the use of a WMD, Novichok, in the West, would have been imagined only as an act of war.
So I began to contemplate the unthinkable: Maybe the Russians have gone experimental with murder. I then began a mental exploration of how an experiment might develop. The first goal would be to determine the sensitivity and perceptive acuity of the adversary power structure. It would begin with actions against the periphery, gradually escalating towards the center.
- The first targets would be on foreign soil, as has already occurred.
- The second targets would be members of the party out-of-power, or shortly to be so. The attacks on NSC personnel occurred after the presidential election. Would the adversary’s power structure react to a minor provocation?
- If these actions do not register with the adversary, targeting of Congressional staffers deemed hostile to Russia.
- The fourth target, elected members of Congress known as hawks.
- Fifth, Executive Branch staff of the party-in-power.
- Ultimate, Executive Branch officials.
The outlines of an experiment with nonlethal disablement may be apparent. It must not be allowed to continue. Stopping this activity is not simply a matter of technology. It involves manpower. Between 2014 and 2018, the Russian presence in NYC was so extensive, it rivaled the CIA’s “City Eye” of Cairo in the 50’s. The 2018 expulsions dented Russian capabilities.
Yet the mystery attacks have moved closer to the center; the experiment progresses. This suggests the presence of undiscovered illegals. Such networks can function without any contact with operatives who have official cover, such as those expelled in 2018.
Networks of illegals are notoriously hard to detect. Post WWII, these were composed of two classes of individuals:
- The controller (rezident) was a KGB officer, with a fictitious identity laboriously constructed over multiple years in multiple countries.
- Agents were typically European immigrants with leftist leanings.
This picture is obsolete. The covers of illegals detected in recent years were of quite different, casual construction. The traditional methods used to create them are so onerous, modern Russia may not possess willing candidates. It is crucial to identify groups from which new illegal networks can be constructed.
In the current political and cultural climate of the U.S. the legitimacy of our system is questioned by a significant minority. This facilitates illegals construction from disaffected groups, without excluding concealment of rezidents as Russian immigrants. Steps to consider:
- Restriction of travel to and in the U.S. by Russian nationals.
- Reexamination of green card holders.
- Increased surveillance.
- Search for connections with groups of seditious sentiment.
- Businesses operated by rezidents are traditional covers. Commercial Russian enterprises, such as the retail arm of Lukoil, should be divested.
At the Harriman Institute in 2018, the sentiment was expressed for less contact with Russia, rather than more. This is the one regrettable result of the demise of the Politburo. I never thought I would credit them with anything positive. Do I blame Putin for this? He is the architect of a system that lacks inhibitory controls. This does not imply that he controls every twitch of its muscle.
We are not blameless. For our system to remain intact, politicians of both parties must turn down gifts of dirty tricks, and resist the temptation to liaise with Russians who may present in a variety of complex aliases. If you sell your soul, it may come due sooner than you think.
The threat may recede if more Americans come to value what they have as worth preserving. This includes the gift of the tradition of compromise.