Articles by James Risen

Senate Hears Eavesdropping Defense

  • 08 February 06
U.S. President George W. Bush decided against allowing the National Security Agency to intercept purely domestic phone calls and e-mail messages after the Sept. 11 attacks in part because officials realized such a decision would provoke intense opposition if made public, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified Monday.

Speculation Grows Over Whether Hussein Is Alive

  • 04 April 03
The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush has intensified a campaign to sow doubts about whether Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is still alive.

Krassilnikov, Bane of The CIA, Dead at 76

  • 25 March 03
Rem Krassilnikov, a legendary figure within the KGB who was in charge of the investigations and arrests of the American spies betrayed by Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen and other moles in the final years of the Cold War, died in Moscow last week.

SVR Gave CIA Ears in North Korea

  • 21 January 03
Russian intelligence officers secretly placed sophisticated nuclear detection equipment inside North Korea at the request of the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1990s, to assist the United States in tracking the North Korean nuclear weapons program, intelligence officials say.

Bush Gives the CIA More Power to Kill

  • 16 December 02
The Bush administration has prepared a list of about two dozen terrorist leaders that the Central Intelligence Agency is authorized to kill if capture is impractical and civilian casualties can be minimized, senior military and intelligence officials said.

CIA Rejects Call for Iraq Report

  • 04 October 02
The Central Intelligence Agency has refused to provide Congress with a comprehensive report on its role in a possible U.S. campaign against Iraq, setting off a bitter dispute between the agency and leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, congressional leaders said Wednesday.

Rumsfeld Wants More Covert Action

  • 13 August 02
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is considering ways to broadly expand the role of U.S. Special Operations forces in the global campaign against terrorism.

Arafat-Iran Deal Made in Moscow

  • 25 March 02
U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials have concluded that Yasser Arafat has forged a new alliance with Iran that involves Iranian shipments of heavy weapons and millions of dollars to Palestinian groups that are waging guerrilla war against Israel.

U.S. Offers $25 Million for Bin Laden

  • 21 November 01
The United States stepped up its efforts to persuade the people of Afghanistan to turn over Osama bin Laden, as U.S. military aircraft began broadcasting a new radio message into the country announcing a $25 million cash reward for information leading to his location or capture.

U.S. Contemplates Freeing Up the CIA

  • 17 September 01
WASHINGTON -- The congressional leaders who oversee the country's intelligence system have concluded that America's spy agencies should be allowed to combat terrorism with more aggressive tactics, including the hiring of unsavory foreign agents. The attacks in the United States have also revived discussion of reversing the 25-year ban on using covert agents to assassinate foreigners. A consensus has not been reached on this point. But after the attacks, the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and two former directors of central intelligence said the attacks justified easing some restrictions on the behavior of spy agencies. Some of these leaders also said the terrorist assault represented a colossal failure of U.S. intelligence. R. James Woolsey, a former CIA director, said that ""Washington has absolutely undergone a sea change in thinking this week.

FBI Suspicious After Envoy Goes Home

  • 20 March 01
WASHINGTON Ч Vladimir Frolov, the press attache in the Russian Embassy here, abruptly left for Moscow last week, his second tour of duty in the United States unexpectedly cut short. Frolov, who built a reputation among American journalists and experts at Washington policy organizations as a reliable and candid observer of U.S.-Russian relations, told reporters he was going home to join the newspaper Izvestia. But FBI officials say he is in fact a spy with the SVR, Russia's foreign intelligence service. His abrupt departure just weeks after the arrest of Robert Philip Hanssen, an FBI agent, on charges of spying for Russia has raised questions in Washington about whether Frolov may have been involved in helping to handle the operation for his service. Izvetsia denied Monday that Frolov would work for the newspaper, Interfax reported.

Probe May Explain Arrest of KGB Agent

  • 12 March 01
WASHINGTON Ч For years, former CIA officer Jack Platt has been burdened by doubt about the case of his onetime adversary-turned-friend and business partner, a former major in the KGB named Gennady Vasilenko. At the height of the Cold War, Platt was part of a team of Central Intelligence Agency officers and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents trying to lure Vasilenko into spying for the United States. While working for the KGB in Washington and Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, Vasilenko repeatedly rebuffed the American entreaties, offering little more than office gossip. In CIA parlance, Vasilenko was a ""developmental"" agent, singled out for recruitment but still out of reach. Platt grew to like his quarry, and ultimately the two men became friends. But the KGB somehow found out about the relationship, and in January 1988, Vasilenko was arrested in Havana and sent back to the Soviet Union. He was questioned and imprisoned for about six months.

CIA Papers Reveal View of Cold War

  • 12 March 01
WASHINGTON Ч Just three days after Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow became Pope John Paul II in 1978, the Central Intelligence Agency predicted that the installation of the first Polish pontiff would lead to political instability within Poland and the erosion of the Soviet Union's ability to control its Eastern European empire, according to newly declassified CIA documents. In the analysis, in October 1978, the CIA forecast that Moscow would find it increasingly difficult to ""check and to counter Poland's instinctive, cultural and political gravitation to the West."" In fact, the Solidarity movement, a Polish workers' rebellion against Communist rule that was supported by the pope, began just two years later, and ultimately played a crucial role in ending Soviet control over Eastern Europe. Over the long run, the CIA report predicted, ""the election of a Polish pope will contribute to an increase in nationalism in East Europe and will raise the consciousness of Orthodox churches and churchmen in the area.

U.S. Dug Tunnel to Spy on Embassy

  • 05 March 01
WASHINGTON Ч The U.S. government constructed a secret tunnel under the Soviet Union's new embassy in Washington in order to eavesdrop, but federal investigators now believe the operation was betrayed by the FBI agent who was arrested last month on charges of spying for Moscow, current and former U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials said. The secret tunnel operation, which officials indicated was run jointly by the FBI and the National Security Agency, was part of a broad U.S. effort to eavesdrop on and track Soviet Ч later Russian Ч facilities and personnel operating in the United States. Spokesmen at the FBI and the White House declined to comment on the tunnel operation Saturday. Current and former U.S. officials estimated that the tunnel construction and related intelligence-gathering activities cost several hundred million dollars, apparently making it the most expensive clandestine intelligence operation that the agent, Robert Philip Hanssen, is accused of betraying.

Unsung Superstar of Espionage

  • 23 February 01
WASHINGTON Ч Viktor Cherkashin wears the face of the Cold War: a piercing stare, and the intimidating presence of a brilliant actor, which of course is a necessary tool of any successful spy. But it was his careful approach to clandestine operations that made him such a brilliant adversary to the CIA and FBI. As a colonel in the KGB, Cherkashin was instrumental in handling both Aldrich Ames, who spied for nine years from within the heart of the CIA, and, federal law enforcement officials now say, Robert Philip Hanssen, who is accused of spying for more than 15 years from inside the FBI. In a published interview in Moscow in 1997, Cherkashin discussed his involvement in the Ames case, but he never disclosed the existence of another major spy operation. He did suggest, however, that Ames may not have been responsible for everything that the FBI and CIA had alleged. ""I think Ames' damage has been exaggerated a bit in the West,'' Cherkashin said. ""Maybe because of Ames himself.

U.S. Says Defector Was Not Diplomat but Spy

  • 12 February 01
WASHINGTON Ч A Russian intelligence officer working under cover as a diplomat at the United Nations has defected to the United States, say several U.S. officials knowledgeable with the case. The intelligence officer, identified by officials as Sergei Tretyakov, defected in October with his wife and other family members and has undergone extensive debriefings by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency, officials said. Tretyakov's defection was disclosed in late January. At the time, though, U.S. officials described him only as a diplomat and senior aide to Russia's UN ambassador, Sergei Lavrov. While Tretyakov's public title was first secretary in the Russian mission, he was in fact an officer in the SVR, Russia's foreign intelligence service, U.S. officials said. Several current and former U.S. officials said defections of Russian intelligence officers have become relatively rare in recent years, partly because U.S.

CIA Chief Warns of Moscow's Influence

  • 09 February 01
WASHINGTON Ч Russia is using international trade in weapons and technology to improve relations with China, India and Iran while trying to revive its status as a great power and challenge U.S. influence, said the director of central intelligence, George Tenet. In blunt testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Tenet indicated that the U.S. intelligence community was increasingly concerned by the direction of Moscow's foreign policy under President Vladimir Putin. ""There can be little doubt that President Putin wants to restore some aspects of the Soviet past Ч status as a great power, strong central authority and a stable and predictable society Ч sometimes at the expense of neighboring states or the civil rights of individual Russians,"" Tenet said. He made his statements in a wide-ranging annual review of the global threats that are facing the United States.

U.S.: Arms Sales to Iran a Threat

  • 12 January 01
WASHINGTON Ч Russian sales to Iran of technology that has both civilian and military purposes are a major obstacle to expanding U.S. efforts to prevent the spread of Russian nuclear material, a bipartisan panel has found. The panel, established by U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson to review Energy Department programs intended to safeguard Russian nuclear material, has found that the trade in so called dual-use technology, as well as in conventional weapons, from Russia to Iran remained a critical problem in relations between Washington and Moscow. And that problem makes it more difficult to resolve related proliferation disputes. ""The task force,"" the report said, ""is particularly concerned that if Russian cooperation with Iran continues in a way that compromises nuclear nonproliferation norms, it will inevitably have a major adverse effect on continued cooperation in a wide range"" of nonproliferation programs between the nations.

Ex-KGB and Ex-CIA Join in Computer Firm

CIA: Iran May Now Have Nuclear Bomb

China Got Secrets on U.S. Subs, Records Say

CIA Denies Analysts Censored Russia Reports

Gore Ignored CIA on Chernomyrdin

Russia Gets Back in Action in Afghanistan

Last Spymaster Is Keeper of KGB Flame

Bitter Ex-Spy Lifts Veil on His Biggest Case

1993 CIA Shooting Suspect Captured

CIA Still Adrift After Lake's Withdrawal

Spy's Blown Cover Forces Re-Evaluation at CIA

Former CIA Heads Blamed in Spy Debacle