An Egyptian-American police officer arrested last week in New York for spying is highlighting the ‘significant’ national security threat of foreign intelligence services recruiting state and local American cops, notes Jeff Stein at Spy Talk. This NYPD cop was used to spy on Egyptian exiles in New York opposed to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s repressive regime in Cairo.
But he is far from the only one; Egypt is far from the only regime to do so – and tracking dissidents isn’t all these U.S. cops are tasked with doing by foreign spies.
According to former FBI counterintelligence chief Frank Figliuzzi and other former national security officials, reports Spy Talk at The Daily Beast, “efforts by foreign spy agencies to recruit U.S. state and local police is a persistent problem.”
“Certain foreign intelligence services consistently seek to recruit American police officers for their access to non-public information” which helps them track down dissidents here, Figliuzzi said. “This continues to be a significant concern.”
Spy Talk continues:
In 2020, an NYPD officer of Tibetan descent was charged with helping China with its “intelligence gathering and repression of Chinese abroad,” particularly anti-communist Tibetans in New York and elsewhere.
Last July, five Iranian agents were charged in Manhattan with plotting to kidnap a Brooklyn-based Iranian-American journalist and human rights activist and smuggle her to Venezuela and onward to Tehran. The plotters employed unidentified “private investigators” to spy on her, the indictment said. Typically, private eyes are ex-cops with sources in their old police outfits.
Activists in the U.S. regularly report being followed, sometimes even by local police cars. Stein adds, “Figliuzzi said he had personally encountered cases of Chinese, Cuban, Turkish, and Israeli agents cultivating local American police.” And the Russians take a long-term approach to penetrating our local police, Evanina said, according to Stein.
The Daily Beast adds:
“The Chinese have perfected it,” Bill Evanina, a former top U.S. counterintelligence and counterespionage official said, often via regular, above-board law enforcement exchanges between their police and security agencies and ours.
Evanina singled out China’s Ministry of State Security, or MSS, and its Shanghai Security Bureau, “coming over here and offering partnerships with state and local law enforcement to do training and [to] understand their systems and capabilities. And then they kind of co-opt someone who’s usually in the administrative department to get access to records and data.”
…In 2014, China launched Operation Foxhunt, a global covert action program to track down and repatriate criminal fugitives and overseas dissidents. They are often one and the same in Beijing’s eyes. “It’s really, really bad,” Evanina said, with Chinese agents often resorting to brazen kidnappings. They look for opportunities to cultivate sources in U.S. police departments to help them track down targets.
While the Chinese and others may be using American cops to target dissidents and exiles living in the U.S., the Russians are doing the same, but also using American police assets for criminal activities. And the Russians take a long-term approach to penetrating our local police, Evanina said.
They have been “very good at seeding their people”—sons and daughters of immigrants—“in police departments in the Sun Coast of Florida, New York, and D.C.,” Evanina added, where there are sizable Russian communities. Florida is an especially big problem flooded with Russians in some places.
But the steady Russian infiltration of police departments also has “organized crime purposes,” including “white slavery,” trafficking women as sex workers, especially through strip clubs, notes Evanina in Spy Talk.
U.S. cops working for Putin and the Russian mob should be a major concern for all Americans.
Sadly, this appears to be a significant, long-term threat in desperate need of fixing. Spy Talk concludes:
The FBI has spent “two decades trying to warn state and local law enforcement,” Evanina said, with the help of national law enforcement organizations. But it’s been an uphill battle, with some 18,000 police departments across the country, most with little clue to the designs of foreign adversaries or the resources to vet them. They’re easy prey for foreign agents pretending to be regular, friendly police officers. ADN
*This article has been edited to better clarify the citations to the original source.