Canada denies reports of spy devices found in military complex

Former Nortel campusBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The government of Canada has denied media reports that surreptitious listening devices were found in an Ottawa building complex that is currently being prepared to house Canada’s Department of National Defence. Canadian media reported on Monday that the mysterious spy devices were found by workers employed at the former headquarters of Nortel Networks, a Canadian telecommunications company that went bankrupt in 2009. Canada’s conservative government purchased Nortel’s former headquarters in Ottawa in 2011, and has invested close to C$1 billion (US$960 million) on a plan to move the country’s Defence Department to the site. The media reports did not specify whether the alleged eavesdropping devices were installed recently, or whether they date from the time when Nortel was headquartered at the site. In 2009, when the company declared bankruptcy, there were intense rumors that its operations had been harmed irreparably by an aggressive industrial espionage campaign conducted by Chinese hackers. On Monday, Canada’s CTV News reported that the country’s Department of National Defence was considering scrapping plans to move to the former Nortel complex, due to the discovery of the listening devices. On Monday, the Department of National Defence refused to comment directly on the allegations, stating simply that it could not provide “any information regarding specific measures and tests undertaken to secure a location or facility for reasons of national security”. On Tuesday, however, Canadian government officials told The Ottawa Citizen newspaper it had been assured by the Defence Department that “no listening devices” had been found at the former Nortel site. Read more of this post

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Bugging device found in Ecuador’s UK embassy where Assange lives

Ricardo PatinoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The government of Ecuador has announced the discovery of a “hidden listening device” inside its embassy in London, United Kingdom, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has taken refuge. Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Integration, Ricardo Patino, said the device was discovered during a security sweep on June 14, in preparation for his official visit there. Speaking during a press conference on Wednesday in Ecuadorean capital Quito, Patino told journalists that the microphone was discovered inside the office of Ambassador Ana Alban, Ecuador’s envoy to the UK. Patino arrived in London two days later and met with Assange, as well as with Britain’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, William Hague, to discuss Assange’s case. The WikiLeaks founder has been hosted inside the Ecuadorean embassy for over a year, resisting extradition to Sweden, where his is facing charges of rape and sexual assault. Assange denies the charges are valid and maintains that the Swedish government is intent on extraditing him to the United States, where he is likely to face more charges over Cablegate. This is the term commonly used to describe the unauthorized release in 2010 by WikiLeaks of thousands of classified cables sent to the US State Department by American diplomatic missions around the world. Patino told journalists on Wednesday that he “regretted to have to inform” them about the discovery, which he characterized as “another instance of declining ethics in the international relations between governments”. Read more of this post

Israel wiretapped PLO head office in Tunisia: report

Yasser Arafat in Tunis in 1993By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Israeli intelligence was able to intercept the conversations of senior Palestinian leaders in Tunisia in the months leading to the 1993 Oslo Accords, according to an article published Monday by a leading Israeli newspaper. Veteran security correspondent Ronen Bergman wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth  that sophisticated listening devices were planted in the office of Mahmoud Abbas. Today, Abbas, known also as Abu Mazen, is the President of the Palestinian National Authority, based in the occupied West Bank. But in 1993 he was Deputy Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), serving under its founder and Chairman, Yasser Arafat. At that time, the PLO was headquartered in Tunisian capital Tunis, where it had relocated in 1982 after it was driven out of Lebanon during Israel’s invasion. Bergman said that the operation, codenamed GOLDEN FLEECE, was authorized by Shabtai Shavit, who was at the time Director of the Mossad, Israel’s primary covert-action agency. The operation, considered one of the Mossad’s most important and secret at the time, was carried out by a Palestinian agent who had been recruited by Israeli intelligence. The agent, described by Bergman as a “man within the PLO leadership”, was allegedly affiliated with Fatah, a Palestinian political party that has traditionally formed the largest faction within the PLO. The agent allegedly managed to plant at least two eavesdropping devices at the personal office of the PLO’s Vice Chairman, one in his office chair and one inside one of the desk lamps in the room. Bergman says that, on the day the devices became operational, Shavit held an emergency meeting to inform the Mossad’s senior commanders about their existence. Read more of this post

Fascinating profile of the Soviet KGB’s little-known tech wizard

US Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., displays the Soviet KGB's Great Seal bug at the United NationsBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
It is often suggested by intelligence researchers that one major difference between Western and Soviet modes of espionage during the Cold War was their degree of reliance on technology. It is generally accepted that Western espionage was far more dependent on technical innovation than its Soviet equivalent. While this observation may be accurate, it should not be taken to imply that the KGB, GRU, and other Soviet intelligence agencies neglected technical means of intelligence collection. In a recent interview with top-selling Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, Russian intelligence historian Gennady Sokolov discusses the case of Vadim Fedorovich Goncharov. Colonel Goncharov was the KGB’s equivalent of ‘Q’, head of the fictional research and development division of Britain’s MI6 in the James Bond films. A veteran of the Battle of Stalingrad, Goncharov eventually rose to the post of chief scientific and technical consultant of KGB’s 5th Special Department, later renamed Operations and Technology Directorate. According to Sokolov, Goncharov’s numerous areas of expertise included cryptology, communications interception and optics. While working in the KGB’s research laboratories, Goncharov came up with the idea of employing the principles behind the theremin, an early electronic musical instrument invented by Soviet physicist Léon Theremin in 1928, in wireless audio surveillance. According to Sokolov, the appropriation of the theremin by the KGB under Goncharov’s leadership “changed the world of intelligence”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #514

  • The spy kid. Multipart series by The Oregonian‘s Bryan Denson, on Nathaniel James Nicholson, son of CIA double agent Harold James Nicholson, who was convicted for spying on the US for Russia. Nathaniel was convicted in 2009 for maintaining contacts with his father’s Russian handlers.
  • Listening bug found in NZ MP’s home. Sources close to New Zealand’s Government Communication Security Bureau (GCSB) have said that at least one clandestine listening device has been found after a sweep of senior government officials’ homes.
  • Israel sells spy camera to Turkey despite concerns. Israel’s defense establishment has approved the sale to Turkey of the Long-Range Oblique Photography pod, a sophisticated intelligence system considered the pinnacle in Israeli military technology, despite worsening relations between the two countries.

Location of massive Israeli eavesdropping site uncovered

Nicky Hager

Nicky Hager

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An author and investigative journalist from New Zealand has uncovered one of the world’s biggest government-sponsored eavesdropping sites in a desert in Israel. Writing in French monthly review Le Monde Diplomatique, Nicky Hager reveals that the site acts as a base for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Central Collection Unit of the Intelligence Corps, also known as Unit 8200, which is responsible for collecting and decrypting signals intelligence. In his article, written in French, Hager describes the base as one of the world’s largest, and says it is located near the Urim kibbutz, about 30 kilometers west of Beersheba, in Israel’s Negev desert region. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #323 (Cold War edition)

  • Story of the Soviet Trojan seal retold. Ken Stanley, who was chief technology officer at the US State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service from 2006 to 2008, retells the story of the large wooden replica of the US Great Seal, which the Soviets gave to the US ambassador to Moscow as a present in 1945. The seal, which was, of course, bugged, hanged in the US ambassador’s office until 1953, when it was discovered.
  • Soviet spy radio found in a Welsh field. It has been revealed that a Soviet encrypted radio transmitter was found near the Welsh coastal town of Ipcress in 1960. It is speculated that it belonged to the late Goronwy Rees, an academic from Aberystwyth, who was a friend of the Cambridge Five, although his daughter disputes it.
  • 1950s-60s spy gadgets on sale at eBay. Gadgets used by British spies who trained from the 1940s to the 1960s at top-secret camp Camp X near Ontario, Canada, are being sold off on eBay. They include a camera that shoots darts, a lipstick tube containing a dagger and fake monkey dung that explodes (!).

 

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A veteran British envoy on diplomacy, sex and espionage

Christopher Meyer

Christopher Meyer

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
British newspaper The Daily Mail has published a well-written and entertaining essay by a longtime UK government envoy, explaining the close links between diplomacy, sex and espionage. Sir Christopher Meyer, a career diplomat with the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, served in several countries during his career, including the Soviet Union and Spain, as well as in Germany and the United States, where he was ambassador from 1997 to 2003. He argues in his article that “sex and diplomacy have long been bedfellows”, and recounts some of his personal experiences in the former USSR, where he began his 35-year diplomatic career in 1968, as “an innocent, unmarried 24-year- old”. He arrived in Moscow along with Sir Duncan Wilson, Britain’s ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1968 to 1971. Sir Christopher is bold enough to recount that Sir Duncan’s predecessor, Sir Geoffrey Harrison (ambassador from 1965 to 1968), “had to leave [Moscow] in a hurry, having fallen for the charms of his Russian maid –trained and targeted, of course, by the KGB”. Read more of this post

Ex-DoD analyst accused of spying says he was FBI double spy

Larry Franklin

Larry Franklin

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Lawrence Anthony Franklin, the former US Defense Department analyst whose 12-year prison sentence was suspended last month, now claims he was an FBI informant in a case of alleged spying by the pro-Israeli lobby in Washington. Franklin was accused by the US government of handing classified military information to Uzi Arad, Naor Gilon, an Israeli Embassy official in Washington, as well as to Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, both lobbyists with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Besides Franklin, Rosen and Weissman were also taken to court by the FBI. Last May, however, US Justice Department prosecutors dropped all charges against the two former AIPAC members. It was just a matter of time before Franklin’s sentence was also suspended. Read more of this post

Memo reveals Italians are listening in on confidential G8 discussions

Berlusconi

Berlusconi

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
London-based newspaper The Financial Times says the Italian organizers of the G8 summit are covertly listening in on confidential discussions between participating leaders. The paper bases its allegation on a leaked Italian memo it received “from a senior official, who requested anonymity”. According to the memo, the hosts of the summit, which is taking place in the Italian city of L’Aquila, are breaking strict diplomatic protocol by having a team of aides secretly monitor the confidential proceedings through concealed surveillance devices. The paper claims that the monitoring appears to be aimed at “transmit[ting] quicker advice” to Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is officially chairing the summit. But it also alleges that the leaked memo, which was authored by the Italian organizers and addressed to the monitoring team shortly prior to the summit, points to the emergence of a split among the hosts, some of whom are concerned that the monitoring operation “amount[s] to spying”. Shortly after The Financial Times aired the allegations, a spokesman for prime minister Berlusconi categorically denied that there was any covert monitoring going on on the part of the G8 summit organizers. The summit is scheduled to end later today.

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