News you may have missed #892 (legislative update)

Jens MadsenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Canadian lawmakers vote to expand spy powers. Legislation that would dramatically expand the powers of Canada’s spy agency has cleared a key hurdle. The House of Commons on Wednesday approved the Anti-Terror Act, which was spurred by last year’s attack on parliament. The act would give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s (CSIS) the ability to operate overseas and make preventative arrests. It also makes it easier for police to arrest and detain individuals without charge. Dominated by the Conservative party, the Senate is expected to approve the act before June.
►►Danish spy chief resigns over Islamist attacks. The head of Denmark’s Police Intelligence Service (PET), Jens Madsen, quit just hours before a report was due to be released into February’s fatal shootings in Copenhagen by an Islamist. Omar El-Hussein killed two people at a free speech debate and a synagogue before being shot dead by police. “It’s no secret that it is a very demanding position,” said Madsen, without giving a reason for his resignation. Justice Minister Mette Frederiksen declined to say whether the move was linked to criticisms of the police response to the attack.
►►OSCE urges France to reconsider controversial spying bill. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe urged French lawmakers to reconsider provisions of a proposed law that would expand government surveillance, a measure that was backed by French parliamentarians on Tuesday, despite criticism from rights groups. “If enforced, these practices will impact the right of journalists to protect the confidentiality of sources and their overall work”, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic said Wednesday. “If confidentiality of sources is not safeguarded within a trusted communications environment, the right of journalists to seek and obtain information of public interest would be seriously endangered”, he added

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.

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