Announcement: Conference on social media and intelligence

Social networkingBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
During the past four years, this blog has reported several incidents pointing to the increasing frequency with which spy agencies of various countries are utilizing social networking media as sources of tactical intelligence. But are we at a point where we can speak of a trend? In other words, is the rapid rise of social networking creating the conditions for the emergence of a new domain in tactical intelligence collection? Some experts now contend that the growth of social networking has given rise to a new form of intelligence-gathering: social media intelligence (SOCMINT). There are even some who believe SOCMINT should become a separate entity altogether in the intelligence process. On March 7, 2014, the Netherlands Intelligence Studies Association (NISA) will be holding a one-day conference in Amsterdam, to discuss this new phenomenon and consider some of the practical, ethical and political dilemmas involved in SOCMINT. The conference will open with a keynote speech by Sir David Omand, former director of Britain’s’ signals intelligence agency, the GCHQ, who currently teaches at the War Studies Department at King’s College, London. Other speakers come from intelligence and security services in Holland and Belgium, as well as from a variety of academic centers and non-governmental organizations in Europe and the United States. Longtime readers of this website will be familiar with NISA. The group was founded in 1991 with a mission to help focus and streamline academic work on intelligence, security and law enforcement. Read more of this post

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Announcement: Intelligence educators invite papers for conference

IAFIE conferenceBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Intelligence educators from around the world are invited to participate in the 10th anniversary conference of the International Association for Intelligence Education (IAFIE) this coming July. The Association was formed in June 2004, as a result of a gathering of more than 60 intelligence studies trainers and educators at the Sixth Annual International Colloquium on Intelligence at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania. This group, from various intelligence disciplines including national security, law enforcement, competitive intelligence, and others, recognized the need for a professional association on intelligence, a new and diverse field of academic study that forms the basis of what has since become known as ‘intelligence studies’. Today, IAFIE is internationally recognized as one of the foremost groups working to advance research, knowledge and professional development in intelligence education. Mercyhurst University will be the hosting institution of IAFIE’s conference, which will take place from July 14 to 16. The theme for the conference is “Theory and Practice in Intelligence Education and Training”. The organizers invite ideas for papers with a focus on traditional intelligence studies or for panel discussions on various subjects including the history of intelligence analysis, the role of intelligence education in developing the profession, as well as international perspectives on the discipline and the profession. Other subjects of interest to the conference center on theoretical or practical pedagogical approaches to intelligence education, relevant research initiatives, future trends in the field of intelligence analysis, and explorations of the intersection between intelligence education and intelligence training. IAFIE’s Board of Directors specifies that papers and copies of any audiovisual materials in support of conference submissions are due no later than April 15, 2014. For more information, please refer to the IAFIE website.

News you may have missed #773

Tamir PardoBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Conflicting reports on CIA-ISI meeting. Lieutenant General Zahir ul-Islam, who heads Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, the ISI, held talks in Washington with his CIA counterpart General David Petraeus, between August 1 and 3. It was the first time in a year that the chief of the ISI made the trip to the US, signaling a possible thaw in relations. Depending on the source, the meeting was either “substantive, professional and productive”, or “made no big strides on the main issues”.
►►Senior Mossad official suspected of financial misconduct. A senior Mossad official is suspected of financial misconduct and has been forced to take a leave of absence until Israeli police complete an investigation into his alleged deeds, Israeli media reported on Sunday. The official, a department head in Israel’s spy organization, has reportedly denied any wrongdoing, but sources said he would likely not be reinstated in light of investigation findings and is effectively being forced to retire. The nature of the official’s alleged misconduct has not been reported, but it is said that the official in question has close ties to Mossad Director Tamir Pardo, who appointed him to his position last year.
►►Ex-NSA official disputes DefCon claims by NSA chief. William Binney, a former technical director at the NSA, has accused NSA director General Keith Alexander of deceiving the public during a speech he gave at the DefCon hacker conference last week. In his speech, Alexander asserted that the NSA does not collect files on Americans. But Binney accused Alexander of playing a “word game” and said the NSA was indeed collecting and indexing e-mails, Twitter writings, Internet searches and other data belonging to Americans. “The reason I left the NSA was because they started spying on everybody in the country. That’s the reason I left”, said Binney, who resigned from the agency in late 2001.

News you may have missed #733

Stella RimingtonBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Women in US intelligence seek balance in life. Nada Bakos (photo) was one of many women serving as CIA analysts before 9/11, who then moved to the operations side after the terrorist attacks. She didn’t yet have a family when she accepted her assignment as a targeting officer in Iraq. After a couple of years, as Bakos was deep into her career on the operations side, she decided she wanted to start a family. That was a problem. At least 160 other women feel her pain. Women from the CIA, the National Security Agency, Naval Office of Intelligence and dozens of other agencies met last week at the Women in National Security conference in McLean, Virginia, to try and find a better way.
►►Interview with ex-MI5 Director Stella Rimington. Australian Radio hosts an interesting audio interview with Dame Stella Rimington, who headed MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, from 1992 to 1995. She speaks about the experience of being the first director of MI5 to be publicly identified and the sometimes sinister invasions to her privacy as a result. Moreover, she says the only thing that surprised her about the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking and the conduct of the British media is that nobody recognized it was going on before.
►►US government think-tank warns against strikes on Iran. The RAND Corporation, a think tank which advises the United States Department of Defense, warned last week Tuesday against an Israeli or American attack on Iran’s nuclear reactors, and recommended that the administration of Barack Obama try to “quietly influence the internal Israeli discussion over the use of  military force”. In 2009, before Stuxnet, a RAND report had argued that the US may be better off focusing on cyber-defense instead of resorting to cyberattacks.

News you may have missed #651

Chris VanekerBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Israel defense minister forbids spy official’s lecture. Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak has refused to allow the head of research for Military Intelligence, Brigadier General Itai Baron, to lecture at the annual conference of Israel’s ambassadors unless the lecture is deemed ‘unclassified’. The conference deals with diplomatic and security issues and public affairs, and the lectures are given by senior Israeli government and military officials.
►►CIA agrees to look into OSINT FOIA request. Open Source Works, which is the CIA’s in-house open source analysis component, is devoted to intelligence analysis of unclassified, open source information. Oddly enough, the directive that established Open Source Works is classified. But in an abrupt reversal, the CIA said that it will process a Freedom of Information Act request by intelligence historian Jeffrey Richelson for documents pertaining to Open Source Works.
►►Dutch former pilot convicted of espionage. A court in The Hague has sentenced former F-16 pilot Chris Vaneker to five years in jail after finding him guilty of selling state secrets to a Russian diplomat. Vaneker wanted half-a-million euros for the information he was trying to sell to the military attaché at the Russian embassy in The Hague. The pilot and the Russian diplomat were arrested in March.

Leaked documents show capabilities of new surveillance technologies

Net Optics logo

Net Optics logo

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A trove of hundreds of documents, obtained by participants in a secretive surveillance conference, displays in unprecedented detail the extent of monitoring technologies used by governments around the world. The Wall Street Journal, which obtained the leaked documents, says they number in the hundreds; they were reportedly authored by 36 different private companies that specialize in supplying government agencies with the latest surveillance hardware and software. They were among dozens of vendors that participated in an unnamed conference near Washington, DC, in October, which attracted interested buyers from numerous government agencies in America and beyond. The Journal, which has uploaded scanned copies of the leaked documents, says that many include descriptions of computer hacking tools. The latter enable government agencies to break into targeted computers and access data stored in hard drives, as well as log keystrokes by the targeted computers’ users. Other applications target cellular telecommunications, especially the latest models of so-called ‘smartphones’; one vendor in particular, Vupen Security, gave a presentation at the conference, which describes how its products allow for electronic surveillance of cell phones by exploiting security holes unknown to manufacturers. Some of the most popular products at the conference related to what the industry calls “massive intercept” monitoring, namely large-scale software systems designed to siphon vast amounts of telephonic or email communications data, or to capture all Internet exchanges taking place within a country’s computer network. One conference participant, California-based Net Optics Inc., bragged in its presentation about having enabled “a major mobile operator in China” to conduct “real-time monitoring” of all cell phone [and] Internet content on its network. The stated goal of the surveillance was to “analyze criminal activity” and “detect and filter undesirable content”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #624

Viktor Bout

Viktor Bout

►►Russia angry at Viktor Bout’s US guilty verdict. Moscow has reacted angrily to the guilty verdict handed down to Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout by a court in the United States. Bout, a former Soviet military intelligence (GRU) officer, was arrested in a sting operation in Bangkok, Thailand, in March of 2008. At the time of his arrest, he and his two collaborators were negotiating a complex weapons deal with two informants posing as representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Latin America’s largest leftist paramilitary group.
►►Symposium examined Reagan’s use of intelligence. The CIA released more than 200 declassified documents it prepared for US President Ronald Reagan during a symposium last week at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. The CIA conference, entitled “Ronald Reagan, Intelligence, and the End of the Cold War“, included a discussion by American and Soviet former spies.
►►Suspected Chinese spy loses bid to rejoin Canada civil service. Haiyan Zhang, worked as a senior communications analyst with the Privy Council Office in Ottawa. She was fired when Canada’s spy agency questioned her “loyalty to Canada” over suspicion she was spying for China. Now she has lost her fight to return to the civil service.

Former US spy chief questions ‘war on terrorism’ logic, tactics

Dennis Blair

Dennis Blair

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
America’s former top intelligence official has publicly questioned the logic and methods informing Washington’s “war on terrorism”, and called for the CIA unmanned drone assassination program in Afghanistan and Pakistan to be grounded. Dennis C. Blair, who was Director of National Intelligence (DNI) until May of 2010, was speaking last week at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.  In an hour-long forum conversation with television journalist Leslie Stahl, Blair —a retired Admiral— explained that, in his view, America’s “war on terrorism” is misconceived, strategically counterproductive and ludicrously expensive. Speaking on the CIA’s unmanned drone war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Admiral Blair agreed that the drone attacks have killed some “mid-level” Taliban or al-Qaeda operatives, but said that the strikes have had a negligible overall impact on American security. As a terrorist outfit, al-Qaeda has shown that it is able to easily “sustain its level of resistance to an air-only campaign”, said Blair. Additionally, the former DNI said that unilateral air strikes are legally questionable and have proven strategically damaging, by “alienating the countries concerned” and dominating Washington’s relations with key nations such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia (click here to read intelNews’ criticism of American raids in Somalia). In doing so, the drone attacks tend to “threaten the prospects of long-term reform” in those countries, said the retired Admiral. Earlier in the conversation, Blair had questioned the economic basis of America’s “war on terrorism”, telling his audience that the US intelligence and security establishment currently spends around $20 million a year for each member of al-Qaeda scattered around the world. Read more of this post

Exclusive: intelNews readers get 20% off espionage conference online video pass

Bruce Riedel

Bruce Riedel

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
It is not every day that $19.95 can get you direct video access to a five-day intelligence and espionage conference. Plus, intelNews has worked out a deal with conference organizers for a further 20% discount off the final price of the event. The conference, which will take place in New York from July 18-22, is entitled Spies, Technology and Espionage. It is an ambitious collaboration between the New York-based Chautauqua Institution, the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC, and online conference channel Fora TV, which will broadcast the five-day event in its entirety. It features lectures by big-name speakers, including Washington Post associate editor David Ignatius, CIA veteran officers Peter Earnest and Bruce Riedel, former CIA Director James Wolsey, as well as former MI5 Director Dame Stella Rimington. The timing of the conference has been carefully arranged to coincide with the run-up to the 10-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 events, which eventually sparked Washington’s so-called “war on terrorism”. The principal question leading the conference is what has America’s intelligence community learned in these ten years? Speakers will address several core themes, including the ways in which basic principles and practices of the intelligence profession have evolved in these 10 years. Another prominent theme for discussion will be the interface between intelligence operations and democratic accountability, and the resulting conflicts between espionage, covert operations, and America’s justice system. To learn more about the five-day conference, and to get your $19.95 video pass, which gets you a 60-day access, click here. IntelNews readers can get 20% off by entering ‘INTELNEWS’ (without the quotations) at the special coupon code field during checkout.

US paying ‘price in blood’ for Israel-Palestine conflict, say ex-CIA officers

Bruce Riedel

Bruce Riedel

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Two former CIA officers have warned that America will continue “paying an increasing price in blood” for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and urged the White House to directly meddle in domestic Israeli politics in order to help end the dispute. Speaking on Thursday at a conference on achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace, Bruce Riedel and Frank Anderson, whose combined CIA careers span 55 years, agreed that a new all-out war between Israel and the Palestinians would be inevitable unless the United States aggressively “puts down its own map of a two-state solution”. Anderson, who is currently President at the Middle East Policy Council, opined that America is “paying an increasing price in blood for [the Israelis’ and the Palestinians’] failure and refusal to reach an agreement”. Riedel, who is Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, argued that “American lives are being lost today” due to the conflict’s impact on American national security. Read more of this post

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