10 Biggest Espionage Blunders

10 Biggest Espionage Blunders Robert Hanssen was a veteran FBI agent with 25 years in the service from 1976 to 2001 – that sounds exemplary, except for the tiny matter of him spending all but three of them as a mole for the USSR Hansson spent much of that time passing on classified information about US intelligence operations to his handlers, sometimes for as much as 1

4 million dollars Some of that information led to the capture and deaths of three agents in Russia, which has been called one of the worst intelligence beaches in US history But worse still, the FBI could have caught him up to a decade before his arrest in 2001, as his brother-in-law reported his money stashes and decadent spending despite a meagre salary In fact, the FBI ignored those warnings for so long that once he was captured, Hanssen’s first response was “what took you so long?” 9 New York Nazi Spies In 1938 before the outbreak of World War II, Nazi Germany was already hard at work trying to exert influence in foreign countries – including the United States

A lot of that was accomplished through the German-American Bund, an advocacy group with links to Nazi spies One of those spies was Guenther Rumrich, a US army deserter who initially garnered a great deal with his military connections, but became increasingly careless Rumrich was caught after an wholy unconvincing attempt to pose as a US official, which led to his spymaster Ignatz Griebl’s capture But with that, the bumbling quickly passed from Nazis to the Americans You see, Griebl quickly gave up the entire operation to the authorities

That satisfied the feds to such a degree that they didn’t feel the need to charge him for his plotting or even keep him under surveillance So unsurprisingly, he bolted to the fatherland at his earliest convenience 8 Heinrich Albert During the first world war, Heinrich Albert was posted as a commercial attache in Washington DC, with the goal of furthering German interests in the US That was largely covered by diplomatic efforts, but Albert wouldn’t have made this list if he was totally above board

Albert’s job included stoking objections over exports to the allied forces, encouraging friendly media treatments of Germany and, crucially, handling millions of dollars worth of clandestine funds He used that money to fund German propaganda and coordinate the espionage and sabotage of American arms exports But while he had tight control of the purse strings, the same couldn’t be said for his documents, since secret service personnel found that Albert had left a dossier of sensitive information on a train That colossal blunder led to Germany’s clandestine efforts being discovered and even leaked to the press And we all know nothing ruins secrets like national newspaper coverage

7 Pearl Harbour As anyone with even a faint understanding of World War II knows, Pearl Harbour was one of the most impactful moments of the conflict This is not only because it dragged in the US, but because it was the first step on the path to 419,000 American deaths But while FDR may very well have joined the war regardless of what happened, the deadly success of the attack appears to have resulted from colossal failures in communicating military intelligence For example, the US military had already cracked Japanese encryption codes but frequently failed to relay communications between relevant stations

But most heinously, the army actually picked up the pearl harbour bombers on radar but alerted no-one since they assumed they were American craft on a routine mission And that’s not to mention the fact that the Ambassador to Japan, Joseph Grew, alerted the US to the impending attack 10 days prior and it was dismissed 6 Spy Rock You’re probably well aware that East-West spying didn’t stop with the cold war But if this case is anything to go by, the standards don’t seem to have been kept up since the fall of the Berlin Wall

Back in 2006, Russia’s FSB intelligence agency sniffed out a rather suspicious looking rock getting a lot of attention on a Moscow street And upon closer examination, it was plastic and filled with audio surveillance equipment Yep, a rock You’d probably get laughed out of the room if you wrote that in a spy thriller Russia started a diplomatic row with the UK over the matter, and accused MI6 of using it as part of plans to disrupt Russian politics through Non-Governmental Organisations

Vladimir Putin responded by blocking foreign funding to non-profit organisations But no-one admitted to it until 2012 when Jonathan Powell, former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s chief of staff, called the entire affair an “embarrassment” 5 The Dreyfus Affair Despite being the most egregious example in history, European anti-semitism didn’t begin with the Nazis In fact, it stretched across the continent for centuries, and one case caused not just a historic counterintelligence failure but lasting cultural impacts for decades

In 1894, French army officer Alfred Dreyfus was falsely accused of leaking secrets to Germany, largely based on his unearned reputation of being cold and curious, along with his Alsatian Jewish heritage Dreyfus was ultimately arrested with no tangible evidence in hopes of coaxing out a confession Nonetheless, after a military trial based on evidence that was flimsy at best, Dreyfus was sentenced to life imprisonment After major backlash he was tried once more, again found guilty but then pardoned That was all despite evidence of French intelligence agent Ferdinand Esterhazy being the real culprit, but thanks to the evident bias in the trial, the French army flat out failed in its counterintelligence efforts

4 Operation Pastorius Just after Pearl Harbour, there was a huge appetite in Nazi intelligence circles to spread terror throughout the United States by infiltration That’s where Operation Pastorius comes in This was one of a number of groups of German-born american residents who were trained in espionage by the Nazis and sent back to cause havoc But unlike the other missions, Operation Pastorius had former waiter George Dasch at the helm, who proved very quickly not to be the most reliable asset

Upon reaching New York, Dasch lost his nerve almost immediately when a police officer spotted his team burying their clothes at the beach It wasn’t long before he called the FBI himself to confess But in what seems to be a trend here, the bungling was mutual The FBI ignored or dismissed Dasch’s intel for 4 whole days until he dropped 84 thousand Nazi-funded dollars on an FBI desk in Washington DC We all know money talks

3 Ryan Fogle As you saw with the spy Rock, [show Dwayne Johnson on screen] no not that one , espionage isn’t always gadgets and glamour Sometimes it’s putting on a dodgy wig and getting arrested by the FSB That was exactly what happened to Ryan Fogle in 2013 The low-level US Embassy diplomat was expelled from Russia and declared a persona-non-grata after being caught by FSB agents wearing this snazzy number

In a mission compared to the Cold War by the Russians, the FSB says it apprehended Fogle carrying a letter that aimed to recruit a Russian agent to the CIA, along with a ‘spy kit’ containing two wigs, cash and a knife Not exactly martinis and laser-watches but hey That debacle came on the tail of steadily worsening relations between the United States and Russia, who had accused the US of acting to undermine Vladimir Putin 2 Nathan Hale Back in 1776, the British Army took New York, and as part of the counterattack, the revolutionary army was looking for spies

Hale was a Connecticut School teacher and, by all accounts, a true patriot who signed up to snoop as soon as he heard the call But despite Hale’s now-revered American hero status, there’s not much to celebrate about his actual mission For one thing, the US army didn’t train him at all, they just fitted him with civilian clothes and sent him on his way But it wasn’t just the head honchos that screwed up According to Library of Congress accounts found in 2003, Hale blew his cover in just a week when British Army Major Robert Rogers caught wind and approached him in a pub claiming to be a compatriot

Hale promptly spilled the beans on his mission and got himself hanged 1 Illegals Spy Ring History books and Hollywood taught us about the prowess of Russia’s spy operations But if the Illegals Program is any indication, that reputation might be a little overblown For nearly a decade until their 2010 arrest, 10 Russian SVR agents operated in America under the guise of being ordinary citizens

They were tasked with attaining valuable intel by making connections with politicians and industry insiders But here’s the thing, all of the information they gathered was pretty much attainable from newspapers and public radio Described by the CIA as “feckless”, they were so ineffective that the FBI actually let them operate for four years because it gave more insights to US agencies about Russia than they gathered for their handlers Of the many, many blunders under their belt, the most egregious error has to have come from Anna Chapman, who registered a phone to 99 fake street Hmm, where have I heard that before? That the 10 Biggest Espionage Blunders

How else have intelligence agencies not shown much intelligence? Let us know in the comments and make sure to like and subscribe While you’re at it, check out this great Alltime10s video on screen now

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