CIA issues ‘stand-down’ on spying against Western Europe

CIA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The United States Central Intelligence Agency has issued a “stand-down order” to its stations in Europe, instructing them to cease all intelligence operations targeting allied countries, media reports claim. According to several Western European news outlets, including British newspaper The Guardian, CIA stations in Europe have been “forbidden from undertaking unilateral operations” involving assets recruited from within government agencies allied to Washington. Last summer, the German government instructed its intelligence agencies to limit their cooperation with their American counterparts “to the bare essentials”. Berlin also expelled the United States Central Intelligence Agency chief of station —essentially the top American official in the country. The moves came after successive revelations by American defector Edward Snowden, suggesting that Washington had spied on Germany and other Western European countries with unprecedented intensity in recent years. In July, Berlin arrested two German intelligence officers who it said were spying on Germany on behalf of the CIA. The Guardian said that the stand-down order came into effect shortly after the arrests of the CIA’s two German assets and Berlin’s subsequent reaction, which diplomatic observers described as “unprecedented”. The order was communicated to CIA stations “by senior CIA officials through secret cables”, said the paper. The decision is reportedly aimed at giving CIA stations in Europe time to evaluate the degree of operational security of their intelligence-collection programs and assess whether their officers were “being careful enough” so as to prevent further embarrassment for Langley. Additionally, CIA stations have been asked to evaluate whether targeting allied nations in espionage operations is “worth running the risk of discovery”, said The Guardian. Since the stand-down order was issued, CIA case officers have reportedly stopped meeting with all of their assets recruited from within allied governments. The London-based newspaper quoted one anonymous former CIA official who said stand-downs of this sort are not uncommon after operations are compromised, but added that he could not remember a stand-down order being “this long or this deep”. Read more of this post

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News you may have missed #883

Oleg KaluginBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Indonesia, Australia renew intelligence ties. Australia and Indonesia have signed a pledge not to use intelligence to harm each other, signaling a resumption in cooperation, which had been suspended after last year’s spy scandal. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and her Indonesian counterpart, Marty Natalegawa, signed the “joint understanding of a code of conduct” in Nusa Dua, Bali, on Thursday.
►►Ex-KGB general says Russia has already won in Ukraine. Russia has already won “the real victory”​ in Ukraine, according to former KGB general Oleg Kalugin, who is now living in the United States. The “southeast of Ukraine, that’s part of the general battle between the Russians and Ukrainians, but it’s not as crucial as the real victory and pride of Russia —the Crimea, I mean”, he said on Thursday. Kalugin reiterated that he does not believe Russian president Vladimir Putin wants annex another region of the country. “It’s not in the interest of Putin”, Kalugin said. “His position as of today is fairly strong in the country, in his own country, so why put it at risk by moving further?”
►►China says Canadian couple were spies disguised as ordinary citizens. Kevin and Julia Garratt have been accused of stealing Chinese military and national defense research secrets. They were detained on August 4, 2014, but not formally arrested, and China has offered little information on what they are accused of doing. The couple ran a coffee shop near the border with North Korea, worked with Christian groups to bring humanitarian aid into North Korea, and worked to train North Korean Christians inside China. Their detention by China’s State Security Bureau has been seen by Canadian authorities as reprisal for the arrest of Su Bin, a Chinese immigrant to Canada suspected of masterminding the electronic theft of US fighter jet secrets.

US sharing intelligence with Syrian government, say sources

ISIS parade in SyriaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The United States is secretly sharing intelligence about the Islamic State with the government of Syria, according to sources. On Monday, American officials told the Associated Press that US President Barack Obama had authorized reconnaissance flights over Syrian airspace with the aim of gathering intelligence on the Islamic State —known previously as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS. Pentagon officials said the reconnaissance flights are intended to collect “additional intelligence” on the Islamic State’s troop movements in Syria. Their ultimate goal is reportedly to assist the president and his advisors as they contemplate whether the US should launch airstrikes against Islamic State targets on Syrian soil. One American official told the news agency that the reconnaissance flights constituted “an important avenue for obtaining data” and said they would satisfy the “need for reliable intelligence from Syria”. But another source told French news agency Agence France Presse on Tuesday that the intelligence gathered from US reconnaissance flights was being shared with the Syrian government “through Iraqi and Russian channels”. Quoting “a regional source”, the Paris-based news agency said Damascus has been receiving lists of Islamic State targets on Syrian territory “from a Western country” since before mid-August. If these reports turn out to be accurate, it would mean that Washington is essentially collaborating for the first time with one of its arch-enemies in the Middle East, a regime which, in the past, it has come close to bombing. It would also bring American policy in the region closer to that of Russia, which has supported the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since the start of the civil war, arguing that it is preferable to the instability represented by opposition forces. Read more of this post

Australia, Indonesia to end rift by signing joint spy agreement

 Abbott and YudhoyonoBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Australia and Indonesia are to end months of diplomatic friction by signing a joint agreement aimed at curbing their intelligence activities against each other. IntelNews readers will recall that Indonesia withdrew its ambassador from Canberra and terminated all military and intelligence cooperation with Australia late last year, after it emerged that Australian spies had targeted the communications of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and other senior Indonesian officials, while they were attending the 2009 G20 conference in London. Relations between the two countries worsened considerably in February of this year, when documents leaked by American defector Edward Snowden revealed that Australian intelligence spied on American law firm representing the government of Indonesia in a trade dispute with Washington. The documents, from February 2003, showed that the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) purposely targeted the law firm because it represented the commercial interests of the Indonesian state. To make things worse, the leaked information showed that the ASD, which is responsible for signals intelligence and information security, offered to share the intelligence collected from the operation with its American counterpart, the National Security Agency. Following the revelation, the Australian and Indonesian governments were reportedly not on talking terms. But it has now emerged that Australia and Indonesia are to sign a mutually binding agreement titled “Joint Understanding of a Code of Conduct”, which, among other things, will prohibit Australia from using its intelligence agencies to harm Indonesian national interests. Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop told Australia’s ABC network that the agreement would “make it quite clear” that “Australia would not use its [...] intelligence resources to the detriment of [...] Indonesia”. Read more of this post

Germany wants foreign embassies to declare their spy employees

German Foreign OfficeBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
German authorities have asked that foreign embassies and consulates on German soil officially disclose the names of their personnel involved in intelligence work. German newsmagazine Der Spiegel said that the German Foreign Office has been systematically contacting consular authorities from every foreign nation located in Germany. In each case, the foreign consular representatives have been issued formal requests to release “through official diplomatic channels” an exhaustive list of names of their intelligence operatives operating in Germany under diplomatic cover. All foreign embassies and consulates had been contacted by last Wednesday, said the report. The requests stipulate that the lists must include all personnel working out of a foreign nation’s embassy or consulate, as well cultural institutes, military installations, commercial entities, or other institutions associated with a foreign country. It is generally assumed that a significant number of employees in embassies and consulates are intelligence personnel, working under diplomatic cover; they invariably hold titles such as “military attaché”, or “political officer”, and are generally protected with diplomatic immunity. A small number of these intelligence officers voluntarily make their presence known to the corresponding intelligence agency of their host country, and are thus officially declared and accredited with the government of the host nation. They typically act as points-of-contact between the embassy and the intelligence agency of the host nation on issues of common concern requiring cross-country collaboration or coordination. But the vast majority of intelligence personnel stationed at a foreign embassy or consulate operate without the official knowledge or consent of the host country. Governments generally accept this as a tacit rule in international intelligence work, which is why Berlin’s move is seen as highly unusual. Der Spiegel described it as an effort “towards more transparency”, aimed at “increasing the pressure on foreign intelligence services to disclose their activities in Germany”. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, described the move as a diplomatic effort to establish trust between Berlin and its foreign partners. Read more of this post

Up to 20 US spies inside German government: media reports

US embassy in BerlinBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
German counterintelligence has intensified its surveillance of “certain employees of the United States embassy” in Berlin, after internal reports suggested that “up to 20” agents of the American government are operating inside the German federal bureaucracy. Citing information “from American security circles”, German newspaper Bild am Sonntag said on Sunday that the agents are German citizens who are secretly employed by a variety of American civilian and military intelligence agencies in return for money. The Berlin-based tabloid noted that at least a dozen such agents have infiltrated four departments of the German federal government, namely the Ministries of Defense, Finance, Interior, as well as the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. The paper said that the latter has been targeted by the US Central Intelligence Agency because it is routinely employed by the BND, Germany’s main external intelligence organization, as a cover for clandestine activities. Last week, Germany ordered the immediate removal from the country of the CIA station chief, after it caught two German citizens, one working for the BND, and one for the country’s Ministry of Defense, secretly spying for Washington. It also instructed its intelligence agencies to limit their cooperation with their American counterparts “to the bare essentials” until further notice. According to Bild am Sonntag, the “growing pressure” against American intelligence operations inside Germany has prompted American spy agencies to transfer their recruitment activities of German citizens to nearby European capitals, such as Prague of Warsaw. Meanwhile, in an interview aired Sunday on Germany’s public-service television broadcaster, ZDF, German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared pessimistic about the possibility that American intelligence agencies will stop recruiting German citizens. She said that Washington and Berlin had “fundamentally different views” on the nature and operational character of intelligence, and that it would be difficult to bridge the gap of perception between the two countries. The German leader added, however, that she favored continued cooperation between German and American intelligence agencies, as both countries “profit from the cooperation concerning counterterrorism and other things”. Read more of this post

‘Diplomatic earthquake’ as Germany halts spy cooperation with US

Angela Merkel and Barack ObamaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The German government has instructed its intelligence agencies to limit their cooperation with their American counterparts “to the bare essentials” until further notice, according to media reports. The move follows news that Berlin requested on Thursday the immediate removal from Germany of the United States Central Intelligence Agency chief of station —essentially the top American official in the country. The request came after two German citizens, one working for the BND, Germany’s main external intelligence organization, and one working for the country’s Federal Ministry of Defense, were allegedly found to have been secretly spying for the US. German media reported on Thursday that the temporary halt in Berlin’s intelligence collaboration with Washington applies across the spectrum, with the exception of areas directly affecting tactical security concerns for Germany, such as the protection of its troops in Afghanistan, or defending against immediate terrorist threats. Sources in the German capital claimed that the removal of the CIA station chief was technically a “recommendation for his departure”, and did not constitute an official diplomatic expulsion. However, German observers described the incident as a “diplomatic earthquake”, which would have been unthinkable as a policy option for the German government, barring actions against “pariah states like North Korea or Iran”. This is not the first time an American intelligence officer has been asked to leave Germany. Berlin expelled another CIA officer in the 1990s, after it emerged that the American intelligence Agency had tried to recruit a German official at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs. However, unlike the current imbroglio, the previous spy affair was handled discretely and with almost no media fanfare, as is customary among allies. The decision to recommend the CIA station chief’s removal was reportedly made at a senior governmental level, following a “fruitless” telephone exchange between CIA Director John Brennan and Klaus-Dieter Fritsche, the coordinator between the German Chancellery and the BND. According to German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, Brennan offered Fritsche no apology and had “nothing to contribute other than clichés about transatlantic ties”, as well as his expressed irritation about the way the media were handling the incident. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #879

Mossad sealBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►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.

US Secretary of Defense ‘not aware’ of Israel spying on America

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.orgChuck Hagel, Barack Obama, John Brennan
The supreme official of the United States Department of Defense has said he is “unaware of the facts” behind recent media reports that Israel is aggressively spying on America. Chuck Hagel, a former Republican Senator who assumed the leadership of the Pentagon in 2013, is on a three-day official visit to Israel, where he is scheduled to hold meetings with Israeli military and security officials. He was responding to a question posed by an Israeli reporter about allegations, made by American newsmagazine Newsweek on Tuesday, that Israel’s spies “have gone too far” in targeting American interests. In an article published in Newsweek last week, veteran intelligence correspondent Jeff Stein quoted Congressional staffers as saying that America’s Jewish allies had “crossed red lines” in their efforts to steal secrets from the United States. According to Stein, that was reportedly relayed to US lawmakers in classified briefings on Capitol Hill by officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, as well as the National Counterintelligence Directorate. In a subsequent piece, Stein revealed that Israeli intelligence tried to spy on US Vice President Al Gore during an official state visit to Jerusalem 16 years ago. The effort was allegedly aborted after a US Secret Service agent caught an Israeli spy trying to enter the Vice President’s hotel room through a ceiling vent. But American officials have so far remained silent on the matter. When asked about it a press conference in Tel Aviv, Hagel said he had “heard of the report” but was “not aware of any facts that would substantiate the report”. He was standing beside Israel’s Minister of Defense, Moshe Yaalon, who also responded to the journalist’s question by reminding his audience that he served as Director of Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate in the late 1990s. In that capacity, he said, he was “not allowed to spy in the United States whatsoever”. Read more of this post

US hesitant to share Boko Haram intel with Nigerian government

Boko Haram militantsBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
United States military officials said on Tuesday that the Pentagon is not “at this point” sharing intelligence on the Boko Haram militant group with the Nigerian government. Last month, members of the armed group, which campaigns for an Islamist state in predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria, abducted at least 200 teenage girls from a boarding school in Chibok, a primarily Christian village located in the northeast of the country. Since then, the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, has threatened to kill or sell the girls as slaves unless the government of Nigeria releases Boko Haram prisoners. In the past week, the US has become directly involved in the search for the missing girls. On Monday, the US Department of Defense deployed fixed-wing aircraft on a variety of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions concentrating on Boko Haram strongholds in the northeast of the country, near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon. Meanwhile, 30 American advisers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Defense Intelligence Agency, and Department of State, are already in Nigerian capital Abuja, assisting in the search for the kidnap victims. American media has reported that the US Department of State is now sharing commercial satellite imagery with the Nigerian government in the context of the search. However, the Pentagon said that it is not “at this point [...] sharing raw intelligence data” on Boko Haram with the Nigerian government. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Army Colonel Steve Warren, a spokesman for the US Department of Defense, refused to discuss the precise reasons why the Pentagon is withholding intelligence data from the Nigerian military. There is speculation, however, that the decision may be related to fears in Washington that the notoriously corrupt Nigerian military may have been infiltrated by Boko Haram members and sympathizers. Read more of this post

Israel sends top intel official to US to complain about spy claims

Yuval SteinitzBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A senior Israeli intelligence official will be meeting with the head of the United States Senate Intelligence Committee today to complain about reports in the media that Israel spies aggressively on American targets. The Israeli government reacted angrily last week to claims by Newsweek magazine’s intelligence correspondent Jeff Stein that Israeli spies were aggressively trying to steal American secrets. Stein quoted Congressional staffers saying that America’s Jewish allies had “crossed red lines” in their efforts to steal secrets from the United States. One staffer told Newsweek that Congress members had been briefed by American intelligence officials about Israeli espionage operations against the United States that were “very sobering [...], alarming, even terrifying”. The Israeli embassy in Washington reacted angrily to Newsweek’s revelations, condemning what it called “outrageous, false allegations [...] being directed against Israel”. Stein, however, did not back down. In a follow-up article published last Thursday, he quoted US intelligence officials and Congressional insiders who said Israel had been “caught carrying out aggressive espionage operations against American targets for decades”. The article included an allegation that Israeli intelligence tried to spy on US Vice President Al Gore during an official state visit to Jerusalem 16 years ago. The effort was allegedly aborted after a US Secret Service agent caught an Israeli spy trying to enter the Vice President’s hotel room through a ceiling vent. In other instances, Israeli intelligence operatives have allegedly tried to entice American officials visiting Israel with drugs and prostitutes. Stein reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, America’s primary counterintelligence agency, regularly summons Israeli diplomats stationed in Washington “for a scolding” after uncovering Israeli espionage operations on American soil. Such “scolding” sessions have taken place “dozens of times” since 9/11, says Stein, citing a former senior FBI official. Read more of this post

Efforts to restore US-German intelligence cooperation collapse

Angela Merkel and Barack ObamaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Negotiations aimed at restoring the intelligence relationship between America and Germany, following revelations last year that Washington spied on the communications of German leaders, collapsed before German Chancellor Angela Merkel met US President Barack Obama last week. The two leaders had planned to make a public statement during Mrs. Merkel’s official visit to Washington last Friday, announcing a new intelligence agreement between their respective countries. But the announcement was never made, as Ukraine dominated the political agenda. IntelNews readers will recall the dramatic way in which Germany and the United States fell out in October of last year, after American intelligence defector Edward Snowden revealed an invasive intelligence-gathering operation by the US National Security Agency (NSA). The program targeted the private communications of senior German officials, including those of Mrs. Merkel, for nearly a decade. The New York Times said last week that the collapse of the bilateral intelligence negotiations between Washington and Berlin prompted “bitter recriminations on both sides” about who was responsible for their failure. It appears that German officials insisted on drafting a “no-spy” agreement between the two countries, which would prevent them from conducting espionage operations on each other’s territory. American officials, however, rejected the proposal, arguing it would create a precedent that every other European and Asian American ally, including France, Britain, Japan, South Korea, and others, would wish to replicate. Earlier this year, President Obama assured the German side that the NSA would never again target the communications of Chancellor Merkel. But German officials noted that the President said nothing about targeting other senior German officials, nor did he mention anything about the NSA’s other operations on German soil. Read more of this post

United States allegedly not sharing Russia intelligence with Ukraine

Russian troops in UkraineBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The United States is not sharing with the Ukrainian government detailed intelligence or Russia’s military buildup, according to American lawmakers. Moscow is reportedly deploying large numbers of troops along Russia’s border with Ukraine, while US intelligence agencies have allegedly detected the presence of Russian military supply lines that would be required for a land invasion of Ukraine. The US administration of President Barack Obama has publicly expressed solidarity with the Ukrainian government and has warned the Kremlin that any military incursions into eastern Ukraine would constitute a grave “historical error” that would bear serious consequences for the Russian leadership. But according to American news reporting website The Daily Beast, Washington has instructed the American military and intelligence community to refrain from sharing detailed intelligence on Russia’s military buildup with Ukrainian authorities. Details being kept from Ukrainian eyes include “imagery, intercepts and analysis” that pinpoint the exact location of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border. They also include intelligence predictions of how Russian units would deploy during a possible invasion of Ukraine. The Daily Beast, which is owned by Newsweek, cited “US officials and members of Congress” who were briefed by intelligence personnel earlier this week on the situation in Ukraine. They told the news website that senior American military officials have been instructed “to refrain from briefing their Ukrainian counterparts in detail” about information on Russian troop movements held by American intelligence agencies. The Daily Beast quotes Republican Representative Michael Turner, chair of a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee that oversees America’s tactical air and land force strength. Turner told the website that he is “not confident” that Washington is “sharing any of that kind of [detailed military] information” with Kiev. Read more of this post

NSA gives Israel raw intercepts containing US citizens’ data

NSA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States National Security Agency (NSA) shares raw intercepted data with Israeli intelligence without first deleting information pertaining to American citizens, according to a leaked document. British newspaper The Guardian published on Wednesday an informal memorandum of understanding between the NSA and the Israel SIGINT National Unit (ISNU). The five-page document was supplied to the newspaper by Edward Snowden, a technical contractor for the NSA who defected to Russia this past summer. It outlines an agreement reached in 2009 between the NSA and the ISNU, under which the American side provides the Israelis with raw intercepts, which often contain telephone and email data belonging to American citizens. The memorandum describes this type intelligence sharing as a “routine” aspect of a broader “SIGINT relationship between the two organizations”. SIGINT refers to signals intelligence, a term used in the intelligence community to describe the interception of communications data or content. Additionally, the document specifically mentions that the data shared with the Israelis is “raw” or “unminimized”, meaning it has not been subjected to the process of extracting and deleting information that identifies US citizens or residents —known as “US persons”. By law, the NSA is not permitted to spy on US persons and is required to ‘minimize’ intercepted data so that the communications of US persons remain private, unless they are absolutely indispensible in understanding a piece of foreign intelligence. The memorandum describes a number of restrictions on the use of this information by Israeli intelligence, stating that the ISNU is forbidden from using it in order to target US persons. It also states that the ISNU must shield the identities of US persons when sharing the information with other Israeli government agencies. Read more of this post

Spy agencies failed to share intelligence on Omagh bombing: report

Real IRA paradeBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A new report on the 1998 bombing of downtown Omagh by an Irish republican splinter group claims that the tragedy could have been avoided had British, Irish and American intelligence agencies shared information with British police. The car bomb attack was carried out on August 15, 1998, by the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA). The militant organization consisted of former Provisional Irish Republican Army volunteers who rejected the Good Friday Agreement, part of the Northern Ireland peace process. It devastated the small Northern Irish town of Omagh, killing 29 and injuring over 200 people, including six children, several teenagers and a woman who was pregnant with twins. There have been no criminal convictions in connection with the bombing, despite the fact that it was the single worst instance of violence in the so-called Northern Ireland Troubles, which began in the 1960s and ended in 1998, largely because of the Omagh bombing. But now a new report commissioned by the families of the victims of the bombing claims that intelligence services from three countries failed to share information with British police, which could have prevented the disaster in Omagh. The report, authored by a group of retired security experts on behalf of London-based law firm SBP, says the RIRA had been infiltrated by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Britain’s Security Service (MI5) and the Irish Garda’s Crime and Security Branch. These agencies, claims the report, had at least two informants inside the RIRA: a smalltime Irish criminal named Paddy Dixon, who frequently smuggled stolen cars from Ireland into Britain for use by the RIRA, and David Rupert, an American of Irish descent. Read more of this post

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