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Cyburbia

There's Certainly No Lack of Intelligence in Cyberspace

February 20, 1996|DAVID COLKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Psst. Come closer. We're going to tell you how to find spies on the Internet. Don't worry, you won't have to burn this column after you read it. The spies are right out in the open. They have home pages.

There was a time when the National Security Agency, created in 1952, was so top secret only its employees and a few outsiders knew of its existence. The NSA, which reportedly has a budget in the billions, is the chief listener and code breaker of the U.S.' intelligence operation--it uses satellites and other high-tech means to monitor communications all over the world and makes use of high speed computers to decipher encrypted messages.

The NSA is not about to give away any secrets online, but via its home page at http://www.nsa.gov:8080/, you can access its mission statement, a biography of its director (Vice Admiral Mike McConnell), directions to its only public operation--the National Cryptologic Museum outside Washington--and most interestingly of all, "Employment Opportunities." If you are fluent in Asian, Middle Eastern or Slavic languages (except Russian--they seem to already have enough staffers fluent in that language), or are a whiz at the latest cryptographic techniques, the NSA would like to hear from you.

The Central Intelligence Agency also has, or at least had, an extensive presence online, including reprints from its fact book on numerous countries. At the time I was researching this column, however, its sites were inaccessible. Perhaps it was only a temporary technical glitch, or maybe they've gone underground.

The most interesting stuff about spy operations is found on unofficial sites, such as one sponsored by the Intelligence Watch Report, a privately owned, printed periodical that is jammed full of information about spy agencies worldwide. Its online directory lists agencies in exactly 100 countries, from Abkhaz to Zaire. Click on a county and you can find a summary of the latest IWR articles about its spies.

Choose China, for example, and you find out that its Guoanbu agency is reportedly trying to recruit Tibetans to spy on their own citizens, and that in December three Guoanbu agents were arrested in India for allegedly spying on the Dalai Lama.

Click on Slovakia, and there is a report that the country's president, Michal Kovac, has accused his own security agency, the Slovak Information Service, of being involved in the kidnapping of his son.

The IWR site, called "IntelWeb," can be found at http://www.awpi.com/IntelWeb/index.html. Its home page is soliciting advertising with the intriguing statement: "If you do business with the public or private sector intelligence community, IntelWeb's advertising slots are the perfect way to reach new clients."

If you're interested in vintage spy equipment, one of the coolest sites online is http://www.bluesky.com/warren/radios/spyradios.html. There, you find pictures of a CIA portable spy radio from the 1950s, a miniature spy transmitter for sending Morse code and a large hand crank device that was used for powering field radios.

Finally, there is a site that is probably considered the enemy by many U.S. spies. And it's not some nefarious, secret foreign outfit. It's the Federation of American Scientists, a Washington-based group that advocates a revamping of this country's intelligence operations. Its Intelligence Reform Project home page begins with a statement that reads, in part: "Protected from public review and oversight by a citadel of classification, too much of the intelligence community remains committed to activities that were controversial during the Cold War, and that are increasingly irrelevant to the post-Cold War world."

Its site, which can be reached at http://www.fas.org/pub/gen/fas/irp/index.html, contains links to numerous official and unofficial documents about U.S. intelligence gathering.

* Cyburbia's e-mail address is David.Colker@latimes.com

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