News you may have missed #813 (CIA edition)

CIA headquartersBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Who is leading the CIA for now? Acting CIA Director Michael J. Morell, who has worked for the CIA for 32 years, served a stint as acting director last year and his will be one of several names considered by US President Barack Obama for the permanent job. Starting as an analyst tracking international energy issues, Morell worked for 14 years as an analyst and manager on East Asia, rising to director of the Directorate of Intelligence’s Office of Asian Pacific and Latin American Analysis in 1999. In May 2010, Morell succeeded Stephen Kappes, who had resigned suddenly and without explanation, as deputy director of the CIA, serving under Directors Leon Panetta (February 2009-June 2011) and David Petraeus (September 2011-November 2012).
►►No perfect choice to fill Petraeus vacancy at CIA. President Barack Obama needs a quick, no-drama solution to a sensational personnel problem. But the vacancy left at the top of the Central Intelligence Agency by David Petraeus’s abrupt departure amid a headline-grabbing sex scandal calls for a particularly complex skill set. It requires a charismatic chief to oversee the large, notoriously tough-to-manage intelligence apparatus. It needs a leader who has a strong relationship with the president. And most of all, it calls for a politically savvy operator who understands how to interact with Congress —and can assuage some of the current anger on Capitol Hill that lawmakers were kept in the dark about the probe.
►►CIA climate-change unit is shut down. Republican lawmakers in the US began criticizing the Central Intelligence Agency’s Center on Climate Change and National Security before it was even established, calling it a “misguided defense funding priority”. Concerted resistance by conservative lawmakers did not allow the program to stand on solid ground, and it now looks like the Center has actually closed down, having lost its most important supporter, former CIA Director Leon Panetta.

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Analysis: Should the CIA kill less and spy more?

CIA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Central Intelligence Agency’s awkward silence about the recent resignation of its Director, General David Petraeus, is indicative of an organization that remains distinctly uncomfortable with publicity. The added layer of the sexual nature of Petraeus’ impropriety has increased exponentially the degree of unease at Langley. Yet sooner or later the news media will move on to something else and General Petraeus will fade into the distance. For seasoned intelligence observers, however, the question of the CIA’s future will remain firmly in the foreground. In an interview earlier this week with Wired magazine, former CIA Director General Michael Hayden (ret.) opined that Petraeus’ resignation presents the Agency with the opportunity to return to its operational roots. Hayden, who led the CIA from 2006 to 2009, said that the Agency has been “laser-focused on terrorism” for many years. Consequently, much of its operational output “looks more like targeting than it does classical intelligence”, he said. His views were echoed by the CIA’s former Acting Director, John McLaughlin, who told Wired that the most significant challenge for the post-Petraeus CIA “may be the sheer volume of problems that require [good old-fashioned] intelligence input”. Yesterday, meanwhile, saw the publication of two opinion pieces by two of America’s most experienced intelligence watchers. In the first one, The Washington Post’s Walter Pincus urges United States President Barack Obama to pause and think about the role of America’s foremost external intelligence organization before appointing a successor to General Petraeus. For over a decade, argues Pincus, the CIA’s focus has been to fulfill covert-action tasks in the context of Washington’s so-called “war on terrorism”. But through this process, the Agency “has become too much of a paramilitary organization” and has neglected its primary institutional role, which is to be “the premier producer and analyst of intelligence for policymakers, using both open and clandestine sources”. Read more of this post

Opinion: When Did Obama Know About CIA Director’s Affair?

David Petraeus and Paula BroadwellBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The standard reaction to last week’s resignation of Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus, following the revelation of his extramarital affair, has been stunned silence. Not so much because of the affair itself —what is one more affair in the slippery world of Washington politics?— but because it involved the eminent figure of Petraeus. Former aides to the retired General have been confiding to journalists that “never in a million years” would they have thought that the high-achieving CIA Director would have risked his career and reputation in such a reckless fashion. Many thought that the relationship between him and his biographer, Paula Broadwell, had grown suspiciously close in recent years; but Petraeus had a general way of seeming beyond reproach.

It is worth pointing out that much of this unfolding story is so far based on hearsay, as opposed to concrete, verifiable information. It is suggested that Petraeus’ extramarital tryst was accidentally discovered by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who were looking into a seemingly unrelated case. Some news outlets, mostly in the UK, suggest that a female employee of the US military’s Joint Special Operations Command contacted the FBI after receiving threatening messages from Broadwell, warning her to “stay away from [her] man” —allegedly Petraeus. While investigating the Gmail account from which the threatening messages were allegedly sent, the FBI allegedly discovered “thousands” of messages exchanged between the CIA Director and Broadwell, some of which were sexually explicit. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #810 (Petraeus resignation edition)

David PetraeusBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
►►How did Petraeus’ affair come to light? CIA Director David Petraeus resigned after a probe into whether someone else was using his email. The probe eventually led to the discovery that he was having an extramarital affair, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cites “several people briefed on the matter”. An FBI inquiry into the use of Petraeus’s Gmail account led agents to believe the woman or someone close to her had sought access to his email. An extramarital affair has significant implications for an official in a highly sensitive post, such as that held by Petraeus, because it can open an official to blackmail.
►►Who did Petraeus have an affair with? The woman with whom General David Petraeus was having an affair is Paula Broadwell, a West Point graduate and the author of a recent hagiographic book about him, entitled All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, co-written with Vernon Loeb. Slate‘s Fred Kaplan reports that “it had long been rumored that something was going on between Petraeus and Broadwell. When she was embedded with him in Afghanistan, they went on frequent 5-mile runs together. But Petraeus went on 5-mile runs with many reporters, and few people who knew him took the rumors seriously”.
►►Who is leading the CIA now? With General David Petraeus stepping down as director of the CIA, following reports of an extra-marital affair, the agency’s current deputy director will take over as director on an interim basis. His name is Michael Morell, and he was a senior CIA aide in the White House to President George W. Bush. Morell had served as deputy director since May 2010, after holding a number of senior roles, including director for the agency’s analytical arm, which helps feed intelligence into the President’s Daily Brief. He also worked as an aide to former CIA Director George Tenet.

CIA Director reportedly in Turkey for secret talks

David PetraeusBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Turkish and American authorities have refused comment on persistent reports that the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency is currently on a secret visit to Turkey. News of the alleged trip was first reported on Monday by Turkish tabloid daily Akşam. The newspaper said David Petraeus, who heads the United States’ foremost civilian intelligence agency, had arrived earlier that day in Istanbul’s Atatürk International Airport, on his private plane. According to the article, the CIA chief decided to embark on the unannounced trip in order to discuss “counterterrorism and the situation in Syria” with senior Turkish officials. Several hours later, French news agency Agence France Presse reported that, according to “a US official”, the CIA Director was indeed in Turkey, holding secret “meetings on regional issues”. However, the unnamed US source would not provide specific information about Petreaeus’ meeting arrangements while in Turkey, nor would (s)he divulge the names of the Turkish officials that were scheduled to meet with him. Another Turkish daily, Hürriyet, said the CIA Director would probably meet with his Turkish counterpart, MİT chief Hakan Fidan, as well as with Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan . But repeated efforts by the paper to confirm this were rebuffed by representatives of the US embassy in Ankara, as well as Turkish officials. Read more of this post

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 #768

CIA headquartersBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►‘CIA could get bin Laden but can’t get a gym’. As CIA Director, General David Petraeus is credited by some as having helped turn the tide in the Iraq War, flush the Taliban from southern strongholds in Afghanistan, and infiltrated al-Qaeda in Yemen. But his campaign to improve the Agency’s fitness gyms has been a marathon effort –one that defeated other CIA directors over a course of some 16 years. Petraeus arrived at the CIA in 2011 to find two basement gyms at the Langley, Va., headquarters, one with original flooring dating to 1964. One gym is so small it can’t contain the punching bags and medicine balls that spill into the hall, where people stretch out and do mat exercises.
►►Israel convinced Hezbollah behind Bulgaria bombing. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that his government has gathered “unquestionable intelligence” showing that the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, backed by Iran, was behind a suicide bombing in Bulgaria last week that killed five Israeli nationals. The Israeli leader said the Mossad had drawn close parallels between the attack in Bulgaria and a foiled operation in Cyprus earlier this month, involving an alleged Hezbollah operative.
►►Hezbollah silent on reports of Israel spy arrests. Hezbollah would not comment on a local newspaper report on Wednesday, which said the Lebanese Shiite party had detained three men, including two of its own members, for spying for Israel. Lebanese daily newspaper An-Nahar said Hezbollah’s security apparatus had detained two Hezbollah members and a member of a Bekaa village municipal council on the suspicion that they have been collaborating with Israel.

News you may have missed #749

Mohammed DahabiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Why did CIA Director secretly visit Czech Republic? The CIA Director, David Petraeus, is known to make frequent secret trips to places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Iraq. But why was his recent trip to the Czech Republic kept secret? Photographs published in a Czech daily paper showed the CIA director and his team boarding a military plane at Prague’s Ruzyne Airport, headed for their next destination, Sofia, Bulgaria. But neither the US Embassy in Prague, nor the CIA will respond to questions by Czech media about Petraeus’ secretive visit to the former Soviet Bloc nation.
►►Jordan’s ex-spy chief on trial for corruption. Jordan’s former spy chief, General , who headed the General Intelligence Department (GID) from 2005 to 2009, has gone on trial in Amman on charges of corruption, which carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. In a case highlighting corruption in the country’s vaunted intelligence community, the prosecutor said Dahabi’s wealth had quadrupled during his years in office, reaching almost $40 million by the end of 2011. The money, he said, was held in several foreign currency accounts in a leading domestic bank.
►►CIA still refuses to comment on Predator drone attacks. The Central Intelligence Agency continues to refuse to confirm or deny the covert military use of drones to kill suspected terrorists overseas. This is despite numerous public comments on the CIA’s drone attacks in far-flung locales such as Yemen from various government officials, including former CIA Director Leon Panetta and US President Barack Obama. The development comes as 26 members of Congress asked Obama, in a letter, to consider the consequences of drone killing and to explain the necessity of the program.

News you may have missed #697: US edition

David PetraeusBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►What happens when CIA couples divorce? One retired CIA senior paramilitary officer, who served for more than two decades and lives in Virginia, said he was told several years ago that the divorce rate for the agency’s operations division was astonishingly high. But unlike the Pentagon, which studies how often service members split up, and knows, for instance, that 29,456 of 798,921 military couples divorced last year, the CIA does not keep official tabs on its employees’ divorce rates.
►►Spies exchange tips in the cloud. While some US federal agencies shy away from cloud computing for fear of losing control over their data, the intelligence community and military increasingly are turning to networked services expressly to exert tighter security restraints, according to Jim Heath, Senior Science Adviser for the National Security Agency.
►►CIA Chief: We’ll spy on you through your dishwasher. More and more personal and household devices are connecting to the internet, from your television to your car navigation systems to your light switches. CIA Director David Petraeus cannot wait to spy on you through them. Earlier this month, Petraeus mused about the emergence of an “Internet of things” —that is, wired devices— at a summit for In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm. “‘Transformational’ is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies”, Petraeus enthused, “particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft”.

News you may have missed #695

Nicolas Sarkozy and Muammar GaddafiBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►Spies meet over Syrian crisis. CIA chief David Petraeus met Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday for closed-door talks focusing on the crisis across the border in Syria. Meanwhile, General Murad Muwafi, who heads Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate, left Cairo on Tuesday for a visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Also, US General Ronald Burgess, Defense Intelligence Agency Director, has arrived in Egypt and is expected to meet with several Egyptian officials to discuss the situation in Syria.
►►Gaddafi contributed €50m to Sarkozy election fund. Damaging new claims have emerged about the funding of Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign and his links with former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The French investigative website Mediapart claims to have seen a confidential note suggesting Gaddafi contributed up to €50 million to Sarkozy’s election fund five years ago.
►►Analysis: US relations on the agenda for Pakistan’s new spy chief. Yusuf Raza Gilani has appointed Lieutenant General Zahir ul-Islam as the new chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, the main spy arm of the Pakistani military, ending weeks of speculation he would extend the term of Lieutenant Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, due to retire on March 18. The new spymaster faces a tough task fixing ever-worsening ties with the United States, but analysts say he is unlikely to reform an institution accused of helping militants in Afghanistan.

News you may have missed #685

Aleksandr Z. AnkvabBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►Abkhazia President survives assassination attempt. Unidentified assassins tried on Wednesday to kill Aleksandr Z. Ankvab, the president of Abkhazia, a Russian-backed rebel enclave of Georgia. The assailants used automatic rifles, grenade launchers and a powerful roadside bomb in an attack that raised fresh questions about Moscow’s ability to preserve order there.
►►Groups object to CIA declassification charges. Open government advocates are protesting a recently adopted CIA policy that allows the agency to charge up to $72 an hour to review requests to declassify secret records. The effect “will be to price the public out of submitting” requests for “mandatory declassification review,” the American Library Association, Sunlight Foundation and more than 30 other organizations said in a letter Thursday to CIA Director David Petraeus.
►►Analysis: Fallout from Syrian colonel’s abduction in Turkey. The smokescreen surrounding the abduction of Syrian Col. Hussein Harmush, who defected to Turkey in June 2011 before being handed over to the Syrian secret service in September 2011, has begun to clear in recent weeks following a judicial probe. Claims that Turkey’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), was involved in handing Harmush over to Syria were finally confirmed on February 2 when the Adana Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued a written statement saying one MİT agent had been arrested for questioning and further MİT officials had been called to testify as “suspects” in the scandalous repatriation case.

US Senate hearing accidentally reveals Mossad director’s secret visit

Tamir PardoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The chairwoman of a public hearing at the United States Senate, which was televised live across America, accidentally revealed that the Director of Israeli intelligence service Mossad secretly visited the US for talks last week. The revelation took place on Tuesday at a high-profile hearing conducted by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, with the participation of the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus. While addressing the latter, Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein mentioned in passing that “the vice chairman [of the Committee] and I have just met this past week with the director of Mossad”, and that the meeting was classified. She was referring to Tamir Pardo, the newly installed head of Israel’s foremost external intelligence agency. Without blinking an eye, Petraeus responded saying: “Like you, obviously, I met with the head of Mossad when he was here”. Subsequent discussion during the hearing appeared to establish that Pardo visited the United States specifically to discuss the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran’s known nuclear installations. In responding to Senator Feinstein’s comment, the CIA Director said that Pardo’s secret visit was “part of an ongoing dialogue that has also included conversations that I’ve had with [Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and with [Defense] Minister [Ehud] Barak”. No further information was shard on the Mossad official’s visit, and US government representatives refused to elaborate, when asked about it later. Read more of this post

Analysis: Ex-CIA WMD director warns of ‘morphed’ Islamist groups

Charles S. Faddis

Charles S. Faddis

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In recent months, the heads of the United States Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency have opined that the United States may be close to “strategically defeating al-Qaeda”. These were the words used by former CIA Director and current Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta in July, to describe the current state of Washington’s ‘war on terrorism’. Shortly afterwards, General David Petraeus, who replaced Panetta at the helm of the CIA, echoed his predecessor, arguing that the situation following the death of Osama bin Laden “hold[s] the prospect of a strategic defeat […], a strategic dismantling, of al-Qaeda”. But do such optimistic projections correspond to reality on the ground? In a new column for Homeland Security Today, former CIA operations officer Charles S. Faddis, who retired from the Agency in 2008 as the chief of its weapons of mass destruction counterterrorism unit, agrees that al-Qaeda has been “severely battered” in the ten years since 9/11. But he warns that, while America insists of engaging in “large-scale conventional military operations” in Afghanistan, and essentially “a strategic bombing campaign” in Pakistan, a new generation of terrorist groups appears to have “shifted, morphed and evolved”. In light of this reality, the recent comments by Panetta and Petreaus may suggest “the possibility of a loss of focus” in American counterterrorist operations, says Faddis. The former CIA covert operations officer, who has written several books since his retirement, goes on to discuss the rapid rise of several ethnic or regional militant Islamist groups, including Nigeria’s Boko Haram. The organization made macabre headlines earlier this month, when it launched a massive suicide attack against a United Nations office complex in the Nigerian city of Abuja, killing and injuring over 100 people. He also mentions the Islamic State of Iraq, a notorious outfit whose most recent strikes display an operational sophistication that often surpasses that of Boko Haram’s. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #579 (CIA edition)

Robert Grenier

Robert Grenier

►►Interview with ex-CIA Islamabad station chief. Robert Grenier, who was the CIA’s Islamabad station chief from 1999 to 2001, tells Pakistan’s Express Tribune newspaper that the US unmanned drone program, which began as “a very surgically employed tool against international terrorists”, has now “become much more of a conventional weapon against militants”. He also rejects allegations that Pakistani government officials were aware of osama bin Laden’s whereabouts, saying that “no one has apparently found any compelling evidence”.
►►Who will guide Petraeus in his new CIA job? Siobhan Gorman, of The Wall Street Journal, opines that, when US General David Petraeus takes the helm at the Central Intelligence Agency next month, it will fall to the Agency’s deputy director Michael J. Morell, a little-known 31-year CIA veteran, to guide the new director.
►►CIA drone kills al-Qaeda deputy. An anonymous US official has told The New York Times that a CIA drone killed al-Qaeda’s second-ranking operative in Pakistan’s northwest province of Waziristan. Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, a Libyan who in the past year had taken over as al-Qaeda’s top operational planner, was killed on August 22, according to the official. Al-Qaeda is still officially led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is also believed to be in Pakistan.

News you may have missed #529 (analysis edition)

  • Analysis: US Senate backs Petraeus for CIA chief. The US Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved General David Petraeus’s nomination to head the CIA. But, asks, The Washington Post‘s Walter Pincus, which Petraeus will arrive at the CIA? The officer or the gentleman?
  • Analysis: US spies can’t stop buying face microchips from China. US military officials have known since 2005 that they have a quality control problem with the microchips they’ve been buying from China. Already, thousands of fake Chinese microchips are crashing American military networks. Last week, the US government finally announced that they want to find a way to spot “trojan horse” chips. What took them so long?
  • Analysis: Has the CIA penetrated Hezbollah? Hezbollah’s admission that it has seized three spies in its ranks, two supposedly recruited by the CIA, is a serious blow to the Iranian-backed movement’s prestige soon after it took control of Lebanon’s government for the first time. On the other hand, it is worth noting that, in recent years, the Lebanese Shiite group has proven near-impenetrable to both the CIA and the Mossad.
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