CIA kept file on American academic Noam Chomsky, say experts

Noam Chomsky in 1970By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A 1970 communiqué between two United States government agencies appears to show that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) kept a file on the iconic American linguist and political dissident Noam Chomsky. Widely seen as a pioneer of modern linguistics, Chomsky adopted an uncompromisingly critical stance against the US’ involvement in the Vietnam War in the early 1960s. The US Intelligence Community’s systematic surveillance of antiwar and civil rights activists at the time prompted legal scholars and historians to deduce that Chomsky’s activities must have been routinely spied on by the American government. But a number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in recent years turned up blank, with the CIA stating that it could “not locate any records” responsive to the requests. Scholars insisted, however, and a recent FOIA request unearthed what appears to be proof that the CIA did in fact compile a file on the dissident academic. The request was submitted to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) by attorney Kel McClanahan, executive director of National Security Counselors, a group specializing in “lawfully acquiring from the government material related to national security matters and distributing it to the public”. According to Foreign Policy magazine blog The Cable, McClanahan’s FOIA request revealed a memorandum sent from the CIA to the FBI on June 8, 1970. In it, the Agency seeks information about an upcoming trip by American antiwar activists to North Vietnam, which, according to the CIA, had received the “endorsement of Noam Chomsky”. The memo also asks the FBI for information on the trip’s participants, including Professor Chomsky. The Cable spoke to Marquette University Professor Athan Theoharis, domestic surveillance expert and author of Spying on Americans, who opined that the CIA request for information on Chomsky amounts to an outright confirmation that the Agency kept a file on the dissident academic. Read more of this post

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News you may have missed #840

John KiriakouBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►S. Korea prosecutors might seek ex-spy chief’s arrest. Prosecutors said Monday they will decide sometime this week whether to seek an arrest warrant against Won Sei-hoon, who headed South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) for about four years until early this year. He is suspected of ordering agents to post a slew of politically sensitive comments on the Internet in order to sway public opinion in favor of the ruling party candidate prior to the December 19 national election. Won, who headed the NIS under former President Lee Myung-bak, has been barred from leaving the country pending investigation.
►►CIA self-described whistleblower writes about life in prison. In 2012, former CIA officer John Kiriakou pleaded guilty to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. In January of this year, he was sentenced to 30 months in a low security prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania. In a letter released by his lawyer, Kiriakou describes his day-to-day life behind bars, from his own tiny cell to an almost anthropological study of the lunchroom and the relatively rare prison fights.
►►Comment: End the spy budget secrecy in Israel. Since the establishment of the Israeli state, the security establishment has enjoyed confidentiality with regard to the details of its budget, justified by the need to keep secrets from enemy intelligence services. This lack of transparency has impaired public scrutiny of security expenditure, which represents a large chunk of the Israeli economy. When the watchful eye is distant, the temptation is great to inflate job slots, exaggerate salary increments and hike up pension conditions.

MI5 wants secret court session over IRA informant’s lawsuit

Martin McGartlandBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, MI5, has requested a secret court hearing to deliberate a lawsuit from a high-profile spy who infiltrated the Provisional Irish Republican Army, commonly known as IRA. The mole, Martin McGartland, of Belfast, Northern Ireland, was recruited by the Special Branch of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in the 1980s. The information he supplied to the security agencies over several years is widely credited with having saved the lives of at least 50 British police officers and soldiers. His autobiographical experiences formed the basis of the 2008 motion picture 50 Dead Men Walking, written and directed by Kari Skogland and starring Jim Sturgess as Martin and Ben Kingsley. McGartland’s cover was dramatically blown in 1991, when the IRA began suspecting that he might be an MI5 mole. After several hours of interrogation by the IRA’s Internal Security Unit, McGartland managed to escape his captors and throw himself out of a third-floor window. He survived serious injuries and was taken into hiding by MI5, living in a series of safe houses across Britain for nearly a decade. However, in 1999 the IRA caught up with him at an MI5 safe house in North Tyneside, in the northeast of England, where he was shot by an IRA hit team while walking to his car one morning and left for dead. McGartland is now suing MI5 and its institutional patron, the British Home Office, claiming that they failed to support him after he was shot by the IRA. In his lawsuit, McGartland claims that government funding he was receiving for treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder was withdrawn after he publicly criticized the British government’s counterterrorism policies. Read more of this post

Pakistan secretly helped CIA drone strikes (act surprised)

Predator droneBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
For many years, Pakistan’s main spy agency secretly helped the United States launch hundreds of unmanned drone strikes on Pakistani soil, while the government in Islamabad publicly denounced them as infringements on its sovereignty. The US-based McClatchy news agency said on Tuesday it had uncovered the behind-the-scenes collaboration while reviewing “copies of top-secret US intelligence reports”. In an article published on its website, the news agency said the copies of the documents in its possession covered most of the unmanned drone strikes conducted on Pakistani soil by the US Central Intelligence Agency in the years 2006 to 2008 and 2010 to 2011. The documents allegedly show that nearly every strike had been approved by the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), Pakistan’s powerful spy agency run by the military. According to the McClatchy report, so close was the cooperation between the CIA and the ISI that the Pakistanis were even able to add some of their own targets to the CIA’s list of suspected militants for killing. This arrangement was arrived at during the early years of the administration of US President George W. Bush, when the bilateral cooperation between the two spy agencies reached its pinnacle. The report notes, however, that it is difficult to discern whether Pakistani civilian officials, who have been routinely denouncing the CIA unmanned drone strikes as illegal, have been aware of the full extent of the operational collusion between the ISI and the CIA. Technically, the ISI is supposed to operate under the control of Pakistan’s civilian leadership. In reality, however, the secretive intelligence agency is firmly under the control of the country’s military establishment. Read more of this post

French spy agency forced Wikipedia volunteer to delete entry

Wikipedia welcoming screenBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A French intelligence agency forced a volunteer for online open-source reference site Wikipedia to delete n entry that allegedly contained classified information about French nuclear defense systems. According to the Wikimedia Foundation, which publishes Wikipedia, the entry describes a radio relay system located at Pierre-sur-Haute military radio station in south-central France. Operated by the French Air Force, the station is said to have a central role in transmitting the order to launch France’s nuclear missiles in case of a full-scale thermonuclear war. The French-language Wikipedia webpage —which has since been fully restored— mentions, among other things, that the radio masts at Pierre-sur-Haute are designed to withstand the type of shockwave experienced in a thermonuclear attack. According to the Wikimedia Foundation, it was approached in early March, 2013, by the Direction Central du Renseignement Interieur (DCRI), which is tasked with domestic security and counterintelligence. The agency asked the Wikimedia Foundation to delete the entire webpage referring to the Pierre-sur-Haute military radio station, because it said it contravened French national security law. The Wikimedia Foundation, however, refused to comply with the request unless it was accompanied with either a court order or concrete information explaining why the Pierre-sur-Haute revelations were a threat to French national security. The DCRI reportedly backed down, promising to return with a formal justification for its request. However, instead of doing so, it contacted a French-based Wikipedia volunteer, who was summoned to the DCRI’s office under threat of legal action. Read more of this post

Court rejects release of spy records on iconic Canadian politician

Tommy DouglasBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Canada’s highest court has rejected a legal argument in favor of releasing surveillance records on Tommy Douglas, an iconic Canadian politician who was monitored for most of his life by the security services. Douglas was a Scottish-born Baptist minister who later became the leader of the New Democratic Party and Premier of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Under his Premiership, which lasted from 1944 to 1961, Saskatchewan’s government became the first democratic socialist administration in North America and the first in the Americas to introduce a single-payer universal healthcare program. But Douglas, who is widely recognized as the father of Canada’s healthcare system, was under constant surveillance by Canadian intelligence throughout most of his life. Government records show that the now-defunct Security Service of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) began monitoring the socialist politician shortly before the outbreak of World War II. It appears that, in the political context of the Cold War, Douglas had drawn the attention of Canada’s security establishment by supporting antiwar causes, which led some to suspect him of holding pro-communist sympathies. The government surveillance, which was at times extensive, lasted until shortly before the politician’s death in 1986. Under Canada’s legal system, security dossiers on individuals are typically released 20 years after the target’s death. However, even though several hundred pages from Douglas’ dossier have already been released, many hundreds more remain secret. In 2005, Canadian Press reporter Jim Bronskill launched a legal campaign aimed at securing the release of the remaining pages in Douglas’ dossier. His campaign is supported by Douglas’ family, notably Douglas’ daughter, Shirley. But the Canadian government has resisted Bronskill’s effort from the very beginning. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #819 (UKUSA edition)

Charles E. AllenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Aussie spies’ exemption from Freedom of Information laws to end? Currently, all Australian intelligence agencies are exempt from the operation of federal Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation that allows the public and journalists to seek access to government records. But now Australian Information Commissioner John McMillan has called for the intelligence agencies to no longer be exempted from FOI laws. Professor McMillan and FOI Commissioner James Popple have made the recommendation in a 97-page submission to the review of FOI laws by former Defence Department secretary and diplomat Allan Hawke.
►►US spy agencies move towards single super-cloud. The US intelligence community is developing a single cloud computing network to allow all its analysts to access and rapidly sift through massive volumes of data. Now in its eighth month, the goal of the effort is to connect the Central Intelligence Agency’s existing cloud to a new cloud run by the National Security Agency. This NSA-run network consists of five other intelligence agencies and the FBI. Both of these clouds can interoperate, but the CIA has its own unique needs because it must work with human intelligence, which necessitates keeping its cloud slightly separate, according to Charles Allen, formerly Undersecretary of Homeland Security for intelligence and analysis.
►►Canadian Army struggles with intelligence-gathering. The Canadian Army is trying to hold on to its intelligence-gathering capability and its ability to disrupt spying in the face of budget strain, according to documents from the Canadian Department of National Defence. The Canadian Press, which obtained the documents, says the Army is “anxious to protect HUMINT network and to better resource its counterintelligence abilities”, but is worried that its shrinking budget in the post-Afghanistan War era will cause “degradation” in those disciplines.

Judge orders CIA to release files on drug kingpin Pablo Escobar

Pablo EscobarBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In the late 1980s, it was nearly impossible to sit through a primetime news bulletin without coming across the name ‘Pablo Escobar’. Born in 1949 in the town of Rionegro, Colombia, Escobar rose to become the leader of the Medellín cartel, history’s most notorious narcotics smuggling ring. By 1986, the Medellín cartel controlled over 80 percent of the global cocaine market, shipping daily around 15 tons of the drug (worth an estimated street value of $500,000) to the United States. In 1989, Forbes magazine included Escobar on his list of the world’s richest persons, with an estimated net worth of $3 billion. By that time, the Medellín cartel had become powerful enough to directly threaten the very institutional integrity of the Colombian state. At the same time, Escobar carefully cultivated his ‘Robin Hood’ image by regularly building hospitals, schools, and churches in some of Colombia’s most impoverished regions. He was thus able to surround himself with a sea of grateful and devoted supporters, who directly depended on his generosity for their livelihood. They also shielded him from the reach of the Colombian and United States government forces, which repeatedly went after him without success. Eventually, the Colombian government, in association with the US Drug Enforcement Administration and the Central Intelligence Agency, managed to stop Escobar by creating a rival organization called Los PEPES —a Spanish-language acronym that stands for ‘People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar’. Los PEPES, which consisted of members of rival drug smuggling cartels, as well as trained mercenaries belonging to Colombian rightwing militias, went after Escobar’s closest associates with indescribable ruthlessness. They hunted down and eventually tortured and killed several of his relatives, advisors and bodyguards. Ultimately, in 1993, they helped the Colombian National Police corner Escobar and shoot him dead at a Medellín barrio. The celebrations in Washington and Bogotá didn’t last long; as soon as Los PEPES disbanded, many of its leading members regrouped to found the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a rightwing paramilitary group that has since killed thousands of civilians in Colombia’s bitter civil war. The AUC, which funds its operations through kidnappings and drug trafficking, is today a designated terrorist group by most Western governments, including the United States and the European Union. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #767

Omar SuleimanBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Aussie spy chief warns of ‘digital footprints’. For the first time in the 60-year history of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), Australia’s main external spy agency, its Director has spoken publicly. Nick Warner used this unprecedented opportunity to reflect on where ASIS has come in the last 60 years, and the challenges it faces into the future. Among them, he said, are “developments in the cyber-realm”, which “are a two-edged sword for an agency like ASIS; they offer new ways of collecting new information, but the digital fingerprints and footprints which we all now leave behind complicate the task of operating covertly”.
►►India arrests alleged Pakistani spy. Indian authorities have announced the arrest of Zubair Khan, 37, of Uttar Pradesh, who was allegedly caught with several Indian Army documents in his possession. He had been reportedly asked to gather information on Air India pilots, military bases in the country, journalists who frequently visit Pakistan, and relatives of officials working in the Indian High Commission in Pakistan. Maps of cantonment boards and details of many battalions have been recovered from him, according to Indian media reports. Investigators are also said to have identified one of Khan’s handlers, a man named “Talib”, who works at Pakistan’s High Commission in New Delhi.
►►Egypt spies try to repair image as ex-Director dies. Egypt’s top spy agency, the General Intelligence Service —known as the “Mukhabarat” in Arabic— is taking a small but unprecedented step out of the shadows, in an apparent attempt to win the public’s support in the new Egypt. In an unusual move, the agency released a 41-minute-long documentary boasting of its achievements, presenting itself as the defender of the nation and vowing to continue to protect the country. The effort comes as the Mukhabarat’s former Director, the notorious Omar Suleiman, has died in the United States.

News you may have missed #741

Glenn CarleBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►MI6 role in rendition could be concealed in new bill. Libyan government officials Sami al-Saadi and Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who allege that they were taken by rendition by Britain to Libya eight years ago, are expected to begin legal proceedings against the British government and Jack Straw, Britain’s former foreign secretary, next month. However, after pressure from the security services, MI5 and MI6, the British government is preparing to publish a Justice and Security Bill that could allow these cases to be held in their entirety behind closed doors.
►►Aussie spy agency defends new headquarters. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation says its new headquarters in Canberra is not at risk of being spied upon, despite the use of a lot of glass. ASIO director general David Irvine told a senate committee on Thursday it would be impossible for someone with a high resolution camera on the other side of Lake Burley Griffin to spy on the nation’s spies. Australian Greens senator Scott Ludlam had asked whether the design of the “glass palace” could threaten the secrecy of its work.
►►Good interview with ex-CIA officer Glenn Carle. In this interview, Carle, a retired CIA case officer who wrote The Interrogator: An Education, says his former employers have called his publisher asking them to pulp his book; they rang every major network to prevent him going on air. They are, he says several times, “vicious” and have perpetrated a stain on America’s national character.

US judge denies release of CIA report on Bay of Pigs invasion

Court documentsBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
On April 17, 1961, a brigade of 1,300 CIA-funded and -trained anticommunist Cubans mounted a surprise assault on the Caribbean island. But prior intelligence collected by  spies working for Havana, and stiff resistance by pro-Castro troops, resulted in the CIA’s biggest known covert action failure. Approximately 1,200 surviving members of the CIA’s army were captured by pro-Castro forces, many of whom were severely interrogated or executed in subsequent years. The intelligence fiasco led to a five-volume CIA report, whose final volume was authored in the early 1980s by CIA resident historian Jack Pfeiffer. It essentially contains the CIA’s counterargument to a previous report, authored by the Agency’s Inspector General, which placed the blame for the failure on the invasion squarely on the shoulders of the CIA. Volume III of the report was voluntarily released by the CIA in 1998, but was not discovered by researchers until 2005, when an academic found it among the Kennedy Assassination Records Collection at the US National Archives. Following an unsuccessful Freedom of Information Act request, George Washington University’s National Security Archive sued the CIA in 2011, eventually forcing the Agency to declassify Volumes I, II and IV last April. This left Volume V, which is the subject of an ongoing dispute between historians and the CIA. But in a decision aired late last week, US District Court judge Gladys Kessler agreed with the Agency that the volume was not subject to US declassification rules because it had been “rejected for inclusion in the final publication” of the report. According to judge Kessler, the volume written by Dr. Pfeiffer, the CIA historian, was not a finished product, but rather a draft manuscript, and was therefore exempt from public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #691

Thomas DrakeBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►NSA whistleblower says Obama worse than Bush. Thomas Drake, the whistleblower whom the administration of US President Barack Obama tried and failed to prosecute for leaking information about waste, fraud and abuse at the National Security Agency, now works at an Apple store in Maryland. In an interview with Salon, Drake says the Obama administration is “expanding the secrecy regime far beyond what Bush ever intended”.
►►Australian spies reportedly buying computer bugs. The Australian government is buying computer security weaknesses found by hackers before they are sold on the black market, as part of its defense strategy, according to an Australian security consultant who wishes to remain anonymous. He says while the government won’t admit it, buying vulnerabilities is an obvious part of “gathering intelligence”.
►►Refugees in Finland face spying threats. Foreign governments and groups are carrying out more spying on refugees and dissidents living in Finland, according to SUPO, the country’s security intelligence service. SUPO issued a report last week contending that while the Scandinavian country isn’t seeing an increased threat of terrorist acts on its soil, it still faces several terror-related challenges. One of them is “regular” surveillance activity by foreign intelligence services operating within Finland, whose aim is spy on their home countries’ dissidents and develop links with other refugees and expatriates.

News you may have missed #682

Lieutenant General Ronald BurgessBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Is there a Mossad base near Iran? The London-based Sunday Times has published an interview with a man claiming to be an Azerbaijan-based agent of Israeli intelligence agency, who confirmed the existence of such a base. The man, identified in the article as “Shimon,” told the paper that there were dozens of Israeli Mossad agents working out of the base. The meeting between the agent and the London Times‘ reporter took place in Baku, near the Israeli Embassy, the report said.
►►Analysis: CIA report on Soviet bioweapons still secret. It has been three decades since the Reagan administration accused the Soviet Union and Vietnam of using chemical weapons known as yellow rain. We still do not know how the US came to this conclusion, but have good reason to believe that it was based on flawed or distorted intelligence. A classified critique of the intelligence behind those charges, written several years ago for the Central Intelligence Agency, could shed light on what happened. Last year, Matthew Meselson, a Harvard expert on chemical and biological weapons, filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get the report released. He was turned down.
►►US official says Iran unlikely to strike first. Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, said the Iranian military is unlikely to intentionally provoke a conflict with the West. He said Iran probably has the ability to “temporarily close the Strait of Hormuz with its naval forces”, as some Iranian officials have threatened to do if attacked or in response to sanctions on its oil exports by the US and European Union. But, he added, “Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict or launch a preemptive attack”.

News you may have missed #672

Osama bin LadenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►CIA claims bin Laden death photos would trigger violence. The Central Intelligence Agency says releasing images of a dead Osama bin Laden “could trigger violence, attacks, or acts of revenge against the United States”. Disclosing such images, including one showing the bullet wound to bin Laden’s head, the government said, “plausibly and logically pose a particularly grave threat of inflaming anti-American sentiment and resulting in retaliatory harm”. The agency made that argument Wednesday in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch, which claims the CIA should release the photos taken by US forces. The American public, Judicial Watch said, has a “right to these historical artifacts”.
►►Kuwait accused of tapping phones of prominent citizens. According to the report published in Kuwaiti media, the country’s State Security Department purchased an integrated intelligence system from a former Soviet country last year, and placed it in a restricted zone inside the headquarters’ building. But last July, everything in the isolated room, including staff members hired specifically to operate the devices, vanished without an explanation, said sources. An investigation is currently ongoing to unearth the mystery behind the devices’ disappearance, and also examine information which hint that the devices could have been used by a certain unnamed individual to spy on prominent Kuwaitis.
►►Did US FDA spy on whistleblowers? The US Food and Drug Administration electronically spied on whistleblowers who alerted the Obama administration and Congress of alleged misconduct in the agency, according to a complaint filed in a US federal court. Named as defendants in the lawsuit are the FDA and several of its employees, the Surgeon General, the Health and Human Services Secretary, among others.

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