News you may have missed #892 (legislative update)

Jens MadsenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Canadian lawmakers vote to expand spy powers. Legislation that would dramatically expand the powers of Canada’s spy agency has cleared a key hurdle. The House of Commons on Wednesday approved the Anti-Terror Act, which was spurred by last year’s attack on parliament. The act would give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s (CSIS) the ability to operate overseas and make preventative arrests. It also makes it easier for police to arrest and detain individuals without charge. Dominated by the Conservative party, the Senate is expected to approve the act before June.
►►Danish spy chief resigns over Islamist attacks. The head of Denmark’s Police Intelligence Service (PET), Jens Madsen, quit just hours before a report was due to be released into February’s fatal shootings in Copenhagen by an Islamist. Omar El-Hussein killed two people at a free speech debate and a synagogue before being shot dead by police. “It’s no secret that it is a very demanding position,” said Madsen, without giving a reason for his resignation. Justice Minister Mette Frederiksen declined to say whether the move was linked to criticisms of the police response to the attack.
►►OSCE urges France to reconsider controversial spying bill. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe urged French lawmakers to reconsider provisions of a proposed law that would expand government surveillance, a measure that was backed by French parliamentarians on Tuesday, despite criticism from rights groups. “If enforced, these practices will impact the right of journalists to protect the confidentiality of sources and their overall work”, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic said Wednesday. “If confidentiality of sources is not safeguarded within a trusted communications environment, the right of journalists to seek and obtain information of public interest would be seriously endangered”, he added

France approves sweeping spy bill in response to Islamist attacks

Attack on Charlie HebdoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Lawmakers in the French National Assembly have overwhelmingly approved a new bill giving the country’s intelligence services unprecedented domestic spy capabilities. The bill, which is dismissed by critics as France’s version of the United States’ PATRIOT Act, was drafted by the ruling Socialist Party just days after a group of armed Islamists attacked several targets in Paris. The attacks were primarily directed against France’s popular satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo (see photo). A dozen members of the magazine’s staff, including several internationally-known cartoonists, were killed at the magazine’s headquarters in the French capital on January 7 of this year.

The newly approved bill provides blanket-approval for the wholesale interception and storage of communications metadata, which include information about the location and size of Internet-based communications exchanges. They also include information on the identities of those sending or receiving electronic messages. The legislation also includes a provision for the establishment of a new supervisory body called the National Commission for Control of Intelligence Techniques. Its mission will be to supervise the use of surveillance powers by France’s six intelligence agencies, as well as to handle complaints relating to communications interception from members of the public.

As the bill progressed through France’s houses of parliament, the French government and its supporters argued that the country needed national legislation that would take into consideration the rapid technical changes in digital telecommunications. But critics, which included most of France’s Internet service providers, claimed that the new law would give intelligence agencies unreasonably broad surveillance powers and would hamper online commerce. These claims, however, failed to convince lawmakers; the bill was thus approved by 438 votes for to 86 against. Most parliamentarians from France’s three main parties —the Socialist Party, the rightwing Union for a Popular Movement, and the centrist Union of Democrats and Independents— voted in favor of the bill. Observers noted with surprise that most lawmakers from the Radical Party of the Left also voted in favor of the bill. In contrast, the communist-led Left Front, as well as the Greens, voted overwhelmingly against the bill.

News you may have missed #819 (UKUSA edition)

Charles E. AllenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Aussie spies’ exemption from Freedom of Information laws to end? Currently, all Australian intelligence agencies are exempt from the operation of federal Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation that allows the public and journalists to seek access to government records. But now Australian Information Commissioner John McMillan has called for the intelligence agencies to no longer be exempted from FOI laws. Professor McMillan and FOI Commissioner James Popple have made the recommendation in a 97-page submission to the review of FOI laws by former Defence Department secretary and diplomat Allan Hawke.
►►US spy agencies move towards single super-cloud. The US intelligence community is developing a single cloud computing network to allow all its analysts to access and rapidly sift through massive volumes of data. Now in its eighth month, the goal of the effort is to connect the Central Intelligence Agency’s existing cloud to a new cloud run by the National Security Agency. This NSA-run network consists of five other intelligence agencies and the FBI. Both of these clouds can interoperate, but the CIA has its own unique needs because it must work with human intelligence, which necessitates keeping its cloud slightly separate, according to Charles Allen, formerly Undersecretary of Homeland Security for intelligence and analysis.
►►Canadian Army struggles with intelligence-gathering. The Canadian Army is trying to hold on to its intelligence-gathering capability and its ability to disrupt spying in the face of budget strain, according to documents from the Canadian Department of National Defence. The Canadian Press, which obtained the documents, says the Army is “anxious to protect HUMINT network and to better resource its counterintelligence abilities”, but is worried that its shrinking budget in the post-Afghanistan War era will cause “degradation” in those disciplines.

News you may have missed #815 (analysis edition)

Polygraph testBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Should polygraph tests be trusted?  US federal polygraph programs have flourished, targeting a growing number of private contractors with more intensely personal questions than ever before. More than 70,000 people are now screened yearly in the US. Yet thousands of people a year could be identified as lying in polygraph screenings when they are not, according to statistical models by the National Academies, which advises the federal government on scientific matters. Under the current system, many of them would have no way to legally challenge polygraphists’ conclusions, especially in the intelligence world.
►►Why the US does not need another law against intelligence leaks. Leonard Downie Jr., vice president at large of The Washington Post, warns that the 2013 Intelligence Authorization Act “would make it a crime for career intelligence officers to provide almost any type of information to the news media, whether the information is classified or not”. He argues that the proposed legislation would “end contacts that often benefit both the government and the public by allowing the exchange of accurate information about vital national security issues and intelligence activities, including abuses requiring attention”.
►►The preventable decline of British defense intelligence. Defense intelligence refers to something rather different from ‘military intelligence’. It takes place at the topmost levels of defense coordination and decision-making and draws together participation from all of the armed services with civilian subject-matter and technical experts and produce consolidated assessments for senior civil servants, ministers and the service chiefs of staff. Philip Davies, director of the Brunel Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies in the United Kingdom, argues that, in Britain, defense and military intelligence remains “something of a poor cousin in the intelligence community, the eternal Peter robbed to pay the Paul of other, seemingly more urgent, defense expenditure and policy priorities”.

News you may have missed #742

'Spy rock' used in AfghanistanBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Obama warns Congress of overspending on intelligence. The administration of US President Barack Obama is warning that it has “serious concerns” about a 2013 intelligence authorization bill that the House of Representatives passed on Thursday, because it authorizes spending on intelligence activities that go well beyond President Obama’s request. Despite this concern, the administration said that it “does not oppose” the Intelligence Authorization Act, HR 5743, instead supporting language that would repeal some reporting obligations that the government now has to Congress.
►►US forces use fake rocks to spy on Afghans. Palm-sized sensors, disguised as rocks, developed for the American military, will remain littered across the Afghan countryside –detecting anyone who moves nearby and reporting their locations back to a remote headquarters. Some of these surveillance tools could be buried in the ground, all-but-unnoticeable by passersby. These rocks contain wafer-sized, solar-rechargeable batteries that could enable the sensors’ operation for perhaps as long as two decades. Hmm…where have we seen this before?
►►Pakistan spy chief postpones US trip. Pakistan’s spymaster, Lieutenant-General Zahir ul-Islam, has postponed a trip to the United States in the latest sign of the dire state of relations between two supposed allies in the war against Islamist extremists. America has stepped up drone strikes on Pakistani territory in the week since the two countries failed to reach an agreement on NATO supply convoys at a summit in Chicago. Last week, officials in Washington also condemned Pakistan’s decision to jail a doctor who helped the CIA hunt Osama bin Laden.

News you may have missed #741

Glenn CarleBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►MI6 role in rendition could be concealed in new bill. Libyan government officials Sami al-Saadi and Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who allege that they were taken by rendition by Britain to Libya eight years ago, are expected to begin legal proceedings against the British government and Jack Straw, Britain’s former foreign secretary, next month. However, after pressure from the security services, MI5 and MI6, the British government is preparing to publish a Justice and Security Bill that could allow these cases to be held in their entirety behind closed doors.
►►Aussie spy agency defends new headquarters. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation says its new headquarters in Canberra is not at risk of being spied upon, despite the use of a lot of glass. ASIO director general David Irvine told a senate committee on Thursday it would be impossible for someone with a high resolution camera on the other side of Lake Burley Griffin to spy on the nation’s spies. Australian Greens senator Scott Ludlam had asked whether the design of the “glass palace” could threaten the secrecy of its work.
►►Good interview with ex-CIA officer Glenn Carle. In this interview, Carle, a retired CIA case officer who wrote The Interrogator: An Education, says his former employers have called his publisher asking them to pulp his book; they rang every major network to prevent him going on air. They are, he says several times, “vicious” and have perpetrated a stain on America’s national character.

News you may have missed #576 (Europe edition)

GCHQ

GCHQ

►►Inside Britain’s signals intelligence agency. This account of the work of Britain’s General Communications Headquarters is a bit basic, but it’s not every day that the GCHQ grants access to a journalist to its Cheltenham base.
►►Czech telecoms to share data with intel services. The Czech Interior Ministry has placed a clause in the planned amendment to the electronic communications law, under which operators of communication networks will have to provide data on cell phones and the Internet to the civilian and military counterintelligence.
►►Dutch F-16 pilot suspected of espionage. A Dutch former F-16 pilot suspected of espionage, identified only as Chris V., had more state secrets in his possession than he previously admitted to, according to public prosecutors in The Hague. The pilot was arrested last April and stands accused of leaking state secrets to a colonel from Belarus.

News you may have missed #549

Lo Hsien-che

Lo Hsien-che

►►Taiwan general who spied for China gets life. A court in Taiwan has sentenced Lo Hsien-che to life imprisonment, for spying for the People’s Republic of China. As intelNews reported before, Major General Lo gave national secrets to his mistress, a “tall, beautiful and chic” Chinese female operative, who held an Australian passport. Taiwanese counterintelligence investigators said this was Taiwan’s most serious espionage scandal in almost fifty years.
►►Did German intelligence protect world’s most wanted Nazi criminal? The German intelligence service, the BND, destroyed the file of the world’s most-wanted Nazi criminal, Alois Brunner, and may have tried to recruit him into its ranks, German newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported over the weekend. The order to destroy Brunner’s file came “at some point between 1994 and 1997″, according to the magazine. Few of those knowledgeable of BND’s history will be surprised. Incidentally, intelligence observers may remember that, in 1961 and 1980, Brunner, who lived in Syria, was injured by postal bombs sent by Mossad agents.
►►Analysis: New Czech spy law will not curtail abuse. Authorities in the Czech Republic have drafted a new law aimed, partly, at limiting the mandates of the country’s domestic Security and Information Service (BIS) and the Office of Foreign Relations and Information (ÚZSI) –the Czech foreign espionage agency. Read more of this post

Israel to revoke citizenship for spying under new law

Avigdor Lieberman

Avigdor Lieberman

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A new law passed by the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, allows courts for the first time in Israel’s history to revoke the Israeli citizenship of those convicted of espionage, treason, or aiding “enemy organizations”. The new law, which the Knesset enacted on Monday night by a vote of 37 to 11, amends the country’s revered Citizenship Law, which was first enacted in 1952. Along with citizenship rights, judges will be allowed to revoke the permanent residency permits of individuals found guilty of assisting organizations designated as terrorist by the Israeli government. The legislation was primarily sponsored by the ultraconservative Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home) party, which is led by Israel’s current Minister of Foreign Affairs, Avigdor Lieberman. During the 2009 national elections, Mr. Lieberman campaigned on a so-called “no loyalty, no citizenship” political platform. This ultranationalist stance formed the basis of the citizenship revocation legislation enacted on Monday. The new law is in fact a watered down version of Yisrael Beiteinu’s original proposal, which included a requirement for loyalty oaths administered to all non-Jews living in Israel. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #486

  • Hundreds of US officials to leave Pakistan in Davis deal [unconfirmed]. Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune claims that 331 US officials in Pakistan have been identified by Islamabad as spies and are “to leave the country”, under a secret deal between Pakistan and the United States. The alleged deal was reportedly struck between the two sides as part of the release of Raymond Davis, a CIA operative who shot dead two people in Lahore.
  • Australian government unveils new spy legislation. The Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Bill, which has been unveiled by the Australian government, contains changes to the intelligence services and criminal code legislation designed to “improve the operational capabilities of key spy agencies“, according to the country’s Attorney-General.
  • Dutch military intelligence: closed on Sundays. A Dutch government-commissioned report has revealed that the country’s military intelligence service, the MIVD, played no role in the decision, earlier this month, to attempt an evacuation operation by helicopter near the Libyan city of Sirte. The reason is because the evacuation took place on a Sunday, and requests for intelligence went unnoticed at MIVD headquarters.

News you may have missed #370

  • Ukrainians ‘not spying any more’ on Russian FSB. Ukrainian counterintelligence services have stopped monitoring Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officials stationed in Ukraine, according to a leading Ukrainian weekly. Ukrainian-Russian relations have dramatically improved since February, when Ukraine’s pro-Moscow leader Viktor Yanukovych was elected President.
  • US House votes to allow auditing of spy agencies. Despite several veto threats from the White House, the US House of Representatives has adopted an amendment to defense authorization bill HR 5136, which would give the Government Accountability Office the power to audit intelligence agencies.
  • Leading Turkish daily wiretapped. Turkish former deputy police chief Emin Aslan, who was arrested in 2009 in a drug trafficking investigation, says he was told in 2008 that the phone lines at Turkey’s leading daily Milliyet were wiretapped. The wiretapping appears to be connected to the notorious Ergenekon affair.

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Senate bill proposes closer links between US spies, private sector

Olympia Snowe

Olympia Snowe

By IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
A bipartisan bill, unveiled yesterday in the US Senate, proposes closer links between US intelligence agencies and private sector companies active in areas of “critical infrastructure”. Drafted and proposed by Republican senator Olympia Snowe and Democrat Jay Rockefeller, the legislation builds on concerns by government officials that US energy and telecommunications systems may not be able to sustain a concentrated cyber-attack by a foreign government agency or organized cybercriminal group. The major practical problem in terms of the government protecting these systems is that most have been deregulated since the Reagan era, and are now almost entirely under the control of private corporations. According to the bill, the US government would have to define the term “critical infrastructure”, and then designate the companies in control of such infrastructure networks as “critical partners” in protecting strategic national interests. Read more of this post

US court upholds NSA’s refusal to admit or deny wiretap data

Glomar Challenger

The Glomar

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A US federal appeals court has concluded that the National Security Agency can refuse to admit or deny it possesses information about the US government spying on lawyers representing Guantánamo prison detainees. The decision by the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York relates to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request under a civil liberties lawsuit challenging post-9/11 warrantless surveillance operations by US agencies. The latter typically respond to most FOIA requests by confirming or denying possession of information relating to particular requests, and then by proceeding to either deny release, or release selected segments of the requested data. It is rare for an agency to refuse even to acknowledge the existence of information sought through FOIA. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0224

  • Parts 6 and 7 of CIA defector’s writings now available. Former FBI counterintelligence agent Robert Eringer has published the sixth and seventh installments (chapters 2 and 3 of “The Spy’s Cookbook”) of the writings of Edward Lee Howard, a CIA officer who defected to the USSR in 1985 (see here for previous intelNews coverage). In part six, Howard writes about the methodology of visiting (among other places) the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, DC. In part seven, he advises that the only time a double agent’s handlers should call the agent’s home is to tell him or her to “get out and leave the country!”.
  • Congressional vote on US PATRIOT Act delayed. The US House of Representatives tabled on Wednesday legislation to reform US domestic surveillance law. The Senate is likewise expected to delay the matter. The delays will automatically extend provisions of the PATRIOT Act that would otherwise expire at year’s end.

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Could Order 65 signify the end of communications privacy in Russia?

FSB agent

FSB agent

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
As of July 21, Russian postal services and Internet providers are required by law to provide Russian intelligence agents with on demand access to the dispatch information and content of private correspondence. This is stipulated in Order 65, which the Russian government and the Russian Ministry of Communications made public on July 6.  Apart from granting automatic communications inspection rights to officers of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and seven other intelligence and security organizations of the Russian state, the new law requires all Russian post office sorting facilities to set up “special rooms where security officers will be able to open and inspect private mail”. Additionally, all Internet service providers are now required to grant the FSB and other intelligence and security agencies complete access to their electronic databases. Read more of this post

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