Publicly burning the covert – Lutsenko has to go (but he won’t)

December 2, 2017

President Poroshenko went to great lengths to install Yuri Lutsenko as Prosecutor General of Ukraine.  It was only after about a year of behind the curtain negotiations, and then forcing through a change in the law, that the President managed to install his man as Prosecutor General.

The political capital (and probably money) spent in shoehorning Yuri Lutsenko in as Prosecutor General was of course all about loyalty to President Poroshenko.  Otherwise inserting a “Grey Cardinal” (an accomplished doer of grubby and dirty deals behind the curtain where the stands of politics, criminality and business entwine) would not have been possible.  After decades of being a “Grey Cardinal”, Mr Lutsenko knows where all the bodies are buried and how all the scams and schemes operate.

Thus his appointment was about installing a man to manage the prosecutor’s office.  It was about controlling and focusing the coercive abilities of the PGO.  It was not about successful prosecutions of the elite and their most powerful or useful minions – as the empty jail cells prove as testament.

After almost 4 years as President and after 18 months as Prosecutor General, this team has not seen a single member of the elite convicted and jailed.

That however was always their plan and, to be blunt, was always recognised by the Ukrainian constituency.  It was not missed by the foreign diplomatic corps either.

The fly in the ointment has been NABU.

Yuri Lutsenko has not managed to subordinate it, and Ukrainian society and “foreign partners” have thus far managed to defend it.  Hence what is currently clearly open warfare upon NABU by The Bankova via the politically subservient PGO and SBU.

However, even in this institutional warfare, declared or otherwise, there are rules written and unwritten that are never broken on a whim – if at all.

One of those rules is not to publicly burn (identify) officers, operatives, agents and (registered) informers engaged in intelligence gathering and/or covert criminal operations unless absolutely necessary – but certainly not on a whim.  If it is necessary, such matters are almost always dealt with by employing discretion at its uppermost.  Even known fabricators are privately and quietly burned – rarely publicly, if ever.

For adversaries it is a question of quid pro quo – what is seen to be done to one side by another will be met by reciprocity.

The whimsical burning of undercover or covert personnel acting on behalf of a State institution is therefore shunned – be they active abroad or at home, in intelligence or criminality.

Casting intelligence and espionage to one side, and concentrating on the criminality that is the realm of NABU, the blog will adopt the lexicon of law enforcement and not espionage – although clearly law enforcement engages in its own covert intelligence gathering.

NABU is at a disadvantage compared to many law enforcement bodies.  Firstly its remit is purely related to anti-corruption within the Ukrainian political, judicial, civil service and institutional elite.  That naturally places limitations upon interaction with horizontal bodies beyond the usual limitations of competitiveness between institutions.

Parliament, for obvious self-interest reasons, will not grant NABU independent SIGINT capabilities.  NABU is reliant upon the politically controlled SBU for any such intelligence.  Naturally when there are doubts upon the integrity of the SBU, SIGINT requests must be carefully considered lest an operation be deliberately compromised – and that leads to a greater dependence upon human intelligence (HUMINT)/operational involvement – and, perhaps, increased risks for those engaged in it.

The NABU mandate clearly sets the entire system and the majority of those within it against NABU.  Not any easy situation.

Presumably NABU is organised internally in a very similar way to the agencies/institutions within “foreign supporters” – for it was they that trained, equipped and financed NABU initially.

With anti-corruption within the elite the remit, there will be a lot of intelligence gathering from many sources, standard detective work, foreign judicial/law enforcement liaison, and a lot of surveillance and undercover work (with more than a few sting operations too).  This will only be enhanced by an effective network of undercover officers, agents and informants – occasionally participating informants – many of whom, for the sake of what they do, (and for the sake of bureaucracy/documentation), will have been allocated a pseudonym.

That pseudonym, once recorded in a central register, is the only name that will be used.

(Imagine those working covertly for a State institution being burned because their real name was required for a cash/incidental expenses payment for the “bean counter’s” form, and somebody in the accounts department outed them.  Not good.  It is also why a wise Controller and handler will choose a pseudonym from the phone book rather than a nonsense name like Curveball or Stakeknife that clearly stand out on any documentation as nothing other than a pseudonym or operation title.)

Further, while many in a department may know some of their colleagues working covertly and under pseudonyms, the identity of registered informants is closely guarded.  Normally it is only the Controller who officially registers (and occasionally tasks)  an informer, and the officer that recruits the informer who initially know the real identity of the individual.

Standard practice is that there are two handlers for a registered informer, so a co-handler is chosen who also meets the informant.  (There are several good reasons for having two handlers per informant.)

Thus there is, in a tightly run department, only three individuals who know for a fact that their registered informer is just that – a RI.  Nobody else within the department should know for a fact, even if the may suspect or strongly believe, that officer X is a handler for Y who has been flipped to work for the institution in question.

There is an implicit and understood unwritten contract (although participating informant status does have a written set of guidelines setting parameters on “participation” signed by a RI under their pseudonym) between the institution, controller, handlers and registered informant, that their true identity will not be disclosed.

Indeed criminal cases are very often dropped and operations cancelled or delayed, if they rely exclusively upon a covert individual and there is no way to otherwise conceal or obscure the involvement of such participation.

There is in fact, no difference between the care taken over the identity of a registered informant working for an institution, than there is for the care taken over the identity of a member of the institution working undercover.  Both when or if burned have very little future ahead in that role for any institution – and good covert operatives and quality registered informants are few and far between.

All the above stated (and an awful lot deliberately unstated) it is therefore an absolute disgrace that Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko deliberately, for no good reason, and against all rules written or unwritten, publicly burned a NABU agent, naming not only pseudonym, but also her real identity, during his open warfare with NABU.

A truly unforgivable act.

There are no excuses – indeed there are aggravating factors that this was done purely on a whim to score political points against NABU.  The circumstances surrounding this particular investigation according to NABU can be found here.

It doesn’t matter whether this individual working for or with NABU has broken any laws.  There are systems to deal with such matters that lawfully address such occurrences without the need to publicly burn such people.  They can still face justice and indeed be jailed, without compromising them and what they have done for a State institution.  Indeed a run in with the law can have the effect of providing further bona fides for those that could return to the game if their cover is not burned.  These are often people, be they aristocracy or trailer-trash, (or anything in between), that can often gain access to where State institutions struggle.  A limited resource.

The Prosecutor General’s deliberate compromising of this individual is not only a matter of personal safety for this particular individual – who is now permanently of far less value to NABU, and is yet still their responsibility.

The entire covert world has at its core a level of trust regarding the protection of identity, yet the Ukrainian Prosecutor General can clearly not be trusted to adhere to this most basic of principles, despite a history as a Grey Cardinal and his thorough understanding of that grubby and dirty world.  He knows very well the value of secrecy.

Thus this not not simply a matter of one individual publicly burned by Yuri Lutsenko – to his everlasting disgrace.

There are other questions.

What effect will this have on those who are currently working covertly, not just for NABU, but all Ukrainian institutions?  Every time the Prosecutor General opens his mouth in public they are to worry that their name will be next when Mr Lutsenko wants to score a cheap political point over a competing institution he cannot or does not control?

Yet further, how will this affect the recruitment of such people for all the institutions and agencies?  A good covert officer or registered informant are not something you find on a supermarket shelf.  They are carefully selected.  By the time they are officially asked if they will be put on the books, in whatever capacity, neither the question, nor the answer should be a surprise to either party.

Ergo, Prosecutor General Lutsenko’s whimsical act is not simply a political swipe at NABU with dire results for the individual concerned, or limited to any adverse effects for NABU as an institution.  It is an attack against all such institutions and agencies, and thus the Ukrainian State, that have to operate with and through covert methods.

This act is a cardinal sin (deliberately committed by a Grey Cardinal).

His act, even in a Banana Republic, at the very least would see him removed and prosecuted – but a reader can be assured that won’t happen.

Not even a terse word will be muttered.

Yuri Lutsenko however, has now fallen far beyond contempt.


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