News you may have missed #641 (US edition)

Dennis Blair

Dennis Blair

►► US Navy memo had warned Roosevelt of 1941 attack. Three days before the December 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, US President F.D. Roosevelt was warned in a memo from US naval intelligence that Tokyo’s military and spy network was focused on Hawaii. The 20-page memo has been published in the new book December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World, by Craig Shirley.
►►US spy agencies cut their holiday parties. Holiday gatherings have provided rare opportunities for US congressional staff, embassy aides, government officials, and the media to mix it up —off the record— with the spy set. But this year, agency budget Scrooges have taken aim at high-priced holiday merriment. The Director of National Intelligence has canceled holiday parties altogether, and the Central Intelligence Agency has drastically downsized its guest list and lavish spread by more than 50%.
►►Ex-DNI Blair wants Pentagon in charge of drone strikes. The United States’ former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, who previously proposed scaling back the armed drone operation run in Pakistan by the CIA, is now urging that the program be publicly acknowledged and placed in the hands of the US military.

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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

Analysis: Axing of US DNI points to structural issues

Dennis Blair

Dennis Blair

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Although few American intelligence observers were astonished by last week’s involuntary resignation of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the silence by the White House on the subject has raised quite a few eyebrows in Washington. Admiral Dennis C. Blair, who became DNI in January of 2009, announced his resignation on Friday. Blair’s announcement came after a prolonged period of controversy, which included bitter infighting with the CIA, and culminated with the recent partial publication of a report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which blamed “systemic failures across the Intelligence Community” for the so-called Christmas bomb plot of last December. The problem is that Admiral Blair’s replacement will be the fourth DNI in five years, after John Negroponte, Mike McConnell and Blair himself. Read more of this post

Analysis: An Economic Security Role for European Spy Agencies?

Economic espionage

Economic spying

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Last February, Spain’s intelligence service began investigating alleged suspicious efforts by foreign financial speculators to destabilize the Spanish economy. According to newspaper El País, the Spanish government asked the country’s Centro Nacional de Inteligencia (CNI) to probe links between speculative moves in world financial markets and a series of damaging editorials “in the Anglo-Saxon media”. There are indications that the National Intelligence Service of Greece (EYP) is following in the CNI’s footsteps. In February, when Athens and Brussels began to realize the magnitude of the financial crisis threatening the European common currency, several news outlets suggested that the EYP was cooperating with Spanish, Irish and Portuguese intelligence services in investigating a series of coordinated speculative attacks on money markets, most of which allegedly originated from London and Washington. Read more of this post

South charges North Korean agents with assassination plot

Hwang Jang-yop

Hwang Jang-yop

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Two North Koreans who defected to South Korea last November have allegedly admitted to being intelligence officers on a mission to assassinate a North Korean former senior official. The official, Hwang Jang-yop, caused a sensation on both sides of the border when he defected to the South in 1997. A former secretary of the Korean Workers’ Party, Hwang was the North’s primary theorist and the ideological architect of juche, the philosophy of self-reliance, which is North Korea’s officially sanctioned state dogma. Since his defection, the 87-year-old Hwang, who is believed to have ideologically mentored North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, has been living in the South with around-the-clock security protection. The two self-confessed spies, Tong Myong Kwan and Kim Myung Ho, both 36, have allegedly admitted posing as defectors, while in reality being on an assassination mission on behalf of the intelligence unit of the North Korean Ministry of Defense. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0281

  • US intel director confirms CIA can kill US citizens abroad. It’s official; speaking before the House Intelligence Committee, US Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair acknowledged that President Obama is continuing a Bush-era policy authorizing the killing of US citizens if they are considered “a terrorist threat to the United States”.
  • Funny sign at CIA gift shop. Actual notice displayed at a CIA gift store inside the Agency’s Langley, VA, headquarters: “Don’t forget! If you are undercover, you cannot charge! It will blow your cover”. Good point.
  • Gordon Thomas’ Secret Wars out in paperback. IntelNews has received the new paperback edition of Gordon Thomas’ Secret Wars: 100 Years of British Intelligence. Joseph Fitsanakis reviewed the hardback edition last May.

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Analysis: US spy turf-war flares up on Capitol Hill

Dennis Blair

Dennis Blair

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Wednesday’s testimony by US Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, received plenty of media coverage. But few have examined the ongoing public hearings by three separate Senate committees on the Christmas Day bomb plot in light of the turf battles taking place between US intelligence agencies. An excellent article by Politico’s Kassie Hunt does just that, by pointing out that the hearing proceedings should be viewed in light of the “three-way turf war among Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, CIA Director Leon Panetta, and National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter”. Capitol Hill lawmakers appear to be aware of this: Hunt’s article quotes Peter King, the Senate Homeland Security Committee’s senior Republican member, who warns that US intelligence agencies will use the public hearings to place blame about the Christmas Day bomber fiasco on each other. Read more of this post

China not top priority for US spy agencies under new policy

US and China

US and China

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
American intelligence agencies have been directed by the US National Security Council (NSC) to downgrade intelligence collection on China. Under the directive, which was first proposed last October, Chinese intelligence targets will be coded “Priority 2” (Pri-2), from their current “Priority 1” (Pri-1) status. The Washington Times reports that the move is part of a wider Obama administration effort “to develop a more cooperative relationship with Beijing”. The latter recently requested a new bilateral relationship with Washington, free from “Cold War and power politics mentality”. But the NSC proposal was contested by CIA director Leon Panetta and director of national intelligence Dennis Blair. Read more of this post

White House memo sides with CIA in inter-agency turf war

Dennis Blair

Dennis Blair

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
For several months now, I have been keeping tabs on a bitter inter-agency turf war between the CIA and the Office of the US Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Now a Los Angeles Times article by Greg Miller confirms what intelNews reported on November 18, namely that the White House has come down in favor of the CIA position in the dispute. The turf war began last July, when DNI Dennis Blair argued in a still-classified directive that his office, and not the CIA, as has been the case for over 60 years, should have a say in certain cases over the appointment of senior US intelligence representatives in foreign cities. But the White House refused to validate Blair’s request. So, in November, the Office of the DNI hit back by announcing it would be evaluating all “[s]ensitive CIA operations overseas” including all of the CIA’s active paramilitary and espionage operations abroad. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0230

  • Ukrainians claim netting ‘spies among diplomats’. In the last 6 months of 2009, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has “exposed 7 spies among diplomats”, according to its director, Valentyn Nalyvajchenko. He apparently cited “a case of a Russian spy who was charged with obtaining defense industry secrets for a Chinese special service”. If anyone out there has information on this case, please contact us.
  • France launches new spy satellite. France has launched a military spy satellite, Helios 2B, part of a boost in spending on independent surveillance. The satellite can reportedly tell whether a truck convoy is moving or halted and whether a nuclear reactor is operational or not.
  • Seized N. Korean weapons destined for Middle East: US spy chief. An illicit North Korean arms shipment seized in Thailand last week was destined for the Middle East, US director of national intelligence Dennis Blair, has claimed. Blair’s comment, which was meant to tout improved cooperation among America’s 16 intelligence agencies, was the first official confirmation of the US role in the case.

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CIA-DNI turf war enters new phase

Dennis Blair

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The CIA may have won a lengthy turf battle against the office of the US Director of National Intelligence (DNI), but the war between the two agencies continues. As intelNews reported last July, the dispute started when DNI Dennis Blair argued in a still-classified directive that his office, and not the CIA, as has been the case for over 60 years, should have a say in certain cases over the appointment of senior US intelligence representatives in foreign cities. A few days ago, when the White House finally came down in favor of the CIA, the imbroglio appeared to be ending. But now the DNI has hit back by announcing it will be evaluating all “[s]ensitive CIA operations overseas” including all of the CIA’s active paramilitary and espionage operations abroad. Read more of this post

CIA reportedly wins turf battle with DNI office

Leon Panetta

Leon Panetta

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The CIA has reportedly won a turf battle with the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), after the White House came down in support of the CIA position on Thursday. This blog has kept tabs on the dispute, which started last May, when DNI Dennis Blair argued in a still-classified directive that his office should have a say in certain cases over the appointment of senior US intelligence representatives in foreign cities. Former CIA officials publicly denounced the directive, which would allow the appointment of non-CIA personnel to these positions for the first time in 60 years, as “simple insanity”. Since then, various actors have sided with the two antagonists, with the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence committee supporting the DNI and Vice President Joe Biden backing the CIA’s position. But the stalemate reportedly ended on Thursday, after the White House ruled that the CIA, not the DNI, should appoint senior US intelligence representatives abroad. Read more of this post

CIA-DNI turf war over embassy posts continues

Joe Biden

Joe Biden

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
This blog has kept tabs on the latest US bureaucratic turf war between the CIA and the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). It started last May, when when DNI Dennis Blair argued in a still-classified directive that his office should have a say in certain cases over the appointment of senior US intelligence representatives in foreign cities. Former CIA officials publicly denounced the directive, which would allow the appointment of non-CIA personnel to these positions for the first time in 60 years, as “simple insanity”. The turf war appeared to be close to an end in July, when the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence came out in support of the DNI, arguing that “some locations may give rise to circumstances where th[e CIA station chief’s] responsibility is best met by an official with expertise derived from another I[ntelligence] C[ommunity] element”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0153

  • More on Nozette’s 2009 mystery trip abroad. The affidavit of Stewart David Nozette, who was arrested last Monday for attempting to sell classified US government information to an undercover FBI agent, reveals that “[o]n or about January 6, 2009, [the scientist] traveled to a different foreign country”, carrying with him two thumb drives, which he failed to bring back with him. Where did he go, and why?
  • Armenia charges former army officer with spying for Azerbaijan. Armenian Army officer Gevorg Airapetian and a “foreign national” were arrested in a “special operation” by Armenian authorities earlier this week, and charged with spying for Azerbaijan. Some suspect Russian involvement, believing the Azerbaijanis to have acted as intermediaries between Airapetian and Moscow.
  • US spy chief Blair calls for spy cooperation. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dennis Blair called Wednesday for a better-coordinated effort within the US intelligence community. But he said nothing about recent reports that intelligence officials shut down a Web-based unclassified e-mail system, which had been heralded as an important step in information sharing between members of the US intelligence community.

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Senator says Obama employs Bush tactics on spy secrecy

Russ Feingold

Russ Feingold

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A Democratic senator has alleged that the Obama Administration is copying the Bush Administration’s tactics by “stonewalling and road blocking” Congress on intelligence issues. Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), the only Senator to vote against the USA PATRIOT Act during its first vote, said during a nomination hearing on Tuesday that he suspects the White House is still withholding information from Congressional intelligence panel members. Feingold voiced the allegation during the nomination hearing in Congress of David Gompert, incoming deputy director of national intelligence, who will serve under director of national intelligence Dennis C. Blair. In recent months, Senator Feingold has emerged as one of the most vocal Democratic critics of the Obama administration’s policies on intelligence and security. Read more of this post

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