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Thread: The Estonian Spy Case - Herman Simm

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    Default The Estonian Spy Case - Herman Simm

    Ran into this in a newsletter I receive. It is also very relevant to NATO.

    IHT
    Estonia: Ex-security official accused of spying
    The Associated Press Published: September 22, 2008

    TALLINN, Estonia: The former head of security at the Estonian Defense Ministry has been arrested, suspected of spying, an official said Monday.

    Gerrit Maesalu, a spokesman for prosecutor Lavly Lepp, said the Harju county court on Sunday issued a warrant to arrest Herman Simm, 61, on suspicion of treason. ....
    http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/...y-Suspects.php

    Kommersant
    Sep. 23, 2008
    ........
    Estonian police have arrested high-ranking member of the Defense Ministry Herman Simm on accusations of espionage. His wife Heete Simm, a police lawyer, faces similarly charges. Estonian authorities have not named the country the couple were providing information to, but Estonian media and local experts claim it was Russia. Herman Simm, 61, was responsible for military secrets. In spite of several earlier claims by the government of Russian espionage operations in the country, this is the first spy case in the modern history of the country in which an actual agent has been identified......
    http://www.kommersant.com:80/p103016...onage_Estonia/

    bbn
    Procecutors seize property of suspected Russian spy Herman Simm
    Toomas Hõbemägi
    25.09.2008 08:39
    Public prosecutor Lavly Lepp has arrested all assets of Herman Simm and his wife who are suspected of having spied for Russians.

    Eesti Päevaleht writes that the objective is to restrict transactions with the real estate owed by Simm who is believed to have fed NATO secrets to Russians for years as head of security department of Estonian Ministry of Defence.

    According to the real estate registry, Simms own seven properties including large land holdings in Raplamaa, Suure-Jaani, Ida-Virumaa, Saue, Padise and Pärnu. Among others, the prosecutor seized his 500 square metre apartment near Tallinn.
    http://www.balticbusinessnews.com/De...307e2c&ref=rss

    Herman Simm Wiki Bio

    Herman Simm (born May 29, 1947 in Suure-Jaani) is a former chief the Estonian Defence Ministry's security department. On September 21, 2008, Simm was arrested with his wife Heete Simm on suspiction of illegal collecting and communicating classified information for Russia. In spite of several earlier claims by the government of Russian espionage operations in the country,[1] the Simm case is the first since the restoration of Estonia's independence in 1991 in which an actual agent has been identified and declared suspect in treason.[2] The criminal case is processed by the Public Prosecutor’s Office and by the Security Police Board who co-operate with the Information Board and with the Ministry of Defence. According to the Penal Code, treason is punished with an imprisonment of three to fifteen years.[3] ......
    .....
    [1] Estonia Catches Its First Spy, Kommersant, September 23, 2008.
    [2] Estonia: Ex-security official accused of spying, The International Herald Tribune, September 22, 2008.
    [3] Law of Penalty of the Repblic of Estonia, §232.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herman_Simm

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    Default Fallout from Herman Simm .....

    views differ for various reasons, discussed here.

    Baltic Times
    NEWS
    Treason: the real cost of Simm’s betrayal
    Oct 01, 2008
    ....
    TALLINN - While some fear Estonia’s reputation as a NATO partner has been tarnished and others believe it’s stronger, most agree that national defense has been severely compromised by a deviant individual and some suspect widespread espionage. But where exactly does Estonia stand after Herman Simm’s treason?

    Ask any Estonian whether Russia should be perceived as a threat and the answer is nearly always the same: Yes. The notion that history repeats itself seems deeply ingrained in the thoughts of Baltic citizens, and given the lengthy and disastrous consequences of the Soviet occupation, this hardly comes as a surprise.

    With this in mind, it’s no wonder that the nation has bestowed upon Simm the status of public enemy number one. There’s nothing redeemable about selling state secrets to a nation’s long-term oppressor, especially when residual skepticism of Russia has existed in the Baltic states since their independence in the early ’90s.

    Even more alarming, a British former civil servant has informed The Baltic Times that this might not be a one-off case, but part of a wider breach of national security. .....
    http://www.baltictimes.com/news/articles/21475/

    The 3-15 year sentence range for treason and espionage (noted in OP and in above article) seems a bit light - no.

  3. #3
    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Not too sure how to comment here as I worked right next door to him for several years. Honestly, the only thing I ever saw pass his desk was EFTO

    Our PFP and subsequent NATO days had me pining away for a job at the local kindergarten (although the free trips to Paris and Brussels were not that bad during the winter months). He may (now) be a modern day Russian puke, but a spy and seller of secrets?

    If he and his better half get 15 years, they'll both have died of natural causes before their time runs out. Gotta be something better to do with them than tie up the judiciary system, having 60 year-old folk watching videos in prison
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    Default Stay safe ...

    from Stan
    ... as I worked right next door to him for several years ...
    you might be called as a witness for one side or the other. Should I get out my Miranda card ?

    Seriously, you make a couple of good points.

    ... but a spy and seller of secrets?
    Not an unusual reaction of neighbors in espionage - and other - cases, for that matter. The innocent person will appear to be, well, innocent; but so also the agent (assuming he or she has any tradecraft).

    So, I'll wait on the evidence - realizing that US prosecutors usually do not pull the trigger on these cases unless they have good evidence - the case itself raises too much bad PR for the nation to be other than very careful.

    Gotta be something better to do with them than tie up the judiciary system...
    If they are innocent, then they should tough it out. At least, that is what I would tell them.

    If they are guilty (which I would not directly ask them), their solution is to work a plea bargain - giving up everything they know. If they are candid, damage assessment is easier and would justify a lighter sentence.

    You're right about another thing - facing prison in your 60s ain't the way to go.

  5. #5
    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default 1,000 Euros per month - Secretly

    The latest in the Simm case made it to the papers this morning. Declaring Simm received 1,000 euros a month (but without indicating just how long he had received payments, or, how he received them).

    The Interior Minister is quoted as saying Simm did not lead a luxurious lifestyle, but continued, that one can purchase smaller things and need not purchase land to be rich.

    The amount of these payments has now cast doubt among both the defense and prosecuting attorneys as quoted in Õhtuleht.

    EDIT:
    Yet another paper (considered the source of the above article) indicates that the justice department would not have arrested Simm based on the facts above. Päevaleht also discloses Simm's MOD salary and Police pension. Both figures much larger than what he is accused of secretly receiving.

    Not looking good for a spy novel !
    Last edited by Stan; 10-15-2008 at 09:21 AM. Reason: second link and story
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    Default Odd case ...

    there (must be ?) (should be ?) more meat.

    1. His real estate holdings (much cited in initial articles) seem to be family, at least in part:

    Estonia's spy scandal hits relatives of Herman Simm
    Toomas Hõbemägi
    17.10.2008 09:32
    ....
    Several properties that belong to the alleged spy Herman Simm and were seized by the prosecutor were co-owned by his relatives.
    .....
    According to the real estate registry, Simms own seven properties including large land holdings in Raplamaa, Suure-Jaani, Ida-Virumaa, Saue, Padise and Pärnu. Among others, the prosecutor seized his 500 square metre apartment near Tallinn.

    For instance Paul and Martin Künnap, the sons of his stepsister, are co-owning three properties with Simm. The three own 100 hectares of agricultural land in Viljandimaa that historically belonged to Herman Simm’s father and were returned to Simm.

    Paul Künnap said that they have been taking steps to divide the properties. “This process has now stopped because of the seizure of properties.”
    http://balticbusinessnews.com/Defaul...ment=1#comment

    2. As to the money, the English language article is too laconic - here

    As I glean Estonian (which ain't much), the key parts to the money story are here:

    Päevalehe andmetel sai Herman Simm võõrriigile edastatud salajase teabe eest 1000 eurot ehk 15 600 krooni kuus, mis teeb pisut alla 200 000 krooni aastas.
    ....
    Palk oli suurem

    18 000 krooni kuus

    teenis Herman Simm viimati kaitseministeeriumis. Sellele lisandus politseipension.

    50 000 krooni kuus

    teenis Simmide perekond ametlikult kokku.
    So, eminent translator of things Estonian and Lingala, traduction, s.v.p.

    --------------
    Odd that he would have admitted to the espionage as some stories have said. Wonder if that is true ?

  7. #7
    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    there (must be ?) (should be ?) more meat.

    1. His real estate holdings (much cited in initial articles) seem to be family, at least in part:

    http://balticbusinessnews.com/Defaul...ment=1#comment
    Yep, 95 hectares spread among family members in part ownership is not exactly what I would have concluded as high on the hog. Even in my 13 years here, I bought and later sold over 45 hectares. Too easy to conclude today that 95 hectares equals big bucks.

    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    2. As to the money, the English language article is too laconic - here
    That's because Estonian's are translating the text from business daily Äripäev and/or Ärileht, and, nobody is checking the grammar Imagine having to use articles and prepositions in the future tense, when your mother tongue does not (have nor use them).


    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    As I glean Estonian (which ain't much), the key parts to the money story are here:

    So, eminent translator of things Estonian and Lingala, traduction, s.v.p.

    Odd that he would have admitted to the espionage as some stories have said. Wonder if that is true ?
    Traduction avec plaisir

    Päevalehe andmetel sai Herman Simm võõrriigile edastatud salajase teabe eest 1000 eurot ehk 15 600 krooni kuus, mis teeb pisut alla 200 000 krooni aastas.
    According to Päevaleht's data, Herman Simm received 1,000 Euros per month (or 15,600 kroons, which is just under 200,000 kroons per year) for forwarding secret information to a foreign country
    ....
    Palk oli suurem
    18 000 krooni kuus
    teenis Herman Simm viimati kaitseministeeriumis. Sellele lisandus politseipension.
    50 000 krooni kuus

    (but his) Salary was larger at 18,000 kroons per month from the MOD, in addition to his police retirement of 50,000 kroons per month
    The article's author would then conclude that Herman had more than enough, and need not sell secrets

    However, the average educated professional here barely makes what Herman received after more than 10 years at the MOD. Most middle class folks clear 10 to 12,000 each month ($1,000.00).

    I understand as of Friday afternoon, Herman has admitted to nothing.
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    Default The numbers compute, but ...

    15,600 - alleged "spy pay"
    18,000 - MOD salary
    50,000 - police pension
    do not add up to what would be expected to turn someone. Herman was well above middle-class without the 15.6K (police pension looks huge = 4 middle class families).

    I think we should indulge ourselves here in the presumption of innocence, until some better evidence turns up - e.g., Swiss bank account, ideology or an admission by Herman.

    One wonders if Herman made some enemies when he was a cop ?

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    Default Der Spiegel Update

    This article reviews the case, but provides little in new evidence other than the alleged radio mentioned in the second paragraph. The article also outlines the interest in the case by NATO Security - damage assessment time. So, if that part of the article is accurate, someone did something very bad.

    11/17/2008
    WESTERN SECRETS FOR MOSCOW
    Estonian Spy Scandal Shakes NATO and EU
    By Holger Stark

    For years an Estonian government official has apparently been collecting the most intimate secrets of NATO and the EU -- and passing them on to the Russians. The case is a disaster for Brussels.

    Communications between the suspected top spy and his commanding officer seemed like a throwback to the Cold War. Investigators allege that in order to send messages to his Russian contact, Herman Simm, 61, used a converted radio which looked like a relic from yesteryear's world of consumer electronics. ....
    ....
    Although Simm was arrested with his wife Heete in the Estonian capital Tallinn on Sept. 21, this spy story -- which has been largely kept under wraps until now -- primarily concerns the European Union and NATO based in faraway Brussels. Since Simm was responsible for dealing with classified information in Tallinn, he had access to nearly all documents exchanged within the EU and NATO. Officials who are familiar with the case assume that "virtually everything" that circulates between EU member states was passed on to the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, the SVR -- including confidential analyses by NATO on the Kosovo crisis, the war in Georgia and even the missile defense program. Investigators believe that Simm was a "big fish."
    .....
    Meanwhile, a number of investigative teams from the EU and NATO have flown to Tallinn to probe the extent of the intelligence disaster. The investigation is being led by the NATO Office for Security, which is headed by an American official. As investigators pursue their work, they continue to unearth mounting evidence pointing to the enormity of the betrayal. A German government official has called the situation a "catastrophe," and Jaanus Rahumägi, a member of Estonia's national parliament who heads the parliamentary oversight committee for the government security agency, fears "historic damage."

    NATO officials in Brussels are comparing Simm's alleged spying to the case of Aldrich Ames, a former CIA agent who for years funneled information to the Russian intelligence service, the KGB. However, the extensive fallout of the Estonian leaks makes this the worst espionage scandal since the end of the Cold War......
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/...590891,00.html

    European Code procedure works a bit differently from our criminal procedure. The accused is detained (not necessarily under conditions of probable cause as we know that concept). The case is assigned to an investigative judge who has powers akin to a one-man grand jury. The time interval can be long between that assignment and the issuance of what is equivalent to our indictment. In some ways, the European procedures resemble the DTA and MCA procedures.

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    I was wondering why the EU or NATO allows that level of access to former Soviet era cadres. How did this guy get to this level?

    This whole thing smells fishy to me.

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    Default Intel efforts are usually fishy on several levels.

    not really enough known here to make any sensible determination and that is unlikely to change...

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    This article reviews the case, but provides little in new evidence other than the alleged radio mentioned in the second paragraph. The article also outlines the interest in the case by NATO Security - damage assessment time. So, if that part of the article is accurate, someone did something very bad.

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/...590891,00.html
    As I indicated above, I have little to no knowledge of him ever getting ahold of anything from the USG above EFTO (for you civilians that's Encrypted For Transmission Only).

    ... where he was responsible for the secret coordination with NATO and the EU
    He was barely involved with anything PFP/MAP/NATO (he never even had user access to my server, satellite connection and traffic). When I left the MOD in 2003, his job was more of a building security manager than a classified holdings officer. I'm having a hard time remembering if I ever saw an approved document safe in his office.

    The parliament member's statement is way off. The dude was already behind bars before Georgia happened. Even after Georgia's short war, the communications between MFAs were little more than various requests for assistance. Some of us responded faster than others to include open press releases - certainly not classified assistance.

    I don't doubt for a second we have Russian spies recruiting here, but I have a real hard time with the potential for over access to what NATO calls sensitive. To echo Eric's comments, What ever happened to "a need to know" regardless of one's security clearance levels?
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    Default Hei Stan, ...

    I thought you'd chime in with some facts. Nothing I've seen so far causes me to leave my suggestion in post # 8:

    I think we should indulge ourselves here in the presumption of innocence, until some better evidence turns up.
    We might see formal charges (akin to our indictment) next year. If that is filed (cf. the Aruba case, where the guy was detained twice and never formally charged), the parties will then be at issue.

    That being said, I do plan on following this case wherever it leads. I have seen a lot of speculation on the Net about Herman, including some "conspiracy theories". I have not reported them because the sources are questionable.

    Of one thing, we can be fairly well assured. We won't (shouldn't) see NATO Security's damage assessment report.

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default MI5 to unravel spy’s treachery

    From The Sunday Times

    Officers from MI5’s counter-espionage section are investigating possible damage caused to Britain and the West by Herman Simm, a high-ranking Estonian security official who has confessed to spying for Russia.

    In an operation worthy of a 1960s spy novel, Simm is reported to have used an antiquated radio transmitter to send classified information to Russia.

    He is accused of betraying Nato plans for Kosovo’s independence; the position of the alliance on last summer’s war between Russia and Georgia; and secrets from the American missile shield in Europe.
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    Default Still no evidence,

    from Times article

    .... who has confessed to spying for Russia. ...

    .... reported to have used an antiquated radio transmitter ....

    .... alleged to have received millions of dollars from the SVR ...
    until the confession shows in a court document, the transmitter is put on the table and the Swiss bank account with millions shows up.

    It may be all true (or all false); but I can sit back and be patient.

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    antiquated radio transmitter
    imagine what this would fetch on eBay

    The suspense is killing me
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    Default Undoubtedly,....

    the transmitter twin of this receiver - SLR-M Scott Marine Radio Receiver (WWII vintage), which works fine (despite its alternative use as a 50 lb. boat anchor) - except for those odd signals emanating from the Tallinn area.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  18. #18
    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    I prefer Collins or Hallicrafters but have a Kenwood and Yeasu.

    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    the transmitter twin of this receiver - SLR-M Scott Marine Radio Receiver (WWII vintage), which works fine (despite its alternative use as a 50 lb. boat anchor) - except for those odd signals emanating from the Tallinn area.
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  19. #19
    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Had a Collins for years but never had the cash for a Kenwood.

    I have this mental picture of the radio system Rene used in Allo Allo under granny's bed

    Quote Originally Posted by selil View Post
    I prefer Collins or Hallicrafters but have a Kenwood and Yeasu.
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  20. #20
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    Default But,

    I prefer Collins or Hallicrafters but have a Kenwood and Yeasu.
    can you use them for boat anchors.

    Back in that day (mid-1950's), Hallicrafters SSB was the receiver - among our remote-area amateur radio people.

    Regardless of its merits, the Scott opened up the wide world to me - VOA, RFE, BBC; and Radio Moscow's English service. The last taught me how fleet of foot you had to be to be a "good SovCom" - one month, the announcers would be praising Program X; the next month, they would condemn it. When I read Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984 a few years later, the agitprop process was very familiar.

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