White House ‘investigating’ inadvertent naming of CIA station chief

CIA headquartersBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
United States government officials are said to be investigating the apparently inadvertent disclosure of the name of America’s senior spy in Afghanistan last weekend. The Washington Post reported on Sunday that the name of the person in charge of all Central Intelligence Agency operations in Afghanistan had been mistakenly included in a press release issued to a host of news organizations by the White House. The release included the names of all individuals that had been scheduled to meet with US President Barack Obama, during the latter’s unannounced trip to Afghanistan. The US President visited American soldiers stationed in the Asian country during part of the Memorial Day weekend, a federally sanctioned commemoration in the United States, which is designated to honor those who have died while serving in the country’s armed forces. The press release, which was directly issued to over 6,000 journalists, included the name of the CIA official, followed by the designation “Chief of Station, Kabul”. A CIA Chief of Station is the highest-ranking Agency official in a particular country or region, tasked with overseeing CIA operations within his or her geographical area and maintaining a functional institutional relationship with the host nation’s intelligence agencies. Speaking on CNN on Tuesday, President Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser, Tony Blinken, said the White House was “trying to figure out what happened [and] why it happened”, adding that US officials wanted to “make sure it won’t happen again”. He added that the White House Counsel, Neil Eggleston, had been tasked by White House Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough, to “look into the matter”. CNN reporters asked Blinken whether the inadvertent identification of the CIA’s Station Chief in the Afghan capital had endangered the life of the officer and his family. Read more of this post

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Afghan officials see foreign spy agency behind bloody hotel attack

AfghanistanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Afghanistan’s intelligence community believes a foreign spy agency was behind last week’s bloody attack on a luxury hotel that left nine people dead. Last Thursday evening, a group of young men entered the five-star Serena Hotel, located a few blocks away from the Presidential Palace and key government ministry buildings in Afghan capital Kabul. Three hours later, the men, who had hidden handguns in their shoes, entered the hotel restaurant and shot indiscriminately at patrons. They were eventually shot dead by Afghan Special Forces, but not before they had managed to shoot over a dozen people at point blank range, killing nine, including two Canadians, an American and a Paraguayan. Four children and a senior reporter with Agence France Presse were among the dead, while the wounded included an Afghan member of parliament. Many blamed the attack on the Taliban or the Haqqani network, an Islamist militant group responsible for countless high-profile attacks in Kabul and other Afghan cities. Soon afterwards, the Taliban issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, which they said was aimed at demonstrating the ease with which Afghan government security measures could be evaded. On Monday, however, a press release issued by the Office of the Afghan President said a “foreign intelligence service”, rather than an indigenous militant group, was behind the attack. The press release, which bore the signature of Afghanistan’s President, Hamid Karzai, said intelligence officials from the National Directorate for Security had briefed Afghanistan’s National Security Council about the findings of an investigation on the attack. In the statement, which was issued in both Pashto and English, the President’s Office said that neither the Taliban nor the Haqqani network “were even aware” that the attack at the Serena Hotel was going to take place. Instead, the operation “was a direct attack by an intelligence service outside the country”, said the statement. A subsequent announcement released by the Afghan government placed blame on Pakistani intelligence services, saying they were directly involved in the attack. It also stated that an unnamed “Pakistani diplomat” had been seen filming inside the Serena Hotel “a while ago”. Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected Kabul’s allegations, saying it was “highly disturbing that attempts are being made to somehow implicate Pakistan in this terrorist incident”.

 

Taliban insurgents attack CIA station in Kabul

Afghan Presidential PalaceBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Taliban assailants launched an unprecedented attack against the presidential palace in Afghan capital Kabul on Tuesday morning, which included a targeted assault on a nearby command post of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The daring attack began at approximately 6:30 a.m. outside the eastern gate of the palace, which is located in Kabul’s downtown Shash Darak district. The heavily guarded district contains, aside from most Afghan government buildings, dozens of foreign embassies and media offices. Hundreds of Afghan and foreign officials run for cover as over a dozen explosions were heard near the headquarters of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense, which is located next door to the presidential palace. The attack reportedly began when a group of about four or five insurgents approached the palace’s eastern gate with a small track laden with explosives. As the vehicle approached the gate, the passengers jumped out and began throwing grenades, while the car exploded at the gate. Afghan security guards fled the scene and the assailants were able to enter the grounds of the presidential palace and roamed around for several minutes before they were engaged in a firefight by Afghan and North Atlantic Treaty Organization security personnel. The attackers appeared to concentrate primarily on three buildings: the presidential palace, the Ministry of Defense, and the nearby Ariana Hotel, which is widely understood to host the main CIA command post in Kabul. On Tuesday afternoon, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, told French news agency AFP that “the CIA office” in downtown Kabul was “the main target” of the assault, along with the palace and defense ministry. Read more of this post

Alongside CIA, British spies also bankrolling Afghan government

AfghanistanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
British officials have publicly admitted that senior members of the Afghan government receive “direct cash payments” from London on a regular basis. British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported over the weekend that the funds have been delivered to Afghan cabinet members “periodically” ever since 2001, when British troops entered Afghanistan alongside their American colleagues. The revelation comes only a week after the publication of a New York Times exposé, which disclosed that the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had delivered “tens of millions of dollars [in] off-the-books cash” to Afghanistan’s governing elite. The newspaper added that there was little evidence that such bribes had helped promote Washington’s interests in the country in any substantial way. According to British officials, London has channeled “a smaller fraction” of the amount paid by the CIA. The British funds are delivered to senior members of the government of Hamid Karzai by MI6, Britain’s foremost external intelligence agency. The funds are then allegedly spent on what Afghan government officials call “special projects”, implying that they are used as bribes to pacify local warlords, many of which are ethnic Pasthuns and belong to the Taliban. Last week, following The New York Times revelations, Mr. Karzai told the loya jirga —Afghanistan’s grand assembly— that there was “nothing unusual” about the CIA funneling money to his government. He added that he had implored the CIA’s Station Chief in Afghan capital Kabul to continue making regular payments despite popular concern in the US, as the funds were vital to the stability of the government: “we really need it”, he said. Read more of this post

CIA bankrolling Afghan government officials ‘on a vast scale’

AfghanistanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has delivered “tens of millions of dollars [in] off-the-books cash” to Afghanistan’s governing elite, but there is little evidence that such bribes have helped promote Washington’s interests in the country, according to a new exposé published over the weekend in The New York Times. The paper cites “current and former advisers to the Afghan leader” Hamid Karzai, who allege that, for over a decade, the CIA has secretly delivered to the presidential palace in Afghan capital Kabul monthly payments ranging “from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars”. According to Khalil Roman, who was President Karzai’s Chief of Staff for four years until 2005, Afghan officials called the CIA funds “ghost money” because “it came in secret [and] left in secret”. The article suggests that the cash given to the Afghan government appears to be handled outside the CIA’s standard financial assistance programs, which are typically subject to restrictions and oversight from administrators both inside and outside the Agency. Some American officials, who spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity, said the CIA’s goal in funding the inner circle of the Afghan government is to maintain access to its members and to “guarantee the Agency’s influence at the presidential palace”. But there is little evidence that the funds, which are handled exclusively by a “small clique at [Afghanistan’s] National Security Council” have bought the CIA the political influence it seeks. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #817 (assassinations edition)

Patrick FinucaneBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►British PM apologizes in killing of IRA lawyer. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, has apologized after a government report found that British intelligence officials had colluded with loyalist paramilitaries in the 1989 killing of lawyer Patrick Finucane in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Finucane, who had represented members of the Irish Republic Army in court, was shot dead by two gunmen from a Protestant paramilitary group while having a Sunday dinner at his home with his wife and three children.
►►Behind the plot to kill Afghanistan’s spy chief. On December 11, we reported that the Afghan government accused Pakistani intelligence of having played a role in the assassination of Assadullah Khaled, who heads Afghanistan’s National Directorate for Security. But how was the attempt on Khaled’s life carried out, and how did the aspiring assassins get so close to the controversial intelligence chief? Time magazine reports that it was Khaled’s self-confidence “bordering on recklessness” that almost got him killed. Sources say that, even after taking over the NDS, Khalid frequently drove around without bodyguards.
►►How Mossad bid to kill Hamas leader ended in fiasco. Khaled Mashal’s recent presence in the Gaza Strip will have rudely reminded Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, of one of the greatest fiascos in the history of special operations, writes The Daily Telegraph‘s David Blair. Fifteen years ago, Netanyahu authorized a risky attempt to assassinate Mashal in the Jordanian capital, Amman. Everything went wrong. The Jordanian security forces responded to this brazen daylight attack, arresting two of the Israeli operatives and forcing three to hide in their country’s embassy, which was promptly surrounded by troops.

Afghan government blames Pakistan for attempt on spy chief’s life

Assadullah KhaledBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Afghan President and senior cabinet officials have described the recent assassination attempt against the country’s spy chief as the work of “a professional intelligence service” and said they would be asking Pakistan “for clarification”. Assadullah Khaled, who heads Afghanistan’s National Directorate for Security (NDS), survived a suicide attack last Thursday in Kabul. According to Afghan officials, Khaled was attacked by a member of the Taliban posing as a “peace emissary”, who blew himself up as he was meeting Khaled to discuss a possible peace deal with the government. Media reports suggest that the bomber had concealed explosives in his undergarments and that he was not searched out of “respect for [Afghan] traditions and hospitality”. Shortly after the attack, the Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility and said they would try to kill Khaled again. But speaking to reporters last week, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that “more professional hands” were behind the attack on Khaled. The Afghan leader described the suicide attack as a “very sophisticated and complicated act by a professional intelligence service” and said the Afghan security services “know [for] a fact” that the suicide bomber had entered the country from Pakistan. President Karzai stopped short of directly implicating the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) of directly planning the attack; but he said his government would be “seeking a lot of clarifications from Pakistan” about the bombing. Last Sunday Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Janan Musazai told reporters that Afghan officials were “100 percent sure” the suicide bomber had come to Afghanistan from the Pakistani city of Quetta. Read more of this post

Afghan intelligence officials ‘missing’ in the United States

Alibaba GhasheeBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
On November 2, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that two highly trained Afghan intelligence officers had gone missing in the United States. IntelNews hears that American authorities are still looking for the two Afghans, who seem to have disappeared without trace. The two missing officers work for Afghanistan’s main domestic intelligence agency, the National Security Directorate (NDS), which was founded following the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan and is mostly funded by Washington. The missing officers are Captain Alibaba Ghashee (pictured), Deputy Director of the NDS’ American and European Department, and Major Mohd Farooq Ghanizada, who directs agency’s Counterterrorism and Organized Crime Department. Both offices disappeared while in Washington, DC, for a high-level executive training program run jointly by the American and German governments. The 10-week intensive course, taught as part of the George C. Marshall Center Advanced Security Studies program, trains elite members of security and intelligence agencies from NATO member-states and other Western-allied countries. Although headquartered in Germany, the program involves a trip to Washington, DC, where participants are briefed by officials from —among other agencies— the FBI and the Defense Intelligence Agency. The two Afghans were supposed to meet their American government escorts on October 22 in downtown Washington, before heading to the airport for their return flight to Afghanistan. However, they never appeared, nor did they show up for their flight at Washington Dulles International Airport. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #804

Jeffrey Paul DelisleBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►CIA officer reportedly among dead in Afghanistan bombing. The attack, which was carried out in a remote area of Kandahar Province, occurred when a guard working for the Afghan intelligence service detonated a suicide vest as a delegation of American coalition members and Afghan intelligence officials arrived at the intelligence office in the Maruf District. The blast killed Ghulam Rasool, the deputy intelligence director for Kandahar Province, two of his bodyguards, another Afghan intelligence official, and some Americans, including the CIA officer. A spokeswoman for the CIA declined to comment.
►►Canadian intel officer was ‘on Russian payroll for years’. Former navy intelligence officer Jeffrey Paul Delisle, who pleaded guilty this month to spying, was leaking secrets to Russia, sending classified data about Canada as well as the United States, according to David Jacobson, the US ambassador in Ottawa. So far, the Canadian government has refrained from revealing the identity of “the foreign entity” to whom Delisle passed the classified information. Ambassador Jacobson refused to specify the nature of the information, saying only that “there was a lot of highly classified material”.
►►Panama wants to adopt euro as legal tender. Panama, one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America, wants to adopt the euro as legal tender to run alongside the country’s US dollar economy. Panama’s President Ricardo Martinelli made the request to German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a visit to Europe. The president indicated he had every faith that the crisis in the eurozone would soon be at an end, adding that Panama “would be possibly the only country in the world to have two currencies, the euro and the dollar”.

Proposed Afghan spy chief divides Western, Afghan officials

Assadullah KhaledBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Last month we reported Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s plan to appoint one of his most trusted advisors, Assadullah Khaled, to lead the country’s intelligence agency. There appears to be a slight problem with this proposal: Khaled is known as a fierce character in Afghan politics, who has been accused by Western diplomats of corruption, extreme brutality and narcotics trafficking. During the past few years, Khaled, currently Afghanistan’s Minister for Border and Tribal Affairs, has reportedly become “almost a surrogate family member” of the Karzai family, and is viewed “as a son” by the Afghan President. He also has a close relationship with officials in the United States Central Intelligence Agency, who seem to appreciate Khaled’s hardline stance against Pakistan. Moreover, Khaled is an ethnic Pashtun, that is, he belongs to the largest Afghan ethnicity, whose members occupy central Afghanistan. However, he has strong connections with leading figures in the former Northern Alliance, whose support is crucial for the survival of the Karzai regime. Some Western officials, therefore, see him as a potential unifying figure in the country. But in a confidential cable sent to the US Department of State by the American Embassy in Kabul in 2009, and leaked by WikiLeaks, Khaled was described by one senior American diplomat as “exceptionally corrupt and incompetent”. Later that same year, a high-level Canadian diplomat publicly accused Khaled of participating in international narcotics trafficking and systematically employing torture against his political enemies in Kandahar. The diplomat, who served in Afghanistan after the 2001 US-led invasion, was referring to Khaled’s tenure as Governor of Kandahar Province, where he personally run what Kandaharis described as “the torture prison”. Colvin is apparently not alone voicing such concerns. Read more of this post

Afghan President replaces spy chief with controversial figure

Assadullah KhaledBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The office of the Afghan President announced yesterday the dismissal of the country’s intelligence chief and his replacement with a controversial official accused by Canadian and British sources of using torture to implement his policies. Speaking to reporters in Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai thanked Rahmatullah Nabil, the outgoing Director of the National Directorate for Security (NDS), for his service, and said he would soon be appointed ambassador to a foreign country. According to Karzai’s representatives, the dismissal falls under the President’s decision that “no intelligence Director could serve longer than two years”. But observers point out that Nabil’s dismissal is part of a broader bureaucratic turf-war between the Office of the President and the Afghan Parliament, over the control of Afghan intelligence and military agencies. Earlier this month, the Parliament managed to oust two senior government officials, Minister of the Interior Besmillah Mohammadi and Minister of Defense Abdul Rahim Wardak. Both men are considered to be among President Karzai’s closest political allies. Nabil’s dismissal is therefore seen by many as an act of retribution by the President against defiant Afghan parliamentarians. What is arguably more interesting, however, is Karzai’s choice of the person to replace the fired Nabil, who is no other than Assadullah Khaled, currently Afghanistan’s Minister for Border and Tribal Affairs. According to sources in Kabul, Khaled’s appointment to lead the NDS is a matter of days, and that is appointment can already be considered as having been “confirmed”. This is despite the fact that Khaled is known for resorting to brutal torture and outright intimidation to get his way, especially during his time as Governor of the province of Kandahar. While there, he built a notorious reputation for abducting, torturing, and often killing, his personal and political opponents. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #787

Alexander Makowski By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►An interview with a senior Yemeni spy. Here’s something you don’t read every day: an interview with Ahmed Bin Mo’aili, 66 (pictured here), who worked as a spy for Yemen’s Political Security Organization (PSO) for more than 30 years. He says that, due to his “different duties in different countries”, which required him to travel in several Arab countries, he acquired “tens of wives” over the years. He is now upset with the PSO because the Organization has “separted him from his 31 children who live all around the Arab countries he has worked in and who are awaiting his return”.
►►Cyprus wants answers from UK over Syria spy claims. Dr. Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus, has asked British authorities for “a full explanation” into media reports that UK military installations in Cyprus are providing intelligence to Syrian rebels. Earlier this month, The London Times claimed that two British military bases on Cyprus, located in Dhekelia and Akrotiri, were being used to collect signals intelligence on Syria. The data collected at the listening posts, operated by the General Communications Headquarters, Britain’s foremost signals intelligence agency, was passed on to the Free Syrian Army through Turkish intelligence operatives, said The Times. But the Cypriot Foreign Minister said that it was crucial that the bases were not being used for purposes not enshrined in the island’s Treaty of Establishment, which mandates the British Bases to be used for defensive purposes only.
►►CIA ‘turned down offer’ to kill bin Laden in 1999. In late 1999, two years before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people, a group of Afghan agents loyal to an anti-Taliban guerrilla leader proposed assassinating Osama bin Laden. In returne, they asked for the $5 million reward the Bill Clinton administration had offered for bin Laden’s capture. But the CIA rejected the plan, saying: “we do not have a license to kill”. This is according to the book Ferreting Out Bin Laden (not yet available in English), by Polish former spy Alexander Makowski (pictured), who claims he was the Afghans’ go-between on the plot. Makowski’s credentials are many: the son of a spy, he attended primary school in Great Britain, high school in the United States, and received a postgraduate law degree from Harvard. He graduated from the Polish military intelligence academy at Stare Kiejkuty before spending 20 years in Polish intelligence.

News you may have missed #784

Aimal FaiziBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US agencies still not sharing intelligence. Nearly half of US federal agencies are not sharing documented incidents of potential terrorist activity with US intelligence centers, according to officials in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Federal and police officials are supposed to deposit reports of suspicious behavior through a system known as the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative (NSARI). It is a virtualized inventory of tips that can be reached by federal, state or local government authorities. But progress in connecting local agencies to fusion centers through the NSARI appears to be slow-going. Almost exactly a year ago, a similar report by the US Congressional Research Service found that US intelligence agencies were still struggling to strengthen their information-sharing networks.
►►Russian spies ‘top priority’ for Czech intelligence. A new report by the Czech Security Information Service (BIS) says that Russian intelligence services are the most active foreign espionage organizations in the Czech Republic. The report, published last Wednesday, states that Russian spies work under different covers, mainly at Russian diplomatic missions, and in numbers that are utterly unjustified, given the current status of Czech-Russian relations. “Russian intelligence officers were spotted at different public and corporate events, where they tried to resume old contacts and meet new people”, the report said. It is worth noting that the BIS report devoted nine paragraphs to Russian espionage and only one to Chinese. Chinese intelligence officers “do not pose an immediate risk to Czech citizens”, the report said.
►►Afghanistan blames ‘foreign spies’ for insider attacks. Some of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s top advisers said this week that the recent rise in insider attacks on NATO troops is the product of foreign spy agencies infiltrating Afghanistan’s security forces. They said that Afghanistan’s National Security Council has concluded that both Pakistani and Iranian intelligence organizations are recruiting young Afghans to enlist in the army and police with the intention of targeting Western service members. The officials suggested that the ultimate aim of the alleged efforts by foreign agencies is to destabilize Afghanistan’s forces. One of the Afghan government’s spokesmen, Aymal Faizi (pictured), said that the allegations from Kabul rested on classified evidence from “documents, telephone calls, pictures and audio that show direct contact between these individuals and foreign spy agencies”.

News you may have missed #742

'Spy rock' used in AfghanistanBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Obama warns Congress of overspending on intelligence. The administration of US President Barack Obama is warning that it has “serious concerns” about a 2013 intelligence authorization bill that the House of Representatives passed on Thursday, because it authorizes spending on intelligence activities that go well beyond President Obama’s request. Despite this concern, the administration said that it “does not oppose” the Intelligence Authorization Act, HR 5743, instead supporting language that would repeal some reporting obligations that the government now has to Congress.
►►US forces use fake rocks to spy on Afghans. Palm-sized sensors, disguised as rocks, developed for the American military, will remain littered across the Afghan countryside –detecting anyone who moves nearby and reporting their locations back to a remote headquarters. Some of these surveillance tools could be buried in the ground, all-but-unnoticeable by passersby. These rocks contain wafer-sized, solar-rechargeable batteries that could enable the sensors’ operation for perhaps as long as two decades. Hmm…where have we seen this before?
►►Pakistan spy chief postpones US trip. Pakistan’s spymaster, Lieutenant-General Zahir ul-Islam, has postponed a trip to the United States in the latest sign of the dire state of relations between two supposed allies in the war against Islamist extremists. America has stepped up drone strikes on Pakistani territory in the week since the two countries failed to reach an agreement on NATO supply convoys at a summit in Chicago. Last week, officials in Washington also condemned Pakistan’s decision to jail a doctor who helped the CIA hunt Osama bin Laden.

Analysis: Nepotism, ethnic favoritism impede Afghan spy agency

NDS spokesman Lutfullah MashalBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Hundreds of Taliban insurgents were involved in the unprecedented attacks that shook the Afghan capital Kabul and several other key locations around the country last week. And yet not a single Afghan or foreign intelligence operative appeared to have the slightest idea the attacks were coming. No wonder that Afghan President Hamid Karzai was one of many government officials who openly admitted that the “infiltration in Kabul and other provinces [was] an intelligence failure for us”. But why is Afghan intelligence so notoriously unreliable? The answer to this question is complicated, but according to an excellent analysis piece published this week in The Christian Science Monitor, much of it centers on two chronic issues that permeate Afghan society: nepotism and ethnic favoritism. When one speaks of Afghan intelligence, one mainly refers to the National Directorate for Security (NDS), an institution established by the United States, and funded almost entirely by Washington. The roots of the NDS are in the Northern Alliance, the indigenous Afghan opposition to the Taliban, which fought alongside the United States during the 2001 invasion of the Central Asian country. Like most other institutions in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance is composed largely by members of a single tribe, namely Tajiks, many of whom are from Afghanistan’s Panjshir province. As a result, when Washington set up the NDS, it selected its leadership from among the Panjshir Tajiks. They, in turn, relied on their local networks to staff the newly formed organization. As a result, today around 70 percent of the NDS’ staff “hail from Panjshir or have ties with the Northern Alliance”, says The Monitor. This helps establish rapport and ethnic unity among the institution’s 30,000-strong employee community; but it has virtually eliminated the NDS’ ability to collect intelligence from among rival ethnic groups and factions, including the Haqqani Network and the nearly all-Pashtun Taliban. Read more of this post

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