US Secretary of Defense ‘not aware’ of Israel spying on America

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.orgChuck Hagel, Barack Obama, John Brennan
The supreme official of the United States Department of Defense has said he is “unaware of the facts” behind recent media reports that Israel is aggressively spying on America. Chuck Hagel, a former Republican Senator who assumed the leadership of the Pentagon in 2013, is on a three-day official visit to Israel, where he is scheduled to hold meetings with Israeli military and security officials. He was responding to a question posed by an Israeli reporter about allegations, made by American newsmagazine Newsweek on Tuesday, that Israel’s spies “have gone too far” in targeting American interests. In an article published in Newsweek last week, veteran intelligence correspondent Jeff Stein quoted Congressional staffers as saying that America’s Jewish allies had “crossed red lines” in their efforts to steal secrets from the United States. According to Stein, that was reportedly relayed to US lawmakers in classified briefings on Capitol Hill by officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, as well as the National Counterintelligence Directorate. In a subsequent piece, Stein revealed that Israeli intelligence tried to spy on US Vice President Al Gore during an official state visit to Jerusalem 16 years ago. The effort was allegedly aborted after a US Secret Service agent caught an Israeli spy trying to enter the Vice President’s hotel room through a ceiling vent. But American officials have so far remained silent on the matter. When asked about it a press conference in Tel Aviv, Hagel said he had “heard of the report” but was “not aware of any facts that would substantiate the report”. He was standing beside Israel’s Minister of Defense, Moshe Yaalon, who also responded to the journalist’s question by reminding his audience that he served as Director of Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate in the late 1990s. In that capacity, he said, he was “not allowed to spy in the United States whatsoever”. Read more of this post

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Secret report warns US spy mission distorted by ‘war on terror’

CIA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
America’s concentration on the ‘war on terrorism’ has distorted the mission and scope of its Intelligence Community, according to a secret report commissioned by the White House. The classified report was compiled by the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, which counsels Barack Obama on intelligence matters. It cautions the President that the intelligence output of organizations such as the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency has been disabled by tunnel vision and operational fatigue in the pursuit of al-Qaeda. The study also states that the overwhelming focus on Islamic militancy has distracted US intelligence from focusing on state actors such as China, and has hampered the success American intelligence operations outside Muslim regions of the world. The Washington Post, which disclosed the existence of the report on Thursday, said the team of 14 advisers that produced the report was led by “influential figures” on Capitol Hill, such as Chuck Hagel, Obama’s new Secretary of Defense. The paper added that, based on comments made by senior Obama Administration officials in recent months, it appears that the classified study, which was authored last year, has been adopted by the Obama White House as a major policy directive. The Post suggested that the report prompted comments earlier this year by John O. Brennan, the CIA’s new Director, that he planned to reevaluate the Agency’s “allocation of mission” as a matter of priority. However, countering the operational fatigue caused by the nearly 15-year long ‘war on terrorism’ will take time, and it remains unclear whether agencies like the CIA can ever shed the paramilitary role they acquired under the Administration of US President George W. Bush. Read more of this post

Obama’s National Security Nominations: Nothing to See Here

Chuck Hagel, Barack Obama, John BrennanBy I. ALLEN and J. FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The deluge of reports that are flooding the news media about the national security nominations of United States President Barack Obama is both natural and understandable. The Departments of State and Defense, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency, are among the critical components of the American government, especially in matters of foreign policy. Yet much of the commentary on the nominations of John Kerry for State, Chuck Hagel for the Pentagon, and John Brennan for the CIA, is unduly over-dramatizing what is essentially a routine story. To begin with, it is clear that, in selecting Kerry, Hagel and Brennan for the nominations, the President’s priority was to surround himself with people he knows and trusts. Knowledgeable observers point out that all three nominees come from Obama’s most trusted circle of friends and —if appointed— will allow the President to stay well “within his comfort zone” as he begins his second term in office. In this sense, Obama selected the three candidates, not with some major policy shift in mind, but in order to ensure continuity and permanence in his foreign policy.

Take John Brennan, for instance: an Arabic-speaking career officer in the CIA, who has served the Agency in various positions for over 25 years. It is undeniable that, since 2008, Brennan has been instrumental in shaping the thinking behind the Obama administration’s targeted killings program using unmanned drones. According to some analysts, he has been the White House’s “most important adviser for shaping the campaign of drone strikes”. As intelNews explained recently, Washington’s unmanned drone program will continue and most likely expand, but this has little to do with Brennan. As an excellent analysis of Brennan’s nomination (by the Council on Foreign Relations’ Micah Zenko) points out, the CIA’s targeted killing program “has become institutionalized” with a momentum of its own, which ensures its sustainability, “making it far bigger than any one person —even John Brennan”.

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Obama reestablishes critical intelligence oversight board (finally!)

Exec. Order 13516

Exec. Order 13516

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
On June 19, I alerted intelNews readers to the fact that US President Barack Obama had yet to appoint any members to the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB). First established in 1956 by President Eisenhower, the PIAB, is a critical oversight group tasked with alerting the White House about US intelligence activities that may be illegal or may in any way go beyond Presidential authorization. Now, after months of inexcusable delays, not only has US President Barack Obama restored PIAB, but has also restored its original oversight role, which had been curtailed by the Bush administration since 2008. Specifically, on October 28, the President appointed former Senators David Boren and Chuck Hagel as co-chairs of PIAB, a move that effectively ended the Board’s hiatus. Read more of this post

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