US agents accused of travelling on fake passports in Europe

Leaked documents show US agents can easily enter the EU but are concerned about new security rules

Washington – Two documents recently released by WikiLeaks outline a number of strategies for agents make use of to avoid secondary screening at international airports and borders. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) documents dating from 2011 and 2012, are marked classified and “NOFORN,” which means they were not meant to be shared with allied intelligence agencies, claimed WikiLeaks.

The documents, dated September 2011 and January 2012, were issued by the CIA to evade security systems and passport checks implemented by authorities around the world, including by countries in the European Schengen Area, according to a statement released by WikiLeaks on 21 December 2014.

Some strategies in the document are obvious: don’t buy a one-way ticket with cash the day before flying. Others perhaps less so: don’t look shabby while traveling on a diplomatic passport.

Dealing with Secondary Screening

“In one incident during transit of a European airport in the early morning, security officials selected a CIA officer for secondary screening,” one of the documents reads. “Although the officials gave no reason, overly casual dress inconsistent with being a diplomatic-passport holder may have prompted the referral.” The CIA agent involved went on to have his bag swabbed for explosives and it tested positive. Despite extensive questioning, he stuck to his cover story that he had been involved in counterterrorism training in the US, and eventually was allowed to continue his journey. “Consistent, well-rehearsed, and plausible cover is important for avoiding secondary selection and critical for surviving it,” the CIA wrote.

The statement of WikiLeaks said this example “begs the question: if the training that supposedly explained the explosives was only a cover story, what was a CIA officer really doing passing through (a European Union) airport with traces of explosives on him, and why was he allowed to continue?”

Schengen Border Check

The second release of WikiLeaks’ CIA Series details how spies maintain cover while travelling through airports using false ID – including during operations to infiltrate the European Union and the Schengen passport control system.

One of the CIA documents, called “Schengen Overview,” reveals that the CIA is very concerned about EU nations introducing biometric security measures for people travelling on US passports and that new systems pose a minimal “identity threat”—in other words, making it harder for agents to travel on false documents. It also details border-crossing and visa regulations, the scope and content of electronic systems, border guard protocols and procedures for secondary screenings.

However there is little chance of being detected when first entering the Schengen Area because European border guards are focused on “illegal immigration and criminal activities, not counterintelligence”, the CIA documents concluded.

The document focuses on the EU’s Schengen area, a chunk of Europe in which travellers between 22 EU countries are no longer required to show passports. The CIA expressed concerns that a new EU security system will potentially make life harder for CIA agents.

Under the current rules, CIA agents travelling on fake US passports can enter any one of the Schengen countries without a visa and then move across Europe from Portugal to Finland without being asked for their documents.

Justifying the leaks, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in the statement that the documents proved that the CIA, which had “carried out kidnappings from European Union states, including Italy and Sweden, during the Bush administration,” had continued to do so under the current U.S. government.

“These manuals show that under the Obama administration the CIA is still intent on infiltrating European Union borders and conducting clandestine operations in EU member states,” Assange said.

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About the Author: Akhtar Jamal

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