Sweden closes Stockholm airspace in search for mystery submarine

Swedish search operationBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Swedish authorities shut down airspace above Stockholm on Monday, as they continued searching for a mystery foreign vessel that was sighted repeatedly off the coast of the Swedish capital last week. Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet reported on Saturday that the search began last Thursday, after Swedish intelligence detected a number of Russian-language emergency radio signals, which were sent from the vicinity of the port of Stockholm to Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave located on the Baltic Sea between Poland and Lithuania. On Sunday, the Swedish Ministry of Defense confirmed the search for the vessel, though it refused to speculate on the national origin of its crew and refrained from calling it a submarine. But a grainy surveillance photograph issued by the Ministry appears to show a submarine of considerable size —said to be Russian— peeking out of the waters of the Baltic Sea, at a location believed to be 30 nautical miles from Stockholm. One English-language Swedish newspaper quoted Johan Wiktorin, a fellow at the Swedish Royal Academy of War Sciences, who suggested three possible reasons for foreign submarine activity in Sweden’s territorial waters near Stockholm. Wiktorin speculated that the vessel could be “mapping the waters” around the Swedish capital, or it could be installing underwater surveillance equipment aimed at collecting a variety of maritime intelligence in the area. Alternatively, the mystery vessel could be testing Sweden’s maritime defense systems, said Wiktorin. On Monday, however, intense speculation appeared in local media about a fourth potential reason for the mystery submarine activity in Swedish territorial waters. A photograph emerged showing a man dressed in black frogman gear on the Swedish island of Korso. The image was purportedly taken by a local man at around the time when the submarine was sighted in the area. Read more of this post

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Poles who ‘spied for Russia’ worked on strategic natural gas project

Polish Ministry of National DefenseBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
At least one of the two men arrested in Poland last week for spying for a “foreign entity” was working on a project of strategic significance, aimed at reducing Poland’s dependency on Russian natural gas. Polish media reported last Wednesday that a colonel in the Polish Army had been arrested by security personnel for acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign country. Subsequent media reports said a second man, a lawyer with dual Polish-Russian citizenship, had also been arrested. Later in the day, an official statement from the office of the Senior Military Prosecutor said simply that Poland’s Ministry of National Defense had “detained a Polish Army officer on suspicion of being a member of a foreign intelligence service”. But there was no mention of the country for which the detained men allegedly spied for. This past Saturday, Reuters revealed that the two men were suspected of spying for Russia. The news agency cited Marek Biernacki, a Polish parliamentarian, who is also a member of the Polish Parliament’s Committee on Intelligence and had allegedly been briefed by Polish intelligence officials about last week’s arrests. Biernacki told journalists that the actions relating to the two detainees had been “taken in respect of two agents of the Russian state”. In accordance with Polish law, the public prosecutor named the civilian detainee as Stanislaw Sz., using only his first name and the first two letters of his last name. Reuters said the man had been employed at the well-connected law firm of Stopczyk & Mikulski, whose website listed him until recently as an employee. Stanislaw Sz. was allegedly involved in a project to construct a coastal terminal in Swinoujscie, located on Poland’s Baltic Sea coast, for importing liquefied natural gas. The import terminal, which is scheduled to become operational in 2015, will allow Poland to import gas from the Persian Gulf. That will in turn reduce the country’s heavy dependence on imported Russian natural gas at a time when Warsaw’s relations with Moscow continue to deteriorate. Reuters said that the precise nature and timing of Stanislaw Sz.’s involvement with the Swinoujscie terminal is unclear, but it characterized the project as being of strategic importance for both Poland and Russia. Read more of this post

US Pentagon weapon-silencer probe ‘may point to rogue operation’

The US Department of DefenseBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
A complex criminal investigation into the procurement of weapon silencers by the United States Department of Defense may point to what one American newspaper described on Thursday as a “rogue operation”. The case concerns the Directorate for Plans, Policy, Oversight and Integration —an obscure Pentagon office staffed by a dozen or so civilian employees. Its stated mission is to provide logistical support and procurement oversight for intelligence operations conducted by the US Navy and the Marine Corps. According to media reports, more than two years ago the Directorate ordered 349 weapon suppressors, known commonly as silencers. By general admission, silencers are not the type of military hardware used in conventional combat. More importantly, the procurement cost of the silencers should have been no more than around $10,000. However, purchase records show that the Directorate paid the supplier of the silencers over $1.6 million. The supplier then turned out to be the brother of the Directorate’s officer-in-charge. Initially, Pentagon officials suggested that the silencers had been purchased for an authorized top-secret operation codenamed UPSTAIRS. The operation was allegedly a “special-access program” aimed at arming foreign paramilitary forces while avoiding the risk of the weapons being traced back to the US. Thought limited details were provided, one government witness told the court that military hardware acquired through UPSTAIRS were intended for the US Navy’s Sea, Air, Land Team 6, commonly known as US Navy SEALs 6. The special-forces team became famous in 2010 when it carried out the Central Intelligence Agency’s operation NEPTUNE SPEAR, which successfully targeted al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Later during the investigation, however, SEAL Team 6 representatives told court officials that their unit “had not ordered the silencers” and knew nothing about them. Soon after that development, government prosecutors objected to further discussion of the case in open court due to the alleged “sensitive nature” of the case. Since then, much of the court documentation on the case has been filed under seal on grounds of national security. But the discrepancies in the case led The Washington Post on Thursday to speculate that the weapons silencers’ procurement may have been part of a “rogue operation”, that is, a military or intelligence activity that was not authorized by the Pentagon leadership. Read more of this post

Senior Polish defense official detained for ‘spying for Russia’

Polish Ministry of National DefenseBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A high-ranking official in Poland’s Ministry of National Defense has reportedly been arrested on suspicion of spying for Russia. Poland’s Dziennik Gazeta Prawna said early on Wednesday that a man had been detained by Polish security personnel because it was thought he had been acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign country. Another source, Poland’s commercial news Radio Zet, reported that two men had been arrested, a colonel in the Polish Army and a lawyer with dual Polish-Russian citizenship. Later in the day, an official statement from the office of the Senior Military Prosecutor said simply that Poland’s “Ministry of National Defense detained a Polish Army officer on suspicion of being a member of a foreign intelligence service”. But it made no mention of the country for which the detained officer allegedly spied for. A spokesman for the Defense Ministry, Lieut. Col. Janusz Wojcik, said he could not disclose any details at the moment, adding only that the arrests were based on evidence complied by the counterintelligence service of the Polish Army. Another Polish official, Lieut. Col. Paul Durka, said the arrests had been coordinated by Poland’s Military Police and the Polish Army’s Internal Security Agency (ABW). But Polish media alleged that the defense official was apprehended for spying for Russia and suggested that his arrest was carried out in dramatic fashion by ABW forces inside the headquarters of the Ministry of National Defense, centrally located on Polish capital Warsaw’s Independence Avenue. This claim, which was later confirmed by ABW spokesman Lieut. Col. Maciej Karczyński, likely signifies that the spy suspect was captured in the act of espionage, following an extensive surveillance operation. Relations between Poland and Russia have been tense since the end of the Cold War, with several intelligence-related incidents making news headlines. In early 2010, the Polish government announced the arrest of a Russian resident of Warsaw, who was accused of working as a non-official-cover operative for Russia’s Main Intelligence Directory (GRU). Later that year, Polish media claimed that Stefan Zielonka, a senior SIGINT officer with Poland’s Military Intelligence Services (SWW), who disappeared without trace in early May of 2009, had defected to Russia. Read more of this post

Atomic spy David Greenglass, who spied for the USSR, dead at 92

David GreenglassBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
David Greenglass, an American spy for the Soviet Union, who played a key role in the most widely publicized case of atomic espionage during the Cold War, has died in New York, aged 92. Born in Manhattan in 1922, Greenglass became an active communist at a young age, and in 1943 joined the ranks of the Young Communist League —the youth wing of the Communist Party USA. Shortly afterwards he joined the United States Army and entered the top-secret Manhattan Project as a machinist. He initially worked for the Project —America’s secret effort to build an atomic bomb— in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, before being transferred to the its headquarters in Los Alamos, New Mexico. He later told a US court that he firmly believed that the USSR should have access to nuclear technology and actively tried to share information on the Manhattan Project with Moscow. He did so through his sister, Ethel Rosenberg, and her husband, Julius, who, like him, were committed communists. After all of them were arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on charges of espionage, Greenglass agreed to testify for the US government. He told the court that he saw his sister transcribe top-secret information from the Manhattan Project on her personal typewriter in her apartment in 1945. His testimony was central in securing convictions for the Rosenbergs. The two refused to cooperate with the FBI and in 1951 were sentenced to death in the electric chair. In 1953, the husband and wife were executed in New York, leaving behind two young children, Michael and Robert. The orphans were soon adopted by close personal friends of the Rosenbergs and took the name Meeropol. Meanwhile, Greenglass served nearly 10 years of a 15-year sentence for conspiring to conduct espionage against the US. Upon his release from prison in 1960, he changed his name and settled in Queens, New York. On Tuesday, The New York Times disclosed that it had accidentally found out that Greenglass had died on July 1, 2014, after calling the nursing home where he had been living in recent years. Read more of this post

Hitler was regular crystal meth user, intelligence files show

Adolf HitlerBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A recently discovered set of documents compiled by American intelligence during World War II show that German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was a regular consumer of crystal methamphetamines, which are today considered a Class A drug. The previously secret file, which consists of nearly 50 pages of evidence, was produced by the United States Military Intelligence Corps, the intelligence branch of the US Army. It was located by American wartime memorabilia collector Bill Panagopoulos. He told Britain’s Channel 4 television, which later this week will be broadcasting a documentary on Hitler’s numerous drug addictions, that the Nazi leader became reliant on drugs in 1936. He was first prescribed a regime of strong painkillers by Dr. Theodor Gilbert Morell, a German physician who was notorious for his unconventional medical treatments. Morell, who became Hitler’s personal doctor, gave the German dictator Mutaflor, a pain reliever that helped him with his frequent stomach cramps. Soon, however, Hitler went back to Morell for more, and the Berlin-based doctor, who Panagopoulos describes as “a quack, a fraud and a snake oil salesman”, began prescribing the Nazi leader increasingly dangerous cocktails of drugs. Among them were barbiturates, such as Brom-Nervacit, stimulants, including Cardiazol and Coramine, sedatives, primarily the morphine-based Eukodal, and even bulls’ semen to boost his testosterone levels. According to the US intelligence dossier, by late 1943 Hitler could not complete even simple daily tasks without the help of a mix of prescription stimulants and sedatives that included over 74 different medications. Chief among them was Pervitin, described by Morell as an “alertness pill”, but which was in fact a highly addictive concoction of crystal methamphetamines. Pervitin was known among addicts as a drug that induced a powerful feeling of euphoria. Its long-term effects, however, included the extreme hypochondria and rapid deterioration of mental functions. Predictably, Hitler was displaying both symptoms by the summer of 1943, when, according to the dossier, he took Pervitin right before his final meeting with Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini. Read more of this post

American spies use NZ embassies to collect intelligence

NSA headquartersBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Embassies belonging to the government of New Zealand are secretly being used by the United States as part of a worldwide network of intelligence-collection facilities, according to documents leaked over the weekend. The documents were released by Edwards Snowden, an American former technical expert for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), who is currently living in Russia and is responsible for countless leaks of classified information in recent years. The latest disclosure concerns Project STATEROOM, a highly secretive signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection program targeting international Internet, radio and telecommunications traffic. The existence of the program was disclosed in the summer of 2013 by Snowden, who told German newsmagazine Der Spiegel that it consisted of SIGINT collection facilities in nearly 100 US embassies and consulates in almost as many countries. According to the Snowden, STATEROOM operations are handled by a unit called Special Collection Service (SCS), which is jointly operated by the CIA and the NSA. In October of 2013, Professor Des Ball, an intelligence expert, claimed that Australian embassies served as collection sites for Project STATEROOM, by helping the SCS monitor the Asia Pacific region. Dr. Ball said the Australian Signals Directorate was sharing information with the NSA as part of the UKUSA agreement (also known as Five Eyes), an intelligence cooperation network comprising agencies from Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Canada and the United States. Now new documents made available by Snowden appear to show that New Zealand’s embassies and consulates around the world are also being used as part of Project STATEROOM. The documents date from 2003, and contain a synopsis of a number of NSA intelligence-collection programs, along with their operational titles and status. The list, which is marked “Top Secret” is titled “Exceptionally Controlled Information”, and contains several entries under the heading “STATEROOM”. Underneath the heading appears the description: “SIGINT from diplomatic missions abroad”. The document then states that “this activity is conducted by USA, AUS, CAN, GBR and NZL”. Although the existence of STATEROOM has been known for over a year, this is the first time that New Zealand diplomatic missions are specifically identified in documents as collection sites for the program. Read more of this post

Secret Russian spy base in Syria seized by Western-backed rebels

Screenshot from FSA videoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Rebel forces aligned to Syria’s Western-backed opposition have announced the seizure of a joint Syrian-Russian spy base, which observers say reveals the extent of Russia’s intelligence cooperation with Syria. The base is located at the base of the Tel Al-Hara Mountain, in southern Syria’s Golan Heights region, just south of the border crossing with Israel in the now largely destroyed Syrian city of Quneitra. The Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) said it took over the spy base on Sunday, following several weeks of fighting against rival groups, including Syrian government soldiers and members of Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria. The FSA said the base, referred to as “Center C” by Russian intelligence, had been under Russian command until it was abandoned at a time and for reasons that remain unknown. In a three-minute video released by the Western-backed rebel group on YouTube, an FSA officer appears to be guiding the cameraman around part of the seized base. He points to several diagrams and captions on the walls, which are both in Arabic and in Russian. At some point in the video, the seal of Syrian intelligence is clearly visible, placed next to the seal of the GRU’s 6th Directorate, the branch of Russian military intelligence that is tasked with collecting signals intelligence (SIGINT). At another point in the video, a series of photographs can be seen that depict Syrian and Russian intelligence officers working together in gathering and analyzing intelligence. Interestingly, one of the walls in the base features a map of northern Israel, an area that is adjacent to the Golan Heights, and appears to show the location of Israeli SIGINT stations and military encampments. It is unclear when exactly the spy base was abandoned by the Russian and Syrian intelligence officers that staffed it, Read more of this post

Iran silent about deadly blast that ‘lit up sky’ near Tehran

Parchin military complexBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The government of Iran is refusing to comment on a reported blast at a secretive military facility that some sources say “lit up the sky” last week. The blast is said to have taken place on Sunday night at the Parchin military complex, located approximately 20 miles southeast of Iranian capital Tehran. The semi-official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported on Monday that the explosion had been caused by a “fire [that] broke out in an explosive materials production unit” east of Tehran, and that two people had died. Interestingly, however, the news agency did not specify the precise location of the blast, nor did it identify the “explosive materials production unit” in question. There was also no mention of the cause of the fire that allegedly resulted in the blast. A few hours later, the Iranian-language news site SahamNews, which is politically linked to the Iranian opposition, claimed that the blast happened at Parchin and that it was a “massive explosion” that “lit up the evening sky” and caused windows to shatter as far as 9 miles away from the complex. It is worth noting that the blast was reported just hours after Israeli officials accused Iran of conducting nuclear implosion tests at a host of nuclear facilities, including Parchin. Israel is among several countries, including the United States, that have accused Iran of conducting nuclear experimentation at Parchin. The last time that the site was inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency was in 2005. Since then, Iranian authorities have rejected repeated IAEA requests for access to the site. There are suspicions that the latest explosion may be part of what many suspect is a longstanding campaign of sabotage against the Iranian nuclear program, orchestrated by Israel with the possible cooperation of the US and other countries. The campaign is believed to include psychological operations, sabotage, as well as targeted assassinations of senior Iranian nuclear scientists. Read more of this post

Estonia arrests Russian ex-KGB intelligence officers

EstoniaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Authorities in Estonia have announced the arrest of two Russian citizens, said to be former employees of the Soviet-era KGB, who allegedly crossed into Estonian territory without a permit. The men have been identified as Alexandr Ladur, 54, and Mikhail Suhoshin, 64, and are reportedly retired intelligence officers. Estonian border police said the two men were apprehended while sailing on the river Narva, which flows from Lake Peipsi into the Baltic Sea and forms part of the border between Estonia and Russia. The two Russian citizens are being held on charges of illegally entering Estonian territory and resisting arrest. This is the second major diplomatic incident between Russia and the Baltic former Soviet republic in recent months. IntelNews regulars will recall that, in early September, the government of Estonia said Eston Kohver, a counterintelligence officer in the country’s Internal Security Service, was abducted by “a team of unidentified individuals from Russia”. The Estonian side claimed that the abduction had occurred at a border-crossing facility in southeastern Estonia. But Russian sources said at the time that Kohver had been detained while on Russian soil. Russian media later reported that the Estonian counterintelligence officer had been captured by Russia’s Federal Security Service, known as FSB, while undertaking an “espionage operation” inside Russia. Reports in the Russian press said Kohver was caught in Russia’s Pskov region, carrying a loaded firearm, €5,000 ($6,500) in cash, “covert video recording equipment”, an “eavesdropping device”, as well as “other items relating to the gathering of intelligence”. British newspaper The Guardian quoted Kalev Stoicescu, Russia expert at the International Center for Defense Studies in Estonian capital Tallinn, who did not rule out that the two alleged former KGB officers may in fact “have been merely fishing”. Read more of this post

Britain’s MI6 appoints new director amidst mounting global crises

Alex YoungerBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, also known as MI6) has announced the appointment of a new director at a period that some see as the most critical for the agency since the end of the Cold War. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in a brief statement on Saturday that Alex Younger will be replacing Sir John Sawers, who earlier this year announced he would be stepping down from the post. Prior to his appointment, Younger, 51, held the position of chief of global operations, which is considered the number two position at MI6. The Foreign Office statement described Younger as a “career SIS officer” who has worked for the agency since 1991, when he joined from the Scots Guards regiment of the British Army. He holds an economics degree and has served with MI6 in the Middle East, Europe, and Afghanistan, where he represented the agency as its most senior officer in the country following the US-led military of 2001. Upon his return to the United Kingdom, Younger directed MI6’s counterterrorism preparations in the lead-up to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Some observers noted on Sunday that the new director’s appointment comes at a crucial period for Britain’s principal external intelligence agency, as it prepares to expand its operations in Iraq and Syria, in response to the growth of the Islamic State there. Additionally, British intelligence is refocusing on Eastern Europe, as the crisis in Ukraine threatens to further-damage relations between East and West, which appear to be on their direst state since the Cold War. Younger’s appointment will be seen as a reaffirmation by the government of the work of Sir John, who has led MI6 for four years. Many were surprised when Sir John, who was a diplomat, not an intelligence officer, was named as director of MI6 in 2010. It was said at the time that his appointment was meant to be seen as a public response by the government over strong accusations that the agency had seriously underperformed in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Sir John has tried to restore MI6’s reputation and has been particularly noted for his public appearances, which included lectures and speeches at parliamentary hearings. Read more of this post

China hacking Hong Kong protesters’ smartphones, says security firm

Hong Kong protestersBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
A mobile telephone security company has said the government of China is probably behind a sophisticated malware designed to compromise the smartphones of protesters in Hong Kong. Ever since the Hong Kong ‘umbrella revolution’ began to unfold, countless reports have referred to the use of smartphone applications as organizing tools by the protesters. According to one account, an application called FireChat was downloaded by more than 100,000 smartphone users in Hong Kong in less than 24 hours. FireChat is said to allow protesters to continue communicating with each other even when their individual devices are unable to connect to a mobile network. But a California-based mobile telephone security firm has warned that the Chinese government could be using such enabling applications to compromise the smartphones of pro-democracy protesters in the former British colony. Lacoon Mobile Security, which specializes in assessing and mitigating mobile security threats, said on Tuesday that it had detected several types of malware camouflaged as mobile phone applications designed to help the protesters organize. In a statement posted on its website, the security firm said that, once downloaded by a smartphone user, the malware gives an outsider access to the address book, communication logs and other private data stored on the unsuspecting user’s device. Lacoon added that what made the malware unusual was that it came in two different versions; one appears to target smartphones that run Apple’s iOS operating system, while the other is designed to compromise phones using Google’s Android software. The company noted that the types of malware that are circulating among Hong Kong protesters were some of the most sophisticated it had ever seen. They made use of a method called mRAT, which stands for multidimensional requirements analysis tool. Among other things, mRAT allows a hacker to take surreptitious pictures using the phone camera of a compromised smartphone. According to Lacoon, the design of the malware in question is so advanced that it is “undoubtedly backed by a nation state”. Read more of this post

Are US spy agencies sharing weapons, intelligence with Hezbollah?

Cyprus, Israel, Syria, LebanonBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
In its effort to amass regional support for its war against the Islamic State, the United States is reaching out to militant Shiites in Lebanon, including Hezbollah, according to some sources. In a report for New York-based magazine Newsweek, veteran intelligence correspondent Jeff Stein said on Wednesday that the meteoric rise of Sunni radicalism, in the form of the Islamic State, may have prompted the creation of a “de facto US-Saudi-Lebanese-Hezbollah-Iranian” alliance in the Middle East. Although no partner in this informal coalition is willing to admit its role in the collaborative effort, the common goal of eradicating Sunni extremism has brought about an “unwritten, unacknowledged cease fire” between these former adversaries, says Stein, quoting “authoritative sources”. Washington and Hezbollah, the militant Shiite group that controls large swathes of Lebanese territory, have a common interest in combating the Islamic State and preventing its rule from spreading beyond Syria. So the Americans began reaching out to Hezbollah in 2012, says Stein, and have helped bring about a “regional consensus [...] to contain the conflict away from Lebanon and in Syria”. Remarkably, bitter adversaries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran are said to actively subscribe to the Washington-led consensus against the Islamic State. Washington’s decision to reach out to Hezbollah appears to have been prompted by the realization that the militant Shiite group, along with the official Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), were the only actors on the ground capable of fighting and defeating the Islamic State. Last August, says Stein, the US Pentagon unloaded $20 million worth of weapons in Lebanon for use by the LAF. The weapons were reportedly shipped through the Beirut International Airport, which his under the control of Hezbollah. The group promptly transferred the weapons to the LAF, which is traditionally dominated by Christians, but has recently developed an “arm’s length alliance with Hezbollah” due to their mutual concern over the rise of the Islamic State. Stein suggests that the US-Hezbollah relationship may now also include intelligence-sharing. He quotes a number of sources who claim that some Sunni militants have been apprehended thanks to intelligence-sharing between America, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Some claim that Iran acts as a mediator between Washington and Hezbollah, and that British diplomats also mediate between the two sides. Read more of this post

US spy agencies weigh in on telephone contracting deal

Ericsson TelecommunicationsBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A host of American intelligence agencies are intervening to discourage a business deal that would see a vital aspect of the United States telephone network end up under the control of a European telecommunications firm. The contracting agreement concerns the administration of the US routing network, designed in the late 1990s as a kind of traffic controller of America’s deregulated and fragmented telephone system. The routing network ensures centralized access to pen-register data, which reveal the time, duration, telephone numbers and subscriber information associated with each telephone call. Because of that, the routing system is seen as a vital tool by American law enforcement and intelligence agencies that engage in state-sponsored communications interception. Although the routing control system is supervised by the US government’s Federal Communications Commission, its maintenance has been sub-contracted since the mid-1990s to a small Virginia-based private company called Neustar. Now, however, the FCC is apparently considering transferring the administration of the routing network to Ericsson Telecommunications, a Swedish firm that says it can do Neustar’s job more efficiently for a reduced cost to the government. As can be expected, Neustar objects to Ericsson’s bid, arguing that awarding the American telephone system’s administration to a foreign firm could have “unwarranted and potentially harmful” effects on American security. The company claims that the FCC is focusing solely on the financial aspect of the deal, while ignoring national security concerns. Neustar’s warnings are being echoed by a host of American intelligence agencies, who say they depend on the Virginia-based company for access to telephone data in the course of their investigations. They claim that, by allowing a non-American company to access the US routing system, surveillance data relating to national security investigations could be compromised. In a recent article, The New York Times quoted “current and former intelligence officials” as saying that they were “concerned that the government’s ability to trace reams of phone data could be hindered” if Ericsson won the contract. They cautioned that this would also hamper criminal and terrorism investigations. Read more of this post

Analysis: Europe’s ‘spy capital’ struggles to police espionage, terrorism

Vienna, AustriaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Throughout the Cold War, Vienna was Europe’s busiest ‘spy hub’ linking East and West. Little has changed today, as the Austrian capital is still believed to feature “the highest density of [foreign spies] in the world”. A recently published book estimated that there are 7,000 spies among the 17,000 accredited diplomats who live and work in Vienna, a city of fewer than 2 million inhabitants. International spies have taken advantage of Austria’s relatively liberal espionage laws and have operated with near-unparalleled ease in the central European country for over 200 years. But now the country’s Ministry of Interior is seeking to terminate Austria’s liberal espionage regime and has initiated a plan to give local authorities more counterintelligence powers. Supporters of the proposal argue that Austria has “the most permissive spying laws in Europe”, which allow foreign agents to operate on Austrian soil with a high degree of impunity. This is because, under Austrian law, intelligence activities are not considered criminal unless they target the host country. For this reason, American, Russian, German, French, and other intelligence agencies have for years used Vienna as a base for recruiting agents and collecting intelligence. Supporters of the Interior Ministry’s proposal argue that the current legal regime has been used to harm the national interests of Austria and the security of the European Union —a reference to recent claims in the Austrian media that the United States National Security Agency has been spying on the United Nations headquarters in Vienna. Additionally, Austrian authorities say they are now worried about local Muslims who have been radicalized and have traveled to Iraq and Syria to join the Islamic State. The government estimates that at least 140 Austrian Muslims have made the trip to the Middle East to join the militant organization. Austria’s counterterrorist agency, the BVT, said in its annual report for 2014 that another 60 radical Muslims had returned to Austria from the Middle East since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war. Interior Ministry spokesman Alexander Marakovits told Bloomberg that Austrian security services are “having a hard time doing their job the way they are expected to do”. Read more of this post

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