News you may have missed #849 (analysis edition)

Edward SnowdenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Are American spies the next victims of the Internet age? The furor over the NSA’s data collection and surveillance programs has been fierce. But Daniel Prieto, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, argues that the debate should be focusing on the US intelligence apparatus, transformed in the dozen years since 9/11, can meet the challenges and that the US faces today and into the future. He asks whether the “business model” of US intelligence –how intelligence is gathered, analyzed, and used– is sufficient and sustainable, or whether it needs to evolve to “something different or something more”.
►►What did Edward Snowden get wrong? Everything. Andrew Liepman, senior analyst at RAND Corporation, former career officer at the CIA, and former deputy director of the US National Counterterrorism Center, offers an insider’s view on the Edward Snowden case. He argues that those following the Snowden saga fail to understand that the US government “truly does make strenuous efforts not to violate privacy”. This is not simply because it respects privacy on principle, he says, but also because “it simply doesn’t have the time” to access irrelevant information that is not closely connected to possible espionage or terrorist plots against Americans.
►►Why US diplomatic missions became fortresses. Even during the Cold War, American diplomatic facilities were designed to be welcoming and to project the American values of openness and individual liberty. No more, argues John Campbell, former US Ambassador to Nigeria and Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Nowadays, US diplomatic facilities increasingly showcase “Fortress America”, he argues. And he concludes that, “the need to subordinate so much to security diminishes US soft power by undermining its traditional message of openness and welcome”.

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MI5 chief credited with ‘transforming the agency’ to step down

Jonathan EvansBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The head of MI5, Britain’s primary domestic intelligence agency, is to step down at the end of this month, it has been announced. Sir Jonathan Evans is widely credited with transforming MI5, also known as the Security Service, in one of the agency’s most turbulent periods following 9/11/2001. A career MI5 officer, Sir Jonathan entered MI5 in 1980 and eventually joined the agency’s G-Branch, which focuses on international counter-terrorism. He rose to lead G-Branch just 10 days before the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent launch of America’s ‘war on terrorism’. In 2005, Evans was faced with another major crisis as chief of G-Branch, when Britain suffered the bloody July 7 suicide attacks —also known as the 7/7 attacks— which killed 56 and injured nearly 1,000 people. Two years later, in 2007, he rose to the post of Director General at MI5, replacing Eliza Manningham-Buller (now Baroness Manningham-Buller), who had been only the second female intelligence officer to head the organization. Perhaps inevitably, considering world events, Evans helped steer MI5’s operational focus away from Irish republican groups and toward Islamist-inspired militancy in the United Kingdom and beyond. In early 2009, in a move that stunned some intelligence insiders, Evans gave the first public interview by a serving MI5 Director General in the organization’s 100-year history. He answered questions in a face-to-face interview with a carefully selected group of security correspondents representing a handful of British media outlets. The event was seen as reflecting a sea of change in the culture of MI5 —an agency that had never revealed the identities of its Director Generals until 1990. Later in the same year, however, Sir Jonathan caused controversy by suggesting during a public lecture that the intelligence extracted by torturing suspects after 9/11 had stopped “many attacks” on Western and other targets. Read more of this post

Secret report warns US spy mission distorted by ‘war on terror’

CIA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
America’s concentration on the ‘war on terrorism’ has distorted the mission and scope of its Intelligence Community, according to a secret report commissioned by the White House. The classified report was compiled by the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, which counsels Barack Obama on intelligence matters. It cautions the President that the intelligence output of organizations such as the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency has been disabled by tunnel vision and operational fatigue in the pursuit of al-Qaeda. The study also states that the overwhelming focus on Islamic militancy has distracted US intelligence from focusing on state actors such as China, and has hampered the success American intelligence operations outside Muslim regions of the world. The Washington Post, which disclosed the existence of the report on Thursday, said the team of 14 advisers that produced the report was led by “influential figures” on Capitol Hill, such as Chuck Hagel, Obama’s new Secretary of Defense. The paper added that, based on comments made by senior Obama Administration officials in recent months, it appears that the classified study, which was authored last year, has been adopted by the Obama White House as a major policy directive. The Post suggested that the report prompted comments earlier this year by John O. Brennan, the CIA’s new Director, that he planned to reevaluate the Agency’s “allocation of mission” as a matter of priority. However, countering the operational fatigue caused by the nearly 15-year long ‘war on terrorism’ will take time, and it remains unclear whether agencies like the CIA can ever shed the paramilitary role they acquired under the Administration of US President George W. Bush. Read more of this post

Analysis: Should the CIA kill less and spy more?

CIA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Central Intelligence Agency’s awkward silence about the recent resignation of its Director, General David Petraeus, is indicative of an organization that remains distinctly uncomfortable with publicity. The added layer of the sexual nature of Petraeus’ impropriety has increased exponentially the degree of unease at Langley. Yet sooner or later the news media will move on to something else and General Petraeus will fade into the distance. For seasoned intelligence observers, however, the question of the CIA’s future will remain firmly in the foreground. In an interview earlier this week with Wired magazine, former CIA Director General Michael Hayden (ret.) opined that Petraeus’ resignation presents the Agency with the opportunity to return to its operational roots. Hayden, who led the CIA from 2006 to 2009, said that the Agency has been “laser-focused on terrorism” for many years. Consequently, much of its operational output “looks more like targeting than it does classical intelligence”, he said. His views were echoed by the CIA’s former Acting Director, John McLaughlin, who told Wired that the most significant challenge for the post-Petraeus CIA “may be the sheer volume of problems that require [good old-fashioned] intelligence input”. Yesterday, meanwhile, saw the publication of two opinion pieces by two of America’s most experienced intelligence watchers. In the first one, The Washington Post’s Walter Pincus urges United States President Barack Obama to pause and think about the role of America’s foremost external intelligence organization before appointing a successor to General Petraeus. For over a decade, argues Pincus, the CIA’s focus has been to fulfill covert-action tasks in the context of Washington’s so-called “war on terrorism”. But through this process, the Agency “has become too much of a paramilitary organization” and has neglected its primary institutional role, which is to be “the premier producer and analyst of intelligence for policymakers, using both open and clandestine sources”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #719

Benny GantzBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Iran says it has cracked US spy drone secrets. Iran claims it has cracked the encryption on the computer software onboard a US RQ-170 Sentinel drone which crashed in the country in December. General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guards aerospace division, said engineers were decoding the last pieces of data from the spy plane, which came down near the Afghan border. An Iranian defense official recently said that Tehran has had several requests for information on the craft and that China and Russia have shown an interest.
►►Israel steps up covert operations says defense chief. Israel’s defense chief, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, has confirmed his forces are carrying out increased special operations beyond the country’s borders. In an interview published on Wednesday to mark the eve of Israel’s Independence Day, Gantz said Israel was ready to attack Iran’s nuclear sites if ordered to do so. But he added that did not mean he was about to order the air force to strike. He also said that he had increased the number of covert Israeli operations in other countries, but gave no details. “I do not think you will find a point in time where there is not something happening, somewhere in the world”, he said.
►►US Pentagon plans new intelligence-gathering service. The US Pentagon is revamping its spy operations to focus on high-priority targets like Iran and China in a reorganization that reflects a shift away from the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan that have dominated America’s security landscape for the past decade. Under the plan approved last week by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, case officers from the new Defense Clandestine Service would work more closely with counterparts from the Central Intelligence Agency at a time when the military and spy agency are increasingly focused on similar threats.

News you may have missed #626

Katia Zatuliveter

Katia Zatuliveter

►►Analysis: On largely forgotten CIA officer Jim Thompson. The CIA’s longtime man in Southeast Asia, Jim Thompson, fought to stop the agency’s progression from a small spy ring to a large paramilitary agency. He was in many ways unique, but by the 1950s and early 1960s he would become part of a larger, growing, and much less idealistic machine, one that would expose his naiveté –and punish him for it. Interesting historical analysis from Foreign Policy.
►►Court blocks naming NATO official who had affair with alleged Russian spy. We have written before that Katia Zatuliveter, who is accused by British MI5 of being a spy for Russia, has admitted having a four-year affair with Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock, as well as with a Dutch diplomat and a NATO official. The latter, a German diplomat, was pictured in a newspaper last week. However, his face was obscured because of the terms of a court order that means he cannot be identified.
►►Promises made about Colombia’s new spy agency. Colombia’s disgraced DAS intelligence agency has finally been dissolved. Now the government’s senior National Security adviser, Sergio Jaramillo, has said that Colombia’s new intelligence service will focus on combating “government infiltration by criminal organizations”. I guess it doesn’t hurt to be ambitious.

Exclusive: Interview with ex-CIA officer Charles S. Faddis

Charles S. Faddis

Charles S. Faddis

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Yesterday I reviewed Charles S. Faddis’ new book, Codename Aphrodite (Orion, 2011), a gripping novel about a former CIA case officer’s freelance operation in Athens, Greece, in pursuit of November 17, one of Europe’s most notorious urban guerrilla groups. Today intelNews hosts an exclusive interview with Faddis, a straight-talking ex-CIA clandestine operations officer, who admits that his novel “is based on some very personal experiences” and that many of the book’s characters “are drawn much more from memory than they are from imagination”. Most regular readers of this blog probably know Charles “Sam” Faddis as the former head of the US National Terrorism Center‘s WMD Unit. His 20-year career as a CIA operations officer, with posts in South Asia, Near East and Europe, arguably culminated in 2002, when he led a CIA team into Iraq to help prepare the ground for the US invasion. He documented this in his 2010 book (co-authored with Mike Tucker) Operation Hotel California: The Clandestine War Inside Iraq. Following his 2008 retirement, Faddis, who was CIA Chief of Station in his last overseas tour, frequently comments on intelligence matters, most notably in his 2009 exposé Beyond Repair: The Decline and Fall of the CIA. Faddis’ answers to intelNews‘ questions are below. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #527

  • Has Microsoft broken Skype’s encryption? The US Congress has finally discovered Skype. But the timing may be bad, since there are rumors that Microsoft has found a way to break the encryption behind Skype communications, rendering all Skype calls potentially open to surveillance by governments. The company (Microsoft) has even filed a related patent application. Communications interception experts have been trying for some time to achieve this.
  • Ex-CIA agent loses legal battle over ‘unauthorized’ book. A former CIA deep-cover operative, who goes by the pseudonym ‘Ishmael Jones’, may have to financially compensate the Agency for publishing a book without the CIA’s approval, after a US judge ruled against him. Jones maintains that the CIA is bullying him because of his public criticism of its practices.
  • Family of accused Australian spy seeks support. The family of Australian-Jordanian citizen Eyad Abuarga, who has been charged with being a technical spy for Hamas, have called on the Australian government to do more to help him, with less than a month before he is due to face trial in Israel.

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 #476

News you may have missed #462

  • CIA secrets could surface in Swiss nuclear case. A seven-year effort by the CIA to hide its relationship with the Tinners, a Swiss family who once acted as moles inside the world’s most successful atomic black market, hit a turning point on Thursday when a Swiss magistrate recommended charging the men with trafficking in technology and information for making nuclear arms.
  • Pakistan spy chief to ignore US summons. The Pakistani government has announced that hat there is “no possibility” that Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the head of Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, would obey a summons requesting his appearance before a court in the United States relating to the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.
  • Australia told to prioritize spy recruitment. Carl Ungerer, from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, has advised the Australian intelligence agencies to “look at ways to improve information gathering from human sources”, as they undergo a period of reform.

News you may have missed #440 (USA edition)

News you may have missed #409

  • Probe unearths secrets of Bulgaria’s assassination bureau. Previously unknown details on Service 7, Bulgaria’s Cold War-era assassination bureau, have been unearthed by one of Bulgaria’s leading newspapers, following a probe into 5,000 pages of declassified archives from the country’s former communist intelligence service, the First Directorate of the Committee on State Security.
  • US Pentagon bars troops from reading WikiLeaks. Any citizen, any foreign spy, any member of the Taliban, and any terrorist can go to the WikiLeaks web site, and download detailed information. Members of that same military, however, are now banned from looking at those internal military documents, because “doing so would introduce potentially classified information on unclassified networks”.
  • Analysis: Chasing Wikileaks. “[W]hatever the imperfections of WikiLeaks as a startup, its emergence points to a real shortcoming within our intelligence community. Secrets can be kept by deterrence –that is, by hunting down the people who leak them [...]. But there are other methods: keep far fewer secrets, manage them better –and, perhaps, along the way, become a bit more like WikiLeaks. An official government Web site that would make the implementation of FOIA quicker and more uniform, comprehensive, and accessible”.

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News you may have missed #369

  • UN official criticizes US over drone attacks. The use of targeted killings by the CIA, with weapons like drone aircraft, poses a growing challenge to the international rule of law, according to Philip Alston, United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings.
  • Russian spies less active during Obama administration. The Czech Republic’s Military Intelligence Service said in its annual report on Tuesday that Russian agents have reduced their activities in the country since US President Barack Obama abandoned Bush-era plans for missile defense systems in Eastern Europe.
  • Analysis: A look back at US intelligence reform. The 2004 US Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act was supposed to “address institutional obstacles that had complicated the intelligence community’s struggle to adapt to new technologies and a changing national security environment”. But five years later, many of those original obstacles remain in place.

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Analysis: Axing of US DNI points to structural issues

Dennis Blair

Dennis Blair

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Although few American intelligence observers were astonished by last week’s involuntary resignation of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the silence by the White House on the subject has raised quite a few eyebrows in Washington. Admiral Dennis C. Blair, who became DNI in January of 2009, announced his resignation on Friday. Blair’s announcement came after a prolonged period of controversy, which included bitter infighting with the CIA, and culminated with the recent partial publication of a report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which blamed “systemic failures across the Intelligence Community” for the so-called Christmas bomb plot of last December. The problem is that Admiral Blair’s replacement will be the fourth DNI in five years, after John Negroponte, Mike McConnell and Blair himself. Read more of this post

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