Korean spy charged with forging Chinese files attempts suicide

NIS headquarters in Seoul, South KoreaBy I. ALLEN and J. FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A South Korean intelligence officer, who was charged earlier this month with deliberately forging Chinese government documents, tried to kill himself inside a car on Sunday, according to local media. The officer, identified in reports only by his last name, Kwon, was fingered last week by South Korean media as the source of a set of documents used in a court case against a man accused of spying for North Korea. Yoo Woo-sung, a prominent North Korean defector living in the South, was arrested last year on charges of espionage. Government prosecutors accused Yoo of collecting information on at least 200 North Korean defectors living in the South while working for the Seoul city government. The prosecution produced a number of Chinese transit documents showing that Yoo had entered North Korea repeatedly from China, ostensibly in order to transport information to his handlers in Pyongyang. However, in a dramatic turn of events, the case against Yoo collapsed in August of 2013; this was followed by allegations that some of the documents presented to the court by the prosecutors had been forged. It now appears that the forged documents, which were travel records allegedly issued by the Chinese government, had been given to the prosecution by South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS). Court documents surfaced last week identifying Kwon (named initially as ‘Kim’) as one of the sources of the forged documents. Kwon fervently denied the accusations, claiming that he too had been duped by a Chinese asset who gave him the forms. He also argued that that the asset was probably working for Chinese intelligence. On Sunday, however, Kwon apparently tried to kill himself at his home in a suburb of Seoul. Read more of this post

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South Korean spy charged with forging Chinese government records

North and South KoreaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Authorities in South Korea have charged an intelligence officer with forging Chinese government documents that were used in a court case against a man accused of spying for North Korea. IntelNews readers will remember the case of Yoo Woo-sung, a prominent North Korean defector living in the South, was arrested last year on charges of espionage. In May of that year, court documents revealed that Yoo had been arrested following testimony from his own sister, also a North Korean defector. She had apparently been sent to the South by the North Korean intelligence services, and tasked with collecting information on North Korean defectors living across the border. Prosecutors accused Yoo of collecting information on at least 200 North Korean defectors living in the South, while he worked for the Seoul city government. Yoo maintained his innocence throughout his trial. However, his protestations appeared untenable once the South Korean prosecution produced a number of Chinese transit documents showing that he had entered North Korea repeatedly from China, ostensibly in order to transport information to his handlers in Pyongyang. However, in a dramatic turn of events, the case against Yoo collapsed in August of 2013 amidst allegations that some of the documents presented to the court by the prosecutors had been forged. It now appears that the forged documents, which were travel records allegedly issued by the Chinese government, had been given to the prosecution by South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS). Read more of this post

German authorities had monitored Turkish bomber of US embassy

Ecevit ŞanlıBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Some observers were surprised by news last week that the suicide attack at the US embassy in Turkish capital Ankara was perpetrated by secular Marxists, instead of religious extremists. But students of terrorism know that modern suicide bombings have historically been employed by secular separatist groups. These include the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka, as well as the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey. The Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C), which assumed responsibility for last Friday’s attack in Ankara, is a Marxist-Leninist splinter group, which has carried out suicide operations against its ideological enemies since at least 2001. Last week’s attack, which killed two and injured over a dozen people, was perpetrated by Ecevit Şanlı, a 40-year-old Turk from the city of Gölköy in northeastern Turkey. A member of DHKP/C for at least 20 years, in 2000 Şanlı became a cause célèbre among far-leftists in Turkey. During that year, he played a leading role in a hunger strike organized by self-described political prisoners in Turkey, in protest over prison conditions. The protest was brutally suppressed by Turkish security forces, and Şanlı barely survived it. He was eventually released on probation after serving a lengthy prison sentence. According to German sources, upon his release from prison, Şanlı moved to Germany, home to the world’s largest Turkish expatriate community. While there, he joined local leftist causes and appears to have been active in DHKP/C’s network of supporters among the Turkish community there. In 2009, German authorities briefly detained Şanlı after he was found in possession of propaganda literature belonging to DHKP/C, which is a designated foreign terrorist organization by the German government. Read more of this post

Korea spy gave North data on 10,000 defectors living in South

North and South KoreaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An employee of the South Korean government has been detained for allegedly providing North Korea with detailed resettlement information on over 10,000 North Korean defectors living in the South. The 33-year-old man, who has been identified simply as “Mr. Yu”, was arrested on January 11 by South Korea’s National Intelligence Service. The NIS, which leads South Korea’s intelligence community, described Yu’s activities as “an unusual breach of the South Korean civil service”. The detainee is accused of providing Pyongyang with a “complete list” of thousands of North Korean defectors living in South Korean capital Seoul. The list is said to include information such as the defectors’ resettlement addresses and employment information among other personal data. Interestingly, the accused spy is himself a North Korean defector, according to South Korean news outlets. A trained surgeon, he is said to have been a member of North Korea’s social elite before defecting to the South on foot via China, in 2004. Seven years later, in 2011, he joined the Seoul city municipal government, where he was tasked with providing assistance and services to the thousands of North Korean defectors living in the South Korean capital and surrounding areas. According to reports, Yu was arrested after the NIS discovered that he made frequent trips to China and came to suspect that he might have crossed into North Korea on several occasions during his trips. South Korean counterintelligence investigators are currently trying to determine whether the accused spy entered South Korea with the intention of conducting espionage on behalf of Pyongyang. Read more of this post

Norway, Sudan, expel diplomats over spying allegations

PST headquarters in OsloBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Norway and Sudan have announced tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions over allegations of espionage. On Tuesday, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that a Sudanese diplomat stationed in the Norwegian capital Oslo would be expelled. The diplomat, whose name and position at the Sudanese embassy were not disclosed, allegedly engaged in “activities incompatible with his status under the protection of the Vienna Convention” —standard diplomatic lingo for espionage. The Reuters news agency reported that the diplomat was expelled after Norway’s main counterintelligence intelligence agency, the Police Security Service (PST), arrested and charged a 38-year-old Sudanese immigrant with espionage. The unnamed man, who was arrested in Trondheim, said he had been instructed by Sudanese embassy personnel to spy on the activities of the Sudanese expatriate community in Norway. He had previously been observed by the PST having a meeting with the same Sudanese diplomat who was subsequently expelled from Norway. Both men were arrested on Tuesday. While the unnamed diplomat has been expelled, the 38-year-old immigrant remains imprisoned in Oslo on espionage charges. According to a statement from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tuesday’s arrests marked the first case of ‘immigration intelligence’-related charges in the Scandinavian country since the 1970s. Early on Wednesday, the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it was expelling a Norwegian diplomat in response to Oslo’s move on the previous day. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #774 (lawsuit edition)

NSA headquartersBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►NSA whistleblower sues over property seized in leak raid. Diane Roark, a former staffer for the US House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, has filed a lawsuit to seek return of computers, electronic devices and papers seized from her home in 2007. Roark, who handled the House’s oversight of the National Security Agency from 1997 to 2002, was suspected by the FBI of being a source for The New York Times‘ disclosure of the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program STELLAR WIND, which she denies.
►►Lawsuit forces US agency to disclose CIA files. The US Veterans Administration has been ordered to disclose documents relating to the CIA’s Cold War-era experimentation on American soldiers. Beginning in the 1950s, the military and CIA utilized former Nazi scientists to test the effects of 400 types of drugs and chemicals, including mescaline, LSD, amphetamines, mustard gas, and nerve agents, on US soldiers, according to a lawsuit brought by the Vietnam Veterans of America and individual soldiers. Under the lawsuit, a judge in California has ruled the VA must hand over documents pertaining to the use of at least 7,800 service personnel as “human guinea pigs” by the US Army and the CIA.
►►Syrian spy tried to infiltrate German intelligence. A suspected Syrian spy who was arrested in Germany earlier this year and has now been charged with espionage, once tried to infiltrate the country’s intelligence services, according to German officials. The man, identified only as Akram O., was employed by Syria’s embassy in Berlin, and tasked with keeping tabs on Syrian opposition activists living in Germany. His application to work for the German federal government was made “at the behest of his intelligence agency handlers”, according to prosecutors. His application was turned down, however. The Syrian national applied for German citizenship in 2009, which was also denied.

News you may have missed #771

Shawn HenryBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Analysis: Ex FBI official says foreign spies biggest online threat. Former FBI executive assistant director Shawn Henry has warned that the biggest threat online comes not from terrorists or hackers, but from foreign intelligence organizations looking to steal intellectual property. “The threat from computer attack is the most significant threat we face as a society, other than a weapon of mass destruction”, he said in his opening keynote at the Black Hat 2012 conference in Las Vegas. “Everything we do —R&D, intellectual property, and corporate strategies— is stored or transmitted electronically. The DNA of companies is available to bad guys”.
►►Taiwanese officials jailed for espionage. Two Taiwanese former officials have been sent to prison by the Taiwan High Court for leaking state secrets to China. Presidential Office official Wang Ren-bing was jailed for two years after being found guilty of passing confidential information about President Ma Ying-jeou’s May 2008 inauguration to Chinese intelligence operatives. Chen Pin-jen, a former aide of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Liao Kuo-tung, was sentenced to eight months in prison for delivering the confidential information Wang gave him to China. The two were arrested in 2009.
►►Germany charges suspected Syrian spy. A spokeswoman for federal prosecutors in Germany said Sunday that they have filed charges against suspected Syrian spy Akram O., one of two men arrested on suspicion of having spied on Syrian opposition activists in Germany for several years. The two were arrested in February during a sting operation involving over 70 German counterintelligence operatives, who searched the suspects’ apartments. The spokeswoman said she could not give further details before an official confirmation is issued that the suspect and the defense team have received the indictment.

News you may have missed #754

Jonathan EvansBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►New German spy HQ to open a year late. The BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence service, was due to move from its base in Pullach, near Munich, to an enormous newly built center in Berlin, at the end of 2014. But that has now been officially put back by a year. The Berliner Morgenpost newspaper quoted BND president Gerhard Schindler saying he was “regularly losing young new staff”, due to the delay. The uncertainty has meant “they leave our authority and find themselves another employer”, he said.
►►UK spy chief warns of ‘astonishing’ levels of cyberespionage. In a rare public speech, Jonathan Evans, director general of MI5, Britain’s domestic spy service, has said that the West now faces an “astonishing” cyberespionage threat on an “industrial scale” from specific nation states. He said that cyberespionage is now conducted “with industrial-scale processes involving many thousands of people lying behind both state-sponsored cyber espionage and organized cyber crime”. Surely, however, Evans does not mean to imply that the West’s role in cyberespionage is purely defensive?
►►Aussie spy agency lacks resources to vet asylum seekers. An official audit into the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation’s ability to vet asylum seekers for potential security threats, has found that it is struggling with the “sharp increase” in boat arrivals, rudimentary computer systems and 30 per cent fewer staff than needed. The audit report examined 411 cases as a sample of the almost 180,000 security assessments ASIO completes each year.

News you may have missed #746

Jeffrey Paul DelisleBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Germany charges alleged Moroccan spy. German Federal prosecutors on Tuesday said the suspect, identified only as Moroccan-German dual national Mohammed B., was spying for Moroccan intelligence on supporters of the POLISARIO Front, which seeks independence for the Western Sahara region. They say he was paid €22,800 for the work in 2011, and then falsified invoices to claim he had done work for Morocco’s state airline to disguise where the money originated. He was arrested in February but released from custody on June 5 after prosecutors say he admitted to the charges.
►►Delisle spy case in Canada adjourned until July 4. The case of Canadian navy intelligence officer Jeffrey Paul Delisle, who is accused of espionage, has been adjourned until next month, because his lawyer, Mike Taylor, says he needs more time to review information about his client. According to Taylor, much of the information he has received so far from the Canadian government has been redacted because of security concerns. Moreover, he said that the “voluminous” amount of information has to be vetted by several justice and intelligence agencies before it can be handed over to him, slowing down the process of moving the case forward.
►►Obama to deny Israeli calls for Pollard’s release. The administration of US President Barack Obama has indicated that it will reject any appeal by senior Israeli political figures to commute the life sentence of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard. “Our position has not changed and will not change today”, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters at his daily briefing last week. “Mr. Pollard was convicted of extremely serious crimes”, he said.

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 #680

General Ziauddin KhawajaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Did Pakistani ex-leader know bin Laden’s hideout? General Ziauddin Khawaja, who was head of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) from 1997 to 1999, claims Pakistan’s former President, Pervez Musharraf, knew bin Laden was in Abbottabad.
►►Sweden expels Rwanda diplomat for spying. Sweden has expelled a Rwandan diplomat for allegedly spying on Rwandan exiles there, according to the Associated Press. The diplomat, Evode Mudaheranwa, was sent back to Rwanda last week, according to a sources close to the Swedish government. Mudaheranwa was the Rwandan embassy’s second-highest-ranking official. The Swedish action comes as amid charges that Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s government sends agents overseas to silence critics.
►►Mossad continues to use foreign passports. Agents of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency are still using foreign passports to conduct undercover operations in other countries, according to a report in The Sunday Times of London. The paper says that new evidence shows that foreign nationals residing in Israel are willingly allowing the Mossad to use their passports. The Times interviewed several Israelis who revealed details of how they were approached by intelligence officials about the possibility of volunteering their passports for the Mossad.

Spy activity heats up in Berlin, recent arrests show

Syrian embassy in BerlinBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
During the Cold War, Berlin was considered one of the world’s paramount intelligence hotspots —a gathering place for spies from Western Europe, the Soviet bloc, America, and beyond. But recent developments in the German capital show that the city’s illustrious espionage heritage is far from over. On Wednesday, German authorities announced the arrest of a 56-year-old man on charges of spying on Western Saharan opposition activists operating on German soil. The man, who has been identified only as “Mohammed B.”, is reportedly a German-Moroccan dual citizen, and the statement by the German prosecutor’s office hints that he is an accredited intelligence officer. According to the official press release by the prosecutor, Mohammed B. was arrested for operating as an unregistered agent of the Moroccan intelligence services. His main targets appear to have consisted of activists involved with the POLISARIO Front, the main political vehicle of the Western Saharan independence movement, which seeks to separate the territory from Moroccan control. POLISARIO, along with its military wing, the Sahrawi People’s Liberation Army, was founded after 1975, when Morocco unilaterally annexed the former Spanish colony. A police spokesman in Berlin said German authorities searched Mohammed B’s apartment, as well as businesses and houses belonging to “two other suspects”, who do not appear to have been apprehended. The arrest took place exactly a week after the German government summarily expelled four Syrian diplomats, whom it accused of engaging in “activities incompatible with their diplomatic status” —code language for espionage. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #678

Hakan FidanBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Russia ‘exposed 199 spies’ last year. Outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Tuesday that Russian counterintelligence had exposed 199 spies working for foreign powers last year. He was speaking at a meeting of the Federal Security Service. He also urged the FSB to “take extra measures to protect Russian interests” and reinforce the country’s borders in the Arctic.
►►Germany expels four Syrian diplomats. As tensions mount between Western nations and Syria, the German authorities said Thursday that they had ordered the expulsion of four Syrian diplomats after arresting two men accused separately of spying on opponents of President Bashar al-Assad. The four diplomats —three men and a woman who were not identified by name— have been given three days to leave Germany.
►►Turkey summons spy chief over talks with Kurds. Prosecutors have summoned Hakan Fidan, head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MİT), as well as his predecessor, Emre Taner, for questioning, over reports of secret peace talks in Norway between Turkish intelligence agents and Kurdish militant leaders. Predictably, MİT has appealed the move.

Germany summons Syrian ambassador following spy arrests

Ferhad AhmaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The government of Germany has summoned the Syrian ambassador to Berlin after German counterintelligence officers arrested two Syrian nationals on espionage charges. The two men, believed to be employees of Syrian intelligence, have been identified as 34-year-old Akram O., a Syrian national, and Mahmoud El A., a German citizen of Lebanese descent. Both were arrested early on Tuesday morning, during a sting operation involving over 70 German counterintelligence operatives, who searched the suspects’ apartments. According to a statement by the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office, the two men are “strongly suspected” of having engaged “for years” in systematic surveillance against Syrian political figures in Germany, with particular focus on expatriate groups critical of the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The statement added that German authorities are investigating the apartments of six alleged accomplices, suspected of assisting the two alleged spies. According to media reports, the counterintelligence operation was authorized after Ferhad Ahma, a Syrian-born elected official of the Green Party, was severely beaten at his apartment on December 26, by two men posing as German police officers. The Green Party launched a complaint with German police, suspecting that the two thugs were in fact Syrian government agents trying to intimidate Ahma, who is known in Germany for his strong criticism of the al-Assad regime. In announcing the diplomatic protest, German Minister of Foreign Affairs Guido Westerwelle told journalists that “any apparent activity against the Syrian opposition in Germany is in no way tolerable and a violation of [German] law”. Read more of this post

FBI ‘used Google Translate’ to indict alleged Syrian spy, claims lawyer

Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid

Mohamad Soueid

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The lawyer of a Syrian national accused by the United States of spying for Syria has accused the Federal Bureau of Investigation of resorting to Google to prepare the case against his client. Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid was arrested last summer and charged with conducting political espionage against Syrian and American citizens participating in demonstrations against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The alleged espionage appears to have been organized by members of the Syrian embassy in Washington, DC. A few weeks prior to Soueid’s arrest, the US Department of State had communicated to Syria’s ambassador to Washington, Imad Moustapha, “a number of [...] concerns with [...] reported actions of certain Syrian embassy staff in the United States”. The concerns centered on confirmed sightings of Syrian diplomats conducting technical surveillance against Syrian opposition activists in several US cities. Soueid was subsequently arrested for allegedly gathering intelligence on protesters and planning an extensive intimidation campaign. But Soueid’s lawyer, Haytham Faraj, told the court last week that his client’s name, as transcribed in the FBI indictment, had been wrongly transliterated into English using Google Translate. He also wrote in a court filing that the prosecution had “demonstrated a serious deficit in its ability to translate recorded conversations from Arabic into English”. Soueid’s defense also argues that federal prosecutors appear “to have taken extensive liberties with a playful [telephone] conversation” between the accused and his wife back in Syria, eventually producing an English-language translation “that has no basis in fact”. In one case highlighted by the defense, the accused allegedly told his wife that the Syrian intelligence agency was monitoring telephone calls; but in English, the phrase was changed to say “this phone belongs to intelligence agency”. Read more of this post

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