US denies it offered to release American who spied for Israel

Jonathan PollardBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
United States officials have denied reports in the Israeli media that Washington has offered to release an American serving a life sentence for spying for Israel. The Israel Army Radio, which is operated by the Israel Defense Forces, said on Wednesday that the administration of US President Barack Obama had offered to release Jonathan Jay Pollard, a former US Navy analyst who has so far served 28 years of a life sentence in a US prison, for spying on the US for Israel. Many in US counterintelligence consider Pollard, who acquired Israeli citizenship in 1995, one of the most damaging double spies in American history. But he is widely viewed as a hero in Israel, and many conservative Israelis, as well as pro-Israel Americans, are actively pressuring the US administration of President Barack Obama to release him. According to Israel Army Radio, the offer was placed on the negotiation table last week during Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s visit to Washington. Allegedly, the offer to release Pollard is part of an attempt by President Obama to revive the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, which have stalled in recent months. The original US-brokered talks between the two sides included an agreement by Israel to release 104 Palestinian prisoners in four separate groups. The first three groups were released in 2013; but Israel is currently refusing to release the fourth and final group, originally scheduled to be freed this month, arguing that the prisoners in that group are all Israeli citizens and have no connection to the Palestinian National Authority. According to Israel Army Radio, Washington has offered to release Pollard in return for Israel’s release of the last batch of Palestinian prisoners, providing that the Palestinian National Authority will then return to the negotiation table. Late on Wednesday, however, US Department of State spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that Washington had “no plans to release Jonathan Pollard”. Read more of this post

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Analysis: The war between Israel and international arms smugglers

Sinai PeninsulaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
The interception earlier this week of a civilian cargo vessel in the southern Red Sea by Israeli commandos has brought to light the ongoing war between weapons smugglers and the Israeli state. The vessel, named Klos-C, was seized by Israeli forces in international waters, over 1,000 miles away from Israel’s coast. Few observers were surprised by the location of the seizure, which took place in the waters between Eritrea and Sudan. Israeli security planners consider the East African country as a major link in the complex smuggling network that supplies goods and weapons to the Gaza Strip. Tel Aviv has long asserted that the smuggled weapons, which usually originate from Iran or Syria, are secretly carried from Port Sudan into Egypt before eventually ending up across the border into the Palestinian enclave that is controlled by militant group Hamas.

Regular readers of this blog will remember the October 2012 Israeli air attack on the outskirts of Sudanese capital Khartoum, which destroyed an alleged illicit weapons warehouse. In May of 2012, a missile attack in Port Sudan, which was also linked to Israel, killed Nasser Awadallah Ahmed Said, an eminent member of the Red Sea’s Ababda Bedouin tribe, whose members have a long history of smuggling weapons and goods to and from Sudan.

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Israeli reports accuse US of denying entry visas to Israeli spies

US Department of StateBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Articles in the Israeli media have accused the United States of quietly instituting a policy of denying entry visa requests from members of Israel’s security and intelligence agencies. In an article published on Tuesday, centrist newspaper Maariv cited “senior security personnel” who have allegedly been barred from entering the US. The centrist Hebrew-language daily said the past 12 months have seen “hundreds of cases” of employees in the Israeli intelligence community who have been told by US consular officials that they could not step foot on US soil. The paper said the visa rejections appear to affect mostly members of the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security agency, and the Mossad, which conducts covert operations abroad. Visa bans have also affected employees in Israel’s defense industries, said the article. The report suggests that the targeting of Israeli security and intelligence personnel appears to be deliberate, adding that it applies even to those Israeli intelligence or security officers that are already stationed on US soil. In what seems to be a change in policy, the latter are now being issued short-term visas, rather than multiyear entry permits. As a result, the paper says they are “forced” to cross from the US into Canada at regular intervals, in order to apply to have their visas renewed. However, many of them are now having their visa renewal applications rejected, or are made to wait “several weeks” before having their entry permits renewed by American consular staff. The paper quoted a “senior [Israeli] security expert”, who said he had been denied an entry visa to the US this past January, for the first time in his career, despite having visited the US numerous times in the past “without trouble”. He told Maariv that he had “traveled to the US dozens of times in the past for my job and never faced issues getting a visa” on time. Read more of this post

Are Israeli arms merchants selling weapons to Iran?

F-4 aircraftBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A leaked report by American and Greek investigators suggests that an intercepted shipment of military hardware intended for Iran probably originated in Israel. Greek broadsheet Kathimerini said on Sunday it had in its possession a copy of the classified report, which describes the interception of a large shipment of spare parts for military use. The parts are believed to have been intended for use by the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF). The shipment allegedly contained spare parts for F-4 Phantom aircraft, which were originally built in the United States in the 1960s for use by the US Navy. The Islamic Republic still maintains a sizable fleet of F-4s, which Iran bought from the US in the 1970s, when the two countries were close allies. But a US-imposed embargo on Iran, which has been in effect since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, has prevented Tehran from easily acquiring spare parts for its aging fleet of F-4s. The Kathimerini report said that the intercepted shipment had been detected following a joint operation by the Greek Financial Crimes Squad and the US Department of Homeland Security. According to the paper, the secret operation began was underway in late 2012 and concluded in April of 2013. But the most shocking part of the report is that the illegal shipment appears to have originated from Binyamina-Giv’at Ada, a small Israeli town located 30 miles south of Haifa. Investigators said the illicit transfer had been facilitated via a Greek firm registered in the Athens district of Votanikos, called “Tassos Karras SA”, which appears to be a front company. Is it possible that Israeli arms merchants are supplying military spare parts to Iran? The Israeli government has refused comment on the case. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #867 (Syrian uprising edition)

Regional map of SyriaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Al-Qaeda breaks link with Syrian militant group. Al-Qaeda’s general command said on Monday it had no links with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in an apparent attempt to reassert its authority over fragmented Islamist fighters in Syria’s civil war. The move is likely to bolster a rival Islamist group, the al-Nusra Front, as al Qaeda’s official proxy in Syria. The switch is seen as an attempt to redirect the Islamist effort towards unseating President Bashar al-Assad rather than waste resources in fighting other rebels.
►►Is Israel secretly working to target al-Qaeda in Syria? Reports already indicate that Israel is providing humanitarian aid for Syrians, but do these contacts also include intelligence and military cooperation against radical groups linked with al-Qaeda? And, if so, does this mean that Israel is assisting troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad?
►►Australians ‘flocking to Syrian front line’. Some experts say there are more Australians journeying to Syria to participate in the ongoing conflict than any other Western nation. The number of Australians killed in Syria’s civil war is at least 15 —double the number previously reported. The claim comes from a prominent member of the country’s Syrian community. He says there is no shortage of Australian support for the Syrian rebels —and that that support is being grossly under-reported.

Israel jails Orthodox Jew who offered to spy for Iran

Neturei Karta membersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
An Israeli citizen, who belongs to an Orthodox anti-Zionist Jewish group that rejects the existence of the state of Israel, has been jailed for offering to spy for Iran. Yitzhak Bergel, 46, a father of eight, who resides in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Mea She’arim neighborhood, is a member of the Neturei Karta —which translates in English as “Guardians of the City”. The Jewish group opposes Zionism —the belief that a state-sanctioned Jewish homeland ought to be created in the territory described as “Land of Israel” in Jewish scriptural texts. The group, which was founded in the 1930s and has thousands of adherents in Israel, the United States and Europe, is one of several branches of conservative Judaism whose members believe that Jews are forbidden by the Torah to create their own state before the coming of the Jewish Messiah. Its members therefore oppose the existence of the current state of Israel and favor its dismantling as a Jewish state. According to his indictment, Bergel, who became religious 20 years ago, traveled to the German capital Berlin in January of 2011, intent on contacting Iranian diplomats. He walked into the Iranian embassy there and offered to collect intelligence on Israel on behalf of Iran, in return for regular payments. Israeli government prosecutors said Bergel remained in contact with his Iranian handlers until his arrest last summer. According to court documents, Bergel pleaded guilty to charges of contacting foreign agents with intent to commit treason and attempting to aid an enemy of Israel. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #863

Carmi GillonBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Al-Qaeda controls more Arab territory than ever before. Al-Qaeda currently controls territory that stretches more than 400 miles across the heart of the Middle East. Indeed, the group appears to control more territory in the Arab world than it has done at any time in its history. Its affiliates now control much of northern and northwestern Syria as well as some parts of eastern Syria, as well as much of Anbar province, which is around a third of Iraqi territory.
►►German diplomats survive shooting in Saudi Arabia. Two German diplomats survived a shooting attack on their car while on a visit to eastern Saudi Arabia on Monday, the state news agency SPA reported, but their vehicle was burned. In Berlin, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said: “I can confirm that there was an incident during a drive out in the country. The car was shot at and it caught fire. There were no injuries. The embassy in Riyadh has launched an investigation”.
►►Israel’s ex-security chief flees Denmark to avoid arrest. Carmi Gillon, former director of Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency, who is also Israel’s former ambassador to Denmark, has left the Scandinavian country following a formal complaint accusing him of committing crimes of torture and brutality against Palestinian detainees. Gillon is reported to have left the country hastily to avoid being detained.

White House denies reports it offered to release Israeli spy

Jonathan Jay PollardBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Sources from the White House have anonymously denied a flurry of recent reports in Israeli media that Washington has offered to release Jonathan Jay Pollard, who spied on the United States for Israel. On Friday, Israel’s Channel 10 News claimed that US Secretary of State John Kerry had offered to secure freedom for Pollard, in exchange for the release of 26 longtime Arab prisoners from Israeli jails. Pollard, a US Navy intelligence analyst who spied for Israel in exchange for money, has so far served 28 years of a life sentence in a US prison. Many in US counterintelligence consider Pollard, who acquired Israeli citizenship in 1995, one of the most damaging double spies in American history. But he is widely viewed as a hero in Israel, and many conservative Israelis, as well as pro-Israel Americans, are actively pressuring the US administration of President Barack Obama to release him. Channel 10 said on Friday that Washington might consider freeing Pollard in return for Israel releasing 26 longtime Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons. The Jewish state has so far released 52 Palestinians in the first two phases of a four-phase program, aimed at prompting Palestinian groups to enter peace talks with Tel Aviv. However, a separate report aired on Israel National Radio on Friday evening said that the US Secretary of State had merely promised to pass on to US President Barack Obama an official request to free Pollard, issued by the Israeli government. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #862

Cyprus, Israel, Syria, LebanonBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Covert CIA program helped Colombia kill rebel leaders. A covert CIA program has helped Colombia’s government kill at least two dozen leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the rebel insurgency also known as FARC, The Washington Post reported Saturday. The National Security Agency has also provided “substantial eavesdropping help” to the Colombian government, according to The Post.
►►Israel asks US not to spy on it. Israeli officials broke their silence over the US surveillance scandal Sunday, angrily demanding an end to Washington’s spying on Israel. Last week more documents leaked by former NSA technical expert Edward Snowden uncovered a partnership between the NSA and British intelligence agency GCHQ from 2008 to 2011 to monitor office email addresses from the then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
►►Germany reacts coolly to French request on Central Africa. Germany reacted coolly last week to a French request that European countries step up support for its military mission in Central African Republic, playing down the likelihood of any financial assistance on the eve of an EU summit. France has deployed 1,600 troops there to prevent worsening violence between Christian militias and largely Muslim Seleka rebels who ousted ex-President Francois Bozize.

Israel has long list of assassination targets, says analyst

Hassan Lakkis By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The assassination of Hezbollah commander Hassan Lakkis in Beirut, on December 3, sent shockwaves across the Middle East. Lakkis was in charge of advanced weapons planning for the militant Shiite group that controls large swaths of Lebanon. He was killed around midnight local time outside his house in the Lebanese capital, when at least two gunmen opened fire at close range, shooting him several times in the head. Shortly afterwards, Hezbollah openly accused Israel for the murder, while the Jewish state strongly rejected the allegations. But veteran Israeli intelligence commentator Ronen Bergman, who is senior analyst for Israel’s highest-selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, has little doubt that Israel was behind the attack. In an article published on Thursday in Foreign Policy, Bergman suggests that Lakkis was one of many individuals on an extensive assassination list maintained by Israel’s intelligence agencies. The list is believed to include “leading figures” in what Israeli military and intelligence planners call “the Radical Front”. This term comprises two national governments, namely those of Syria and Iran, as well as leading officials in three militant organizations, Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The longtime Israeli commentator says that the “Radical Front” assassination list was initially compiled in 2004 by Israeli covert-action agency Mossad. Interestingly, its authors did not focus on the political or ideological leadership of targeted organizations. Rather they concentrated upon “the people who handled the details and the translation of strategy into actual practice”. Many of those placed on the list were individuals with “advanced operational, organizational and technological capabilities”, says Bergman. He goes on to list several victims of Israel’s assassination campaigns, including Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah, who died in a massive car explosion in Syrian capital Damascus on February 12, 2008. At the time of his assassination, Mughniyah headed Hezbollah’s security apparatus and was among the organization’s most senior intelligence officials. Another victim mentioned by Bergman is Syrian General Muhammad Suleiman, who had been appointed by Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad as Special Presidential Advisor for Arms Procurement and Strategic Weapons. Read more of this post

UK foreign secretary warns Israel against sabotaging Iran nuke deal

William HagueBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The British foreign secretary warned Israel on Monday not to try to sabotage the interim nuclear deal with Iran “in any practical way”. William Hague, a senior cabinet member in the Tory-led British government, was speaking at the House of Commons on Monday, when he urged the world, “including Israel”, to act positively toward the accord. The latter was struck last week between the Islamic Republic of Iran and a group of nations that have come to be known as P5+1, representing the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. Tehran has provisionally agreed to limit the scope of its nuclear energy program in exchange for the P5+1 group of nations taking initiative to have certain economic sanctions on Iran lifted. Although the agreement is still in its interim stage, participating nations hope to have it finalized before the end of 2014. There are fears, however, that some Middle Eastern nations, notably Israel and Saudi Arabia, might try to sabotage the deal. Last weekend, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the interim agreement as an “historic mistake” and stressed that Tel Aviv was not involved in, and therefore not bound, by the accord. He concluded his speech at the Israeli Knesset by promising that Israel “will not allow Iran to develop a military nuclear capability”. In his speech to members of parliament, Mr. Hague agreed that it was crucial to “try to understand” those nations that oppose the agreement. However, he urged critics to “confine their criticism to rhetoric”. He specifically named Israel, saying that the British government “would discourage anybody in the world, including Israel, from taking any steps that would undermine this agreement”. He added that Downing Street would make that message “very clear to all concerned”. The foreign secretary went on to say that London had no evidence that parties opposed to the agreement were prepared to sabotage it “in any practical way”; but he emphasized that Britain would remain “on its guard”. Read more of this post

CIA declassifies 1978 Camp David Accord files

Sadat, Carter and BeginBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The United States Central Intelligence Agency has declassified 1,400 pages of intelligence files relating to the Camp David Accords, the historic peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, which was signed in 1978. The treaty, the first between Israel and an Arab country, was signed on September 17, following thirteen days of high-level negotiations between Egypt and Isarel at the Camp David presidential retreat in the US state of Maryland. The two signatories were Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. The high-level summit was hosted by US President Jimmy Carter. All three heads of state were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize later that year, which they shared for helping bring about the first peace treaty between an Arab nation and Israel. The 250 previously classified documents on the Accords, which were released by the CIA earlier this week, date from January 1977 to March 1979. They include comprehensive political assessments and personality profiles of President Sadat, Prime Minister Begin, and other key personalities participating at the summit, which were given to President Carter to read before the meeting. One of the documents refers to a meeting between Carter and CIA analysts at the Agency’s headquarters in August 1978, during which the American President was coached about how to negotiate with the two Middle Eastern leaders. Or, as the document puts it, Carter was “steeped in the personalities of Begin and Sadat”. The papers also include declassified transcripts of meetings of the US National Security Council, in which the Accords were discussed. Read more of this post

Ex-Mossad officer says US promised to free Israeli spy Pollard

Jonathan PollardBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
An Israeli former intelligence officer says Israel was promised by the United States that Jonathan Jay Pollard, a convicted spy who betrayed American secrets to Israel in the 1980s, would be freed after 10 years. Rafi Eitan is an Israeli politician, former cabinet minister, and a veteran officer of the Mossad, Israel’s covert-action agency. In 1985, he resigned from the Mossad after assuming responsibility for the loss of Pollard, a United States Navy intelligence analyst who spied for Israel in exchange for money. Pollard, who acquired Israeli citizenship in 1995, has so far served 28 years of a life sentence in a US prison. 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, where many conservative Israelis, as well as pro-Israel Americans, are actively pressuring the US administration of President Barack Obama to release him. On Monday, Eitan spoke to Israeli Army Radio on the Hebrew calendar anniversary of Pollard’s 1985 arrest by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He said in the interview that he had been asked by the Israeli government to appear in Pollard’s trial as his intelligence handler and cooperate with US government prosecutors’ efforts to convict Pollard. According to the former Mossad officer, a backroom deal had been reached between the United States and Israel, whereby Pollard would serve no more than a decade in prison in return for full cooperation with the FBI. However, said Eitan, when the time came for Pollard’s release, the United States “denied there had been a deal”, while the Israeli government failed to protest strongly enough in favor of Pollard’s release. Asked by the interviewer why he thought Washington had reneged on the alleged deal, Eitan said that the Americans displayed “a desire for revenge —to say: ‘you [Israel] were a friendly [country]  and look what you did. So now we will show you’”. The Mossad veteran added that he deeply regretted having helped incriminate Pollard, but is now devoting the final years of his live to help the convicted spy campaign for his release. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #857 (hacking edition)

Mossad sealBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►UK spies hacked Belgian phone company using fake LinkedIn page. British spies hacked into the routers and networks of a Belgian telecommunications company Belgacom by tricking its telecom engineers into clicking on malicious LinkedIn and Slashdot pages, according to documents released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The primary aim, reports the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, which obtained the documents, was to compromise the GRX router system that BICS controlled, in order to intercept mobile phone traffic that got transmitted by the router.
►►Indonesian hackers behind attack on Australian spy service website. Indonesian hackers are believed to have brought down the website of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, Australia’s leading spy agency. The page was not working on Monday afternoon after hackers launched a “denial of service” attack. A “404 not found” message typically appears when a website crashes under a “denial of service” attack. The cyber attack is reportedly a response to revelations that Australia had been spying on its closest neighbor through its Jakarta embassy.
►►Hamas blasts alleged Mossad website. Hamas officials released a warning about a website called Holol (“solutions”), claiming it is a ruse set up by Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency to recruit Gazans as informants. The website’s “Employment” page states, “due to our connections with the Israeli Civil Administration, we can help you bypass the bureaucratic tape and procedural processes which prevent you from leaving Gaza”. The site also offers Israeli medical assistance, “due to connections with the Ministry of Health and the Israeli Civil Administration”. Palestinians interested in contacting the website’s officials are asked to provide their full name, telephone number, email, topic of inquiry, and an explanation of why they are asking for help. Last month, Lebanese group Hezbollah accused the Mossad of being behind a website seeking information on Hezbollah’s intelligence wing.

Arafat ‘may have been poisoned’, claims Swiss forensic report

Yasser ArafatBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A forensic investigation by Swiss researchers into the death of Yasser Arafat states that the data “moderately suggests” that the Palestinian statesman may have been poisoned with a deadly radioactive substance. The founder of Palestinian nationalist group Fatah, who led the Palestine Liberation Organization for over three decades before becoming the first president of the Palestinian Authority, passed away in November 2004 at the Percy military hospital in Paris, France. His official records indicate that he died from a stroke, which he suffered as a result of a blood disorder known as disseminated intravascular coagulation. However, a year-long investigation by a team of forensic pathologists at the Vaudois University Hospital Centre in Lausanne, Switzerland, suggests that the late Palestinian leader is likely to have been poisoned with radioactive polonium. According to the results of the study, published by Qatari news channel Al Jazeera, tests on Arafat’s bones and on soil samples from around his corpse, showed “unexpected high activity” of polonium 210. Traces of the same substance were discovered on the personal artifacts that Arafat used during his final days while in hospital in Paris. According to the study, some of the Fatah leader’s personal belongings, including his underwear and his toothbrush, contained levels of polonium that were as many as ten times higher than those in random samples used as control subjects in the study. The BBC spoke to Dr. Paddy Regan, of the University of Surrey, United Kingdom, who specializes in the detection and measurement of radiation. He said the Swiss study had delivered “a pretty strong statement” in support of the theory that Arafat was poisoned. Read more of this post

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