Tag Archives: CIA

The CIA paid spies with items from the Sears catalog

The CIA used to pay spies in Vietnam with items from the Sears catalog

Among the expenses that clandestine operatives rack up in the field, payments to their agents—the well-placed men and women they recruit to pass on information or otherwise assist them—are among the most unusual. Most expenses for CIA and other intelligence officers look like any business traveler’s: they buy meals, stay in hotels, and rent cars. But while some agents are more than happy to accept monetary compensation for their efforts, others have more unusual requests. Sometimes they want to avoid attracting attention with an extra stash of cash; sometimes they want items (everything from particular ballpoint pens and fishing equipment to guns and prescription medication) that they can’t easily acquire themselves.

Often, agents know what they want. What makes this case somewhat unusual is that the intelligence officer came up with a very unique payment scheme and sold his agents on it.

For Wiant’s cohort of agents, money didn’t work as an incentive because they rarely used it: they were “hunters, rattan gatherers, aloe wood collectors, or charcoal makers,” he wrote, and for the most part, they participated in a barter economy. Before Wiant arrived, his predecessor had started paying the agents in rice, along with other food or basic commodities. This had been more effective than offering compensation in piasters, the local currency.

But the system had a flaw. The local district chiefs in the areas where the agents operated had started siphoning away a portion of the agents’ earnings. A plan to mollify the district chiefs with Johnny Walker had worked briefly—until local missionaries objected.

A man who Wiant calls the “best of the Vietnamese agent handlers” did have some success giving one agent a canvas hat as a bonus, and that’s what gave Wiant the idea of sending that agent handler back out into the field with a Sears catalog, the most recently one available, which his wife had recently sent over. Wiant flagged a few pages of possible interest and created a basic “pay scale” connecting items of a certain value to missions of a certain length and danger.

The Truth About Drones


From The New Yorker

Indeed, if there is one overriding factor in America’s secret wars—especially in its drone campaign—it’s that the U.S. is operating in an information black hole. Our ignorance is not total, but our information is nowhere near adequate. When an employee of the C.I.A. fires a missile from a unmanned drone into a compound along the Afghan-Pakistani border, he almost certainly doesn’t know for sure whom he’s shooting at. Most drone strikes in Pakistan, as an American official explained to me during my visit there in 2011, are what are known as “signature strikes.” That is, the C.I.A. is shooting at a target that matches a pattern of behavior that they’ve deemed suspicious. Often, they get it right and they kill the bad guys. Sometimes, they get it wrong. When Brennan claimed, as he did in 2011—clearly referring to the drone campaign—that “there hasn’t been a single collateral death,” he was most certainly wrong.

NBC has the 16 page memo that makes the argument that it is okay to kill Americans which seems to go against their entire legal system.

As in Holder’s speech, the confidential memo lays out a three-part test that would make targeted killings of American lawful:  In addition to the suspect being an imminent threat, capture of the target must be “infeasible, and the strike must be conducted according to “law of war principles.” But the memo elaborates on some of these factors in ways that go beyond what the attorney general said publicly. For example, it states that U.S. officials may consider whether an attempted capture of a suspect  would pose an “undue risk” to U.S. personnel involved in such an operation. If so, U.S. officials could determine that the capture operation of the targeted American would not be feasible, making it lawful for the U.S. government to order a killing instead, the memo concludes.

Drone killing is growing at such a boom that colleges are offering degrees in it.  What is interesting about the article is that the FAA does not licence police forces to fly drones over high crime areas yet the Saskatoon City Police has a drone (really an amazing remote controlled helicopter) although from what I have read, it is more about taking photos of crime scenes than anything else.

The operator of the X6 guides the helicopter by using a remote control and wearing video-goggles that show what the chopper sees through the camera. While Draganfly staff will pilot the helicopter at first, police officers will decide what to photograph. Engele said he expects trained police officers will pilot the choppers themselves after they take a course this spring and receive proper clearances.

It won’t fly higher than a light post and will only be used in fair weather conditions, he said.

The American military has grown to rely on similar unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to do aerial surveys and provide video to commanders on the ground.

The key in expanding the service’s use of the technology is going to be proving the images hold up in court, Engele said. The X6 was used previously by the Ontario Provincial Police to photograph a homicide scene in rural Ontario and could be used in tactical or surveillance operations, he said.

“You could use it for anything your brain can think of,” Engele said. “You can fly it inside an office and take a picture of the whole room to capture blood splatter.”

City residents can expect to see the mini-helicopter hovering above collision scenes around late-spring or summer, Engele said.

Does Canada Need a MI6 or a CIA?

Scott Taylor thinks so

Since 9-11, the JTF2 have operated alongside their allied counterparts and earned much deserved praise.

However, what Canada has failed to establish is an international intelligence-gathering agency that would compare with the CIA or Britain’s MI5 and MI6. As a result, our Special Forces operatives are completely reliant upon our allies’ information to execute their missions in Afghanistan.

While welcomed by our NATO partners for their professionalism and discipline, without an independent intelligence agency, our JTF2 are essentially highly trained mercenaries. While the usual suspects responded to the CBC stories by calling for additional civilian oversight of our secret commandos, the more fundamental question would be: Is this sort of specialized unit something Canada should be fielding in the first place?

As a former colony, we really don’t have any deep-rooted footprints around the globe. As such, it would be difficult to begin assembling a first-class international intelligence agency.

However, if we are serious about employing the type of capability the JTF2 represents, then Canada must make a spy network a priority.

Otherwise, we should remove the cloak and dagger secrecy, send the commando elements back into our regular combat forces and let the remaining JTF2 operatives focus on their domestic security duties.