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

News you may have missed #716 (analysis edition)

Mordechai VanunuBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Kabul attacks show intel failures in Afghanistan. Dozens, possibly hundreds of people would have been involved in training, equipping and then infiltrating into the heart of Kabul the large number of insurgents who were prepared to fight to a certain death in the Afghan capital last Sunday. Yet neither Afghan nor foreign intelligence operatives appeared to have any idea that an unprecedented wave of attacks was about to engulf both Kabul and several other key locations around the country. So it seems that Afghan President Hamid Karzai may have a point when he says that the “infiltration in Kabul and other provinces is an intelligence failure for us and especially for NATO and should be seriously investigated”.
►►Report claims China spies on US space technology. China is stealing US military and civilian space technology in an effort to disrupt US access to intelligence, navigation and communications satellites, according to a report authored by the State and Defense Departments. The report (.pdf) argues China should be excluded from recommendations made to the US government to ease restrictions on exports of communications and remote-sensing satellites and equipment. Chinese officials have denied the report’s allegations, calling it a “Cold War ghost”.
►►The long and sordid history of sex and espionage. Using seduction to extract valuable information is as old as the Old Testament —literally— Whether from conviction or for profit, women —and men— have traded sex for secrets for centuries. The Cold War provided plenty of opportunities for so-called “honey-pot” scandals. Perhaps the most dramatic case of seduction in recent times involved Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu. In 1986 he visited London and provided The Sunday Times with dozens of photographs of Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons program. But Mossad was on his trail and a female agent —Cheryl Ben Tov— befriended him (reportedly bumping into him at a cigarette kiosk in London’s Leicester Square). She lured him to Rome for a weekend, where he was drugged and spirited to Israel.

News you may have missed #690

Katya ZatuliveterBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►Interview with Katia Zatuliveter. Just over three months ago Katia Zatuliveter was fighting to clear her name over claims she was a Russian spy who had passed British military secrets to Moscow. Now, in her first newspaper interview since winning her appeal against deportation from the UK, Katia Zatuliveter has told The Daily Telegraph why she does not support Vladimir Putin.
►►US Special Forces in Afghanistan to transfer to CIA. Top US Pentagon officials are considering putting elite special operations troops under CIA control in Afghanistan after 2014. If the plan were adopted, the US and Afghanistan could say there are no more U.S. troops on the ground in the war-torn country because once the SEALs, Rangers and other elite units are assigned to CIA control, even temporarily, they are not considered soldiers.
►►Indian army accused of spying on government officials. The Indian army is accused of using two surveillance vehicles to snoop near the offices and houses of senior Indian Defense Ministry officials. The vehicles with “off the air interceptors” were alleged to be parked in various localities in the New Delhi. Similar equipment is said to be used by the National Technical Research Organisation to listen to conversations without bugging the premises. The Defense Ministry has reportedly ordered a probe by the country’s Intelligence Bureau.

News you may have missed #677: Analysis edition

Che Guevara after his arrest in BoliviaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►New book ties Johnson administration to Che Guevara’s death. Michael Ratner and Michael Steven Smith are the co-authors of a new book about the US role in the killing of Cuban revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara. In their book, Who Killed Che?, Ratner and Smith draw on previously unpublished government documents to argue the CIA played a critical role in the killing. “The line of the [US] government was that the Bolivians did it, we couldn’t do anything about it. That’s not true”, Smith said. “This whole operation was organized out of the White House by Walt Whitman Rostow. And the CIA, by this time, had become a paramilitary organization”.
►►CIA digs in as US withdraws from Iraq and Afghanistan. The CIA is expected to maintain a large clandestine presence in Iraq and Afghanistan long after the departure of conventional US troops as part of a plan by the Obama administration to rely on a combination of spies and Special Operations forces to protect US interests in the two longtime war zones, US officials said. They added that the CIA’s stations in Kabul and Baghdad will probably remain the agency’s largest overseas outposts for years.
►►Indian Army ‘preparing for limited conflict with China’. Noting that India is increasingly getting concerned about China’s posture on its border, James Clapper, US Director of National Intelligence, said this week that the Indian Army is strengthening itself for a “limited conflict” with China. “The Indian Army believes a major Sino-Indian conflict is not imminent, but the Indian military is strengthening its forces in preparation to fight a limited conflict along the disputed border, and is working to balance Chinese power projection in the Indian Ocean,” he said.

News you may have missed #676

Razvan UngureanuBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►CIA silent on new drone casualties report. The CIA really needs somebody to go to bat for it on a scathing new investigative report from the UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, because the findings are pretty horrific: US drones target not just the militants they initially strike, but those who come to do rescue work after those strikes, and mourners at the funerals for victims of those strikes. They’ve killed somewhere between 282 and 535 civilians in a total of 260 strikes, the report found.
►►Romania spy chief nominated to replace Prime Minister. Romania’s president has nominated Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, chief of the country’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE), as prime minister hours after Emil Bloc resigned amid austerity protests. Ungureanu has a master’s degree from Oxford University and was foreign minister between 2004 and 2007 during Basescu’s first term of office.
►►Lawsuits target Pakistan’s powerful ISI intelligence agency. Pakistan’s top spy agency faces a flurry of court actions that subject its darkest operations to unusual scrutiny. The cases against the agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, have uncertain chances of success, analysts say, and few believe that they can immediately hobble it. But they do represent a rare challenge to a feared institution that is a cornerstone of military supremacy in Pakistan.

News you may have missed #674

Fayez KaramBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Lebanese ex-general gets prison sentence for spying for Israel. Last Tuesday’s sentence of former Brigadeer General Fayez Karam (pictured) means he will spend six more months in jail. He has been in prison since mid-2009, said the officials on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. Karam, who in the late 1980s led Lebanon’s counterespionage unit, ran for a parliament seat in 2009 as a senior member of the Free Patriotic Movement of Christian leader and Hezbollah ally Michel Aoun.
►►US may share intelligence with Nigeria. Nigeria and the United States plan to “explore the development of intelligence fusion capability”. This statement was contained in a joint communiqué issued at the end of a two day inauguration of a regional security cooperation working group held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja, Nigeria. The two countries will be collaborating “on training, logistics intelligence sharing, modernization of the security services and other requirements”.
►►Afghan jailed for 16 years for spying for Iran. An Afghan man, named only as Mahmmood, has been jailed for 16 years for spying for neighboring Iran. He was allegedly found in possession of photographs of foreign and Afghan military installations in western Herat province, and had Iranian intelligence officials’ phone numbers in his notebook.

News you may have missed #667

Bob RaeBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Canadian authorities spied on political leader. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police spied on Bob Rae, current leader of Canada’s Liberal Party, when he was a student, and likely amassed a personal dossier on him, newly declassified documents reveal. Really, is there anyone in Canada who has not been spied on by the RCMP?
►►US intel community says Taliban want Afghanistan back. The Associated Press cites “two current and one former US official” who said anonymously that the classified Afghan National Intelligence Estimate declares the Afghanistan War “at a stalemate“, and says NATO security gains are “far outweighed by corruption at all levels of Afghan government”.
►►Canadian naval officer charged with espionage. A member of the Royal Canadian Navy has become the first person charged under the country’s post-9/11 secrets law for allegedly passing protected government information to an unknown foreign body. Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Paul Delisle, 40, was charged Monday under the Security of Information Act, which came into effect in 2001.

Afghanistan arrests British citizens with 30 unregistered AK-47s

AK-47sBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Afghan authorities have announced the arrest of two British citizens who were found carrying 30 unregistered weapons without proper documentation. The two Britons, who have been identified as Julian Steele and James Davis, were stopped by Afghan police on Tuesday, January 3, at a checkpoint in the eastern suburbs of Afghan capital Kabul. The city’s police chief, Ayub Salangi, told the BBC that the two were arrested along with their Afghan interpreter and a local driver, after authorities discovered two metal boxes containing 30 AK-47s hidden under a blanket in their car. Moreover, most of the weapons had their serial numbers erased, and Steele and Davis were unable to produce registration documentation for the guns when asked to do so. When pressured, they told Afghan police that they worked for GardaWorld, an international security-consulting firm based in Montreal, Canada, with offices in the United States, Britain and the United Arab Emirates. GardaWorld, which is known to be currently active in Iraq, Pakistan, Haiti and Yemen, is thought to employ approximately 330 ‘bodyguards’ in Afghanistan, including around 30 foreign citizens. Strangely, however, GardaWorld, like every other private security firm operating in Afghanistan, is required by law to acquire all of its weapons from Afghanistan’s Ministry of the Interior. Furthermore, private security companies active in Afghanistan are not allowed to handle weapons without serial numbers, which is usually considered evidence of a black market connection. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #658

Carlos SoriaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Britain reveals names of officers killed in covert mission. Captain Tom Jennings, of the Special Boat Service, and Squadron Leader Anthony Downing, died when their vehicle was targeted by the Taliban near the Afghan capital Kabul. The UK Ministry of Defence has not released further details “due to the covert nature of the mission”. However, special forces are known to be used to escort MI6 officers and other British intelligence officials for meetings with sources or to persuade Taliban commanders to change sides.
►►New Turkish satellite to ‘zoom in’ on Israel. Until now, only the United States had the technology capable of taking satellite images greater than two meters per pixel resolution in the Middle East, and American law stopped US companies from distributing the pictures to non-US clients. But that is about to change, as Turkey is putting the finishing touches to its Gokturk military satellite, which is scheduled to launch within the next two years.
►►Argentine ex-spy chief shot dead. Carlos Soria (pictured), Argentina‘s former spy chief, was killed in a New Year’s Day shooting at his country house in Patagonia. He was just weeks into his job in the key oil-producing southern province of Rio Negro, when he was shot “after a family argument” at his farmhouse near the town of General Roca. Soria was a member of the ruling Peronist party and a former head of the Argentine intelligence services, under ex-president Eduardo Duhalde in 2002.

News you may have missed #644 (Pakistan edition)

Afghan-Pakistani Border

AfPak border

►►US built its own secret Pakistani spy service. Deep within Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), America’s most reliable ally has been the spy service’s division known as the T Wing. It was created largely from scratch in 2006 and 2007, after the Americans mostly gave up trying to work with the ISI’s uncooperative leadership. US officials say their hope was that the T Wing might help to offset the pernicious influence of the ISI’s S Wing, the division in charge of managing the Pakistani government’s relationship with Islamic extremist groups such as the Kashmiri separatist Lashkar-e-Taiba and Afghanistan’s Taliban.
►►Pakistan ‘permanently’ shuts down resupply routes to Afghanistan. NATO recently literally shot itself in the foot, imperiling the resupply of International Assistance Forces (ISAF) in Afghanistan, by shooting up two Pakistani border posts in a “hot pursuit’ raid. Given that roughly 100 fuel tanker trucks along with 200 other trucks loaded with NATO supplies cross into Afghanistan each day from Pakistan, Pakistan’s closure of the border has ominous long-term consequences for the logistical resupply of ISAF forces, even as Pentagon officials downplay the issue and scramble for alternative resupply routes.
►►Analysis: The fiction of Pakistan as a US ally. Sixty percent of the supplies used by US forces in Afghanistan transit Pakistan. The logistical requirements of the American army in the Afghan theater are staggering. Leaving aside food, ammunition and a million other necessities, the US military in Afghanistan consumes 300,000 barrels of oil a day. Every drop of that oil has to be trucked in country. NATO so far keeps stressing that there is no immediate threat to continued operations, but that will be true for only so long. Wars consume mountains of supplies, and without fuel, food and bullets soldiers will not fight for long.

US considered covert mission to recover drone captured by Iran

Iran

Iran

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
What a difference two days can make! On Monday we speculated that Iran may have captured intact a United States Air Force RQ-170 Sentinel surveillance drone. At that time, most American officials questioned or flatly denied Iran’s capture claims. It now appears almost certain that Iran is indeed in possession of the aircraft; what is more, it seems increasingly likely that the captured drone was conducting a Central Intelligence Agency reconnaissance mission when it crashed in the desert along the country’s 1,000 km-long border with Afghanistan. The significance of the drone’s capture by Iranian authorities can be discerned from the fact that US officials are said to have considered last weekend several options for retrieving it from Iranian territory. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, the US Department of Defense, in association with the CIA, discussed at least three separate plans for recovering or destroying the aircraft wreckage. One of the options discussed involved sending an airborne team of US covert operatives into northeast Iran to locate the crashed drone, disassemble it, and carry its top-secret mechanical and electronic components back to a US base in Afghanistan. The US also considered deploying Special Forces stationed in Afghanistan, or tasking US intelligence assets inside Iran, with locating and blowing up the crashed drone. A third option involved destroying the downed aircraft with a remote airstrike from Afghanistan. Read more of this post

Revealed: Afghan government at war with ‘CIA vigilante group’

Afghanistan

Afghanistan

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Very little has been written about the Kandahar Strike Force, a controversial CIA-funded vigilante group operating in Afghanistan’s Kandahar, Zabul and Uruzgan provinces. In 2009, The New York Times reported that the late Ahmed Wali Karzai, notorious drug lord and younger brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, helped the CIA run the group. But ever since Wali Karzai’s assassination, in July of this year, the CIA-operated group appears to be engaged in a brutal war, not with the Taliban and al-Qaeda, but with provisional Afghan authorities. The Christian Science monitor spoke to the former leader of the Kandahar Strike Force, Atal Afghanzai, who is currently in prison, having been convicted of shooting dead a senior Afghan police commander in broad daylight. The group is made up of elite members of Afghanistan’s regular army, selected by CIA case officers and trained by US Special Forces personnel in Kandahar’s Camp Gecko, a former al-Qaeda base built by Osama bin Laden’s forces in 1996. The group operates outside the institutional parameters of the Afghan government, and answers directly to the CIA, says The Monitor, which claims to have corroborated this information with “US diplomats, other Western officials, and Afghan authorities”. The group’s imprisoned former leader told the newspaper that he and his men were paid directly by the CIA, and that they were transported by United States Blackhawk helicopters to various locations around the country, where they were expected to conduct “raids on Taliban targets at a moment’s notice”. Afghanzai claims that the group’s operations were so effective that they received letters of appreciation by no other than Hamid Karzai. But the idyllic relationship between the Kandahar Strike Force and the Afghan government appears to have ended, as members of the group are now accused of “extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, and larceny”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #621

Pakistan

Pakistan

►►Pakistan denies spying on German forces in Afghanistan. Pakistani officials have rejected a German newspaper report that the country’s secret service spied on German security forces in Afghanistan. Without citing its sources, mass-selling weekly Bild am Sonntag reported on Sunday that Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency warned its interior ministry that Pakistan had spied on 180 German police officers deployed in Afghanistan to train locals.
►►CIA expert says US government lacks security operating system. Industry is not providing the US government with the basic tools it needs to build a secure information infrastructure, according to Robert Bigman, chief of the CIA’s Information Assurance Group. “What we need is a secure operating system”, he said during a panel discussion at the Security Innovation Network showcase in Washington last month. “We gave up some time ago on the battle to build a secure operating system, and we don’t have one”.
►►US increased spy spending in 2011. The US Congress appropriated $54.6 billion for intelligence programs in the 2011 fiscal year, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence disclosed last week. The amount, which does not include what was spent on military intelligence, is a slight increase from the year before but could be the end of the upward trend, says CNN’s Security Clearance blog.

News you may have missed #609

Ilan Grapel

Ilan Grapel

►►Questions over Chinese spy hang over Putin visit. The arrest of a Chinese spy in Moscow has cast a cloud over Vladimir Putin’s two-day visit to Beijing. Tong Shengyong was arrested last October for allegedly trying to buy plans to the Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile system. But perplexingly, the news of his arrest only emerged last week, in what appears to have been a deliberate leak by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB).
►►Egypt steps up charges against suspected Israel spy. Egypt’s State Security Prosecutor has added additional criminal offenses against alleged Israeli spy Ilan Grapel. Meanwhile, there are indications that Egypt seeks the release of 78 Egyptian prisoners held in Israeli jails in return for Grapel. Israel may agree with the proposal.
►►CIA to be last out of Afghanistan. US Special Forces and the CIA are girding for the moment when Afghanistan’s security rests once again with them, working together with Afghan forces against the Taliban. Recent remarks from the White House suggest the CIA and special operations forces will be hunting al-Qaida and working with local forces long after most US troops have left.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 857 other followers