US sees Iranian commandos behind deadly Iraq raid

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Mujahideen-e-Khalq
United States officials have concluded that Iranian commandos were behind a deadly attack that took place earlier this year on Iraqi soil, which targeted a compound populated by Iranian anti-government exiles. The attack took place on the evening of September 1, 2013, in Camp Ashraf. The camp is controlled by the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), also known as the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran. In 1979, the MEK, which operates under a peculiar breed of Marxist, feminist and Islamic ideology (see photo), began an armed war against Tehran’s Islamic government. Many in MEK’s armed wing resettled on the Iraqi side of the Iraq-Iran border, where they received funding and diplomatic support from the government of Saddam Hussein. Although Washington officially considers the MEK to be a terrorist organization, it also views it as a source of valuable intelligence on Iran. It has therefore allowed the group to maintain its control of Camp Ashraf, though it has confiscated much of its weaponry. It is estimated that over 50 members of the group were killed in the September 1 attack, while at least seven others are believed to be in Iran, after they were abducted by the attackers. The latter are thought to have comprised of Iranian commandos and Arabic-speaking Iraqi Shiite paramilitaries. American officials have said little about the attack; in early December, US Secretary John Kerry refused to comment on the incident during an open-door, unclassified Congressional hearing. But earlier this week, Foreign Policy magazine said it spoke to a US official who was “briefed on the intelligence community’s assessment of the attack”. Read more of this post

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News you may have missed #827

Brigadier General Mohammed KhaloufBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Analysis: The spies who fooled the world about Iraq. On the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War, the BBC flagship investigative program Panorama has aired a documentary arguing that, even before the fighting in Iraq started, intelligence from highly placed sources was available in the UK, suggesting that the administration of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction.
►►Syrian officer to auction spy files as general defects. Kuwaiti daily Al-Seyassah reported this past weekend that an intelligence officer that defected is offering to auction the intelligence archives of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat. Meanwhile, Syrian Brigadier General Mohammed Khalouf and about 20 soldiers defected from the Syrian army in two separate incidents on Saturday, according to rebel-controlled media.
►►Half a million wiretapped in Turkey in last decade. Some 470,000 people in Turkey have been subject to eavesdropping over the past 11 years, said officials from the Gendarmerie Command’s intelligence unit. In 2012 alone, over 33,000 people were eavesdropped on by the Gendarmerie, according to information given to the Turkish Parliament’s Eavesdropping Examination Commission. Notably Gendarmerie authorities said that they found no information or documents regarding the case of the wire-tapping of the Turkish Prime Minister in their examination of their own records.

Mossad ‘tried to kill’ Saddam Hussein using ‘exploding book’

Saddam HusseinBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Israeli intelligence tried unsuccessfully to kill Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in the 1970s using a bomb disguised as a book. This revelation is included in a new documentary film, which was aired on Monday evening on Israel’s Channel 1 television. The documentary, entitled Sealed Lips, focuses on the life and intelligence exploits of Yitzhak Hofi. Known informally as “Khaka”, Hofi was the fifth Director of the Mossad, Israel’s foremost covert-action intelligence agency, which he led form 1974 to 1982.  Aside from Hofi, who is still living in Israel, aged 85, the film includes interviews with five other former Directors of the Mossad, as well as with some of the agency’s best-known covert-action operatives. One of them is Brigadier General (ret.) Tzuri Sagi, said to have been the mastermind behind the plan to kill Hussein, who had assumed power in Iraq following a coup in 1968. According to the documentary, as soon as the Mossad tasked Sagi with assassinating Hussein, he employed the best-known bomb-maker in the Israeli intelligence and security services, known by his operational name, “Natan”. “Natan” put together a carefully constructed explosive device, which was hidden inside an Arabic-language book. The device was wired to detonate once the front cover of the book was opened. The film suggests that the Mossad did manage to find a way for the book to reach the Iraqi leader. However, Hussein appeared suspicious about the book and had one of his close aides, an unnamed senior Iraqi government official, open it. Read more of this post

CIA declassifies internal review on Iraq ‘intelligence failure’

Report cover pageBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An internal report on the alleged failure of the Central Intelligence Agency to accurately read the intentions of the Iraqi regime in the run-up to the 2003 invasion by the United States, has been declassified. The report, entitled Misreading Intentions: Iraq’s Reaction to Inspections Created Picture of Deception, was authored in 2006, classified ‘secret’. It was prepared by the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence (DI), the part of the Agency that is responsible for collating and assessing gathered intelligence in order to assist the decisions of US policy-makers on key foreign issues. The report describes what it sees as the DI’s intelligence failure to assess the true state of Iraq’s purported weapons of mass destruction program in the run-up to the US invasion. It says that invalid predispositions and “analytic liabilities” among CIA analysts prevented the Agency from seeing the issue of weapons of mass destruction from the viewpoint of the Iraqi government. Although heavily redacted, the report seems to state that CIA analysts spent little time examining the view, held by many at the time, that the Iraqi regime had in fact terminated its WMD program by 1995. Furthermore, Agency analysts failed to realize in time that, although it had terminated its WMD program, the Iraqi regime maintained a deliberate policy of ambivalence about the purported existence of the program, in order to save face, deter potential adversaries and appear more dangerous than it actually was. Such a policy of deception was well within the character of the Iraqi regime and should have been detected by American intelligence experts, says the report. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #745

Sir Dominic AsquithBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Algeria sentences man to 20 years for spying. Noureddine Benziane, an Algerian psychologist and expert on anti-terrorism, has been sentenced in absentia to 20 years in jail on conviction of spying after a stay in Iraq. According to the charge sheet, Benziane went to Iraq on humanitarian missions several times between 2005 and 2007, but he allegedly founded a training camp for potential suicide bombers of several nationalities. Benziane later acknowledged contacting several diplomatic missions in Algiers to give them details of the information he had recovered. However, he neglected to inform the Algerian security services of his findings, according to his prosecutors.
►►Egypt pulls TV ads warning foreigners may be spies. An unnamed Egyptian media official says authorities have pulled a television advertisement that warned against talking to foreigners who may be spies, after criticism that they fueled xenophobia. The official said Sunday that the ads were aired on state TV and private networks for a few days before Minister of Information Ahmed Anis ordered them off the air.
►►British diplomat attacked in Libya. Britain’s ambassador to Libya, Sir Dominic Asquith, was in a convoy of cars that came under attack in the eastern city of Benghazi on Monday, in what British media described as the most serious assault on foreign targets in Libya to date. The attack came amid mounting concern for the welfare of an Australian lawyer and three colleagues working for the International Criminal Court after they were detained in Libya. They were accused of spying when they visited Saif al-Islam Gaddafi.

News you may have missed #744

Navi PillayBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Source says Mikhailov ‘will not be exchanged’ with US. There are rumors going around that the US might consider exchanging Russian arms merchant Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year sentence in a New York prison, for one or more CIA spies currently being held in Russian prisons. Russian news agency RIA Novosti has cited a “high ranking official in the Russian security services”, who suggests that Bout “might be exchanged”, but not with Valery Mikhailov, a Russian former counterintelligence officer, who was sentenced this week to 18 years in prison for allegedly spying for the CIA.
►►CIA preparing to pull back from Iraq. The US Central Intelligence Agency is preparing to cut its presence in Iraq to less than half of wartime levels, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cites “US officials familiar with the planning”. Under the plans being considered, says the paper, the CIA’s presence in Iraq would be reduced to 40% of wartime levels, when Baghdad was the largest CIA station in the world with more than 700 agency personnel. Interestingly, the plan would also reduce the US intelligence presence in the region as neighboring Syria appears to be verging on civil war.
►►Senior UN official blasts US drone strikes. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has said US drone attacks in Pakistan “raise serious questions about compliance with international law, in particular the principle of distinction and proportionality”. She also voiced concerns that the strikes were being conducted “beyond effective and transparent mechanisms of civilian or military control”. IntelNews provided this opinion on the matter, in 2009.

News you may have missed #705

Neil HeywoodBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►UK man found dead in China had links to intel company. It has emerged that Neil Heywood, a British citizen and China expert, who was recently found dead in a hotel room in China, was an adviser to Hakluyt, a corporate intelligence firm founded by former MI6 officers. Hakluyt has confirmed that Heywood prepared periodic reports for it, but said he had not been working for the company at the time of his death.
►►Analysis: Iraq war ghosts haunting CIA in tackling Iran. At America’s top spy agency, the ghosts of Iraq are never far away. One CIA analyst who had helped develop some of the intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction had a breakdown, months after the Iraq war began; he had participated in the post-invasion hunt there that found the weapons did not exist. When he eventually was given a new assignment assessing Iran’s nuclear program, he confided a fear to colleagues: that the intelligence community might get it wrong again.
►►Interview with African-American CIA official. Starting in the early 1980s, as a standout undergraduate student at Colgate University, Harvard-trained lawyer and master of several languages, Justin Jackson is now the most senior African-American at the CIA. From 1983 to 2010, he served under five presidents and 10 CIA directors. “My job was to collect foreign intelligence from those human sources who were reporting on the plans and intentions of our adversaries. I also conducted covert action as directed by the administration and I ran counterintelligence operations to detect efforts that foreign countries were making against us”, he says.

Israel ‘conducts espionage incursions into Iran from Kurdish Iraq’

Kurds in the Iran-Iraq border regionBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS & IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Israeli intelligence services are routinely using an undisclosed base in Iraqi Kurdistan to launch regular intelligence missions into Iran, according to The Sunday Times. The London-based newspaper cited unnamed “Western intelligence sources” in alleging that Israeli commandos and highly trained special forces members have been conducting cross-border operations from northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan province. But, says the paper, these risky intelligence missions have been intensified to an unprecedented degree in the past few months, as the Israelis are desperately seeking “smoking gun evidence” to convince the United States and the United Nations that Iran is actively constructing a nuclear warhead. The Israelis, according to the Times, deploy twelve-member fully armed teams into Iran on modified Black Hawk helicopters, which are able to fly for approximately 500 miles without needing to refuel. After landing into Iran, the Israeli commandos, who are usually in Iranian military uniforms, are transported to target locations in vehicles made to look like those used by the Iranian military. Their target destinations include Iranian military complexes such as that in Parchin, located 19 miles southeast of Tehran. The Times claims that the Israeli commando teams have also been to Fordow, near Qum, a heavily guarded former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps base that houses an underground uranium enrichment facility. The article claims that, once they reach their destination, the Israeli commando teams use “sensitive equipment” to monitor levels of radioactivity and record the magnitude of any explosives tests that might be carried out at those locations. IntelNews has paid particular attention over the years to reports of alleged cooperation between Israeli intelligence agencies and Kurdish groups in Iraq and elsewhere. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #677: Analysis edition

Che Guevara after his arrest in BoliviaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►New book ties Johnson administration to Che Guevara’s death. Michael Ratner and Michael Steven Smith are the co-authors of a new book about the US role in the killing of Cuban revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara. In their book, Who Killed Che?, Ratner and Smith draw on previously unpublished government documents to argue the CIA played a critical role in the killing. “The line of the [US] government was that the Bolivians did it, we couldn’t do anything about it. That’s not true”, Smith said. “This whole operation was organized out of the White House by Walt Whitman Rostow. And the CIA, by this time, had become a paramilitary organization”.
►►CIA digs in as US withdraws from Iraq and Afghanistan. The CIA is expected to maintain a large clandestine presence in Iraq and Afghanistan long after the departure of conventional US troops as part of a plan by the Obama administration to rely on a combination of spies and Special Operations forces to protect US interests in the two longtime war zones, US officials said. They added that the CIA’s stations in Kabul and Baghdad will probably remain the agency’s largest overseas outposts for years.
►►Indian Army ‘preparing for limited conflict with China’. Noting that India is increasingly getting concerned about China’s posture on its border, James Clapper, US Director of National Intelligence, said this week that the Indian Army is strengthening itself for a “limited conflict” with China. “The Indian Army believes a major Sino-Indian conflict is not imminent, but the Indian military is strengthening its forces in preparation to fight a limited conflict along the disputed border, and is working to balance Chinese power projection in the Indian Ocean,” he said.

Israeli Mossad training Iranian exiles in Kurdistan: French newspaper

Predomiantly Kurdish Middle East regionsBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A leading French newspaper has claimed that Israeli intelligence agents are recruiting and training Iranian dissidents in clandestine bases located in Iraq’s Kurdish region. Paris-based daily Le Figaro, France’s second-largest national newspaper, cited a “security source in Baghdad”, who alleged that members of Israeli intelligence are currently operating in Iraq’s autonomous northern Kurdish region. According to the anonymous source, the Israelis, who are members of the Mossad, Israel’s foremost external intelligence agency, are actively recruiting Iranian exiles in Kurdistan. Many of these Iranian assets, who are members of Iran’s Kurdish minority and opposed to the Iranian regime, are allegedly being trained by the Mossad in spy-craft and sabotage. The article in Le Figaro claims that the Iranian assets are being prepared for conducting operations inside the energy-rich country, as part of Israel’s undercover intelligence war against Iran’s nuclear energy program. The Baghdad source told the French daily that part of Israel’s sabotage program against sensitive Iranian nuclear facilities, which includes targeted assassinations of Iranian nuclear experts, is directed out of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, “where [Mossad] agents have stepped up their penetration”. For this, “the Israelis are using Kurdish oppositionists to the regime in Iran, who are living are refugees in the Kurdish regions of Iraq”, the source told Le Figaro. Although the article makes no mention of official or unofficial sanction of the Israeli operations by the Iraqi Kurdish authorities, it implies that the alleged Mossad activities are an open secret in Iraqi Kurdistan. This is not the first time that allegations have surfaced in the international press about Israeli intelligence activities in Kurdistan. In 2006, the BBC flagship investigative television program Newsnight obtained strong evidence of Israeli operatives providing military training to Kurdish militia members. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #654

Abdel Hakim Belhaj►►Libyan military commander sues British intelligence. Just as he said he would, Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who commands the new Libyan military forces in Tripoli, has sued Britain for its role in his rendition into imprisonment and torture at the hands of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. He said he resorted to legal action after waiting in vain for the British government to offer an apology for his seven years spent in the jails of the secret police.
►►Argentine Admiral fired over espionage scandal. The head of the Argentine Navy, Admiral Jorge Godoy, has stepped down after being accused of illegal espionage. He has been indicted for alleged practices of “domestic intelligence” –which are prohibited by Argentina’s laws– against political leaders and of human rights activists, in the years between 2003 and 2006.
►►US intelligence warned of strive after US Iraq pullout. This is what Reuters news agency reports, citing anonymous sources inside the US government. Then again, US intelligence agencies warned in 2002 of increasing strife in case of a US invasion in Iraq, and nobody in government listened to them. So why would anyone listen to them now?

News you may have missed #585 [updated]

GCHQ

GCHQ

►►GCHQ recovers £300m worth of stolen information. Details stolen from more than a million credit cards across Europe, worth an estimated £300 million, have been recovered by Britain’s GCHQ signals intelligence spy agency, according to The Daily Telegraph.
►►Kuwait arrests alleged Iraqi spy. Kuwait security forces have arrested a man of Iraqi origin for alleged intelligence links with Iraq, a Kuwaiti daily said on Sunday. The man, who was arrested on Friday, and is referred to by the media as “Abu Ahmad”, was staying illegally in the country and allegedly provided Iraq with sensitive information about vital facilities in Kuwait. This is the third time in recent months that the government of Kuwait has pressed espionage charges against a spy suspect. [Update: Hackers steal CIA and Mossad SSL certificates. The tally of digital certificates stolen from a Dutch company in July has exploded to more than 500, including ones for intelligence services like the CIA, the UK’s MI6, and Israel’s Mossad, a Mozilla developer said Sunday. According to some sources, the hackers were Iranian.

US misused our intel to justify Iraq War, says German ex-spy chief

August Hanning

August Hanning

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The former Director of Germany’s foreign intelligence service has accused the Bush administration of consciously falsifying intelligence supplied by Germany in order to justify going to war in Iraq. August Hanning, who served as Director of Germany’s Bundesnachrichtendienst (known as BND) from 1998 to 2005, said that the BND had no part in the deception, and that “the responsibility for the war lies solely with the Americans”. In an interview to the Sunday edition of German national newspaper Die Welt, Hanning explained that the administration of US President George W. Bush was especially interested in intelligence collected by the BND from an Iraqi defector codenamed ‘Curveball’. The defector, whose real name is Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, arrived in Germany in 1999 and applied for political asylum, saying he had been employed as a senior scientist in Iraq’s biological weapons program. Among other things, he told his BND debriefing team that Saddam Hussein had built a fleet of biological weapons labs on wheels, in order to avoid detection from America and other countries. After consulting with biological weapons experts, the BND expressed serious doubts about Curveball’s reliability, but kept him in Germany nonetheless. Several years later, al-Janabi confirmed the BND’s suspicions, by admitting that he had invented his allegations in order to help bring down the regime of Saddam Hussein. He also admitted that he was in reality a taxi driver from Baghdad, who had used his undergraduate knowledge of engineering to get asylum in Germany. At the time, said Hanning, the BND strongly and repeatedly communicated to the CIA its doubts about Curveball’s claims, something which is known. What is not known, however, is that Hanning personally wrote to then CIA Director George Tenet and urged him to adopt a skeptical approach to the defector’s allegations. The former BND chief told Die Welt that he was “assured by the Americans that our intelligence would not be used in Powell’s speech”. Read more of this post

Turkish intel report raises fears of Syrian, Iranian support for PKK

PKK banner

PKK banner

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
By all accounts, in 1998 Syria discontinued its clandestine support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a leftist secessionist movement that aspires to create a Kurdish homeland comprising mostly of territories in Turkey’s Anatolia region. But a leading Turkish newspaper claims that, according to a classified intelligence report, Damascus has resumed its support for the PKK. The paper, Zaman, said that according to the report, Turkey’s main intelligence directorate, the MİT, has concluded that Syria has “started to support the PKK” again, thus reverting to its pre-1998 stance. It was on that year that Damascus expelled the PKK’s founder and leader, Abdullah Öcalan, who had previously been given shelter and protection in the country. A few months later, Öcalan was snatched by Turkish commandos from the hands of Greek diplomats in Nairobi, Kenya, and flown to Turkey, where he is now serving a life sentence. Following Öcalan’s expulsion, Syria, which is home to an estimated 400,000 Kurds, quietly began cooperating with Ankara against the PKK and its sister organizations operating on Syrian soil. But the MİT report cited by Zaman says that, under the fear of anti-government militancy and continuous popular and ethnic uprisings, Damascus has tried to mend relations with its Kurdish minority, and is now “providing shelter to some of the PKK’s most important leaders”. The classified report, which Zaman says gives “a highly detailed overview” of the PKK’s regional activities, also alleges that Syria has increased its security collaboration with Iran, which is also home to several thousand ethnic Kurds. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #556

David Irvine

David Irvine

►►Australian computer networks spied ‘massively’. Cyberespionage is being used against Australia on a “massive scale” and some foreign spies are using Australian government networks to penetrate the cyberdefenses of allies such as the United States. This according to the Director of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) David Irvine. Speaking at a business forum, Mr. Irvine said that “it seems the more rocks we turn over in cyberspace, the more [cyberespionage] we find”.
►►US to give Iraq wiretapping system. The US will give the government of Iraq a wiretapping system that will allow it to monitor and store voice calls, data transmissions and text messages from up to 5,000 devices simultaneously. The system is to be installed with the acquiescence of the three current cellular communications providers in Iraq, according to the US Air Force. A similar system was set up by a US contractor three years ago in Afghanistan.
►►Judge says NSA whistleblower faced ‘tyrannical’ US government. This blog has kept an eye on the case of Thoma Drake, a former US National Security Agency employee  who was taken to court for leaking secrets about the agency to a journalist. But the judge in his case, Richard D. Bennett, refused Read more of this post

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