Defense Ministry pressured as US investigates Simm

  • 2008-11-19
  • By Matt Withers
TALLINN - With new information coming to light, Herman Simm, the Russian spy formerly heading the Defense Ministry's secret information department, is currently being investigated by NATO under U.S. supervision.
According to a report by The Times Simm may have been involved in selling secrets concerning the U.S. cyber-defense network and proposed missile shield in Europe. With the prolonged investigation into Simm's treason warranting concern, NATO has flown its own investigation team into Tallinn to assess what is being considered the most serious NATO security breach since the Cold War.
The Times correspondent in Berlin broke the news after obtaining exclusive information from an unnamed source.

The report reveals that Simm was recruited by the Russians in the late '80s, that his communications were carried out via a converted radio transmitter, and that his contact operated under the guise of a Spanish businessman. The revelation about the 'The Spaniard' provides an answer to the longstanding speculation about the involvement of a Spanish co-conspirator.
The announcement has put pressure on the Estonian Defense Ministry, which has held Simm since his arrest on Sept. 21 but has yet to announce what developments have been made in the case. According to the German investigative magazine Der Spiegel, "the longer they work on the case, the more obvious it becomes how big the impact of the suspected treachery really is."

There has also been increased speculation that the Simm affair is sowing distrust between longstanding NATO states and the eastern newcomers. Der Spiegel reports an unnamed Brussels official as saying, "We have to assume the Russian intelligence apparatus maintains a number of Simms in the Baltic States."
Yet Peeter Kuimet, a spokesperson for the ministry, told The Baltic Times that the Estonian government still maintains that the Simm case will only bolster Estonia's reputation, despite the new developments in the case.

"On the one hand, no country is honored by the fact that its citizen has been caught for having revealed classified information. On the other hand, the Estonian detection of and firm commitment to cooperate in investigating Simm's treason proves to NATO that it can be considered a responsible and trustworthy member state. Accordingly, we believe that Estonia's reputation as a NATO partner is even stronger," Kuimet said.
Meanwhile, when quizzed by local newspaper Eesti Paevaleht, Defense Minister Jaak Aaviksoo revealed he couldn't say how much damage had been incurred by Simm's betrayal, offering little more than a vague monetary figure.

"As regards the size of the damage caused by Herman Simm, I would say that it is definitely bigger than one million kroons but definitely smaller than 100 million kroons," Aaviksoo told Eesti Paevaleht.
"I cannot tell the exact sum at the moment, additions to it are being made all the time," he said.
With the full-extent of Simm's espionage slowly emerging, parallels are being drawn with the case of Aldrich Ames, the former head of the CIA's counter-intelligence department. Ames sold U.S. state secrets to both the USSR and Russia for a number of years, earning in excess of $4.6 million before his arrest in 1994.
The Estonian Ministry of Defense has denied that Herman Simm was among topics of discussion when U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited Tallinn for an unscheduled NATO meeting on Nov. 13.