News you may have missed #859

GCHQ center in Cheltenham, EnglandBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Some fear terrorists are exploiting online computer games. American and British spies have infiltrated the fantasy worlds of World of Warcraft and Second Life, conducting surveillance and scooping up data in the online games played by millions of people across the globe, according to documents disclosed by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. The documents show that intelligence operatives fear that terrorist or criminal networks could use the games to communicate secretly, move money or plot attacks.
►►Niger’s president says Libya risks becoming like Somalia. Libya risks becoming a failed state like Somalia, Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou said last week, a day after gunmen shot dead an American teacher in the eastern city of Benghazi. “Our fear is that Libya falls into the hands of Salafist terrorists and that the state becomes like Somalia”, Issoufou told reporters ahead of a Franco-African summit in Paris. His country adjoins Libya to the south and has fought Islamists at home.
►►Secret memos show British spies’ efforts to keep Cyprus base. Heavily redacted documents show how determined British security and intelligence agencies –including GCHQ, Britain’s signals intelligence agency– were to maintain an effective presence in Cyprus after the strategically important island became independent in 1960. The files also reveal that Archbishop Makarios, the Greek Cypriot leader who became the first president of Cyprus when the island gained independence in August 1960, agreed not only to the UK bases but to British help in setting up his country’s own security and intelligence agencies.

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Ship carrying 20,000 Kalashnikov rifles seized in Greece

The Nour-MBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The Hellenic Coast Guard in Greece has seized a cargo ship carrying explosives, ammunition, and about 20,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles, allegedly bound for Syria or Libya. The Associated Press quoted an anonymous official from the Greek Ministry of Mercantile Marine, who said that the ship, Nour-M, is flagged under Sierra Leone and set sail from Ukraine early last week. It was intercepted on Friday while passing through Greek territorial waters, near the Aegean island of Symi. Upon inspection, it was found to be carrying thousands of AK-47s, as well as ammunition and an undisclosed quantity of explosives. As the ship’s documentation did not mention the highly irregular cargo, the Greek authorities decided to escort the vessel to the eastern Aegean island of Rhodes, where it remains under Coast Guard protection. The ship’s crew of three Turkish nationals, including the captain, and three Indian nationals, have been arrested. Interestingly, some maritime transportation databases state the vessel’s destination port as Tartus in Syria, while others suggest it was headed to Tripoli in Libya. Adding to the perplexity of the case, the ship’s Turkish captain told Greek authorities that his destination port was Iskenderun in Turkey. The Greek government has refused to give details about the ship’s itinerary, stating simply that “the exact destination of the arms and ammunition has yet to be verified”, while no precise information has been provided about Nour-M’s cargo. There are unconfirmed reports, however, that, in the past, the same vessel has troubled international maritime authorities, who suspect its captain of involvement in international narcotics smuggling. On Friday, the Reuters news agency aired an insightful analysis on the strong connection between the political chaos that rains in the Middle East and North Africa and the increase in smuggling activity across the Mediterranean. Read more of this post

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.

News you may have missed #847

Abdel Baset al-MegrahiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Secret letter shows arms deal behind Lockerbie bomber release. An email sent in 2008 by Sir Vincent Fean, the then British ambassador in Tripoli, details how the release by Britain of Lockerbie air disaster bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, was linked to a commercial deal. According to The Daily Telegraph, the email specifies that al-Megrahi would be released once Libya “fulfilled its promise” to buy an £400 million air defense system.
►►Is the US ramping up a secret war in Somalia? The US has expanded its secret war in Somalia, stepping up assistance for federal and regional Somali intelligence agencies that are allied against the country’s Islamist insurgency. It’s a move that’s not only violating the terms of an international arms embargo, according to UN investigators, but it also shows that Washington’s signature victory against al-Qaeda’s most powerful African ally may be in danger of unraveling.
►►Indonesian government ‘angry’ at alleged Western spying. The Indonesian government has reacted strongly to revelations in the Australian media that the country’s President and senior diplomats were spied upon during the 2009 G20 conference in London. The revelations appear to be based on leaks on intelligence-gathering techniques by US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Hamas ‘found tracking devices’ inside weapons bound for Gaza

Rafah Border CrossingBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Palestinian militant group Hamas said on Sunday it refused to take possession of a shipment of missiles after its weapons experts discovered they contained a number of carefully hidden tracking devices. The Egyptian newspaper Al-Youm Al-Sabea, which reported the story, said it spoke to a source “closely affiliated with weapons smugglers” in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, who confirmed Hamas’ claim. According to Al-Youm, the weapons shipment consisted of 28 long-range missiles stolen from the arsenal of the Libyan armed forces during the uprising that led to the overthrow of Libya’s late leader, Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi. The shipment made its way across the border with Egypt and from there to the Sinai desert, before ending up at the Rafah Border Crossing, located between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. It was there that the missiles were inspected by a team from the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. The paper reported that one of the Hamas inspectors, a senior member of the al-Qassam Brigades, discovered a number of miniature tracking devices carefully concealed inside the missiles, which appeared to be active. Following the discovery, the Hamas team backed out of the purchase deal and abandoned the inspection site. Al-Youm also said that the Palestinian group has decided to terminate its contacts with a significant number of weapons smugglers operating in the Sinai, because of concerns that they may have been penetrated by Israeli and Egyptian intelligence. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #806

Mohammed DahabiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Most staff at US consulate in Libya were CIA personnel. Most of the personnel attached to the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, the Libyan city where a US consulate was attacked ending with the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were spies, according to The Wall Street Journal. The paper said 23 of the 30 Americans evacuated from Benghazi in the wake of the September 11, 2012, attack were employees of the CIA. Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, two of the men killed that day, and later publicly identified as contract security workers with the State Department, were in fact under contract with the CIA, said the paper.
►►India accuses Pakistan of printing counterfeit banknotes. The Central Economic Intelligence Bureau in India says that the Pakistani spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) is printing counterfeit Indian and Bangladeshi currencies from the state-owned security printing presses “under special arrangement” and circulating the same through a well-organized network, which is coordinated by senior ISI officials. This is not the first time that the Indian government has accused Pakistan of counterfeiting Indian currency.
►►Jordan court to announce ex-spy chief’s sentence on November 11. A Jordanian criminal court has postponed a verdict in the case of Mohammed al-Dahabi, who ran the General Intelligence Department between 2005 and 2008 and is on trial for alleged embezzlement of public funds, money laundering and abuse of office. Presiding judge Nashaat Akhras said in court Sunday that the verdict will be pronounced November 11, without giving a reason. Dahabi was arrested in February, when inspectors from the Central Bank of Jordan suspected transactions worth millions of dollars had gone through his bank account.

News you may have missed #805 (analysis edition)

US consulate in Benghazi, LibyaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Should the US be wary of Huawei? Regular readers of intelNews know that this blog has been covering the subject of Chinese telecommunications hardware manufacturer Huawei for several years now. During the past few weeks, the United States Congress has flagged the company as being too closely associated with the Chinese intelligence establishment. Other countries have done so as well. But not everyone agrees. New York-based newspaper The Wall Street Journal said recently that “bashing Chinese companies on national security grounds seems like a risk-free strategy” for US politicians and added that, unlike Congress, American governors and mayors are eager to promote investment by Chinese companies. Moreover, Wired‘s Marcus Wohlsenemail suggests that, spies or no spies, US telecommunications companies should fear Huwaei, which is here to stay.
►►Should CIA share some of the blame for Benghazi? For the last month, the US media and Congress have been grilling the State Department for the security failures during the deadly assault on a US compound in Benghazi, Libya. But what if the State Department is the wrong target of scrutiny? According to a counter-theory advanced recently by The Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank, the CIA, not the State Department, bears some responsibility for the security lapse that led to the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, but is flying under the radar due to the classified nature of its activities in Libya.
►►Could unmanned drones go rogue? Unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, have been in the news a lot lately: the US Congress has given the green light for their use by state and local law enforcement, academic researchers, and the private sector. UAVs are rapidly becoming a new tool in patrolling US borders and in NATO military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But non-state actors, including organized criminal gangs and drug cartels, may also be seeing the benefits of UAVs before too long. Read an interesting analysis piece that includes comments by intelNews‘ own Joseph Fitsanakis.

News you may have missed #800

MI6 headquartersBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►British MI6 spy agency feeling shaken not stirred. Analysis on Salon.com about the current state of MI6, Britain’s external intelligence agency, featuring comments by intelNews‘ own Joseph Fitsanakis. The article, written by former CNN and BBC correspondent Barry Neild, argues that MI6 is feeling the heat caused by a series of recent allegations which threaten to disrupt its clandestine operations. The agency, he suggests, is thus undergoing one of the most troubling periods of its hundred-year existence.
►►Germany charges couple with spying for Russia. German government prosecutors say the couple, who called themselves Andreas and Heidrun Anschlag, worked in Germany for Russia’s foreign intelligence service for more than 20 years, gathering information on European Union and NATO strategy. The pair entered Germany in 1988 and 1990, claiming to be Austrian citizens of South American origin. They were arrested in October 2011. German media said it is the first such case in Germany since the end of the Cold War.
►►US allegedly widens covert operations in North Africa. The Associated Press quotes “three US counterterror[ism] officials and a former intelligence official” as saying that the United States is in the process of building “a new military task force” in the North African region. But by the time the US consulate in the east Libyan city of Benghazi was attacked last month, the new task force consisted only of “liaison officers who were assigned to establish relationships with local governments and US officials in the region”.

Did French intelligence agent kill Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi?

Nicolas Sarkozy and Muammar GaddafiBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Nearly a year after the sensational death of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, sources in Libya have claimed that a French intelligence agent killed the Libyan leader acting under orders by the French government. The Libyan dictator was captured by armed fighters of the Libyan National Liberation Army on October 20, 2011, after his convoy was reportedly bombed by North Atlantic Treaty Organization aircraft. Videos showed Gaddafi being taken aboard a van alive; mysteriously, however, he was pronounced dead a few hours later. The Libyan National Transitional Council blamed the Libyan leader’s death on overzealous militia members, but this explanation did not satisfy the United Nations, which called for an investigation into the incident. But Mahmoud Jibril, a National Transitional Council member who was Libya’s interim Prime Minister during most of 2011, has said in an interview that Gaddafi was killed by a French intelligence officer. Speaking yesterday on Egyptian television, Jibril said that the agent “mixed with the revolutionary brigades” and killed Gaddafi by shooting him twice in the head from close range. Jibril’s comments came two days after one of Italy’s most reputable newspapers, Corriere della Sera, published a report claiming that the alleged French intelligence agent was acting under direct instructions by the French government. The paper said that the order had come down from the office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. According to the article, Sarkozy was eager to prevent the possibility of Gaddafi standing trial, particularly after the Libyan leader had threatened to expose his alleged financial dealings with the French President. These refer to persistent rumors in France that the Libyan dictator had contributed millions of dollars to Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign. Read more of this post

Decision to evacuate eastern Libya divides US Intelligence Community

US consulate in Benghazi, LibyaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
On September 12, just hours after heavily armed militia groups stormed the United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Washington made the decision to pull out its diplomats and intelligence officers from Eastern Libya. As US government envoys, spies and contractors started arriving at the Benina International Airport in Benghazi, many Libyans noted the “surprisingly large number” of Americans that came out of the woodwork. According to reports, at least a dozen of the American evacuees were in fact Central Intelligence Agency personnel. Their evacuation, which has essentially ended the presence of the CIA in eastern Libya’s most important city, is dividing the US Intelligence Community. On the one hand, some US intelligence insiders argue that the attack on the US consulate, which killed four US personnel, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, necessitated the decision to evacuate. A number of former US government officials told The Los Angeles Times this week that the evacuation was “justified, given the dangers in Benghazi” for US personnel. Another current official told The New York Times that the evacuation of the CIA station in Benghazi does not necessarily mean that the US has lost its intelligence collection capabilities in eastern Libya. Washington can still intercept telephone calls and emails and conduct satellite reconnaissance in the North African region, said the official. Others, however, leveled sharp criticism against the decision of the White House to evacuate its diplomats and spies from Benghazi, arguing that the move marked “a major setback in [US] intelligence-gathering efforts” in the country. Robert Baer, a retired CIA officer with decades of experience in the Middle East, called the move “disastrous for US intelligence-gathering capabilities”. Writing in Time magazine, Baer said that shutting down the CIA station in Benghazi would make it “almost impossible to collect good human intelligence” in the region, and described the move as a sign of “America’s declining position” there. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #798

Alexander LitvinenkoBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Britain to hold inquest over death of ex-KGB officer. Britain and Russia appear to be on a collision course over the death of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian intelligence officer who died in 2006 after ingesting polonium-210, a rare radioactive isotope. Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service has accused Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, both former KGB agents, for the death of Litvinenko. Russia has refused British requests to extradite the two, leading to a row with Moscow and the tit-for-tat expulsion of Russian and British diplomats. Until now, the British Foreign Office had attempted to limit the scope of an inquest into the death of Litvinenko, fearing further diplomatic fallout. But coroner Sir Robert Owen said last week that he endorsed a previous ruling by his predecessor in the case, Andrew Reid, that there should be an “open and fearless” investigation into the matter.
►►Ex-CIA operative who illegally sold arms to Libya dies. Edwin P. Wilson, a former CIA officer who was convicted in 1983 for illegally shipping 20 tons of C4 plastc explosives to Libya, has died aged 84. In his trial he claimed he had shipped the weapons to Libya at the request of the CIA, because, as he said, the agency was trying to establish good relations with the Libyan government. But the court did not buy his story, so he spent over 20 years in prison, mostly in solitary confinement, until his release in 2004. He maintained his innocence to the very end.
►►Analysis: Libya an opportunity for CIA if it sticks around. The attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including a US ambassador and two former Navy SEALs, has led Americans to vacate Benghazi for their safety, even though various militant groups continue their operations. It is a disaster for US intelligence efforts in the region, especially since the attack has made brutally clear how real the jihadi threat in eastern Libya remains. But there may be the smallest of silver linings to this black cloud, if American operatives are able to capitalize on it. The aftermath of the attack shows widespread displeasure with Benghazi’s jihadist groups, with thousands marching in protest. That is an opportunity the CIA could use to rebuild its intelligence gathering.

News you may have missed #792 (US diplomatic attacks edition)

US consulate in Benghazi, LibyaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Attack on US diplomats ‘was intelligence failure’. James Corum, an American military historian and the author of several books on military history and counter-insurgency, argues that the mob attacks on US diplomatic facilities in Cairo, Benghazi and Sana’a marked “one of the worst intelligence failures in American history”. Either, he says, US intelligence agencies had no warnings of mass action against the embassies, or senior intelligence officers disregarded or downplayed the information received from field agents. Finally, he suggests that “the real explanation is probably the latter”.
►►Attack on consulate in Libya ‘may have been planned’. Senior US officials and Middle East analysts raised questions Wednesday about the motivation for the Benghazi attack, noting that it involved the use of a rocket-propelled grenade and followed an al-Qaeda call to avenge the death of a senior Libyan member of the terrorist network. Libyan officials and a witness said the attackers took advantage of a protest over the film to launch their assault. Libyan Deputy Interior Minister Wanis al-Sharif said the security force was outgunned by the attackers, who joined a demonstration of “hundreds” of people outside the consulate
►►What happened in Benghazi was a battle. “It was not a simple mob that attacked the US consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday, killing four Americans. Benghazi was the scene of a pitched battle, one in which unknown Libyan assailants besieged American diplomats with small-arms fire for over four hours, repelling several attempts by US personnel to regain control of it. Nor was what happened in Benghazi a simple story of Americans assaulted by the Libyans they helped to liberate from Muammar Gaddafi last year. Libyan security forces and a sympathetic local militia helped the Americans to suppress the attack and get the diplomats inside to safety”.

News you may have missed #790

Abdullah al-SenussiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►New report reopens CIA torture allegations. A report from Human Rights Watch, which was released last week, said that Libyan fighters opposed to Muammar Gaddafi’s regime were subjected to harsh interrogation techniques while in US custody overseas, during the administration of George W. Bush. The accusations, if substantiated, would suggest wider use of waterboarding than US officials have previously acknowledged. The report, which is based on documents and interviews in Libya after the fall of Gaddafi, includes a detailed description of what appears to be a previously unknown instance of waterboarding by the CIA in Afghanistan nine years ago.
►►Analysis: What does Gaddafi’s ex-spy chief know about Lockerbie? Abdullah al-Senussi became a hate-figure in his home country as head of an intelligence machinery responsible for the mistreatment of thousands of opponents of the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, his brother-in-law. He is nicknamed the “butcher” and known as Gaddafi’s “black box” because of the secrets he supposedly holds. The new Libyan regime had been negotiating for months with Mauritania where al-Senussi had fled following the fall of the Gaddafi regime last September. But now that al-Senussi has been flown back to Libya by private jet, he may at last be able to face questions by British police about Lockerbie.
►►Chinese hardware manufacturer denies spying allegations. The Chinese hardware-manufacturing firm Huawei has released a 24-page report, written by John Suffolk, a former British government chief information officer who has now turned Huawei’s global security officer, which states that protecting the network security of its worldwide customers is one of company’s “fundamental interests”. The report follows allegations in the United States, Australia, India, and elsewhere, that the company maintains close operational ties to China’s intelligence establishment.

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 #741

Glenn CarleBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►MI6 role in rendition could be concealed in new bill. Libyan government officials Sami al-Saadi and Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who allege that they were taken by rendition by Britain to Libya eight years ago, are expected to begin legal proceedings against the British government and Jack Straw, Britain’s former foreign secretary, next month. However, after pressure from the security services, MI5 and MI6, the British government is preparing to publish a Justice and Security Bill that could allow these cases to be held in their entirety behind closed doors.
►►Aussie spy agency defends new headquarters. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation says its new headquarters in Canberra is not at risk of being spied upon, despite the use of a lot of glass. ASIO director general David Irvine told a senate committee on Thursday it would be impossible for someone with a high resolution camera on the other side of Lake Burley Griffin to spy on the nation’s spies. Australian Greens senator Scott Ludlam had asked whether the design of the “glass palace” could threaten the secrecy of its work.
►►Good interview with ex-CIA officer Glenn Carle. In this interview, Carle, a retired CIA case officer who wrote The Interrogator: An Education, says his former employers have called his publisher asking them to pulp his book; they rang every major network to prevent him going on air. They are, he says several times, “vicious” and have perpetrated a stain on America’s national character.

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