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How One Cold War Incident Changed the Spy Game

By Matthew Harwood

EDITOR'S NOTE: Surveillance powers have exponentially increased with the rise of the Internet. The recent brouhaha between China, the world's fastest rising power, and Google, one of the world's most powerful corporations, attests to that. As John Bumgarner, chief technology officer at the government-funded think tank U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, told CNet's Insecurity Complex, however, there' s nothing new here but the high-profile nature of the incident.

"Espionage has been going on for decades. The Internet has made it a lot easier to conduct espionage," he said. "The targets are mostly defense contractors and high-tech companies that have some type of competitive advantage that someone wants to steal."

Bumgarner's quote is a good reminder that espionage is as old as human conflict. The ancient military tactician Sun Tzu wrote about it. The Greeks' legendary use of the Trojan Horse is possibly Western Civilization's greatest example of it. But the real paradigm shift in spycraft emerged during the titanic struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

In the April issue of Security Management, Ken Stanley, the former chief technology officer at the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service from 2006 to 2008, recounts how one incident showed how the superpowers harnessed technology to surreptitiously get a leg up in the battle for global supremacy.

A Trojan Seal

By Ken Stanley

The Cold War is over but many of its stories have yet to be fully told. One such story is that of Ambassador George Kennan and Joe Bezjian. Ambassador Kennan is a Cold War legend who helped define the U.S. Cold War strategy of containment. A lifelong Foreign Service Officer and diplomat, he authored the famous “X” cable that modified the U.S.’s original economic containment ideas to a broad-based strategic philosophy. He was a man well worth listening to and the KGB did its best to listen to his every word. Joe Bezjian, on the other hand, was a real shadow Cold Warrior. Not like the protagonist of novels and movies but rather a real security engineering officer protecting the U.S from its Soviet foe through the use of science and technology. He was one of a handful of original engineers hired in the late 40’s to help the State Department fight technical espionage. He always worked in the shadows, as such a career choice dictates. Although his impact is not as broadly felt as Ambassador Kennan’s, he helped change Cold War history as well. 

The Cold War and the accompanying explosive growth of electronics brought new techniques and technologies to the collection and analysis of intelligence. Superpower needs often caused tactics to intertwine with that rapid advance of technology. Secret research on both sides of the Iron Curtain created new technologies for collecting intelligence data. Organizations such as the U.S. National Security Agency and the 8th and 16th divisions of the KGB were created to deal with the dual-edged weapons of technology. National laboratory systems in both the East and the West, populated by some of the most brilliant minds on both sides, contributed their expertise to these new technologies.

(Continue reading "A Trojan Seal" here)

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