Swedish double spy who escaped to Moscow in 1987 dies at 77

Stig BerglingBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Sweden’s most notorious Cold-War spy, who went on the run for nearly a decade after managing to escape from prison in 1987, has died in Stockholm. Born in the Swedish capital in 1937, Stig Eugén Bergling became a police officer in the late 1950s prior to joining SÄPO, the Swedish Security Service, in 1967. He initially worked in the Service’s surveillance unit, and later joined several counterintelligence operations, mostly against Soviet and East European intelligence services. In 1979, while posted by SÄPO in Tel Aviv, he was arrested by the Israelis for selling classified documents to the GRU, the military intelligence agency of the USSR.

He was promptly extradited to Sweden, where he stood trial for espionage and treason. His trial captivated the headlines, as details about the spy tradecraft he employed while spying for the Soviets, including radio transmitters, invisible ink and microdots, were revealed in court. He said in his testimony that he sold over 15,000 classified Swedish government documents to the Soviets, not due to any ideological allegiance with the Kremlin, but simply in order to make money. Bergling was sentenced to life in prison, while lawyers for the prosecution argued in court that the reorganization of Sweden’s defense and intelligence apparatus, which had been caused by Bergling’s espionage, would cost the taxpayer in excess of $45 million. For the next six years, the convicted spy disappeared from the headlines, after legally changing his name to Eugen Sandberg while serving his sentence.

But in 1987, during a conjugal visit to his wife, he escaped with her using several rented cars, eventually making it to Finland. When they arrived in Helsinki, Bergling contacted the Soviet embassy, which smuggled him and his wife across to the USSR. The couple’s escape caused a major stir in Sweden, and an international manhunt was initiated for their capture. In 1994, the two fugitives suddenly returned to Sweden from Lebanon, where they had been living, claiming they were homesick and missed their families. They said they had lived in Moscow and Budapest under the aliases of Ivar and Elisabeth Straus. Bergling was sent back to prison, while his wife was not sentenced due to ill health. She died of cancer in 1997. Bergling changed his name again, this time to Sydholt, and lived his final years in a nursing home in Stockholm until his recent death. He was 77.

Hezbollah official admits group ‘battling espionage’ in its ranks

Naim QassemBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Public comments by a senior Hezbollah official appear to confirm earlier reports that the man who directed the personal security detail of the Lebanese group’s leader was a spy for Israel. Several Lebanese news outlets reported in December that Mohammed Shawraba, a 42-year-old Hezbollah official from southern Lebanon, had been arrested by Hezbollah’s counter-intelligence force and was undergoing trial for having leaked sensitive information to Israel for several years. Sources said that Shawraba used to oversee the security detail of Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary-general. He was subsequently promoted to director of Hezbollah’s Unit for Foreign Operations, also known as Unit 910, which conducts intelligence operations on Israeli targets abroad. One Lebanese source described the Shawraba case as “one of the most significant security breaches” in the history of Hezbollah. Ever since the first public allegations emerged, the militant Shiite group has remained silent. On Saturday, however, Naim Qassem, Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary General, admitted that the group was “battling espionage within its ranks” and that its counter-spies had been able to uncover “a number of significant infiltrations”. Qassem’s comments, made during an interview on Al-Nour, a Beirut-based radio station affiliated with Hezbollah, have been taken by observers as an indirect admission that the rumors about Shawraba are accurate. Qassem told the radio station that Hezbollah was a party that aimed for virtue and pureness, but that it was made up of human beings who are inevitably fallible. But he refused to be more specific about the cases of espionage, saying only that Hezbollah was Lebanon’s strongest and most resilient political organization and would easily overcome any harm caused by double agents within its ranks. A spokesman for the militant group, who was asked on Sunday whether Qassem’s comments were a reference to Shawraba, refused to comment on the case.

Revealed: Letters between Margaret Thatcher and KGB defector

Oleg GordievskyBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Files released this week have revealed part of the personal correspondence between the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and one of the Cold War’s most important Soviet spy defectors. Oleg Gordievsky entered the Soviet KGB in 1963. He soon joined the organization’s Second Directorate, which was responsible for coordinating the activities of Soviet ‘illegals’, that is, intelligence officers operating abroad without official diplomatic cover. Gordievsky’s faith in the Soviet system was irreparably damaged in 1968, when Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia. In 1974, while stationed in Danish capital Copenhagen, he made contact with British intelligence and began his career as a double agent for the United Kingdom. In 1985, shortly before he was to assume the post of KGB station chief at the Soviet embassy in London, he was summoned back to Moscow by an increasingly suspicious KGB. He was aggressively interrogated but managed to make contact with British intelligence and was eventually smuggled out of Russia via Finland, riding in the trunk of a British diplomatic vehicle. His defection was announced a few days later by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who had personally approved his exfiltration from the USSR. Files released this week by the British National Archives show that the British Prime Minister took a personal interest in Gordievsky’s wellbeing following his exfiltration, and even corresponded with him after the Soviet defector personally wrote to her to ask for her intervention to help him reunite with his wife Leila and two daughters, who remained in the Soviet Union. In his letter, written in 1985, Gordievsky told Thatcher that his life had “no meaning” unless he was able to be with his family. On September 7, 1985, the British Prime Minister responded with a letter to the Soviet defector, urging him not to give up. “Please do not say that life has no meaning”, she wrote. “There is always hope. And we shall do all to help you through these difficult days”. She added that the two should meet once the “immediate situation” of the worldwide media attention caused by his exfiltration subsided. Thatcher went on to publicly urge for Moscow to allow Gordievsky’s family to reunite with the Soviet defector, “on humanitarian grounds”. But it was in 1991, after the collapse of communism in the USSR, when Gordievsky’s family was finally able to join him in the UK.

Hezbollah leader’s senior bodyguard was Mossad agent

Hezbollah leader Hassan NasrallahBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The man who directed the personal security detail of the secretary-general of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah was an agent of Israeli intelligence, according to multiple sources in Lebanon. The agent, who was arrested earlier this year by Hezbollah’s counter-intelligence force, and is now undergoing trial, was able to penetrate the highest levels of the Shiite militant group, and leaked sensitive information to Israel for several years prior to his capture. American newspaper The Washington Post and Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star cite “security officials and people in Lebanon” who say they are familiar with the incident. They say the agent’s activities constitute “one of the most significant security breaches” in the history of Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group that controls large swathes of Lebanese territory. Media reports have identified the alleged agent as Mohammed Shawraba, a man in his late 30s or early 40s 42, who is believed to come from a small village in southern Lebanon. According to reports from Lebanon, several years ago Shawraba used to direct the personal security detail of Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary-general. Nasrallah has led the militant group since 1992, when his predecessor, Abbas al-Musawi, was assassinated by Israel. In 2008, after a number of years in the service of Nasrallah’s personal security detail, Shawraba was promoted to director of the group’s Unit for Foreign Operations, also known as Unit 910, which collects information on Israeli activities abroad. However, unbeknownst to Hezbollah officials, Shawraba had been recruited by the Israeli spy agency Mossad even before he joined Nasrallah’s personal security team. According to The Post, the information he shared with the Mossad on a regular basis helped Israel thwart a number of high-profile Hezbollah operations in Lebanon and Israel, especially in 2006. Eventually, however, Hezbollah’s military commanders became increasingly suspicious of the high rate of failed operations, and began to suspect that a mole inside the group’s senior command structure was feeding sensitive operational information to the Israelis. Eventually, Shawraba was arrested after Hezbollah’s leadership was given crucial information from Iranian intelligence sources. Shortly afterwards, Shawraba was arrested in a Hezbollah-led sting operation, reportedly along with four other people who worked for him in the group’s Foreign Operations Unit. In an article published last week, the Beirut-based Daily Star said Shawraba is currently undergoing trial in a Hezbollah court. Israeli government officials have refused comment on the story.

Estonian intel officer comes out as Russian spy in TV interview

Uno PuuseppBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Estonian authorities have charged a retired officer in the country’s internal intelligence service with espionage, after he revealed in a television interview that he spied for Russia for nearly 20 years. Uno Puusepp retired from the Internal Security Service of Estonia, known as KaPo, in 2011. He first joined the Soviet KGB as a wiretapping expert in the 1970s, when Estonia was part of the USSR. Following the dissolution of the USSR, when Estonia became an independent nation, he was hired by KaPo and worked there until his retirement, three years ago, at which time he moved permanently to Russian capital Moscow. Last Sunday, however, Puusepp was the main speaker in a documentary entitled Our Man in Tallinn, aired on Russian television channel NTV. In the documentary, Puusepp revealed that he was a double spy for the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), which is KGB’s successor, from 1996 until his retirement. He told the network that he was one of several former KGB operatives who had gone on to work for independent Estonia’s intelligence agencies, but that he had quickly decided that his true allegiance was to Russia. He eventually supplied Moscow with information on the activities of Western intelligence agencies in Estonia, including those of the American CIA, Britain’s MI6 and Germany’s BND. One commentator said in the documentary that “for 15 years, practically everything that landed on the desk of the Estonian security service’s director also landed on the desk of the FSB” thanks to Puusepp. The retired double spy said that one of his successes was letting the FSB know about a planned CIA operation that involved setting up a signals intelligence station in a disused bunker in the northern Estonian town of Aegviidu. The station was aimed at collecting communications from Russian diplomats and intelligence officers, but the Russian side terminated those networks once it got word of the CIA’s plans. Puusepp’s FSB recruiter and handler, Nikolai Yermakov, also spoke in the documentary, saying that the Estonian double spy was not motivated by financial profit, but rather by grievances against what he called “the Estonian establishment”. It is unclear why the Russian authorities permitted Puusepp to speak publicly at this particular time.

The story of a suspected KGB mole who shook the FBI in the 1960s

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.orgKGB
Readers of this blog will know about the infamous case of James Jesus Angleton, who headed the counterintelligence department of the Central Intelligence Agency from the 1950s to the 1970s, and led the biggest mole hunt in the Agency’s history. David Wise, author of several intelligence-related books, including the best-selling Spy, about FBI double agent Robert Hanssen, writes in a new article that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was also shaken by a similar mole hunt, which never became public. In an article published in this month’s Smithsonian Magazine, Wise claims that the probe constituted “the first mole hunt in the history of the FBI” and that it was “one of the most sensitive investigations” in the history of the Bureau. Wise suggests that the mole hunt began in the spring of 1962, when Aleksei Kulak, a 39-year-old Soviet scientific consultant to the United Nations, who was in fact KGB operative, defected to the FBI. He was instructed by his American handlers to operate as an agent-in-place and supplied the FBI for a decade with secret information from the Soviet Union. The FBI gave him the codename FEDORA, also known in Bureau files as “Source 10”. In his article in The Smithsonian, which is based on interviews with no fewer than 30 current and former FBI agents, Wise describes FEDORA as “one of the most important sources the FBI had” at the time. Kulak and another KGB agent, Valentin Lysov, who defected to American intelligence in the mid-1960s, told the FBI that the Soviet Union kept a source inside the FBI, known as “Dick”. But neither defector knew whether Dick was the source’s real name, or whether it was simply a KGB operational codename. The FBI, says Wise, gave the alleged mole the code term UNSUB (“unknown subject”) Dick, and began a massive mole hunt. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #837

Alexander LitvinenkoBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Russian ex-spy ‘would testify’ in Litvinenko inquiry. The 2006 murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko has never been solved and remains the subject of conflicting narratives and still-deepening intrigue over who may have killed him and why. Now a key witness, a US-based former Russian spy who worked with Litvinenko in the months leading up to his death, says he is willing to give evidence at a public inquiry. British police considered him such a vital witness that they visited the US three times to persuade him to give evidence at the inquest.
►►Assange reveals GCHQ messages discussing extradition. Authorities at GCHQ, Britain’s eavesdropping agency, face embarrassing revelations about internal correspondence in which WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is discussed, apparently including speculation that he is being framed by Swedish authorities seeking his extradition on rape allegations. The records were revealed by Assange himself in a Sunday night interview with Spanish television. A message from September 2012, apparently says: “They are trying to arrest him on suspicion of XYZ. It is definitely a fit-up. Their timings are too convenient right after Cablegate“.
►►North Korean defector accused of spying by his sister. Earlier this year, Yoo Woo-sung, one of the most prominent North Korean defectors living in South Korea, was arrested on charges of espionage. Now court documents have shown that Yoo was arrested after testimony from his sister, who said he had been sent on a mission by North Korea’s secret police to infiltrate the defector community and pass back information about the people he met. The Washington Post reports that defectors from the North are increasingly facing the brunt of this suspicion.
►►Iran hangs two men for spying for Israel and US. Mohammad Heydari was found guilty of passing intelligence on “security issues and national secrets” to Israeli Mossad agents in exchange for cash. Kourosh Ahmadi was convicted of providing intelligence to the CIA, Tehran’s prosecutor’s office said. It is not clear when Heydari and Ahmadi were arrested or where they were tried. Their execution was handed down by Tehran’s Revolutionary Court and confirmed by the Supreme Court, Iran’s Fars news agency reported.

Israel’s Prisoner X ‘gave Mossad secrets to Hezbollah’: German report

Ben ZygierBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An Australian-born Israeli spy, who killed himself while being held in an Israeli prison in 2010, had been arrested for sharing Israeli secrets with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, according to a German report.  Ben Zygier was an officer in Israel’s covert-action agency Mossad for several years before he was placed in solitary confinement following his arrest in Israel, in February 2010. Known to the outside world only as ‘Prisoner X’, he allegedly killed himself in his cell a few months later. In February of this year, when an Australian television program identified ‘Prisoner X’ as Zygier, the Australian government admitted it had been aware of its citizen’s incarceration and death, but chose not to extend to him diplomatic support. One of the burning questions in the Zygier case relates to the precise reasons for his detention. On Sunday, German newsmagazine Der Spiegel said that the Australian-born Zygier was arrested by Israeli intelligence after contacting —on his own initiative and without permission— an individual with links to militant Shiite group Hezbollah. According to the Spiegel report, Zygier had been demoted from an operations officer to a desk clerk, having failed to produce actionable results after several years of fieldwork in Europe. Seeing his demotion as a major obstacle to his career, the Australian-born spy allegedly embarked on a ‘rogue’ mission, in an attempt to impress his Mossad superiors. In 2008, when the Israeli government allowed Zygier to return to Australia to pursue graduate studies, he secretly traveled to Europe and established contact with a man from a Balkan country known to have close links with Hezbollah, considered by Tel Aviv as one of Israel’s mortal enemies. Read more of this post

Israel to push U.S. for Pollard’s release as Obama visit nears

Jonathan PollardBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
As United States President Barack Obama is preparing to visit Israel this week, several public figures are joining the Israeli government in lobbying for the release of a convicted spy, who betrayed American secrets to Israel in the 1980s. The pressure campaign reportedly includes a symbolic hunger strike and a public petition in favor of clemency, which contains nearly 200,000 signatures. Jonathan Jay Pollard was a US Navy intelligence analyst who spied for Israel in exchange for money from 1984 until his arrest in 1986. Many in US counterintelligence consider him one of the most damaging double spies in American history. But he is widely viewed as a hero in Israel, where many conservative Israelis, as well as pro-Israel Americans, are actively pressuring the US administration of President Barack Obama to release him. In 1998, after many years of official denials, Israel publicly admitted that Pollard had operated as an Israeli agent in the United States. Pollard, who acquired Israeli citizenship in 1995, has so far served 28 years of a life sentence in a US prison. The New York Times reports that many Israelis see Obama’s visit to Israel on Wednesday —the first in his presidency— as “the perfect opportunity” to pressure the US President for clemency for Pollard. In addition to a high-profile hunger strike in Tel Aviv, several notable Israeli citizens have signed an extended petition urging Pollard’s release. They include Israeli President Shimon Peres, as well as several retired generals and Nobel Prize-winning academics. Notable American signatories include former Assistant Secretary for Defense Lawrence Korb, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency James Woolsey, as well as former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger. Read more of this post

As many Russian spies in UK today as in Cold War: Soviet defector

Oleg GordievskyBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Soviet KGB’s former station chief in London, who defected to the United Kingdom in the 1980s, has alleged that Russia operates as many spies in Britain today as it did during the Cold War. Oleg Gordievsky, 74, a fluent speaker of Russian, German, Swedish, Danish, and English, entered the Soviet KGB in 1963. He eventually joined the organization’s Second Directorate, which was responsible for coordinating the activities of Soviet ‘illegals’, that is, intelligence officers operating abroad without official diplomatic cover. Gordievsky’s faith in the Soviet system was irreparably damaged in 1968, when Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia. In 1974, while stationed in Copenhagen, Denmark, he made contact with British intelligence and began his career as a double agent for the UK. In 1985, when he was the KGB’s station chief at the Soviet embassy in London, he was summoned back to Moscow by an increasingly suspicious KGB. He was aggressively interrogated but managed to make contact with British intelligence and was eventually smuggled out of Russia via Finland, riding in the trunk of a British diplomatic vehicle. In 2007, Gordievsky was awarded the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (CMG) by the Queen “for services to the security of the UK”. Russia, however, considers Gordievsky a traitor and the government of Vladimir Putin refuses to rescind a death sentence given to him in absentia by a Soviet court. In an interview with The Guardian newspaper this week, Gordievsky said London is currently home to 37 officers of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), one of the successor agencies to the KGB. Read more of this post

Will former US government informant face terror charges in India?

David HeadleyBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A former United States government informant, who helped an Islamist militant group plan the 2008 Mumbai attacks in India, has been sentenced to 35 years in prison. David Coleman Headley, a former US Drug Enforcement Administration informant, was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2009 for helping to plot an attack by Islamist radicals on a Danish newspaper. It eventually became apparent that Headley had been a member of Pakistani militant group Lashkar e-Taiba and had also helped plan the 2008 attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai. The terrorist plot involved at least a dozen attacks on tourist and other civilian targets in India’s largest city, conducted by small cells of highly trained LeT members who had arrived from Pakistan by boat. The coordinated attacks, which began on November 26 and ended three days later, killed 164 and wounded over 300 people. According to the FBI, Headley, who was born to a Pakistani father and an American mother, took advantage of his Western manners and physique to travel to Mumbai posing as an American tourist, in order to help map out the LeT operation. On Thursday, a court in Chicago sentenced Headley to 35 years in prison. Prior to his sentencing, Headley had pleaded guilty to all 12 counts brought against him by US prosecutors and is said to be cooperating with authorities —which is reportedly why he was spared the death penalty. However, the question in the minds of many terrorism observers is, will Headley be extradited to India to face charges there for what is often referred to as ‘India’s 9/11’? The answer is not so simple. Read more of this post

Philby’s son, widow, speak on 50th anniversary of his defection

Philby interview c.1967 By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
For most of us, January 23, 2013, was a day like any other. But for intelligence history aficionados it marked the 50th anniversary of the escape to Moscow of notorious double spy Harold Adrian Russell Philby. Known as ‘Kim’ to his friends, Philby secretly defected to the USSR from his home in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1963. He is widely considered history’s most successful double spy. While working as a senior member of British intelligence, he spied on behalf of the Soviet NKVD and KGB from the early 1930s until his defection. In 1965, he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. When he died, in 1988, he was buried with honors by the Soviet authorities. Philby’s defection sent ripples of shock across Western intelligence and is often described as one of the most dramatic moments of the Cold War. On the 50th anniversary of Philby’s defection to Moscow, British newspaper The Daily Telegraph carried an article with excerpts of interviews with one of Philby’s sons, Dudley Thomas Philby, and his Russian widow, Rufina Pukhova Philby. Born in 1946, Dudley ‘Tommy’ Philby is the third of Kim’s five children with his second of four wives, Aileen Furse Philby. Aileen died in 1957, when Tommy was just 11 years old; his contact with his father was cut off as soon as the double spy defected to the USSR in January 1963. But it was resumed a few months later, when he received a letter from his father in Moscow. Eventually, Tommy visited Kim five times in Moscow in the 1970s. Speaking on the anniversary of his late father’s defection, he described him as “a very kind man” and “a very good father”, who “had his belief [in] communism [and] carried it out”. He told The Telegraph that he personally did not agree with his father’s political views, but added: “he was what he was, what could I do?”. He told the paper that Kim eventually came to think that “it was all wrong”, implying that Philby grew disillusioned with the Soviet system. Read more of this post

Revealed: German neo-Nazi who helped Palestinians was CIA agent

Willi Pohl, a.k.a. Willi VossBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A German far-right militant, whose animosity against Jews led him to aid Palestinians kill Israeli athletes in the 1972 Munich massacre, says he was later recruited by the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Willi Pohl, also known as Willi Voss, 68, was arrested by German authorities a few weeks after Palestinian terrorist group Black September stormed the Olympic village in Munich and took hostage 11 Israeli athletes. All of them were eventually killed by their captors during a botched escape attempt at the nearby Fürstenfeldbruck airport. Voss, who was a known neo-Nazi activist at the time, was charged with possession of weapons and providing logistical support to the Black September militants. However, after his sentence was suspended, Voss managed to secretly emigrate to Beirut, Lebanon, where he was recruited as an agent of Jihaz el-Razd, the intelligence service of the Fatah, the main group in the Palestine Liberation Organization. But in 1975, while on a PLO mission in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, he decided to switch sides. He made the decision after discovering that the car he and his girlfriend were transporting on behalf of the PLO from Beirut to Belgrade contained weapons and highly unstable explosives. He says that the PLO had apparently failed to mention the existence of the hidden items when they asked him to transport the car to Europe. According to Voss’ new book, which has just been published in Germany under the title UnterGrund (Underground), the guns and explosives were discovered by customs officers in Romania (then Rumania); but because at that time the communist country was an ally of the PLO, Voss and his girlfriend were allowed to travel to Belgrade, minus the car and the weapons. Read more of this post

Would be al-Qaeda bomber was Saudi double agent

YemenBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The man tasked by al-Qaeda’s Yemeni branch to blow up an airliner bound for the United States last month, was a mole who had been recruited by Saudi intelligence. IntelNews understands that the double agent is a Saudi citizen who volunteered to act as an informant for Saudi authorities. The latter eventually tasked him with traveling to Yemen, joining al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and convincing its leaders that he was willing to carry out a suicide mission against Western targets. It is not known at this point whether the Saudis kept the United States Central Intelligence Agency in the loop from the moment the mole was sent to Yemen to join AQAP. What is known is that the man did indeed manage to penetrate AQAP and was eventually entrusted with attacking a civilian airliner with a custom-built bomb designed to fit seamlessly around his scrotum. However, instead of carrying out the suicide mission as agreed, the man left Yemen for Saudi Arabia and delivered both himself and the bomb to Saudi intelligence. The Saudis eventually notified the CIA of the foiled plot, before forwarding the deactivated explosive device to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is now studying it. Thus, initial media reports claiming that the CIA had foiled the attack appear somewhat stretched at this point, in light of the critical role of the Saudi mole inside AQAP. Read more of this post

MI6 set up fake mosque in Europe to attract Muslim extremists

Tony Blair and Muammar Gaddafi in 2007By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
British and Libyan intelligence collaborated during the reign of Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, in setting up a radical mosque in a European city aimed at luring Muslim extremists. The revelation was made last weekend by British newspaper The Sunday Telegraph, which said it was in possession of documents describing the complex ruse. The paper said that the documents, which were authored by MI6, were discovered in the abandoned headquarters of the ESO, Libya’s External Security Organization, following the collapse of the Gaddafi regime. They allegedly describe a series of operations resulting from the close collaboration between the ESO and MI6, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, which began in 2003. During that time, the two intelligence agencies re-established contact in the context of the diplomatic ‘thaw’ between London and Tripoli, which began with Libya’s decision to abandon its nuclear weapons program. With ESO’s assistance, MI6 recruited an agent who was “closely connected” to a senior al-Qaeda commander in Iraq. Codenamed JOSEPH, the agent was slowly groomed to infiltrate an al-Qaeda cell operating in a Western European city. The project’s ultimate goal was for JOSEPH to help establish a mosque aimed at luring Muslim extremists planning to launch terrorist attacks. The Telegraph states that the name of the city, which is in continental Europe, “cannot be named for security reasons”. In December 2003, JOSEPH was flown to the UK by MI6, along with a Libyan intelligence officer who had previously been stationed in London. The two men met with MI6 officers in a British hotel, where they discussed plans to set up the mosque. After taking some time to address JOSEPH’s strong reservations about his personal safety, MI6 officers met with him again in 2004 in “a city in the north of England”. Read more of this post

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