India disbands spy unit that conducted covert operations abroad

VK SinghBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
A controversial military intelligence unit that conducted at least eight covert operations in foreign countries between 2008 and 2012 has been disbanded by the government of India. The country’s Ministry of Defense authorized the establishment of the unit in late 2008, following the Mumbai attacks, which killed over 150 and injured nearly 600 people. The attacks, which lasted for almost four days, involved a dozen coordinated bombing attacks and shooting incidents in India’s largest urban center, carried out by Pakistani nationalists. The covert-action unit was named Technical Services Division (TSD) and led by retired General VK Singh, who served as the Indian Army’s Chief of Staff from 2010 to 2012. According to Indian news media, the TSD was approved by a host of senior Indian government officials, including Lieutenant General RK Loomba, Director General of India’s Military Intelligence. The new agency was tasked with “planning and executing special operations inside depth areas of countries of interest” to India. It was also tasked with “countering enemy efforts within the country by effective covert means”. Most of its “special operations” on foreign soil are said to have been conducted inside Pakistan, in an effort to combat what the Indian government views as “state-sponsored terrorism” by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI). Its main tactical mission centered on targeting Hafiz Saeed, the leader of Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, said to have been behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks. But the TSD has now been disbanded following revelations that it used its mandate to spy on Indian politicians in New Delhi and the Indian province of Kashmir, whose political views on India’s relations with Pakistan were seen as too conciliatory. Read more of this post

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Report reveals secret US-India Cold War collaboration

U-2 surveillance aircraftBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
During much of the Cold War, India enjoyed a close diplomatic and military relationship with the Soviet Union. But a newly declassified document reveals that the South Asian country allowed the United States to spy on the Soviets using its airspace. The revelation is contained in a 400-page history of the American U-2 reconnaissance aircraft program authored on behalf of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The formerly classified document, written in 1992 by CIA historians Gregory Pedlow and Donald Welzenbach, is titled: The Central Intelligence Agency and Overhead Reconnaissance: The U-2 and OXCART Programs, 1954-1974. It was declassified last week in response to a 2005 Freedom of Information Act request filed by Jeffrey T. Richelson, Senior Fellow at George Washington University’s National Security Archive. The Central Intelligence Agency had been involved in U-2 reconnaissance missions since 1954, when the spy program began. Known officially as Project HOMERUN, the U-2 program was a joint effort by the CIA and the National Security Agency that surreptitiously gathered signals and photographic intelligence on Soviet military sites. The program, which has been described by some historians as one of the most successful intelligence projects in US history, relied on the U-2’s ability to fly beyond 70,000 feet over the Soviet Union, thus avoiding detection or attack by Soviet forces. That assumption, however, proved to have been false. In reality, Soviet radars had been able to detect nearly every U-2 flight over Soviet territory. Eventually, on May 1, 1960, Soviet forces managed to shoot down one of the U-2 flights using a surface-to-air missile. This led to the so-called ‘U-2 incident’, during which India sided firmly with the Soviet Union, criticizing the US for violating Soviet airspace. But New Delhi’s attitude to the U-2 program appears to have changed drastically following the Sino-Indian conflict on October 1962, when Chinese forces launched a series of armed incursions into Indian territory, killing over 1,000 soldiers. Read more of this post

World reaction to Snowden’s spying revelations continues

Edward SnowdenBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Governments around the world continue to issue sharp official reactions to the revelations of large-scale spying by the United States, as Washington attempts to minimize the diplomatic fallout from the disclosures. The President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, told a session of the European Parliament on Tuesday that, if confirmed, the claims of US espionage against European Union institutions would be “very disturbing”. He was referring to allegations, aired last week by German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, that America spies on the communications of many of its allies, including European Union (EU) agencies, with the same intensity it spies on China and Iraq. The claims were based on documents supplied by American whistleblower Edward Snowden, a former technical expert with the Central Intelligence Agency, who is currently believed to be in Russia. Numerous EU officials have contacted the US with requests for clarification, while EU ambassadors are scheduled to hold a meeting in Brussels, Belgium, on Thursday, to discuss how to commonly respond to Der Spiegel’s revelations. Some of the strongest criticisms against US intelligence policies have been issued by German officials, as some business figures in the country are raising concerns about US economic espionage against German financial interests. Christian Social Union politician Hans Michelbach reminded participants in a German parliamentary session this week that the EU may be a political ally of the US, but “is indeed a strong competitor in the global economy”. He added that business circles in Berlin are concerned that US intelligence collection aimed at German businesses would give Washington “dishonest advantages”. In Italy, the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emma Bonino, attended a special parliamentary session on Thursday, in which she assured those present that the Italian embassy in Washington was not being spied upon by US intelligence services. She noted that Italy’s “secret services have not unearthed elements of espionage in our [Washington] embassy”. The government of India, meanwhile, expressed strong concerns on Wednesday over reports that US intelligence services have especially targeted nearly 40 diplomatic missions in Washington, including that of India. Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said New Delhi would “take up the issue with US authorities”. But the strongest reactions to Snowden’s revelations have come from the government of Bolivia. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #824 (India edition)

Tony MendezBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►CIA honed ARGO exfiltration skills in India. The Oscar-winning movie Argo has popularized the 1980 exfiltration by the CIA of a group of American diplomats from Tehran. But few know that Tony Mendez, the CIA officer in charge of the Iran operation, cut his teeth exfiltrating CIA targets in India. In his book, titled Argo, Mendez mentions the 1970 exfiltration of a Soviet defector in India codenamed Nestor. He claims that Nestor was a “huge catch” for the CIA, as he provided the Agency with “invaluable intelligence on the KGB’s operations in Central and Southeast Asia”.
►►Ex-CIA officer says al-Qaeda wanted India-Pakistan nuclear war. In his latest book, Avoiding Armageddon: America, India, and Pakistan to the Brink and Back, former CIA officer Bruce Riedel says al-Qaeda helped plan the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Its goal was to “spark a nuclear war between India and Pakistan in order to polarize the world between Islam and the ‘Crusader-Zionist-Hindu’ conspiracy”. But the group’s plan was hampered by India’s restraint and refusal to strike back using force, he argues.
►►Man passing defense info to Pakistan held in India. Reports suggest that Sumer Khan, 34, from Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer district, has been arrested for sending strategic information to Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency via emails and mobile calls for the past three years. A source said that Khan was caught after his calls to Pakistan were intercepted by Indian military intelligence and Intelligence Bureau. The arrest comes just two days after the conclusion of India’s biggest-ever air exercise, ‘Iron Fist’, in Jaisalmer.

Will former US government informant face terror charges in India?

David HeadleyBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A former United States government informant, who helped an Islamist militant group plan the 2008 Mumbai attacks in India, has been sentenced to 35 years in prison. David Coleman Headley, a former US Drug Enforcement Administration informant, was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2009 for helping to plot an attack by Islamist radicals on a Danish newspaper. It eventually became apparent that Headley had been a member of Pakistani militant group Lashkar e-Taiba and had also helped plan the 2008 attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai. The terrorist plot involved at least a dozen attacks on tourist and other civilian targets in India’s largest city, conducted by small cells of highly trained LeT members who had arrived from Pakistan by boat. The coordinated attacks, which began on November 26 and ended three days later, killed 164 and wounded over 300 people. According to the FBI, Headley, who was born to a Pakistani father and an American mother, took advantage of his Western manners and physique to travel to Mumbai posing as an American tourist, in order to help map out the LeT operation. On Thursday, a court in Chicago sentenced Headley to 35 years in prison. Prior to his sentencing, Headley had pleaded guilty to all 12 counts brought against him by US prosecutors and is said to be cooperating with authorities —which is reportedly why he was spared the death penalty. However, the question in the minds of many terrorism observers is, will Headley be extradited to India to face charges there for what is often referred to as ‘India’s 9/11’? The answer is not so simple. Read more of this post

US wants immunity for Pakistanis implicated in attacks that killed 166

2008 Mumbai attacksBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States government has argued in court that current and former officials of Pakistan’s intelligence service should be immune from prosecution in connection with the 2008 Mumbai attacks. At least 166 people, including 6 Americans, were killed and scores more were injured when members of Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba stormed downtown Mumbai, India, taking the city hostage between November 26 and 29, 2008. The Indian government has openly accused Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) of complicity in the attack, which has been described as the most sophisticated international terrorist strike anywhere in the world during the last decade. Using evidence collected by the Indian government, several Americans who survived the bloody attacks sued the ISI in New York earlier this year for allegedly directing Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Mumbai strikes. But Stuart Delery, Principal Deputy Attorney General for the US Department of State, has told the court that the ISI and its senior officials are immune from prosecution on US soil under the US Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. According to the 12-page ‘Statement of Interest’ delivered to the court by Delery, no foreign nationals can be prosecuted in a US court for criminal actions they allegedly carried out while working in official capacities for a foreign government. The affidavit goes on to suggest that any attempt by a US court to assert American jurisdiction over current or former Pakistani government officials would be a blatant “intrusion on [Pakistan’s] sovereignty, in violation of international law”. It appears that nobody has notified the US Department of State that the US routinely “intrudes on Pakistan’s sovereignty” several times a week by using unmanned Predator drones to bomb suspected Taliban militants operating on Pakistani soil. Washington also “intruded on Pakistan’s sovereignty” on May 2, 2011, when it clandestinely sent troops to the town of Abbottabad to kill al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. Read more of this post

Muslim to head India’s domestic spy agency in historic first

Asif IbrahimBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
For the first time in the history of India, a Muslim officer has been selected to head the country’s domestic intelligence agency. The Intelligence Bureau (IB), one of India’s most powerful intelligence organizations, will be led by Syed Asif Ibrahim, one of relatively few Muslim senior officers serving in the country’s predominantly Hindu security and intelligence apparatus. It will be the first time that the IB, which was formed in 1877 under British colonial rule, and today operates under the Ministry of Home Affairs, will be led by a Muslim. Formerly a senior officer in the Indian Police Service, Ibrahim, 59, has served for years in the IB’s Directorate of Operations, and recently served as the Bureau’s Chief of Station at the Indian High Commission in London, United Kingdom. His supervisory experience includes roles in the IB’s counter-cyberespionage and counterterrorism units. IntelNews hears that Ibrahim is widely seen by Indian intelligence officers as someone with a “crystal-clear understanding” of Islamic-inspired militancy inside the country. Ibrahim’s appointment was announced late last week by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, a senior government body lead by the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Following the announcement, observers noted that at least four IB officials, who had been tipped for the job of director and were above Ibrahim in terms of seniority, were assigned to positions outside the Bureau, ostensibly to clear the way for Ibrahim’s appointment. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #806

Mohammed DahabiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Most staff at US consulate in Libya were CIA personnel. Most of the personnel attached to the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, the Libyan city where a US consulate was attacked ending with the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were spies, according to The Wall Street Journal. The paper said 23 of the 30 Americans evacuated from Benghazi in the wake of the September 11, 2012, attack were employees of the CIA. Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, two of the men killed that day, and later publicly identified as contract security workers with the State Department, were in fact under contract with the CIA, said the paper.
►►India accuses Pakistan of printing counterfeit banknotes. The Central Economic Intelligence Bureau in India says that the Pakistani spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) is printing counterfeit Indian and Bangladeshi currencies from the state-owned security printing presses “under special arrangement” and circulating the same through a well-organized network, which is coordinated by senior ISI officials. This is not the first time that the Indian government has accused Pakistan of counterfeiting Indian currency.
►►Jordan court to announce ex-spy chief’s sentence on November 11. A Jordanian criminal court has postponed a verdict in the case of Mohammed al-Dahabi, who ran the General Intelligence Department between 2005 and 2008 and is on trial for alleged embezzlement of public funds, money laundering and abuse of office. Presiding judge Nashaat Akhras said in court Sunday that the verdict will be pronounced November 11, without giving a reason. Dahabi was arrested in February, when inspectors from the Central Bank of Jordan suspected transactions worth millions of dollars had gone through his bank account.

News you may have missed #791

Liang GuanglieBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►India sees espionage behind Chinese cash payments to Indian pilots. According to Indian government sources, Chinese Defense Minister General Liang Guanglie gave two envelopes to the two Indian pilots, both wing commanders, who had flown him in a special Indian Air Force aircraft to New Delhi from Mumbai. After seeing off Liang, the pilots opened the sealed envelopes and found cash gifts inside. They immediately reported this to their superiors, who, in turn, informed the Indian Defense Ministry. India is now planning to lodge a protest with China over the incident.
►►NSA says foreign cyberattacks increasingly reckless. Debora Plunkett, of the secretive National Security Agency, whose responsibilities include protecting US government computer networks, has said that other nations are increasingly employing cyberattacks without “any sense of restraint”, citing “reckless” behaviors that neither the United States nor the Soviet Union would have dared at the height of Cold War tensions. She also predicted that Congress would pass long-stalled cybersecurity legislation within the next year. One wonders whether the Stuxnet incident is included in such “reckless” cyberattacks?
►►Taliban ‘using Facebook to lure Australian soldiers’. According to a review of social media by the Australian federal government, Australian soldiers are being warned by their commanders that enemies are creating fake Facebook profiles to spy on them. The report says that Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan are posing as “attractive women” on Facebook to befriend coalition soldiers and gather intelligence about operations. It adds that family and friends of soldiers are inadvertently jeopardizing missions by sharing confidential information online. This is not the first such warning in recent years.

News you may have missed #772

Israeli team at the 1972 Munich OlympicsBy TIMOTHY W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
►►India restricts agency-to-agency contacts with CIA. According to The Deccan Herald, Indian intelligence officials are growing increasingly wary of the frequent interactions between their own intelligence personnel and the CIA. Cooperation between the US intelligence organizations and Indian government agencies has been increasing under the guise of counter-terrorism efforts. Calcutta News reports that a book published by author Prem Mahadevan, called The Politics of Counterterrorism in India, identifies at least two CIA penetrations of Indian intelligence officials since 2001.
►►Canadian spy revealed classified information in “massive leak”. As was previously reported on this blog, former Sub-Lieutenant Jeffrey Paul Delisle, a navy intelligence officer, is accused of spying for Russia. According to The New Zealand Herald, the accused Canadian spy provided the Russian government with classified information on the US, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia in what is being termed a “massive leak”.
►►Germany had advance warning of 1972 Olympics massacre. Israel-based English-language newspaper The Jerusalem Post is reporting that an article in the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, stated Germany had advance warning about a potential terrorist attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic games. Previously classified documents accessed by Der Spiegel show that not only were there indications of a terror plot, but that there were explicit warnings and details. Perhaps more damaging are the lengths and extremes that German intelligence officials went to in order to cover up blatant mistakes in the case.

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.

Pakistani militant group ‘more dangerous than al-Qaeda': ex-CIA official

Bruce RiedelBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A former senior official of the United States Central Intelligence Agency has argued that al-Qaeda is no longer the most powerful group in the global Islamist insurgency. Writing in The Daily Beast earlier this month, Bruce Riedel, who served in the CIA for nearly 30 years prior to his retirement in 2006, warned that Lashkar e-Taiba is now “the most dangerous terror group in the world”. In his editorial, the former CIA analyst, who is now a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, said that LeT operates freely inside Pakistan and continues to have strong operational connections with the Pakistani armed forces and the country’s intelligence establishment. Since its founding in 1990, LeT’s traditional political aspiration has been to end Indian rule over the predominantly Muslim state of Jammu and Kashmir, and then integrate the latter with Pakistan. But the group’s aims appeared to expand significantly in November of 2008, when it sent ten heavily armed operatives to Mumbai on speedboats. Once they landed in India’s most populous city, the LeT operatives proceeded to strike nearly a dozen tourist-related targets in well-calculated suicide missions. By the end of the four-day terrorist spree, 166 people —including six Americans and many other Western tourists— had been killed. Riedel views the 2008 Mumbai strike as “the most significant and innovative terrorist attack since 9/11”, and says that it marked LeT’s maturation “from a Punjabi-based Pakistani terror group targeting India exclusively” to an outfit with a global outlook, “targeting the enemies of al Qaeda: the Crusader West, Zionist Israel, and Hindu India”. Today, nearly four years after the Mumbai attacks, LeT maintains a global presence, with active cells throughout the Middle East and Asia, and funding operations in North America, Australia and Europe, claims Riedel. Additionally, LeT does not appear to feel threatened by Washington. Read more of this post

Guest Comment: India’s corporate espionage boom

AssoCham IndiaBy BRITTANY MINDER | intelNews.org |
A survey conducted earlier this month by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (AssoCham) found that corporate espionage in India is surging. The June 14 survey found that 35 percent of Indian firms regularly and aggressively conduct research on competitors and employees, which goes far beyond the normative business intelligence realm. Secretary General of AssoCham, D.S. Rawat, maintained that “demand from certain industries, such as information technology, infrastructure, insurance, [and] banking and manufacturing is overwhelming”. With an increasing demand for espionage gadgetry, up nearly 30 percent from last year, the survey also noted that “almost all the company representatives in these domains acknowledged the prevalence of industrial espionage to gain access to information and steal trade secrets of their competitors through private deals with sleuths and spy agencies”. The appetite for corporate espionage and gadgets doesn’t stop at rival-on-rival activity; espionage is a pursuit while industrial espionage is a practice. Overall corporate vulnerabilities, a lack of appreciation for corporate security best practices, and the tangible motivation of revenue is, according to AssoCham, driving, “companies who have strong unions and are vulnerable to pilferage hire spy agencies and plant an under-cover agent, a mole in minor job profiles in rival companies to ascertain if union leaders are getting paid for creating trouble”. According to The New York Times, conservative acknowledgements of the boon of the corporate spy industry willingly concede that some companies even hire “mystery vendors” to gauge their own employees’ response to sifting from outsiders. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #743 (espionage edition)

Vladimir LazarBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Denmark professor jailed for spying. Timo Kivimäki a Finnish professor of international politics in Copenhagen, Denmark, has been sentenced to five months in prison for spying, following a trial held behind closed doors, from which even the verdict was not released. Several Russian diplomats left Denmark after the start of the spy case and, according to Danish media, Kivimäki’s lawyer, Anders Nemeth, had attempted to have them return to act as witnesses.
►►Retired Russian colonel convicted of spying for US. A Russian court has ruled that retired Colonel Vladimir Lazar spied for the US, and sentenced him to 12 years in prison. Lazar will be sent to a high-security prison and stripped of his military rank, the Federal Security Service said in a statement. Prosecutors said Lazar purchased several computer disks with more than 7,000 images of classified maps of Russia from a collector in 2008 and smuggled them to neighboring Belarus, where he gave them to an alleged American intelligence agent.
►►India arrests military intel staffer for spying. The soldier, identified only as Shivdasan, worked for the Indian Army’s Technical Support Division, which is a newly founded unit within Indian Military Intelligence. He was reportedly trapped by the Indian Directorate of Revenue Intelligence in an elaborate operation that involved a “double agent” and a relative of the soldier in Dubai.

French terrorist Merah planned attack on Indian embassy in Paris

Embassy of India in ParisBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Mohamed Merah, the French Muslim who killed seven and injured five people in Toulouse last March, had planned to launch a massive attack on the Indian Embassy in Paris, according to new revelations. Merah was shot dead by French Special Forces on March 22, after killing three French Army personnel on March 15, and four civilians, including two children, on March 19. But according to French newspaper Le Monde, Merah had initially planned to attack the Indian embassy in Paris. Quoting sources from France’s Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence (DCRI) and the Special Forces (RAID), the French daily says that Merah’s handlers in Pakistan had initially tasked him with attacking Indian diplomatic targets in the French capital. “That was the initial target assigned to him by the Taliban, who trained him for holy war […] in Pakistan during the summer of 2011”, a French intelligence source is quoted as saying in Le Monde. By “Taliban”, the source was most likely referring to Lashkar e-Taiba, one of Asia’s largest militant Islamist groups, which is waging a protracted war against the Indian state in Indian-administered Kashmir and elsewhere. Most Lashkar e-Taiba training camps are located in Pakistan, where Merah, who was Algerian-born, traveled in the summer of 2011. However, the paper says that the DCRI, which is said to have employed Merah as an informant, had received prior warning of the plot, and had notified Indian officials, who in turn were able to beef-up security measures at the embassy. Read more of this post

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