I would love to understand the State Department, but I am not a clinical psychologist. All I know is they have some sort of collective complex that manifests itself in various delusions.
Case in point. The Russians are asking to install 6 monitoring stations for their GPSski, know officially as GLONASS, in the US. The CIA and the DoD are saying: “Are you freaking kidding me? No freaking way!” But not the gang that Truman used to refer to as the “striped pants boys at the State Department”. (Yes, there are pretty of women there now.)
No. The State Department is totally fine with this. Indeed, they think it’s a great idea. Why? Because we need to fix our relationship with the Russians.
No. I am not making that up. I am not that creative:
For the State Department, permitting Russia to build the stations would help mend the Obama administration’s relationship with the government of President Vladimir V. Putin, now at a nadir because of Moscow’s granting asylum to Mr. Snowden and its backing of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.
Let me get this straight. The Russians screw us sideways over Syria and Snowden, not to mention Putin’s routine anti-Americanism and aggressive attempts to undermine US interests around the world, and the US is the one that needs to do the mending? By giving the surveillance-obsessed Russians potential listening posts throughout the US?
If the State Department is so clueless about the Russians and electronic intelligence, maybe they should ask the Finns.
But then again, the State Department is a serial offender. In 1973, they granted permission the Soviets to build the embassy at the 3d highest point in DC, where it had direct line of sight to the White House, the Pentagon, Capitol Hill, and yes, the State Department. The CIA and Pentagon (i.e., the NSA) objected. There were well-grounded suspicions that the Soviets would use it for electronic intelligence. The US prevented the Soviets from occupying the embassy until the US received a similarly favorably located facility. Then it turned out that the Soviets had built over 100 listening devices right into the new US embassy in Moscow. American security experts called the building “a giant microphone.” Some called it “the Bug House.” As a result, it took years for the US to get a new embassy built. The original building had to be torn down, and the whole project started from the ground up.
Note the big difference in US and Soviet (i.e., KGB/FSB/Russian) approaches:
“Unlike the Soviets … the United States did not employ a systematic, stringent security program to detect and prevent Soviet technical penetration efforts,” judged the report.
For instance, Soviet officials overseeing the Mount Alto construction site in Washington routinely changed their blueprints without warning during the architectural bidding process, according to the Senate study. Their design plans were vague, with rooms identified as nothing more specific than “office space.”
In contrast US blueprints identified office spaces by name, making the location of sensitive areas clear to the Soviet workers—and their overseers.
The Soviets would use only concrete poured on site. The US accepted precast concrete forms constructed off site with no American supervision.
The Soviets inspected all materials carefully and were willing to halt construction work if they had questions. The US inspection system was less stringent, and the construction schedule ruled.
Soviet officials used about 30 of their own personnel to oversee about 100 US workers in Washington, on average. The US used 20 to 30 Navy Seabees to watch upward of 800 Soviet workers in Moscow.
The Soviets used a badge identification system, maintained tight perimeter security, and installed multiple surveillance cameras. The US had perimeter sensors and closed circuit TV monitoring, but they were soon disabled due to various “mishaps,” according to the Senate intelligence committee.In sum, US counterintelligence was playing catch-up almost from the beginning of the Moscow embassy project.
That’s our State Department. Talk about naivety:
In celebrating the occasion, then-Ambassador James F. Collins called the new building “one of the most challenging construction projects ever undertaken by the Department of State. It has been a task … beset by the unexpected.”
Only unexpected by those oblivious to the Russians and their ways. And State is still naive after all these years.
And if you say “that was the Soviets. They’re gone.” I say: have you looked at the resume of the current Russian president? You know, the one who sings songs about the glories of the KGB?
Consider this assessment:
New construction began in September 1997. The embassy finally opened in May 2000, after more than two decades of delays and at a cost to the US of more than $370 million. Its tortured 31-year history remains a lesson in US diplomatic and technical hubris and a reminder of a spy-versus-spy world that may (or may not) be long past.
The spy-versus-spy world is not long past. It is still with us: Snowden, and the Russians use of him, is just another battle in this war.
And the US diplomatic hubris is definitely not behind us. You need to look no further than the State Department’s benign view of allowing GLONASS monitoring stations in the US to find evidence of that.
Every day I lose my faith in the maxim “never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity.” As dismissive as I am about the State Department’s understanding of the Russians, I find it hard to believe anyone could be this stupid, at this late date.