Archive for the ‘Intelligence’ Category

Definitely not a spy, but this monarch held an even better title, one of “Spymistress”.

Americans tend to have this idea about England, where the country seems to preternaturally have its act together, however, not many Yanks know that at one time, The Great Empire once existed in a state of near chaos.

Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603) was the second daughter of the notorious King Henry the VIII, the chap who had a penchant for food and executing his wives, and the only child of Anne Boleyn, the King’s second wife who had her head lobbed off when Elizabeth was but a toddler.

Tons of intrigue and no small amount of scandal later, Elizabeth ascended to the throne at the age of twenty-five. She inherited a country with a warring feudal system, a slew of relatives who would possibly like to see her dead, a state of enmity with the Catholic Church that definitely wanted to see her dead, poor relations with neighboring countries, and empty coffers (i.e. England was close to being broke if it wasn’t already). The country, quite simply, was a mess.

Enter Elizabeth, young, beautiful, female, single. We all the know the story: the young queen must marry appropriately, secure a male child, which in turn secures the line of ascension, and preferably said marriage should be with either a Spaniard or a Frenchman so at least one of those countries would be off England’s back.

However, Good Queen Bess wasn’t having it. Whether it was the sterling example of her father, the rumored romance with a certain Lord Robert Dudley, the rumors of her being a man, or whatever, Elizabeth married herself to England and blazed forth what would be known as England’s Golden Age.

And the Golden Age really came about because QBI was exceptionally good at threat management and maintaining stability. Forces within France and Spain saw England as weak while forces within her country saw her as weak.  Ireland and the Catholic Church quite simply saw the queen as a threat to salvation and agreed she had to go. The task at hand, holding  England together, was a lot like juggling and Elizabeth certainly had a lot of balls in the air. She wielded the very idea of marriage like a tool of both domestic and foreign policy. She brought some semblance of organization to the Anglican church by firmly aligning it to the Protestantism. And she certainly kept close tabs on her foes through her excellent appointment of advisers.

Elizabeth’s inner circle helped her manage both domestic threats and threats from abroad. William Cecil, Baron of Burghley ran a tight financial ship and was responsible for bringing Sir Frances Walsingham, the father of modern-day intelligence practices, to the queen’s court.

With Walsingham in place, the queen was able to acquire the necessary domestic and foreign intelligence for decision-making. Walsingham infiltrated the Spanish military, secured the evidence for the execution of Elizabeth’s greatest rival, Mary Queen of Scots, and foiled any number of plots instituted by nasties within the realm.

All the while, Elizabeth and Walsingham had quite a contentious relationship. He was plain-spoken to the point of being blunt, a literal man of action, and while she had her hide to protect, Walsingham on more than one occasion offended her royal sensibilities.  But he did his job and did it well. It’s very hard to dislike a man who saves your neck day-in to day-out.

All this risk management allowed the queen to enjoy nearly a half-century on the throne. Quite a feat considering that at the end, Elizabeth died an unmarried woman, England’s future secured and a smooth transition of power to King James VI.

George Washington often stands out as the historical figure who best managed the spy trade, but he certainly never had to deal with the level of difficulty, treachery, nor had as many enemies painting targets on his back as Elizabeth had. Under close scrutiny, Elizabeth’s reign was not a rousing success, but in an era where it was exceptionally easy to die on the throne, managing to keep your enemies at bay for 45 years certainly says something about a dame’s, pardon me, queen’s acumen.

You have to admit, WWII for all its awfulness, was a great time for women in the spy trade. We’ve seen operatives, cryptographers, and inventors, and now, we have another to add to the list: human smugglers. Considering the heated American debate on illegal immigration in America, Ruth Klieger Aliav (19??-1979) is a worthy dame to examine.

Ruth was either born in 1914 or 1907 and she was either born in Romania proper or in what is now the Ukraine (a matter of semantics, I know, but people do go to war over this stuff). Ruth’s autobiography and documentation seem to be at odds concerning the official accounts of her life.

Now Ruth not only sported a big-bad-brain, but also a talent for linguistics. Upon graduation of the University of Vienna, she had her law degree and was fluent in 9 languages.

In 1935, our gal emigrated to Israel fulfilling a life-long dream. She married and settled down on a kibbutz and had a child. However, neither the marriage or the life seem to have satisfied Ruth, and after the death of her child from meningitis, she moved to Tel-Aviv where she was recruited into the Mossad.

In 1939, Ruth was sent into Romania and with her style, wits and connections, she not only helped smuggle out Jews but also to import arms and coordinate resistance activities.

In 1942, saw Ruth landing in Egypt where she was taking Jews overland into Palestine. During her stop-over, she discovered a corp of Egyptian Officers sympathetic to the Nazis. Ruth called in French Freedom forces, helped land Anwar el Sadat in jail, and continued on her merry way.

At the end of the war, Ruth was sent back into France in time for liberation, and during this period, she helped minister Jewish displaced persons and refugees. In 1945, she was bestowed the rank of honorary colonel in the US Army by none other than Eisenhower himself. She also managed to convince an American officer in charge of displaced Jews to “lend” her a boat to take Jewish orphans to Palestine. However, when the ship arrived in Haifa, it also contained 2600 older, displaced persons as well.

So here’s where Ruth’s activities become messy. During the entire war, there was a covert-operation sponsored by Mossad called Aliya Bet. Aliya Bet was the coordinated effort of Jews to illegally populate Palestine in direct violation of British Mandate.

Now, depending on how and where you come down on this subject, this leads to very different views of Ruth and her activities. One, is that Ruth is a sort of Harriet Tubman in leading Jews to freedom during a decidedly horrific time in history. The other view is that the Aliya Bet’s intentions was to usurp the Palestinians with a Jewish population long before the war occurred, hence, the war and its atrocities further served to achieve that goal. Now considering there are over 3 million Palestinians today, living refugee camps for the last 60 years with no state and no citizenship and their food, water,  electricity and general living conditions controlled by the Jewish state, you could also see where some people would see Ruth in terms of what we Americans would call Coyote, and illegal trafficker of immigrants.

Unfortunately, this is also where America begins a long, sad, and strained relationship with the Middle East. While the British were none too pleased at Ruth’s activities, the publicity could not allow them to deny the entry of the refugees in Haifa. However, Eisenhower, or at least those on his staff, had become convinced of the necessity of Aliya Bet and wanted more ships with more refugees to be allowed into Palestine. Eisenhower eventually shot down this plan because of the pressure exerted by the British in this matter.

Following the war, Ruth became a fundraiser for Mossad in both South and North America. She also continued her work with immigrants entering Israel, but, after 10 frustrating years of ill-treatment simply due to being a woman, Ruth went on to work with the Israeli shipping company ZIM.

Ruth’s work in public relations with ZIM brought her into contact with Hollywood luminaries, painters, and even Helen Keller when they toured Israel. During these years, Ruth also changed her last name to add “Aliav”, a variation on Aliya Bet, to her official passport. She wrote her memoirs shortly before her death and it sold over 2 million copies.

Ruth passed on in 1979. She is buried in Israel.

If I were a praying girl, I would be screaming “Amen and Hallelujah” from the rooftops today over the confirmation of Letitia Long as the new Director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. But since I am not, let’s just discuss Long instead.

But if I may, can I comment on the fact that there are 16 Intelligence agencies in this country and we are only just now appointing a woman as the head of one? Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased as punch, but it’s still akin to waking up today and feeling like it’s 1990 and not 2010. Baby, you’ve come a long way, but not long enough…

So who is Letitia Long? She is a longtime Navy-civilian professional entering the trade in 1978, where she worked in project engineering in the area of submarine acoustics, and climbed the ranks to join the Office of Naval Intelligence where she managed R & D programs.

From there, Long performed a dizzying rotation in the Senior Intelligence Executive Service while also serving as Director of Resource Management for the Office of Naval Intelligence in 1994. She then completed a hat trick by joining the Defense Intelligence Agency during this time where she eventually became the Deputy Director of Information Systems and Services in 1996.

Can you say “dayamm”? I’m tired just typing all of that.

Please let this be a lesson to everyone out there who is stuck in the belief that Intelligence revolves around poli-sci, history, and computer science. Long is a trained engineer. And let’s think about that: it involves design (establishing a requirement and refining it); building (collection, exploitation); testing (production), roll-out (dissemination); and checking (feedback when it’s given).

Engineers work in teams; they are often great collaborators. They require project engineers to manage them; someone to juggle the pieces and keep in mind the bigger picture. They require communication skills to dumb-down the technical terms for non-engineers (read: clients). And most importantly, they require sound, logical thinking lest the whole contraption falls apart.

A person who can accomplish honing all of those skills is a golden egg and it looks like NGA just got theirs.

A conference on analytical best practices is currently underway in the wonderful town of Dungarvan, located in Co. Waterford, Ireland.

Organized by the Mercyhurst College Institute of Intelligence Studies in Erie, PA the conference seeks to examine analytical best practices across a variety of fields and, hopefully, come to understand how these best practices may be applied to the intelligence field.

Business professionals, doctors, economists, forensic anthropologists, just to name a few, have all been invited to discuss how they interpret and assess data; compare their processes and methodlogies; and evaluate the meaning and signifance of data.

There’s quite a few dames in the crowd, I’m pleased to say, as both delegtes and panelists. Go to enough of these intel type conferences and you’ll notice they tend to be guy-heavy and dame-light. I have my eye on the Chief Inspector of Ireland’s Garda Síochána, Kathleen O’Toole, and I’m hoping she’ll allow me a few questions to post back here.

Wish me luck, updates to come. Meanwhile, check out the Facebook coverage of the event.