Did the CIA exclude Israel from its extraordinary rendition program?

Open Society Foundations report coverBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The most comprehensive non-classified account of the United States Central Intelligence Agency’s extraordinary rendition program has been published by a human-rights advocacy group. It details for the first time the fate of nearly 140 known targets of the controversial program, who were abducted by the CIA mostly during the administration of US President George W. Bush. Under the controversial program, individuals were systematically detained and transferred without due process to countries where the use of torture on prisoners was –in the words of the report– standard practice. The report, entitled Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition, was authored by Amrit Singh, formerly of the American Civil Liberties Union and currently senior legal officer at the National Security and Counterterrorism program at the Open Society Justice Initiative. It concludes that the CIA was able to build and maintain the program with significant assistance from 54 countries, including 13 in Africa, 14 in Asia and 25 in Europe. The long list of countries that willingly cooperated with the CIA’s extraordinary rendition practices includes Canada, Denmark, Australia, Finland, Mauritania, Romania and South Africa. It even includes countries that are known to have had tense relations with Washington in the past decade, such as Zimbabwe, Syria, Pakistan, Libya, and even Iran. Certainly, the Open Society Justice Initiative report points to the fact that it is both shortsighted and inaccurate to refer to the Bush administration’s post-9/11 extraordinary rendition program as “an American operation”. It was informed and supported at all levels by America’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies, as well as by many countries which, for one reason or another, wished to be on the good side of the US. But the list of complicit states is also interesting for what it doesn’t include. Most importantly, it doesn’t include Israel. Read more of this post

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Iran allegedly busts ‘Israel-backed’ sabotage ring

Israel and IranBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The government of Iran has announced the arrests of a “terrorist network” that was allegedly planning sabotage and assassination operations inside the Islamic Republic. The announcement was released by the Iranian Intelligence Ministry and aired by a host of state-controlled media on Tuesday. The reports were vague, but claimed that the sabotage ring was supported by Israel, and that its members were “plotting fresh attacks” against Iranian government targets. The Intelligence Ministry said that Iranian counterterrorist teams decided to move against the “large and sophisticated” network after preparing the ground during “months of operations”. An unidentified Iranian government official was quoted as saying that the arrests of the group members involved the “recovery of large bombs, automatic weapons, handguns, [as well as] telecommunications equipment” from houses and apartments belonging to alleged sabotage group members. One report stated that some of the arrests were concluded following “firefights” between the suspects and Iranian government forces. Reports also claimed that the network led officials to the discovery of a separate “regional command center in a third country”, which was not named, but which is widely suspected to be Azerbaijan. Earlier this week, The Washington Post reported that American intelligence agencies had ramped up intelligence and sabotage missions directed against Iran’s nuclear program. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #708

Bertil StrobergBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Swedish Cold War spy dies at 79. Bertil Stroberg, a former Swedish air force officer, who was convicted of spying for Poland during the Cold War, but always maintained his innocence, has died, following a yearlong battle against cancer. He was sentenced to six years in prison for spying in 1983, but released on parole after serving three years. The key evidence in his case was a letter the prosecution said he had written to the Polish embassy offering to sell military secrets. The letter was signed Sven-Roland Larsson and asked that money be sent in that name to the Central Post Office. Stroberg was arrested when he went to the post office to collect Larsson’s mail.
►►US keeping Britain in the dark on intel issues. American intelligence agencies are increasingly keeping their British counterparts in the dark on key information, for fear those secrets could end up on full display in UK courts. “The Americans have got nervous that we are going to start revealing some of the information and they have started cutting back, I’m sure, on what they disclose”, Ken Clarke, the United Kingdom’s justice secretary, said in a Wednesday interview with the BBC. The American intelligence community has become wary about sharing sensitive intelligence with the UK ever since a 2008 court case forced the British government to disclose specific details on terror detainee operations.
►►Bush official says CIA ‘committed war crimes’. Philip Zelikow, who was a top adviser to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, warned the Bush administration that its use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading” interrogation techniques like waterboarding were “a felony war crime”. What is more, newly obtained documents reveal that State Department counselor Zelikow told the Bush team in 2006 that using the controversial interrogation techniques were “prohibited” under US law —“even if there is a compelling state interest asserted to justify them”. Zelikow’s memo was an internal bureaucratic push against an attempt by the Justice Department to flout long-standing legal restrictions against torture.

News you may have missed #582

John Yoo

John Yoo

►►US government conceals Bush surveillance memos. The Justice Department is refusing to release legal memos by lawyer John Yoo, which the George W. Bush administration used to justify its warrantless surveillance program, one of the most contentious civil liberties issues during the Republican president’s time in office.
►►Ex-CIA bin Laden Unit boss wants rendition back. Michael Scheuer, a former insider and vocal critic of the US intelligence establishment, has described the Arab revolutions as “an intelligence disaster for the US and for Britain, and other European services”. Speaking from Scotland, he also urged for a return to the Bush administration’s rendition program, in order to gather new intelligence on Middle Eastern and North African groups.
►►French firm helped Gaddafi spy on opposition. We have written before about technical intelligence support provided by Western firms to some of the world’s most brutal regimes, including Iran and Bahrain. We can no add Libya to the long list. The Wall Street Journal reports that Amesys, a subsidiary of French telecommunications firm Bull helped the Gaddafi regime spy on the emails and chat messages of its opponents.

Ex-Bush official advised Gaddafi until early August, documents show

Libya

Libya

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Intelligence documents found at the headquarters of Libya’s abandoned spy agency appear to show that the regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi enjoyed the support of an American diplomat who served in the Bush administration. Al Jazeera reports that David Welch, who was Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs in the US Department of State between 2005 and 2008, met on August 2 with Gaddafi officials in the Four Seasons Hotel in Cairo, Egypt. According to a Libyan intelligence memo from the meeting, Welch, who now works for Bechtel Corporation, gave the Gaddafi officials tips on how “to win the propaganda war” against the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC). He also instructed them to undermine Libya’s rebel movement by relying on several “confidence-building measures”, including controlled intelligence leaks aimed at manipulating the news output of Arab and Western media. The documents also reveal that Gaddafi maintained spies at the highest echelons of the rebel council, and that at least one of these spies offered to assassinate rebel leaders by “poisoning their food and water”. However, despite maintaining an ample amount of informants inside the NTC, the Gaddafi regime found it difficult to collect reliable and actionable intelligence during the civil war. Characteristically, many of the names of NTC’s central figures are misspelled in intelligence field reports, and one intelligence analyst complained recently that “the majority of those currently working for the intelligence administration are ill-prepared to carry out intelligence duties”. Despite these shortcomings, however, Gaddafi’s spies inside the NTC appear to have managed to intercept a large number of telephone messages and confidential emails between the NTC and foreign diplomats. Read more of this post

US misused our intel to justify Iraq War, says German ex-spy chief

August Hanning

August Hanning

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The former Director of Germany’s foreign intelligence service has accused the Bush administration of consciously falsifying intelligence supplied by Germany in order to justify going to war in Iraq. August Hanning, who served as Director of Germany’s Bundesnachrichtendienst (known as BND) from 1998 to 2005, said that the BND had no part in the deception, and that “the responsibility for the war lies solely with the Americans”. In an interview to the Sunday edition of German national newspaper Die Welt, Hanning explained that the administration of US President George W. Bush was especially interested in intelligence collected by the BND from an Iraqi defector codenamed ‘Curveball’. The defector, whose real name is Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, arrived in Germany in 1999 and applied for political asylum, saying he had been employed as a senior scientist in Iraq’s biological weapons program. Among other things, he told his BND debriefing team that Saddam Hussein had built a fleet of biological weapons labs on wheels, in order to avoid detection from America and other countries. After consulting with biological weapons experts, the BND expressed serious doubts about Curveball’s reliability, but kept him in Germany nonetheless. Several years later, al-Janabi confirmed the BND’s suspicions, by admitting that he had invented his allegations in order to help bring down the regime of Saddam Hussein. He also admitted that he was in reality a taxi driver from Baghdad, who had used his undergraduate knowledge of engineering to get asylum in Germany. At the time, said Hanning, the BND strongly and repeatedly communicated to the CIA its doubts about Curveball’s claims, something which is known. What is not known, however, is that Hanning personally wrote to then CIA Director George Tenet and urged him to adopt a skeptical approach to the defector’s allegations. The former BND chief told Die Welt that he was “assured by the Americans that our intelligence would not be used in Powell’s speech”. Read more of this post

US Senate to review allegations CIA tried to smear professor

Juan Cole

Juan Cole

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The Intelligence Committee of the United States Senate will review allegations, made on Friday by a former CIA officer, that the spy agency tried to gather derogatory information about an American university professor who is critical of the ‘war on terrorism’. According to its chairwoman, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Committee may “take further action”, depending on its preliminary findings. The allegations surfaced last Friday in an article by New York Times reporter James Risen. Acting on a tip by an unnamed source, Risen spoke to former CIA officer Glenn L. Carle, who confirmed that the Agency “at least twice” displayed an interest in gathering discrediting information about University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole. Dr Cole, who specializes in Middle Eastern history and speaks fluent Arabic, Persian, and Urdu, has been consistently critical of US foreign policy in the Middle East through his writings on his influential blog, Informed Comment. Carle, who made the allegations to The New York Times, retired from the CIA in 2007, after a career that spanned two decades in the Agency’s National Clandestine Service. In the last few years of his public service, Carle was a senior counterterrorism official at the US National Intelligence Council, which operates under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #503

  • Dutch forces’ covert operations in Africa revealed. Dutch forces have for several years been training government soldiers in Mali, Senegal and Chad, without the Dutch parliament being informed, according to Dutch newspaper AD, which cites documents from the US Congress and the Pentagon.
  • Israel destroys spying devices found in Gaza. Hamas sources have told Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram that they discovered several “audio-visual spying devices” in the sand hills south of Gaza City. But, as soon as they started removing the devices, they “received a phone call from Israeli intelligence elements” telling them that the site would be bombed “within three minutes” —which is precisely what happened, according to al-Ahram. Regular readers of this blog will know this incident was not a first.
  • Leaked documents reveal Guantanamo secrets. A batch of leaked US government intelligence documents, not meant to surface for 20 years, shows that intelligence collection at Guantánamo often was much less effective than the George Bush administration has acknowledged. According to the documents, the US military used interrogation and detention practices that they largely made up as they went along.

Why is Germany protecting Iraqi informant who lied about WMDs?

Rafid Ahmed Alwan

Alwan al-Janabi

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
German politicians in the state of Baden-Württemberg are questioning the protection given by German intelligence services to a notorious Iraqi informant, who lied about Iraq’s weapons program. Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, known in intelligence circles as “Curveball”, arrived in Germany in 1999, where he applied for political asylum, saying he had been employed as a senior scientist in Iraq’s biological weapons program. Despite serious doubts expressed at the time by officials in Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service, the BND, and by some of their CIA colleagues, al-Janabi was given asylum in Germany. Moreover, information gathered from his testimony became a major source of the Bush Administration’s argument in favor of going to war in Iraq in 2003. Less than a year later, both the BND and the CIA concluded that al-Janabi had been lying about his alleged biological weapons role, and that he was in reality a taxi driver from Baghdad, who had used his undergraduate knowledge of engineering to fool Western intelligence. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #443

  • First budget cuts in a decade for UK spy agencies. Spending on Britain’s intelligence agencies is set to fall by 7%, for the first time in more than a decade. This is be expected to force MI5, MI6 and GCHQ to cap staff numbers, merge some of their operations, and scrap plans to modernize some of their buildings. Looks like even more British spies will be moving to Australia.
  • South Koreans arrested for trying to defect to North. Three South Koreans, including a medical doctor, are being investigated after allegedly trying to defect to North Korea from China. It is extremely unusual for South Koreans or other nationals to attempt to defect to the North.
  • Plame calls Fair Game movie ‘accurate portrayal’. CIA agent Valerie Plame has said the movie Fair Game, based on her book, is a “really good, accurate portrayal of what we went through, both personally and in the political maelstrom that we live through”. The Bush administration was accused of blowing Plame’s cover as retaliation after her diplomat husband openly challenged the reasoning behind the Iraq War.

CIA hid terrorism prisoners from US Supreme Court

CIA HQ

CIA HQ

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Central Intelligence Agency purposefully concealed at least four terrorism detainees from the US legal system, including the Supreme Court, according to an exclusive report by the Associated Press. The news agency has revealed that the CIA secretly transported the four to Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp on Cuba in 2003, two years before it publicly admitted their capture. It then secretly transferred them again to other sites in its black site prison network in various countries around the world, just three months before their prolonged stay at Guantánamo would entitle them to legal representation. While at Guantánamo, the four prisoners, Abd al-Nashiri, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, Ramzi Binalshibh and Abu Zubaydah, were kept at a facility known as ‘Strawberry Fields’, which is detached from the main prison site at the bay. By hiding the four, the Bush Administration managed to keep them under CIA custody while denying them legal representation for two years longer than allowed by US law. It also concealed their detention from national and international human rights monitoring bodies and from the US justice system, including the Supreme Court. Read more of this post

Author gets subpoenaed to reveal CIA sources

James Risen

James Risen

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The US government has issued a subpoena against a journalist who authored a book on the CIA’s operations during the years of the Bush administration. The move has surprised many, because the book in question, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, by New York Times journalist James Risen, has been out since 2006. The subpoena, which Risen received last Monday, requests him to testify before a grand jury about his confidential sources for chapter 9 of his book (pages 193-218), entitled “A Rogue Operation”, in which he describes in relative detail an attempt by the CIA to sabotage the Iranian nuclear weapons program. In the chapter, Risen writes of a thwarted CIA operation to pass to the Iranians a series of faulty nuclear bomb design documents. To do this, the Agency apparently recruited a Russian former nuclear scientist, who had defected to the United States. The unnamed scientist was told to travel to Vienna, Austria, in early 2000, and offer to sell the documents to the Iranians. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #332

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News you may have missed #0281

  • US intel director confirms CIA can kill US citizens abroad. It’s official; speaking before the House Intelligence Committee, US Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair acknowledged that President Obama is continuing a Bush-era policy authorizing the killing of US citizens if they are considered “a terrorist threat to the United States”.
  • Funny sign at CIA gift shop. Actual notice displayed at a CIA gift store inside the Agency’s Langley, VA, headquarters: “Don’t forget! If you are undercover, you cannot charge! It will blow your cover”. Good point.
  • Gordon Thomas’ Secret Wars out in paperback. IntelNews has received the new paperback edition of Gordon Thomas’ Secret Wars: 100 Years of British Intelligence. Joseph Fitsanakis reviewed the hardback edition last May.

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Analysis: Landrieu-Gate is Scary, but it’s No Watergate

Stan Dai

Stan Dai

By J. FITSANAKIS and I. ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The arrests by US Marshals of four self-described conservative activists, who were caught trying to tamper with the telephone lines of Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu’ New Orleans office, have caused outcry in liberal and silence in conservative blogs. Most political allies of the four young men have been scrambling to denounce them, and the few who haven’t, have tried to play off the case as an ill-conceived political prank that got out of hand. Considering that America’s political culture still reels from the effects of Watergate (1972-1974), and the far more serious COINTELPRO (1956-1971), it would be criminal neglect on behalf of the FBI to treat the Landrieu incident as a “prank”. At the same time, however, Landrieu-gate is no Watergate. Neither the target nor the operational tactics and institutional affiliations of the four men involved in the case resemble anything remotely akin to either Watergate or COINTELPRO. Keep reading →

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