Jack Devine’s latest book Spymaster’s Prism begins with a very fitting quote from Abdur Rahman Khan who is considered the founder of modern Afghanistan.
“My Last Words to you my son and successor… Never Trust the Russians”
Devine’s latest book makes no secret that he, and more importantly the Russian intelligence community under President Putin, believes that the Cold War never ended. And moreover, when it comes to the U.S., the Russians have taken the next step in gathering intelligence, which is to act on it.
First, they interfered with the 2016 presidential elections. Furthermore, the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the presidential campaign headquarters of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton were all hacked.
The Russians then hacked into several U.S. government and infrastructure websites in a flagrant violation of the unwritten “Moscow Rules” that both countries had followed for decades.
The “Moscow Rules” put limits on operational activity that would upend the balance of power, potentially lead us closer to open war, and test the tenets of mutually assured destruction. Under this understanding, Russian and U.S. intelligence services had eschewed conducting assassinations, terrorism, or strong-arm tactics directed against each other’s officers. They also forebore from engaging in counterfeiting operations or direct interference in each other’s internal affairs, including elections.
But the Russians have essentially tossed the old “Moscow Rules” in the trash, as President Putin, still smarting from the collapse of the Soviet Union, is trying to push Russian nationalism back to the forefront of international politics. And so the Cold War didn’t end… for Russia. Instead, it has taken it to the next level by aggressively spreading disinformation campaigns via fake social media troll factories and attacking U.S. infrastructure using Cyberwarfare.
According to KGB officer Sergei Tretyakov, who defected to the United States, “the Cold War never ended. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the KGB had a list of three main adversaries: (1.) The United States (2.) NATO and (3.) China. After the KGB was disbanded and the SVR was formed… the SVR had three main targets: (1.) The United States (2.) NATO and (3.) China.”
Jack Devine served in the CIA for 32 years rising to become the acting director of Operations as well as the associate director of Operations in charge of overseeing the intelligence activities of thousands of agents worldwide. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Devine headed up the CIA’s Afghan Task Force, which effectively thwarted the Soviets. For his role, he was awarded the CIA’s Meritorious Officer Award.
During the early-1990s Devine headed up the CIA’s Counternarcotics Center in Latin America. So, he has a plethora of experience around the world. He’s now the president and founding partner of the Arkin Group LLC, which specializes in international crisis management, strategic intelligence, investigative research, and business problem-solving.
Spymaster’s Prism is an outstanding, timely take on Russian election interference, disinformation, and assassination attempts. It shows that they are all modern descendants of the Soviet tradition of espionage and subversion that has been taken to another level by the Putin regime.
Included in the book is a history of Russian intelligence from someone who was there every step of the way. From the covert operations of Afghanistan to the treachery of American spies such as the CIA’s Aldrich Ames and FBI’s Robert Hansen, underachievers who considered themselves above the rank and file of their specific agencies. Neither was a “true believer” but acted out of greed and frustration against their lack of upward movement.
Putin was frustrated with the collapse of the Soviet Union and his policies have targeted the United States with an aggressive disinformation and hacking program. Putin has done so with the help of Yevgeny Prigozhin, also known as “Putin’s chef,” who runs the Internet Research Agency, a troll factory that hacks into foreign accounts mixing genuine information with absolute fallacy. The “Not My President” campaign was a Russian troll effort and an attempt to foment discontent among right-wing groups.
This effort created about 80,000 fake Facebook and 3,000 fake Twitter accounts. It also posted 1,000 YouTube disinformation videos.
Devine’s book is a must-read for everyone who is either a hardcore intelligence reader or interested in how intelligence policy is shaped and conducted. We recently recorded a SOFREP Radio podcast with Mr. Devine which will air tomorrow. We discussed Spymaster’s Prism, which we were able to get an early look at, as well as the current intelligence situation with Russia.
The Cold War isn’t over. While many of the actors have changed, the stakes remain higher than ever and have been raised by our enemies. It is time for the U.S. to meet the challenge.