Friday, January 29, 2021

Between l'Affaire Epstein And Gamestop: Why People Believe Coincidence Theories

technologyreview |  Lunik: Inside the CIA’s audacious plot to steal a Soviet satellite. How a team of spies in Mexico got their hands on Russia's space secrets—and tried to change the course of the Cold War.

Scott and the CIA had already been exploring other plans to steal the spacecraft. On November 19, six miles up the Panuco River from the Gulf of Mexico, two American spies watched the Soviet ship carrying the Luna arrive at the Port of Tampico. 

The first was Robert Zambernardi, an Italian-American CIA officer from Massachusetts. With tan skin and a droopy black mustache, he could pass for a local during covert operations, and was an expert in photography, secret writing, disguise, and womanizing. Zambernardi also controlled a team of mercenaries he called Rudos—“tough guys”—from Mexico’s corrupt and violent Federal Judicial Police. They made treasonous Americans “disappear,” according to Mexican journalist and TV personality Jaime Maussan, who interviewed Zambernardi for a 2017 book about the mission, Operación LightFire

The second man was Warren L. Dean, Winston Scott’s deputy chief of station. A tall and dashing martini man, Dean had joined the FBI and chased Nazis in Bolivia and Chile, before serving under Scott in London and then joining him in Mexico City. Dean watched workers load the cargo from the Soviet boat onto a train, and asked his colleague if they could somehow grab it during its journey to the auditorium.

“We can delay it a few hours,” said Zambernardi, but he dissuaded Dean from staging a Mexican great train robbery, according to Operación Lightfire. “Moving photos are always very blurry,” Zambernardi told him. “We need the train to stop.”

The freight cars were slowly loaded with objects from Russian life—everything from hammer and sickle postage stamps, to fur coats, and instruments that displayed the might of Soviet science: cutting-edge microscopes that revealed the invisible, and world-beating telescopes that scanned the great beyond. Under the unflinching stares of armed KGB agents, workers lifted the Luna onto the train. 

“There are too many loose ends here,” Dean conceded, according to Maussan’s account. “We will do the kidnapping with Silveti.”