US providing intelligence support to French forces in Mali

Mali and the Independent State of AzawadBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The United States is providing intelligence support to hundreds of French troops that entered the West African nation of Mali last week, according to American and French officials. On January 11, at least 400 French soldiers entered Mali from French military bases in neighboring Burkina Faso and Chad, in what the French Ministry of National Defense has codenamed Opération SERVAL. The French intervention was sparked by the conflict in northern Mali, which erupted in 2012. In January of that year, Tuareg tribesmen formerly employed by the late Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi teamed up with a host of local Islamist groups, including the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) and Ansar Dine (Defenders of the Faith). Guided by members of the al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), these groups rapidly seized Mali’s massive northern region (which they call ‘the Independent State of Azawad’), where they are said to have imposed a strict version of Islamic sharia law. Last week’s intervention by the French military came to many as a surprise, though not to intelNews leaders, who have known for a while that Paris had been lobbying Western officials to help it launch a military intervention in the West African country. It now appears that Western countries are indeed helping France’s military operations in Mali. Outgoing US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters on Monday that the Pentagon is gathering intelligence for the benefit of French forces. The US, said Panetta, has “a responsibility to go after al-Qaida wherever they are” and ensure that its members do not “establish a base of operations” in West Africa. He added that Washington is considering widening its support to Paris by providing “logistics, surveillance and airlift capability”. Read more of this post

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News you may have missed #793

Yasser ArafatBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Britain recruits tech start-ups for spy gadgets. British security services seem to have decided to widen the net for suppliers of state-of-the-art spyware for “covert surveillance”. Traditionally, British intelligence organizations including MI5 and GCHQ, have relied on a network of trusted contractors. But the change in approach represents an opportunity for burgeoning technology companies. According to a senior Whitehall official, who spoke to The Financial Times, these agencies “are appealing to a wide range of innovators, small and large, and saying: ‘Here are some problems we encounter. Can you solve them?’”.
►►French investigators to exhume Arafat’s remains. Three French investigating magistrates will travel to Ramallah in the West Bank to exhume the remains of the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat so they can take tissue samples to determine what killed him. New evidence emerged from an investigation in July by the Al Jazeera television network when the Institut de Radiophysique, in Lausanne, Switzerland, said it had discovered significant traces of the rare radioactive element polonium-210 on the late leader’s clothing and toothbrush.
►►Panetta speaks out against book on bin Laden killing. As former US Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette continues to make headlines about his book, No Easy Day, about the killing of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has spoken out publicly on the subject for the first time. The former Director of the CIA said “the American people have a right to know about this operation”. But, he added, “people who are a part of that operation, who commit themselves to the promise that they will not reveal the sensitive operations and not public anything [...] when they fail to do that, we have got to make sure that they stand by the promise that they made to this country”.

News you may have missed #676

Diego MurilloBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►US admits Pakistani doctor was CIA agent. The United States has confirmed publicly for the first time that a Pakistani doctor long suspected of collecting vital evidence before the assassination of Osama bin Laden was indeed working for the CIA. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has told 60 Minutes on CBS that Shakil Afridi helped provide proof that the compound in Abbottabad, to which they had tracked a Bin Laden courier, was indeed sheltering the al-Qaeda leader. Panetta also told 60 Minutes that he remains convinced that someone in the Pakistani government “must have had some sense” that a person of interest was in the compound. He added that he has no proof that Pakistan knew it was bin Laden.
►►Czech secret services accused of political spying. The Czech government “spies on” the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM), Miroslav Grebenicek, its former leader, said in a parliamentary question to Prime Minister Petr Necas. Grebenicek said he had recently received information that the Interior Ministry and some intelligence bodies were “tasked to spying on the KSCM or to incite for, organize and execute the shadowing of the KSCM”. Necas dismissed the allegation, saying that the government does not shadow any party.
►►Colombian paramilitaries protected by spy agency. Colombia’s rightwing paramilitary organization AUC received the support of the country’s now-defunct intelligence agency DAS. The group also helped the government of former President Alvaro Uribe in a conspiracy to discredit the country’s Supreme Court that was investigating ties between the paramilitaries and politicians, according to official testimony by senior AUC commander Diego Murillo, alias “Don Berna”.

News you may have missed #602 (Israel edition)

Ahmed Jamal Daif

Ahmed Jamal Daif

►►Lebanon arrests three suspected of spying for Israel. Lebanon has arrested three people suspected of spying for Israel and trespassing, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported Tuesday. According to the report, an Egyptian citizen and his wife were arrested on suspicion of spying, and an Arab-Israeli man was arrested on suspicion of trespassing. The Israeli, Ahmed Jamal Daif (pictured), was found on Monday in a diving suit on a beach in the southern Lebanese border town of Naqoura, a Lebanese army source said.
►►Egypt may release alleged Israel spy. Agence France Presse is reporting that Cairo is considering the release of alleged Israeli spy Ilan Grapel, in exchange for “political and economic incentives” offered by the United States. Grapel was arrested by Egyptian state security officers in June, on charges of spying for Israel. According to one source, former CIA Director and current US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is set to visit Egypt today and is supposed to “take Grapel with him at the end of his visit”.
►►Jordanian accused of spying for Israel pleads not guilty. A Jordanian telecommunications engineer, who is on trial in Egypt on charges of spying for Israel, pleaded not guilty on Sunday. Bashar Ibrahim Abu Zeid was detained in Egypt last April after intelligence information allegedly showed he was spying for the Mossad, with Ofir Herari, an alleged Mossad agent, being tried in absentia.

Analysis: Ex-CIA WMD director warns of ‘morphed’ Islamist groups

Charles S. Faddis

Charles S. Faddis

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In recent months, the heads of the United States Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency have opined that the United States may be close to “strategically defeating al-Qaeda”. These were the words used by former CIA Director and current Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta in July, to describe the current state of Washington’s ‘war on terrorism’. Shortly afterwards, General David Petraeus, who replaced Panetta at the helm of the CIA, echoed his predecessor, arguing that the situation following the death of Osama bin Laden “hold[s] the prospect of a strategic defeat [...], a strategic dismantling, of al-Qaeda”. But do such optimistic projections correspond to reality on the ground? In a new column for Homeland Security Today, former CIA operations officer Charles S. Faddis, who retired from the Agency in 2008 as the chief of its weapons of mass destruction counterterrorism unit, agrees that al-Qaeda has been “severely battered” in the ten years since 9/11. But he warns that, while America insists of engaging in “large-scale conventional military operations” in Afghanistan, and essentially “a strategic bombing campaign” in Pakistan, a new generation of terrorist groups appears to have “shifted, morphed and evolved”. In light of this reality, the recent comments by Panetta and Petreaus may suggest “the possibility of a loss of focus” in American counterterrorist operations, says Faddis. The former CIA covert operations officer, who has written several books since his retirement, goes on to discuss the rapid rise of several ethnic or regional militant Islamist groups, including Nigeria’s Boko Haram. The organization made macabre headlines earlier this month, when it launched a massive suicide attack against a United Nations office complex in the Nigerian city of Abuja, killing and injuring over 100 people. He also mentions the Islamic State of Iraq, a notorious outfit whose most recent strikes display an operational sophistication that often surpasses that of Boko Haram’s. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #560 (new books edition)

Khalil al-Balawi

Khalil al-Balawi

►►New book on CIA’s Khost bomb disaster. Washington Post reporter Joby Warrick has authored a new book, examining the December 31, 2009, killing of seven CIA operatives by Jordanian doctor Humam Khalil al-Balawi in Khost, Afghanistan. In the book, entitled The Triple Agent, Warrick quotes several “anonymous” sources from within CIA and Jordan’s General Intelligence Department (GID), which was involved in running al-Balawi. Aside from blaming GID, Warrick says the CIA’s Amman station chief was partly responsible for the botched operation.
►►Hollywood producer was Mossad spy, says new book. The book Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan, says that Milchan was a full-fledged operative for Israel’s now-defunct intelligence agency, Lakam. The agency, which was also known as Israel’s Bureau of Scientific Relations, collected scientific and technical intelligence abroad. It was disbanded in 1986 following the arrest of US Navy analyst Jonathan Pollard for engaging in espionage on behalf of Israel. The book’s authors, Meir Doron and Joseph Gelman, argue that Milchan, who produced such movies as Love and Other Drugs and Knight and Day, worked for Israeli intelligence by supervising government-backed accounts and front companies that financed “the special needs of the entirety of Israel’s intelligence operations outside the country”.
►►Book alleges US-Russian spy swap deal. In 2010 the CIA considered a swap deal that would have delivered to Moscow two Americans currently imprisoned in the US for spying for Russia. This information is included Read more of this post

Pakistan removed spy from US at CIA’s request

ISI HQ

ISI HQ

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A Pakistani intelligence officer was quietly removed from the United States last April, after the director of the CIA complained about him to his Pakistani counterpart. According to The New York Times, which aired the revelation last weekend, the then Director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, had “a tense conversation” with Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI), which led to the removal “within days” of the ISI officer. The officer in question is Mohammed Tasleem, whose diplomatic cover was that of attaché in the Pakistani Consulate in New York, but whose actual task was monitoring the political activities of the sizeable Pakistani diaspora in the United States. According to the FBI, which briefed the CIA about Tasleem earlier this year, his intelligence activities centered on pressuring politically active Pakistanis in the United States to refrain from speaking publicly on ‘controversial issues’. FBI counterintelligence reports claim that, on at least one occasion, Tasleem posed as an FBI agent, in order to extract intelligence from a member of the Pakistani community in the United States. The Times spoke to members of Pakistan’s ex-pat community who allege that the ISI systematically approaches Pakistanis speaking openly about ‘national issues’, such as the indigenous insurgency in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, the disputed Indian region of Kashmir, or Pakistan’s appalling human rights record. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #520

  • CIA director returns from Pakistan empty-handed. CIA Director Leon Panetta’s surprise visit to Pakistan last week yielded little, according to US officials. Panetta bypassed the protocol of first meeting with the president and prime minister, and instead met with Pakistan’s military and intelligence directors.
  • Chinese spying devices found in Hong Kong cars. A Hong Kong newspaper has alleged that the Chinese authorities have been secretly installing spy devices on all dual-plate Chinese-Hong Kong vehicles since July of 2007. Photographic evidence is here.
  • NSA releases over 50000 pages of documents. The US National Security Agency has announced that it has declassified and released to the US National Archives and Records Administration over 50,000 pages of historic records, covering a time-frame from before World War I through the 1960s.

Analysis: Myths and Questions on bin Laden’s Assassination

Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden

By J. FITSANAKIS and I. ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The assassination of al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, has helped dispel several myths about him and the organization he founded in 1988 in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. Among them is the idea that the Saudi-born militant was leading a primitive existence in some remote hillside in Waziristan, sheltered by mountainous tribes that were supposedly loyal to him. Nothing could be further from the truth. Despite his reputation as a hardened mujahedeen, bin Laden had chosen to spend his days in the unmatched comfort of a sprawling luxury compound located only an hour’s drive from Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. The compound is located in a relatively wealthy suburb of the city of Abbottabad, which is also home to the Kakul Military Academy, Pakistan’s elite army training school. More importantly, the descriptions of bin Laden’s luxurious hideout fly in the face of the predominant view of al-Qaeda as an organization that knows how to blend in with its surroundings. Not only did the compound stand out, but, according to one American official, it was “eight times larger than the other homes in the town”. It featured 3,000 feet of living space, to house bin Laden, his four wives, and several advisors and guards. It appears to have been custom-built to bin Laden’s specifications in 2005, which would explain the existence of numerous built-in security features, including at least two heavily fortified security gates, seven-foot-high perimeter walls, and even solid blast-proof enclosures on all balconies. Continue reading →

News you may have missed #494

  • David Petraeus tipped to be new CIA director. The Obama administration may tap CIA Director Leon Panetta to succeed Bob Gates as Secretary of Defense. If this happens, then General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Afghanistan, may take over Panetta’s job at the CIA.
  • Reuters denies bureau chief had CIA contacts. The Reuters news agency has denied an accusation made on Cuban state television that its bureau chief Anthony Boadle helped arrange a meeting between an undercover Cuban agent and a US diplomat described as a CIA operative.
  • UK court grants Russian ‘spy’ aid to fight deportation. Katia Zatuliveter, who is accused by Britain’s MI5 of spying for Russia, has won legal aid to help fight her case against deportation, according to news reports.

News you may have missed #450

  • Nuke bomb material found in Georgia black market. Highly enriched uranium that could be used to make a nuclear bomb is on sale on the black market along the fringes of the former Soviet Union, according to evidence emerging from a secret trial in the Republic of Georgia.
  • CIA Director warns against leaks. Asserting that lives have been endangered and sources compromised by “a damaging spate of media leaks” in recent months, CIA Director Leon E. Panetta reminded the spy agency’s employees Monday that unauthorized disclosures of classified information “cannot be tolerated”.
  • US issues new unclassified information policy. The White House has issued an executive order to establish a uniform policy for handling “controlled unclassified information” (CUI), which is information that is restricted from disclosure because it involves personal privacy, proprietary data or law enforcement investigations not relating to national security.

News you may have missed #355

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News you may have missed #345

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CIA scores Washington Post charm offensive

CIA HQ

CIA HQ

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
For an agency whose very future is routinely questioned by former employees, the CIA has been getting plenty of positive press in the pages of The Washington Post lately. On Monday, The Post’s Jeff Stein cited “a former top CIA official” who claimed that the Agency’s unmanned drone assassination program in the Afghan-Pakistan border has the Taliban in disarray, “thinking that we can track them anywhere”. The former official also said that the speed of the CIA and “its Pentagon partners” (presumably NSA) in intercepting targeted communications makes the process of assassinating Taliban leaders “like mowing a lawn”. Does this sound too good to be true? How about an article published on the same day, also in The Washington Post, which claims that the CIA’s Predator drone assassination program has “kept the number of civilian deaths extremely low”? Read more of this post

News you may have missed #315

  • Nuclear bunker spy comes out of hiding. A British retiree named Mike Lesser has revealed he was one of the so-called “spies for peace”, a group of peace activists who in the 1960s helped uncover Britain’s secret network of underground bunkers built to protect the government in case of nuclear war.
  • Aussie spy agency spied on little girls. Secret files kept by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation reveal spooks tailed the teenage children of suspected socialists and communist sympathizers during the late 1960s, and anyone with whom they associated, including school friends and boyfriends.
  • Analysis: Under Panetta, a more aggressive CIA. Expectations among CIA hardliners were low when Leon Panetta arrived at the Agency’s headquarters in February 2009. But almost from the first week, Panetta positioned himself as a strong advocate for the CIA, to the extent that critics worry that Panetta has become a captive of the agency he leads.

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