Germany summons US ambassador following arrest of CIA spy

BND headquarters in BerlinBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Authorities in Germany have summoned the American ambassador to Berlin following the arrest of a German intelligence officer who was apprehended last week on suspicion of spying for the United States. The man, who has not been named, is suspected of passing classified government information to American intelligence operatives on a variety of subjects. His most recent undertakings are said to have targeted activities of a German parliamentary committee investigating US espionage against Germany. The episode is expected to further strain relations between the two allies, which were damaged by revelations last year that the National Security Agency, America’s signals intelligence organization, had bugged the telephone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The revelation, which was made public by Edward Snowden, an American defector to Russia who had previously worked for the NSA, showed that Chancellor Merkel had been targeted as part of a wider US spy operation against Germany. The revelations sparked the establishment of a nine-member parliamentary committee that is tasked with evaluating Snowden’s revelations and proposing Germany’s response. It appears that the man arrested, who is believed to have been secretly employed by the Central Intelligence Agency, tried to spy on the activities of the committee on behalf of his American handlers. According to German media reports, the man, who is said to be 31 years old, is a “low-level clerk” at the Bundesnachrichtendienst, or BND, Germany’s external intelligence agency. According to Der Spiegel newsmagazine, he is believed to have spied for the CIA for approximately two years, and to have supplied the American spy agency with around 200 classified German government documents in exchange for around €25,000 —approximately $30,000. Read more of this post

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Former KGB officer says Snowden was ‘tricked into going to Russia’

Boris KarpichkovBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A former major in the Soviet KGB has told the British press that a team of Russian intelligence operatives posing as diplomats “tricked” American intelligence defector Edward Snowden into going to Moscow. Many believe that Snowden, a former computer expert for the United States Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, was recruited by Russian intelligence before defecting to Moscow in June 2013. But former Soviet and Russian intelligence operative Boris Karpichkov has said in an interview that Snowden never intended to defect to Russia, but was lured there by a team of Russians spies. Karpichkov was a major in the Soviet KGB and its domestic-security successor, the FSB, where he worked for 15 years. In the mid-1990s, however, he gradually fell out with his employer and was imprisoned for several months before managing to leave his homeland using one of several false passports that had been supplied to him by Russian intelligence. In 1998 he entered Britain, where he lives with his family today, having been granted political asylum. He told British tabloid newspaper Sunday People that Snowden had first attracted the attention of Russian intelligence in 2007, while he was posted by the CIA to Geneva, Switzerland. During his time there, Snowden posed as a diplomat while maintaining the security of the CIA’s computer facilities located on Swiss soil. According to Karpichkov, the SVR, the post-Soviet successor of the KGB’s foreign-intelligence department, first opened a file on Snowden at that time, and kept updating it for six years, having identified the American computer technician as a “potential defector”. The former KGB operative told the British newspaper that the SVR moved quickly after it emerged that Snowden had abandoned Hawaii, where he had been posted by the NSA, and was hiding in a Hong Kong hotel. He was eventually accosted by a group of SVR spies posing as Russian diplomats. The group managed to persuade him, says Karpichkov, that the Russian government would be able to offer him protection in Moscow while he made up his mind over which country to apply to for political asylum. Read more of this post

Location of UK’s ‘above top-secret’ Middle East spy base revealed

GCHQ's Seeb spy base in OmanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The location of a British listening base in the Middle East, which is classified by the British government as “three levels above top-secret”, has been revealed by a technology website. The information had been previously leaked by American defector Edward Snowden to several British newspapers, but the latter refrained from airing it following pressure by the British government. However, the highly classified material was published on Tuesday in online technology review The Register. The author of the revelatory article is Duncan Campbell, a longtime investigative journalist and researcher who has been reporting on intelligence matters for over three decades. In his article, Campbell alleges that the secret British spy base is located in Seeb, in northeast Oman, and is operated by the General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Britain’s signals intelligence agency. The base’s primary operational goal is to monitor undersea telecommunications cables serving the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf, which pass through the Strait of Hormuz. According to Campbell, the listening facility was initially constructed with British funding as a joint intelligence center with the Omani authorities, with the purpose of intercepting the signals of civilian communications satellites orbiting in the wider region. But it has since developed into one of three high-value GCHQ locations in Oman (referred to as Overseas Processing Centres —OPCs). The three locations, codenamed TIMPANI, GUITAR and CLARINET, form part of a region-wide communications interception program codenamed CIRCUIT. Through CIRCUIT, London has allegedly managed to gain access to nearly a dozen underwater cables passing through the Strait of Hormuz, which link a host of Arab countries, including Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. Interestingly, GCHQ relies on the close cooperation of several telecommunications service providers to meet its interception targets, says Campbell. These include British Telecom, codenamed REMEDY in internal GCHQ documents, and Vodafone, the world’s second-largest mobile telecommunications company, which GCHQ has codenamed GERONTIC. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #877

Oleg KaluginBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►China to ditch US consulting firms over suspected espionage. State-owned Chinese companies will cease to work with US consulting companies like McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group over fears they are spying on behalf of the US government. Last Thursday, China announced that all foreign companies would have to undergo a new security test. Any company, product or service that fails will be banned from China. The inspection will be conducted across all sectors —communications, finance, and energy.
►►Ex-KGB general says Snowden is cooperating with Russian intelligence. Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden probably never envisioned that he would someday be working for the Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB. But according to former KGB Major General Oleg Kalugin, he is now, albeit as a consultant or technical advisor. “The FSB are now his hosts, and they are taking care of him”, Kalugin claimed in an interview. “Whatever he had access to in his former days at NSA, I believe he shared all of it with the Russians, and they are very grateful”, added the former Soviet spy.
►►Snowden claims he was ‘trained as a spy’. American intelligence defector Edward Snowden says he knows how US spies operate because he was trained as one of them. In an interview with NBC News, Snowden dismissed allegations that he was just a low-level analyst with the US government before revealing highly classified details of US spying activities in 2013. “I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word in that I lived and worked undercover overseas, pretending to work in a job that I’m not, and even being assigned a name that was not mine”, he said in a portion of the interview that aired on Tuesday.

Some spy-related nonfiction books for the summer

BooksBy I. ALLEN AND J. FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
It has been well established ever since we launched IntelNews, nearly six years ago, that readers of this blog are a well-read lot. The subject of books regularly comes up in our conversations with our readers, who often ask us for our personal spy-related book recommendations. We have several, but we thought we would suggest some recently published nonfiction for the summer that is now upon us. Our first suggestion is Dr. Kristie Macrakis’ fascinating new work entitled Prisoners, Lovers, and Spies: The Story of Invisible Ink from Herodotus to al-Qaeda, published by Yale University Press. Macrakis, an internationally recognized historian, is Professor in the School of History, Technology and Society at Georgia Tech, where she teaches classes in science and espionage. She is most known for two books on East German intelligence during the Cold War, the most recent of which was East German Foreign Intelligence (Routledge, 2010). In the book, the author displays her knowledge of both science and intelligence, in explaining how civilizations throughout history have used a variety of ingredients to hide written notes, ranging from citrus juices to cobalt, and even urine and semen. Her examples span the centuries as she highlights the role of secret writing in the American Revolution, the two World Wars, as well as the West’s current confrontation with al-Qaeda. The book is loaded with chemical terminology but it is written with the non-expert in mind and will be enjoyed by all those with a serious historical interest in intelligence. Another book we recommend is Glenn Greenwald’s No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the US Surveillance State (Metropolitan Books). Greenwald was the first journalist that the American intelligence contractor contacted when he decided to defect. Snowden’s actions have divided America, and we are aware that this includes this blog’s readership. But Greenwald’s account will be of interest to intelligence observers no matter where they stand on the issue. The author describes how he first heard from Snowden, via email in December of 2012, when he was a writer for Britain’s Guardian newspaper. He then tells the interesting story of his trip to Hong Kong to meet Snowden, which he undertook along with documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras. Greenwald’s style comes across as somewhat self-righteous at times, but the account offered in his book is crucial in helping intelligence observers piece together the story of Snowden’s defection, as well as the importance of his disclosures. One final nonfiction spy-related book to consider is The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames (Crown Publishers), by American Pulitzer Prize-winning author and columnist Kai Bird. Read more of this post

Pattern of leaks suggests Snowden ‘may have been a Russian spy’

Edward SnowdenBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
It has been nearly a year since British newspaper The Guardian unveiled the identity of American defector Edward Snowden, whom Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg has called the source of the most significant leak in the history of the United States. The case of Snowden, a former computer technician for the United States Intelligence Community, who is currently under Russian protection, continues to divide Americans. His defenders see him as a heroic whistleblower who sacrificed his comfortable life and promising career in order to expose the government’s encroachment into the private lives of American citizens. His detractors want him to account for stealing nearly 2 million classified documents and sharing American secrets with Moscow. Last January, American lawmakers with senior positions in Congressional intelligence committees expressed strong views that Snowden was working with Russian intelligence prior to his defection. Last Friday, American investigative journalist Edward Jay Epstein appeared to side with Snowden’s detractors. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Epstein opined that the narrative of Snowden acting alone to bravely expose “the evils of government surveillance” was likely created by Snowden himself. But this popular whistleblowing narrative, said Epstein, is “at best incomplete [and] at worst fodder for the naïve”. The veteran journalist argued that Snowden’s heroic image seems to suffer when one considers his sleuthing actions prior to his defection. Specifically, the American defector left for Hong Cong, and eventually Russia, after having broken into at least 24 carefully compartmentalized areas of electronically stored classified intelligence inside the NSA. To do so, the computer expert had to consciously borrow, steal or forge multiple entry passwords. Once he had gained access to the compartmentalized systems, he planted “spiders”, stealthy intelligence-collection programs that looked for specifically targeted data to steal. This, says Epstein, is how Snowden managed to acquire 1.7 million documents from the Kunia Regional SIGINT Operations Center on the island of Hawaii, where he was stationed. What is interesting, argues Epstein, is that only “a minute fraction” of the documents stolen by Snowden were related to domestic surveillance by American government agencies. The journalist quotes General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said last March that the vast majority of the documents sought out by Snowden were related to America’s military capabilities. Read more of this post

Efforts to restore US-German intelligence cooperation collapse

Angela Merkel and Barack ObamaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Negotiations aimed at restoring the intelligence relationship between America and Germany, following revelations last year that Washington spied on the communications of German leaders, collapsed before German Chancellor Angela Merkel met US President Barack Obama last week. The two leaders had planned to make a public statement during Mrs. Merkel’s official visit to Washington last Friday, announcing a new intelligence agreement between their respective countries. But the announcement was never made, as Ukraine dominated the political agenda. IntelNews readers will recall the dramatic way in which Germany and the United States fell out in October of last year, after American intelligence defector Edward Snowden revealed an invasive intelligence-gathering operation by the US National Security Agency (NSA). The program targeted the private communications of senior German officials, including those of Mrs. Merkel, for nearly a decade. The New York Times said last week that the collapse of the bilateral intelligence negotiations between Washington and Berlin prompted “bitter recriminations on both sides” about who was responsible for their failure. It appears that German officials insisted on drafting a “no-spy” agreement between the two countries, which would prevent them from conducting espionage operations on each other’s territory. American officials, however, rejected the proposal, arguing it would create a precedent that every other European and Asian American ally, including France, Britain, Japan, South Korea, and others, would wish to replicate. Earlier this year, President Obama assured the German side that the NSA would never again target the communications of Chancellor Merkel. But German officials noted that the President said nothing about targeting other senior German officials, nor did he mention anything about the NSA’s other operations on German soil. Read more of this post

NSA ‘high-target’ list includes names of 122 world leaders

NSA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A list of high-priority intelligence targets published over the weekend includes the names of over a hundred current and former heads of state, who were systematically targeted by the United States National Security Agency (NSA). The list appears to be part of a wider “Target Knowledge Base” assembled by the NSA in order to help produce “complete profiles” of what the NSA calls “high-priority intelligence targets”. The list is contained in a classified top-secret briefing created by the NSA in 2009. It was published by German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, which said it acquired it from American intelligence defector Edward Snowden. Snowden, a former computer expert for the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency, is currently living in Russia, where he has been offered political asylum. The leaked briefing explains the function of an extensive NSA signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection program codenamed NYMROD. The computer-based program is allegedly able to sift through millions of SIGINT reports and collate information on individual targets from the transcripts of intercepted telephone calls, faxes, as well as computer data. The list provided to Der Spiegel by Snowden contains 122 names of international political figures, said the newsmagazine, adding that all of them were “heads of foreign governments”. It includes the name of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, Ukraine’s Yulia Tymoshenko, as well as Belarussian strongman Alexander Lukashenko. Colombia’s former President, Alvaro Uribe, and Malaysia’s Prime Minster from 2003 to 2009, Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi, also figure on the list. Interestingly, the leaders of Malaysia, Somalia, the Palestinian Authority and Peru top the NSA’s list of high-value executive targets. Read more of this post

Australia spied on US law firm representing Indonesia in trade talks

Australian Signals DirectorateBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Australian intelligence spied on an American law firm representing the government of Indonesia in a trade dispute with the United States, according to leaked documents. The documents, from February 2003, show that the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) specifically targeted the law firm because it represented the commercial interests of the Indonesian state. The ASD is Australia’s intelligence organization responsible for signals intelligence and information security. The leaked documents also show that that the Australian spy agency offered to share the intelligence collected from the operation with its American counterpart, the National Security Agency (NSA). The New York Times, which published the leaked information, said the operation appeared to have been aimed strictly at subverting the Indonesian government’s international commercial interests and had nothing to do with national security. The paper said it acquired the documents from Edward Snowden, an American intelligence defector currently living in Russia, who used to work for the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency. The leaked papers do not specify the precise trade negotiations between Washington and Jakarta, which appear to have been targeted by the ASD. Nor do they identify the American law firm spied on by the Australians. But the paper suggested that Mayer Brown, one of the world’s largest law firms, with offices in over 22 cities around the globe, was acting as the Indonesian government’s legal consultant at the time the leaked documents were drafted. A memorandum included in the leaked documents notes that the ASD had “been able to continue to cover the [trade] talks [between the US and Indonesia], providing highly useful intelligence for interested US customers”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #866

Blackwater/Academi headquartersBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Academic study into the behavioral traits of contract killers. Using off-the-record interviews with informants, interviews with offenders and former offenders, court transcripts and newspaper archives, academics from Britain’s Birmingham City University identified patterns of ‘hitman’ behavior in an attempt to demystify their secret world. The criminologists, who examined 27 cases of contract killing between 1974 and 2013 committed by 36 men and one woman, found that the killers typically murder their targets on a street close to the victim’s home, although a significant proportion get cold feet or bungle the job.
►►Interview with Blackwater founder Erik Prince. The founder of private security group Blackwater is now based in Hong Kong and chairs Frontier Services Group, an Africa-focused security and logistics company with intimate ties to China’s largest state-owned conglomerate, Citic Group. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Prince says he would “rather deal with the vagaries of investing in Africa than in figuring out what the hell else Washington is going to do to the entrepreneur next”. The controversial businessman calls the US State Department “fickle” and the US “federal bureaucracy” a “bunch of rabid dogs”.
►►New book accuses Edward Snowden of ‘treason’. Economist columnist Edward Lucas says his new book, The Snowden Operation: Inside the West’s Greatest Intelligence Disaster, does not argue that Snowden is a Russian agent. But he says that the damage caused by the former NSA technical expert’s revelations “neatly and suspiciously fits the interests of one country: Russia”. Moreover, argues Lucas, “Snowden’s published revelations include material that has nothing to do with his purported worries about personal privacy”.

News you may have missed #865

Emad ShahinBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Renowned Egyptian scholar charged with espionage. Emad Shahin, a scholar of political Islam who has taught at Harvard, Notre Dame and the American University in Cairo and edited the Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Politics, has been charged along with several senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood with conspiring with foreign organizations to undermine Egypt’s national security. He is listed as ‘Defendant 33’ in a lengthy criminal complaint that also names former President Mohamed Morsi, who was deposed in last summer’s military takeover.
►►Al-Qaeda training Western Islamists in Syria to set up cells abroad. British newspaper The Telegraph reports that, according to security sources, Westerners fighting for the Islamist opposition in Syria are being trained and then encouraged to return to the UK to launch attacks on home soil. The paper quotes an “al-Qaeda defector” from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), who says that “recruits from Britain, Europe and the US were being indoctrinated in extremist anti-Western ideology, trained in how to make and detonate car bombs and suicide vests and sent home to start new terror cells”.
►►Snowden has “no plans” to return to the United States. Former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden has said he has “no chance” of a fair trial in the US and has no plans to return there. “There’s no no way I can come home and make my case to a jury”, he told the Free Snowden website. “Returning to the US, I think, is the best resolution for the government, the public, and myself, but it’s unfortunately not possible in the face of current whistleblower protection laws, which, through a failure in law, did not cover national security contractors like myself”, he said.

US lawmakers say Snowden was coached by foreign spy agency

Edward SnowdenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Two American lawmakers with senior positions in Congressional intelligence committees have expressed strong views that American defector Edward Snowden was probably coached by Russian intelligence prior to his defection. Speaking separately on Sunday, the two lawmakers —both Republican— said they suspected that Snowden had “acted in concert” with Russian intelligence in order expose Washington’s worldwide surveillance programs and steal military secrets. Snowden, a former technical expert for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), is currently in Russia, where he has been granted political asylum. On Sunday, Mike Rogers, who chairs the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence at the United States House or Representatives, said he was convinced Moscow had “at least in some part something to do” with Snowden’s defection. During separate interviews at NBC’s Meet The Press and CBS’ Face the Nation, Rogers said he thought it highly unlikely that Snowden’s defection was “a gee-whiz luck event”. He added that the former intelligence technician’s arrival in Russia had been likely pre-arranged by the FSB —the Russian Federal Security Service (though he likely meant the SVR, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, which is responsible for intelligence activities outside the borders of the Russian Federation). The Republican lawmaker said that Snowden’s defection plan, ranging “from how he prepared to leave [to] his route of departure and how quickly [he] ended up in Moscow”, points to involvement by Russian intelligence. Also on Sunday, Republican Congressman Michael McCaul told ABC’s This Week that he did not think “Snowden woke up one day and had the wherewithal to do this all by himself”. The lawmaker, who chairs the US House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, cautioned that he could not prove definitively that Russia had a role in Snowden’s defection. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #862

Cyprus, Israel, Syria, LebanonBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Covert CIA program helped Colombia kill rebel leaders. A covert CIA program has helped Colombia’s government kill at least two dozen leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the rebel insurgency also known as FARC, The Washington Post reported Saturday. The National Security Agency has also provided “substantial eavesdropping help” to the Colombian government, according to The Post.
►►Israel asks US not to spy on it. Israeli officials broke their silence over the US surveillance scandal Sunday, angrily demanding an end to Washington’s spying on Israel. Last week more documents leaked by former NSA technical expert Edward Snowden uncovered a partnership between the NSA and British intelligence agency GCHQ from 2008 to 2011 to monitor office email addresses from the then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
►►Germany reacts coolly to French request on Central Africa. Germany reacted coolly last week to a French request that European countries step up support for its military mission in Central African Republic, playing down the likelihood of any financial assistance on the eve of an EU summit. France has deployed 1,600 troops there to prevent worsening violence between Christian militias and largely Muslim Seleka rebels who ousted ex-President Francois Bozize.

News you may have missed #860

Edward SnowdenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Top US-backed rebel commander flees Syria. General Salim Idris of the Free Syrian Army, who was the most senior Western-backed rebel commander in Syria, has fled the country amid growing infighting with Islamist rebels, American officials have said. The rebel military leader fled into Turkey and flew to Doha, Qatar on Sunday, after Islamist rebel groups took over his headquarters and warehouses of US-supplied military gear along the border between Turkey and Syria.
►►NSA co-worker calls Snowden ‘genius among geniuses’. Forbes magazine’s Andy Greenberg says he was contacted by a former co-worker of NSA technical expert Edward Snowden, who described the defector as “a principled and ultra-competent, if somewhat eccentric employee, and one who earned the access used to pull off his leak by impressing superiors [at NSA] with sheer talent”. The unnamed source continued: “that kid was a genius among geniuses [...], I’ve never seen anything like it”.
►►Iran claims to have captured MI6 spy. Iran says it has captured a spy working for British intelligence agency MI6 in the south-eastern city of Kerman. The head of Kerman’s revolutionary court said the alleged spy had admitted being in contact with four British intelligence officers 11 times, both inside and outside the country. He said the accused was now on trial and had confessed. The nationality of the alleged spy is not yet known. The UK Foreign Office said it did not comment on intelligence matters.

News you may have missed #859

GCHQ center in Cheltenham, EnglandBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Some fear terrorists are exploiting online computer games. American and British spies have infiltrated the fantasy worlds of World of Warcraft and Second Life, conducting surveillance and scooping up data in the online games played by millions of people across the globe, according to documents disclosed by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. The documents show that intelligence operatives fear that terrorist or criminal networks could use the games to communicate secretly, move money or plot attacks.
►►Niger’s president says Libya risks becoming like Somalia. Libya risks becoming a failed state like Somalia, Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou said last week, a day after gunmen shot dead an American teacher in the eastern city of Benghazi. “Our fear is that Libya falls into the hands of Salafist terrorists and that the state becomes like Somalia”, Issoufou told reporters ahead of a Franco-African summit in Paris. His country adjoins Libya to the south and has fought Islamists at home.
►►Secret memos show British spies’ efforts to keep Cyprus base. Heavily redacted documents show how determined British security and intelligence agencies –including GCHQ, Britain’s signals intelligence agency– were to maintain an effective presence in Cyprus after the strategically important island became independent in 1960. The files also reveal that Archbishop Makarios, the Greek Cypriot leader who became the first president of Cyprus when the island gained independence in August 1960, agreed not only to the UK bases but to British help in setting up his country’s own security and intelligence agencies.

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