News you may have missed #873 (controversy edition)

Alvaro UribeBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►German parliament confirms NSA inquiry to start in April. Germany’s four major parties have unanimously approved a parliamentary inquiry into surveillance by the NSA and its allied counterparts, like the GCHQ in the UK. Another key question for the committee will likely be whether the German intelligence agencies were either aware of, or complicit in, the gathering of people’s data. A German newspaper reported that whistleblower Edward Snowden, currently in Russia, may testify via Skype.
►►Former Colombia spy chief sentenced over illegal wiretapping. Carlos Arzayus, former director of Colombia’s now-defunct intelligence agency DAS was sentenced to nearly ten years in prison on Thursday for his role in the illegal wiretapping of Supreme Court justices and government critics during the Alvaro Uribe administrations during the years 2002 to 2010. Additionally, Arzayus was ordered to pay damages to the victims of the wiretapping.
►►French spies allegedly spy on Orange customer data. The French intelligence agency in charge of military and electronic spying is massively collecting data and monitoring networks of telecoms giant Orange, Le Monde newspaper reported in its Friday edition. “The DGSE can read, like an open book, the origin and destination of all communications of Orange customers”, the paper said.

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News you may have missed #862

Cyprus, Israel, Syria, LebanonBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Covert CIA program helped Colombia kill rebel leaders. A covert CIA program has helped Colombia’s government kill at least two dozen leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the rebel insurgency also known as FARC, The Washington Post reported Saturday. The National Security Agency has also provided “substantial eavesdropping help” to the Colombian government, according to The Post.
►►Israel asks US not to spy on it. Israeli officials broke their silence over the US surveillance scandal Sunday, angrily demanding an end to Washington’s spying on Israel. Last week more documents leaked by former NSA technical expert Edward Snowden uncovered a partnership between the NSA and British intelligence agency GCHQ from 2008 to 2011 to monitor office email addresses from the then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
►►Germany reacts coolly to French request on Central Africa. Germany reacted coolly last week to a French request that European countries step up support for its military mission in Central African Republic, playing down the likelihood of any financial assistance on the eve of an EU summit. France has deployed 1,600 troops there to prevent worsening violence between Christian militias and largely Muslim Seleka rebels who ousted ex-President Francois Bozize.

Judge orders CIA to release files on drug kingpin Pablo Escobar

Pablo EscobarBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In the late 1980s, it was nearly impossible to sit through a primetime news bulletin without coming across the name ‘Pablo Escobar’. Born in 1949 in the town of Rionegro, Colombia, Escobar rose to become the leader of the Medellín cartel, history’s most notorious narcotics smuggling ring. By 1986, the Medellín cartel controlled over 80 percent of the global cocaine market, shipping daily around 15 tons of the drug (worth an estimated street value of $500,000) to the United States. In 1989, Forbes magazine included Escobar on his list of the world’s richest persons, with an estimated net worth of $3 billion. By that time, the Medellín cartel had become powerful enough to directly threaten the very institutional integrity of the Colombian state. At the same time, Escobar carefully cultivated his ‘Robin Hood’ image by regularly building hospitals, schools, and churches in some of Colombia’s most impoverished regions. He was thus able to surround himself with a sea of grateful and devoted supporters, who directly depended on his generosity for their livelihood. They also shielded him from the reach of the Colombian and United States government forces, which repeatedly went after him without success. Eventually, the Colombian government, in association with the US Drug Enforcement Administration and the Central Intelligence Agency, managed to stop Escobar by creating a rival organization called Los PEPES —a Spanish-language acronym that stands for ‘People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar’. Los PEPES, which consisted of members of rival drug smuggling cartels, as well as trained mercenaries belonging to Colombian rightwing militias, went after Escobar’s closest associates with indescribable ruthlessness. They hunted down and eventually tortured and killed several of his relatives, advisors and bodyguards. Ultimately, in 1993, they helped the Colombian National Police corner Escobar and shoot him dead at a Medellín barrio. The celebrations in Washington and Bogotá didn’t last long; as soon as Los PEPES disbanded, many of its leading members regrouped to found the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a rightwing paramilitary group that has since killed thousands of civilians in Colombia’s bitter civil war. The AUC, which funds its operations through kidnappings and drug trafficking, is today a designated terrorist group by most Western governments, including the United States and the European Union. Read more of this post

Colombian police ‘steal personal data’ of 31 million citizens

Anthony Cotrino SossaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The National Police Force of Colombia have stolen the contents of an enormous electronic database containing the personal information of over 31 million Colombian citizens, according to news reports from Bogotá. News of the alleged theft surfaced following a formal complaint filed by the Colombian government’s National Registry on Tuesday. According to the complaint, authored by the Registry’s Director, Anthony Cotrino Sossa, two police officers visited the Registry’s offices late last week, saying they wished to access data relating to a specific investigation concerning “election irregularities” in Colombia’s western Cauca state. The two police officers were given access to the data after displaying the appropriate warrant. However, according to Sossa’s complaint, instead of simply accessing limited information relating directly to their investigation, the police officers proceeded to physically and illegally remove two hard-drives containing millions of citizens’ private data. The database stored in the hard-drives contains, among other things, general biographical information, fingerprint samples, as well as residential and other contact information on over 31 million Colombians. Sossa claims in his complaint that police officers transported the hard-drives to the headquarters of Colombia’s Cyber-Police Division, which allegedly failed to respond to repeated calls by National Registry for their prompt return. The hard-drives were eventually returned to the National Registry building on the following Monday without any explanation having been given for their removal. This is the latest in a long series of scandals concerning the activities of Colombia’s chronically corrupt and inefficient law enforcement and intelligence services. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #757

Jonathan Jay PollardBy TIMOTHY W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
►►US government Pollard video declassified. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request initiated by the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy, the Defense Intelligence Agency has released a 14-minute instructional video, which cites the Jonathan Pollard spy case. Pollard was a US Naval intelligence officer who for over 18 months provided thousands of classified documents to the Israelis government. He is serving a life sentence. The DIA’s Office of Security and Counterintelligence produced the instructional video in 1987 to urge employees to be on the lookout for suspicious behavior of fellow employees and to encourage them to report known security violations immediately. The video interviews an actor portraying the government employee who first reported Pollard’s espionage activities.
►►Senior CIA officer accused of being Mafia hitman. Enrique “Ricky” Prado’s resume reads like the ultimate CIA officer: a candidate for the CIA’s most senior post in South Korea, a top spy in America’s espionage programs against China, and deputy to Cofer Black, a chief strategist in America’s war on terror. But he is also alleged to have started out a career as a hitman for a notorious Miami mobster, and kept working for the mob even after joining the CIA. Finally, he went on to serve as the head of the CIA’s secret assassination squad against Al-Qaida. That’s according to journalist Evan Wright’s blockbuster story How to Get Away With Murder in America, distributed by Byliner. In it, Wright compiles lengthy, years-long investigations by state and federal police and tracks the history of Prado’s alleged Miami patron and notorious cocaine trafficker, Alberto San Pedro, and suspicions that Prado moved from a secret death squad from the CIA to notorious mercenary firm Blackwater.
►►Colombian pleads guilty to spy charges in Nicaragua. As previously reported on this blog, Luis Felipe Rios, a 34-year-old Colombian national, was arrested for espionage in Nicaragua on June 15. The Inside Costa Rica news agency says Rios admitted he was indeed committing espionage on behalf o foreign nation, and he is providing Nicaraguan authorities with all the details. Rios will likely be sentenced on July 9 and he faces up to 16 years in prison for violating Nicaragua’s state secrets and state intrusion laws.

News you may have missed #747

Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich OlympicsBy TIMOTHY W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
►►Dutch media reportedly spied on China. Dutch media participated in a clandestine intelligence collection effort on behalf of the Netherlands General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) during the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. According to Dutch sources, at least seven reporters attending the Olympics were coaxed into, and were paid for, collecting information and taking photos of targeted Chinese officials interested in speaking with Dutch company and industry representatives. The AIVD did not comment on the allegations but did remark that Dutch law allows them to contact anyone who could provide or has access to intelligence.
►►Nicaragua arrests Colombian national for espionage. According to the Spanish-language weekly newspaper Semana, General Julio Cesar Aviles, the head of Nicaragua’s Army, announced the arrest of Colombian national Luis Felipe Rios, for seeking to “obtain Nicaraguan state documents about defense and national security”. The 34-year old Rios was apparently captured in Managua on Tuesday after having been under the surveillance of Nicaraguan counterintelligence officials for over a year. Rios was in Nicaragua under the guise of being a Spanish national working for a media outlet. The lead prosecutor in Nicaragua, Armando Juarez, claimed that there was “sufficient proof” to prosecute Rios. Colombian officials, including President Juan Manuel Santos, have stated they are investigating the matter.
►►Neo-Nazi linked to 1972 Munich Olympic terrorists. Recently released files by Germany’s security service, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), links neo-Nazi Willi Pohl to forged passports provided to Black September terrorists who perpetrated the 1972 attack at the Munich Olympics. The attack resulted in the deaths of 11 Israeli athletes. According to German magazine Der Spiegel, over 2,000 documents were released in which the BfV asserts that Pohl assisted and even chauffeured one Black September member around Germany in the weeks leading up to the attack. German police arrested Pohl in 1972 for “unauthorized possession of firearms” and sentenced him to two years’ incarceration for possessing grenades and weapons. He was released only a few days after his conviction and he fled the country, ending up in Lebanon.

Colombian government to probe calls for ‘military coup’

President Santos (in blue tie) with Colombian military officialsBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Colombian authorities have opened an official investigation into calls to remove the government of the country, which were found circulating among former and current military officials. The investigation was announced on Tuesday, nearly two weeks after the appearance in the Colombian media of a series of personal email exchanges, which appeared to suggest that the national administration of President Juan Manuel Santos should be removed from power. Some of the emails were exchanged between two influential retired military officers, Major Jorge Galvis Noyes and General Eduardo Santos Quiñones. One message was authored by Galvis on May 15, 2012, shortly after a massive bomb exploded in Colombian capital Bogota, which killed five people and injured 17. The bomb, according to President Santos, was directed against the country’s former Minister of the Interior, Fernando Londoño Hoyos, who is said to have links with rightwing paramilitary groups. Galvis’ email lamented the “attempt [that] was made on the life of Fernando Londoño” and criticized the government of President Santos for not preventing it. He continued by suggesting that Santos should “fulfill his political duties […], otherwise he should be “removed from office”. Around that time, General Quiñones authored an open call against President Santos, which he apparently circulated via email among dozens of senior military officers. The letter blasted the Santos administration, stating that Colombia was ready for “a real leader”. In recent months, rightwing political figures connected to Colombia’s previous President, Alvaro Uribe, have been virulently attacking the Santos administration, accusing it of being “soft” against leftwing paramilitary groups –primarily the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Read more of this post

News you may have missed #706

Akhmed ZakayevBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►UK government accuses Chechen of assassination plot. The British government and intelligence services have accused an alleged henchman of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov of seeking to assassinate Akhmed Zakayev, a prominent exiled Chechen politician in London, who was granted asylum there in 2003. According to court documents, British government lawyers asking to deport a 45-year-old, Chechen-born, former elite soldier, referred to only as E1. They told judges that E1 was a threat to national security and had been implicated in a 2009 assassination on behalf of Mr Kadyrov in Vienna. Mr Zakayev, a former actor and self-described separatist leader, said in a recent interview that he believed “there are more Russian spies in Britain today than there were during the Cold War”.
►►Israeli ex-soldiers arrested in Colombia on drugs charges. Eight Israelis have been arrested in Colombia on suspicion of drug trafficking, money laundering and exploitation of minors, the country’s chief prosecutor has told local media outlets. The suspects, who were described in the reports as “former military men”, include former Israeli army Lt. Col. Yair Klein, who was convicted by a Colombian court and sentenced in absentia to nearly 11 years in prison for training drug traffickers’ assassins in the late 1980s. US and British investigations determined two decades ago that Klein was also involved in smuggling 400 Galil assault rifles and 100 Uzi sub-machine guns bought from Israeli into Colombia in 1989 when his plans to create a mercenary-ran training camp on the Caribbean island of Antigua unraveled.
►►Lawyer alleges MI6 agent was killed by ‘secret services’. A coroner has been told that Gareth Williams, an MI6 spy found dead inside a locked duffle bag in his London apartment could have been killed by someone who specialized in “the dark arts of the secret services”. The allegation was made by Anthony O’Toole, who represented the Williams family at an interim hearing ahead of the full inquest into Gareth Williams’ death. O’Toole said that there was “a high probability that there was a third party present in the flat” at the time. He added that “the unknown third party was a member of some agency specializing in the dark arts of the secret services, and perhaps evidence was removed from the scene post mortem by an expert in those dark arts”.

News you may have missed #675

Maria del Pilar HurtadoBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Panama refuses to extradite Colombian ex-spy chief. Panama’s foreign ministry cited the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights, an international accord on asylum and Panamanian law, as reason for denying Colombia’s request to extradite Maria del Pilar Hurtado, who faces charges in Bogota over an illegal wiretapping scandal. Currently enjoying asylum in Panama are former presidents of Guatemala, Jorge Serrano Elias; and Ecuador, Abdala Bucaram; as well as erstwhile Haitian military strongman Raoul Cedras.
►►Russian spy chief to visit Syria. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday he and Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) head Mikhail Fradkov will visit Syria and meet with President Bashar al-Assad on February 7. The visit will be made on instructions from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Lavrov did not reveal any details of the upcoming the visit.
►►US spy chief: ‘we don’t know if Iran is building a bomb’. At a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last Tuesday, James Clapper, the US Director of National Intelligence, released the following statement: “We assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons, in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so.  We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons”.

News you may have missed #676

Diego MurilloBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►US admits Pakistani doctor was CIA agent. The United States has confirmed publicly for the first time that a Pakistani doctor long suspected of collecting vital evidence before the assassination of Osama bin Laden was indeed working for the CIA. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has told 60 Minutes on CBS that Shakil Afridi helped provide proof that the compound in Abbottabad, to which they had tracked a Bin Laden courier, was indeed sheltering the al-Qaeda leader. Panetta also told 60 Minutes that he remains convinced that someone in the Pakistani government “must have had some sense” that a person of interest was in the compound. He added that he has no proof that Pakistan knew it was bin Laden.
►►Czech secret services accused of political spying. The Czech government “spies on” the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM), Miroslav Grebenicek, its former leader, said in a parliamentary question to Prime Minister Petr Necas. Grebenicek said he had recently received information that the Interior Ministry and some intelligence bodies were “tasked to spying on the KSCM or to incite for, organize and execute the shadowing of the KSCM”. Necas dismissed the allegation, saying that the government does not shadow any party.
►►Colombian paramilitaries protected by spy agency. Colombia’s rightwing paramilitary organization AUC received the support of the country’s now-defunct intelligence agency DAS. The group also helped the government of former President Alvaro Uribe in a conspiracy to discredit the country’s Supreme Court that was investigating ties between the paramilitaries and politicians, according to official testimony by senior AUC commander Diego Murillo, alias “Don Berna”.

News you may have missed #649

María del Pilar Hurtado

María Hurtado

►►US-Russian tensions over stranded Kosovo aid convoy. A stranded aid convoy of more than 20 Russian trucks was stopped Tuesday by US soldiers at a Kosovo border with Serbia, increasing tensions in the volatile region. American forces say they believe the convoy’s cargo consisting of canned food, blankets, tents and power generators appears, is intended for minority Serbs, who reject Kosovo’s statehood, and have been blocking roads in the Serb-run north of the country to prevent Kosovar authorities from taking control.
►►IRA spy in Irish police was ‘open secret’. Former British army agent Kevin Fulton, also known as Peter Keeley, who infiltrated the IRA in the 1980s, has said it was an open secret in the IRA that it had a “friend” among the gardaí (Irish police) in Dundalk. Speaking to the Smithwick Tribunal, he named the “friend” as retired detective sergeant Owen Corrigan. See here for previous intelNews coverage of this issue.
►►Colombia asks Panama to extradite ex-spy chief (again). Panama’s Foreign Ministry says Colombia has asked it to extradite former Colombian intelligence director Maria del Pilar Hurtado (pictured) to face conspiracy, wiretapping and abuse of authority charges. Hurtado headed Colombia’s now-defunct DAS domestic intelligence agency in 2007 and 2008.

News you may have missed #646

Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai

Syed Fai

►►Analysis: Reorganizing Colombia’s disgraced spy agency. One former director of Colombia’s Administrative Department of Security, or DAS, has been convicted of conspiring to kill union activists. A former high-ranking manager is accused of collaborating with death squads to assassinate a television humorist. Dozens of agents have been implicated in what prosecutors call a systematic effort to illegally spy on the Supreme Court and opposition politicians, which some former DAS agents said was done with US equipment and funding. The new man in charge, however, Ricardo Giraldo, is an affable bankruptcy lawyer and former university professor, and his role is decidedly different from his predecessors’: namely to dismantle the agency.
►►Russian site snubs FSB request to block opposition networking. Russia’s top social networking site on Thursday defiantly rejected a request by the Federal Security Service to block opposition groups from using it to organize street protests accusing the authorities of rigging this week’s election. Over 45,000 people in Moscow alone have pledged on Facebook and the Russian site, VKontakte, to join fresh protests on Saturday against the 12-year rule of Vladimir Putin and the victory of his United Russia party in last Sunday’s parliament vote.
►►American citizen admits he took Pakistan spy money. Ghulam Nabi Fai, who is accused of working in Washington for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, to lobby for Kashmiri independence, has pleaded guilty to secretly receiving millions of dollars from Pakistan’s spy agency in violation of US federal laws.

News you may have missed #635

Vitaly Shlykov

Vitaly Shlykov

►►UK to support Colombia’s new intelligence agency. The UK has announced that it will provide help and advice on the implementation of Colombia’s new national intelligence agency. Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos, along with National Security Adviser, Sergio Jaramillo, met with the director of Britain’s secret service MI6 to exchange experiences in intelligence to implement the new National Intelligence Agency of Colombia (ANIC). ANIC is supposed to replace the DAS, Colombia’s disgraced intelligence agency, which has been stigmatized by colluding with paramilitary groups and spying on union leaders, journalists and opposition politicians.
►►US intelligence to train analysts with videogames. The US intelligence community’s research group, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA), has handed over $10.5 million to Raytheon BBN Technologies to start work on the Sirius program. The initiative aims to create a series of so-called “serious games” that would help intelligence analysts improve their objectivity and reasoned judgment when confronted with complex or culturally foreign scenarios.
►►Soviet spy who spent years in Swiss prison dies at 77. Vitaly Shlykov served for 30 years in the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian General Staff, known as GRU. During his career, he made frequent trips to the West on a false American passport. One of his duties was to maintain contacts with Dieter Felix Gerhardt, a senior officer of the South African Navy who was working as a Soviet spy. In 1983, Shlykov was arrested in Zurich while carrying about $100,000 in cash to hand over to Gerhardt’s wife. Soviet intelligence was unaware that Gerhardt and his wife had been arrested a few weeks earlier and had told interrogators about the meeting in Switzerland.

News you may have missed #626

Katia Zatuliveter

Katia Zatuliveter

►►Analysis: On largely forgotten CIA officer Jim Thompson. The CIA’s longtime man in Southeast Asia, Jim Thompson, fought to stop the agency’s progression from a small spy ring to a large paramilitary agency. He was in many ways unique, but by the 1950s and early 1960s he would become part of a larger, growing, and much less idealistic machine, one that would expose his naiveté –and punish him for it. Interesting historical analysis from Foreign Policy.
►►Court blocks naming NATO official who had affair with alleged Russian spy. We have written before that Katia Zatuliveter, who is accused by British MI5 of being a spy for Russia, has admitted having a four-year affair with Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock, as well as with a Dutch diplomat and a NATO official. The latter, a German diplomat, was pictured in a newspaper last week. However, his face was obscured because of the terms of a court order that means he cannot be identified.
►►Promises made about Colombia’s new spy agency. Colombia’s disgraced DAS intelligence agency has finally been dissolved. Now the government’s senior National Security adviser, Sergio Jaramillo, has said that Colombia’s new intelligence service will focus on combating “government infiltration by criminal organizations”. I guess it doesn’t hurt to be ambitious.

News you may have missed #618

Abdullah al-Senoussi

Al-Senussi

►►US Congressman urges expulsion of ‘Iranian spies’ at the UN. New York Congressman Peter King says the US should kick out Iranian officials at the UN in New York and in Washington because many of them are spies. Speaking at a hearing Wednesday, the Democrat said such a move would send a clear signal after the recent alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington.
►►Colombia’s intelligence chief denies knowledge of illegal wiretapping. Felipe Muñoz, the director of Colombia’s intelligence agency DAS has denied knowledge of illegal interception of unionists’ emails and phone calls by DAS employees, following the announcement that the Inspector General’s Office will be investigating these allegations. According to the allegations, Muñoz and other leading DAS officials were aware of the illegal interception.
►►Gaddafi intelligence chief now in Niger. Moammar Gadhafi’s intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi (pictured), who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, has slipped into the desert nation of Niger and is hiding in the expanse of dunes at the Niger-Algeria border, a Niger presidential adviser said last week. Meanwhile, Gaddafi’s former spy chief, Moussa Koussa, has denied claims made in a BBC documentary that he tortured prisoners.

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