News you may have missed #848

US consulate in Benghazi, LibyaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►UK officials saw ‘communist spies’ in Japan in 1983. British officials believed in the early 1980s that Japanese institutions had been “slightly” penetrated by communist intelligence services, according to documents declassified last week at the National Archives in London. The documents, from 1983, assert that there were approximately 220 communist intelligence officers working in Japan: 100 for the Soviet Union, 60 for China and 60 for other communist countries.
►►‘Dozens of CIA operatives on the ground’ during Benghazi attack. CNN claims that “dozens of people working for the CIA” were on the ground the night of the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. The news station adds that, according to one source, the CIA is involved in “an unprecedented attempt to keep [its] Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out”.
►►Australians call for national debate on privatization of intelligence. Dr Troy Whitford, Associate Investigator with the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security, and lecturer at Charles Sturt University, has called for “a national debate on the extent, cost and consequences of Australia’s security and intelligence outsourcing”. The call was apparently prompted by news that 51% of the intelligence gathering in the US is now carried out by non-government contractors.

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News you may have missed #841 (Snowden leak analysis)

Edward SnowdenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US officials defend spy programs as safeguards against terror. Intelligence officials sought to convince US House lawmakers in an unusual briefing that the government’s years-long collection of phone records and Internet usage is necessary for protecting Americans —and does not trample on their privacy rights. The parade of FBI and intelligence officials who briefed the entire House on Tuesday was the latest attempt to soothe outrage over NSA programs which collect billions of Americans’ phone and Internet records.
►►Some in US intelligence see Chinese behind Snowden leak. Former CIA officer Bob Baer told CNN that some US intelligence officials “are seriously looking at [the revelations made by Edward Snowden] as a potential Chinese covert action. Hong Kong is controlled by Chinese intelligence”, Baer told CNN Sunday evening. “It’s not an independent part of China at all. I’ve talked to a bunch of people in Washington today, in official positions, and they are looking at this as a potential Chinese espionage case”.
►►Leak highlights risk of outsourcing US spy work. The explosive leak uncovering America’s vast surveillance program highlights the risks Washington takes by entrusting so much of its defense and spy work to private firms, experts say. Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old man whose leak uncovered how spy agencies sift through phone records and Internet traffic, is among a legion of private contractors who make up nearly 30 percent of the workforce in intelligence agencies. From analyzing intelligence to training new spies, jobs that were once performed by government employees are now carried out by paid contractors, in a dramatic shift that began in the 1990s amid budget pressures.

British spy agency to scrap $140m IT system over security fears

DeloitteBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, MI5, has decided to “accept defeat” and scrap a multimillion digital records management program over fears it could create a dangerous “intelligence vacuum”. The program, which has so far cost the British taxpayer over £90 million ($140 million) in payments to private consultants, was first conceived in the run-up to the London 2012 summer Olympic Games. While evaluating terrorist-related threats posed by the hosting of the Games in the United Kingdom, British security officials decided that the government-wide intelligence-sharing system in place was archaic and in need of serious overhaul. They hired a group of senior IT management consultants from Deloitte, one of the world’s largest professional services firm, headquartered in New York, NY. The pricey corporate experts were tasked with helping MI5 digitally collate intelligence data collected or produced by all departments of the British government. Deloitte’s planning team had projected that the multi-million dollar system would be in place and operational by the summer of 2012, before the Olympic Games were held in London. This, however, proved wildly optimistic; Deloitte barely managed to scrape together a watered-down version of the promised records management program in late 2012. When the program was tested by MI5’s intelligence collection managers, it was found to contain serious errors that, according to British newspaper The Independent, could leave the country’s intelligence agencies “vulnerable and struggling with an intelligence vacuum”. When initially questioned about the Deloitte debacle by British lawmakers, MI5’s (now retired) Director, Sir Jonathan Evans, told the frustrated members of the British House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee not to worry. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #797

Mohamed MorsiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Egypt names new intelligence chief. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi last week issued a decree naming Mohammed Raafat Shehata the country’s new head of intelligence, after the former spy chief was forced into retirement. Shehata had been acting director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Services Directorate since August 8, when his predecessor Murad Muwafi was sacked, after after gunmen killed 16 Egyptian border guards in Sinai.
►►Ex-Blackwater firm to teach US spies survival skills. The Defense Intelligence Agency announced on Thursday evening it would award six private security companies a share of a $20 million contract to provide “individual protective measures training courses” for its operatives. Among them is Academi, the 3.0 version of Blackwater, now under new ownership and management. The US military’s intelligence service is hiring the firm, along with five others, to train its operatives to defend themselves as they collect information in dangerous places.
►►Turkey court convicts 326 of coup plotting. A Turkish court on Friday convicted 326 military officers, including the former air force and navy chiefs, of plotting to overthrow the nation’s Islamic-based government in 2003, in a case that has helped curtail the military’s hold on politics. A panel of three judges at the court on Istanbul’s outskirts initially sentenced former air force chief Ibrahim Firtina, former navy chief Ozden Ornek, and former army commander Cetin Dogan, to life imprisonment but later reduced the sentence to a 20-year jail term because the plot had been unsuccessful. The trial of the high-ranking officers —inconceivable in Turkey a decade ago— has helped significantly to tip the balance of power in the country in favor of civilian authorities.

News you may have missed #721

Yuval DiskinBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US spies clash with military over outsourcing spy satellites. Members of the US intelligence community and the military are finding themselves on opposite sides regarding the future of American spy satellites. Since the US first began using satellites to collect intelligence data, the government largely relied on its own technology. But in recent years, as private companies have developed sophisticated satellites of their own, Washington has been increasingly relying on commercial sources for spy missions. Now senior intelligence officials have urged the Obama administration to move away from relying on commercial satellite imagery.
►►Israeli ex-spy criticizes plans for war with Iran. Many Israeli retired officials have criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, but the censure from Yuval Diskin, who stepped down as head of the Shin Bet domestic intelligence service last year, was especially harsh. “I have no faith in the prime minister, nor in the defense minister”, Diskin said in the remarks broadcast by Israeli media on Saturday. “I really don’t have faith in a leadership that makes decisions out of messianic feelings”. Speaking in New York, former Mossad Director Meir Dagan said simply that Diskin “spoke his own truth”.
►►Litvinenko’s widow still waiting for answers. In 2000, after Vladimir Putin became President of the Russian Federation, KGB/FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko fled with his family to the UK, where they claimed political asylum and, later, British citizenship. During his time in London, Litvinenko consulted for MI5 and MI6, worked at a corporate security agency, and wrote two books, including Blowing Up Russia, which alleged that the Russian apartment bombings of 1999 were organized by the FSB, to justify war with Chechnya and sweep Putin into power. He died in 2006 of radioactive poisoning. Six years on, Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, says she is still waiting for answers.

News you may have missed #673

Jeffrey Paul DelisleBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Israel outsources intelligence-gathering to rightwing groups. The government and military of Israel have unofficially outsourced some of their intelligence work to private organizations that monitor anti-Israel incitement in the Palestinian media and are associated with right-wing politics, according to several high-ranking government and military sources.
►►NATO report finds Pakistan spies help Taliban. The BBC says it has seen a NATO report stating that the Taliban in Afghanistan are being directly assisted by Pakistani security services. The leaked report, derived from material from 27,000 interrogations with more than 4,000 captured Taliban, al-Qaeda and other foreign fighters and civilians, also claims Pakistan knows the locations of senior Taliban leaders. The US said exactly the same thing last September.
►►Another Russian diplomat ‘leaves’ Canada. Another Russian diplomat has left Canada. Dmitry Gerasimov, a consular officer with the Russian government’s office in Toronto, left in January. He is the second diplomat that the Russian embassy in Canada acknowledges has quit this country in January. The other was Colonel Sergey Zhukov, the defense attaché for the Russian government in Ottawa. All totaled, six Russian diplomats that have been dropped from Ottawa’s list of recognized foreign representatives in the last 11 days. It’s not clear which, if any, of recent these exits can be tied to the Jeffrey Paul Delisle spy controversy.

News you may have missed #670: Analysis edition

Michael ChertoffBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Some argue US DHS should change intelligence mission. A decade after Congress created the Department of Homeland Security, the Aspen Homeland Security Group, which is co-chaired by former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff (pictured), says it is time for the agency to shift its focus from foreign threats to working with local governments and the private sector. Aspen pushes for even more intelligence outsourcing —no surprises there.
►►Not-so-covert Iran war buys West time but raises tension. “Ten out of 10. They hit the target and nobody got caught”, former US intelligence officer Robert Ayers told Reuters of the January 11 killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan. “What makes these things so impressive is they gather a lot of information and do their ‘on the ground’ homework, which can take months”. Sidney Alford, a British explosives expert, says the hit was technically “professional. It worked and it worked very well”.
►►Inside Mossad’s war on Tehran. “In the five attacks on nuclear scientists, the hit squad has used a motorbike every time. The motorcyclist is ubiquitous in the capital’s traffic jams, often wearing a surgical mask for protection against the heavy pollution and able to move close to the target between the lines of stationary cars without attracting attention”.

News you may have missed #661

Reza KahliliBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Britain increases pay for key intelligence staff. Having seen many of its key intelligence staff lured away by tech heavyweights like Google and Microsoft, the UK government is apparently offering bonuses and payouts to key intelligence staff to ensure they don’t leave their jobs at the Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ). The UK Cabinet Office has stated that the bonuses to be paid to its key staff have been already given the green light.
►►Ex-CIA spy sees split in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Reza Kahlili (codenamy WALLY) is the pseudonym used by an Iranian defector to the US, who claims to have worked as a CIA agent in the 1980s and early 1990s. Kahlili (pictured), who says he was a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the ideological protectors of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, argues that a serious split is developing within the IRGC, with one faction favoring the overthrow of the government.
►►A rare look at Fort Bragg’s Special Warfare Center. The US Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg is a CIA-approved paramilitary training facility, aimed at members of the US Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and Marine Corps special operators. The piece claims –rather unconvincingly– that the Center is “an illustration of how special operations and intelligence forces have reached an easier coexistence, after early clashes where CIA officers accused the military operators of ineptly trying to run their own spy rings overseas without State Department or CIA knowledge”.

News you may have missed #648

Academi HQ

►►IntelNews editor interviewed on RT. IntelNews senior editor, Dr Joseph Fitsanakis, was interviewed yesterday on the main news program of the popular international news channel RT. The interview, concerning the rebranding of private security company Xe Services (formerly Blackwater) to Academi, can be watched here (watch video at the bottom of the page).
►►Contractors making a killing working in UK cyberdefense. Britain has spent more than £100 million ($160 million) in the past year on consultants to combat cyber espionage and the growing use of the internet by terrorists. Now, members of Parliament are investigating the soaring costs of employing private contractors, some paid the equivalent of £150,000 a year, three times the average wage at GCHQ, the UK’s signals intelligence agency.
►►Japan launches second spy satellite. Japan’s space agency, JAXA, has launched an intelligence-gathering satellite, its second this year. Japan launched its first pair of spy satellites in 2003, prompted by concerns over North Korea’s missile program. It currently has four optical information-gathering satellites in orbit. Officials refused to provide details of the capabilities of the most recently launched satellite.

News you may have missed #639

GCHQ

GCHQ

►►GCHQ will sell cyberdefense tech to private firms. The GCHQ, Britain’s signals intelligence agency, is to market some of its security technologies to companies in the private sector, in an attempt to bolster defenses against the foreboding threat of cyberwarfare. The UK government’s “cyber security strategy”, which was unveiled this month, has earmarked £650 million in public funding to set up a four-year National Cyber Security Program, a percentage of which will be used to collaborate with private companies. Click here for an excellent analysis on the public-private cybersecurity collaboration in Britain.
►►Was there a coup attempt in Trinidad? Many in Trinidad and Tobago were expressing skepticism yesterday about an alleged assassination plot, which Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said had been uncovered against her and several of her ministers. Police said nearly a dozen people had been arrested, including members of the army and police, but authorities have not given more details, citing the need to maintain security in operations to dismantle the plot.
►►US Senators resist $7 Billion in spending cuts for spy satellites. The Obama Administration wants to stop incessant spending by Defense Department contractors, especially those who have wasted billions of US taxpayers’ money in failed spy satellite projects. But the contractors’ friends in Congress, including lawmakers on the US Senate Intelligence Committee, are trying to stop the White House from cutting a $7 billion commercial satellite program being developed by GeoEye Inc. and DigitalGlobe Inc. What else is new?

News you may have missed #597

Abdel Hakim Belhaj

Abdel Belhaj

►►Inside the CIA’s secret Thai prison. The United States Central Intelligence Agency appears to have used Bangkok’s former Don Muang International Airport as a secret prison to torture Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who is now the commander of rebel Libyan military forces in Tripoli. If true, Belhaj’s allegations are the first public descriptions of a CIA black site in Thailand. Bangkok-based journalist Richard S Ehrlich investigates.
►►How is the US government using security contractors? “Mark Lowenthal, who was a high-ranking CIA official before joining the contractor work force, told the [US House Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee] that during his time as assistant director of Central Intelligence for Analysis and Production, half of his staff was made up of contractors”.
►►Leaked cables show Australia nuclear power push. In 2008, John Carlson, head of the Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation Office, which acts as the country’s nuclear safeguard authority, advised the then prime minister Kevin Rudd that no scheme to limit carbon emissions would succeed without the building of civilian nuclear power stations, according to leaked US diplomatic cables. When contacted by the media, Carlson refused to confirm or deny the accuracy of the revelations.

News you may have missed #584

Nicky Hager

Nicky Hager

►►Billing dispute reveals details of secret CIA flights. On August 12, 2003, a conracted Gulfstream IV aircraft carrying six passengers took off from Dulles International Airport for Bangkok. When it returned four days later, it carried Indonesian terrorist Riduan Isamuddin, who had been captured in Thailand and would spend the next three years in various secret CIA prisons. The Gulfstream IV’s itinerary, as well as the $339,228 price tag for the journey, are among the details of shadowy CIA flights that have emerged in a New York courthouse, in a billing dispute between contractors. Incidentally, even the airplanes’ owners didn’t always know that the CIA was using them.
►►French admit secret service spied on reporter. French interior minister Claude Guéant has admitted that the secret service spied on investigative reporter Gérard Davet, from the newspaper Le Monde, in order to trace the source of a leak about the so-called “Bettencourt party funding scandal“, which has been a source of embarrassment for President Nicolas Sarkozy’s party.
►►NZ let Israeli spies go free in return for passports. Another revelation from Nicky Hager’s book Other People’s Wars (see previous intelNews coverage here). The investigative reporter claims that New Zealand’s Security Intelligence Service released captured Mossad spies Eli Cara and Uriel Zoshe Kelman, in return for Read more of this post

Western spies, security contractors, won Libyan war for rebels

Libya

Libya

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
As I write these lines, celebratory gunfire is being heard all across Tripoli and the rebel National Transitional Council is appointing civilians to replace the crumbling administration of longtime Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi. But a handful of news outlets discreetly remind us that the rebels’ claim to victory rests on vital covert assistance provided by several Western intelligence services. British daily The Independent notes that the victorious rebels were assisted on all levels by “an army of [British] diplomats, spooks, military advisers and former members of the special forces”, all of whom allowed “London to influence events in Libya beyond the activities of warplanes and naval vessels”. Early indications of Britain’s substantial covert involvement in the Libyan civil war emerged in March, when a secret operation involving a team of 20 Special Air Service (SAS) personnel was disrupted by a group of Libyan rebels, who thought the foreigners were employed by the Libyan government. Eight captured SAS members were soon released by the red-faced rebels, but not before the botched operation had made headlines all over the world. That experience prompted British intelligence planners to rethink their methodology. Eventually, notes The Independent, the British government decided to prompt the rebel National Transitional Council to use British funds to hire teams of former special forces operatives working for private security firms. This, according to the paper, accounts for the “small groups of [...] Caucasian males, many with British accents [and] equipped with sunglasses, 4×4 vehicles and locally acquired weaponry, who [were] seen regularly by reporters in the vanguard of the rebels’ haphazard journey [...] towards Tripoli”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #542

Sir John Chilcot

Sir John Chilcot

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Ex-spy says MI6 cut corners to back Blair’s Iraq war case. Britain’s ongoing Iraq Inquiry headed by Sir John Chilcot, heard last week from a former spy, identified in documents only as “SIS2″. The witness said that MI6 was “probably too eager to please” the government and was guilty of “flying a bit too close to the sun”. He was referring to the intelligence support provided by MI6 in support of the case for entering the Iraq War, made by the Labour government of Prime Minister Tony blair in 2003. He also told the committee that “the pressure to generate results, I fear, did lead to the cutting of corners”. ►►Medical group criticizes CIA’s vaccination scheme. A whimiscal tone prevails in most articles on the recent revelation that the CIA tried to collect DNA evidence on Osama bin Laden by running a phony vaccination program in Abbottabad, Pakistan. But medical groups engaged in organizing vaccination schemes are not amused. French-based international medical aid charity Médecins Sans Frontières has lashed out at the CIA because, it said, by using a medical cover for its assassination scheme, the Agency endangered those who conduct life-saving immunization work around the world. Read more of this post

Security minister, ex-spy directors arrested in Hungary

Gyorgy Szilvasy

Gyorgy Szilvasy

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
One former government minister and two former directors of Hungary’s domestic intelligence service have been arrested on suspicion on espionage, according to reports. On June 28, Hungarian police arrested Lajos Galambos, who was Director of Hungary’s National Security Office (NBH) from 2004 to 2007. Three days later, on July 1, police forces arrested Sandor Laborc, who succeeded Galambos as NBH director, and Gyorgy Szilvasy (pictured), who was minister in charge of overseeing the civilian security services from 2007 to 2009. All three served in key government positions during the socialist government of former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany. Despite repeated media request, government prosecutors have refused to disclose the precise nature of the charges against the three officials, except to say that they are suspected of having committed “crimes against the state”. One Hungarian daily, Tabloid Blikk, suggested that the arrests are linked to the Egymasert Public Foundation, headed by wanted fugitive Robert Jakubinyi.  Egymasert was found last year to have been used to facilitate money laundering and the illegal sale of shares. But other reports interpret the high-level arrests as a form of political payback for the so-called ‘UD Zrt affair’, also known as ‘the Hungarian Watergate’, which rocked Hungarian public opinion in 2008. Read more of this post

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