News you may have missed #835 (Americas edition)

Rene GonzalezBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►‘Cuban Five’ spy member renounces US citizenship. Cuban intelligence officer Rene Gonzalez, who was a member of the “Cuban Five” spy group in South Florida, was released from a US prison in 2011, after serving 10 years for espionage. He was required to serve three years’ probation in the US. But on Friday US District Judge Joan Lenard ruled that Gonzalez, who had already been allowed to temporarily return to Cuba for his father’s funeral, could stay there if he renounced his US citizenship. Gonzalez is the first of the Cuban Five to return to the island. The other four men continue to serve lengthy sentences in US federal prisons.
►►US Defense Intelligence Agency contemplates austerity. Since 2001, intelligence agencies have had just about all money they wanted, but not anymore, as the cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act are hitting even previously inviolable spook accounts. In a reflection of this new reality, the Defense Intelligence Agency plans a conference with industry at its headquarters on June 27, 2013. Agency leaders will focus on “current and emerging challenges in the context of an increasingly austere fiscal posture”.
►►Report says Canada spies caught off guard by Arab Spring. The 2011 Arab Spring uprising in the Middle East came as a surprise to the Canadian government, which risks getting caught off-guard again without a new approach to gathering intelligence. This is according to a new report by Canada’s Intelligence Assessment Secretariat, a unit of the Privy Council’s Office, the bureaucratic arm of the Office of the Canadian Prime Minister. On the other hand, the report states, “there is no reason to believe that [Canadian intelligence agencies] did any worse than other allied agencies in its analysis of the Arab Spring, and in a few areas it appears to have done somewhat better”.

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Is Ana Montes ‘the most important spy you’ve never heard of’?

Ana Belen MontesBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
An extensive article published today in The Washington Post Magazine revisits the largely forgotten case of Ana Belen Montes, a senior United States military intelligence analyst who was convicted in 2002 of spying for Cuba. Montes, who was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington, DC, on September 20, 2001, underwent trial and sentencing in the shadow of 9/11, which might help explain the relative obscurity of her case. Still, as The Post article by Jim Popkin states, many intelligence observers view her as one of the most damaging double spies in recent American history. She entered government work as a clerk typist at the Department of Justice, and quickly received top-security clearance. It was from there that she moved to the Defense Intelligence Agency, America’s premier military intelligence organization, in September 1985. She rose meteorically through the ranks of the DIA, eventually becoming the Agency’s top Cuba analyst. Montes’ former colleagues report that she was known as “the Queen of Cuba”, a witty label that rested on her indisputable reputation as one of America’s most capable intelligence analysts on Cuba. She also came from a family with strong conservative credentials and strong connections with the US counterintelligence community. Her brother and sister were both FBI agents, and her former long-term boyfriend was a Cuban intelligence specialist for the Department of Defense. Read more of this post

US Senate blocks Pentagon plan to launch new CIA-style agency

The US Department of DefenseBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Last week the United States Department of Defense flooded media outlets with press releases announcing the planned establishment of a new military intelligence organization that would rival the Central Intelligence Agency in both size and scope. Not so fast. The US Senate has just blocked the plan citing gross mismanagement of the Pentagon’s existing intelligence operations. The proposed Defense Clandestine Service centers on plans to build an extensive overseas intelligence network, run by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency and based on the CIA model of stations located in large metropolitan centers. The DoD said that the new intelligence organization will help the US armed forces broaden their intelligence collection from the current concentration in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the Senate, which was asked to review and approve the plan’s financial requirements, submitted under the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, has refused to do so. Moreover, it issued a written rationale, drafted by the Senate Armed Services Committee, in which it explicitly forbids the Pentagon using US taxpayers’ money to expand its overseas intelligence operations. According to The Washington Post, the reason for the plan’s rejection is two-fold. First, the Senate appears unhappy with the financial management of the DoD’s existing intelligence collection efforts. The Senate report cites serious concerns about the excessive financial cost and management failures associated with the Pentagon’s ongoing intelligence operations. It specifically mentions “poor or non-existent career management” for DoD intelligence operatives who are often transferred back to regular military units after undertaking “unproductive” assignments overseas, despite extensive intelligence training. The Senate Armed Services Committee’s report stipulates that, before it asks for more money to build the proposed new agency, the Pentagon must “demonstrate that it can improve the management of clandestine [human intelligence] before undertaking any further expansion”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #816

Kim Jong-namBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Danish minister vows more control over spy agency. Following the uproar created by the revelations from former Danish secret service (PET) agent Morten Storm, Denmark’s Minister of Justice, Morten Bødskov, is now calling for parliament to have more control over the domestic intelligence agency. In an interview with Berlingske newspaper, Bødskov said that he is seeking increased powers for parliament’s Kontroludvalg, a committee established in 1964 to oversee PET. The move comes in response to the many questions that have arisen about PET’s actions following Storm’s decision to contribute to a series of articles in Jyllands-Posten newspaper that chronicled his time as a PET double-agent.
►►South Korea jails alleged North Korean assassin. A South Korean court has jailed an unidentified North Korean spy reportedly ordered to attack Kim Jong-nam, the eldest son of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Kim Jong-nam, who is believed to have fallen out of favor with Kim Jong-il in 2001, was thought to have been living in Macau, but media reports indicate he may have moved to Singapore. South Korean media said the alleged assassin had spent a decade in China tracking down North Korean defectors before coming to the South, and that he had admitted trying to organize “a hit-and-run accident” targeting Kim Jong-nam.
►►US Pentagon to double the size of its worldwide spy network. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the US Pentagon’s military intelligence unit, is aiming to recruit 1,600 intelligence collectors —up from the several hundred overseas agents it has employed in recent years. The DIA’s new recruits would include military attachés and others who do not work undercover. But US officials say that the growth will be driven a new generation of spies who will take their orders from the Department of Defense. The project is reportedly aimed at transforming the DIA into a spy service more closely aligned with the CIA and elite military commando units.

News you may have missed #797

Mohamed MorsiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Egypt names new intelligence chief. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi last week issued a decree naming Mohammed Raafat Shehata the country’s new head of intelligence, after the former spy chief was forced into retirement. Shehata had been acting director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Services Directorate since August 8, when his predecessor Murad Muwafi was sacked, after after gunmen killed 16 Egyptian border guards in Sinai.
►►Ex-Blackwater firm to teach US spies survival skills. The Defense Intelligence Agency announced on Thursday evening it would award six private security companies a share of a $20 million contract to provide “individual protective measures training courses” for its operatives. Among them is Academi, the 3.0 version of Blackwater, now under new ownership and management. The US military’s intelligence service is hiring the firm, along with five others, to train its operatives to defend themselves as they collect information in dangerous places.
►►Turkey court convicts 326 of coup plotting. A Turkish court on Friday convicted 326 military officers, including the former air force and navy chiefs, of plotting to overthrow the nation’s Islamic-based government in 2003, in a case that has helped curtail the military’s hold on politics. A panel of three judges at the court on Istanbul’s outskirts initially sentenced former air force chief Ibrahim Firtina, former navy chief Ozden Ornek, and former army commander Cetin Dogan, to life imprisonment but later reduced the sentence to a 20-year jail term because the plot had been unsuccessful. The trial of the high-ranking officers —inconceivable in Turkey a decade ago— has helped significantly to tip the balance of power in the country in favor of civilian authorities.

News you may have missed #766 (Arab world edition)

David SheddBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Yemen busts alleged Iranian spy ring. Yemeni president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi called on Tehran to stay out of Yemen’s internal affairs last week, after security officials in Sana’a, Yemen’s capital, announced they had uncovered an Iranian spy ring there. Yemen’s government-run SABA news agency said the spy cell, which was allegedly led by a former commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard corps, had operated in Yemen as well as in the Horn of Africa,  and that it had kept an operations center in Sana’a. An interior ministry official said all those detained were Yemenis.
►►CIA sued for killing US citizens in Yemen. Survivors of three Americans killed by targeted drone attacks in Yemen last year have sued top-ranking members of the United States government, alleging they illegally killed the three, including a 16 year-old boy, in violation of international human rights law and the US Constitution. The suit (.pdf), the first of its kind, alleges the United States was not engaged in an armed conflict with or within Yemen, prohibiting the use of lethal force unless “at the time it is applied, lethal force is a last resort to protect against a concrete, specific, and imminent threat of death or serious physical injury”. The case directly challenges the government’s decision to kill Americans without judicial scrutiny.
►►US intel official acknowledges missed Arab Spring signs. David Shedd, deputy director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s intelligence arm, said analysts failed to note signs of the unrest across the Middle East and North Africa that exploded into the Arab Spring. Shedd’s comments were posted Thursday by the American Forces Press Service, a Pentagon information wire. They constitute a rare public acknowledgment of the US intelligence failure regarding the turmoil that has redrawn the Middle East’s political landscape, toppling autocratic rulers in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya and now engulfing Syria.

News you may have missed #757

Jonathan Jay PollardBy TIMOTHY W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
►►US government Pollard video declassified. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request initiated by the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy, the Defense Intelligence Agency has released a 14-minute instructional video, which cites the Jonathan Pollard spy case. Pollard was a US Naval intelligence officer who for over 18 months provided thousands of classified documents to the Israelis government. He is serving a life sentence. The DIA’s Office of Security and Counterintelligence produced the instructional video in 1987 to urge employees to be on the lookout for suspicious behavior of fellow employees and to encourage them to report known security violations immediately. The video interviews an actor portraying the government employee who first reported Pollard’s espionage activities.
►►Senior CIA officer accused of being Mafia hitman. Enrique “Ricky” Prado’s resume reads like the ultimate CIA officer: a candidate for the CIA’s most senior post in South Korea, a top spy in America’s espionage programs against China, and deputy to Cofer Black, a chief strategist in America’s war on terror. But he is also alleged to have started out a career as a hitman for a notorious Miami mobster, and kept working for the mob even after joining the CIA. Finally, he went on to serve as the head of the CIA’s secret assassination squad against Al-Qaida. That’s according to journalist Evan Wright’s blockbuster story How to Get Away With Murder in America, distributed by Byliner. In it, Wright compiles lengthy, years-long investigations by state and federal police and tracks the history of Prado’s alleged Miami patron and notorious cocaine trafficker, Alberto San Pedro, and suspicions that Prado moved from a secret death squad from the CIA to notorious mercenary firm Blackwater.
►►Colombian pleads guilty to spy charges in Nicaragua. As previously reported on this blog, Luis Felipe Rios, a 34-year-old Colombian national, was arrested for espionage in Nicaragua on June 15. The Inside Costa Rica news agency says Rios admitted he was indeed committing espionage on behalf o foreign nation, and he is providing Nicaraguan authorities with all the details. Rios will likely be sentenced on July 9 and he faces up to 16 years in prison for violating Nicaragua’s state secrets and state intrusion laws.

News you may have missed #700: analysis edition

Tal DekelBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Egypt struggles to advance spy satellite program. Since Egyptian technicians lost touch two years ago with an observation satellite they hoped would help carry the country into the “space club”, the country has struggled to make progress in gaining intelligence satellite capabilities, but it remains committed to the program. This is according to Tal Dekel, a research fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Yuval Ne’eman Workshop for Science, Technology and Security. He said few are aware of the extent of Egypt’s satellite program: “People talk about the Iranians, but no one talks about Egypt’s program, which includes much more than a satellite”.
►►China spying on Taiwan despite thaw. When Taiwanese security personnel detained a suspected spy for China at a top secret military base last month, they may have had a sense of déjà vu. Four suspected spies have been detained in Taiwan during the last fourteen months. The cases show that China is seeking information about systems that are integral to Taiwan’s defenses and built with sensitive US technology. A major breach could make Taiwan more vulnerable to Chinese attack.
►►US intel says water shortages threaten stability. Competition for increasingly scarce water in the next decade will fuel instability in regions such as South Asia and the Middle East that are important to US national security, according to an intelligence report from the US Director of National Intelligence. The report, drafted principally by the Defense Intelligence Agency, reflects a growing emphasis in the US intelligence community on how environmental issues such as water shortages, natural disasters and climate change may affect US security interests.

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 #682

Lieutenant General Ronald BurgessBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Is there a Mossad base near Iran? The London-based Sunday Times has published an interview with a man claiming to be an Azerbaijan-based agent of Israeli intelligence agency, who confirmed the existence of such a base. The man, identified in the article as “Shimon,” told the paper that there were dozens of Israeli Mossad agents working out of the base. The meeting between the agent and the London Times‘ reporter took place in Baku, near the Israeli Embassy, the report said.
►►Analysis: CIA report on Soviet bioweapons still secret. It has been three decades since the Reagan administration accused the Soviet Union and Vietnam of using chemical weapons known as yellow rain. We still do not know how the US came to this conclusion, but have good reason to believe that it was based on flawed or distorted intelligence. A classified critique of the intelligence behind those charges, written several years ago for the Central Intelligence Agency, could shed light on what happened. Last year, Matthew Meselson, a Harvard expert on chemical and biological weapons, filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get the report released. He was turned down.
►►US official says Iran unlikely to strike first. Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, said the Iranian military is unlikely to intentionally provoke a conflict with the West. He said Iran probably has the ability to “temporarily close the Strait of Hormuz with its naval forces”, as some Iranian officials have threatened to do if attacked or in response to sanctions on its oil exports by the US and European Union. But, he added, “Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict or launch a preemptive attack”.

US admits African war crimes suspect Charles Taylor was CIA agent

Charles TaylorBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Ever since his 2006 arrest for war crimes, Liberia’s former President, Charles Taylor, has consistently claimed that he was an agent of the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Now declassified US government documents have officially confirmed that Taylor was indeed an agent of the CIA and the US Defense Intelligence Agency for several decades. The 63-year-old, who ruled his West African homeland from 1997 to 2003, is currently being tried at the United Nations Court in The Hague on multiple counts of civilian murders, rapes, and deploying underage soldiers during a brutal civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone. Rumors that Taylor was being protected by Washington started surfacing in 2003, after he left Liberia and was given protection in US-allied Nigeria, despite his indictment by the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone. In July 2009, intelNews reported Taylor’s claim that his 1985 “escape” from the Plymouth County maximum security Correctional Facility in Massachusetts, which allowed him to return to Liberia and take over the country through a military coup, took place with US government assistance. His persistent claims led The Boston Globe newspaper to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, which has resulted in the declassification of nearly 50 separate documents covering “several decades” of Taylor’s work for the CIA and the DIA. The documents confirm that both agencies employed Taylor as an agent beginning in the early 1980s, long before he became Liberia’s ruler. But the FOIA release does not contain details of Taylor’s work for US intelligence, in an alleged effort to “protect intelligence sources and methods” and so as not to “harm national security”, according to The Boston Globe. Read more of this post

Analysis: What is the CIA doing in Egypt?

Egypt

Egypt

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Every time there is a popular uprising anywhere in the Muslim world, the minds of American intelligence planners go immediately to 1979, when the Iranian Revolution tore down almost overnight one of Washington closest allies in the Middle East. By ignoring the immense unpopularity of the Shah’s brutal regime, and by limiting its Iranian contacts among the pro-Shah elites in the country, the CIA was caught completely in the dark as the Islamic revolution unfolded. Could the same be happening now in Egypt? Hopefully not, says The Washington Post’s veteran intelligence correspondent Jeff Stein. As in the case of Iran under the Shah, the US has stood by the 33-year dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, choosing to abide by the simplistic dogma of ‘either secular repression or anti-American Islamism’. But, unlike 1970s Iran, one would hope that US intelligence agencies have been able to develop useful contacts across the fragmented but dynamic and energized Egyptian opposition community, says Stein, quoting former US Defense Intelligence Agency official Jeffrey White. It is unlikely that the CIA and other agencies have fully embraced persistent calls, such as those by Emile Nakhleh, former head of the CIA’s program on political Islam, to develop trustworthy contacts inside the Egyptian Islamic Brotherhood, as well as groups close to it, such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Read more of this post

FBI allegedly looking for Russian spy inside NSA

NSA Headquarters

NSA HQ

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
American counterintelligence investigators are allegedly trying to uncover at least one Russian-handled double agent operating inside the US National Security Agency (NSA), according to information published on Wednesday in The Washington Times. The paper based its allegation on an interview with an anonymous “former intelligence official” with close ties to the NSA —America’s largest intelligence agency, which is tasked with worldwide communications surveillance as well as communications security. The anonymous source told the Times that the probe is directly connected to the arrest of nearly a dozen Russian deep-cover operatives by the FBI last summer. Washington eventually exchanged the Russian spies with several Western-handled Russian operatives captured by Moscow and held in Russian prisons. But the FBI allegedly believes that the deep-cover operatives, most of whom used false identity papers and had lived in the US for years, were primarily tasked with aiding at least one Russian-handled double spy operating inside the NSA’s Forge George F. Meade headquarters, in the US state of Maryland. Read more of this post

US Pentagon to ban book by DIA intelligence officer

Operation Dark Heart

Op. Dark Heart

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
American military officials are in negotiations with a major publishing firm to prevent the distribution of a new book on the Afghanistan War by a US intelligence officer, even though thousands of copies of the book have already been printed. Written by US Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer, the book, Operation Dark Heart, is a personal memoir of the author’s five-month tour in Afghanistan in 2003, as an officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). The Pentagon has admitted that its censors did send Shaffer an official clearance letter, authorizing him to forward the manuscript to a publisher –which he did. But it was only after the book had gone into print, that the Defense Department realized that it had neglected to forward a copy of the manuscript to the DIA, as required by regulations, which stipulate that all US government agencies mentioned in the manuscript must approve it prior to publication. Read more of this post

Has US Pentagon revived Bush-era domestic spy program?

US Pentagon

US Pentagon

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A little-known US Department of Defense counterintelligence is suspected to have resuscitated a notorious Bush-era domestic surveillance program, which was banned by Congress for being too obtrusive. In 2002, the then Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz authorized the Threat and Local Observation Notice (TALON), a US Air Force intelligence collection program aimed to gather data on potential threats to American armed forces personnel in the US and abroad. But the initiative was allegedly shelved by the Bush administration, after it emerged that TALON intelligence collection focused largely on political policing against lawful antiwar groups. But now new reports suggest that an obscure unit under the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), called the Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center (DCHC), is creating a new system of consolidated databases whose focus closely resembles that of TALON. Read more of this post

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