News you may have missed #879

Mossad sealBy IAN ALLEN |
►►Israeli spy budget close to $2 billion. According to reports in the Israeli media, the 2014 budget for Israel’s secret services is 6.88 billion shekels, which amounts to US$1.97 billion). This figure represents an approximate increase of 4 percent compared to last year. The funds cover the operations of the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security service, and the Mossad, which is the country’s external covert-action agency.
►►Australia and France sign intelligence accord. Australia has struck a second intelligence-sharing agreement in less than a week, this time with France, as fears rise about the Syrian civil war becoming a hub for home-grown terrorism. The two countries have agreed, among other things, to share intelligence on their respective citizens who have gone to Syria to fight in that country’s civil war. A week earlier, Canberra had signed a similar intelligence-sharing agreement with the government of Indonesia.
►►Nazi spy could have changed course of D-Day. Days before the Normandy landings, the Lisbon-based Nazi spy Paul Fidrmuc got wind of the final details of Operation Overlord and sent an urgent message to Berlin. The Allies were not planning to land in Calais, as the Nazis thought and where they had massed 200,000 soldiers. Instead, he wrote, “the preferred plan is around La Manche”. But his dispatch was ignored by his Berlin handlers.

Snowden exposes ‘unprecedented’ US intelligence budget details

Report coverBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
In what experts call an unprecedented move, The Washington Post has published excerpts from the classified United States intelligence budget, obtained from American defector Edward Snowden. Snowden, a former technical expert for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), is currently in Russia, where he has been granted political asylum. He gave The Washington Post a top-secret document containing the 2012 budget summary for the US National Intelligence Program. A new version of this document is produced each year by the United States Intelligence Community (IC). It provides Congressional intelligence committees with a detailed justification for the funds requested by the IC, while highlighting the objectives, priorities, successes and failures of American intelligence agencies. The Post published several charts and tables from the document, which show that the US intelligence complex is currently sustained at a financial level that exceeds that reached at any point during the Cold War. Moreover, funding for the IC appears to have doubled since 2001 and is up by a quarter since 2006. Perhaps the most unexpected feature in the leaked document centers on the revelation that funding for the CIA is 50 percent higher than that of the NSA, which had long been seen by outsiders as the best-funded American intelligence agency. It appears, however, that the NSA, which specializes in communications interception, and is by far the largest American intelligence agency, received just over $10 billion last year, way below the $15 billion given to the CIA. The latter’s budget also exceeded that of the National Reconnaissance Office, a highly technical and very expensive government agency that maintains America’s spy satellites. In the words of The Post, the CIA’s requested budget “vastly exceeds outside estimates” and represents in excess of a quarter of the entire US intelligence budget. Another interesting revelation is that the US IC places Israel alongside Cuba, China, Russia and Iran, as a “priority target” when it comes to counterintelligence —meaning efforts to prevent these countries from spying on the US. Read more of this post

CIA shuts down office that declassifies historical materials

CIA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
The division of the United States Central Intelligence Agency that is responsible for weeding through and declassifying historical materials from the Agency’s archives is to close due to the sequester budget cuts. The CIA’s Historical Collections Division has been at the source of some of the most sensational declassification of American intelligence material in recent years, spanning several decades of postwar history. But it has now been disbanded due to budget cuts associated with so-called sequester. The widespread cuts were automatically imposed after the two political parties in Congress failed to compromise last year on the Federal budget. The sequester is an across-the-board budget reduction that affects every single agency or office operating under the US government. It is believed that the CIA dealt with the cuts by terminating an unknown number of agreements with outside contractors, some of whom were responsible for the declassification of historical documents. The Los Angeles Times, which reported on the story, quoted CIA spokesman Edward Price, who told journalists last week that the Historical Collections Division had been “moved into a larger unit” within the Agency in order to “create efficiencies”. He identified that unit as the CIA’s Office of the Chief Information Officer, whose Information Management Services handle all Freedom of Information Act requests from the public. Price assured reporters that the CIA remained faithful to declassifying historical material, which it described as part of its “public interest mission”. But The Times quoted several scholars who said that the disbandment of the CIA’s Historical Collections Division will almost certainly result in a reduced number of public disclosures. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #835 (Americas edition)

Rene GonzalezBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►‘Cuban Five’ spy member renounces US citizenship. Cuban intelligence officer Rene Gonzalez, who was a member of the “Cuban Five” spy group in South Florida, was released from a US prison in 2011, after serving 10 years for espionage. He was required to serve three years’ probation in the US. But on Friday US District Judge Joan Lenard ruled that Gonzalez, who had already been allowed to temporarily return to Cuba for his father’s funeral, could stay there if he renounced his US citizenship. Gonzalez is the first of the Cuban Five to return to the island. The other four men continue to serve lengthy sentences in US federal prisons.
►►US Defense Intelligence Agency contemplates austerity. Since 2001, intelligence agencies have had just about all money they wanted, but not anymore, as the cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act are hitting even previously inviolable spook accounts. In a reflection of this new reality, the Defense Intelligence Agency plans a conference with industry at its headquarters on June 27, 2013. Agency leaders will focus on “current and emerging challenges in the context of an increasingly austere fiscal posture”.
►►Report says Canada spies caught off guard by Arab Spring. The 2011 Arab Spring uprising in the Middle East came as a surprise to the Canadian government, which risks getting caught off-guard again without a new approach to gathering intelligence. This is according to a new report by Canada’s Intelligence Assessment Secretariat, a unit of the Privy Council’s Office, the bureaucratic arm of the Office of the Canadian Prime Minister. On the other hand, the report states, “there is no reason to believe that [Canadian intelligence agencies] did any worse than other allied agencies in its analysis of the Arab Spring, and in a few areas it appears to have done somewhat better”.

News you may have missed #807

Noor Inayat KhanBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►Britain to unveil statue of female SOE spy of Indian origin. Born in Moscow to an Indian father and an American mother, Noor Inayat Khan was in Paris when it fell to Nazi occupation. She immediately returned to London to volunteer for the war effort, joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and was recruited by the Special Operations Executive (SOE). She was sent into France on a secret mission in June 1943, but was betrayed and captured a few months later. She was shot by the Nazis in Dachau in September 1944, aged 30, and was posthumously awarded the George Cross as well as the Croix de Guerre by France. She was one of only three women in the SOE to be awarded the George Cross.
►►US intelligence spending falls or second year in a row. The US government’s total spending on intelligence activities fell in 2012, the second year in a row of declining numbers after years of soaring security spending since the September 11 attacks in 2001. The Office of Director of National Intelligence, the top US intelligence authority, announced on Tuesday that total funding appropriated for the National Intelligence Program, covering activities of the CIA and high-tech spy agencies such as the National Reconnaissance Office, was $53.9 billion in Fiscal Year 2012, which ended on September 30. That was down from the $54.6 billion appropriated during Fiscal Year 2011, according to government officials and figures published by the private Federation of American Scientists.
►►Russia wants to park spy planes on French base. France has been asked by Moscow to allow two Russian spy planes to be deployed at a French base in Djibouti to help track down pirates. Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said last week that the Ilyushin Il-38 naval reconnaissance planes would improve Russia’s ability to spot pirates plaguing waters off the coast of Somalia. Djibouti is at the juncture of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The French base is home to several thousand French service members and a number of military aircraft.

News you may have missed #734

Aviv KochaviBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►Australian spy agency in rent dispute. The Australian government insists there is no dispute over the lease of the new, state-of-the-art headquarters of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, which cost nearly A$589 to build. But according to a number of government sources, the property has become the subject of a standoff between the ASIO and Australia’s Department of Finance and Deregulation. The Canberra Times reports that the Finance Department has told ASIO it will have to hand over more money than anticipated because of a blowout to building costs and timing. But the ASIO is refusing to pay more than initially agreed.
►►US unveils spy model of bin Laden compound. The United States intelligence community has unveiled a scale model of the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden spent the last few years of his life in hiding. The model was built by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGIA) and used by military and intelligence leaders to plan the daring night raid on May 2, 2011, that killed the al Qaeda founder. Its scale is an exact 1:84; every tree, bush, wall, animal pen, trash can and physical structure in the model existed at one time at the original compound in Abbottabad.
►►Israel military intelligence head in secret US visit. Israeli military intelligence chief Aviv Kochavi made a “secret visit” to Washington earlier this month to discuss the upcoming talks between world powers and Iran. An Israeli security official confirmed the visit, which was reported in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, but could not provide further details. Meanwhile, three senior IDF intelligence officers resigned recently, following what they called “questionable” appointments to key positions. The three colonels held some of the most senior and classified positions in the Israeli military intelligence community.

News you may have missed #641 (US edition)

Dennis Blair

Dennis Blair

►► US Navy memo had warned Roosevelt of 1941 attack. Three days before the December 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, US President F.D. Roosevelt was warned in a memo from US naval intelligence that Tokyo’s military and spy network was focused on Hawaii. The 20-page memo has been published in the new book December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World, by Craig Shirley.
►►US spy agencies cut their holiday parties. Holiday gatherings have provided rare opportunities for US congressional staff, embassy aides, government officials, and the media to mix it up —off the record— with the spy set. But this year, agency budget Scrooges have taken aim at high-priced holiday merriment. The Director of National Intelligence has canceled holiday parties altogether, and the Central Intelligence Agency has drastically downsized its guest list and lavish spread by more than 50%.
►►Ex-DNI Blair wants Pentagon in charge of drone strikes. The United States’ former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, who previously proposed scaling back the armed drone operation run in Pakistan by the CIA, is now urging that the program be publicly acknowledged and placed in the hands of the US military.


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