Ex-NATO supreme commander warns of ‘Grexit security nightmare’

James StavridisAn American former supreme allied commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has warned that a possible Greek exit from the Eurozone “could become a geopolitical nightmare” for the European Union and NATO. James Stavridis, a retired four-start US Navy admiral, who served as NATO’s 16th Supreme Allied Commander Europe from 2009 to 2013, said solving the Greek crisis should not be left to the central bankers. In an article published Wednesday in Foreign Policy, Stavridis said the financial administrators that are handling the Greek crisis were not sufficiently cognizant of the massive geostrategic implications of a possible “Grexit”.

The retired admiral said that if the Greek economy continues its downward spiral, the country may not be able to fulfil its defense obligations to NATO, in which Greece has held full membership since 1952. As a result, the country may leave not only the EU, but also NATO. Neither organization has ever lost a member-state, said Stavridis, adding that such a development would constitute terra incognita and would “shake both organizations in fundamental ways” by weakening their broader ideological cohesion.

However, said Stavridis, chances are that Greece will remain a member of EU and NATO despite possibly exiting the Eurozone. But it would be “an angry disaffected and battered nation”, he said, and could thus wreak havoc in both organizations. The latter are consensus-driven, meaning that their actions depend on the unanimous agreement of all member-states. If Greece adopted an “uncooperative” attitude, it would easily bring both organizations to a halt when it comes to pressing issues, such the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine, the Iranian nuclear program, or even negotiations about transatlantic trade. Currently, Greece’s important geographic position means that its naval bases constitute the maritime flank of NATO during a critical time of tension in the eastern Mediterranean, said Stavridis.

And what if Greece, shunned by the West, started to look elsewhere for support? Russia, which shares strong historical and religious links with Greece, could be a “prospective partner” for Athens, argued Stavridis. If Moscow offered even marginal economic assistance to Athens, Greece could be tempted to further distance itself from its Western partners, both diplomatically and militarily.

Admiral Stavridis’ warning came a day after NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Greece had played “an important role in southern Europe as a NATO member” and urged Athens not to make cuts in its defense spending due to the ongoing economic crisis.

Global finance fears grow as Greece faces economic meltdown

GreeceSeveral Western countries issued travel warnings for Greece on Sunday, as the Greek government shut down all banks and imposed capital controls following the breakdown of talks between Athens and the European Union. British and American citizens traveling or living in Greece were advised to have enough cash on hand, as ATMs were quickly running out of currency. In a late-night televised address to the nation, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said banks would remain closed until July 6 –the day after Greeks vote in a nationwide referendum on whether to accept the bailout terms proposed to Greece by its creditors. Police tightened security around ATM machines, as lines were reportedly formed in petrol stations in the capital.

The decision to shut down the banks was taken after finance ministers in the eurozone –the a monetary union of 19 European Union (EU) member states that have adopted the euro as their common currency– rejected Athens’ request to prolong a financial-assistance program. The decision could prompt Greece to default on a €1.5 billion payment to the International Monetary Fund, one of Greece’s main creditors. Additionally, the European Central Bank, which oversees Greece’s banking system, refused on Sunday to infuse cash to the Greek banks, in order to accommodate the mass withdrawal of cash by panicked citizens. On Saturday, Greece’s Minister of Finance, Yannis Varoufakis, was not allowed to attend a eurozone meeting in Brussels –a historic first that could mean Greece is close to being kicked out of the eurozone and maybe even the EU as a whole.

Finance ministers of the 18 countries that attended Saturday’s meeting issued a joint statement pledging “to do whatever it takes to stabilize the common currency area” and shield it from possible domino effects caused by the Greek financial meltdown. However, it is difficult to predict what will happen to the financial markets if Greece declares a default, as some of the world’s largest banking institutions share ownership of the country’s mammoth €300 billion debt. Financial analysts warned that the euro will become “increasingly vulnerable” to ripple effects from the Greek crisis, while the London-based Financial Times crisis meeeting the developments in Greece were “expected to trigger a sharp reaction” in the world’s markets this week. The big question, said The Times, is whether the economic fallout from the latest dramatic developments would be limited to Greece or become “a global event”. There was no question, said the paper, that the markets were “at a critical juncture” and that investors were “taking the possibility of contagion very seriously”.

Meanwhile, several European countries announced they will be holding emergency meetings on Monday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel invited German party leaders to a crisis meeting, while the office of French President Francois Hollande said he would be holding a “restricted emergency cabinet meeting” to discuss the developments in Greece. The British government said its ministers were “taking steps” to protect the country from possible economic turbulence in the eurozone –of which the United Kingdom is not a member. British newspaper The Observer said in a lengthy editorial published on Sunday that the Greek crisis, coupled with rising tensions over immigration from the Middle East and North Africa, heightened terrorism fears, as well as the impending British EU referendum, were causing a “perfect storm [of] tension and division at Europe’s core”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 29 June 2015 | Permalink: http://intelnews.org/2015/06/29/01-1724/

More on Russian citizens charged with espionage by the FBI

TASS news agency headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A criminal complaint unsealed Monday in a Manhattan court has revealed more details about a complex counterintelligence operation by American authorities against three Russian citizens in New York. The Federal Bureau of Investigation filed charges against two Russian diplomats, Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobnyy, as well as Evgeny Buryakov, an employee of a major Russian bank in Manhattan. All three are believed to be officers of the SVR, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, one of the direct institutional descendants of the Soviet-era KGB. According to the criminal complaint, the two diplomats met Buryakov nearly fifty times between March 2012 and September 2014. FBI counterintelligence agents witnessed the Russians pass “small objects or notes” between each other in public, said the indictment. As intelNews reported yesterday, the three Russians were in regular contact with individuals “associated with a leading Russian state-owned news organization” in the US. According to The Daily Beast, the news organization in question is the Moscow-based TASS news agency, which is owned by the Russian government. The court documents also reveal that Sporyshev and Podobnyy broke basic rules of intelligence tradecraft, by contacting Buryakov using an unencrypted telephone line and addressing him by his real name, rather than his cover name. These conversations, which occurred in April 2013, turned out to be monitored by the FBI’s counterintelligence division, which promptly recorded them. In subsequent telephone conversations, Sporyshev and Podobnyy exchanged views on how to recruit female assets in New York. According to the transcripts provided by the FBI, Sporyshev expressed the view that female assets posed problems, in that they would not let male SVR case officers “get close enough” unless they entered a sexual relationship, which made recruitment of assets complicated. Eventually, the FBI set up a sting operation targeting Buryakov. He was approached by an undercover FBI agent posing as an American investor, offering to provide the Russian with classified documents from the US Treasury. In exchange for the documents, he wanted assistance from the Kremlin to build a chain of casinos in Russia. Buryakov spoke with Sporyshev on the phone about the investor’s offer, and was advised by the diplomat that it could be “some sort of a set up —a trap of some kind”. When Sporyshev told Buryakov to proceed cautiously, the latter received from the undercover FBI agent documents purporting to be from a US Treasury source. The Russian was promptly arrested and now faces up to 20 years in prison on charges of operating as an unregistered agent of a foreign power.

US busts Russian spy ring, charges three with espionage

Russian mission to the UNBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Authorities in the United States have charged three Russian citizens, two of them diplomats, with operating a New York-based spy ring on orders from Moscow. Early on Monday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation named the diplomats as Igor Sporyshev, 40, and Victor Podobnyy, 27. It said the two were employees of the trade office of the Russian permanent mission to the United Nations in New York. But the FBI had apparently been monitoring the two accredited diplomats since March of 2012. Its agents eventually uncovered that Sporyshev and Podobnyy were in fact employees of the SVR, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, one of the direct institutional descendants of the Soviet-era KGB. According to their indictment, the two were employed by the SVR’s ‘ER’ Directorate, which focuses on economics and finance. The two SVR employees, operating under diplomatic guises, regularly met with a third member of the alleged spy ring, Evgeny Buryakov, 39, also an SVR officer. However, unlike Sporyshev and Podobnyy, Buryakov was operating under non-official cover, posing as an employee in the Manhattan office of a major Russian bank. Non-official-cover operatives, or NOCs, as they are known in the US Intelligence Community, are typically high-level principal agents or officers of an intelligence agency, who operate without official connection to the diplomatic authorities of the country that is employing them. They typically pose as business executives, students, academics, journalists, or non-profit agency workers, among other covers. Unlike official-cover officers, who are protected by diplomatic immunity, NOCs have no such protection. If arrested by authorities of their host country, they can be tried and convicted for conducting espionage. US government prosecutors suggested on Monday that the three alleged SVR operatives were also in regular contact with individuals “associated with a leading Russian state-owned news organization”, presumably in the US. They also tried to recruit American citizens to spy for Moscow, including employees of “major companies” and “several young women with ties to a major university in New York”, according to the indictment. It is believed that the three Russians were primarily interested in information relating to potential US government sanctions against Russian financial institutions, as well as Washington’s efforts to promote the development of alternative resources of energy. The FBI said Sporyshev and Podobnyy, who are protected by diplomatic immunity, “no longer reside in the US”. Presumably they were expelled. Buryakov, however, appeared in a Manhattan court on Monday.

Western companies to suffer backlash in China-US espionage spat

China and the United StatesBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
China’s response to America’s allegations of cyberespionage will probably not be directed against the United States government, but at Western technology companies, according to business insiders. On Monday, the United States Department of Justice identified five members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army as directly responsible for a series of cyberespionage operations targeting American firms. Since then, sources in the business community have said that American companies operating in China were “caught off guard” by the Justice Department’s charges, and that they were “given no advanced notice” by US government officials. On the one hand, business insiders claim that Chinese cyberespionage against Western firms is so aggressive that many in the corporate community were broadly supportive of Washington’s move. But, on the other hand, some industry analysts have told the Reuters news agency that, although Beijing’s response to Washington’s allegations will not be “immediate or obvious”, Western technology firms should prepare to face a lot more difficulties in doing business in China. Specifically, some business observers expect the Chinese government to respond to America’s cyberespionage allegations by “precluding foreign companies from certain sectors” of its economy. Beijing might even use the controversy to justify a “turn to internal suppliers” of technological products and services, say experts. The news agency reports that American hardware and software suppliers have already seen their sales in China drop as a result of the revelations by American intelligence defector Edward Snowden. The current clash over cyberespionage between America and China is likely to have a further negative effect on American business activities all over Southeast Asia. The ongoing dispute between the two countries is likely to have an effect in Europe as well, say The Financial Times. The London-based paper reports that Washington’s recent indictment has “struck a chord in German industry”, which is also concerned about the perceived theft of intellectual property by Chinese hackers. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #871

Rene GonzalezBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Britain denies visa for Cuban spy freed by US. Rene Gonzalez, one of the so-called “Cuban Five” intelligence agents convicted by the US of spying, has been denied a British visa to attend a London symposium. Gonzalez, who served 13 years in US prison before his release in 2011, had been invited to a two-day conference put on by “Voice for the Five”, an organization that campaigns in support of the convicted Cuban spies. The Cuban state-run newspaper Juventud Rebelde said Gonzales, 55, was denied a visa because British law prohibits entry of a person sentenced to more than four years in prison.
►►Canada fires intelligence analyst over contacts with Russians. Irina Koulatchenko, a 36-year-old who came to Canada as a Russian refugee via Cuba, has been fired by Canada’s financial-intelligence agency, known as FINTRAC. A Canadian Security Intelligence Service probe recommended she not be trusted to do that job, allegedly because “she had had several social encounters with Russian diplomats”. The latter included one she met “at a Cirque du Soleil show, another who was friends with her ex-fiancé and another she bumped into all the time at various social events”.
►►CIA suspected of spying on Congress members. The United States Department of Justice has opened an investigation into Senate aides removing documents from CIA headquarters that they reportedly “weren’t authorized to have”. It turns out, however, that the CIA found this out because they were secretly spying on members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and their staff who were working on a high-profile report on CIA torture of detainees. What is more, Democratic Senator Mark Udall has claimed US President Barack Obama knew of the CIA’s secret monitoring of the Committee.

Swiss parliament halts US tax deal following CIA espionage claims

Swiss National Council chamberBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The lower house of the Swiss parliament has voted to stop considering a legislation designed to help the United States identify tax evaders, just days after a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee revealed an espionage operation targeting a Swiss bank executive. The legislation, which was drafted by the government of Switzerland, is aimed at addressing demands by Washington for Swiss banks to turn over to US authorities the identities of American tax dodgers. It is believed that tens of thousands of wealthy Americans manage to evade their tax obligations each year by exploiting strict Swiss banking privacy laws, which effectively shield them from US internal revenue authorities. The legislation has already been approved by the upper house of the Swiss Federal Assembly (the Council of States), but it needs to be cleared by the lower house (the National Council) before it can be officially enacted. Interestingly, the legislation was halted in the lower house just days after American intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed a US espionage operation aimed at recruiting a Swiss bank official. Snowden, a former technical assistant for the CIA, disclosed the existence of PRISM, a clandestine national security electronic surveillance program operated by the United States National Security Agency (NSA). In addition to PRISM, Snowden, 29, spoke about a CIA operation in 2007, when he was allegedly stationed under diplomatic cover at the CIA station in Geneva, Switzerland. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #842 (world reaction to Snowden leak)

Edward SnowdenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Chinese media focus on Snowden leaks. The front pages of Chinese state media were covered Thursday with the allegations of ex-CIA employee Edward Snowden, who says the US government has been hacking computers in China for years. Speaking to media in Hong Kong, where he is currently staying, Snowden said the US has been hacking computers in Hong Kong and mainland China since 2009. He said targets include public officials, businesses and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Those claims by Snowden were the top story on most of China’s major news portals on Thursday
►►Switzerland furious about Snowden’s charge that CIA spies on Swiss banks. One of the many lurid details in The Guardian’s remarkable interview with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was his account of what initially prompted him to leak: namely a CIA tour in Switzerland, where CIA officers recruited Swiss banking officials. The Snowden disclosure could not come at a worse time for the Swiss government, which is trying to convince parliament to back its emergency plan that would allow Swiss banks to turn over data on tax evaders to the US government.
►►Is Russia considering giving asylum to Snowden? Asked if the 29-year-old could claim asylum from Russia, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin told the newspaper Kommersant: “If such a request is received, it will be considered”. Any attempt by the Kremlin to give refuge to Mr Snowden, amid calls for his prosecution under the US Espionage Act, is likely to infuriate the White House and provoke a major diplomatic standoff.

News you may have missed #628 (analysis edition)

Michael Scheuer

Michael Scheuer

►►Should intelligence agencies chase tax evaders? Three years ago, Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the BND, paid a whistleblower close to $7 million for DVDs containing information on thousands of secret accounts at a leading Liechtenstein bank. The discs contained data on 4,527 Liechtenstein foundations and financial entities, 1,400 of which were owned by Germans. But should a spy agency like the BND take part in the unglamorous and politically charged business of collecting information on tax cheats?
►►UK ex-spy chief says Google makes spies work harder. The rise of the web and Google means Britain’s spies have to work harder to produce genuinely secret intelligence, according to Sir David Pepper, the former director of GCHQ, Britain’s signals intelligence agency. He said “the Google effect” of so much information being readily available online had “very substantially” raised the “threshold for producing intelligence” for MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.
►►Ex-CIA official says America ‘creates its own enemies’. Americans are in the crosshairs of terrorists worldwide purely due to Washington’s policy in the Muslim world, according to former CIA officer Michael Scheuer, who spoke to Russia Today. Scheuer, author of Through Our Enemies’ Eyes, worked for the CIA for over 20 years and at one time was the chief of the agency’s ‘Bin Laden unit’.

News you may have missed #575

IARPA logo

IARPA logo

►►Inquest into death of MI6 spy to go ahead. The inquest into the bizarre death of MI6 and GCHQ officer Gareth Williams will go ahead before Christmas without a jury, according to London-based newspaper The Express. The paper says that “12 spy chiefs will attend [the inquest] to explain the background to the case”.
►►Colombia’s ex-president denies role in spy scandal. Alvaro Uribe has denied, during a 3½-hour appearance before a Colombian congressional committee, that he ordered the country’s domestic intelligence agency to spy on judges, journalists and political foes. More than 20 agents of the DAS intelligence agency have been imprisoned for alleged roles in the spying. Two more have pleaded guilty in exchange for reduced sentences.
►►US spy research firm eyes stock market. IARPA, the US intelligence community’s research arm, plans to introduce a new program to develop tools to help analysts “quickly and accurately assess petabytes of complex anonymized financial data”. According to a conference presentation, the program would help spies “analyze massive amounts of data to spot indicators of market behavior, find relationships between seemingly unrelated transactions across hundreds of global markets, and provide insight into specific events and general financial trends”.

News you may have missed #548 (China edition)

NIS HQ

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►China detains Korean spy officers. It emerged last week that Chinese authorities have kept in detention for nearly a year two South Korean NIS intelligence officers, who were caught collecting information about North Korea on Chinese soil. It appears that the Chinese did share the information with the North Koreans, because usually the North Korean news agency would have announced this when the officers were first arrested. Of course, NIS denied the Chinese report. ►►US intelligence on China declassified. George Washington University’s National Security Archive has published a series of declassified US intelligence reports on China, spanning the period from 1955 until 2010. In one report authored in 2005, US intelligence analysts speculate that Beijing might be trying to develop a capability to incapacitate Taiwan through high-power microwave and electromagnetic radiation, so as not to trigger a nuclear retaliation from the US. ►►IMF investigators see China behind computer hacking. Back in June, intelNews reported on a massive and sophisticated cyberattack on the computer systems of the International Monetary Fund, which experts claimed was “linked to a foreign government”. Read more of this post

Taiwanese spy operation led to Chinese official’s dismissal, claims leaked cable

Jin Renqing

Jin Renqing

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
The puzzling resignation of China’s minister of finance was caused by his sexual involvement with a Taiwanese spy, who extracted classified information from him, according to a leaked American diplomatic cable. At the time of his 2007 resignation, Jin Renqing, a Communist Party bureaucrat with over 40 years of financial affairs experience, was regarded as Asia’s preeminent finance technocrat. His rise to China’s most powerful financial post, in the early years of our century, coincided with the country’s meteoric economic rise. When he quietly stepped down, a brief press statement by the Chinese government said Jin had resigned for “personal reasons”. But according to a diplomatic cable authored in September 2007 by a US State Department diplomat, Jin’s resignation was in fact a summary dismissal, caused by his sexual involvement with a much younger woman, who is now believed to have worked for Taiwanese intelligence. The cable, which has been leaked by whistleblower website WikiLeaks, describes the alleged Taiwanese spy as a “promiscuous socialite” and a “social butterfly”, who had successive affairs with a host of senior Chinese officials. The list included the country’s former Minister for Agriculture, Du Qinglin and Chen Tonghai, Director of China’s powerful Petroleum and Chemical Corporation, also known as Sinopec. Read more of this post

Suspicion mounts as US unlocks Moussa Koussa’s foreign assets

Moussa Koussa

Moussa Koussa

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Eyebrows were raised in intelligence circles on Monday, after the United States lifted its freeze of foreign assets belonging to Libya’s former intelligence chief, who defected to London last week. Libya’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Moussa Koussa, who headed the country’s intelligence agency from 1994 to 2009, managed to escape to the UK from Tunisia on a Swiss-registered private airplane. He is currently reported to be in an MI6 safe house in England, allegedly being interrogated about his inside knowledge of the regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi. But Koussa is also thought to be the mastermind behind the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed nearly 300 people. The 57-year-old defector is also believed to have facilitated Libya’s funding of the Provisional Irish Republican Army and to have authorized the assassination of several Libyan dissidents living in Britain. In light of that, the news that Washington lifted its sanctions on Koussa’s sizeable fortune abroad is worth noting. It is also interesting to note that Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, is reportedly pressuring European Union member-states to follow the US’ example in also unfreezing Koussa’s foreign assets. Read more of this post

Mubarak delayed exit in order to move secret funds, say intel sources

Hosni Mubarak

Hosni Mubarak

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
One of the reasons why Egypt’s disgraced ex-president kept prolonging his rule amidst ferocious anti-government protests this month, was to transfer billions of dollars-worth of personal assets into bank accounts around the world. British newspaper The Sunday Telegraph quotes a “senior Western intelligence official” who claims that Hosni Mubarak’s fund managers began transferring his extensive fortune to numbered bank accounts during the first days of the popular revolution in Egypt. The intelligence official told The Telegraph that Western intelligence services were “aware of some urgent conversations” within the Mubarak family about how to best protect their fortune from Egyptian and international financial investigators. The Mubaraks may have thus pre-empted the freezing of their accounts in Zurich, which was announced by the Swiss government on Friday. In this, Hosni Mubarak appears to have learned from Tunisia’s former dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was forced to flee with his family to Saudi Arabia last month, without the benefit of his Swiss bank assets. The latter were frozen following an official request by the Tunisian government. In the case of Mubarak, whose vast $70 billion fortune is mostly managed by his son Gamal, it appears that most of his Swiss bank assets were moved to accounts in third countries in the days before his resignation and are thus “gone by now”, according to one US government official who spoke to The Telegraph on condition of anonymity. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #319

  • CIA asks Gulf countries to monitor terrorist funding. The CIA has reportedly asked Arab/Persian Gulf countries “to tighten surveillance and look for any suspicious movement of funds” in regional banks.
  • Questions remain in Headley terrorism case. The New York Times has aired an update on the court case of Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley, a former US Drug Enforcement Administration informant, who was arrested by the FBI in October for plotting an attack on a Danish newspaper. The paper points out that Headley “moved effortlessly between the United States, Pakistan and India for nearly seven years, training at a militant camp in Pakistan on five occasions”. There has been intense speculation in India and Pakistan that Headley is in fact a renegade CIA agent.

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