Thursday, May 24, 2012

Who Killed the Spy Gareth Williams?

Gareth Williams was a British spy who worked for MI6. He was found dead in his London apartment on August 23, 2010. Williams’ body was discovered naked inside a locked North Face bag placed in his bathtub. Many news stories have speculated on how he died, and the exact cause is still hotly debated.

3 plausible explanations:

  1. Killed Himself Accidentally
  2. Killed by a Personal Friend
  3. Killed by a Foreign Intelligence Agency

Theory 1: Killed Himself Accidentally

It has been proven that Williams could have locked himself in the bag, despite contrary beliefs expressed by escapology experts. Williams supposedly attended an Escapology presentation at a conference shortly before his death. Was he testing his skills?

We know that he previously tied himself to his bed and couldn't escape. His landlord had to free him. But in that case, he survived because suffocation wasn't a possibility. Did he know he would suffocate in the closed bag and not be able to breathe through the material? Wouldn't the average person assume that breathing through the enclosed bag would be possible?

Why would he do this in the bathtub? It may have been part of a sex game, rather than an Escapology test. And he may have needed the sides of the bathtub to help him enclose himself. The coroner said he would have left hand and footprints if he had entered the bag while it was in the bath, but not if he had used the bag to walk himself into the tub. Anyone could demonstrate that, I'm sure. The word "impossible" is being thrown around in this case far too frequently.

His landlord said Williams never had anyone in his flat, so it seems improbable that he wasn't alone when he died. But why would he turn the flat's heater up all the way in August?

Theory 2: Killed by a Personal Friend

Williams was said to be passionate about cycling. He also took a fashion class. Did he invite a friend up to his flat who then took part in a game and abandoned him to die? Did a "friend" kill him on purpose? But according to his landlord, he wasn't really friendly with anyone and a close friendship would have been noticed. The Psycho Theory can't be dismissed: an acquaintance just wanted to kill him on a lark.

Theory 3: Killed by an Intelligence Agency

The MI6 Mole Theory: is there a mole inside MI6 secretly working for a foreign power, such as Russia? The role of the mole wouldn't be to pass along classified documents to Moscow, because he could get caught in a number of ways. His job would be to take note of who inside MI6 was in a critical position on a project aimed against Russia or Iran and the elimination of that one critical person would significantly damage the project. Was Williams that person? Only MI6 knows the answer to the question if he held that kind of position.

And if the mole existed and his DNA was taken, to possibly match up with DNA found in the flat, wouldn't the mole need to run away to avoid capture and life in prison? If no one runs away, therefore there is no mole and the entire theory is discredited. Only MI6 knows if anyone has "run away" lately.

It is possible the foreign agent could be another kind of person, not a mole in MI6. Perhaps a cycling or fashion buddy.

The Dead Spy Equation can never be discounted:

Dead Spy + London = Russia

This equation oftentimes comes in handy, but it isn't foolproof.

It's within the realm of possibility that MI6 decided to snuff out one of their own agents, but we are in Robert Ludlum territory with this theory.

The North Face Bag

The bag is an extremely unlikely means for murdering Williams, or anyone else. Would a killer know for sure that a person would suffocate in the bag? The killer would have to know about the existence of the bag, as it is implausible that he would use it "on the spot" as a part of his murder plot. A similar bag was found at Williams' workplace, which seems to tie the killer to MI6 or to Williams himself, a reason against a non-work solution. The coroner said a "third party" must have placed the bag in the bathtub, but that seems highly debatable. But consider how unlikely it is that the bag would be used in any kind of a murder plot!


My conclusion is that Gareth Williams' death was accidental, caused by himself. He locked himself in the bag either to test his Escapology skills or as part of a sex game. That is the likeliest explanation. He tried to escape but couldn't, just like he couldn't escape from being tied to his bed.

Without question, mistakes have been made by the authorities during the investigation, and some of the actions of MI6 personnel are rather odd, but despite all that I don't see how we can get away from the solution I suggest here.

The MI6 Mole Theory is the most sensationalistic, but the more I think about this case, the less I am convinced of it. It is too wildly improbable. Nothing will surprise me more than if the DNA results point an accusing finger at someone in MI6. I eagerly await more details of the ongoing investigation as they are revealed.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Best Spy Nonfiction of 2012

Recent spy stories in the news:

The Gareth Williams Case

Revelations about British spy Gareth Williams, who died in 2010, keep dribbling out:

  • His iPhone was wiped clean of data hours before his death
  • A secret meeting between MI6 and Scotland Yard hours after the discovery of Williams’ body
  • He was being followed in the weeks before his death
  • Police still believe his death was linked to his personal life
  • The “Mediterranean couple” has been deemed irrelevant to the case
  • Williams had once been found tied to his bed, calling for help
  • His death was probably not linked to bondage or a sex game
  • The coroner ruled that Williams was likely killed in a criminal act by a "third party" possibly a trusted colleague
  • Williams may well have been poisoned and was still alive when placed in the bag
  • Police are collecting DNA from his spy colleagues to match up with that found in his apartment, results expected in a couple weeks
  • It is unlikely the complete truth will ever be known
  • But an amateur has demonstrated it is possible to lock oneself inside the bag, despite the inability of experts to do so.
New Pentagon Agency

The Pentagon has launched the Defense Clandestine Service. Spy troops could pose as businessmen, thereby protecting military assets. Officers would work alongside CIA agents anywhere in the world, as needed.

The Pollard Case

Did Jonathan Pollard have an accomplice and is that why he is still jailed? Bad health is cited as a reason why Pollard may be released early. Reading the news reports of pro-Pollard activists, one might think he were a human rights activist rather than a treasonous spy.

European Mosque Trap

MI6 and Muammar Gaddafi’s spy service set up a radical mosque in an unnamed European city to lure in Al Qaeda terrorists.

The Delisle Case

In Canada, Lt. Jeffrey Delisle sent a large amount of sensitive military data to Russia and was arrested earlier this year. The amount of intelligence data sent by Delisle is considered equivalent to the volume of US data given to Wikileaks by Bradley Manning.

New Books of Interest:

Aid, Matthew M. Intel Wars: The Secret History of the Fight Against Terror.
Despite huge post-9/11 intelligence budgets, the war on Islamist terrorism has floundered and Aid attempts to explain why. Based on interviews and Wikileaks documents. Aid is the author of the highly-regarded book The Secret Sentry, a history of the NSA.

Birstein, Vadim. SMERSH: Stalin’s Secret Weapon, Soviet Military Counterintelligence in WWII.
James Bond aficionados know about SMERSH as a sinister opponent in the Ian Fleming novels, but it was a real organization under Joseph Stalin in WWII. Information about SMERSH became available after the fall of the Soviet Union. A biography of its director, Viktor Abakumov, is presented for the first time.

Peritz, Aki and Eric Rosenbach. Find, Fix, Finish: Inside the Counterterrorism Campaigns that Killed Osama Bin Laden and Devastated Al Qaeda.
A decade after 9/11 the US finally learned how to combat terrorists. No major attacks have occurred on the homeland. The Find, Fix, and Finish policy articulated by Donald Rumsfeld has been responsible for many successes, the authors say.

Sharp, David H. The CIA’s Greatest Covert Operation: Inside the Daring Mission to Recover a Nuclear-Armed Soviet Sub.
Several books have been written about the Azorian mission, but author Sharp, the Azorian Director of Recovery Systems, feels those accounts have gotten the facts wrong, while the CIA has continued to keep details of the recovery project shrouded in secrecy.

Read The Best Spy Nonfiction of 2011

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Best Spy Fiction of 2012

Updated 5/7/12

Here is a selection of noteworthy spy novels published in 2012:

Caplan, Thomas M. The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen.
Ty Hunter is a former military intelligence officer who becomes Hollywood’s top leading man (bet there haven’t been many of those). The president recruits him to save the world from nuclear disaster. Reviews have been positive; Library Journal compares Caplan to Ian Fleming, wow! The WaPo highlights Bill Clinton’s intro, as you would expect from them. Required reading, sez the NY Post. Kirkus splashes some cold water with their usual ho-hum verdict, and the Chicago Sun-Times thinks it awful, killed by leaden prose! That’s critics for you.

Berenson, Alex. The Shadow Patrol.
John Wells is recruited to find out what’s the problem with the CIA station in Kabul, Afghanistan. Nothing but failure since a suicide bomber blew himself up there in 2009. All the pundits seem to like this one.

Flynn, Vince. Kill Shot.
Flynn has emerged as one of the most popular thrillerists going today, receiving plaudits from presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Rush Limbaugh. Nine dead bodies are found in a Paris hotel and Flynn’s superhero Mitch Rapp is thought to have been responsible. Maybe Rapp, who has caused an international crisis, would be better off dead to avoid any further embarrassment.

Garrison, Paul. Robert Ludlum’s The Janson Command.
Look at the front cover of this book. What’s the biggest thing you see? The name Robert Ludlum. Now find the author’s name. Get the idea? Ludlum died over a decade ago, yet his name dominates the covers of new books written by others. Paul Janson, a character from Ludlum’s own The Janson Directive, is brought to life again by Garrison. African intrigue with rebels and pirates. The idea seems to be that you are getting a whiff of the legendary thriller writer Ludlum, and this novel, by association, is a cut above the others on the marketplace. A new Bourne book written by Lustbader is coming soon, as well. I have to believe people know what they are buying and these Ludlum-branded books penned by others seem to be popular.

Henshaw, Mark. Red Cell.
China plans an invasion of Taiwan. The US enters the action and China unleashes a secret weapon. Henshaw is a CIA analyst.

Johansen, Iris. What Doesn’t Kill You.
Gorgeous CIA agent Catherine Ling must find the master herbalist who created the world’s most deadly poison. A rare female author on the list.

Pavone, Chris. The Expats.
Kate Moore is a working mom, a former covert CIA agent, and now an expat in Europe, her husband having taken a job in Luxembourg. Are her neighbors what they appear? And what about hubby? Wildly positive reviews, even from Kirkus.

Steinhauer, Olen. An American Spy.
CIA agent Milo Weaver is in the middle of Chinese intrigue. Vengeance is planned against a Chinese spymaster who crippled Weaver’s Tourism Department in Steinhauer’s previous book. The third installment of a trilogy. Steinhauer is highly-regarded for a spy novelist, even the NY Times deigns to review this guy.

Read The Best Spy Fiction of 2011

Read The Best Spy Fiction of 2010