Analysis: Should government spies target foreign firms?

CyberespionageBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Last month, the government of the United States indicted five officers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army with conspiracy to commit computer fraud, economic espionage, and theft of trade secrets, among other charges. In indicting the five PLA officers, the US Department of Justice went to great pains to ensure that it did not accuse the suspects of engaging in cyberespionage in defense of China’s national security. What sparked the indictments was that the accused hackers allegedly employed intelligence resources belonging to the Chinese state in order to give a competitive advantage to Chinese companies vying for international contracts against American firms. In the words of US Attorney General Eric Holder, the operational difference between American and Chinese cyberespionage, as revealed in the case against the five PLA officers, is that “we do not collect intelligence to provide a competitive advantage to US companies, or US commercial sectors”, whereas China engages in the practice “for no reason other than to advantage state-owned companies and other interests in China”. I recently authored a working paper that was published by the Cyberdefense and Cybersecurity Chair of France’s Ecole Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr, in which I argued that the American distinction between public and private spheres of economic activity is not shared by PLA. The Chinese see both state and corporate cyberespionage targets as fair game and as an essential means of competing globally with the United States and other adversaries. In the paper, I argue that Beijing sees the demarcation between state and private economic activity as a conceptual model deliberately devised by the US to disadvantage China’s intelligence-collection ability. Read more of this post

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Is Texas Army base home to secret CIA weapons facility?

Camp StanleyBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Observers of the Central Intelligence Agency know that the Agency maintains two widely acknowledged facilities inside the United States —both in the state of Virginia. One is its headquarters in Langley. The other is inside the Armed Forces Experimental Training Activity, known more commonly as Camp Peary, located near Williamsburg, where officers of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service are allegedly trained. However, for many decades researchers have speculated that the Agency maintains a third facility, which it uses to stockpile and distribute weapons around the world. The facility has been referred to in declassified documents as the “Midwest Depot”. It is said that billions of dollars of untraceable weapons have been dispatched from the “Midwest Depot” to CIA-supported groups such as Brigade 2506, which conducted the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. Other paramilitary groups said to have received weapons from the CIA’s “Midwest Depot” include the Honduras-based Contras, who fought the Sandinistas government in 1980s’ Nicaragua, Angola’s UNITA anti-communist group, as well as the Sunni mujahedeen who fought the Soviet Red Army in Afghanistan. Now the location of this mysterious depot may have been unearthed thanks to Allen Thomson, a retired CIA analyst. In a 73-page research paper, Thomson concludes that the location of the “Midwest Depot” is actually in Texas. The paper has been published (.pdf) on the website of the Federation of American Scientists’ Intelligence Resource Program, which maintains an extensive archive on topics of current interest to intelligence researchers. Based on what The New York Times calls “a mosaic of documentation”, Thomson claims that the CIA’s “Midwest Depot” is located inside Camp Stanley, located north of San Antonio, Texas. The latter is officially indexed as a US Army weapons depot. But Thomson says the depot is in fact commanded by the CIA. His paper highlights an explicit reference made to Texas in a memo drafted in 1986 by Colonel Oliver North, who was eventually convicted in connection with the Iran-Contra scandal. In it, North states that the CIA would transport missiles headed for Iran from a military facility to its “Midwest Depot, Texas”. Read more of this post

Thatcher was warned about CIA activities in Britain, files show

Margaret ThatcherBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was warned in 1984 that American intelligence carried out operations in the United Kingdom without London’s consent. Although she dismissed the warnings, she authorized British counterintelligence to investigate the matter. A secret file from the British Foreign Office, which was declassified last month, shows that concerns about alleged American spy activity in the UK were communicated to the Tory Prime Minister by Paddy Ashdown —now Lord Ashdown— a Member of Parliament for Britain’s Liberal Party. In November of 1984, Ashdown notified Thatcher that he was concerned about a series of “clandestine activities” carried out by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) aimed at preventing communist countries from acquiring advanced computer technology developed by companies based in Britain. The written warning stated that CIA operatives had made “clandestine approaches” targetting individuals employed by leading British computer firms, inquiring about technology transfers to the Soviet Bloc. Ashdown added that the American intelligence agency had failed to provide the British government with advance notice of these activities, as was customary between the two allies. In his letter to Thatcher, the Liberal Party MP concluded that, based on his personal investigation into the matter, he was convinced the CIA operation was “still continuing”. The Prime Minister responded to Ashdown with an official letter explaining that there was “no evidence of improper activity by the CIA” or that British espionage laws had been violated by American intelligence personnel. She added that there was “close cooperation” between London and Washington on enforcing multilaterally agreed export controls, which included computer technology, and concluded that saw no need for an inquiry at that time. But London-based newspaper The Guardian, which accessed the declassified files on the case, said that Whitehall ordered the Foreign Office to investigate Ashdown’s allegations. The Foreign Office then tasked the Security Service (MI5) to find out whether the US had broken an agreement between the two countries to refrain from clandestine operations on each other’s territory unless the latter were authorized by both nations. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #866

Blackwater/Academi headquartersBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Academic study into the behavioral traits of contract killers. Using off-the-record interviews with informants, interviews with offenders and former offenders, court transcripts and newspaper archives, academics from Britain’s Birmingham City University identified patterns of ‘hitman’ behavior in an attempt to demystify their secret world. The criminologists, who examined 27 cases of contract killing between 1974 and 2013 committed by 36 men and one woman, found that the killers typically murder their targets on a street close to the victim’s home, although a significant proportion get cold feet or bungle the job.
►►Interview with Blackwater founder Erik Prince. The founder of private security group Blackwater is now based in Hong Kong and chairs Frontier Services Group, an Africa-focused security and logistics company with intimate ties to China’s largest state-owned conglomerate, Citic Group. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Prince says he would “rather deal with the vagaries of investing in Africa than in figuring out what the hell else Washington is going to do to the entrepreneur next”. The controversial businessman calls the US State Department “fickle” and the US “federal bureaucracy” a “bunch of rabid dogs”.
►►New book accuses Edward Snowden of ‘treason’. Economist columnist Edward Lucas says his new book, The Snowden Operation: Inside the West’s Greatest Intelligence Disaster, does not argue that Snowden is a Russian agent. But he says that the damage caused by the former NSA technical expert’s revelations “neatly and suspiciously fits the interests of one country: Russia”. Moreover, argues Lucas, “Snowden’s published revelations include material that has nothing to do with his purported worries about personal privacy”.

Announcement: Conference on social media and intelligence

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? Some experts now contend that the growth of social networking has given rise to a new form of intelligence-gathering: social media intelligence (SOCMINT). There are even some who believe SOCMINT should become a separate entity altogether in the intelligence process. On March 7, 2014, the Netherlands Intelligence Studies Association (NISA) will be holding a one-day conference in Amsterdam, to discuss this new phenomenon and consider some of the practical, ethical and political dilemmas involved in SOCMINT. The conference will open with a keynote speech by Sir David Omand, former director of Britain’s’ signals intelligence agency, the GCHQ, who currently teaches at the War Studies Department at King’s College, London. Other speakers come from intelligence and security services in Holland and Belgium, as well as from a variety of academic centers and non-governmental organizations in Europe and the United States. Longtime readers of this website will be familiar with NISA. The group was founded in 1991 with a mission to help focus and streamline academic work on intelligence, security and law enforcement. Read more of this post

Medical review article considers Arafat poisoning theory

Yasser Arafat in Tunis in 1993By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
The publication of a peer reviewed article in one of the world’s leading medical journals has reinforced the possibility that the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat may have died of poisoning. A nine-month study into the possible poisoning of the founder of Palestinian nationalist group Fatah, was commissioned in 2012 by Qatari news channel Al Jazeera. It was undertaken by a team of researchers at the Institut de Radiophysique (IRA) in Lausanne, Switzerland. According to the results, announced in July of that year, significant traces of the radioactive substance polonium 210 were discovered on the personal artifacts that Arafat used during his final days while in hospital in Paris, France, in 2004. According to the IRA, some of the Fatah leader’s personal belongings, including his underwear and his toothbrush, contained levels of polonium that were as many as ten times higher than those in random samples used as control subjects in the study. Shortly after the IRA study, Arafat’s wife and daughter filed an official complaint with French judicial authorities, who in turn decided to open an official murder investigation into the death of the late Palestinian national leader. Now British medical journal The Lancet has published a peer reviewed analysis of the IRA research, which outlines and endorses its conclusions. The article, entitled “Improving forensic investigation for polonium poisoning”, was authored by a group of researchers at the IRA in Lausanne and at the University Centre of Legal Medicine, which is also in Switzerland. It explains the procedures followed during the forensic investigation of  Arafat’s belongings, and examines the theory that Arafat may have been poisoned. The researchers state that the “findings [of the investigation] support the possibility of Arafat’s poisoning with 210Po”. Read more of this post

Announcement: Calling All Undergraduate Students of Intelligence

Security and Intelligence Studies JournalBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The academic study of security and intelligence used to be seen as a strictly graduate-level preoccupation. Today, however, it is routinely encountered in undergraduate curricula and constitutes one of the fastest growing programs in political science. In response to the rising undergraduate interest in this field of study, the Security and Intelligence Studies program at King University in Bristol, Tennessee, launched The Security and Intelligence Studies Journal last spring. It is the world’s first undergraduate scholarly journal focusing exclusively on themes of intelligence, security, counterterrorism, geopolitics and international relations. The first issue of the SIS Journal was published in May of 2013 and is available on Amazon. It contains some of the finest undergraduate research on the theme: “security challenges in the 21st century”. For its second issue, the SIS Journal calls on interested authors to submit papers of up to 3,000 words in length on the theme: “Al-Qaeda – past, present, future”.

The theme’s elaboration, which can be found on the journal’s website, is as follows: “In less than a quarter of a century, al-Qaeda has grown from a small administrative unit in the Hindu Kush Mountains to a leading global agent of Sunni militancy. The history of this enigmatic organization is replete with unpredictable twists and turns that continue to mystify scholars and counterterrorism experts alike. During the last decade, the demise of central al-Qaeda figures, including its founder and Emir, Osama bin Laden, have prompted some to proclaim the organization extinct. Others point to the rise of al-Qaeda-inspired franchise groups in the Arabian Peninsula and parts of Africa, as well as lone-wolf terrorist acts around the world, in arguing that al-Qaeda’s ideology is far from obsolete. The Security and Intelligence Studies Journal calls on interested authors to explore various aspects of al-Qaeda’s past, present, or future, in an effort to shed scholarly light on one of the world’s most mysterious and elusive militant groups”.

The deadline for submissions of relevant scholarly papers of up to 3,000 words in length has been set for October 20, 2013. The SIS Journal editors encourage undergraduate students from around the world with a serious scholarly interest in security and intelligence to contact the journal by visiting its website or emailing the editors at kcsis@king.edu, to express their interest in submitting a paper. Collaborative works are welcome. We also kindly ask academics to forward this call for papers to their undergraduate students.

CIA finances geoengineering study on climate change

CIA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is among the principal funding bodies of a scientific research program on using geoengineering to slow down or halt climate change. The 21-month $630,000 study will be administered by the US National Academy of Science (NAS). Alongside the CIA, the project is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The science of geoengineering encompasses techniques of large-scale intervention on the Earth’s climatic system, aimed at controlling solar radiation and removing carbon dioxide from the environment. Its ultimate goal is to reduce global warming by removing a portion of greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere and by causing the planet to absorb reduced amounts of solar radiation. The NAS study will be the first one of its kind at the Academy to be financially backed by an intelligence agency. In addition to exploring technical ways of altering the course of climate change, the study aims to evaluate the implications of geoengineering efforts on international security and American national security in particular. The CIA’s interest in climate science is not new. Since the middle of the last decade, intelligence agencies have shown interest in the national security ramifications of climate change, as well as in climate change negotiations between governments. In 2009, the CIA opened its Center on Climate Change and National Security, a small unit led by senior specialists from the Agency’s Directorate of Intelligence and the Directorate of Science and Technology. Read more of this post

World’s first undergraduate intelligence journal publishes first issue

Security and Intelligence Studies JournalBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The study of security and intelligence used to be considered strictly a graduate-level preoccupation. Today, however, it is routinely encountered in undergraduate curricula and constitutes one of the fastest growing programs in the humanities. To satisfy the growing undergraduate interest in this field of study, King University in Bristol, Tennessee, launched The Security and Intelligence Studies Journal. It is the world’s first undergraduate scholarly journal focusing exclusively on themes of intelligence, security, counterterrorism, geopolitics and international relations. The first issue of the Journal is now out and available to purchase on Amazon for $9.00. It contains some of the finest undergraduate research on subjects ranging from the rise of Islamic militancy in West Africa, the Syrian Civil War, the Iranian nuclear program, to terrorism funding, and the rise of far-right militancy in the United States, among other issues. On the journal’s website, visitors can find subscription information, as well as the journal’s theme for issue 2, which is scheduled for publication in December 2013. Undergraduate students from all over the world are invited to submit 3,000-word papers on the subject: Al-Qaeda: past, present, future. The theme’s description is as follows: “In less than a quarter of a century, al-Qaeda grew from a small administrative unit in the Hindu Kush Mountains to a leading global agent of Sunni militancy. The history of this enigmatic organization is replete with unpredictable twists and turns that continue to mystify scholars and counterterrorism experts alike. In the past decade, the demise of central al-Qaeda figures, including its founder and Emir, Osama bin Laden, have led some to proclaim the organization extinct. Others point to the rise of al-Qaeda-inspired franchise groups in the Arabian Peninsula and parts of Africa, as well as lone-wolf terrorist acts around the world, in arguing that al-Qaeda’s ideology is far from obsolete. Read more of this post

Announcement: Calling All Undergraduate Students of Intelligence

The Security and Intelligence Studies JournalBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The academic study of security and intelligence used to be considered strictly a graduate-level preoccupation. Today, however, it is routinely encountered in undergraduate curricula and constitutes one of the fastest growing programs in the humanities. There is thus no reason for undergraduate students with a serious interest in security and intelligence to wait until graduate school before publishing their scholarly work. To satisfy the increasing undergraduate interest in this field of study, the Security and Intelligence Studies program at King College in Bristol, Tennessee, is launching The Security and Intelligence Studies Journal. It is the world’s first undergraduate scholarly journal focusing exclusively on themes of intelligence, security, counterterrorism, geopolitics and international relations. The Security and Intelligence Studies Journal is committed to highlighting outstanding undergraduate research that critically examines the current domestic and international security landscape. The theme for the journal’s first issue, which is scheduled for publication in late April 2013, is: “security challenges in the 21st century”. The theme’s elaboration, which can be found on the journal’s website, is as follows: “As our globalized society trudges deeper into the labyrinth of the 21st century, innumerable challenges threaten the security of the world. From collapsing economic markets, to multifaceted geopolitical tensions between Western and developing nations, to the ominous rise of militant ideologies, the intertwined destinies of nations transform local problems into global challenges and local struggles into international conflicts. The Security and Intelligence Studies Journal calls on interested authors to explore a 21st-century security challenge, and propose creative and innovative solutions, within the context of democratic political institutions”. The deadline for submissions of relevant scholarly papers of up to 3,000 words in length has been set for February 28, 2013. We encourage undergraduate students from around the world with a serious scholarly interest in security and intelligence to contact the journal by visiting its website or emailing the editors at KCSIS@king.edu, to express their interest in submitting a paper. Collaborative works are welcome. We also kindly ask academics to forward this call for papers to their undergraduate students.

Are Kremlin’s spies targeting Russian scientists with foreign links?

Igor SutyaginBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Back in November, we reported on the case of Valentin Danilov, a Russian physicist who spent nearly a decade in prison, allegedly for spying on his country on behalf of China. What is interesting about Danilov is that, even after his release from prison, following a pardon issued by the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin, he fervently maintains his innocence. He is not alone; many Russian scientists and human rights campaigners have argued for years that Danilov should never have been convicted. In some cases, activists accuse the Kremlin of persecuting Danilov for political reasons, namely to reinforce Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “attempts to intimidate academics with ties to other countries”. A well-written analysis by Time magazine’s Simon Shuster argues that Danilov’s story is not unique in Russia. There have been at least a handful of similar cases in the last decade, all involving Russian scientists with links to foreign countries or organizations. Shuster mentions the example of nuclear expert Igor Sutyagin, former division head in the Russian Academy of Sciences’ USA and Canada Institute, who served 11 years of a 15-year sentence for allegedly passing state secrets to a CIA front company. Sutyagin, who now lives in London, United Kingdom, was one of four jailed Russians expelled to the West in exchange for the repatriation of ten Russian illegals captured by the FBI in the summer of 2010. But he maintains he was never a spy, and claims that all of the information he gave to the two Americans who employed him, in return for money, came from open sources. Undoubtedly, observers are free to draw different conclusions about either Danilov or Sutyagin. But the question that Shuster poses is, at a time when virtually no field of scientific research can develop without international collaboration, is Moscow being overly suspicious of its academics, and is this hampering Russian science as a whole? Read more of this post

Freed Russian scientist convicted for spying maintains innocence

Valentin DanilovBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A Russian scientist who was pardoned last week, after spending nearly a decade behind bars for allegedly spying for China, has dismissed the charges against him as “pure fantasy”. Physicist Valentin Danilov was arrested by the FSB, the Russian Federal Security Service, in February of 2001 and charged with conducting espionage in the service of the Chinese space program. At the time of his arrest, Danilov headed the Thermo-Physics Center at Russia’s Krasnoyarsk State Technical University (KSTU), located in Siberia’s third largest city. For several years leading up to his arrest, he conducted research on the impact of solar activity on the condition and performance of space satellites. During his lengthy trial, Danilov admitted selling to the Chinese information on satellite technology belonging to the Russian government. But his defense team argued that the information in question had already been declassified and available in public sources since the early 1990s. Eventually, in November of 2004, a Russian Federal court found Danilov guilty of treason and sentenced him to 14 years in prison. He was supposed to be released in 2017. Earlier this month, however, a court in Krasnoyarsk found that, since Danilov had served most of his prison sentence in good behavior, and since his health was weak, he would be released early. In his first public interview since his release, Danilov, 66, has said he intends to take his case against the Russian government to the European Court of Human Rights. Speaking to reporters as soon as he emerged from prison, the Russian scientist said: “I would truly appreciate it if someone finally told me what state secret I sold”. He went on to comment directly on Russian President Vladimir Putin: “Everybody would be the same as him in his place, because it is the court that makes the czar”, he said, employing a traditional Russian proverb. Read more of this post

Russian court paroles scientist convicted of spying for China

Valentin DanilovBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A court in Siberia has issued a rare verdict to parole a Russian academic who was convicted in 2004 of conducting espionage on behalf of China. Russian physicist Valentin Danilov headed the Thermo-Physics Center at Russia’s Krasnoyarsk State Technical University (KSTU), which is located in Siberia’s third largest city. For several years prior to his arrest, he conducted research on the impact of solar activity on the condition and performance of space satellites. In 1999, Danilov was among the signatories of a lucrative contract between KSTU and the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, which is the main contractor for the Chinese government’s space program. The contract stipulated that KSTU was to help China Aerospace evaluate the performance of artificial satellites in real-life space conditions. Less than two years later, in February of 2001, Danilov was arrested by the FSB, the Russian Federal Security Service, and charged with conducting espionage in the service of the Chinese space program. In his trial, which took place in 2003, Danilov admitted selling to the Chinese information on satellite technology belonging to the Russian government. But his defense team argued that the information in question had already been declassified and available in public sources since the early 1990s. Largely due to this argument, the jury acquitted Danilov of all charges at the end of 2003. However, by the middle of June of next year, the physicist had been arrested again, after the Russian Supreme Court overturned his earlier acquittal. In November of 2004, another court found Danilov guilty of treason and sentenced him to 14 years in prison. Read more of this post

Interview with editors of H-INTEL, a new intelligence email list (Part II)

Damien Van PuyveldeBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Yesterday we posted an interview with Dr. Mark Stout, of Johns Hopkins University and the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC, who in June of this year announced the creation of H-INTEL, a new scholarly discussion list. The list, which now has over 200 members, and is actively seeking more, is an ambitious project that aims to provide an online venue for the scholarly discussion of intelligence. In doing so, it brings together academics, researchers, journalists, practitioners, and others, with an active interest in intelligence studies and intelligence history, ranging from antiquity to our times. Today we post the second part of our exclusive interview on H-INTEL, this time with List Editor Damien Van Puyvelde, a PhD candidate at Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom. Damien, who specializes in the intensification of public-private intelligence relations in the ‘global war on terrorism’, is also a member of the Centre for Intelligence and International Security Studies (CIISS) at Aberystwyth. Originally from France, Damien is currently H-INTEL’s primary List Editor. Read more of this post

Interview with editors of H-INTEL, a new intelligence email list (Part I)

H-INTEL list-serv logoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In late June of this year, Dr. Mark Stout, of Johns Hopkins University and the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC, announced the creation of H-INTEL, a new scholarly discussion list. H-INTEL is an ambitious project that aims to provide an online venue for the scholarly discussion of intelligence. In doing so, it brings together academics, researchers, journalists, practitioners, and others with an active interest in intelligence studies and intelligence history, ranging from the ancient times to today. The list, whose message logs are located on Michigan State University’s H-Net server in East Lansing, has already over 200 members from several countries —and it is actively seeking more. In an effort to spread the world about this worthwhile effort, intelNews spoke with two individuals spearheading this project: Advisory Board member and List Editor Mark Stout; and List Editor Damien Van Puyvelde, a PhD candidate and member of the Centre for Intelligence and International Security Studies at Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom. Below is our interview with Mark. To read Damien’s interview, click here for Part II of this post. Read more of this post

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