Turkish media disclose identity of alleged spy for Canada

Mohammed al-RashedBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Turkish media have released the name, as well as video footage, of an alleged agent for Canadian intelligence, who says he helped three British schoolgirls travel to territory controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The three girls, aged between 15 and 16 years old, crossed into ISIS-controlled territory on February 17, after traveling by plane from London to Istanbul. The incident prompted international criticism of the Turkish government’s hands-off attitude toward a growing influx of Western Islamists who cross into Syria from Turkey, intent on joining ISIS. However, Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mevlut Cavusoglu said last week that the girls had been assisted by an intelligence agent working for a member-state of the military coalition fighting ISIS.

The minister declined to offer further details. But Turkish media eventually disclosed the identity of the alleged agent, who has been detained by authorities in Turkey as Mohammed al-Rashed. Also known as “Mohammed Mehmet Rashid” or “Dr. Mehmet Rashid”, the man is a Syrian national who claims to be working for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. According to Turkey’s pro-government daily Sabah, al-Rashed is a 28-year-old Syrian dentist who fled from Syria to Jordan in 2013 to escape the civil war there. While in Jordan, he sought asylum at the Canadian embassy in Amman. He was subsequently offered Canadian citizenship, said Sabah, in return for working as an agent of CSIS. According to the Turkish daily, al-Rashed then traveled to Canada, where he stayed for several months before returning to Jordan.

Sources in Turkey say al-Rashed explained upon his detention that he had been tasked by CSIS to uncover the methods by which European and American ISIS recruits travel to Syria through Turkey. For that reason, he said, he had helped at least 15 individuals, including the three British schoolgirls, cross form Turkey to Syria. He would then provide information on the transfers —including passport data and baggage tags— to the Canadian embassy in Jordan, he said. Sabah added that the Canadians would pay for al-Rashed’s frequent trips to Jordan, where he would meet a Canadian embassy employee called “Matt”, who would then pass on the information to his superior at the embassy, called “Claude”. The Syrian alleged agent added that CSIS would compensate him for his work through frequent deposits of between $800 and $1,500 made to bank accounts opened in his name in British banks. Turkish sources added that al-Rashed had recorded details of his activities on a personal laptop, which had been seized and was being examined.

The Canadian government has yet to comment publicly on the allegations about al-Rashed. Unnamed Canadian sources said last week that he was neither a Canadian citizen nor a CSIS employee. But officials so far refused to speculate on what they describe as “operational matters of national security”.

Turkey says Canadian spy helped British schoolgirls travel to Syria

CCTV footage of UK girls heading to SyriaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
In a development described by observers as “highly unusual”, a Turkish government minister has claimed that a Canadian spy helped three British schoolgirls travel to territory controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The three girls, Kadiza Sultana, 16, Shamima Begum, 15, and Amira Abase, also 15, crossed into ISIS-controlled territory on February 17, after having traveled by plane from London to Istanbul. The incident prompted renewed international criticism of the Turkish government’s hands-off attitude toward the growing influx of Western Islamists who cross into Syria from Turkey, intent on joining ISIS.

But Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday that the girls had been assisted during their trip by an intelligence agent working for a foreign country. In responding to criticism against Turkey, the minister claimed during a television interview that Turkish security forces had arrested a foreign intelligence operative who had enabled the three British citizens to cross into Syria. The man, said Cavusoglu, was a spy from a member-state of the military coalition fighting ISIS. “It is not a member-state of the European Union”, he added, “nor is he from the United States. But he is working for the intelligence [agency] of a country within the [anti-ISIS] coalition”. Later on Thursday, an unnamed Turkish government source told local media that the agent was not a Turkish citizen and that he had been arrested earlier in March.

Several press agencies, including Reuters and Agence France Presse reported on Thursday that the individual in question was “connected” with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, but stopped short of saying that he was working for the government of Canada. A statement from the office of Steven Blaney, Canada’s Minister for Public Safety, who is responsible for overseeing the work of CSIS, said simply that the Ministry was “aware of these reports” but would “not comment on operational matters of national security”. An anonymous government source in Ottawa denied that the individual arrested in Turkey was a Canadian citizen or that he ever worked for CSIS.

Canadian arbitrator sides with agency that fired spy-in-training

CSIS headquarters in OttawaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
An arbitration court in Canada has reversed an earlier court decision by upholding a dismissal of a spy-in-training by the country’s primary national intelligence service. Marc-André Bergeron used the operational alias Marc-André Bertrand while working for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. According to the secretive agency’s recruitment system, all new employees are considered trainees and remain on probation for five years, at which point they can be fired with relative ease. Bergeron, who worked for the CSIS in Quebec, was dismissed in October of 2007, just three months before his probation period was scheduled to expire. The Service said his dismissal was due to operational incompetence on his part. But the former spy filed a wrongful dismissal claim against CSIS, arguing he was fired due to a severe personality conflict with his superior, whom he described as manipulative and petty. As intelNews reported in 2011, Bergeron won his case by representing himself and successfully arguing that CSIS had failed to give him an opportunity to “explain himself”, something that he blamed on the “lack of transparency” that plagued the organization. The dispute between the sides continued, however, and earlier this month the Public Service Labour Relations Board backed CSIS’s decision to fire the spy trainee. Prior to announcing its decision, the Board heard that Michel Coulombe, who became CSIS’ director in 2013, had personally signed Bergeron’s dismissal letter in 2007. At the time, Coulombe served as CSIS’ head for the province of Quebec, where Bergeron was employed. According to the Quebec-based Journal de Montreal, which accessed a copy of the letter, it states that Bergeron lacked the “skills and abilities needed to be an intelligence officer at the CSIS”. The Service also claimed that Bergeron had demonstrated inability to differentiate fact from fiction, was an analyst of poor quality, and had filed incomplete investigation reports during his probationary period. Neither CSIS nor Bergeron made comments following the announcement of the Board’s decision.

Canadian spies were tortured, hanged abroad, says former official

Arthur PorterBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
A handful of Canadian spies were tortured and hanged abroad after they were caught spying, according to a former official previously tasked with overseeing Canada’s intelligence agency. IntelNews has covered before the case of Dr. Arthur Porter, a Cambridge University-educated oncologist is currently in prison in Panama. Porter is awaiting extradition to Canada for allegedly receiving large bribes in connection with his former post as Director General of the McGill University Health Centre in Montréal. According to the state of Quebec, Porter is one of several people who took bribes offered by a Canadian engineering company in return for being awarded a lucrative construction contract at McGill University. The allegations, which were first made by Canadian newspaper The National Post in 2011, prompted Porter to resign from his sensitive post in Canada’s Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), which he had held since 2008. SIRC investigates grievances against the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). In order to fulfill his Committee duties, Porter had been given a top-secret security clearance, which gave him access to the CSIS’ most closely held secrets. He has now authored a book, titled The Man Behind the Bow Tie, in which he describes some of the CSIS’ ‘dirty laundry’ in recent years. The imprisoned former official alleges that a handful of Canadian intelligence operatives were caught carrying out espionage in a foreign “country that was not exactly a close friend of Canada”. Porter does not name the country, but says the CSIS spies were apprehended while photographing military hardware, including armored vehicles. The captured spies were eventually “tortured and hanged”, says Porter, adding that “none of these incidents ever made the papers”. The former SIRC committee member seems to imply that the Canadian government opted to withhold the information from the public because the murdered spies had been acting “without the formal approval” of CSIS and were “stretching the limits of their official position” when apprehended by rival counterintelligence operatives. Porter claims that the truth behind the deaths of these operatives were hidden even from their families; in one case, the family of a murdered CSIS operative was told that he “fell off a balcony in Dubai”, says Porter. Andrew McIntosh, National Security Correspondent for Canada’s QMI News Agency, noted earlier this month that Canada’s intelligence community appeared “palpably uncomfortable” when confronted with Porter’s allegations. He and his colleagues were referred by SIRC to CSIS, whose spokesperson, Tahera Mufti, did not respond to emails and telephone calls. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #881 (Cold War history edition)

Vehicle tracking deviceBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►McCarthy-era prisoner tries to overturn espionage conviction. In 1950, Miriam Moskowitz was secretary to Abraham Brothman, an American chemical engineer who was convicted for providing secret industrial information to communist spy Elizabeth Bentley. Moskowitz, who was having an affair with Brothman at the time of his arrest, was convicted of obstructing justice and served two years in prison. Now at age 98, she claims she has discovered evidence that key witness testimony about her role in Soviet espionage was falsified, and wants her conviction thrown out. In 2010, Moskowitz authored the book Phantom Spies, Phantom Justice, about her case.
►►Files show USSR spied on Czechoslovak communist leaders after 1968. The Soviet KGB spied aggressively on senior members of the Czechoslovak Communist Party (KSČ) for two decades following the Prague Spring of 1968, because it mistrusted them. The information on Soviet intelligence activities against the KSČ comes from files in to the so-called Mitrokhin Archive. Vasili Mitrokhin was a KGB archivist, who painstakingly copied tens of thousands of pages of the spy agency’s files prior to defecting to Britain following the dissolution of the USSR.
►►Canada’s spy agency reveals Cold War-era spying equipment. As part of its celebrations for its 30-year anniversary, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service has released photographs of what it calls “tools of the trade” –gadgets designed to hide or transport secret communication, acquire surreptitious photographs, listen in on private conversations, etc., without detection. The gadgets include Soviet defector Igor Gouzenko‘s gun, a toy truck with a concealment compartment for hiding a microdot reader, a hollowed-out battery used to contain clandestine messages or microfilm, and many others.

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.

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

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

Ex-intelligence official: cyber espionage more dangerous than terrorism

Raymond BoisvertBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A former senior member of Canada’s intelligence community has said that the threat of cyber espionage requires more resources that are currently being diverted to counterterrorism. Ray Boisvert, who retired last year from the post of Assistant Director of Intelligence for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), said in an assertive speech last week that cyber espionage is “fundamentally undermining [Canada’s] future prosperity as a nation”. Speaking on Friday in Ottawa, Boisvert compared cyber espionage to the climate-change debate, which has been marked by a series of ignored warnings, due to “some willful blindness on behalf of individuals”. As a result, he said, the need to establish essential security measures to protect worldwide electronic infrastructure is being neglected, while desperately needed resources are being diverted to counterterrorism. He explained the lack of action on three levels: first, the resistance emanating from technologically challenged decision-makers in the government and private sector, who simply do not understand the technical complexities of digital telecommunications security. Second, it is rooted in the government’s reluctance to invest the funds required to shield the nation’s communications infrastructure from espionage attacks. Finally, he placed the blame on the fragmentation and shortsightedness of the private sector, which owns and operates nearly 90 percent of Canada’s critical communications infrastructure and yet is too consumed by competition to sit around the same table on matters of security. In giving examples of the seriousness of the threat of cyber espionage, Boisvert cited the attacks last year on the computer systems of Canada’s Treasury Board and Finance Department, which compromised trade secrets of several national industries. He also mentioned the attacks on Nortel Networks Inc., which he said lasted for over a decade and may have contributed to the company’s 2009 demise. Read more of this post

Canadian reporter says Chinese news agency asked him to spy

Mark BourrieBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A longtime Canadian journalist says he resigned his post at China’s state-run news agency after he was asked to use his press-pass privileges to spy on a prominent Tibetan separatist leader. Mark Bourrie, an Ottawa-based reporter and author of several books, told The Canadian Press news agency that he was first approached by Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua in 2009. The veteran journalist was allegedly told by Xinhua officials that the agency planned to expand its news coverage of Canada and wished to compete with other international news services active in North America. Bourrie said that, upon joining Xinhua, he began to cover “routine political subjects”; gradually, however, his superiors started making “some unusual requests”. In one characteristic case, he was asked to report on the identities and contact information of political activists who had participated in legal protests against the visit to Canada of Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2010. Bourrie says he rebuffed such requests, because they did not seem to him to have journalistic value. In April of this year, Xinhua’s bureau chief in Ottawa, Dacheng Zhang, allegedly asked Bourrie to attend a keynote speech by the 14th Dalai Lama at the Sixth World Parliamentarians’ Convention on Tibet, which was held at the Ottawa Conference Center. Based in India, the Dalai Lama is the most prominent international figure of the movement for the independence of the Tibet Autonomous Region, which has been ruled by the People’s Republic of China since 1951. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #756 (analysis edition)

Richard FaddenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Intel analysts taking over leading role in spy game. In a recent speech obtained by the Canadian press under Canada’s access-to-information laws, Richard Fadden, Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said that the role of the undercover operative is starting to take a back seat to the job of the behind-the-scenes intelligence analyst. Speaking at a conference of the Canadian Association of Professional Intelligence Analysts in November 2011, Fadden said that, “suddenly the ability to make sense of information is as valued a skill as collecting it”.
►►US intel doesn’t see Syrian regime cracking. Despite major defections and an increasingly tough and brutal resistance, intelligence officials in the United States say that Syria’s government is unlikely to fall anytime soon. A report from Reuters quotes members of the intelligence community who say that Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle is showing no signs of cracking, and without a wide international consensus to intervene militarily —a consensus that does not exist— the ongoing conflict has no end in sight. Officials also describe the war as a “see-saw” battle with rebel forces gaining strength and improving tactics, only to see the military escalate the size and intensity of it own response, with neither side maintaining a decisive edge.
►►Arrests of Iranians in Kenya spark fears of plot. The recent arrest of two Iranians in Kenya on suspicion of plotting bomb attacks has heightened fears that Tehran is widening its covert war against Israel and the United States, as Washington expands its secret intelligence operations across Africa. Kenya security authorities, aided by US and British agents, arrested the two Iranians June 20 in Nairobi, the West African country’s capital. The men reportedly led authorities to a cache of 33 pounds of military-grade explosive, believed to be RDX.

News you may have missed #722

Jose RodriguezBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Vienna police say Libyan defector’s death probably an accident. Former Libyan oil minister Shukri Ghanem, whose body was found floating Sunday in the Danube river, died from drowning, Austrian police said. Autopsy results on Ghanem’s corpse showed no signs of violence, a police spokesman said, adding that Ghanem, 69, had complained to his daughter late Saturday that he was not feeling well. No suicide note has been found and there is no evidence Ghanem was under threat, according to police. The results of toxicological tests are expected later this week.
►►Canadian spymaster’s card found in Gaddafi’s intel complex. It appears that William “Jack” Hooper, former Deputy Director for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), was among the Western intelligence officials who had cultivated ties with Libyan security services under the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Hooper’s business card was recovered last year in a trove of intelligence documents in Libya, providing a physical link between Canadian security agencies and Libyan spy services. Following his retirement in 2007, Hooper told The Toronto Star that Canada’s spy service has no choice but to team up with some unsavory foreign counterparts to protect Canada from terrorism.
►►Ex-CIA official defends torture of terrorism detainees. In an interview Sunday, Jose Rodriguez, who headed the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center until his retirement in 2008, said waterboarding and other interrogation methods now banned by the Obama Administration were essential to fighting terrorism after September 11, 2001. He also said that he ordered the 92 videotapes showing his CIA colleagues torturing al Qaeda detainees in order “to protect them from possible retaliation by al-Qaeda”. He said he was afraid the material would be leaked: “you really doubt that those tapes would not be out in the open now, that they would not be on YouTube?”. After the tapes were destroyed in an “industrial-sized disintegrator”, he said, “I felt good”.

News you may have missed #620 (cyberespionage edition)

GCHQ

GCHQ

►►Canada government ‘warned prior to cyberattack’. Canada’s spy agency, CSIS, warned the government that federal departments were under assault from rogue hackers just weeks before an attack crippled key computers. A newly released intelligence assessment, prepared last November, sounded a security alarm about malicious, targeted emails disguised as legitimate messages —the very kind that shut down networks two months later.
►►GCHQ warns cyber crime reaches ‘disturbing’ levels. Cyber attacks on the British government, the public and industry have reached “disturbing” levels, according to the director of Britain’s biggest intelligence agency. Iain Lobban, who runs the British government’s listening centre, GCHQ, has warned that the “UK’s continued economic wellbeing” is under threat.
►►Japanese parliament hit by cyber-attack. Alleged Chinese hackers were able to snoop upon emails and steal passwords from computers belonging to lawmakers at the Japanese parliament for over a month, according to Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun. The paper claims that computers and servers were infected after a Trojan virus was emailed to a Lower House member in July. The Trojan then allegedly downloaded malware from a server allegedly based in China —allowing remote hackers to secretly spy on email communications and steal usernames and passwords from Japanese lawmakers.

News you may have missed #616

CSIS seal

CSIS seal

►►S. Koreans say several N. Korean assassination bids stopped. South Korea has arrested several North Korean agents for plotting to assassinate anti-Pyongyang activists, according to Won Sei-Hoon, head of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, who spoke to the parliament’s intelligence committee. Earlier this month, Seoul prosecutors charged a North Korean agent with trying to murder Park Sang-Hak, an outspoken activist in Seoul, with a poison-tipped weapon.
►►MI5 inspectors’ website shut down after security blunder. A new website for the former High Court judges responsible for oversight of MI5, MI6 and wiretapping has been shut down after it emerged that anyone could edit any page of it. The security blunder forced the Intelligence Services Commissioner, Sir Mark Waller, and the Interception of Communications Commissioner, Sir Paul Kennedy, to pull the plug on their new website.
►►Report urges Canadian spies to share more info with diplomats. Canada’s spy agency needs to share more information with the Department of Foreign Affairs so the department is better prepared for negative reactions to Canadian intelligence work overseas, according to a new report by Canada’s Security Intelligence Review Committee. The Committee, which reports to Parliament on the work of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, found the organization had “limited exchanges” with Canada’s diplomats on its operations.

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