News you may have missed #814

Ilir KumbaroBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Israel accuses Palestinian of spying for Hezbollah. Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency says a Palestinian man has been charged with relaying information to Hezbollah in Lebanon about sensitive government sites, including parliament. It identified the suspect as Azzam Mashahara, a resident of east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967. Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem, unlike Palestinians from the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, have Israeli identity cards that allow them to travel freely within Israel. Mashahara was charged with maintaining contacts with a foreign agent and relaying information to the enemy.
►►UK agency tries to crack coded message from WWII-era carrier pigeon. The note, written on official stationary with the heading “Pigeon Service,” was discovered in a red canister attached to the skeletal leg of a pigeon in a chimney in Surrey, England. The message is made up of 27 seemingly random five-letter blocks and though it’s undated, government analysts believe the pigeon met his end while on a secret mission during the Second World War. The note is signed “Sjt W Stot” and was intended for the destination “XO2”. In a statement, Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), said that during the war secret communications would often utilize specialized codebooks “in which each code group of four or five letters had a meaning relevant to a specific operation, allowing much information to be sent in a short message”. The GCHQ said that those messages may have been put through an additional layer of security by being re-coded with what’s known as a one-time pad.
►►Albania court convicts fugitive ex-spy chief. An Albanian court has convicted Ilir Kumbaro, the country’s fugitive former intelligence chief, of murder for the 1995 death of a suspect who was illegally detained for an alleged plot to murder the President of the Republic of Macedonia. The victim, businessman Remzi Hoxha, an ethnic Albanian from Macedonia, was abducted by the secret police 17 years ago along with two other suspects for allegedly planning to kill then-Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov during a visit to Albania. The court said the three suspects were held illegally and tortured during questioning. Kumbaro traveled to Britain in 1996 under a false identity, claiming to be a refugee from Kosovo. He has been missing for a year, after skipping an extradition hearing in London. Hoxha was never found and is presumed to have died in custody.

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News you may have missed #781

Bahri ShaqirinBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Syria denies Vice-President has defected. Syria denied reports over weekend that President Bashar al-Assad’s deputy had defected. Vice-President Farouq al-Shara “never thought for a moment about leaving the country”, said a statement from his office, broadcast on state television and issued in response to reports that the veteran Ba’ath Party loyalist had tried to defect to Jordan. Al-Sharaa’s office said the vice-president “supports get[ting] united support from the [United Nations] Security Council to carry out his mission without obstacles”.
►►What is inside the CIA’s Polish prison? A major political scandal erupted in Poland this year, over an alleged secret CIA ‘black site’ used to house high-ranking terrorism suspects. But exactly was in this prison? In this interview, aired yesterday on Washington DC-based National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition program, host Linda Wertheimer speaks to journalist and author Roy Gutman about his recent trip to Poland, to cover an investigation into the CIA interrogation facilities.
►►US ‘surprised’ after Albania replaces spy chief. Little more than a month after taking office, Albanian President Bujar Nishani has discharged the Director of the country’s State Security Agency, SHISH, Bahri Shaqirin. The move follows a request by Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha, who first proposed that Shaqirin should be removed. His replacement is Visho Ajazi Lika, currently Deputy Minister for Technology and Information. Some analysts note that Shaqirin enjoyed the support of the US Embassy in Tirana. One of its spokespersons said that “the US had not been informed about Shaqiri’s discharge and [Washington was] surprised by this fast and unexpected decision”.

News you may have missed #647

Ilir Nazmi Kumbaro

Ilir Kumbaro

►►Albanian ex-spy chief on the run in Britain. Albania’s former intelligence chief, Ilir Nazmi Kumbaro, who is wanted in his homeland for torture and kidnapping, failed to attend an extradition hearing on Thursday at Westminster magistrates’ court in London. He has reportedly left his home in Fulham, west London, and police believe he is being harbored by friends.
►►Secret CIA black site discovered in Romania. The hitherto secret location, code-named “Bright Light”, is said to have been one of the CIA’s notorious interrogation prisons in Eastern Europe. It has been traced to the basement of Romania’s National Registry Office for Classified Information, which lies in a busy residential district of the Romanian capital, Bucharest.
►►CIA leaves drone base in Pakistan. The US Central Intelligence Agency has vacated an air base in western Pakistan that it had been using for drone strikes against militants in the country’s tribal areas. Pakistan had ordered the CIA to leave the Shamsi air base in protest over NATO airstrikes that killed at least 25 Pakistani soldiers near the border with Afghanistan on November 26.

News you may have missed #0236

  • Airline bomb plotter’s father warned CIA about his son. Dr. Umaru AbdulMutallab, the father of Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, the Christmas Day airline bomb plot suspect, visited the US embassy in Nigeria in November, where he told a CIA agent that he believed his son was under the influence of religious extremists and had traveled from London, England, to Yemen.
  • New book details Stasi spying on Günter Grass. A new book, entitled Guenter Grass im Visier: Die Stasi-Akte (Günter Grass in the Crosshairs: The Stasi Files), is to be published in March in Germany. Among other things, it will detail spying operations against the Nobel Prize-winning author by the East German secret police, the Stasi.
  • Former Albanian spymaster claiming benefits in Britain. Ilir Kumbaro, Albania’s former spymaster, is wanted by authorities for having kidnapped and tortured three men in his homeland. But after falling out with officials there, he fled to Britain in 1996, where he has lived for 13 years using the alias Shaqa Shatri.

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A terrible week for German spy agencies

BND logo

BND logo

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Germany’s largest intelligence agencies are in for a challenging few days, as two spy scandals are making headlines in the country’s media. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany’s foremost domestic intelligence organization, is firmly in the hot seat after it emerged that a woman it employed as an undercover informer was among seven extremists indicted for helping operate a hardcore neo-Nazi online radio station. The woman, who has been identified only as “Sandra F.”, had been hired by the spy agency to monitor the German People’s Union (DVU), a national socialist political grouping with substantial following in Brandenburg and Saxony. Read more of this post

Analysis: German intelligence in Kosovo

The epicenter of the latest round of intelligence positioning in the Balkans is the tiny Albanian-dominated region of Kosovo, which declared its independence from Serbia in February 2008. In the early hours of November 14, Kosovo Police arrested three individuals suspected of detonating an explosive device at the International Civilian Office, an urban landmark in capital Pristina that houses the office of the European Union’s (EU) special envoy to Kosovo. The three turned out to be German Federal Intelligence Service agents, employees of Bundesnachrichtendienst, or BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence service. What is more, all of them appeared to be working in deep cover (“in private capacity”, as the Kosovo Police spokesperson put it), having no affiliation with the German Embassy in Pristina, no diplomatic passports and no diplomatic immunity. Would the BND really instruct its agents to place a bomb at the EU mission in Pristina? And what is the BND doing in Kosovo anyway? Joseph Fitsanakis explains. [JF]

 

REFERENCES CITED IN THIS REPORT:

Fitsanakis, J. (2008) “German Intelligence Active in Kosovo”, intelNews, November 29

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