John Walker, head of Cold-War-era Soviet spy ring, dies in prison

John Anthony WalkerBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A retired United States Navy sailor, who led one of the most prolific Soviet spy rings in America during the Cold War, and made over $2 million in the process, has died in prison, where he had been serving a life sentence. John Anthony Walker, Jr., retired from the US Navy in 1976 as a Warrant Officer, having previously served as a radio operator and technical communications expert. He held a top-secret clearance for most of his Navy career. In 1967, Walker had walked into the Soviet embassy in Washington, DC, and had given Soviet officials a few US military codes as samples. The exchange sparked a cooperation that lasted 17 years, as the Soviets initially placed Walker on a $1,000-a-week salary, promising to upgrade his income if he delivered more classified material. Eventually, Walker recruited his older brother, Arthur Walker, a US Navy lieutenant commander, who had left the Navy and was working for a US military contractor. He also recruited his oldest son, Michael, who was a US Navy seaman aboard the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and was able to clandestinely photograph classified documents he found on the ship. Walker also recruited one of his best friends, Jerry Whitworth, whom he had befriended when Whitworth was a student. He convinced the impressionable young man to enlist in the US Navy for the purpose of providing the spy ring with classified information. Whitworth eventually became a chief radioman for the Navy. The spy ring Walker set up conducted espionage on an industrial scale, providing the USSR with classified information for nearly two decades. The stolen information, which included the daily code configurations for several encryption devices used by the US Navy, allowed Moscow to decode over a million US navy messages. The breach perpetrated by the Walker spy ring is considered among the largest in American military history. Vitaly Yurchenko, a high-ranking officer in the Soviet KGB, once described the Walker spy ring as “the greatest case in Soviet intelligence history”. But the ring was busted in May of 1985 following an extensive counterintelligence operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Read more of this post

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News you may have missed #883

Oleg KaluginBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Indonesia, Australia renew intelligence ties. Australia and Indonesia have signed a pledge not to use intelligence to harm each other, signaling a resumption in cooperation, which had been suspended after last year’s spy scandal. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and her Indonesian counterpart, Marty Natalegawa, signed the “joint understanding of a code of conduct” in Nusa Dua, Bali, on Thursday.
►►Ex-KGB general says Russia has already won in Ukraine. Russia has already won “the real victory”​ in Ukraine, according to former KGB general Oleg Kalugin, who is now living in the United States. The “southeast of Ukraine, that’s part of the general battle between the Russians and Ukrainians, but it’s not as crucial as the real victory and pride of Russia —the Crimea, I mean”, he said on Thursday. Kalugin reiterated that he does not believe Russian president Vladimir Putin wants annex another region of the country. “It’s not in the interest of Putin”, Kalugin said. “His position as of today is fairly strong in the country, in his own country, so why put it at risk by moving further?”
►►China says Canadian couple were spies disguised as ordinary citizens. Kevin and Julia Garratt have been accused of stealing Chinese military and national defense research secrets. They were detained on August 4, 2014, but not formally arrested, and China has offered little information on what they are accused of doing. The couple ran a coffee shop near the border with North Korea, worked with Christian groups to bring humanitarian aid into North Korea, and worked to train North Korean Christians inside China. Their detention by China’s State Security Bureau has been seen by Canadian authorities as reprisal for the arrest of Su Bin, a Chinese immigrant to Canada suspected of masterminding the electronic theft of US fighter jet secrets.

News you may have missed #881 (Cold War history edition)

Vehicle tracking deviceBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►McCarthy-era prisoner tries to overturn espionage conviction. In 1950, Miriam Moskowitz was secretary to Abraham Brothman, an American chemical engineer who was convicted for providing secret industrial information to communist spy Elizabeth Bentley. Moskowitz, who was having an affair with Brothman at the time of his arrest, was convicted of obstructing justice and served two years in prison. Now at age 98, she claims she has discovered evidence that key witness testimony about her role in Soviet espionage was falsified, and wants her conviction thrown out. In 2010, Moskowitz authored the book Phantom Spies, Phantom Justice, about her case.
►►Files show USSR spied on Czechoslovak communist leaders after 1968. The Soviet KGB spied aggressively on senior members of the Czechoslovak Communist Party (KSČ) for two decades following the Prague Spring of 1968, because it mistrusted them. The information on Soviet intelligence activities against the KSČ comes from files in to the so-called Mitrokhin Archive. Vasili Mitrokhin was a KGB archivist, who painstakingly copied tens of thousands of pages of the spy agency’s files prior to defecting to Britain following the dissolution of the USSR.
►►Canada’s spy agency reveals Cold War-era spying equipment. As part of its celebrations for its 30-year anniversary, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service has released photographs of what it calls “tools of the trade” –gadgets designed to hide or transport secret communication, acquire surreptitious photographs, listen in on private conversations, etc., without detection. The gadgets include Soviet defector Igor Gouzenko‘s gun, a toy truck with a concealment compartment for hiding a microdot reader, a hollowed-out battery used to contain clandestine messages or microfilm, and many others.

Germany wants foreign embassies to declare their spy employees

German Foreign OfficeBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
German authorities have asked that foreign embassies and consulates on German soil officially disclose the names of their personnel involved in intelligence work. German newsmagazine Der Spiegel said that the German Foreign Office has been systematically contacting consular authorities from every foreign nation located in Germany. In each case, the foreign consular representatives have been issued formal requests to release “through official diplomatic channels” an exhaustive list of names of their intelligence operatives operating in Germany under diplomatic cover. All foreign embassies and consulates had been contacted by last Wednesday, said the report. The requests stipulate that the lists must include all personnel working out of a foreign nation’s embassy or consulate, as well cultural institutes, military installations, commercial entities, or other institutions associated with a foreign country. It is generally assumed that a significant number of employees in embassies and consulates are intelligence personnel, working under diplomatic cover; they invariably hold titles such as “military attaché”, or “political officer”, and are generally protected with diplomatic immunity. A small number of these intelligence officers voluntarily make their presence known to the corresponding intelligence agency of their host country, and are thus officially declared and accredited with the government of the host nation. They typically act as points-of-contact between the embassy and the intelligence agency of the host nation on issues of common concern requiring cross-country collaboration or coordination. But the vast majority of intelligence personnel stationed at a foreign embassy or consulate operate without the official knowledge or consent of the host country. Governments generally accept this as a tacit rule in international intelligence work, which is why Berlin’s move is seen as highly unusual. Der Spiegel described it as an effort “towards more transparency”, aimed at “increasing the pressure on foreign intelligence services to disclose their activities in Germany”. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, described the move as a diplomatic effort to establish trust between Berlin and its foreign partners. Read more of this post

Soviet documents ‘identify New Zealand diplomat as KGB spy’

Bill SutchBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A batch of documents from the so-called ‘Mitrokhin archive’, which were made public late last week, have reportedly identified a former New Zealand senior diplomat as a Soviet spy. William Ball Sutch was born in 1907 and received a PhD in economics from Columbia University in the United States in 1932. Shortly afterwards, he returned to his native New Zealand in the midst of the Great Depression. At around that time he traveled to the Soviet Union, but showed no outward interest in communism. He entered government service, working for several departments, including the Ministry of Supply and the Department of Industries and Commerce, where he rose to the post of secretary in 1958. Prior to that, he had represented Wellington at the United Nations headquarters in New York in the early 1950s. He retired in 1965 as head of New Zealand’s Department of Industries and Commerce, and died in 1975. A year before his death, however, Sutch was the main subject in the most sensational spy scandal in New Zealand during the Cold War. He was arrested in a counterintelligence operation in Wellington while secretly meeting Dimitri Razgovorov, an officer of the Soviet KGB. Sutch, who had been monitored by the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) for quite some time prior to his arrest, was charged under the country’s Official Secrets Act. But eventually he was found not guilty after an eventful five-day trial, which took place amidst a media blitz in the Kiwi capital. Now, however, the Wellington-based Dominion Post newspaper says it has acquired copies of internal KGB documents that identify Sutch as a KGB recruit. The Australian-owned newspaper says the documents are part of the massive archive transported to the United Kingdom in 1992 by the late Vasili Mitrokhin. Mitrokhin was a Soviet archivist for the KGB, who painstakingly copied tens of thousands of pages of the spy agency’s files prior to defecting to Britain following the dissolution of the USSR. The latest batch of papers, which were made public at Cambridge University’s Churchill College, indicate that the New Zealand diplomat worked for the KGB for 24 years prior to his 1974 arrest. Read more of this post

Israel ‘spied on US Secretary of State’ during 2013 peace talks

John Kerry and Benjamin Netanyahu in 2013By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Israeli intelligence eavesdropped on telephone calls made by the United States Secretary of State during high-level diplomatic negotiations in 2013, according to reports in the German media. Shortly after he took office, Secretary of State John Kerry signaled that he viewed the Israeli-Palestinian dispute as a priority issue. He promptly organized a fresh round of peace talks between the two sides, which began in Washington, DC, on July 29, 2013. The talks, which included direct negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli officials, began with some positive steps from both sides, including the release of several dozen Palestinian prisoners by Israel. But they broke down with the withdrawal of the Palestinian side on November 14, after the Israeli government authorized a new round of settlement construction in the West Bank. Now Germany’s Der Spiegel has reported that Israeli intelligence systematically targeted the communications of Mr. Kerry as he met regularly with high-ranking Palestinian and other Arab negotiators. Citing “several reliable intelligence service sources”, the German newsmagazine said not all of Kerry’s telephone calls were made on encrypted equipment during his negotiations with the two warring sides. Israeli intelligence were thus able to intercept the US State Secretary’s non-encrypted telephone conversations, which were transmitted via satellite. The Israeli side was therefore able to know in some instances the content of his confidential discussions with Palestinian officials, in advance of face-to-face negotiations with him. The news comes less than three months after American magazine Newsweek revealed that Israeli spies were engaged in aggressive efforts to steal American secrets. Last May, Newsweek‘s veteran intelligence correspondent Jeff Stein quoted Congressional staffers as saying that America’s Jewish allies had “crossed red lines” in their efforts to steal secrets from the US. One Congressional staffer told Stein that “no other country continues to cross the line on espionage like the Israelis do”. In a follow-up article, Stein quoted US intelligence officials and Congressional insiders who said Israel had been “caught carrying out aggressive espionage operations against American targets for decades”. Read more of this post

Up to 20 US spies inside German government: media reports

US embassy in BerlinBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
German counterintelligence has intensified its surveillance of “certain employees of the United States embassy” in Berlin, after internal reports suggested that “up to 20” agents of the American government are operating inside the German federal bureaucracy. Citing information “from American security circles”, German newspaper Bild am Sonntag said on Sunday that the agents are German citizens who are secretly employed by a variety of American civilian and military intelligence agencies in return for money. The Berlin-based tabloid noted that at least a dozen such agents have infiltrated four departments of the German federal government, namely the Ministries of Defense, Finance, Interior, as well as the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. The paper said that the latter has been targeted by the US Central Intelligence Agency because it is routinely employed by the BND, Germany’s main external intelligence organization, as a cover for clandestine activities. Last week, Germany ordered the immediate removal from the country of the CIA station chief, after it caught two German citizens, one working for the BND, and one for the country’s Ministry of Defense, secretly spying for Washington. It also instructed its intelligence agencies to limit their cooperation with their American counterparts “to the bare essentials” until further notice. According to Bild am Sonntag, the “growing pressure” against American intelligence operations inside Germany has prompted American spy agencies to transfer their recruitment activities of German citizens to nearby European capitals, such as Prague of Warsaw. Meanwhile, in an interview aired Sunday on Germany’s public-service television broadcaster, ZDF, German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared pessimistic about the possibility that American intelligence agencies will stop recruiting German citizens. She said that Washington and Berlin had “fundamentally different views” on the nature and operational character of intelligence, and that it would be difficult to bridge the gap of perception between the two countries. The German leader added, however, that she favored continued cooperation between German and American intelligence agencies, as both countries “profit from the cooperation concerning counterterrorism and other things”. Read more of this post

‘Diplomatic earthquake’ as Germany halts spy cooperation with US

Angela Merkel and Barack ObamaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The German government has instructed its intelligence agencies to limit their cooperation with their American counterparts “to the bare essentials” until further notice, according to media reports. The move follows news that Berlin requested on Thursday the immediate removal from Germany of the United States Central Intelligence Agency chief of station —essentially the top American official in the country. The request came after two German citizens, one working for the BND, Germany’s main external intelligence organization, and one working for the country’s Federal Ministry of Defense, were allegedly found to have been secretly spying for the US. German media reported on Thursday that the temporary halt in Berlin’s intelligence collaboration with Washington applies across the spectrum, with the exception of areas directly affecting tactical security concerns for Germany, such as the protection of its troops in Afghanistan, or defending against immediate terrorist threats. Sources in the German capital claimed that the removal of the CIA station chief was technically a “recommendation for his departure”, and did not constitute an official diplomatic expulsion. However, German observers described the incident as a “diplomatic earthquake”, which would have been unthinkable as a policy option for the German government, barring actions against “pariah states like North Korea or Iran”. This is not the first time an American intelligence officer has been asked to leave Germany. Berlin expelled another CIA officer in the 1990s, after it emerged that the American intelligence Agency had tried to recruit a German official at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs. However, unlike the current imbroglio, the previous spy affair was handled discretely and with almost no media fanfare, as is customary among allies. The decision to recommend the CIA station chief’s removal was reportedly made at a senior governmental level, following a “fruitless” telephone exchange between CIA Director John Brennan and Klaus-Dieter Fritsche, the coordinator between the German Chancellery and the BND. According to German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, Brennan offered Fritsche no apology and had “nothing to contribute other than clichés about transatlantic ties”, as well as his expressed irritation about the way the media were handling the incident. Read more of this post

Germany probes second case of intelligence officer who spied for US

Germany’s Federal Ministry of DefenseBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Just days after announcing the arrest of an intelligence officer on charges of spying for the United States, German authorities say they are investigating a second individual on suspicion of espionage. Federal prosecutors said yesterday that the individual in question is a German citizen and is under “initial suspicion of activity for an intelligence agency” of a foreign country. They refused to provide further information and added that an arrest had not yet been made. But German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung said on Wednesday that the subject of the investigation is suspected of spying for the United States. The news comes less than a week after an officer of the BND, Germany’s main external intelligence organization, was found to have allegedly spied for the US Central Intelligence Agency for over two years. According to Süddeutsche’s sources, the second suspect works for Germany’s Federal Ministry of Defense. German newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported that the unnamed individual specializes in “global security policy” and that he came under the suspicion of Germany’s military counterintelligence agency because of his “close proximity to alleged American intelligence operatives”. Later on Wednesday, German federal government spokesman Steffen Seibert confirmed that Berlin had opened “investigations in two cases of suspected espionage, on very serious suspicions”. Seibert refused to elaborate, but added that police had raided a number of properties in the German capital. Meanwhile, Germany’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, told the Saarbrücker Zeitung that he failed to understand why Washington would want to spy on his country. “We talk to each other all the time, and no side keeps its views secret”, he told the Saarland-based newspaper. “The attempt to use conspiratorial tactics to find out about Germany’s position is not simply unseemly, it is unnecessary”. But an unnamed former senior intelligence official, who has liaised extensively with the BND, protested to The Washington Post that “the Germans do lots and lots of stuff and don’t tell us everything they do”. Read more of this post

Germany ‘might scrap’ no-spy treaty with US, UK, France

Thomas de MaizièreBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The German government is considering scrapping a decades-old no-spy agreement with the three Allied victors of World War II, following the arrest of a German intelligence officer who was caught spying for the United States. The treaty was signed in 1945 between the German state and the governments of the United States, France and Britain. Their intelligence services are defined in the treaty as allied with Germany’s and are seen as working with Germany’s national interest in mind. Consequently, Berlin pledges not to direct counterespionage operations against French, American and British intelligence activities inside Germany. Implicit in the agreement is the understanding that these three countries can spy on German soil only when targeting non-German operatives in the country. However, in an interview with German tabloid newspaper Bild, Germany’s Minister of the Interior, Thomas de Maizière, said that Berlin is now seriously considering scrapping the postwar treaty, in response to the recent revelations about alleged espionage activities against Germany by the US Central Intelligence Agency. He was referring to news, aired last week, that an officer of the BND, Germany’s main external intelligence organization, was found to have spied for the CIA for over two years. On Monday, the Reuters news agency said it had confirmed that the alleged double spy had indeed been recruited by the CIA, and that the Agency’s Director, John Brennan, had asked to brief senior members of Congressional intelligence committees about the issue. Also on Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters in Washington that the US government would “work with the Germans to resolve this situation appropriately”. But these assurances seem to have done little to quell Berlin’s irritation. Another senior German politician, Stephan Mayer, who is close to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, told Bild that it was time for German intelligence to “focus more strongly on our so-called allies”. Read more of this post

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

Alleged CIA spy seeks retrial after Iranian court slashes his sentence

Amir Mirzaei HekmatiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
A United States citizen held in Iran since 2011 on spy charges has appealed for a retrial after an Iranian court quashed his earlier death sentence for espionage. Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, a former Marine born in the US state of Arizona, was arrested in August of 2011 in Iran and charged with carrying out a covert mission for the Central Intelligence Agency. In December of 2011, Hekmati appeared on Iranian state television and acknowledged that he was an operative of the CIA. He said in an interview that he had been trained “in languages and espionage” while in the US Army and that, in 2009, after nearly a decade of intelligence training, he was recruited by the CIA and specifically prepared to carry out what intelligence operatives sometimes refer to as a ‘dangling operation’ in Iran. The aim of the mission, said Hekmati, was to travel to Tehran, contact Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and National Security, and pose as a genuine American defector wishing to supply the Iranians with inside information about American intelligence. His immediate task was to gain the trust of Iranian authorities by giving them some correct information in order to set the stage for a longer campaign of disinformation aimed at undermining a host of Iranian intelligence operations. In 2012, Hekmati was sentenced to death for spying. Members of his family, however, who live in Michigan, have continuously denied that he is an intelligence operative and maintain that he traveled to Iran to visit his grandparents. Their denials have been echoed by the government in Washington, which has denied employing Hekmati in any intelligence capacity. In March of 2012, the Supreme Court of Iran quashed Hekmati’s death sentence and ordered a retrial, calling his previous prosecution “incomplete”. At the retrial, Iran’s Revolutionary Court overturned Hekmati’s initial espionage conviction, charging him instead with “collaborating with a hostile government”. His original sentence was reduced to 10 years in prison. But Hekmati’s lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, told journalists on Sunday that his client would appeal even that sentence, thus seeking an immediate release from prison. 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

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

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.

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