about eye spy
Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine is the world’s only independent publication dedicated to espionage and intelligence. First published in May 2001, the title is now available in 36 countries and read by over 100,000 people worldwide.
Often described as the bridge between ‘officialdom’ and the public, Eye Spy is extremely popular with those who work in intelligence, security, defence and specialist wings of the armed forces. Indeed, it is subscribed to by hundreds of official intelligence agencies, government training academies, military forces and security colleges throughout the world. However, its non-political - visual editorial and easy-reading style ‘demystifies’ the intelligence subject, making it equally as popular with people from all walks of life - including the media. It is a constant provider of a certain type and quantity of information that is not found in any other publication. Readers are assured they will always find something of interest within its 84 full colour pages; whether it’s the inside story of a lengthy government surveillance operation, an interview with a CIA polygraph examiner, MI6’s role behind the assassination of Rasputin, or the tradecraft used by those who ply their trade in the world’s second oldest profession, Eye Spy has become somewhat of a “must have” publication. The title can be found in Barnes and Noble, W. H. Smith, Borders and all good newsagents or subscribed to via Eye Spy.
Reporting and Commentary
Eye Spy dissects, publishes and provides comment on a variety of news stories, espionage case files, tradecraft, technology etc. All the world’s major happenings related to intelligence and espionage are reported upon. That’s not to say we don’t take a step back in time to look at famous case files, spy tricks (tradecraft), important and defining moments, the history of the services, from their directors to crests and the figures synonymous with the “espionage wheel”. If it’s necessary to draw parallels with events from the past, special features accompany articles; failing that, our writers will point readers in the right direction for further reading. There is a certain ‘timelessness’ about espionage events: like America’s Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, to the ‘gentry’ and shadowy Cambridge spy ring in the UK. Counterespionage agencies still use such classic case files to teach today’s students the secrets of espionage, dirty tricks and more importantly, the signs which can identify people betraying their country, or who are on the precipice of joining an enemy or adversary. It’s one reason why Eye Spy insists on retaining and improving its links with men and women who have spent decades in the ‘industry’, from photographic interpreters to training officers at some of the most secretive spy schools in the world. It helps us understand the often elaborate nature of a case file or event.
The public may learn of a breaking story via the television, radio, print press or Internet, but Eye Spy readers are content in the knowledge that they can view certain information that is simply not reported upon, or not fully understood by the media. Having an awareness of how the intelligence world works is a powerful tool for any individual. It’s not all ‘silver screen’, and ‘gadgetry’, though many real-life happenings could be drawn from the imagination of some of the world’s best scriptwriters. In recent times, the public has been intimate with major news stories that are typical of an industry that rarely hangs its dirty washing out in public. Take for example the bizarre death of former KGB officer Aleksander Litvinenko in London. Poisoned by Polonium-210 - a radioactive isotope used to help detonate nuclear bombs, Litvinenko’s death was part of a wider operation involving front companies, clandestine death lists, political and military manoeuvring etc. His assassination is most certainly connected to intelligence factions, industrial giants, the Russian mafia, and the settling of old scores. But all are ultimately connected to the intelligence world, proof if ever needed of the enormity and diversity of the subject.
As for the manner of Litvinenko’s death, the KGB are pastmasters at this kind of skulduggery. Who can forget the demise of Georgi Markov? The Bulgarian dissident killed by a poison dart filled with ricin and fired from an umbrella in London in 1978. In 2004, someone in the Russian security services posted a letter to a known Chechen terrorist. Inside the envelope flap the glue was painted with a substance lethal on skin contact. The terrorist duly opened the package and died shortly after. But it’s not just the Russians who use such deadly tradecraft. The CIA schemed for years to create all manner of plots to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro - including lacing his shoes with deadly Thallium. And a few years ago, Richard Tomlinson, a renegade MI6 officer revealed he was aware of an MI6 operation to kill Yugoslavian leader Slobodan Milosevic. In this case the alleged plot involved blinding Milosevic’s driver causing the vehicle to spin out of control. As one Eye Spy consultant keeps on reminding us - “intelligence can be a dirty business.”
What may seem like a simple murder, a case of spying, the loss of a secret component or the demise of a regime or government minister, is often just the leading edge of a much wider event.
It’s never easy trying to peak behind the front doors of so many of the world’s leading intelligence services, but the magazine’s editorial staff, consultants, contacts, analysts and sources do have access to places that are often beyond the reach of journalists. Indeed, a quick glance at our consultancy board gives you some indication of the calibre and profession of the people who regularly provide material and qualified guidance.
Eye Spy consultants also feature on television, radio and in the world’s press. They are often called upon by documentary and film makers for comment and advice on a scene or news clip. Having first-hand knowledge of the role of an air marshal or an anti-terrorist officer in New York, for example, helps our writers create a fact-based feature, or understand the mechanism of an intelligence operation. Some of our consultants still perform analysis and have decades of experience dealing with intelligence agencies, committees and government think tanks. Other consultants and editors have participated directly in special operations, from gathering intelligence in Afghanistan, to training operatives in espionage and surveillance tradecraft.
The Elements of the World of Intelligence
The word ‘intelligence’ is simply a generic term for information - but it has evolved into something that is considered far more important. The subject of ‘intelligence’ is multifaceted and enormous, it can be complex or simple. It’s what makes Eye Spy different, in that each issue is singularly unique. Unlike many topics and subjects, intelligence and the stories it generates are never quite the same. Espionage is but one element of intelligence, though many esteemed commentators consider it an integral part of the subject and they are correct. But in truth, there are hundreds of ‘elements’, and all are deemed highly important by the hundreds of thousands of men and women who work in the business. However, espionage or spying is one subject that is particularly popular with our readers, a fact not overlooked by our editorial.
Spy - an Emotive Word
Information collection comes from a multitude of sources: HUMINT for example. Human Intelligence is considered vital in that it is often gleaned from first-hand sources, or as a result of spying. The word ‘spy’ is an emotive term that the media often uses to call anyone working in the intelligence industry: an analyst, case officer, photographic interpreter etc. In reality, the word should only be used for those employed at the ‘leading edge’ of information collection, and even then, it depends on your point of view. An MI6 officer collecting intelligence in Russia is most certainly not referred to as a spy by his superiors at Britain’s Foreign Office, but his actions and role are not welcomed in Moscow. To Russia’s counterespionage or counterintelligence officers, he is a threat. But it’s easy to understand how everyone directly associated with an intelligence agency ends up being called a spy. To be called a ‘spy’, one must really be convicted in a court of law.
Foreign-based intelligence officers often work within the confines of a diplomatic mission - are attached to a foreign embassy or legitimate company and have carefully managed lifestyles and “created” backgrounds. Diplomatic immunity assured, such officers rarely conduct espionage directly. The role of a case or field officer is covered extensively in Eye Spy (tradecraft). So too is the recruitment of people, whether they are on the official payroll or not. Case officers will have a tour of duty and most never outstay their welcome in foreign countries. Selection is important as they will need to speak and understand the foreign tongue, be familiar with local customs and traditions etc. Case officers will use other people to gather intelligence - these are known in the trade as agents. Within their respected embassies, MI6 and the CIA have created field stations. Often manned by a handful of officers, these important offices cement relations between various ‘gogs’ in the espionage wheel and are charged solely with gathering intelligence, liaison and other duties.
This takes us into a rather murky area of the intelligence world. Using agents, couriers, assets and informants, a case officer will use all his or her prowess to perform a particular task. Eventually information is sourced, secured, sent for processing, disseminated, analysed and ‘boxed’. What’s produced is known as the ‘product’. Depending on the type of case officer, some operatives will simply monitor foreign press (in all its forms), attend trade fairs and military exhibitions, liaise or contribute to missions. This intelligence is usually described as ‘open source’, in that it is freely available. Others work in far more dangerous areas that inevitably means tradecraft must be used. Sometimes case or field officers are attached to legitimate businesses in an effort to obtain intelligence. These people are often dubbed ‘persons of interest’ by counterintelligence officers and will themselves be monitored and surveilled. Performing espionage at this level requires a steely resolve and it’s not for the faint-hearted. This type of tradecraft is regularly featured in Eye Spy.
Intelligence gathering is often complicated, thrilling, manpower-intensive and very expensive.
The ‘product’ is the lifeblood of diplomatic and military machines. If it’s wrong, the results can prove disastrous. An example of poor product is the US and UK intelligence assessments on Iraq’s ‘weapons of mass destruction’ (those working in the intelligence services connected to this topic believe they were poorly treated and manipulated by their political masters). Politics, foreign and domestic affairs, industry, the armed forces and intelligence must collide at some point, and the UK and USA, for example, do have special advisory or “oversight committees” to make sure the product is not used incorrectly - at least that’s the theory.
However, intelligence work is also driven by events occurring worldwide. Within three or four years Iran, for example, could have the capability to produce a nuclear bomb. That has implications not just for Middle East nations, but for everyone. How so? Many intelligence agencies, including MI6, CIA and NSA, have been charged with trying to obtain valid intelligence on Tehran’s nuclear programme. It’s a dreadfully difficult task in that closed borders exist and Westerners are not welcome. Even the world’s atomic bodies have found the Iranian government loathe to provide information. With this in mind, MI6 and others are feverishly working to gather intelligence, trying to determine the day when Iran announces to the world it has a bomb. Ultimately many analysts fear it could be used against Israel, or that certain parts of the programme could be delivered to known terrorists - and that affects the safety and security of everyone. Assessing the implications of such a situation can only be achieved by obtaining accurate intelligence - this is called Intelligence Estimate or Appreciation. It is the appraisal of all available intelligence relating to a specific requirement of potential hostile actions or developments. Diplomatic measures to stop the project have been put in place, but a secondary plan involving a tactical military strike have also been enabled. Analysts, (both political and intelligence) military strategists and key advisors must also assess the global implications for these two scenarios. This type of intelligence operation is both time consuming and menacingly dark. The wider public seem oblivious to the precarious nature of this single issue. But there are hundreds, if not thousands of events taking place at this moment in time which need to be monitored. All of these are assigned levels of sensitivity. If deemed important, they will be raised higher on the ‘intelligence chart’ and more resources assigned to the case. Others may fall off the graph, then radar, and one day may come back to haunt those persons making crucial decisions - as was the case when al-Qaida hijackers attacked the USA on 9/11 or London in 2005. The ‘product’ was undoubtedly there, it was simply misread and not nearly enough of the jigsaw was pieced together to see the bigger picture. Since then, there has been a huge recruitment drive by dozens of services, agencies have been overhauled, budgets increased and laws changed to accommodate a very fluid situation. It’s one area Eye Spy examines constantly.
A few years ago governments were limited in how they could collect intelligence. The Cold War saw two powerful sides pull away from total world destruction at the very last moment. The USSR and NATO played a dangerous game of ‘cat and mouse’. For years - both sides opted to match each others nuclear warheads, warplanes, ships and manpower. Mutual assured destruction (MAD) was the doctrine often cited by analysts. Both sides had the ability to destroy each other, the only problem was they would destroy themselves in trying. MAD is based on the theory of deterrence according to which the deployment of strong weapons is essential to threaten the enemy in order to prevent the use of the very same weapons.
Because the USSR was shielded behind a lengthy closed border dubbed the “Iron Curtain”, electronic intelligence involving reconnaissance aeroplanes, ships, submarines, and later satellites, came to the fore. A whole new industry grew from the Cold War that still exists today, one that is helping and hindering today’s intelligence gatherers. The Cold War also prompted the development of a new range of tools for spies to gather intelligence. But anyone caught plying their trade in foreign lands was almost always shot. Sometimes they were lucky - and “exchanged” at pre-arranged locations for other spies. The city of Berlin, divided both militarily and politically, was often the point of contact, and has a rightful place in spylore.
Today’s spy satellites, unlike their predecessors, have longer operational lifespans and are packed with even more high-end technology. Easily capable of reading the print off a newspaper, some systems track vehicles hundreds of miles, monitor terrorist training camps and follow rogue vessels across oceans. It’s no longer essential to send spy planes like the U-2 into near space across enemy territory to gather intelligence on a weapons convoy or take photos of a new military site; satellites can be manoeuvred and controlled at will - and even the public has the ability to view once top secret sites on the Internet with certain software. What has not changed is the analysis of the information, and the way in which the product is used. Gathering electronic information has become easier, but no less important. And just like any element in intelligence, the counterintelligence wings work overtime to stop an adversary obtaining such data. It is still a game of cat and mouse - but played out with far more players on a bigger field.
This massive technical revolution in information gathering methods has brought about a drastic change in the way intelligence is collected. Huge radomes act like ‘giant nets’ catching signals, pictures and telephone calls from across the globe. Diplomatic and military information may be scrambled, but eventually it will be deciphered. The difference is, it’s a lot faster.
Two decades ago the Internet and cell phone emerged as “must have” products. They are great providers of information. For the intelligence community they pose a problem. So rapid has been the advance of this technology, that it has become increasingly difficult for any government to keep a secret for long. Another major problem surrounding these instruments is that they can be used by anyone - including foreign spy rings, terrorists, organised crime gangs etc. With this in mind, some countries have dedicated agencies to intercept communications and monitor e-mails. One major programme run jointly by the UK’s GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) and America’s NSA (National Security Agency), is ECHELON. It’s a global network of special facilities and satellites with the capability of intercepting e-mails, phone calls, faxes etc. One intelligence analyst said - “if it’s spoken or written - we know.” That may be rather simplistic and not altogether true, but without Echelon, terrorist organisations and rogue nations intent on supporting the activity of groups like al-Qaida, could act with impunity. Of course there are those who object to such a system, but there are numerous safeguards in place to monitor only suspicious ‘traffic’. It’s just one of hundreds of topics covered in Eye Spy.
With so many people having access to cell phones and the Internet, one would think that the old traits of a spy would soon be a thing of the past. Not so. Because signals are sent electronically, they can be intercepted. With so many new forms of communication, it’s not surprising that the ‘electronic spy’ has emerged. SIGINT (signal intelligence) and COMINT (communications intelligence) are as vital to an intelligence service as HUMINT. By acquiring intelligence on an adversary, at the very least, it gives military and political planners an edge or insight into what is taking place thousands of miles away.
Understanding the intelligence machine and the role it plays is indispensable for all who want to know the nature of the 21st century. An intelligence officer is charged with the collection and evaluation of information about foreign army strengths, terrorist activity, motives and plans. It is true that these officers are the first line of defence in many arenas, often supported by a network of colleagues. Handling the ‘product’ allows analysts to make decisions, in turn providing guidance to policy makers. The features in Eye Spy are often created by assessing what transpired before an operation occurred, or the mechanism employed to achieve a specific result, be that the culmination of an anti-terrorist operation, or the discovery of an MI6 communications device buried inside a rock in a Moscow park. Our writers, all experienced in the field of intelligence, lift the important climatic information from reports. And while it is not always possible to predict happenings or military conflict, Eye Spy did report on al-Qaida’s plans to carry out a huge destructive attack on the West - a full 16 weeks prior to 9/11.
Throughout its publication journey, Eye Spy has endeavoured to provide readers with the most important and interesting news related to intelligence and espionage. One major ‘tool’ used by the men and women working at the ‘leading edge’ of intelligence collection is often described as tradecraft. A number of our writers have worked in this fascinating area - an area that interests so many people and in itself contains hundreds of special elements.
Tradecraft is used by different agencies to gather information. Whether it’s a lengthy surveillance operation, the bugging of a suspected terrorist cell, or the passing of highly secret components from an aviation project, Eye Spy typically provides a deep insight into how this is carried out. Government agencies such as MI6, or to give it its proper title - Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), have dedicated training schools to teach employees the tradecraft necessary to carry out covert operations, or ‘turn’ adversaries into informants and assets. MI6 - and its US counterpart - the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), are masters at infiltration and disinformation, though officials are obviously reluctant to discuss such matters in public. Nevertheless, these two subjects can also be described as tradecraft elements.
Eye Spy’s tradecraft series has become very popular in that readers can discover some of the amazing methods used by the world’s leading operatives, though our respect for national security is always a top priority. From discovering the methods used to install covert cameras in a target building, to the skills necessary to communicate via dead letter drops, performing surveillance, master disguise techniques, infiltrating a spy ring, remaining safe overseas, avoiding the lose of your identity, to operating in hostile environments etc. - readers will soon learn the trade secrets used by the world’s greatest spies and agencies. And by digesting the contents of our DIY section, you will soon learn to build various tools used in the espionage world, from transmitters to parabolic microphones to manufacturing plastics - all at a fraction of the cost.
Of course even experienced operatives can make mistakes or countermeasures and foreign spies conspire to make things difficult for those attempting to gather intelligence. Countermeasures are an integral part of the work of domestic national agencies such as MI5 (Security Service) and the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation). In recent times, a greater emphasis has been placed on countering the very real threat of terrorism, rather than attempting to catch spies at work, though this is still paramount. Indeed, 85% of MI5’s operational budget is now spent on monitoring and investigating al-Qaida - a huge menace for everyone. Eye Spy regularly features the work of MI5 and its partners - all determined to tackle the terror group. It’s a fascinating area because operatives are required to use tradecraft in all its forms to uncover plots, thwart operations and monitor evolving threats. Since its inception, Eye Spy has produced an array of detailed features covering a multitude of terrorist attacks and failed operations. However, much attention is given to the tradecraft and the extraordinary manner in which intelligence analysts, anti-terrorist detectives and security services combine to piece together the data. Using our first-class sources, Eye Spy has gained a reputation for accurate reporting and analysis.
Because of its wide appeal to readers from across the world, Eye Spy is a recipient of hundreds of stories, case files, and rare intelligence snippets, many from esteemed authors, writers and journalists. From authentic secret intelligence-led UK-USA Special Forces operations in Afghanistan, to new information on the Rudolf Hess mystery, MI6’s role in the building of the secret spy tunnel under the Russian Embassy in Berlin, to female spies in the war of independence, the features are both educational and fascinating. The ‘mix’ has been described by former MI5 and MI6 legal director David Bickford as “thoroughly informative” and makes for “excellent reading.”
In six years of continuous publication, Eye Spy has covered every major intelligence story, revealed some of the secret tradecraft used by operatives, published fascinating case histories, photographic essays, special espionage cases, infiltration, surveillance, bugging, service histories, interviews etc. We have a dedicated book release section whereby readers can review the latest releases, and a tradecraft area where new equipment is tested and reviewed. Our store also stocks some popular equipment, from ordinary transmitters to entire surveillance systems.
Is it is magazine for “spies”? - No - though it is a firm favourite with the ‘trade’. But it is a magazine totally devoted to and about the work of the intelligence and security services, Special Forces units, anti-terrorism officers, intelligence and police forensic and detective agencies etc.
When covering a particular event, Eye Spy will endeavour to follow events to a conclusion - with regular updates in consecutive issues. It’s why the intelligence world track Eye Spy and why our back issues are as popular today as the day they were first published. Each edition is a collector’s item and readers can keep their magazines in pristine condition with Eye Spy’s quality gold-finished binders. Ultimately they are a library in themselves - a record of key moments in time garnished with the tradecraft and all the ‘elements’ that make up the spy world.
For those who work in the industry it is essential reading, but Eye Spy is for everyone and anybody remotely interested in this fascinating and secretive subject. Do join us for a revealing insight into the world of intelligence and espionage - it may just change your opinion of world events - and what takes place behind closed doors.
Mark Birdsall Editor