Israel jails Orthodox Jew who offered to spy for Iran

Neturei Karta membersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
An Israeli citizen, who belongs to an Orthodox anti-Zionist Jewish group that rejects the existence of the state of Israel, has been jailed for offering to spy for Iran. Yitzhak Bergel, 46, a father of eight, who resides in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Mea She’arim neighborhood, is a member of the Neturei Karta —which translates in English as “Guardians of the City”. The Jewish group opposes Zionism —the belief that a state-sanctioned Jewish homeland ought to be created in the territory described as “Land of Israel” in Jewish scriptural texts. The group, which was founded in the 1930s and has thousands of adherents in Israel, the United States and Europe, is one of several branches of conservative Judaism whose members believe that Jews are forbidden by the Torah to create their own state before the coming of the Jewish Messiah. Its members therefore oppose the existence of the current state of Israel and favor its dismantling as a Jewish state. According to his indictment, Bergel, who became religious 20 years ago, traveled to the German capital Berlin in January of 2011, intent on contacting Iranian diplomats. He walked into the Iranian embassy there and offered to collect intelligence on Israel on behalf of Iran, in return for regular payments. Israeli government prosecutors said Bergel remained in contact with his Iranian handlers until his arrest last summer. According to court documents, Bergel pleaded guilty to charges of contacting foreign agents with intent to commit treason and attempting to aid an enemy of Israel. Read more of this post

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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.

US charges 49 Russian diplomats with fraud, says some were spies

Russian consulate in NYBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The United States has filed charges against dozens of current and former Russian diplomats, accusing them of defrauding American taxpayers of over a million dollars. Meanwhile, sources have told CNN that some of the accused also engaged in espionage against the US. Last week, the US Department of Justice charged 49 Russian citizens with participating in a nine-year fraud scheme, through which they pocketed approximately $1.5 million from Medicaid. Created in 1965, Medicaid is a US government insurance program for persons of all ages whose income and resources are insufficient to pay for health care. Twenty-five of those accused of fraud are current and former Russian diplomats, while 24 are spouses of diplomats. Eleven of them are currently in the US, ten of whom work at the Russian consular mission in New York. The remaining diplomat is stationed at the embassy of Russia in Washington, DC. The members of the fraud ring are accused of falsifying applications for Medicaid benefits by systematically under-reporting or completely concealing their incomes. While receiving thousands of dollars in benefits from the American government, the diplomats and their spouses lived a frivolous lifestyle, purchasing luxury goods in some of America’s most expensive department stores, like Tiffany’s and Bloomingdale’s. On Monday, however, CNN’s Security Clearance blog reported that some of the 49 Russian diplomats involved in the fraud scheme are also believed to have engaged in espionage against the United States. The spies were in fact investigated “for quite some time” by Federal Bureau of Investigation counterintelligence agents in Washington and New York, said CNN. At the end, however, federal prosecutors decided they had insufficient evidence to file espionage charges, and passed the case on to the Department of Justice, which brought fraud charges against the Russians. Read more of this post

Ex-Mossad officer says US promised to free Israeli spy Pollard

Jonathan PollardBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
An Israeli former intelligence officer says Israel was promised by the United States that Jonathan Jay Pollard, a convicted spy who betrayed American secrets to Israel in the 1980s, would be freed after 10 years. Rafi Eitan is an Israeli politician, former cabinet minister, and a veteran officer of the Mossad, Israel’s covert-action agency. In 1985, he resigned from the Mossad after assuming responsibility for the loss of Pollard, a United States Navy intelligence analyst who spied for Israel in exchange for money. Pollard, who acquired Israeli citizenship in 1995, has so far served 28 years of a life sentence in a US prison. 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. On Monday, Eitan spoke to Israeli Army Radio on the Hebrew calendar anniversary of Pollard’s 1985 arrest by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He said in the interview that he had been asked by the Israeli government to appear in Pollard’s trial as his intelligence handler and cooperate with US government prosecutors’ efforts to convict Pollard. According to the former Mossad officer, a backroom deal had been reached between the United States and Israel, whereby Pollard would serve no more than a decade in prison in return for full cooperation with the FBI. However, said Eitan, when the time came for Pollard’s release, the United States “denied there had been a deal”, while the Israeli government failed to protest strongly enough in favor of Pollard’s release. Asked by the interviewer why he thought Washington had reneged on the alleged deal, Eitan said that the Americans displayed “a desire for revenge —to say: ‘you [Israel] were a friendly [country]  and look what you did. So now we will show you’”. The Mossad veteran added that he deeply regretted having helped incriminate Pollard, but is now devoting the final years of his live to help the convicted spy campaign for his release. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #856

Communications Security Establishment CanadaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Expert says Australia spies for the United States. Intelligence expert Professor Des Ball claims Australia is playing a role in America’s intelligence networks by monitoring vast swathes of the Asia Pacific region and feeding information to the US. Dr. Ball says the Australian Signals Directorate –formerly known as the Defence Signals Directorate– is sharing information with the National Security Agency (NSA). He adds that Australia has four key facilities that are part of the XKeyscore program, the NSA’s controversial computer system that searches and analyses vast amounts of internet data.
►►Canada silent on allegations of spying. A spokeswoman for Communications Security Establishment Canada has refused to comment on allegations that the agency mounts foreign operations through Canada’s embassies abroad. German magazine Der Spiegel says Canada is using diplomatic facilities to support surveillance operations in league with key allies the United States, Britain and Australia. The German newsmagazine indicates the Canadian spy agency hosts “Stateroom” sites —a term for covert signals-intelligence gathering bases hidden in consulates and embassies.
►►Russia denies spying on G20 leaders during summit. Russia has denied reports it attempted to spy on foreign powers meeting at the G20 summit in St Petersburg earlier this year, denouncing the allegations as a “clear attempt to divert attention” from revelations concerning the United States’ National Security Agency. Two Italian newspapers claimed on Tuesday that USB flash drives and cables to charge mobile phones that were given to delegates —including heads of state— at the September meeting were equipped with technology to retrieve data from computers and telephones.

US surveillance or Merkel’s phone prompts angry German reaction

Philipp Rösler and Angela MerkelBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
News of an invasive intelligence-gathering operation by the United States, which allegedly targeted the official communications of German chancellor Angela Merkel, has prompted angry responses from the European Union. The news prompted the French government to request that US surveillance of European heads of state be discussed during an upcoming EU summit, while The New York Times warned yesterday that “invasive American intelligence gathering” against Europe could “severely damage [...] decades of hard-won trans-Atlantic trust”. The latest row between Washington and Brussels was sparked by a report aired on ARD, Germany’s state television station. It said that the National Security Agency (NSA), America’s foremost communications interception agency, had monitored the official cellular telephone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. A spokesperson for the German government told journalists yesterday that the German leader had “angrily” called US President Barack Obama and demanded assurances that her communications were “not the target of an American intelligence tap”. The German leader reportedly told Mr. Obama that there should be “no such surveillance of the communications of a head of government” belonging to a “friend and partner of the US”. The Times reported that Washington’s responded by assuring Chancellor Merkel that her communications were “not the target of current surveillance and would not be in the future”. But the White House is said to have refused to enter into a discussion of past interception activities. Mrs. Merkel’s telephone call was the second time in less than two days that Mr. Obama had to provide assurances of privacy to a European head of state. Read more of this post

Turkey ‘disclosed identities of Mossad spies’ operating in Iran

Israel and IranBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The government of Turkey disclosed to Iranian counterintelligence the identities of Mossad spies operating in Iran, according to the Washington Post. The newspaper’s associate editor, David Ignatius, cited “knowledgeable sources” on Thursday, in claiming that up to 10 spies were captured as a result of the Turkish disclosure. The alleged spies, who are all Iranian citizens, are said to have been operating inside Iran on behalf of Israel’s foremost external intelligence agency. Ignatius said the Turkish action, which appears to have been authorized by Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, resulted in a “significant loss of intelligence” for the Mossad’s Iran office. Turkey and Israel forged strong bilateral ties in the 1990s and early 2000s. But they fell out in dramatic fashion in May of 2010, when Israel attacked a convoy of civilian ships in international water. The ships, known as the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla”, were carrying humanitarian aid and construction materials to the Gaza Strip. But Israel claimed that the ships’ pronounced intention to break the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip, was an affront to Israel’s national security and subverted Israeli political jurisdiction, expressed through the blockade. The attack on the flotilla by Israeli commandos resulted in the death of 10 Turkish civilians, one of whom was also an American citizen. Following the Israeli attack, Turkey recalled its ambassador to the Jewish state, terminated several joint military projects with Israel, and called an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council. Relations between the two countries, which reached a low point in May of 2010, have yet to recover. Read more of this post

KGB ‘ran two Australian politicians as agents’ in 1970s: document

Geronty Lazovik (left) in 1971By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Soviet intelligence recruited and ran at least two Australian elected politicians as agents for the USSR in the 1970s, according to a confidential account authored by an Australian counterintelligence officer. The report’s author is allegedly an unnamed former employee of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), which is tasked with counterespionage. Australia’s Fairfax Media, which claimed yesterday to have accessed the report, described it as “an unusually candid document”. It allegedly describes Soviet intelligence activities on Australian soil during the last two decades of the Cold War and names known Soviet intelligence officers operating in Australia at the time. Among those named is Vladimir Yevgenyevich Tulayev, described in the confidential report as “a hard-eyed, well-dressed thug” who was “aggressively involved in intelligence operations in Australia”. The document also names Geronty Lazovik, considered by AFIO as a “definite agent runner”. Australian counterintelligence described Lazovik as a far more refined operative than Tulayev and kept tabs on him as he developed and cultivated “a wide range of contacts” across Australia’s Federal Parliament. The report suggest that Australian Labor Party politicians, aides and lobbyists were among Lazovik’s “contacts” in Australia, though it does not explicitly name them as agents of the Soviet KGB. Arguably the most important allegation made in the report is that another KGB operative in Australia, Vladimir Aleksandrovich Aleksyev, was able to recruit and run “two Australian politicians as agents” in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The document states that Aleksyev was able to handle the two alleged recruits “using tradecraft of a fairly high order”, suggesting that he was perhaps one of the KGB’s most successful known case officers in Australia. The confidential report alleges that the ASIO leadership approached the Australian government with information about the operations of the KGB officers. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #853

NSA's Utah Data CenterBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Meltdowns hobble NSA data center. Electrical surges at the National Security Agency’s massive data center in Utah have delayed the opening of the facility for a year as well as destroying hundreds of thousands of dollars in kit, the Wall Street Journal reports. Ten “meltdowns” in the past 13 months have repeatedly delayed the Herculean effort to get the spy agency’s colossal snooping facility up and running, according to project documents reviewed by the newspaper.
►►Uganda expels Sudan diplomat accused of spying. Sudanese diplomat Jad-el-Seed Mohammed Elhag has been expelled from Uganda on suspicion of espionage, Ugandan foreign ministry officials said Tuesday. “The reasons why he was expelled was that the activities he was involved in were beyond the norms and requirements of his tenure”, Uganda Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Tayebwa Katureebe said. “These are issues of diplomacy and of two countries, which are not addressed normally in the press, but basically the main reason was espionage”, he said, declining to go into detail.
►►FBI accused of using no-fly list to recruit informants. A lawsuit in New York alleges that the FBI is violating the law by putting Muslim-Americans on the no-fly list not because of a “reasonable suspicion” of terrorist associations, but as a form of blackmail to coerce them into becoming informants at mosques and in their communities. Is this the beginning of the end for the US federal government’s no-fly list? According to the complaint, New York resident Muhammad Tanvir landed on the no-fly list after refusing an FBI request to work as an informant in his predominantly Muslim community.

News you may have missed #852

North and South KoreaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Did US deny entry to German author because he criticized the NSA? Questions have arisen after the German author Ilija Trojanow was denied entry to the United States, apparently without reason. Trojanow had been invited to a German language convention in the US city of Denver. However, he was left stranded at Salvador da Bahia airport, in Brazil. A colleague of the writer claims his call for clarity about US spying activity is the answer. A spokeswoman for Trojanow’s publisher said he was on his way back to Germany on Tuesday.
►►Analysts stress ‘sophisticated tradecraft’ after Iranian spy arrested in Israel. Israeli officials over the weekend released details regarding the arrest of an Iranian-Belgian citizen accused of conducting extensive espionage against Israeli and American targets inside the Jewish state, deepening concerns regarding the scope and sophistication of Iranian intelligence tradecraft. Ali Mansouri, in his mid-50s, was arrested on September 11 at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport by the Shin Bet intelligence service. One Israeli military correspondent observed that, in the case of Mansouri, “Iran followed the playbooks of the most advanced intelligence agencies in the world”.
►►Northern spy lifts cloak on Koreas’ deadly rivalry. Kim Dong-sik is a North Korean agent captured in the South in 1995. He underwent four years of interrogations before joining the South Korean military counterintelligence command. He is now an analyst at the Institute for National Security Strategy, a research organization affiliated with the National Intelligence Service. His tale, detailed in a new memoir, provides a rare, firsthand look at the often lethal spy war that the rival Koreas waged for decades and that many fear may persist today.

Israel arrests Belgian citizen for ‘spying for Iran’

Alex MansBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A Belgian citizen has been arrested in Israel on suspicion of spying on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The man, Alex Mans, was arrested two weeks ago, but the Israeli government kept the incident under wraps until Sunday. Israeli media reports state that Mans was arrested by Israeli Police and officers of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service. He was reportedly detained at Ben-Gurion International Airport as he was preparing to leave Israel. According to Israeli security officials, Mans made frequent trips to Israel, during which he presented himself as a Belgian investor interested in export opportunities in Israel. He allegedly used his business venture in selling windows and roofing material for commercial buildings in order to establish contacts with businesses in Tel Aviv. But officials at Shin Bet maintain that Mans’ business operations, which included seemingly legitimate websites and social media profiles, served as a cover for his spy activities. These are alleged to have included “intelligence gathering [and support for] terrorism”, as well as efforts to “bypass the embargo on trade and financial transactions with Iran”. Israeli security officials believe that Mans was born in Iran in 1958 and had the name Ali Mansouri. He is thought to have moved to Turkey in 1980, aged 22, where he lived for nearly 20 years. In 1997 he received an immigration visa to Belgium, where he met and married a Belgian citizen and changed his name to Mans. Soon afterwards, however, he divorced, and in 2007 he moved back to Iran, where he married a local woman. According to Israeli media reports, Mans told Shin Bet interrogators that he was approached in 2012 by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and offered up to $1 million to spy on Israel on behalf of the Iranian government. He reportedly agreed and was handled by Haji Mustafa, of the IRGC’s Special Operations Unit. Read more of this post

Interview with US airman who spied for East Germany

Jeff CarneyBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A former intelligence specialist in the United States Air Force, who became one of East Germany’s most lucrative spies in the West, has given a rare media interview. Jeff Carney was a linguist and intelligence specialist assigned to the US Electronic Security Command at Tempelhof Central Airport in West Berlin during the closing stages of the Cold War. In April of 1983, Carney, who was then aged just 19, walked across the dividing line between West and East Berlin and asked to speak to representatives of the East German government. He has since argued that his defection was prompted by his disagreement with the foreign policy of the administration of US President Ronald Reagan. But in an interview aired on Wednesday by the BBC, he claimed there was “nothing ideological about his decision to defect”, and that he, as a gay man, “felt unwanted” because of the US military’s stance on homosexuality. His plan, which he described in his interview as “an impulsive move” was to request to live in the German Democratic Republic. But instead of granting his wish, East German intelligence officials commanded him to return to his post at Tempelhof and become an agent-in-place. Carney claims that they threatened to reveal to his US Air Force superiors his attempt to defect if he refused to cooperate. The young airman returned to his base and began spying for East Germany’s Ministry for State Security (MfS), commonly known as Stasi. He was provided with a miniature camera, given the operational codename UWE, and was told supply his handler, codenamed RALPH, with classified documents, which he smuggled out of Tempelhof in his shoes and clothing. His West German tour came to an end in 1984, when he was transferred to the US state of Texas. While there, he continued to spy for the Stasi, traveling to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Mexico City, Mexico, in order to meet with his East German handlers. However, in 1985, believing that his superiors in the Air Force were beginning to suspect him of espionage, he traveled to Mexico and walked in the East German embassy in Mexico City, demanding to be transferred to East Germany. The Stasi eventually smuggled him out of Mexico to Cuba, and from there to Czechoslovakia before resettling him to East Germany. Read more of this post

Analyst who spied on US for Israel speaks out for first time

Jonathan PollardBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A convicted American spy, who is serving a life sentence for betraying American secrets to Israel in the 1980s, has broken his 28-year-long silence by penning an article in an Israeli newspaper. Jonathan Jay Pollard was a United States 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. Throughout his incarceration, Pollard has remained silent. But he broke his silence on August 16, by writing an editorial for conservative Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post. In it, he derides Israel for freeing 26 Palestinian prisoners, who were convicted of violent actions against Israel, ahead of peace talks with the Palestinian Authority. Pollard claims that most Israelis are against the move to free the prisoners, and describes Israel as a “strange kind of democracy that pays no heed whatsoever to the will of the people”. The jailed spy adds that “Israel is the only country in the world ever to voluntarily expel its own citizens from chunks of its homeland in order to hand over the land to its enemies”. He also reveals his displeasure with his own fate by claiming that Israel “holds unenviable world records for betraying those who serve the state”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #847

Abdel Baset al-MegrahiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Secret letter shows arms deal behind Lockerbie bomber release. An email sent in 2008 by Sir Vincent Fean, the then British ambassador in Tripoli, details how the release by Britain of Lockerbie air disaster bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, was linked to a commercial deal. According to The Daily Telegraph, the email specifies that al-Megrahi would be released once Libya “fulfilled its promise” to buy an £400 million air defense system.
►►Is the US ramping up a secret war in Somalia? The US has expanded its secret war in Somalia, stepping up assistance for federal and regional Somali intelligence agencies that are allied against the country’s Islamist insurgency. It’s a move that’s not only violating the terms of an international arms embargo, according to UN investigators, but it also shows that Washington’s signature victory against al-Qaeda’s most powerful African ally may be in danger of unraveling.
►►Indonesian government ‘angry’ at alleged Western spying. The Indonesian government has reacted strongly to revelations in the Australian media that the country’s President and senior diplomats were spied upon during the 2009 G20 conference in London. The revelations appear to be based on leaks on intelligence-gathering techniques by US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Russia ‘considering spy swap with Germany’

Andreas and Heidrun AnschlagBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Russian government has allegedly approached Germany with an offer to swap a number of jailed spies, including a couple of Russian sleeper agents sentenced for espionage earlier this month in Stuttgart. Russia’s Kommersant newspaper alleged on Monday that that the Russian intelligence services are pressing the Kremlin for the repatriation of Andreas and Heidrun Anschlag, a married couple who were arrested in Germany in October of 2011. The two were convicted on July 2, 2013, of having spied on Germany since at least 1990 for the Soviet KGB’s First Chief Directorate and its post-Soviet successor organization, the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). German federal prosecutors also accuse the couple of document forgery, since their Austrian passports, which they used to enter West Germany from Mexico in 1988 (Andreas) and 1990 (Heidrun) were shown to be counterfeit. In return for the Anschlags, Moscow would be prepared to hand over “at least one spy” convicted in Russia for spying for the West, said Kommersant. Possible candidates would be Andrei Dumenkov, who is currently serving a 12-year sentence for allegedly giving German military intelligence blueprints of Russian missile designs, and Valery Mikhailov, a Russian counterintelligence officer said to be one of the United States Central Intelligence Agency’s “most successful agents [in Russia] in recent years”.   Read more of this post

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