Japanese government ‘not aware’ of existence of clandestine spy unit

Japanese Ministry of Defense in TokyoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The government of Japan has denied claims made in the media of a clandestine intelligence collection unit, which has allegedly been operating for decades without the knowledge of senior cabinet officials. On Tuesday, the Tokyo-based Kyodo News Agency cited an unnamed former member of Japan’s territorial army, known as Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF), who revealed the existence of a previously secret unit. The unit is allegedly tasked with human intelligence (HUMINT) collection and is said to have been operating since before the end of the Cold War. The unnamed source told Kyodo that the unit’s existence has been kept hidden from senior Japanese government officials, including the prime minister and the minister of defense. He also told the news agency that the unit’s existence has been kept secret even from senior commanders inside GSDF. Its headquarters is allegedly based deep in the basement of Japan’s Ministry of Defense, located in Tokyo’s Ichigaya district, in the eastern portion of Shinjuku. However, the unit operates a complex network of safe houses, located mostly in rented commercial properties throughout Japan and Southeast Asia. The source described part of his intelligence training, which he had to undertake before joining the HUMINT unit. He said classes took place at a nondescript GSDF training facility in the western Tokyo suburb of Kodaira. Those trained came almost exclusively from GSDF, with just a handful of officers from Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force and Maritime Self-Defense Force. The Kyodo article said the unit inductees are given a “temporary leave of absence” from their GSDF posts and are “prohibited from contacting outsiders” during their HUMINT missions. Read more of this post

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News you may have missed #848

US consulate in Benghazi, LibyaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►UK officials saw ‘communist spies’ in Japan in 1983. British officials believed in the early 1980s that Japanese institutions had been “slightly” penetrated by communist intelligence services, according to documents declassified last week at the National Archives in London. The documents, from 1983, assert that there were approximately 220 communist intelligence officers working in Japan: 100 for the Soviet Union, 60 for China and 60 for other communist countries.
►►‘Dozens of CIA operatives on the ground’ during Benghazi attack. CNN claims that “dozens of people working for the CIA” were on the ground the night of the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. The news station adds that, according to one source, the CIA is involved in “an unprecedented attempt to keep [its] Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out”.
►►Australians call for national debate on privatization of intelligence. Dr Troy Whitford, Associate Investigator with the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security, and lecturer at Charles Sturt University, has called for “a national debate on the extent, cost and consequences of Australia’s security and intelligence outsourcing”. The call was apparently prompted by news that 51% of the intelligence gathering in the US is now carried out by non-government contractors.

US held secret meetings with North Korea after Kim Jong Il’s death

North and South KoreaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Senior United States officials traveled secretly to North Korea for talks on at least two occasions following the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, according to a leading Japanese newspaper. Quoting unnamed sources from Japan, South Korea and the United States, the Tokyo-based Asahi Shimbun newspaper said last week that the American officials traveled on US military airplanes from an Air Force base on the Pacific island of Guam to North Korean capital Pyongyang. According to the paper, the visits, which took place on April 7 and August 18-20, 2012, were kept secret from both the South Korea and Japanese governments. It appears, however, that Tokyo found out about the secret flights after it was approached by amateur air traffic hobbyists, who noticed the Pyongyang-bound flights out of Guam. After analyzing air traffic patterns, officials at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign affairs contacted the US Department of State inquiring about the mystery flights. Incredibly, however, Washington refused to discuss the flights with its Japanese ally, citing national security concerns. Eventually, says Asahi, the State Department acknowledged one of the visits, but responded to persistent Japanese pressure by warning Tokyo that further inquiries on the subject “would harm bilateral relations” between Japan and the US. The Japanese daily claims that the secret flights carried a host of senior US officials, including Joseph DeTrani, then chief of the North Koran desk at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and Sydney Seiler, Korea policy chief at the White House National Security Council. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #755

Jeffrey Paul DelisleBy TIMOTHY W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
►►MI5 chief says al-Qaeda threatens UK from Arab Spring nations. Brittan’s domestic intelligence agency chief, Jonathan Evans, has stated that al-Qaeda is continuing to gather a foothold in nations that experienced the Arab Spring. In his speech, Evans, who directs the UK’s MI5, warned that al-Qaeda is attempting to reestablish itself in countries that had revolted, and that “a small number of British would-be jihadis [sic] are also making their way to Arab countries to seek training and opportunities for militant activity, as they do in Somalia and Yemen. Some will return to the UK and pose a threat here”. With a suspected 100-200 British born Islamist militants operating in the Middle East and Africa, the MI5 Director General warned that the coming summer Olympics in London made for an attractive target.
►►Russia to conduct airborne surveillance of Canada’s infrastructure. Canada’s National Post newspaper reports that Russian surveillance aircraft will conduct a flyover of Canada’s military and industrial infrastructure in what appears to be an annual Russian air reconnaissance mission. For the past ten years and under the Open Skies treaty, Russia is allowed to conduct flyovers of key Canadian sites. This will be the first flyover since the arrest last January of Jeffrey Paul Delisle (pictured), a Royal Canadian Navy officer, for allegedly spying on Canada on behalf of the Russians.
►►Japanese official who leaked DRPK missile info found dead. A Japanese Foreign Ministry official, who was largely thought to the source of leaked information regarding a Chinese missile technology transfer to North Korea in April, has been found dead. The official, previously under investigation for publicly disclosing national security information, was found hanged in his Chiba prefecture home on June 20. Additional details, including the individual’s name, were not made available, but Japanese government officials did indicate that the death did not appear to be suspicious.

Japan investigates senior Chinese diplomat for spying

Chinese embassy in TokyoBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Japanese authorities are investigating a senior Chinese diplomat for having engaged in “activities in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations”, which is technical language for espionage. The diplomat, who has been named by the Associated Press as Li Chunguang, and is fluent in Japanese, was posted at the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo in July of 2007 as the Embassy’s Second Secretary in charge of economic affairs. But Japan’s Public Security Intelligence Agency, which serves as the country’s primary counterintelligence organization, secretly monitored Li’s activities almost from the moment he was posted in Tokyo, eventually reaching the conclusion that the Chinese diplomat had ties to “an intelligence division of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army”. Earlier this year, the Agency determined that Li had used fraudulent information and had failed to disclose his diplomatic status while applying for an alien registration certificate from the Japanese government. According to news reports, he used the fraudulent certificate to open a bank account in Tokyo, where he deposited ¥100,000 (about US$ 1,300). According to Japanese investigators, Li he planned to “use [the money] for intelligence activities”. In mid-May of this year, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, acting on a tip from Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department, requested from the Chinese Embassy that Li turned himself in “for questioning”. However, instead of presenting himself to Japanese authorities, as requested, Li left his Tokyo Embassy post for good on May 23, and is presumed to be Read more of this post

Did Outside Spy Agencies Know About Kim Jong Il’s Death?

Kim Jong Il lies in state in PyongyangBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS* | intelNews.org |
According to KCNA, North Korea’s state news agency, Premier Kim Jong Il died at 8:30 am on Saturday, December 17. However, government media did not announce the startling news until early Monday morning, that is, nearly 50 hours after the “Dear Leader’s” sudden passing. Assuming that North Korean reports of the time and location of Kim’s death are truthful, the inevitable question for intelligence observers is: did anyone outside North Korea receive news of Kim Jong Il’s death during the 50 hours that preceded its public announcement? In times like this, most Westerners tend to look at the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, MI6, DGSE, or any of the other recognizable acronyms that dominate American and European news reports. The reality is, however, that despite their often-mythical status, Western intelligence agencies tend to be limited in their global reach, which is usually heavily concentrated on selected adversaries, like Russia, or China. These agencies therefore tend to rely on their regional allies to get timely and accurate information on smaller nations that are often difficult to penetrate. In the case of North Korea, Western spy agencies depend heavily on actionable intelligence collected by South Korean and Japanese spies. Read more of this post

Spy agencies scramble for clues after North Korean leader’s death

Kim Jong IlBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS* | intelNews.org |
Even though rumors had been rife for quite some time about North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s worsening health, his death startled intelligence agencies the world over. In typical fashion, North Korean state media announced yesterday that “the dear leader” had died on Saturday onboard a train during one of his usual field trips, “due to immense mental and physical strain caused by his […] building of a thriving nation”. A period of national mourning has been declared in the country until December 29. In the hours following the startling announcement, which Time magazine dubbed “a nightmare before Christmas”, no unusual activity was observed in the North, while early Monday reports from North Korean capital Pyongyang stated that traffic was “moving as usual”. Moreover, despite longstanding rumors about Kim Jong Il’s ill health, few intelligence analysts in South Korea, Japan, or the United States have been observing overt signs of political instability, or a leadership crisis. However, despite the apparent calm in the North, intelligence agencies around the world have gone on high alert, led by those in South Korea, which has remained technically at war with the North since 1950.  South Korean President Lee Myung-bak reportedly placed the country’s military on emergency alert on Sunday, and has ordered government officials to remain in capital Seoul and “maintain emergency contact” with their office staff. French sources said that one of the first outcomes of an emergency National Security Council meeting that took place in Seoul on Sunday was to request that the American Pentagon, which maintains nearly 30,000 troops in South Korea, steps up aerial surveillance over the North. Japan has also stepped up its intelligence-gathering operations in North Korea, and its Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, instructed his government to “closely share information” on North Korea with the United States, South Korea, and —notably— China. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #648

Academi HQ

►►IntelNews editor interviewed on RT. IntelNews senior editor, Dr Joseph Fitsanakis, was interviewed yesterday on the main news program of the popular international news channel RT. The interview, concerning the rebranding of private security company Xe Services (formerly Blackwater) to Academi, can be watched here (watch video at the bottom of the page).
►►Contractors making a killing working in UK cyberdefense. Britain has spent more than £100 million ($160 million) in the past year on consultants to combat cyber espionage and the growing use of the internet by terrorists. Now, members of Parliament are investigating the soaring costs of employing private contractors, some paid the equivalent of £150,000 a year, three times the average wage at GCHQ, the UK’s signals intelligence agency.
►►Japan launches second spy satellite. Japan’s space agency, JAXA, has launched an intelligence-gathering satellite, its second this year. Japan launched its first pair of spy satellites in 2003, prompted by concerns over North Korea’s missile program. It currently has four optical information-gathering satellites in orbit. Officials refused to provide details of the capabilities of the most recently launched satellite.

News you may have missed #641 (US edition)

Dennis Blair

Dennis Blair

►► US Navy memo had warned Roosevelt of 1941 attack. Three days before the December 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, US President F.D. Roosevelt was warned in a memo from US naval intelligence that Tokyo’s military and spy network was focused on Hawaii. The 20-page memo has been published in the new book December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World, by Craig Shirley.
►►US spy agencies cut their holiday parties. Holiday gatherings have provided rare opportunities for US congressional staff, embassy aides, government officials, and the media to mix it up —off the record— with the spy set. But this year, agency budget Scrooges have taken aim at high-priced holiday merriment. The Director of National Intelligence has canceled holiday parties altogether, and the Central Intelligence Agency has drastically downsized its guest list and lavish spread by more than 50%.
►►Ex-DNI Blair wants Pentagon in charge of drone strikes. The United States’ former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, who previously proposed scaling back the armed drone operation run in Pakistan by the CIA, is now urging that the program be publicly acknowledged and placed in the hands of the US military.

Analysis: China an ‘easy scapegoat’, says leading cybersecurity expert

Mikko Hypponen

Mikko Hypponen

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
It is fashionable nowadays to single out China as the primary source of global cyberespionage. During the past few days alone, the Japanese government said Chinese hackers had attacked computers systems in its Lower Parliament, while Britain’s General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) pointed to Beijing as the main culprit behind an unprecedented rise in organized cyberattacks. A few days ago, the United States intelligence community publicly named for the first time China and Russia as “the most aggressive collectors” of US economic information and technology online. But is the image of China as the ultimate cyber-villain accurate? Not necessarily, according to leading cybersecurity expert Mikko Hypponen. Speaking earlier this week at the PacSec 2011 conference in Tokyo, Japan, Hypponen, who leads computer security firm F-Secure, disputed the predominant view that a single country could be the source of the majority of organized cyberattacks directed against governmental and corporate targets. It is true, said Hypponen, that cyberespionage attacks “are commonly attributed to the Chinese government”. Moreover, it does appear like “a lot” of these attacks are indeed coming from Chinese sources, he said. But the problem of attribution —accurately and conclusively determining the responsible agency behind a cyberattack— remains unresolved in our time. Even if Chinese servers are conclusively identified as sources of such attacks, it would be dangerous to assume that Chinese government operatives —and not rogue agents, or nationalist hacker gangs— are necessarily behind them. Additionally, it is entirely possible that other countries —perhaps even Western countries— could be behind such attacks, but that they consciously try to mask them in such a way as to make China appear responsible. The reason is that Beijing is “such an easy scapegoat”, said Hypponen. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #620 (cyberespionage edition)

GCHQ

GCHQ

►►Canada government ‘warned prior to cyberattack’. Canada’s spy agency, CSIS, warned the government that federal departments were under assault from rogue hackers just weeks before an attack crippled key computers. A newly released intelligence assessment, prepared last November, sounded a security alarm about malicious, targeted emails disguised as legitimate messages —the very kind that shut down networks two months later.
►►GCHQ warns cyber crime reaches ‘disturbing’ levels. Cyber attacks on the British government, the public and industry have reached “disturbing” levels, according to the director of Britain’s biggest intelligence agency. Iain Lobban, who runs the British government’s listening centre, GCHQ, has warned that the “UK’s continued economic wellbeing” is under threat.
►►Japanese parliament hit by cyber-attack. Alleged Chinese hackers were able to snoop upon emails and steal passwords from computers belonging to lawmakers at the Japanese parliament for over a month, according to Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun. The paper claims that computers and servers were infected after a Trojan virus was emailed to a Lower House member in July. The Trojan then allegedly downloaded malware from a server allegedly based in China —allowing remote hackers to secretly spy on email communications and steal usernames and passwords from Japanese lawmakers.

News you may have missed #599

Erwin Rommel

Erwin Rommel

►►SAS planned to kill Nazi Field Marshal Rommel. The veil of secrecy surrounding Britain’s SAS special forces unit has been partially lifted to allow the publication of a new book detailing daring attacks behind Nazi lines in the Second World War. The book features an order for an ambitious but unsuccessful mission to kill or kidnap Nazi Field Marshal Erwin Rommel just after D-Day in 1944.
►►CIA says global-warming intelligence is ‘classified’. Two years ago, the US Central Intelligence Agency announced it was creating a center to analyze the geopolitical ramifications of “phenomena such as desertification, rising sea levels, population shifts and heightened competition for natural resources”. But whatever work the Center on Climate Change and National Security has done remains secret.
►►Japan sends new spy satellite into orbit. Japan at present has a total of three information-gathering satellites in orbit. All three are optical, which means they are able to capture images in broad daylight and in clear weather. The new spy satellite is said to replace one which is almost at the end of its useful life. The country is also planning to launch in two years time, radar satellites which can capture objects at night and in cloudy weather.

News you may have missed #399

  • Alleged Lebanese spy for Israel flees to Germany, says Lebanon. Lebanese media claim that Rasan al-Jud, who Lebanese authorities accuse of having aided Israel with the help of employees at Alfa, Lebanon’s state-owned cellular telecommunications provider, has fled Lebanon and is currently in Frankfurt, Germany. But a German Foreign Ministry spokesman has said that “the Foreign Ministry does not have any particular knowledge about the news item”.
  • Japan defends costly visit by Korean spy. Japan’s government has defended a costly four-day visit by Kim Hyun-Hee,  a former North Korean spy, who blew up a South Korean jet in 1987, killing 115 people. Despite the high expectations, the former spy produced little news about Japanese nationals kidnapped decades ago by Pyongyang.
  • Analysis: Slaying the US intelligence behemoth. Commenting on the recent Washington Post investigative series on the US intelligence complex, author Philip Smucker comments that there is an essential disconnect at work. Namely, Islamic perceptions are not understood to be ‘hard intelligence’. The US is still trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, or to apply conventional intelligence to an asymmetrical world.

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Analysis: A detailed look into Taiwanese espionage on mainland China

Lin Yi-lin

Lin Yi-lin

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun has published the first part of a captivating two-part examination into Taiwanese espionage activities in China, authored by Tsuyoshi Nojima, the paper’s former Taipei bureau chief. In the article, Nojima highlights the cases of a number of former civilian agents of Taiwan’s Military Information Bureau (MIB), including that of Lin Yi-lin. The MIB recruited Lin in the late 1980s, during what has been called the modern heyday of Taiwanese intelligence activities in China. Taiwan spies had been active on the Chinese mainland for decades following the Chinese Civil War, but a nationwide counterintelligence crackdown by Beijing in the late 1970s virtually decimated Taiwan’s espionage networks inside China. It took nearly a decade for the MIB to reestablish its informant architecture on the mainland. By that time, the rapprochement between the two rival countries was beginning, with commercial ties rapidly accelerating. Read more of this post

New book on Canada’s mysterious Agent 235

Johann Heinrich Amadeus de Graaf

De Graaf

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A new book published by the Pennsylvania State University Press sheds new light into the life and work of mysterious Agent 235, Canada’s mysterious mid-20th-century spy known as ‘Johnny’. In Johnny: A Spy’s Life, R.S. Rose and Gordon Scott present the outcome of 14 years of research on ‘Johnny’, whose real name was Johann Heinrich Amadeus de Graaf. De Graaf was born in Germany in 1894, but later moved to Britain, and at the start of World War II worked as an informant for MI6. Although he conducted some of his operations in Germany, most of them took place in the UK, where he unmasked a number of native pro-Nazi sympathizers and agents of the Gestapo. Read more of this post

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