Dead Drop: October 28

DROPPING A DIME: We live in a time when great intelligence collection and analysis is no longer the sole province of governments.  Last week, we mentioned the fine work of Julia Davis who watches Russian television and shares timely translated snippets, giving insight into what passes for informed commentary on Russian state TV.  This week, we’d like to again highlight the continued extraordinary work of the folks at Bellingcat. The global collective outfit of “independent researchers, investigators and citizen journalists” posted some fascinating analysis this week about the Russian officials responsible for planning the cruise missile attacks that have been targeting Ukrainian residential buildings, kindergartens and playgrounds. Working with the German publication Der Spiegel and The Insider, Bellingcat investigators identified by name, members a group of military engineers who they say appear to be programming the missiles to hit these civilian targets.  Now, just how Bellingcat & company figured all this out is hard to explain simply – but their explanation is well worth the read. The level of detail they collect is amazing. For example, one of the Russian targeting group’s leaders, identified as Lt. Col. Igor Bagnyuk, “is an avid coin collector who spends a large portion of his time – including during working hours – on the phone with coin trading sites.” We guess you could say Bellingcat really dropped a dime on Bagnyuk.

LOOK! UP IN THE AIR!  The skies over Ukraine are crowded with drones these days. Some seem to be controlled by Ukrainians and others by Russians.  Media reports say Moscow is deploying Iranian-made drones which are trying to knock out Ukraine’s electrical infrastructure in hopes of demoralizing the populace as winter sets in. As of last week, Ukrainian military officials claim to have shot down “at least 237” Iranian Shahed-136 drones. The New York Times reported this week, that “A Ukrainian official, speaking off the record, has said Israel has provided intelligence useful for targeting the Iranian drones.” Ukrainians, meanwhile, are flying U.S. and Turkish made drones and have made some innovative modifications.  In some instances, we hear, they are using them to drop grenades on Russian personnel.

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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