Germany and Holland investigated Russian physicist for espionage

Eindhoven University of TechnologyThe German and Dutch governments allegedly joined forces to investigate a Russian supercomputer specialist, who studied in Germany and Holland, suspecting him of passing technical information to Russian intelligence. German weekly newsmagazine Der Spiegel, which published the report in its current issue, identified the physicist only as “Ivan A.” and said that the 28-year-old man was a member of a physics laboratory affiliated with the Max Planck Institute in the western German city of Bonn. According to Spiegel, Ivan A. studied in Bonn between 2009 and 2011, conducting research on quantum physics and nanophotonics, an area of study that examines the behavior of light on the nanometer scale. Much of the research in this specialized field relates to supercomputers and cutting-edge quantum computing applications.

Citing unnamed government sources, Spiegel said that Germany’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution, which is the country’s top counterintelligence agency, started to monitor the scientist once he began meeting regularly with a Russian diplomat. The diplomat, who was stationed at the consulate of the Russian Federation in Bonn, had been identified by German intelligence as a member of the Russian secret services. German counterintelligence officials thus began suspecting Ivan A. of channeling restricted technical information to Moscow via the Russian diplomat.

However, in 2013 Ivan A. relocated to the Dutch city of Eindhoven to study at the Eindhoven University of Technology, at which point German counterintelligence officers reached out to their Dutch colleagues. During one of his trips from Germany to Holland, Ivan A. was detained for several hours along with this wife at the Düsseldorf International Airport. He was questioned and his personal electronic devices were confiscated. Upon his release Germany and Holland jointly launched against him a formal investigation for espionage. Eventually his European Union residence visa was cancelled and he was expelled by the Dutch government as a danger to national security. Der Spiegel said Ivan A. returned to Russia and today denies that he was a spy.

Espionage scandals frequently rock German-Russian relations. In 2013, a German court convicted a married couple, Andreas and Heidrun Anschlag, of having spied for the Soviet Union and Russia since at least 1990. The two had used forged Austrian passports to enter West Germany from Mexico in 1988 and 1990.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 28 July 2015 | Permalink: http://intelnews.org/2015/07/28/01-1744/

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

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

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