News you may have missed #880

Augusto PinochetBy IAN ALLEN |
►►Chinese military establishes cyberintelligence research center. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has announced the creation of a Cyberspace Strategic Intelligence Research Center. Experts say the Center will “provide support in obtaining high-quality intelligence research findings and help China gain advantage in national information security”. Its staff reportedly specialize in such fields as strategic theory research, intelligence studies, and technology management, among others.
►►Chile court says US had role in 1973 killings of Americans. A court ruling released late Monday said the commander of the US Military Mission in Chile at the time of the 1973 military coup gave information to Chilean officials about journalist Charles Horman and student Frank Teruggi that led to their arrest and execution just days after the coup, which brought General Augusto Pinochet to power. The case remained practically ignored in Chile until 2000, when Horman’s widow, Joyce, came and filed a lawsuit against Pinochet.
►►Opinion: Cyber tools are no substitute for human intelligence. A colonel in the Israel Defense Forces critiques “the increasing use of cyber tools as a central and sometimes exclusive role in the work of many intelligence agencies throughout the world”. He argues that “the documents exposed by Edward Snowden show how willing the Americans are to invest in technological systems to collect information and gather as much intelligence as they can using cyber tools”. But he warns that “this almost exclusive reliance on the collection and analysis of intelligence using technology comes at the expense of the human element as a basic component of intelligence-gathering”.

CIA to cut back ‘unsuccessful’ non-official-cover program

The United States Central Intelligence Agency is scaling down an ambitious human intelligence program that places case officers in non-diplomatic cover jobs, because it has been ineffective, according to media reports. When stationed abroad, the vast majority of CIA case officers pose as American diplomats. This type of cover allows them to mingle with —and attempt to recruit— foreign officials. It also offers them the added benefit of diplomatic immunity, which minimizes the possibility of their long-term imprisonment or even execution in the hands of adversaries. The pressures of the post-9/11 security environment, however, pushed the Agency to deploy case officers that are not associated with American embassies and consulates abroad. The reason is that members of non-state groups like al-Qaeda cannot be recruited on the diplomatic circuit. To penetrate these groups, CIA case officers must hit the streets of cities like Sana’a, Peshawar, Basra or Mogadishu. These case officers, who operate without diplomatic immunity, are known at the CIA as non-official-cover, or NOCs. They typically pose as business executives, students, academics, journalists, or non-profit agency workers, among other covers. The idea is that working outside of American embassies and consulates, they can be more successful in recruiting members of non-state terrorist entities. In the past decade, the CIA has spent over $3 billion on its NOC program, and has increased the number of active NOCs from several dozen to several hundred. Agency NOCs have been deployed all over the world, using elaborate fake ‘legends’ (identities and supporting information) connected with CIA front companies. Their job is considered one of the most risky at the CIA, because they cannot invoke diplomatic immunity if arrested in a foreign country. However, an article published last weekend in The Los Angeles Times alleges that the CIA’s NOC program, known officially as the Global Deployment Initiative, is now being scaled down. Read more of this post

Japanese government ‘not aware’ of existence of clandestine spy unit

Japanese Ministry of Defense in TokyoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS |
The government of Japan has denied claims made in the media of a clandestine intelligence collection unit, which has allegedly been operating for decades without the knowledge of senior cabinet officials. On Tuesday, the Tokyo-based Kyodo News Agency cited an unnamed former member of Japan’s territorial army, known as Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF), who revealed the existence of a previously secret unit. The unit is allegedly tasked with human intelligence (HUMINT) collection and is said to have been operating since before the end of the Cold War. The unnamed source told Kyodo that the unit’s existence has been kept hidden from senior Japanese government officials, including the prime minister and the minister of defense. He also told the news agency that the unit’s existence has been kept secret even from senior commanders inside GSDF. Its headquarters is allegedly based deep in the basement of Japan’s Ministry of Defense, located in Tokyo’s Ichigaya district, in the eastern portion of Shinjuku. However, the unit operates a complex network of safe houses, located mostly in rented commercial properties throughout Japan and Southeast Asia. The source described part of his intelligence training, which he had to undertake before joining the HUMINT unit. He said classes took place at a nondescript GSDF training facility in the western Tokyo suburb of Kodaira. Those trained came almost exclusively from GSDF, with just a handful of officers from Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force and Maritime Self-Defense Force. The Kyodo article said the unit inductees are given a “temporary leave of absence” from their GSDF posts and are “prohibited from contacting outsiders” during their HUMINT missions. Read more of this post

Analysis: The Current State of the China-Taiwan Spy War

China and TaiwanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
Last week I spoke about the current state of the espionage war between China and Taiwan with Tim Daiss, a Southeast Asia-based American journalist who has been covering the Asia-Pacific region for over a decade. Our discussion formed the basis of a comprehensive piece on the subject, published in British newspaper The Independent, in two parts (part one and part two). I told Daiss that the Ministry of State Security —China’s primary national intelligence agency— is not known for its technological prowess. However, the sheer size of Beijing’s intelligence apparatus is proving a good match for the more advanced automated systems used by its less populous regional rivals, including Taiwan. When it comes to traditional human intelligence, the Chinese have been known to employ time-tested methods such as sexual entrapment or blackmail, as was confirmed most recently in the case of Taiwanese Major-General Lo Hsien-che. Lo, who headed the Taiwanese military’s Office of Communications and Information, was convicted of sharing classified top-secret information with a female Chinese operative in her early 30s, who held an Australian passport. During his trial, which marked the culmination of Taiwan’s biggest spy scandal in over half a century, Lo admitted that the Chinese female spy “cajoled him with sex and money”. In addition to honey-trap techniques, Chinese spies collect intelligence by way of bribery, as do many of their foreign colleagues. In the case of China, however, a notable change in recent years has been the accumulation of unprecedented amounts of foreign currency, which make it easier for Chinese intelligence operatives to entice foreign assets, such as disgruntled or near-bankrupt state employees, to sell classified data. Read more of this post

US SEALs ‘pocket guide’ left behind in bin Laden hideout

Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden

A document provided to members of the US Navy SEALs who assassinated Osama bin Laden, was left behind in bin Laden’s compound by mistake, and has reportedly been accessed by The London Times. It contains remarkably detailed descriptions of the compound’s occupants and frequent visitors, including their ages and legal names, all the way down to bin Laden’s wives, children and grandchildren. It also details the approximate timing of the arrival of each of the compound’s residents, as well as the precise location of their bedrooms and living quarters. Furthermore, the guidebook discusses the possibility that bin Laden’s youngest wife, Amal Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al-Sada, who also lived in the compound, may have given birth to twins in recent years. Remarkably, the pocket guide, which must have been carried by every member of the SEALs team that attacked the al-Qaeda founder’s hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan, earlier this month, describes even bin Laden’s usual clothing preferences. It states that he “[a]lways wears light-colored shawal kameez with a dark vest” and that he “occasionally wears light-colored prayer cap”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #462

  • CIA secrets could surface in Swiss nuclear case. A seven-year effort by the CIA to hide its relationship with the Tinners, a Swiss family who once acted as moles inside the world’s most successful atomic black market, hit a turning point on Thursday when a Swiss magistrate recommended charging the men with trafficking in technology and information for making nuclear arms.
  • Pakistan spy chief to ignore US summons. The Pakistani government has announced that hat there is “no possibility” that Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the head of Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, would obey a summons requesting his appearance before a court in the United States relating to the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.
  • Australia told to prioritize spy recruitment. Carl Ungerer, from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, has advised the Australian intelligence agencies to “look at ways to improve information gathering from human sources”, as they undergo a period of reform.

Analysis: Europe Offers Different Counterterrorism Approach



I have in the past posed the intriguing question of whether US intelligence agencies should learn from the French approach to counterterrorism. This issue has now come up again in an interesting Washington Post essay, which examines the different approaches to Islamic militancy by American and European intelligence organizations. Some of these differences are undoubtedly contextual: there are no First Amendment rights in Europe, and European law enforcement and intelligence organizations enjoy a somewhat wider legal latitude in which to operate domestically. Moreover, the Europeans, especially the French and the British, have a longer experience than the Americans in dealing with armed insurgencies. But there are also critical differences in tactics. Importantly, the European approach to Islamic militancy has not only been more pro-active than the American, but also a lot more discreet and clandestine. Read more of this post


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