French spy agency forced Wikipedia volunteer to delete entry

Wikipedia welcoming screenBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A French intelligence agency forced a volunteer for online open-source reference site Wikipedia to delete n entry that allegedly contained classified information about French nuclear defense systems. According to the Wikimedia Foundation, which publishes Wikipedia, the entry describes a radio relay system located at Pierre-sur-Haute military radio station in south-central France. Operated by the French Air Force, the station is said to have a central role in transmitting the order to launch France’s nuclear missiles in case of a full-scale thermonuclear war. The French-language Wikipedia webpage —which has since been fully restored— mentions, among other things, that the radio masts at Pierre-sur-Haute are designed to withstand the type of shockwave experienced in a thermonuclear attack. According to the Wikimedia Foundation, it was approached in early March, 2013, by the Direction Central du Renseignement Interieur (DCRI), which is tasked with domestic security and counterintelligence. The agency asked the Wikimedia Foundation to delete the entire webpage referring to the Pierre-sur-Haute military radio station, because it said it contravened French national security law. The Wikimedia Foundation, however, refused to comply with the request unless it was accompanied with either a court order or concrete information explaining why the Pierre-sur-Haute revelations were a threat to French national security. The DCRI reportedly backed down, promising to return with a formal justification for its request. However, instead of doing so, it contacted a French-based Wikipedia volunteer, who was summoned to the DCRI’s office under threat of legal action. Read more of this post

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News you may have missed #821 (civil liberties edition)

Bernard SquarciniBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►French domestic spy chief cleared of snooping charges. Back in October of 2011, intelNews reported that Bernard Squarcini, who then headed France’s domestic intelligence agency, the DCRI, had been charged with spying on a journalist with the daily Le Monde. The accusation was part of a wider case of domestic snooping, in which Squarcini was believed to have been trying to detect the source of government leaks to the press, allegedly on orders by then-President Nicolas Sarkozy. Earlier this month, however, an appeals court in Paris rejected two of three charges against the former DCRI chief. Squarcini could face up to five years in prison if convicted of the remaining charge.
►►FBI documents termed Occupy movement as ‘terrorism’. A number of heavily redacted US government documents, released following a Freedom of Information Act request, reveal that the FBI organized a nationwide law enforcement investigation and monitoring of the Occupy Wall Street movement beginning in August of 2011. In some documents, the FBI refers to the Occupy Wall Street protests as a “criminal activity” and “domestic terrorism”.
►►Wiretapping by Russian spy agencies doubled in five years. Wiretapping by Russia’s intelligence agencies has nearly doubled over the past five years, according to The Moscow Times. In Western countries, intelligence agencies were given wider powers after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But in Russia, the exponential growth of wiretapping began after 2007, when terrorism by Islamic-inspired separatists was already on the decline. A federal law passed in 2010 expanded the legal grounds for wiretapping Russian citizens. Now, intelligence officers can wiretap someone’s phones or monitor their Internet activity simply because they allegedly received reports that an individual is preparing to commit a crime.

French terrorist Merah planned attack on Indian embassy in Paris

Embassy of India in ParisBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Mohamed Merah, the French Muslim who killed seven and injured five people in Toulouse last March, had planned to launch a massive attack on the Indian Embassy in Paris, according to new revelations. Merah was shot dead by French Special Forces on March 22, after killing three French Army personnel on March 15, and four civilians, including two children, on March 19. But according to French newspaper Le Monde, Merah had initially planned to attack the Indian embassy in Paris. Quoting sources from France’s Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence (DCRI) and the Special Forces (RAID), the French daily says that Merah’s handlers in Pakistan had initially tasked him with attacking Indian diplomatic targets in the French capital. “That was the initial target assigned to him by the Taliban, who trained him for holy war […] in Pakistan during the summer of 2011”, a French intelligence source is quoted as saying in Le Monde. By “Taliban”, the source was most likely referring to Lashkar e-Taiba, one of Asia’s largest militant Islamist groups, which is waging a protracted war against the Indian state in Indian-administered Kashmir and elsewhere. Most Lashkar e-Taiba training camps are located in Pakistan, where Merah, who was Algerian-born, traveled in the summer of 2011. However, the paper says that the DCRI, which is said to have employed Merah as an informant, had received prior warning of the plot, and had notified Indian officials, who in turn were able to beef-up security measures at the embassy. Read more of this post

French spy agency denies Toulouse gunman was an informant

Mohammed MerahBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
France’s domestic intelligence agency has denied allegations, made by its former Director, that it employed as an informant the militant Islamist who recently killed seven people in Toulouse. Yves Bonnet, who headed France’s DCRI between 1982 and 1985, made the allegation in an interview with La Dépêche du Midi, one of France’s largest regional newspapers, headquartered in Toulouse. He was speaking about Mohammed Merah, the self-confessed al-Qaeda militant who died in a police assault on his flat last week. He was traced there after he murdered seven people, including three children and three soldiers, in three separate attacks. Speaking to La Dépêche on Tuesday, Bonnet said that Merah “was known to the DCRI, not especially because he was an Islamist, but because he kept contact with a correspondent [officer] in domestic intelligence”. By “correspondent in domestic intelligence”, Bonnet meant that Merah had a handler inside the DCRI, who met with him on a regular basis. But Bonnet’s claim was forcefully rejected on the same day by Bernard Squarcini, the current Director of the DCRI —France’s equivalent of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation. Squarcini confirmed that Merah did in fact meet with a DCRI officer in November in 2011. But he said that the meeting was arranged so that the DCRI officer could interview Merah about his trips to Afghanistan, which he entered in 2010 and 2011 using a tourist visa. Squarcini denied that this meeting designated Merah as an informant, and specifically stated that the self-styled al-Qaeda militant “was not employed as an informant by the DCRI or by any other French intelligence agency”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #701

Mohammed MerahBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►Ex-NASA scientist gets 13 years for spying for Israel. Former US government scientist Stewart Nozette was once on the cutting edge of space exploration, but he will spend 13 years in prison for trying to sell some of his country’s most closely guarded secrets. In 2009 Nozette sought to sell classified information to someone he thought was an Israeli Mossad officer but was in fact an FBI agent in an undercover sting operation. As intelNews explained back in 2010, Nozette was not simply a Mossad agent-wannabe, but had actually passed information to Israel in the past.
►►French intel under fire over Toulouse gunman. The French government went on the defensive last week amid questions over why its intelligence service had failed to deal with Mohammed Merah. The self-confessed al-Qaeda militant died in a police assault on his flat last Thursday, where he was tracked down after murdering seven people, including three children and three soldiers, in a series of attacks. With hindsight, Merah’s past appears to make him an obvious suspect —he had at least 15 criminal convictions, some with violence, had become a radical Islamist and travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan. One press report said that in 2010 Merah forced a youth to watch videos of al-Qaeda hostage beheadings. When the boy’s mother complained, Merah allegedly attacked her, putting her in hospital for several days.
►►Ex-Mossad chief says Israel will know when Iran begins producing nukes. Former Mossad head Meir Dagan said he believes Israel will be aware when Iran moves to the stage of nuclear weapon production —for example, enriching uranium to a degree of 90 percent. Dagan said that at that stage Israel would have to attack the Iranian nuclear sites if the international community does not stop its program. Dagan said he believed the Israeli Air Force has the capability to significantly damage Iran’s nuclear sites, yet repeated previous warnings that such a strike will have serious repercussions.

News you may have missed #696

NSA's Utah Data CenterBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►French spies to stage labor protest. The main union representing French domestic intelligence officers, those charged with counter-espionage and anti-terror investigations, called Wednesday on its members to stage a protest. The head of the SNOP union, which represents senior police officers and is the main labor body for members of the DCRI security agency, said his members planned a “gathering” at their Paris headquarters. A smaller union said it wanted no part in the protest, and it was not clear how many of the agency’s 4,000 intelligence officers planned to take part.
►►James Bamford on the NSA’s new spy center in Utah. Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built in Bluffdale for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013.
►►Author of unauthorized CIA book gave proceeds to charity. After former CIA officer Ishmael Jones wrote a book about the CIA without gaining prior approval from the Agency, the government sought and won a judicial ruling that Jones had acted in violation of his CIA secrecy agreement, and that he could be held liable for the breach. But the government’s current efforts to seize the financial proceeds from Jones’ 2010 book, The Human Factor: Inside the CIA’s Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture, have been frustrated by the fact that the author has already given the proceeds away to charity.

News you may have missed #472

  • French spies become embroiled in Renault’s espionage saga (corrected). The Renault spying saga has taken a new turn with the carmaker accusing France’s domestic intelligence agency DGSE DCRI of sabotaging its reputation. Jean Reinhart, Renault’s lawyer, said that the DGSE DCRI had leaked details of the inquiry into accusations of industrial espionage.
  • Palestinian Authority documents leaked by ex-MI6 agent. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Wednesday in an interview that a US citizen, who worked in the US State Department, and a British former MI6 official, are responsible for leaking the so-called ‘Palestine papers‘.
  • NY Times editor calls Assange ‘spy-like’. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange resembles a character from a detective novel and is “elusive, manipulative and volatile”, the executive editor of The New York Times says in an upcoming book. Open Secrets: WikiLeaks, War and American Diplomacy, a digital book featuring an introduction by Times executive editor Bill Keller and contributions from other Times reporters, goes on sale Monday.
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