Estonian intelligence officer ‘abducted’ by Russian spies

EstoniaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has summoned the Russian ambassador in Tallinn to complain about the alleged abduction of an Estonian intelligence officer by Russian forces, which it says occurred on Estonian soil. A statement from the Ministry said the Estonian intelligence officer, named Eston Kohver, has worked since 1991 for the Internal Security Service of Estonia, known as KaPo. Speaking to reporters on Friday, KaPo Director Arnold Sinisalu said Kohver had been kidnapped by a team of “unidentified individuals from Russia”. The Estonian side claims that the abduction occurred in the vicinity of Luhamaa, a border-crossing facility in southeastern Estonia, which connects the small Baltic country with its Russian neighbor. Sinisalu said KaPo investigators had detected “signs of a scuffle” at the scene of the abduction, as well as vehicle tracks “leading from Russian to Estonian soil”. Subsequent reports in Estonian media alleged that the Russian abductors had managed to jam radio communications in the area prior to snatching Kohver. They also employed smoke grenades during the operation, which would explain a number of “explosions” heard in the vicinity, according to Estonian police spokesman Harrys Puusepp. But Russian sources dismissed the Estonian government’s claims, saying that Kohver had been detained while on Russian soil. Russian media reported that the Estonian counterintelligence officer had been captured by Russia’s Federal Security Service, known as FSB, while undertaking an “espionage operation” inside Russia. Reports in the Russian press said Kohver was caught in Russia’s Pskov region, carrying a loaded firearm, €5,000 ($6,500) in cash, “covert video recording equipment”, an “eavesdropping device”, as well as “other items relating to the gathering of intelligence”. A statement from the FSB said the Estonian operative had been captured while taking part in “an undercover operation” on behalf of KaPo. 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

Coroner’s report sees Russian state behind ex-KGB spy’s death

Alexander LitvinenkoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A previously classified report by the British government official who certified the 2006 death of former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko states that the Russian state was directly implicated in the murder. Litvinenko was an employee of the Soviet KGB and one of its successor organizations, the FSB, until 2000, when he defected with his family to the UK. He soon became known as a vocal critic of the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2006, Litvinenko came down with radioactive poisoning soon after meeting former KGB/FSB colleague Andrey Lugovoy at a London restaurant. Many suspect that the Russian government is behind Litvinenko’s murder. In February of last year, Litvinenko’s family accused the British government of trying to block a probe into the murder case, after British Foreign Secretary William Hague limited the scope of a public inquest in to the matter on national security grounds. Supporters of Litvinenko have argued that White Hall has played down the Litvinenko murder case in order to preserve its trade ties with Russia’s government-owned energy companies. Members of the murdered spy’s family are now pushing for a full public inquiry into the incident, and are currently making the case before a specially appointed panel of judges at the High Court. In the course of this appeal, a previously classified document has emerged, which contains the report of Sir Robert Owen, the coroner who first examined the available evidence immediately after Litvinenko’s death. According to the document, which has been seen by the BBC, the coroner concluded that, based on “documents held by the UK government”, the “culpability of the Russian state in the death of Alexander Litvinenko” could be established “prima facie”. Read more of this post

Further evidence shows Litvinenko worked for MI6 when killed

Alexander LitvinenkoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
In 2012, a court in the United Kingdom was told that former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who died of poisoning in 2006, had been working for British and Spanish intelligence when he was killed. Now British newspaper The Independent says it has proof that the late Russian spy provided “expert analysis” on Russian politics for British intelligence, shortly before his death. Litvinenko was an employee of the Soviet KGB and one of its successor organizations, the FSB, until 2000, when he defected with his family to the UK. He soon became known as a vocal critic of the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2006, Litvinenko came down with radioactive poisoning soon after meeting a former KGB/FSB colleague, Andrey Lugovoy, at a London restaurant. Many suspect that the Russian government is behind Litvinenko’s murder. But the dead spy’s family has argued for years that his killers did not only kill an intelligence defector, but also an officer of British intelligence. On Thursday, The Independent said it had seen a diplomatic memo that was given to Litvnenko for analysis by British external intelligence agency MI6. The document, known in the British Foreign Office lingo as a “diptel” (diplomatic telegram), was dispatched to several British embassies around the world in 2000. It includes a descriptive analysis of a confidential meeting in London between British intelligence officials and Sergei Ivanov. Currently a political powerhouse in Putin’s administration, Ivanon was at the time an unknown quantity in Western circles. He had entered politics after having spent nearly two decades working for Soviet and Russian external intelligence. The diptel seen by The Independent outlines the exchange of views between Ivanov and the British officials during the meeting, and evaluates his stance on a broad range of issues, ranging from the rise of Islamic militancy, to China, the Middle East, and the role of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #855

Jean-Claude JunckerBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Russian spy agency seeks to expand internet surveillance. Under an order drafted by Russia’s Communications Ministry, communications service providers would have to install equipment that would record and save all internet traffic for at least 12 hours and grant the security services exclusive access to the data. The draft order, made public on Monday, has been drafted with the help of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the Soviet-era KGB spy agency. It would take effect in July if it receives final government approval.
►►World War I spy Mata Hari’s birthplace gutted by fire. A fire in the Netherlands has gutted the birthplace of exotic dancer and World War I spy Mata Hari, Dutch media said on Sunday. Mata Hari was born as Margaretha Geertruida Zelle on August 7, 1876, the daughter of a local shopkeeper. She was arrested and executed by firing squad in October 1917, aged 41, after being accused of being a German spy during the First World War. The fire consumed the hair salon that now occupies the place of Mata Hari’s birth, the only remainder untouched by the flames was a small statuette of her dancing, erected outside the shop.
►►Luxembourg PM survives spy scandal in elections. Luxembourg’s Christian Democrat party of long-serving Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker easily remained the biggest party and the first choice to form a new coalition government following yesterday’s elections. Luxembourg was shocked into snap elections this summer after Juncker failed to contain a spying scandal centering on allegations of eavesdropping and wiretapping on politicians, and the keeping of files on ordinary citizens and leading figures dating back to the Cold War.

Russia expelled ex-US embassy official who rebuffed spy advances

US embassy in MoscowBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Russian authorities expelled a former American diplomat living in Moscow earlier in May, less than two months after he allegedly rebuffed an offer to spy on the United States for Russia. The former official, Thomas Firestone, served two tours of duty as a Resident Legal Adviser at the American embassy in Moscow. He later joined the Moscow office of Baker & McKenzie, a US-based law firm with offices worldwide. Firestone had frequent and direct dealings with the Russian government in his capacity as a specialist in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. This US law permits the prosecution of bribery cases in American courts. According to The New York Times, Firestone was approached in March of this year by operatives of the Russian Federal Security Service, the FSB, one of the main successor agencies of the Soviet KGB. Citing “people familiar with the case”, The Times claims that the American lawyer turned down an offer to spy for Moscow on behalf of the FSB. On May 5, however, while returning to Moscow from a trip abroad, Firestone was detained at Sheremetyevo International Airport, 18 miles outside of the Russian capital. After a 16-hour detention, the former Justice Department official was told that he had been declared persona non grata (undesirable) and was to be denied entrance into Russia; he was promptly placed on a flight to the US, which departed shortly afterwards. The Times says that it remains unclear at this point whether Firestone’s expulsion was directly connected to his alleged refusal to give in to the FSB’s espionage advances. However, the paper claims that the matter has been raised with the Russian government by the administration of US President Barack Obama. Read more of this post

Russian news agency reveals name of CIA station chief in Moscow

US embassy in MoscowBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A Russian news agency revealed the name of the alleged station chief of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Moscow, but then deleted the information from its website. Russia Today, a multilingual Moscow-based television network funded by the Russian government, hosted an interview on May 17 with an anonymous representative of the FSB, the Russian Federal Security Service. The FSB official was commenting on the case of Ryan Fogle, an alleged CIA case officer who was detained in downtown Moscow by the FSB on the evening of Monday, April 13. The Russians claim that Fogle, who held the post of Third Secretary of the Political Department of the United States embassy in Moscow, was trying to recruit a Russian intelligence officer. Russia Today quoted the FSB official as saying that Fogle’s operations “crossed the red line and [the FSB] had no choice but to react [by] observing official procedures”. He added that Fogle had been detected trying to recruit Russian government employees in as early as 2011. At that time, the anonymous source told Russia Today the FSB had “decided to warn [its] American colleagues and ask them to stop these activities”. The warning, he said, had been delivered by the FSB directly to the CIA station chief in Moscow; the article then proceeded to name the American official. International media are not bound by the 1982 US Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which makes it a federal crime to intentionally reveal the identity of individuals engaged in covert roles with US intelligence agencies. However, publicly revealing the identity of senior intelligence officials during peacetime is highly irregular and frowned upon, even among adversaries. The BBC, which reported on the revelation, described the move as a “breach of diplomatic protocol”. Read more of this post

Analysis: Is US diplomat arrested in Russia a CIA case officer?

Ryan Christopher FogleBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs lodged an official complaint yesterday with the United States Ambassador to Russia over the alleged espionage activities of Ryan Christopher Fogle. The Third Secretary in the Political Section of the US embassy was arrested with great media fanfare on Monday night, allegedly as he was trying to recruit a Russian intelligence officer. As can be expected, the Russian media had a field day with Fogle’s arrest; after all, it has been nearly a decade since the last time an American intelligence operative was publicly uncovered on Russian soil. Many Western observers, however, have questioned if Fogle could really be an officer of the Central Intelligence Agency, and whether the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) simply framed an unsuspecting junior American diplomat. Much of the skepticism expressed by Western commentators focuses on the articles that were allegedly found by the FSB in Fogle’s backpack. They included several pairs of sunglasses, recording devices, as well as two wigs. Would a CIA officer be foolish enough to be carrying with him surreptitious recording devices in downtown Moscow? And do modern case officers still employ wigs when walking the streets of foreign capitals recruiting spies? The answer is, of course, yes. Read more of this post

Alleged CIA officer arrested in Moscow in Russian sting operation

Ryan Christopher FogleBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Russia has accused an American diplomat of secretly working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) following his arrest during a sting operation in Moscow. The diplomat, who was expelled from Russia on Tuesday, is Ryan Christopher Fogle; he held the post of Third Secretary of the Political Department of the United States embassy in the Russian capital. He was detained on Monday evening by counterintelligence officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). Fogle’s arrest marked the first time in nearly a decade that espionage charges were leveled against an American government employee in Russia. Fogle, a 29-year-old native of St. Lous, Missouri, who graduated from Colgate University in New York in 2006, was arrested by the FSB in Moscow’s Akademika Pilyugina Street, allegedly right in front of an apartment complex reserved for foreign diplomatic personnel. He is accused by the FSB of conspiring to recruit a member of the Russian intelligence services, who is allegedly an antiterrorist expert working in Russia’s North Caucasus region. The FSB told Russian media that Fogle had communicated with his would-be recruit on the phone at least twice in the days prior to the sting operation. The FSB even took the extremely unusual step of airing footage of Fogle’s arrest on Russian state-run television. The American diplomat was shown pinned on the ground, wearing a blonde wig and baseball cap, while FSB officers handcuffed him. A second video released by the FSB, shows Fogle sitting quietly in a government office, in the presence of three other American government officials, including Michael Klecheski, Chief Political Officer at the US embassy in Moscow. All four of them are shown staring in silence, while an FSB official is expressing his strong displeasure over Fogle’s alleged espionage activities. According to the FSB, when Fogle was arrested, he was found to be carrying a backpack containing —among other things— his diplomatic identification card, two wigs, three pairs of sunglasses, recording devices, an RFID shield, a compass and a knife. He was also carrying three Ziploc bags filled with $100,000 in €500 notes, as well as a letter, written in Russian, addressed to his would-be recruit. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #831 (Boston Marathon bombings)

Site of one of the Boston Marathon blastsBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Russia had warned FBI Tsarnaev had radical links. The Russian FSB intelligence security service shared with the FBI in early 2011 information that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the brothers suspected in the Boston marathon bombings, was a follower of radical Islam. The Russians allegedly told the FBI that Tsarnaev, 26,  had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the US to join unspecified underground groups.
►►FBI interviewed dead Boston bombing suspect years ago. The FBI admitted Friday they interviewed the now-deceased Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev two years ago but failed to find any incriminating information about him. The FBI probe culminated in a sit-down interview where they probably asked him a lot of questions about his life, his contacts, his surroundings. All of this was then written in a report.
►►Ex-CIA/FBI official says Boston bombings were not terrorism. Counterterrorism expert Philip Mudd, with experience in the CIA and the FBI, told Fox News: “What I fear is that people too quickly categorize this as terrorism. This looks more to me like Columbine than it does like al Qaeda. Two kids who radicalized between themselves in a closed circle and go out and commit murder. I would charge these guys as murderers, not terrorists”.
►►Ex-US Attorney General says Boston bombings were terrorism. Michael Mukasey, Attorney General of the United States from 2007 to 2009, says that the Boston attack “was obviously a suicide operation –not in the direct way of a bomber who kills all his victims and himself at the same time by blowing himself up, but in the way of someone who conducts a spree, holding the stage for as long as possible, before he is cut down in a blaze of what he believes is glory. Here, think Mumbai”.

British government tries to block probe into ex-KGB officer’s murder

Alexander LitvinenkoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The family of a Russian spy, who died of poisoning after defecting to Britain, has accused the British government of trying to cover up the affair in order to avoid embarrassing Russia. Alexander Litvinenko was an employee of the Soviet KGB and one of its successor organizations, the FSB, until 2000, when he defected with his family to the United Kingdom. He soon became widely known as a vocal critic of the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2006, Litvinenko came down with radioactive poisoning soon after meeting a former KGB/FSB colleague, Andrey Lugovoy, at a London restaurant. He died in hospital three days later. A public inquest into Litvinenko’s murder had been scheduled for May, 2013. On Tuesday, however, it was revealed that the British government had filed a written petition to limit the information disclosed in the inquest. According to The London Times, British Foreign Secretary William Hague filed a Public Interest Immunity Certificate (PIIC), which, if allowed to stand, would limit the scope of the inquest on national security grounds. It is believed that the government wishes to block information linking Litvinenko to the Secret Intelligence Service —also known as MI6— Britain’s primary external spy agency. Last December, Ben Emmerson, the lawyer representing Litvinenko’s widow, claimed that the late Russian spy was a “registered and paid” agent of MI6 and Spanish intelligence at the time of his death. Read more of this post

Litvinenko was working for UK, Spanish intelligence when he was killed

Alexander LitvinenkoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A lawyer representing the family of a KGB defector to Britain, who died of poisoning in 2006, has told a court hearing in London that the late spy was working for British and Spanish intelligence at the time of his death. Alexander Litvinenko was an employee of the Soviet KGB and one of its successor organizations, the FSB, until 2000, when he defected with his family to the United Kingdom. He soon became known as a vocal critic of the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2006, Litvinenko came down with radioactive poisoning soon after meeting a former KGB/FSB colleague, Andrey Lugovoy, at a London restaurant. Speaking at a preliminary court hearing on Thursday, in light of an upcoming British government inquiry into Litvinenko’s death, Ben Emmerson, QC, said that the late Russian spy was a “registered and paid” asset of the Secret Intelligence Service. This is not the first time that Litvinenko has been linked to the SIS —known informally as MI6— Britain’s external spy agency. Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, made similar claims to the British press in January of this year. But yesterday’s testimony by her legal team provided the public record with further revelations about her husband’s connections with British intelligence. The court heard that Litvinenko received a regular stipend from MI6 either in cash or via electronic transfer and that he had been provided with an encrypted telephone, which MI6 used to contact him on a routine basis. The night before his poisoning, said Emmerson, Litvinenko had met his MI6 handler, who went by the operational alias MARTIN. Read more of this post

Moscow denies knowledge of alleged Russian spy ring busted in Texas

Alexander FishenkoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Government officials in Moscow have denied knowledge of an alleged Russian spy ring, which is accused by United States authorities of procuring sensitive microelectronics technology on behalf of the Russian military. Early on Wednesday morning, the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted pre-dawn raids at several locations in Houston, Texas, and arrested eight members of the alleged spy ring. Four of the arrestees are allegedly Russian citizens, while the remaining five are from Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Ukraine. Four are naturalized American citizens. They include Alexander Fishenko, chief executive officer of Apex System LLC, which is accused by the FBI of having exported over $50 million in dual-use microelectronic devices to Russia since 2008. US federal prosecutors allege that three more spy-ring members are currently in Moscow; they include Yuri Savin, Director of Marketing at a company called Artrilor, which is said to have been at the receiving end of Apex System’s export operations. According to the indictment, Arc Electronics told its US suppliers that the microelectronics technologies were intended for use in various types of streetlights. But in reality, said the FBI, the company gave the hi-tech supplies to the Russian Ministry of Defense for use in airborne surveillance systems, as well as in remote weapons guidance systems, among other military applications. The FBI says it has in its possession extensive audio intercepts of the suspects communicating with Russian intelligence, as well as conferring among them about how to hide incriminating documents from US federal authorities. But Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, told Russian reporters on Thursday that the charges against the 11 individuals were “of a criminal nature” and had “nothing to do with intelligence activity”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #786

Richard Masato AokiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US Pentagon wants to share intel with Egypt. The US Department of Defense is offering Egypt a package of classified intelligence-sharing capabilities designed to help it identify military threats along its border with Israel. According to an unnamed senior US official, the Pentagon leadership is concerned about “rising militancy” along the Egyptian-Israeli border. The purported intelligence package includes satellite imagery, data collected through unmanned drones, as well as intercepts of cell phone and other communications among militants suspected of planning attacks. The Egyptian intelligence chief was summarily fired earlier this month, after more than a dozen Egyptian soldiers were killed near Israel’s border when gunmen attacked a post and tried to enter Israel.
►►Researcher disputes Aoki was FBI informant. Last week author Seth Rosenfeld alleged that prominent 1960s Black Panther Party member Richard Masato Aoki, who gave the Black Panthers some of their first firearms and weapons training, was an undercover FBI informer. But the claim, which is detailed in Rosenfeld’s new book, Subversives, is disputed by another researcher, Diane C. Fujino. A professor and chair of Asian American studies at UC Santa Barbara, and author of the recently published Samurai Among Panthers, Fujino argues that Rosenfeld has not met the burden of proof on Aoki, and that he “made definitive conclusions based on inconclusive evidence”.
►►Russian intelligence to monitor blogosphere. Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, the FSB, says it plans to fund a program that monitors the Internet’s “blogosphere”, with an aim to “shape public views through social networking”. Citing unnamed sources from inside the FSB, Russian newspaper Kommersant said that the project’s research stage will cost around $1 million. The article implies that the online surveillance and opinion-shaping program will target both Russian- and foreign-language online users. This is not the first time that the FSB has displayed interest in online social networking in recent years.

News you may have missed #760

Aleksei DressenBy TIMOTHY W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
►►Turkey breaks up major military espionage ring. Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News reported on July 9 that 51 active-duty soldiers from over twelve cities have been implicated in a major espionage ring involving Turkey’s military. Following a series of raids on July 7, at least 40 people were detained and four others were taken into custody. The raids were in response to an investigation launched in 2009, regarding warcraft radar locations in Turkey, illegal surveillance, as well as wiretapping of military officers.
►►Taiwan navy misplaces classified naval charts. During the decommissioning last June of Taiwan’s Hai Ou missile boats, classified naval charts were discovered to have gone missing during a final inventory check. The Taipei Times reports that the individual officer tasked with the responsibility of safeguarding the charts in question claimed to have burned one by accident, but was unable to account for the second chart. The classified charts contained information on Taiwanese naval activity including deployments in the Taiwan Strait.
►►Estonia security official and wife jailed for treason. Aleksei Dressen, a former security official at Estonia’s Interior Ministry, and his wife, Viktoria, were both convicted of treason, receiving 16 years and 6 years respectively. During a closed trial the proceedings did not provide direct evidence as to whom Dressen and his wife were working for. However, reports indicate that Dressen’s handlers were most likely representatives of Russia’s FSB.  The prosecution alleged that Dressen brought classified state secrets from the Estonian Interior Ministry to the airport in an envelope and then passed them along to his wife, who acted as a courier to Russian handlers. Heili Sepp, the Estonian prosecutor, indicated that the sentencing of the Dressens was part of a plea bargain effort, noting: “To our knowledge, this is the harshest punishment meted out in plea bargain proceedings in Estonia”.

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