Former Libyan oil minister found dead in Vienna [updated]

Shukri GhanemBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The former Prime Minister of Libya, who defected from the government of Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi last summer during the peak of the Libyan civil war, has been found dead in Vienna, Austria. Shukri Ghanem, a former member of the General People’s Committee of Libya, had for years been a close friend and trusted aide of Colonel Gaddafi. Having previously served as a Director of Libya’s state-owned National Oil Corporation, he was appointed Prime Minister of the country in 2003. In 2006, he assumed the post of undersecretary at the Ministry of Petroleum —arguably Libya’s most powerful government ministry— from which he resigned in 2009. In May of 2011, he made international headlines when he abruptly appeared in Tunisia, saying he had defected from Libya. Soon afterwards, on June 1, he reappeared in Rome, Italy, where he held a press conference and announced that he was joining the Libyan rebel Transitional National Council. His public defection delivered a heavy blow to the regime of Colonel Gaddafi, which was eventually brought down a few months later. Ghanem was one of Libya’s most internationally recognizable government officials. He held advanced degrees in international law and economics from American universities and had lived and worked in Vienna, Austria, for years, as Director of Research for the international secretariat of the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries. Following his defection, he ended up back in Vienna, where he owned an apartment from his days working for OPEC. He was employed as a consultant for energy companies. But on Sunday, the high-profile Libyan defector was found dead in the Austrian capital. Vienna police spokesman Roman Hahslinger told Austrian media that Ghanem’s body was found “floating in the river Danube” in the early morning hours of Sunday. Read more of this post

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Libya’s spy chief was lured by French-Mauritanian intelligence trap

Abdullah al-SenussiBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
The arrest of Muammar al-Gaddafi’s spy chief in Mauritania last week was the culmination of a carefully planned French intelligence operation, which was secretly aided by the Mauritanian government, according to informed insiders. Abdullah al-Senussi, Colonel Gaddafi’s brother-in-law, who used to head the Mukhabarat el-Jamahiriya, Libya’s intelligence agency, was captured at the Nouakchott International Airport in the Mauritanian capital on March 17. He was detained as soon as he arrived there on a chartered flight from Mali. He had previously entered Mali from Niger, and was reportedly under the government’s protection. But the ongoing uprising of the pro-Gaddafi Tuareg in the north of the country, which has now resulted in a military coup in Bamako, caused the former Libyan spy chief to seek refuge elsewhere. According to a well-researched article by Reuters news agency, al-Senussi was gradually convinced to travel to Mauritania by the al-Me’edani clan, a pro-Gaddafi nomadic tribe that had previously worked for the Libyan security agencies and whose members had been given Libyan nationality by Colonel Gaddafi’s regime. The clan, says the Reuters article, was persuaded to turn its back on al-Senussi as part of a behind-the-scenes agreement between French and Mauritanian intelligence agencies. The deal was struck after a high-level agreement between the Nicolas Sarkozy government in Paris and the Mauritanian government of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. A career soldier and high-ranking officer, Abdel Aziz assumed power in the country in a 2008 military coup that was widely condemned by international bodies, including the United Nations. But the military regime in Nouakchott was pleased to see Paris engineer a thaw in relations between the two countries in 2009. Ever since then, the French government has publicly praised the regime of President Abdel Aziz as a “key partner” in combating terrorism. Mauritania’s decision to help France capture al-Senussi was a repayment to the country’s former colonial master for its support after the 2008 military coup, according to Reuters. Following his arrest, al-Senussi is believed to be held at the headquarters of the Mauritanian intelligence service in Nouakchott. Read more of this post

Research: Spies increasingly using Facebook, Twitter to gather data

Spying on social networkingBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
During the past four years, this blog has reported several incidents pointing to the increasing frequency with which spy agencies of various countries are utilizing social networking media as sources of tactical intelligence. But are we at a point where we can speak of a trend? In other words, is the rapid rise of social networking creating the conditions for the emergence of a new domain in tactical intelligence collection? This past week saw the publication of a new research paper (.pdf), which I co-authored with Micah-Sage Bolden, entitled “Social Networking as a Paradigm Shift in Tactical Intelligence Collection”. In it, we argue that recent case studies point to social networking as the new cutting edge in open-source tactical intelligence collection. We explain that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and a host of other social networking platforms are increasingly viewed by intelligence agencies as invaluable channels of information acquisition. We base our findings on three recent case studies, which we believe highlight the intelligence function of social networking. The first case study comes out of the Arab Spring, which, according to one report, “prompted the US government to begin developing guidelines for culling intelligence from social media networks”. We also examine NATO’s operations during the 2011 Libyan civil war (Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR), when Western military forces systematically resorted to social networking media to gather actionable intelligence, by utilizing open sources like Twitter to pinpoint targets for attack. Finally, we examine the sabotage by Israeli security services of the 2011 “Welcome to Palestine Air Flotilla” initiative, a campaign organized by several European groups aiming to draw worldwide attention to the travel restrictions imposed by Israeli authorities on the Occupied Territories. Read more of this post

Maltese government secretly helped British spy operations in Libya

Libya and MaltaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In the 1980s, Malta was one of the world’s closest allies with the Libyan regime of Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi. For this reason, during the recent Libyan civil war, it was generally presumed that the island nation’s strong cultural and strategic links with Tripoli would prevent it from joining other European nations in actively supporting the Libyan opposition. But internal British government documents, which have been acquired by the BBC, show that Malta was secretly supportive of Western efforts to undermine the regime of Colonel Gaddafi, and went so far as to help smuggle British intelligence operatives into Libya. According to a recent exposé aired by the BBC’s flagship factual program Newsnight, the Maltese government took advantage of its active role as a hub for distributing United Nations humanitarian and logistical assistance to Libyan civilians during the war. In one specific case, Malta offered to work with British external intelligence agency MI6, to fly a group of British intelligence officers to an unspecified location in Libya. The British operatives’ ultimate goal was to meet up with leading members of the opposition Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC), at a predetermined location near Libya’s second-largest city of Benghazi. According to the BBC, the Maltese government secretly authorized the transportation of the MI6 officers into Libya, using a Chinook helicopter, which took off in the middle of the night from Maltese territory. Unfortunately for the British, the mission was intercepted by NTC forces at the Benina International Airport, near Benghazi. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #671

Pablo Neruda (right) and Salvador AllendeBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►German ‘spies’ detained in Pakistan. Three alleged German spies have been detained in Pakistan by police and released to German diplomats, according to reports. The men were detained last Saturday in the northeastern city of Peshawar by officers who accused them of belonging to “an unauthorized liaison office of the German embassy”. A Pakistani official said counterintelligence authorities had been observing the three Germans “for months”.
►►Was poet Pablo Neruda murdered? Pablo Neruda, Chile’s Nobel Prize-winning poet, died exactly 12 days after the brutal coup that ended the life of his close friend, socialist President Salvador Allende. The official version was that he died of natural causes brought on by the trauma of witnessing the coup and the lethal persecution of many of his friends. But now Neruda’s body might be exhumed for testing to address long-simmering suspicions that the poet was poisoned.
►►Britain’s secret mission to beat Gaddafi. British efforts to help Libyan rebels topple Colonel Gaddafi were not limited to air strikes. On the ground –and on the quiet– British special forces soldiers were blending in with rebel fighters. The BBC’s Newsnight program has produced a report on the subject. The report includes information on E Squadron, which has not hitherto been discussed publicly. It was formed in 2007 to work closely with MI6, and is mainly involved in missions “where maximum discretion is required”.

News you may have missed #633

Abdullah al-Senussi

Al-Senussi

►►Is Britain secretly assisting the CIA’s drone campaign? In the latest casualties from America’s hidden war in Pakistan, two British nationals, Ibrahim Adam and Mohammed Azmir, have reportedly been killed by drone missiles. The death of two men already known to UK authorities raises serious questions about the role that the British intelligence services are playing in the CIA’s unmanned drone war.
►►Gaddafi’s intelligence chief captured. Libya’s interim authorities have captured the last totem of the Gaddafi regime, seizing former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi in the country’s southern desert. The arrest means that all leading figures from the Gaddafi regime have now been killed, captured or driven into exile.
►►South Korea says it caught North spy. A North Korean spy has been arrested after arriving in South Korea posing as a refugee, according to South Korean authorities. The latter claim to have found during a routine background check that the man, surnamed Kim, was assigned to the North’s military intelligence command and had received espionage training.

Ex-CIA officer points to al-Qaeda banners appearing in Libya

Charles S. Faddis

Charles S. Faddis

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Amidst the excitement in the West over the toppling of the late Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, few have been paying attention at the frequent appearances of the al-Qaeda banner in locations around Libya. The characteristic black flag bears the Arabic inscription of the shahada, the Islamic creed, which states that “there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger [prophet]”. Within hours following the official pronouncement of the lynching of Colonel Gaddafi, al-Qaeda banners were flying over the de facto headquarters of Libya’s US-backed National Transitional Council (NTC) in Benghazi, as well as in numerous other locations around the North African country. There have even been reports of threats leveled against reporters who were observed trying to photograph or film the unmistakable banners. Former CIA covert operations officer Charles Faddis, who spent several years working in the Middle East, has penned a new article urging Western policy makers to stop viewing the NTC as a force promoting some sort of Western-type democratic administration in Libya. Undoubtedly, he says, some NTC members do “wish for a Libya with a Western style democratic government”. But the NTC is an umbrella group bringing together “individuals from many walks of life in the opposition”, he says, including fighters motivated primarily by tribal and regional loyalties, as well as Islamist activists guided by distinctly conservative interpretations of the Qur’an. One such activist is Mustafa Abdul Jalil, leader of the NTC, who in his historic celebratory speech following the formal end of the civil war, told ecstatic supporters that, from now on, Libya would be “an Islamic state”, and that all legal provisions that conflicted with the Sharia —Qur’anic law— would be invalidated. Since that day, there have been reports of beauty salons closing and of women being forced to wear the hijab, says Faddis. Read more of this post

Were British-funded mercenaries protecting Gaddafi in his final moments?

Muammar al-Gaddafi

Gaddafi

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The South African intelligence services are reportedly investigating reports that a British security company was providing protection for Muammar al-Gaddafi when he was killed by rebels. On October 20, the Libyan leader and his armed entourage were traveling from his hometown of Sirte toward the Libya-Niger border, when they were hit by NATO missiles. Colonel Gaddafi was later captured and lynched by armed rebels loyal to Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC). But British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reports that an unnamed British security company was paid millions of dollars by the Libyan leader to smuggle him out of Sirte and into Niger. According to The Telegraph, the company is now under investigation by South African authorities, because one of its agents, a woman based in Kenya, allegedly recruited at least 19 South African mercenaries for the operation to exfiltrate Gaddafi from Libya. The 19 joined a group of approximately 50 mercenaries, who were sent to Libya and were with the Libyan leader when he was captured by the NTC rebels on October 20. The paper says that several members of the mercenary group were former associates of Simon Mann, a British former Special Forces (SAS) officer who was arrested in Zimbabwe in 2004 while planning a coup against Teodoro Obiang, longtime dictator of energy-rich Equatorial Guinea. The Telegraph article quotes Danie Odendaal, a former member of South Africa’s apartheid-era security services, who claims he was among Gaddafi’s armed entourage during his capture on October 20. Odendaal claims that many South Africans were injured and at least two were killed along with Gaddafi. Read more of this post

Did Australian bodyguard help Gaddafi’s son flee to Niger?

Gary Peters

Gary Peters

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An Australian private security consultant is accused of having helped one of Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi’s sons escape to relative safety in Niger. For several years, Gary Peters, who lives in Ontario, Canada, worked as a personal bodyguard for Al-Saadi al-Gaddafi, the third oldest son of Libya’s deceased former leader. A few days ago, Peters, who is now back in Canada, told the country’s National Post newspaper that he led “an international security team” tasked with exfiltrating Saadi Gaddafi to the African country of Niger, located immediately to the south of Libya. He also told the paper that he was injured when the three-car convoy carrying Gaddafi’s international security team came under fire as it returned to Libya from Niger. But he said he only “discovered” his injuries while onboard a flight back to Toronto, and was subsequently hospitalized in Canada. Now the paper hosts comments from Nada Basir, spokesperson of the Canadian Libyan Council, which has called for an official investigation into whether Peters broke international laws and sanctions imposed on Libya, by helping a member of the Gaddafi family escape abroad. As with other members of Libya’s former ruling family, Saadi Gaddafi is wanted by INTERPOL, which has issued an international arrest warrant in his name. Basir told The Post that it was an insult to have a Canadian resident apparently defy the NATO mission in Libya, to which the government of Canada is party; he added that Canada’s Libyan community hopes that the government takes this issue seriously. Peters previously told the newspaper that he had been interviewed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but that no charges had been filed against him. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #595

Bruce Carlson

Bruce Carlson

►►US commander sees proliferation threat in Libyan chemicals. Libya’s stockpile of chemical warfare materials remains a potential source of proliferation, General Carter Ham, the US military commander for Africa, told reporters on Wednesday. In addition to chemical materials, Ham said he is concerned about shoulder-fired missiles falling into the hands of al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or Boko Haram, the continent’s three major extremist organizations.
►►NRO spy satellites on time and on budget. Bruce Carlson, director of the US National Reconnaissance Office, has told reporters in Washington that every one of his agency’s programs is on time and on budget. This is seen as a success for the US intelligence community, which is known for botched and grossly over-budget programs outsourced to industry.
►►Watchdog says Canadian spies must follow same rules abroad. A new report by the watchdog body for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service argues that rules governing the conduct of Canadian spies do not relax once they leave Canada. While it cleared CSIS of complicity in any detainee abuse in America’s ‘war on terrorism’, the report did criticize the country’s spymasters for lax record keeping and for sending CSIS officers overseas without sufficient guidance.

News you may have missed #593

Omar Suleiman

Omar Suleiman

►►Libyan woman spy guided NATO bombs to Gaddafi targets. The NATO bombing campaign which fatally weakened Muammar Gaddafi’s rule had a secret asset: a 24-year-old Libyan woman who spent months spying on military facilities and passing on the details to the alliance. The woman, operating under the codename Nomidia, used elaborate methods to evade capture –constantly changing her location, using multiple mobile telephone SIM cards and hiding her activities from all but the closest members of her family.
►►Canadian ex-spy wins court claim against CSIS. Marc-André Bergeron, who was fired four years ago by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) for alleged incompetence, has been vindicated by winning his claim of wrongful dismissal. In doing so, he has revealed a rather remarkable state of affairs at CSIS. Its bosses lament that they are held to impossible legal standards in court cases involving terrorism, but couldn’t muster sufficient proof to fire one of their own.
►►Mubarak’s spy chief testifies in Egypt trial. One of the most secretive figures of Hosni Mubarak’s inner circle testified Tuesday at the ousted leader’s trial under a complete media blackout. Omar Suleiman, who was Mubarak’s longtime intelligence chief and was named vice president during the last weeks of his rule, is the first in a string of members of the ousted leader’s senior leadership to appear in the court.

CIA Helped Gaddafi Torture Libyan Dissidents, Documents Show

Abdel Hakim Belhaj

Abdel Belhaj

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Back in February, when Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi blamed the popular revolt against him on al-Qaeda, he was ridiculed in the international media. But documents discovered at an abandoned Libyan government office complex show that the Libyan rebels’ supreme military commander was abducted in 2004 by the CIA, which suspected him of links to al-Qaeda. Abdel Hakim Belhaj, also known as Abdullah al-Sadiq, was snatched by a CIA team in Malaysia, and secretly transported to Thailand, where he says he was “directly tortured by CIA agents”. The CIA then renditioned him to Libya, where he says he was tortured routinely until his release from prison, in 2010. In the 1980s, Belhaj was a member of the foreign Mujahedeen summoned by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda to fight the Russians in Afghanistan. Upon returning to Libya in the early 1990s, he led the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an al-Qaeda-inspired armed organization that unsuccessfully sought to assassinate Colonel Gaddafi. Ironically, Belhaj is now the Tripoli-based military commander of the Libyan National Transitional Council, and says that he wants a full apology from the United States and Britain “for the way he was transported to prison in Libya in 2004”. But the former Mujahedeen is one of several terrorism suspects delivered to Libya by Western intelligence agencies in the years after 9/11, according to Libyan government documents discovered by Human Rights Watch (HRW) workers at the office of Libyan former intelligence chief and foreign minister Moussa Koussa. The documents show that Libya’s External Security Organization maintained extremely close relations with German, Canadian, British, and American intelligence services. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #583

Chiou I-jen

Chiou I-jen

►►Ex-Akamai worker pleads guilty to spy charge. Elliot Doxer, an American employee of Massachusetts-based Akamai Technologies, is charged with providing inside company information to an FBI agent posing as an Israeli spy. Ironically, Israel may have helped the Bureau nab Doxer.
►►Taiwan ex-spy cleared of corruption charge. Chiou I-jen, Taiwan’s ex-spy chief and right-hand man of jailed former president Chen Shui-bian, was cleared Tuesday of embezzling diplomatic funds during Chen’s term in office. The former head of the National Security Bureau, was acquitted of pocketing $500,000 –earmarked for expanding Taiwan’s participation in international affairs– in 2005, due to a lack of evidence.
►►Wiretaps seen as key in hunt for Gaddafi. “There are some groups who are looking for him and also trying to listen to his calls. Of course he doesn’t use the phone, but we know the people around him who use the phones”. This is according to Hisham Buhagiar, a senior military official in Libya’s National Transitional Council, who is coordinating efforts to find Muammar al-Gaddafi.

Ex-Bush official advised Gaddafi until early August, documents show

Libya

Libya

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Intelligence documents found at the headquarters of Libya’s abandoned spy agency appear to show that the regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi enjoyed the support of an American diplomat who served in the Bush administration. Al Jazeera reports that David Welch, who was Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs in the US Department of State between 2005 and 2008, met on August 2 with Gaddafi officials in the Four Seasons Hotel in Cairo, Egypt. According to a Libyan intelligence memo from the meeting, Welch, who now works for Bechtel Corporation, gave the Gaddafi officials tips on how “to win the propaganda war” against the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC). He also instructed them to undermine Libya’s rebel movement by relying on several “confidence-building measures”, including controlled intelligence leaks aimed at manipulating the news output of Arab and Western media. The documents also reveal that Gaddafi maintained spies at the highest echelons of the rebel council, and that at least one of these spies offered to assassinate rebel leaders by “poisoning their food and water”. However, despite maintaining an ample amount of informants inside the NTC, the Gaddafi regime found it difficult to collect reliable and actionable intelligence during the civil war. Characteristically, many of the names of NTC’s central figures are misspelled in intelligence field reports, and one intelligence analyst complained recently that “the majority of those currently working for the intelligence administration are ill-prepared to carry out intelligence duties”. Despite these shortcomings, however, Gaddafi’s spies inside the NTC appear to have managed to intercept a large number of telephone messages and confidential emails between the NTC and foreign diplomats. Read more of this post

Why Are Armed Groups Storming Foreign Embassies in Tripoli?

The new Libyan flag

New Libyan flag

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
It is perhaps understandable that fighters of the National Transitional Council, Libya’s rebel umbrella group, have stormed locations in Tripoli that are associated with the regime of deposed Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi. Strategic sites such as  Bab al-Aziziya, Gaddafi’s compound, government ministries, or even houses belonging to Gaddafi’s large and powerful family, may be deemed legitimate targets. But why are the rebels also selectively attacking foreign embassies in the Libyan capital? According to Yonhap, South Korea’s state-run news agency, the South Korean embassy in Tripoli was “attacked [...] by an armed gang” of about 30 people late on Tuesday. The report, which could not be immediately confirmed by the Republic’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, cited anonymous sources, who said that embassy staff were “threatened at gunpoint”. At roughly the same period, another group of “armed persons” stormed the building of the Bulgarian embassy, according to the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which said that it had yet to clarify “the circumstances around the incident”. On Wednesday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said that armed groups had “assaulted and totally looted” the Venezuelan embassy. A few hours later, the Venezuelan Ambassador to Libya, Afif Tajeldine, clarified that the attack took place at his official residence, which is located about 9 miles from the Venezuelan embassy. He told El Universal that armed groups broke into the ambassadorial residence and “searched the house asking for me”. They then “ransacked the house completely” and “left nothing in the house”. Read more of this post

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