News you may have missed #871

Rene GonzalezBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Britain denies visa for Cuban spy freed by US. Rene Gonzalez, one of the so-called “Cuban Five” intelligence agents convicted by the US of spying, has been denied a British visa to attend a London symposium. Gonzalez, who served 13 years in US prison before his release in 2011, had been invited to a two-day conference put on by “Voice for the Five”, an organization that campaigns in support of the convicted Cuban spies. The Cuban state-run newspaper Juventud Rebelde said Gonzales, 55, was denied a visa because British law prohibits entry of a person sentenced to more than four years in prison.
►►Canada fires intelligence analyst over contacts with Russians. Irina Koulatchenko, a 36-year-old who came to Canada as a Russian refugee via Cuba, has been fired by Canada’s financial-intelligence agency, known as FINTRAC. A Canadian Security Intelligence Service probe recommended she not be trusted to do that job, allegedly because “she had had several social encounters with Russian diplomats”. The latter included one she met “at a Cirque du Soleil show, another who was friends with her ex-fiancé and another she bumped into all the time at various social events”.
►►CIA suspected of spying on Congress members. The United States Department of Justice has opened an investigation into Senate aides removing documents from CIA headquarters that they reportedly “weren’t authorized to have”. It turns out, however, that the CIA found this out because they were secretly spying on members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and their staff who were working on a high-profile report on CIA torture of detainees. What is more, Democratic Senator Mark Udall has claimed US President Barack Obama knew of the CIA’s secret monitoring of the Committee.

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News you may have missed #856

Communications Security Establishment CanadaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Expert says Australia spies for the United States. Intelligence expert Professor Des Ball claims Australia is playing a role in America’s intelligence networks by monitoring vast swathes of the Asia Pacific region and feeding information to the US. Dr. Ball says the Australian Signals Directorate –formerly known as the Defence Signals Directorate– is sharing information with the National Security Agency (NSA). He adds that Australia has four key facilities that are part of the XKeyscore program, the NSA’s controversial computer system that searches and analyses vast amounts of internet data.
►►Canada silent on allegations of spying. A spokeswoman for Communications Security Establishment Canada has refused to comment on allegations that the agency mounts foreign operations through Canada’s embassies abroad. German magazine Der Spiegel says Canada is using diplomatic facilities to support surveillance operations in league with key allies the United States, Britain and Australia. The German newsmagazine indicates the Canadian spy agency hosts “Stateroom” sites —a term for covert signals-intelligence gathering bases hidden in consulates and embassies.
►►Russia denies spying on G20 leaders during summit. Russia has denied reports it attempted to spy on foreign powers meeting at the G20 summit in St Petersburg earlier this year, denouncing the allegations as a “clear attempt to divert attention” from revelations concerning the United States’ National Security Agency. Two Italian newspapers claimed on Tuesday that USB flash drives and cables to charge mobile phones that were given to delegates —including heads of state— at the September meeting were equipped with technology to retrieve data from computers and telephones.

Brazil accuses Canada of economic espionage

CanadaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The Brazilian government has demanded that Canada explain the role of its intelligence services in “unacceptable” incidents of espionage, which targeted the Latin American country’s Ministry of Mines and Energy. The announcement came just hours after a television report accused Canada of spying on Brazil’s mining and energy sector, allegedly for commercial gain. The report, which aired on O Globo television on Sunday night, said the spying had been carried out by Canada’s Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC). Staffed by around 2,200 employees, the CSEC is Canada’s foremost signals intelligence agency, tasked with carrying out communications interception around the world. According to O Globo, the CSEC collected the metadata of emails and calls associated with computer and telephone systems belonging to the Ministry of Mines and Energy. The information allowed Canadian intelligence to effectively map the communications structure of the government Ministry, through a network mapping program codenamed OLYMPIA. O Globo said its report was based on a CSEC PowerPoint presentation titled “Advanced Network Tradecraft”, which was produced in the summer of 2012 and shared with Canada’s allies, including the United Kingdom and the United States. The television station said that the information was based on a batch of documents leaked by former Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency technical expert Edward Snowden. Snowden defected from the US last summer and is currently living in Russia, were he has been offered political asylum. The Brazilian television station spoke to Edison Lobao, Brazil’s Mines and Energy Minister, who said that Canada’s primary economic interests in Brazil centered on “the mining sector”, and hinted that the alleged CSEC spying might have “served corporate interests”. Read more of this post

Canada denies reports of spy devices found in military complex

Former Nortel campusBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The government of Canada has denied media reports that surreptitious listening devices were found in an Ottawa building complex that is currently being prepared to house Canada’s Department of National Defence. Canadian media reported on Monday that the mysterious spy devices were found by workers employed at the former headquarters of Nortel Networks, a Canadian telecommunications company that went bankrupt in 2009. Canada’s conservative government purchased Nortel’s former headquarters in Ottawa in 2011, and has invested close to C$1 billion (US$960 million) on a plan to move the country’s Defence Department to the site. The media reports did not specify whether the alleged eavesdropping devices were installed recently, or whether they date from the time when Nortel was headquartered at the site. In 2009, when the company declared bankruptcy, there were intense rumors that its operations had been harmed irreparably by an aggressive industrial espionage campaign conducted by Chinese hackers. On Monday, Canada’s CTV News reported that the country’s Department of National Defence was considering scrapping plans to move to the former Nortel complex, due to the discovery of the listening devices. On Monday, the Department of National Defence refused to comment directly on the allegations, stating simply that it could not provide “any information regarding specific measures and tests undertaken to secure a location or facility for reasons of national security”. On Tuesday, however, Canadian government officials told The Ottawa Citizen newspaper it had been assured by the Defence Department that “no listening devices” had been found at the former Nortel site. Read more of this post

Canada intelligence agency warns officials of espionage, honey traps

Richard FaddenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Canada’s foremost intelligence agency has authored a publication warning government officials they are as much targets of espionage today as they were during the Cold War. The warning is contained in a 2012 publication titled Far From Home: A Travel Security Guide for Government Officials, penned by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). It is aimed at Canadian diplomats and other federal employees who may, according to CSIS, become the targets of international espionage activities while traveling abroad. A copy of the guide was accessed by the Canadian Press agency under Canada’s Access to Information Act. In a brief forward to the guide, the then Director of CSIS, Richard Fadden, warns readers that international espionage is believed to be “at a level equal to that seen during the Cold War” (intelNews readers will remember Fadden has made similar claims in public before). He adds that Canada remains a “valued target” on the international intelligence scene, due to its sophisticated technology, energy and financial services sectors. Fadden, who left CSIS in May to become Canada’s Deputy Minister of National Defense, goes on to state that Canada is spied on by foreign intelligence agencies because of its “prized political connections” with the United States and its membership in “important international bodies”. In the guidebook, Canadian federal employees are advised to consider the information they carry with them while abroad as “a prized target” and to take conscious steps to protect it. Advice includes being cautious of information shared with taxi drivers, waiters or bar tenders, keeping personal electronic devices under watch at all times, and avoiding the use of hotel safes to store confidential material, as “intrusions are frequently accomplished with the co-operation of [...] hotel staff”. The instructional book, stamped “For Official Use Only”, makes specific mention of “honey traps” —espionage lingo for intelligence collection through sexual seduction. It notes that honey traps often involve clandestine recordings of intimate encounters, which are later used to blackmail or publicly embarrass the target of the espionage operation. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #838 (analysis edition)

Predator droneBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Delisle spy case barely caused ripples between Canada and Russia. The arrest of Jeffrey Delisle, a Canadian naval officer spying for Russia, did little to discourage Canada from welcoming that country’s defense chief to a Newfoundland meeting of Arctic nations last year. The visit underscored the puzzling lengths to which the Canadian government went to carry on a business-as-usual relationship with the one-time Cold War adversary. Most other planned military contacts between the two nations last year —including participation in the anti-terrorism exercise Operation Vigilant Eagle— also remained curiously normal.
►►Don’t believe the hype on Chinese cyberespionage. Within a day of each other, The Washington Post published a shocking list of US defense programs whose designs have reportedly been stolen by Chinese cyberattacks, and ABC news said the plans for Australia’s spy headquarters were also stolen by Chinese hackers. It makes China sound like a secret-sucking cyber espionage machine, but is that really the case? The knee-jerk interpretation to this disclosure (and others) is that China is a powerhouse of cyber espionage capable of stealing whatever secrets they want and that the US is powerless to stop them. This seems very unlikely.
►►US Predator drone program quietly shifted from CIA to DoD. The White House has quietly shifted lead responsibility for its controversial armed drone program from the CIA to the Defense Department. In a landmark speech last week at National Defense University in Washington, US President Barack Obama offered some clues into the status of the program, opaquely signaling it will now primarily be conducted by the United States military.

Canada spy agency refused to notify Mounties about Russian agent

Jeffrey Paul DelisleBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Canada’s main counterintelligence agency opted to keep secret from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) vital information about a Canadian naval officer who spied for Russia. Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with the case of Jeffrey Paul Delisle, a Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy, who until 2011 was employed at Canada’s ultra-secure TRINITY communications center in Halifax. Delisle was arrested in January 2012 for passing information gathered from radio and radar signal interceptions to a foreign power, most likely Russia. In May of last year, it emerged that it was in fact the United States that alerted the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) about Delisle’s espionage activities. What was supposed to happen next was that the CSIS —which is not a law enforcement agency— should have notified the RCMP of Delisle’s activities and requested his prompt arrest. Remarkably, however, the CSIS chose to keep the Delisle file concealed from the RCMP, ostensibly to prevent the possible exposure of intelligence sources and methods in open-court proceedings. The Canadian Press, which broke the story on Sunday, cited “numerous sources familiar with the Delisle case” in claiming that the CSIS’ refusal to request Delisle’s arrest “frustrated Washington”, which feared that the spy was routinely compromising United States secrets shared by America with its Canadian allies. So frustrated were the Americans, that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) sketched out a plan to lure Delisle onto US soil and arrest him there. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #835 (Americas edition)

Rene GonzalezBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►‘Cuban Five’ spy member renounces US citizenship. Cuban intelligence officer Rene Gonzalez, who was a member of the “Cuban Five” spy group in South Florida, was released from a US prison in 2011, after serving 10 years for espionage. He was required to serve three years’ probation in the US. But on Friday US District Judge Joan Lenard ruled that Gonzalez, who had already been allowed to temporarily return to Cuba for his father’s funeral, could stay there if he renounced his US citizenship. Gonzalez is the first of the Cuban Five to return to the island. The other four men continue to serve lengthy sentences in US federal prisons.
►►US Defense Intelligence Agency contemplates austerity. Since 2001, intelligence agencies have had just about all money they wanted, but not anymore, as the cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act are hitting even previously inviolable spook accounts. In a reflection of this new reality, the Defense Intelligence Agency plans a conference with industry at its headquarters on June 27, 2013. Agency leaders will focus on “current and emerging challenges in the context of an increasingly austere fiscal posture”.
►►Report says Canada spies caught off guard by Arab Spring. The 2011 Arab Spring uprising in the Middle East came as a surprise to the Canadian government, which risks getting caught off-guard again without a new approach to gathering intelligence. This is according to a new report by Canada’s Intelligence Assessment Secretariat, a unit of the Privy Council’s Office, the bureaucratic arm of the Office of the Canadian Prime Minister. On the other hand, the report states, “there is no reason to believe that [Canadian intelligence agencies] did any worse than other allied agencies in its analysis of the Arab Spring, and in a few areas it appears to have done somewhat better”.

News you may have missed #832 (foiled Canada terror plot)

Toronto, CanadaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Two arrested in Canada terror plot. Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35, who live in Montreal and Toronto, were planning to derail a Via Rail passenger train in Toronto  with support from “al-Qaeda elements located in Iran”, Canadian police said Monday. “This is the first known al-Qaeda planned attack that we’ve experienced in Canada”, Superintendent Doug Best told a news conference. Police said the men did not receive financial support from al-Qaeda, but declined to provide more details. There was no apparent reason to think the planned attacks were state-sponsored.
►►Canada foils ‘al-Qaeda inspired’ terror attack on train. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said the surveillance operation leading to the arrests of the two suspects was “a result of extensive collaborative efforts”. Chief Spt Jennifer Strachan said the two men had sought to target “a specific route, but not necessarily a specific train”. At the same time, the RCMP said they believed the plot was in the planning stage and “there was no imminent threat to the general public”.
►►Tip from Muslim community ‘helped foil’ al-Qaeda plot. Canadian lawyer Hussein Hamdani told CTV News Channel that a tip from the Muslim community helped investigators foil the alleged al-Qaeda plot. “This goes to show the partnership between the Muslim community in Canada and the RCMP and all the police services,” said Hamdani. It might not be well known but collaboration between Muslims and government agencies —like the RCMP, CSIS, Canadian Border Services Agency and the Department of Justice— is quite common, according to Hamdani.

Court rejects release of spy records on iconic Canadian politician

Tommy DouglasBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Canada’s highest court has rejected a legal argument in favor of releasing surveillance records on Tommy Douglas, an iconic Canadian politician who was monitored for most of his life by the security services. Douglas was a Scottish-born Baptist minister who later became the leader of the New Democratic Party and Premier of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Under his Premiership, which lasted from 1944 to 1961, Saskatchewan’s government became the first democratic socialist administration in North America and the first in the Americas to introduce a single-payer universal healthcare program. But Douglas, who is widely recognized as the father of Canada’s healthcare system, was under constant surveillance by Canadian intelligence throughout most of his life. Government records show that the now-defunct Security Service of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) began monitoring the socialist politician shortly before the outbreak of World War II. It appears that, in the political context of the Cold War, Douglas had drawn the attention of Canada’s security establishment by supporting antiwar causes, which led some to suspect him of holding pro-communist sympathies. The government surveillance, which was at times extensive, lasted until shortly before the politician’s death in 1986. Under Canada’s legal system, security dossiers on individuals are typically released 20 years after the target’s death. However, even though several hundred pages from Douglas’ dossier have already been released, many hundreds more remain secret. In 2005, Canadian Press reporter Jim Bronskill launched a legal campaign aimed at securing the release of the remaining pages in Douglas’ dossier. His campaign is supported by Douglas’ family, notably Douglas’ daughter, Shirley. But the Canadian government has resisted Bronskill’s effort from the very beginning. Read more of this post

Canada issues arrest warrant for former spy watchdog official

Arthur PorterBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Authorities in the Canadian province of Quebec have issued a warrant for the arrest of a government official who until recently was responsible for overseeing the country’s primary national intelligence service. From 2008 to 2011, Dr. Arthur Porter was a member of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which investigated grievances against the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). In order to fulfill his Committee duties, Porter was awarded a top-secret security clearance, which allowed him access to the CSIS’ most closely held secrets. In 2004, Porter, who is a Cambridge University-educated oncologist, was appointed Director General of the McGill University Health Centre in Montréal. In that capacity, he began a business relationship with Ari Ben-Menashe, an Iranian-born Israeli lobbyist and weapons merchant, who in 1989 was arrested and charged in the United States for illegally attempting to sell military transport airplanes to Iran, in connection with the so-called Iran-Contra affair. Ben-Menashe was acquitted after claiming during his trial that he had been operating as an Israeli intelligence officer. In 2011, Porter stepped down from his post at the Security Intelligence Review Committee, after Canadian newspaper The National Post revealed that he had wired $200,000 in personal funds to Ben-Menashe. Soon afterwards, he moved to the Bahamas and attempted to stay away from the public limelight. This changed on Wednesday, however, Read more of this post

Former Mossad officer describes Zygier affair as ‘scandalous’

Ben ZygierBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A former member of Israeli spy agency Mossad, who claims to have worked in the same covert-operations unit as Ben Zygier, has described the latter’s incarceration and subsequent death as “scandalous”. The Australian-born Zygier was a Mossad officer several years before he was placed in solitary confinement following his arrest in Israel, in February 2010. Known to the outside world only as ‘Prisoner X’, he allegedly killed himself in his cell a few months later. Earlier this month, when an Australian television program identified ‘Prisoner X’ as Zygier, the Australian government admitted it had been aware of its citizen’s incarceration and death, but chose not to extend to him diplomatic support. So far, the Mossad, Israel’s foremost covert-action agency, has remained silent on the matter. But a former Mossad operative, who uses the name Michael Ross, has weighed in with his opinion. Ross was born in Canada and converted to Judaism before joining the Mossad for 13 years, seven of which he claims to have spent in the same covert-operations unit as Zygier. Although he never met his Australian-born colleague, Ross wrote in The Daily Beast in the weekend that he and Zygier “were in the field at the same time, albeit in different units”. In his article, the former Mossad spy dismisses allegations that Zygier may have betrayed his employer, saying that he has seen no evidence that the Australian-born Jew was not dedicated to the mission of the Mossad. He argues that the circumstances surrounding Zygier’s incarceration in solitary confinement were “scandalous”, because the jailed spy presented “no danger to the public”. Instead, says the former spy, Zygier could have been dismissed from the spy service and placed under house arrest for as long as it would have been necessary for the accusations against him to be “dealt with internally”. Read more of this post

Canadian passports still highly coveted by spies and terrorists

Canadian passportBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An extensive investigation into a bus bombing that targeted Israeli tourists in Bulgaria points to the continued attraction of forged Canadian passports for terrorist groups and intelligence agencies. Bulgaria’s Minister of the Interior, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, said on Tuesday that the July 18, 2012, terrorist attack, was perpetrated by Al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya, the military wing of Hezbollah. The militant Shiite group, which controls large parts of southern Lebanon, has denied involvement in the bombing, which killed seven people, including five Israeli tourists. Tsvetanov said that, during a lengthy police investigation, which was assisted by American and Israeli investigators, the printer used to produce forged driver licenses found on two of the plotters was traced to Lebanon. He also told a press conference in Bulgarian capital Sofia that the suicide bomber, who died in the attack, entered Bulgaria using a forged Canadian passport. Commentator Paul Koring, of Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail, correctly suggests that the revelation by the Bulgarian authorities points to the continued status of Canadian passports as the international travel documents of choice for both spies and terrorists. In the 1970s, Hezbollah’s biggest enemy, the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, used Canadian passports in Operation WRATH OF GOD (also known as Operation BAYONET). The operation exterminated almost every original member of Black September, the Palestinian group that perpetrated the massacre of the Israeli athletes in the 1972 summer Olympic Games in Munich. In 1997, the Israeli spy agency employed Canadian passports once again, during the famously disastrous attempt to kill Khaled Mashal, Chairman of the Political Bureau of Palestinian militant group Hamas, in Jordan. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #819 (UKUSA edition)

Charles E. AllenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Aussie spies’ exemption from Freedom of Information laws to end? Currently, all Australian intelligence agencies are exempt from the operation of federal Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation that allows the public and journalists to seek access to government records. But now Australian Information Commissioner John McMillan has called for the intelligence agencies to no longer be exempted from FOI laws. Professor McMillan and FOI Commissioner James Popple have made the recommendation in a 97-page submission to the review of FOI laws by former Defence Department secretary and diplomat Allan Hawke.
►►US spy agencies move towards single super-cloud. The US intelligence community is developing a single cloud computing network to allow all its analysts to access and rapidly sift through massive volumes of data. Now in its eighth month, the goal of the effort is to connect the Central Intelligence Agency’s existing cloud to a new cloud run by the National Security Agency. This NSA-run network consists of five other intelligence agencies and the FBI. Both of these clouds can interoperate, but the CIA has its own unique needs because it must work with human intelligence, which necessitates keeping its cloud slightly separate, according to Charles Allen, formerly Undersecretary of Homeland Security for intelligence and analysis.
►►Canadian Army struggles with intelligence-gathering. The Canadian Army is trying to hold on to its intelligence-gathering capability and its ability to disrupt spying in the face of budget strain, according to documents from the Canadian Department of National Defence. The Canadian Press, which obtained the documents, says the Army is “anxious to protect HUMINT network and to better resource its counterintelligence abilities”, but is worried that its shrinking budget in the post-Afghanistan War era will cause “degradation” in those disciplines.

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