News you may have missed #877

Oleg KaluginBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►China to ditch US consulting firms over suspected espionage. State-owned Chinese companies will cease to work with US consulting companies like McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group over fears they are spying on behalf of the US government. Last Thursday, China announced that all foreign companies would have to undergo a new security test. Any company, product or service that fails will be banned from China. The inspection will be conducted across all sectors —communications, finance, and energy.
►►Ex-KGB general says Snowden is cooperating with Russian intelligence. Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden probably never envisioned that he would someday be working for the Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB. But according to former KGB Major General Oleg Kalugin, he is now, albeit as a consultant or technical advisor. “The FSB are now his hosts, and they are taking care of him”, Kalugin claimed in an interview. “Whatever he had access to in his former days at NSA, I believe he shared all of it with the Russians, and they are very grateful”, added the former Soviet spy.
►►Snowden claims he was ‘trained as a spy’. American intelligence defector Edward Snowden says he knows how US spies operate because he was trained as one of them. In an interview with NBC News, Snowden dismissed allegations that he was just a low-level analyst with the US government before revealing highly classified details of US spying activities in 2013. “I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word in that I lived and worked undercover overseas, pretending to work in a job that I’m not, and even being assigned a name that was not mine”, he said in a portion of the interview that aired on Tuesday.

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As many Russian spies in UK today as in Cold War: Soviet defector

Oleg GordievskyBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Soviet KGB’s former station chief in London, who defected to the United Kingdom in the 1980s, has alleged that Russia operates as many spies in Britain today as it did during the Cold War. Oleg Gordievsky, 74, a fluent speaker of Russian, German, Swedish, Danish, and English, entered the Soviet KGB in 1963. He eventually joined the organization’s Second Directorate, which was responsible for coordinating the activities of Soviet ‘illegals’, that is, intelligence officers operating abroad without official diplomatic cover. Gordievsky’s faith in the Soviet system was irreparably damaged in 1968, when Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia. In 1974, while stationed in Copenhagen, Denmark, he made contact with British intelligence and began his career as a double agent for the UK. In 1985, when he was the KGB’s station chief at the Soviet embassy in London, he was summoned back to Moscow by an increasingly suspicious KGB. He was aggressively interrogated but managed to make contact with British intelligence and was eventually smuggled out of Russia via Finland, riding in the trunk of a British diplomatic vehicle. In 2007, Gordievsky was awarded the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (CMG) by the Queen “for services to the security of the UK”. Russia, however, considers Gordievsky a traitor and the government of Vladimir Putin refuses to rescind a death sentence given to him in absentia by a Soviet court. In an interview with The Guardian newspaper this week, Gordievsky said London is currently home to 37 officers of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), one of the successor agencies to the KGB. Read more of this post

Analysis: The Current State of the China-Taiwan Spy War

China and TaiwanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Last week I spoke about the current state of the espionage war between China and Taiwan with Tim Daiss, a Southeast Asia-based American journalist who has been covering the Asia-Pacific region for over a decade. Our discussion formed the basis of a comprehensive piece on the subject, published in British newspaper The Independent, in two parts (part one and part two). I told Daiss that the Ministry of State Security —China’s primary national intelligence agency— is not known for its technological prowess. However, the sheer size of Beijing’s intelligence apparatus is proving a good match for the more advanced automated systems used by its less populous regional rivals, including Taiwan. When it comes to traditional human intelligence, the Chinese have been known to employ time-tested methods such as sexual entrapment or blackmail, as was confirmed most recently in the case of Taiwanese Major-General Lo Hsien-che. Lo, who headed the Taiwanese military’s Office of Communications and Information, was convicted of sharing classified top-secret information with a female Chinese operative in her early 30s, who held an Australian passport. During his trial, which marked the culmination of Taiwan’s biggest spy scandal in over half a century, Lo admitted that the Chinese female spy “cajoled him with sex and money”. In addition to honey-trap techniques, Chinese spies collect intelligence by way of bribery, as do many of their foreign colleagues. In the case of China, however, a notable change in recent years has been the accumulation of unprecedented amounts of foreign currency, which make it easier for Chinese intelligence operatives to entice foreign assets, such as disgruntled or near-bankrupt state employees, to sell classified data. Read more of this post

First interview in 57 years for chief of Germany’s most secretive spy agency

Ulrich BirkenheierBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The head of the German military’s counterintelligence service, which is widely seen as the country’s most secretive intelligence organization, has given the first public media interview in the agency’s 57-year history. Most readers of this blog will be aware of the Federal Republic of Germany’s two best-known intelligence agencies: the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), tasked with domestic intelligence, and the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the country’s primary external intelligence agency. Relatively little is known, however, about the Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD), which has historically been much smaller and quieter than its sister agencies. As part of the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces, the MAD is tasked with conducting counterintelligence and detecting what it terms “anti-constitutional activities” within the German armed forces. It is currently thought to consist of around 1,200 staff located throughout Germany and in at least seven countries around the world, including Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Djibouti. Until recently, the MAD was so secret that its headquarters, located in the west German city of Cologne, bore no sign on the door. For generations, its senior leadership remained unnamed in the public domain. This changed on Monday, when Ulrich Birkenheier became the first Director of MAD to speak publicly in the nearly six decades of the agency’s existence. Birkenheier, who assumed the leadership of MAD in July of 2012, told German newspaper Die Welt that it was time for a “paradigm shift” and that the agency felt the need “to explain [its] task and work to the outside world”. In his interview, Birkenheier explained that members of the German armed forces are routinely targeted by foreign intelligence agencies, while far-right extremist groups are represented in the ranks of the German military. Read more of this post

Interview: Israel’s ‘Prisoner X’ linked to 2010 al-Mabhouh killing

Ben ZygierThis morning I spoke to SBS Radio Australia’s Greg Dyett about the mysterious case of Ben Zygier, an Australian-born naturalized citizen of Israel, who is said to have killed himself in 2010 while being held at a maximum-security prison near Tel Aviv. As intelNews reported on Wednesday, Zygier, who is believed to have been recruited by Israel’s covert-action agency Mossad, had been imprisoned incommunicado for several months and was known only as ‘Prisoner X’, even to his prison guards. Is there any connection between Zygier’s incarceration and the January 2010 assassination of Palestinian arms merchant Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, in Dubai? And what could Zygier have done to prompt Israel to incarcerate him? You can listen to me discuss this mysterious case in an eight-minute interview here, or read the transcript, below.

Q: You say that, after conferring with your contacts in Israel, Europe and the United States, you believe that Ben Zygier had some sort of involvement in the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January 2010.

A: Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was a weapons procurer for the Palestinian militant group Hamas. At this point, there is little doubt that the Mossad was behind this operation. Several members of the team that killed al-Mabhouh were using third-country passports —Irish, British, Australian, and others— to travel to and from Dubai. In the aftermath of the assassination, there were questions about how the Mossad operatives managed to get those passports; and, if you’ll remember, that led to the expulsion of several Israeli diplomats from around the world, including Australia. Read more of this post

Philby’s son, widow, speak on 50th anniversary of his defection

Philby interview c.1967 By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
For most of us, January 23, 2013, was a day like any other. But for intelligence history aficionados it marked the 50th anniversary of the escape to Moscow of notorious double spy Harold Adrian Russell Philby. Known as ‘Kim’ to his friends, Philby secretly defected to the USSR from his home in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1963. He is widely considered history’s most successful double spy. While working as a senior member of British intelligence, he spied on behalf of the Soviet NKVD and KGB from the early 1930s until his defection. In 1965, he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. When he died, in 1988, he was buried with honors by the Soviet authorities. Philby’s defection sent ripples of shock across Western intelligence and is often described as one of the most dramatic moments of the Cold War. On the 50th anniversary of Philby’s defection to Moscow, British newspaper The Daily Telegraph carried an article with excerpts of interviews with one of Philby’s sons, Dudley Thomas Philby, and his Russian widow, Rufina Pukhova Philby. Born in 1946, Dudley ‘Tommy’ Philby is the third of Kim’s five children with his second of four wives, Aileen Furse Philby. Aileen died in 1957, when Tommy was just 11 years old; his contact with his father was cut off as soon as the double spy defected to the USSR in January 1963. But it was resumed a few months later, when he received a letter from his father in Moscow. Eventually, Tommy visited Kim five times in Moscow in the 1970s. Speaking on the anniversary of his late father’s defection, he described him as “a very kind man” and “a very good father”, who “had his belief [in] communism [and] carried it out”. He told The Telegraph that he personally did not agree with his father’s political views, but added: “he was what he was, what could I do?”. He told the paper that Kim eventually came to think that “it was all wrong”, implying that Philby grew disillusioned with the Soviet system. Read more of this post

Belgian intelligence chief says Brussels is world’s spy capital

Alain WinantsBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The head of Belgium’s counterintelligence service has said in an interview that Brussels, which hosts the head offices of several international organizations, is home to more spies than any other city in the world. Alain Winants, Director of Belgium’s State Security Service (SV/SE), made the comment during a rare public interview to the Brussels-based English-language newspaper EU Observer. Winants told the paper that Belgium hosts “an enormous concentration” of diplomats, members of international non-governmental organizations, as well as employees of transnational institutions, including the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Because of this, he said, Belgium “is like a kindergarten” for spies, “the place to be” for intelligence operatives. The latter often operate under diplomatic cover or pretend to be students, lobbyists or business executives, he added. When asked how many case officers and spies operate in the Belgian capital, Winants, whose organization is responsible for counterterrorism and counterespionage, said “we are not speaking in the dozens; we are speaking in the hundreds, several hundreds”. He added that the numbers of intelligence operatives currently active in Belgium are “at the same level as the Cold War”. These intelligence operatives, he added represent countries such as Russia, China, and many others. When asked whether nations allied with the European Union also conduct espionage in the Belgian capital, Winants responded diplomatically that intelligence “is one field where the difference between neutral, friendly and unfriendly services tends to disappear”, as “every service is in competition with the others”. And he added that “it would be naïve to think that only countries like Russia, China, Iran are spying” in the Belgian capital. Read more of this post

CBS re-broadcasts Iran comments by former Mossad chief

Meir DaganBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
One of the few certainties in the spiraling crisis between Iran, Israel and the United States, is that Tel Aviv and Washington do not agree on how to respond to Tehran’s nuclear program. Nowhere is this lack of unity more noticeable than in the difference of opinion between the Office of the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the White House. Netanyahu, a leading hawk in Israeli political circles, has made it clear that, unlike United States President Barack Obama, he believes that the time for diplomacy has run out, and that Israel has no option but to consider direct military strikes on Iran. Last weekend he even took the unprecedented step of advising American voters to elect a leader willing “to draw a red line” on the issue of Iran. It is worth noting, however, that senior figures in Israel’s intelligence community seem to be siding with the US on this dispute. Leading the wave of dissention within the ranks is Meir Dagan, former Director of the Mossad, Israel’s most revered intelligence agency. In November of 2010, Meir Dagan stepped down from his post as the head of the Mossad after having led the agency for over eight years —the longest tenure of any Mossad director in history. Soon afterwards, he admonished calls by Netanyahu’s people to bomb Iran as “the stupidest idea” he had ever heard. On Sunday, September 16, the CBS flagship investigative program 60 Minutes aired again an important interview with Dagan, which was first broadcast on March 11 of this year. The timing of the re-broadcast is critical, as observers in the Middle East appear increasingly certain that an Israeli military attack on Iran is imminent. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #785 (interview edition)

Stella RimingtonBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Interview with first-ever NSA Compliance Director. John DeLong, the first-ever compliance director at the US National Security Agency, has given an interview to NextGov. In it, he says that “we’re nothing if we lose the confidence of the American people”. He is referring to frequent allegations, by whistleblowers and others, that the Agency is increasingly spying on Americans’ communications. As Compliance Director, DeLong is responsible for ensuring that the NSA abides by US law, which forbids it from intercepting electronic messages exchanged between US citizens or persons.
►►Ex-MI5 boss offers comment on WikiLeaks. Former MI5 Director-General Dame Stella Rimington has criticized “the indiscriminate pouring out into the public domain of streams of leaked documents by Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks organization”. But she also said that the US government should have taken better steps to prevent WikiLeaks from acquiring the information in the first place. Speaking at an international archiving conference in Brisbane, Australia, Dame Stella said that while the WikiLeaks saga could prompt the US government to come up with better databases, it would more likely encourage it to be even more secretive. This, she added, “must be absolutely the opposite effect of what WikiLeaks was seeking”.
►►Interview with NSA whistleblower. Filmmaker Laura Poitras interviews William Binney, a 32-year veteran of the US National Security Agency, who helped set up STELLAR WIND, the NSA’s top-secret domestic spying program, which was put in place after 9/11. The program was so controversial that it nearly caused top Justice Department officials to resign in protest in 2004. Binney, who resigned over STELLAR WIND in 2001, and began speaking out publicly in the last year, explains how the program he created for foreign intelligence gathering was turned inward on America.

Interview with NSA whistleblower

Interview with editors of H-INTEL, a new intelligence email list (Part II)

Damien Van PuyveldeBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Yesterday we posted an interview with Dr. Mark Stout, of Johns Hopkins University and the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC, who in June of this year announced the creation of H-INTEL, a new scholarly discussion list. The list, which now has over 200 members, and is actively seeking more, is an ambitious project that aims to provide an online venue for the scholarly discussion of intelligence. In doing so, it brings together academics, researchers, journalists, practitioners, and others, with an active interest in intelligence studies and intelligence history, ranging from antiquity to our times. Today we post the second part of our exclusive interview on H-INTEL, this time with List Editor Damien Van Puyvelde, a PhD candidate at Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom. Damien, who specializes in the intensification of public-private intelligence relations in the ‘global war on terrorism’, is also a member of the Centre for Intelligence and International Security Studies (CIISS) at Aberystwyth. Originally from France, Damien is currently H-INTEL’s primary List Editor. Read more of this post

Interview with editors of H-INTEL, a new intelligence email list (Part I)

H-INTEL list-serv logoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In late June of this year, Dr. Mark Stout, of Johns Hopkins University and the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC, announced the creation of H-INTEL, a new scholarly discussion list. H-INTEL is an ambitious project that aims to provide an online venue for the scholarly discussion of intelligence. In doing so, it brings together academics, researchers, journalists, practitioners, and others with an active interest in intelligence studies and intelligence history, ranging from the ancient times to today. The list, whose message logs are located on Michigan State University’s H-Net server in East Lansing, has already over 200 members from several countries —and it is actively seeking more. In an effort to spread the world about this worthwhile effort, intelNews spoke with two individuals spearheading this project: Advisory Board member and List Editor Mark Stout; and List Editor Damien Van Puyvelde, a PhD candidate and member of the Centre for Intelligence and International Security Studies at Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom. Below is our interview with Mark. To read Damien’s interview, click here for Part II of this post. Read more of this post

Ex-diplomat: US thinks Israeli spy Pollard was not acting alone

Itamar RabinovichBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
One of Israel’s former ambassadors to Washington has told a radio program that United States officials suspect Jonathan Jay Pollard, an American who spied for Israel in the 1980s, was not acting alone. Itamar Rabinovich, who was Tel Aviv’s most senior diplomat on US soil from 1993 to 1996, told Israel Radio on Monday that this is probably the reason behind Washington’s refusal to release the imprisoned spy. Pollard was a US Navy intelligence analyst who spied for Israel, in exchange for money, from 1984 until his arrest in 1986. Many in US counterintelligence consider him one of the most damaging double spies in American history. But he is widely viewed as a hero in Israel, and Israelis, as well as many pro-Israel Americans, are actively pressuring the US administration of President Barack Obama to release him. According to Rabinovich, however, the main reason behind the US refusal to release Pollard is that officials in the US Intelligence Community think that Israel has concealed the full extent of his activities on US soil. Furthermore, Rabinovich said in his interview that Washington believes Israel has shielded other Americans who either collaborated with Pollard or worked alongside him at the time. “They suspect that he wasn’t the only one, that there were additional Pollards”, said Rabinovich, adding that “Israel, despite its promises, did not reveal all the cards in this case and in similar cases”. The former ambassador said that, to his knowledge, “Israel [still] hasn’t said everything” to the Americans about the extent of Pollard’s espionage activities on US soil. Expounding on this, he said that “the claim concerning the enormous damage done to the Americans” by Pollard’s activities is one thing, “but there is also a hidden [claim], which is not voiced openly, but is implied”. The Americans, said Rabinovich, are “punishing Israel at Jonathan Pollard’s expense. They are angry with Israel more than with Pollard”. Read more of this post

Interview with agent who caught US-Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard

Jonathan PollardBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Twenty-six years ago this month, a United States court convicted Jonathan Jay Pollard, a US Navy analyst who had been caught spying on his country for Israel. Pollard, who is still serving his life sentence, enjoys tremendous popularity in Israel as well as among pro-Israeli public figures in the US. His supporters in Israel and elsewhere view him as a hero who is serving an unfairly harsh sentence and they pressure the US government to release him. In light of that, it is worth paying attention to a recent radio interview with the man who caught him spying on America. The interview was conducted by Mike Lanchin, a reporter and producer for BBC radio’s Witness program. Lanchin managed to trace Ron Olive, a retired Assistant Special Agent at US Navy Counterintelligence, who in June 1986 cracked the Pollard case, leading to the spy’s arrest and eventual conviction. Olive, who now runs his own security consultancy firm in Arizona, told Witness that it took him and his fellow investigators over six months to piece together their case against Pollard. He added that, according to his investigation, “Pollard stole so many documents, so highly classified, more so than any other spy in the history of this country, in such a short period of time”. The case, said Olive, was the worst he had ever seen and it “devastated the entire [US] Intelligence Community”. The reason was not only the volume of stolen classified material, but also the fact that Pollard “could have been stopped from the very beginning”. Read more of this post

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 #733

Stella RimingtonBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Women in US intelligence seek balance in life. Nada Bakos (photo) was one of many women serving as CIA analysts before 9/11, who then moved to the operations side after the terrorist attacks. She didn’t yet have a family when she accepted her assignment as a targeting officer in Iraq. After a couple of years, as Bakos was deep into her career on the operations side, she decided she wanted to start a family. That was a problem. At least 160 other women feel her pain. Women from the CIA, the National Security Agency, Naval Office of Intelligence and dozens of other agencies met last week at the Women in National Security conference in McLean, Virginia, to try and find a better way.
►►Interview with ex-MI5 Director Stella Rimington. Australian Radio hosts an interesting audio interview with Dame Stella Rimington, who headed MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, from 1992 to 1995. She speaks about the experience of being the first director of MI5 to be publicly identified and the sometimes sinister invasions to her privacy as a result. Moreover, she says the only thing that surprised her about the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking and the conduct of the British media is that nobody recognized it was going on before.
►►US government think-tank warns against strikes on Iran. The RAND Corporation, a think tank which advises the United States Department of Defense, warned last week Tuesday against an Israeli or American attack on Iran’s nuclear reactors, and recommended that the administration of Barack Obama try to “quietly influence the internal Israeli discussion over the use of  military force”. In 2009, before Stuxnet, a RAND report had argued that the US may be better off focusing on cyber-defense instead of resorting to cyberattacks.

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