News you may have missed #786

Richard Masato AokiBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►US Pentagon wants to share intel with Egypt. The US Department of Defense is offering Egypt a package of classified intelligence-sharing capabilities designed to help it identify military threats along its border with Israel. According to an unnamed senior US official, the Pentagon leadership is concerned about “rising militancy” along the Egyptian-Israeli border. The purported intelligence package includes satellite imagery, data collected through unmanned drones, as well as intercepts of cell phone and other communications among militants suspected of planning attacks. The Egyptian intelligence chief was summarily fired earlier this month, after more than a dozen Egyptian soldiers were killed near Israel’s border when gunmen attacked a post and tried to enter Israel.
►►Researcher disputes Aoki was FBI informant. Last week author Seth Rosenfeld alleged that prominent 1960s Black Panther Party member Richard Masato Aoki, who gave the Black Panthers some of their first firearms and weapons training, was an undercover FBI informer. But the claim, which is detailed in Rosenfeld’s new book, Subversives, is disputed by another researcher, Diane C. Fujino. A professor and chair of Asian American studies at UC Santa Barbara, and author of the recently published Samurai Among Panthers, Fujino argues that Rosenfeld has not met the burden of proof on Aoki, and that he “made definitive conclusions based on inconclusive evidence”.
►►Russian intelligence to monitor blogosphere. Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, the FSB, says it plans to fund a program that monitors the Internet’s “blogosphere”, with an aim to “shape public views through social networking”. Citing unnamed sources from inside the FSB, Russian newspaper Kommersant said that the project’s research stage will cost around $1 million. The article implies that the online surveillance and opinion-shaping program will target both Russian- and foreign-language online users. This is not the first time that the FSB has displayed interest in online social networking in recent years.

News you may have missed #767

Omar SuleimanBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►Aussie spy chief warns of ‘digital footprints’. For the first time in the 60-year history of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), Australia’s main external spy agency, its Director has spoken publicly. Nick Warner used this unprecedented opportunity to reflect on where ASIS has come in the last 60 years, and the challenges it faces into the future. Among them, he said, are “developments in the cyber-realm”, which “are a two-edged sword for an agency like ASIS; they offer new ways of collecting new information, but the digital fingerprints and footprints which we all now leave behind complicate the task of operating covertly”.
►►India arrests alleged Pakistani spy. Indian authorities have announced the arrest of Zubair Khan, 37, of Uttar Pradesh, who was allegedly caught with several Indian Army documents in his possession. He had been reportedly asked to gather information on Air India pilots, military bases in the country, journalists who frequently visit Pakistan, and relatives of officials working in the Indian High Commission in Pakistan. Maps of cantonment boards and details of many battalions have been recovered from him, according to Indian media reports. Investigators are also said to have identified one of Khan’s handlers, a man named “Talib”, who works at Pakistan’s High Commission in New Delhi.
►►Egypt spies try to repair image as ex-Director dies. Egypt’s top spy agency, the General Intelligence Service —known as the “Mukhabarat” in Arabic— is taking a small but unprecedented step out of the shadows, in an apparent attempt to win the public’s support in the new Egypt. In an unusual move, the agency released a 41-minute-long documentary boasting of its achievements, presenting itself as the defender of the nation and vowing to continue to protect the country. The effort comes as the Mukhabarat’s former Director, the notorious Omar Suleiman, has died in the United States.

News you may have missed #710

Jonathan PollardBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►MI6 officer murder inquest to be held in secret. Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague has ordered that key evidence in the inquest into the death of MI6 officer Gareth Williams is to be heard in secret. Williams, who was found dead in a padlocked sports bag in the bath of his London apartment 20 months ago, was on secondment to MI6 from GCHQ, the British government’s signals intelligence agency, and had worked closely with the American security services.
►►GCHQ warns it is losing terrorists on the internet. Speaking of the GCHQ, the organization says that modern internet technology has left them unable to intercept calls which use new technology instead of traditional phone systems. Britain’s Daily Telegraph quotes “senior intelligence sources with detail knowledge of the problem”, who say that GCHQ technical experts have seen their access to telephone intercept information “eroded” by the use of the technologies such as Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, which route telephone calls over the world wide web.
►►Israel pressures Obama to release Jewish spy. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has again called on the United States to release convicted spy Jonathan Pollard after the former US Navy intelligence analyst was hospitalized this week. Pollard, an American of Jewish descent, was sentenced to life in prison 25 years ago for leaking classified documents to Israel. Many Israelis believe the sentence was too harsh and officials often demand his release. But Democratic and Republican administrations in the US have repeatedly refused Israeli appeals to release the convicted spy.

Why are al-Qaeda websites going off-line?

Shamukh al-IslamBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
It began late last month, and nobody seems to really know why:  one after another, the most popular pro-al-Qaeda websites around the world have been going off the air, in what appears to be coordinated fashion. For most of the past decade, a host of al-Qaeda-linked websites have acted as online platforms of outreach, propaganda, and communication between the group’s sympathizers around the world. Most fulfill the role of conduits for al-Qaeda’s media production arm, as-Sahab, as well as for al-Fajr Media, al-Qaeda’s online distribution network. These two outfits routinely rely on a collection of websites to deliver online content ranging from glossy periodicals to audio speeches and digital videos. But on March 23, two of the largest pro-al-Qaeda websites, Shamukh al-Islam and the Ansar al-Mujahidin Arabic Forum, simultaneously disappeared from the World Wide Web. Two days later, another popular site, al-Fida, also vanished. By March 30, two remaining pro-al-Qaeda forums had also gone off line. Two sites, the Shamukh al-Islam and the Ansar al-Mujahidin Arabic Forum, reappeared, but offered no concrete explanation of the reasons why they went off the air in the first place. Interestingly, nobody has claimed responsibility for the disappearance of the pro-al-Qaeda websites, and the US government has refused to state whether its operatives had been engaged in undermining them. But CNN’s Security Clearance blog contacted Brandeis University researcher Aaron Y. Zelin, who offered one possible explanation. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #704: Caught-red-handed edition

Zbigniew SiemiątkowskiBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►Would be CIA spy uses Tweeter to attack CIA. Lynnae Williams was on track to become a CIA agent. Today, the 35-year-old aspiring journalist and would-be CIA spy uses Twitter to expose what she feels are corrupt and unethical practices by the mysterious organization. In 2009, Williams spent more than three months training to become a CIA spy. She says she was sent to the CIA’s “psychological prison”, a public mental-health hospital in Virginia. There, she says, doctors pushed drugs for schizophrenia and manic depression in a white-walled environment with inedible food. Eventually, the CIA stopped paying her and suspended her security clearance. She’s now looking to sue the agency for wrongful termination. And in the meantime, she’s using BlogSpot and her @wlynnae account to post tweets.
►►US ambassador says Russia is spying on him. US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul suggested yesterday that the Russian government is spying on him. “Everywhere I go [Russian television station] NTV is there”, he tweeted. “Wonder who gives them my calendar? They wouldn’t tell me. Wonder what the laws are here for such things? I respect [the] press’ right to go anywhere and ask any question. But do they have a right to read my email and listen to my phone?”. McFaul also posted on his Twitter feed yesterday: “When I asked these ‘reporters’ how they knew my schedule, I got no answer”.
►►Poland ex-spy boss charged over CIA prison. Zbigniew Siemiątkowski, the former head of Poland’s foreign intelligence service faces charges of illegal detention and use of corporal punishment at an alleged secret CIA ‘black site’ used to house high-ranking terrorism suspects. Investigators allege the spy boss exceeded his powers and breached international law through the use of “unlawful deprivation of liberty” and “corporal punishment” against prisoners of war.

News you may have missed #703: US edition

NSA headquartersBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►NSA pressed to reveal details on Google deal. The Electronic Privacy Information Center is locking horns with the National Security Agency over a secret deal the agency cut with Google following an attack on Gmail by Chinese hackers in 2010. The information center has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the NSA to obtain information about the deal. That request was rejected by a federal court and an appeal process continues.
►►US spy agencies can keep data on Americans longer. Until now, the US National Counterterrorism Center had to immediately destroy information about Americans that was already stored in other government databases when there were no clear ties to terrorism. But it will now be able to store information about Americans with no ties to terrorism for up to five years under new Obama administration guidelines. The new rules replace guidelines issued in 2008 and have privacy advocates concerned about the potential for data-mining information on innocent Americans.
►►Islam convert leads CIA’s Counterterrorism Center. Roger, which is the first name of his cover identity, has been chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center for the past six years. Colleagues describe Roger as a collection of contradictions. A chain-smoker who spends countless hours on a treadmill. Notoriously surly yet able to win over enough support from subordinates and bosses to hold on to his job. He presides over a campaign that has killed thousands of Islamist militants and angered millions of Muslims, but he is himself a convert to Islam. His defenders don’t even try to make him sound likable. Instead, they emphasize his operational talents, encyclopedic understanding of the enemy and tireless work ethic.

News you may have missed #698

Cecilia LooströmBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►Swedish official sent top-secret intel briefing via Hotmail. A high-ranking official at Sweden’s Ministry of Defense sent notes on highly confidential arms trade negotiations with a Saudi Arabian official through a Hotmail email address. The four-page-long email, which details a secret conversation with a Saudi General, was sent in 2008 from assistant Under-Secretary for Defense Cecilia Looström, according to a Swedish newspaper.
►►Russian diplomat won’t deny espionage activity in Canada. Russia’s ambassador to Canada, Georgiy Mamedov, has refused to deny that his country carries out spy activity in Canada. He told a Canadian television reporter that “I am neither denying nor confirming [Russian espionage in Canada]. I would be a fool […] if I would confirm that we are doing as much”. He said Russia conducts intelligence activities in other countries —although he didn’t specify which— but refused to give any details on what activities, if any, are conducted within Canada.
►►New Taiwan spy case raises concerns. A Taiwanese air force captain surnamed Chiang is believed to have passed intelligence to China. Reportedly, Chiang’s uncle, who operates a business in China, helped pass on the information allegedly obtained by Chiang, which is said to have included classified material on Taiwan’s early-warning radar system as well as E-2T/E-2K Hawkeye surveillance aircraft. The case has rocked the Taiwanese military, as it comes a little more than a year after a high-profile spy for China was caught and is now serving a life sentence.


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