Are US spy agencies sharing weapons, intelligence with Hezbollah?

Cyprus, Israel, Syria, LebanonBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
In its effort to amass regional support for its war against the Islamic State, the United States is reaching out to militant Shiites in Lebanon, including Hezbollah, according to some sources. In a report for New York-based magazine Newsweek, veteran intelligence correspondent Jeff Stein said on Wednesday that the meteoric rise of Sunni radicalism, in the form of the Islamic State, may have prompted the creation of a “de facto US-Saudi-Lebanese-Hezbollah-Iranian” alliance in the Middle East. Although no partner in this informal coalition is willing to admit its role in the collaborative effort, the common goal of eradicating Sunni extremism has brought about an “unwritten, unacknowledged cease fire” between these former adversaries, says Stein, quoting “authoritative sources”. Washington and Hezbollah, the militant Shiite group that controls large swathes of Lebanese territory, have a common interest in combating the Islamic State and preventing its rule from spreading beyond Syria. So the Americans began reaching out to Hezbollah in 2012, says Stein, and have helped bring about a “regional consensus […] to contain the conflict away from Lebanon and in Syria”. Remarkably, bitter adversaries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran are said to actively subscribe to the Washington-led consensus against the Islamic State. Washington’s decision to reach out to Hezbollah appears to have been prompted by the realization that the militant Shiite group, along with the official Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), were the only actors on the ground capable of fighting and defeating the Islamic State. Last August, says Stein, the US Pentagon unloaded $20 million worth of weapons in Lebanon for use by the LAF. The weapons were reportedly shipped through the Beirut International Airport, which his under the control of Hezbollah. The group promptly transferred the weapons to the LAF, which is traditionally dominated by Christians, but has recently developed an “arm’s length alliance with Hezbollah” due to their mutual concern over the rise of the Islamic State. Stein suggests that the US-Hezbollah relationship may now also include intelligence-sharing. He quotes a number of sources who claim that some Sunni militants have been apprehended thanks to intelligence-sharing between America, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Some claim that Iran acts as a mediator between Washington and Hezbollah, and that British diplomats also mediate between the two sides. Read more of this post

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Mystery spy device found in Lebanon detonates remotely, kills one

Cyprus, Israel, Syria, LebanonBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A mysterious spy device found in Lebanon was detonated remotely by what some say was an Israeli drone, killing one man and injuring several others. According to Lebanon’s Al-Manar TV, the alleged spy device was uncovered last week by a Lebanese military patrol near the village of Adloun in southern Lebanon. Most of the region is firmly controlled by Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group that governs large swathes of the Lebanese territory. The report was later confirmed by the Lebanese Army, which said that the device had been attached, probably by Israel, to the telecommunications network belonging to Hezbollah. The militant group operates its own telecommunications network and its own news media, including Al-Manar, the television station that broke the news of the discovery of the spy device. However, as soon as Hezbollah forces gathered around the “strange device”, an aircraft appeared overhead and remotely detonated the device “from a distance”. The TV station said Hezbollah member Hassan Ali Haidar was killed in the explosion. Last week’s incident was not the first report of an exploding spy device found attached to Lebanese telecommunications networks. In October of 2009, Lebanese authorities discovered three communications interception devices near Lebanon’s border with Israel. Two of the devices self-destructed by exploding as Lebanese security personnel were approaching. Members of the Lebanese Armed Forces decided to detonate a third device, fearing that it too might explode. A year later, at least two mysterious spy devices were discovered in mountain ranges around the Lebanese capital Beirut. The devices were found carefully concealed inside fake boulders in the mountain of Sannine, directly north of Beirut and in Barouk, which is adjacent to the city’s southern suburbs. The devices consisted of surveillance cameras, electronic transmitters, as well as satellite signal reception systems. Read more of this post

Israel has long list of assassination targets, says analyst

Hassan Lakkis By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The assassination of Hezbollah commander Hassan Lakkis in Beirut, on December 3, sent shockwaves across the Middle East. Lakkis was in charge of advanced weapons planning for the militant Shiite group that controls large swaths of Lebanon. He was killed around midnight local time outside his house in the Lebanese capital, when at least two gunmen opened fire at close range, shooting him several times in the head. Shortly afterwards, Hezbollah openly accused Israel for the murder, while the Jewish state strongly rejected the allegations. But veteran Israeli intelligence commentator Ronen Bergman, who is senior analyst for Israel’s highest-selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, has little doubt that Israel was behind the attack. In an article published on Thursday in Foreign Policy, Bergman suggests that Lakkis was one of many individuals on an extensive assassination list maintained by Israel’s intelligence agencies. The list is believed to include “leading figures” in what Israeli military and intelligence planners call “the Radical Front”. This term comprises two national governments, namely those of Syria and Iran, as well as leading officials in three militant organizations, Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The longtime Israeli commentator says that the “Radical Front” assassination list was initially compiled in 2004 by Israeli covert-action agency Mossad. Interestingly, its authors did not focus on the political or ideological leadership of targeted organizations. Rather they concentrated upon “the people who handled the details and the translation of strategy into actual practice”. Many of those placed on the list were individuals with “advanced operational, organizational and technological capabilities”, says Bergman. He goes on to list several victims of Israel’s assassination campaigns, including Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah, who died in a massive car explosion in Syrian capital Damascus on February 12, 2008. At the time of his assassination, Mughniyah headed Hezbollah’s security apparatus and was among the organization’s most senior intelligence officials. Another victim mentioned by Bergman is Syrian General Muhammad Suleiman, who had been appointed by Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad as Special Presidential Advisor for Arms Procurement and Strategic Weapons. Read more of this post

Mysterious website seeks intelligence on Hezbollah operatives

Hezbollah party workersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Intelligence circles in the Middle East are abuzz with news of a mysterious website that appears to offer substantial financial rewards in exchange for information about alleged members of militant group Hezbollah. The website, located at stop910.com, describes its mission as helping end “Hezbollah-perpetrated terrorism in Lebanon and abroad”. It specifically targets the Lebanese group’s Unit 910, believed to be tasked with international operations, including intelligence gathering from around the world. Hezbollah is a Shiite militant group and political party that controls large swathes of Lebanese territory. It was founded in 1985 in response to the invasion of southern Lebanon by the Israel Defense Forces. It is largely funded by Iran and in recent years has come out in support of the Syrian government in the ongoing Syrian Civil War. Much of the stop910.com website consists of dozens of photographs of alleged Hezbollah operatives. Some are identified by name or alias, but the website asks for further information on them, including their real name, primary residence and telephone numbers or email accounts associated with them. Other photographs show images of unidentified individuals, whom the website describes as suspects known to be members of Hezbollah’s Unit 910. Next to each photograph, the website provides an allegedly secure link, which visitors can use to upload information and request payment. The website, which is currently blocked by most Lebanese Internet service providers, claims to represent an alliance of Western intelligence organizations. But McClatchy Newspapers contacted two Western intelligence officials who said the website was almost certainly an Israeli effort to gather information on Hezbollah activities. The United States-based news agency said it spoke to an unnamed “official based in Beirut […], who works for a European intelligence service”. Read more of this post

US spy agencies probed job seekers with links to al-Qaeda

CIA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
One in five applicants for jobs in American intelligence agencies, who were rejected due to questionable backgrounds, were found to have connections with foreign intelligence or militant groups, including al-Qaeda.  This is revealed in an internal document provided to The Washington Post by American defector Edward Snowden. Snowden, a former technical expert for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), is currently living in Russia, where he has been granted political asylum. Last week, he gave The Post a top-secret document containing the 2012 budget summary for the US National Intelligence Program. Among other things, the document reveals that individuals with links to what the United States Intelligence Community terms “hostile intelligence”, or foreign terrorist organizations, have sought to obtain intelligence-related jobs in the US. According to the paper, roughly one out of every five job seekers at the CIA,  whose applications were rejected by the Agency due to suspicious backgrounds, had “significant terrorist and/or hostile intelligence connections”. Such connections allegedly included links with Lebanese Hezbollah, Islamic Hamas, as well as various al-Qaeda affiliates, all of which are on the US State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. The Post subsequently spoke to a CIA source who argued that the number of applicants found to have ties with militant groups was relatively small. The leaked document also mentions that the NSA has launched a major counterintelligence scheme aimed at uncovering “potentially suspicious or abnormal […] activity” among its employees. Read more of this post

Hezbollah cell ‘connected with Boko Haram’ arrested in Nigeria

Weapons cache discovered in KanoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Nigerian authorities have announced the arrest of three alleged members of Lebanese group Hezbollah, following the discovery of a large weapons and explosives cache in northern Nigeria. Representatives of the West African country’s military and the State Security Service said on Thursday that three Lebanese nationals had been arrested between May 16 and 28. They were identified as Mustapha Fawaz, Abdullah Tahini and Talal Roda, with the latter being a dual Nigerian-Lebanese citizen. They are accused of being members of Hezbollah, the militant Shiite group that controls large swathes of Lebanese territory. All were reportedly arrested in Kano city, northern Nigeria’s most notable commercial center, which is home to a substantial Lebanese community of merchants. Nigerian security forces raided a warehouse adjacent to a residence belonging to a Lebanese national, where they discovered a hidden underground bunker below the master bedroom. In there they found and confiscated large quantities of assorted weapons, including a dozen anti-tank rockets, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher with 21 missiles, 19 AK-47 and submachine guns, as well as 76 grenades. Nigerian government representatives told local journalists on Thursday that the cache was “a Hezbollah armory” belonging to “a cell of Hezbollah”. A few hours later, officials of Israel’s Counter Terrorism Bureau (CTB) said Tel Aviv was aware of the Nigerian government’s operation. Read more of this post

Ex-Mossad official denies Zygier compromised intelligence operation

Ben ZygierBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A former Mossad official has dismissed as “nonsense” suggestions that an Australian-born Israeli spy, who killed himself in 2010, had been jailed for inadvertently compromising an Israeli secret mission. Ben Zygier was an officer in Israel’s covert-action agency Mossad for several years before he was placed in solitary confinement following his arrest in Israel, in February of 2010. Known to the outside world only as ‘Prisoner X’, he allegedly killed himself in his cell a few months later. In March, German newsmagazine Der Spiegel alleged that Zygier was arrested by Israeli intelligence after contacting a Lebanese Hezbollah operative without Tel Aviv’s authorization. The Australian-born spy was allegedly trying to recruit the operative on his own initiative and without permission from his superiors. In order to prove his Mossad credentials, Zygier is said to have given the man several names of Israel’s double agents operating inside Hezbollah. But the Lebanese recruit surrendered Zygier’s information to Hezbollah, which promptly arrested many of Israel’s informants inside the organization. Those arrested included Ziad al-Homsi, who at the time was believed to be one of the Mossad’s most lucrative assets inside the Lebanese militant group. On Tuesday, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said that, at the time of his arrest in Lebanon, al-Homsi was preparing to assist the Mossad in recovering the bodies of three Israeli soldiers that had been killed in Syria during the 1982 Lebanon War. Read more of this post

Israel’s Prisoner X ‘gave Mossad secrets to Hezbollah’: German report

Ben ZygierBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An Australian-born Israeli spy, who killed himself while being held in an Israeli prison in 2010, had been arrested for sharing Israeli secrets with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, according to a German report.  Ben Zygier was an officer in Israel’s covert-action agency Mossad for several years before he was placed in solitary confinement following his arrest in Israel, in February 2010. Known to the outside world only as ‘Prisoner X’, he allegedly killed himself in his cell a few months later. In February of this year, when an Australian television program identified ‘Prisoner X’ as Zygier, the Australian government admitted it had been aware of its citizen’s incarceration and death, but chose not to extend to him diplomatic support. One of the burning questions in the Zygier case relates to the precise reasons for his detention. On Sunday, German newsmagazine Der Spiegel said that the Australian-born Zygier was arrested by Israeli intelligence after contacting —on his own initiative and without permission— an individual with links to militant Shiite group Hezbollah. According to the Spiegel report, Zygier had been demoted from an operations officer to a desk clerk, having failed to produce actionable results after several years of fieldwork in Europe. Seeing his demotion as a major obstacle to his career, the Australian-born spy allegedly embarked on a ‘rogue’ mission, in an attempt to impress his Mossad superiors. In 2008, when the Israeli government allowed Zygier to return to Australia to pursue graduate studies, he secretly traveled to Europe and established contact with a man from a Balkan country known to have close links with Hezbollah, considered by Tel Aviv as one of Israel’s mortal enemies. Read more of this post

New information emerges on Hezbollah commander’s assassination

Imad MughniyahBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A Lebanese newspaper has published the most detailed account to date of the 2008 assassination of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah. The car explosion that killed Mughniyah in Syrian capital Damascus on February 12, 2008, is widely believed to have been the work of the Mossad, Israel’s foremost covert-action agency. Mughniyah was among the founders of Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group that controls large parts of southern Lebanon. At the time of his assassination, Mughniyah headed the Hezbollah’s security apparatus and was among the organization’s most senior intelligence officials. On Tuesday, Arabic-language newspaper al-Akhbar , which is based in Lebanese capital Beirut and is informally affiliated with Hezbollah, published a detailed article that reads like an unclassified version of the militant group’s internal investigation into Mughniyah’s killing. The article claims that “Hezbollah is absolutely positive that Israel was behind […] the operation from A to Z”. It says that Mughniyah’s assassins “were not Syrian citizens”, but rather entered Syria from abroad and stayed there six weeks while planning and executing the assassination operation. The article also claims that the Mossad recruited a Syrian expatriate, who visited Damascus on a regular basis in order to provide logistical support for the operation. This included renting a villa in the outskirts of Damascus and purchasing at least three vehicles to be used in the operation. Read more of this post

Canadian passports still highly coveted by spies and terrorists

Canadian passportBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An extensive investigation into a bus bombing that targeted Israeli tourists in Bulgaria points to the continued attraction of forged Canadian passports for terrorist groups and intelligence agencies. Bulgaria’s Minister of the Interior, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, said on Tuesday that the July 18, 2012, terrorist attack, was perpetrated by Al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya, the military wing of Hezbollah. The militant Shiite group, which controls large parts of southern Lebanon, has denied involvement in the bombing, which killed seven people, including five Israeli tourists. Tsvetanov said that, during a lengthy police investigation, which was assisted by American and Israeli investigators, the printer used to produce forged driver licenses found on two of the plotters was traced to Lebanon. He also told a press conference in Bulgarian capital Sofia that the suicide bomber, who died in the attack, entered Bulgaria using a forged Canadian passport. Commentator Paul Koring, of Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail, correctly suggests that the revelation by the Bulgarian authorities points to the continued status of Canadian passports as the international travel documents of choice for both spies and terrorists. In the 1970s, Hezbollah’s biggest enemy, the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, used Canadian passports in Operation WRATH OF GOD (also known as Operation BAYONET). The operation exterminated almost every original member of Black September, the Palestinian group that perpetrated the massacre of the Israeli athletes in the 1972 summer Olympic Games in Munich. In 1997, the Israeli spy agency employed Canadian passports once again, during the famously disastrous attempt to kill Khaled Mashal, Chairman of the Political Bureau of Palestinian militant group Hamas, in Jordan. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #822 (Israeli airstrikes on Syria)

Mapping of the Israeli airstrikes in SyriaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Should we be preparing for another Mideast war? Assad may not want a war with Israel, but Tehran could have other calculations. Over the weekend, Iran warned that it would consider any attack on Syria to be an attack on Iran. Claims by Syrian television that Israel hit a research facility near Damascus might be a pretext for an Iranian escalation with Israel. The Israeli army also deployed some of its Iron Dome batteries to northern Israel for the first time. It would not have done so if the chances of a war on Israel’s northern border weren’t increasing.
►►Why did Israel attack Syria now and why did the Syrians admit it? Two days before the Israeli attack on Syria, Iran said it would view any attack on Syrian territory as an attack against Iran itself. But the combination of strategic circumstances in the region at the moment makes the chance of a direct Iranian response unlikely. A Syrian military response seems even less likely, though neither possibility can be ruled out. The most worrying unknown since Tuesday night concerns Hezbollah’s reaction. It seems we are at the beginning of the story —and not the end.
►►Ex-Mossad head says Syria and Hezbollah will not respond. The former Director of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, Danny Yatom, has ruled out any response by the Syrian army or Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon to the Israeli attack on Syria. He told newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth on Wednesday he did not think there would be “any response, since there is no benefit for Hezbollah and Syria to do so”. He added: “Al-Assad is experiencing deep problems in his country and Hezbollah is doing its best to help him, so I don’t think that they will consider any response”.

News you may have missed #814

Ilir KumbaroBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Israel accuses Palestinian of spying for Hezbollah. Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency says a Palestinian man has been charged with relaying information to Hezbollah in Lebanon about sensitive government sites, including parliament. It identified the suspect as Azzam Mashahara, a resident of east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967. Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem, unlike Palestinians from the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, have Israeli identity cards that allow them to travel freely within Israel. Mashahara was charged with maintaining contacts with a foreign agent and relaying information to the enemy.
►►UK agency tries to crack coded message from WWII-era carrier pigeon. The note, written on official stationary with the heading “Pigeon Service,” was discovered in a red canister attached to the skeletal leg of a pigeon in a chimney in Surrey, England. The message is made up of 27 seemingly random five-letter blocks and though it’s undated, government analysts believe the pigeon met his end while on a secret mission during the Second World War. The note is signed “Sjt W Stot” and was intended for the destination “XO2”. In a statement, Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), said that during the war secret communications would often utilize specialized codebooks “in which each code group of four or five letters had a meaning relevant to a specific operation, allowing much information to be sent in a short message”. The GCHQ said that those messages may have been put through an additional layer of security by being re-coded with what’s known as a one-time pad.
►►Albania court convicts fugitive ex-spy chief. An Albanian court has convicted Ilir Kumbaro, the country’s fugitive former intelligence chief, of murder for the 1995 death of a suspect who was illegally detained for an alleged plot to murder the President of the Republic of Macedonia. The victim, businessman Remzi Hoxha, an ethnic Albanian from Macedonia, was abducted by the secret police 17 years ago along with two other suspects for allegedly planning to kill then-Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov during a visit to Albania. The court said the three suspects were held illegally and tortured during questioning. Kumbaro traveled to Britain in 1996 under a false identity, claiming to be a refugee from Kosovo. He has been missing for a year, after skipping an extradition hearing in London. Hoxha was never found and is presumed to have died in custody.

News you may have missed #801

Alan TuringBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Israel charges Arab man with spying for Hezbollah. Israel has charged Milad Khatib, a 26-year-old Arab Israeli truck driver, who was arrested a month ago, with spying for Hezbollah, making contact with a foreign agent, conspiring to aid the enemy and belonging to an illegal group. According to the indictment, Khatib was in contact with a man named Barhan, a Hezbollah agent who operated in various European locations. The two allegedly met several times between 2007-2009 in Barhan’s home in Denmark, with all of Khatib’s expenses, including food, hospitality and entertainment, covered by Barhan.
►►Britains’ GCHQ praises Alan Turing legacy. In a rare public speech, Iain Lobban, the Director of GCHQ, Britain’s signals intelligence agency, has praised the legacy of British mathematician and codebreaker Alan Turing. Widely considered the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, Turing committed suicide in 1954, after the British government prosecuted him for being a homosexual. In 2009, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown offered a public apology for Turing, who is also credited with cracking the Nazi Enigma code —a vital part of the Allied effort in World War II.
►►Canada’s SIGINT agency to get new headquarters. Canada’s electronic spy organization believes that the state-of-the-art headquarters now being built in an Ottawa suburb will make it a leader among its allies and attract the best and brightest of spies, according to newly released Canadian government documents obtained by The Ottawa Citizen. When finished in 2015-16, the Canadian Communications Security Establishment’s new $880-million spy campus in Gloucester is expected to be home to more than 1,800 employees.

Ex-CIA officer urges Bulgaria to probe alleged Hezbollah attack alone

Robert BaerBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A 22-year veteran of the United States Central Intelligence Agency, who spent over a decade in the Middle East, has urged Bulgaria to probe a recent suicide attack against Israeli tourists on its soil without relying on American or Israeli assistance. Robert Baer, who is considered a foremost intelligence expert on Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite group accused of orchestrating the attack, said that Bulgarian authorities should keep the investigation free of the “intelligence games” currently taking place between the US, Israel and Iran. He was speaking Sunday on Bulgaria’s bTV, in reference to the July 18 blast that hit a bus stationed outside the main airport building in the Black Sea resort town of Burgas. The suicide bomber, whose identity remains unknown, killed himself, the Bulgarian bus driver and five Israeli tourists. Soon after the attack, Israel announced that it had gathered “unquestionable intelligence” showing that Hezbollah, backed by Iran, was behind the suicide bombing. But according to Baer, who spent several years in Lebanon in the 1980s, Israeli and American intelligence investigators are too politicized to be able to provide objective evidence as to the culprits of the attack. The former CIA case officer told bTV that both Tel Aviv and Washington “want to lead a war in Iran” and that they will be tempted to point at Tehran as the main instigator of the suicide blast in Burgas. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #768

CIA headquartersBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►‘CIA could get bin Laden but can’t get a gym’. As CIA Director, General David Petraeus is credited by some as having helped turn the tide in the Iraq War, flush the Taliban from southern strongholds in Afghanistan, and infiltrated al-Qaeda in Yemen. But his campaign to improve the Agency’s fitness gyms has been a marathon effort –one that defeated other CIA directors over a course of some 16 years. Petraeus arrived at the CIA in 2011 to find two basement gyms at the Langley, Va., headquarters, one with original flooring dating to 1964. One gym is so small it can’t contain the punching bags and medicine balls that spill into the hall, where people stretch out and do mat exercises.
►►Israel convinced Hezbollah behind Bulgaria bombing. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that his government has gathered “unquestionable intelligence” showing that the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, backed by Iran, was behind a suicide bombing in Bulgaria last week that killed five Israeli nationals. The Israeli leader said the Mossad had drawn close parallels between the attack in Bulgaria and a foiled operation in Cyprus earlier this month, involving an alleged Hezbollah operative.
►►Hezbollah silent on reports of Israel spy arrests. Hezbollah would not comment on a local newspaper report on Wednesday, which said the Lebanese Shiite party had detained three men, including two of its own members, for spying for Israel. Lebanese daily newspaper An-Nahar said Hezbollah’s security apparatus had detained two Hezbollah members and a member of a Bekaa village municipal council on the suspicion that they have been collaborating with Israel.

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