Dead Drop: October 12

BUT LEE PERSISTED: The disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul has sparked enormous news coverage – perhaps nowhere more than in the Washington Post (where he was a contributor.) On Thursday, we counted six news stories in the WaPo’s “A” section, plus two opinion pieces that centered on the story.  The matter also helped drive home some points at the daily State Department press briefing on Wednesday.  As Politico noted, veteran AP diplomatic writer Matt Lee asked deputy spokesman Robert Palladino “Who again — what’s the name of the ambassador in Turkey right now?” Palladino replied: “I don’t have that in front of me right now and I — Matt –” but Lee persisted: “What’s the name of the ambassador in Saudi Arabia right now?” Palladino answered: “I see what you’re getting at. OK. We are confident in our diplomatic –” Interrupting, Lee said: “The answer is that you don’t have an ambassador in either place, right?”

WHO ARE THESE GUYS? Our new favorite online investigation team, Bellingcat, continue to run up the score on the GRU – showing the Russian military intelligence outfit to be like the “Get Smart” spy agency, “CONTROL,” except with more KAOS. In recent posts, Bellingcat has revealed in great detail, screw ups committed by Russian agents.  We’ve gone well past the  “perhaps they are being intentionally sloppy, to let us know they were behind it” point – to reaching the “what were they drinking?” stage.  In recent days, Bellingcat revealed that documents released by the Dutch, that charged four Russians with attempted cybercrimes, included the names of 205 individuals who have their personal automobiles registered to the same address – which happens to be the GRU’s cyber warfare department.  Doh! Then, Bellingcat came up with the true name of the second suspect in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal.  Turns out, the accomplice in the botched operation is Dr. Alexander Mishkin.  Apparently, unlike American MDs, GRU docs make house calls. The Bellingcat scoops have riled up Russian media.  Julia Davis, who monitors news from there with a sharp eye, tweeted that on Russian state TV, one talk show panelist opined that Bellingcat clearly got it right in identifying the Salisbury perps as GRU officers. The host of the show apparently didn’t like the comment and told the panelist he was “no better than Skripal, and should get out of Russia.”

The Cipher Brief has become the most popular outlet for former intelligence officers; no media outlet is even a close second to The Cipher Brief in terms of the number of articles published by formers.” —Sept. 2018, Studies in Intelligence, Vol. 62

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