Herman Simm revisited II
A brief reminder of who Herman Simm was and what he became: Inducted into the Soviet Interior Ministry as a Militssiya (police) officer in 1970, Simm worked there untill 1991 when Estonia regained its indepedence. He reached the rank of polkovnik (full colonel).
After the re-establishment of Estonia’s independence Simm helped in organizing defence against possible Russian military intervention. Thereafter he held various positions in the Interior Ministry and the Police Board, including the position of director general, until he was hired in 1995 by the Defence Ministry as head of the information analysis group of the policy department.
In 2001 the state secrets protection department was formed within the Ministry with Simm appointed as its director. He was responsible for co-ordinating the protection of state secrets, for issuing access to classified information, for handling data from organizations such as NATO, the EU and other defence partners. He participated in the devising of EU and NATO information protection systems.
Simm, with his wife Heete Simm was arrested on Sepember 21, 2008 for allegedly illegally collecting and passing on classified information to an unknown foreign government.
Shortly after Simm had supplied Russian intelligence with the CD containing identities of Russian operatives at NATO and those that NATO suspected (described in the last segment), Western counterintelligence turned their attention to Simm. Both the German BND and the FBI were involved in the investigation that began in May 2008, code named „White Knight”. Simm, at this time an adviser to the defence minister was placed under surveillance.
Breaking all rules of secure communications, Simm’s Russian handler contacted him on his cell phone on September 16, 2008. A forbidden open contact had been made. Jakovlev cancelled a scheduled meeting. The call was recorded by KaPo. (Sergei Yakovlev, known as a Portugese with the name of Antonio.Amurett de Jesus Graf. Yakovlev was an SVR officer, without any dimplomatic cover, thereby vulnerable to arrest abroad. Known to have managed a network of Russian agentas in the Baltics.)
The arrest was executed three days later as he ahnd his wife Heete drove to the Röömu shopping centre in Keila, near Tallinn, to buy cake for his stepmother. He was cuffed while walking back to his car. In case of Simm violently resisting arrest an ambulance was parked around the corner.
At his country home KaPo found some tools of his trade: sheafs of paper with Jakovlev’s instructions, stacks of classified material, two pistols, two rifles.
In an interview with Edward Lucas after his conviction he said that at a certain time he felt Estonian officials became suspicious of him, that they had him under surveillance.
He asked his Russian handler to pull him out. They had earlier enticed him with a hero’s retirement in Moscow at a general’s rank and now Simm asked them to keep their promise. The Russians backed out leaving Simm with his Defence Ministry job, remorselessly abandoning him.
Although he was finally caught, during his work for the Russians Simm was ultracareful. Each deadletter location was used only once. At the dead letter drops, usually designated public garbage containers, he placed memory sticks and film into small used juice cartons. He met with his Russian handler in ten different countries.
He was a Russian spy, professionally well placed. Since the Finns, Danes, Germans, Norwegians , the UK and Americans all vetted him, he was deemed clean, cleared for sensitive high level work, invited to participate at the inner counsels, at security – related meetings. He had access to all that caused the Russians to sallivate: cryptographic security, the systems used for secure communications transmissions, scrambled voice traffic, all NATO’s top-secret communications network details.
NATO’s counterintelligence activities were also valuable to Moscow. For instance, NATO members agreed that former Communist Party members would not be automatically rejected from getting security clearances when vetted. But previous attendance at one of the Party’s elite schools would disqualify the subject for clearance. Russian spy handlers would then caution agents to conceal such past affiliations in order to be approved for access to NATO’s most important secrets and closed groups.
The Russian media were gloating that the Baltic states were incompetent. But most experts in the West agreed that the new members of NATO have not been deemed unreliable. In fact Estonian intelligence and security have had a solid reputation. This has made them a valued target for foreign penetration. It wasn’t incompetence but rather efficient counter-intelligence work that brought the exposure and arrest of Herman Simm.
Laas Leivat (To be continued.)
Portrait of a well placed mole, Estonian Life