Revealed: NSA spied on millions of French, Mexican phone calls

NSA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The United States has been spying on millions of private telephone communications in France and Mexico, and even managed to hack into the Mexican president’s personal email account, according to media reports from France and Germany. French newspaper Le Monde said on Monday that France has been targeted for years by the US National Security Agency (NSA). The NSA, America’s largest intelligence agency, is tasked with intercepting communications messages from around the world. The newspaper alleged that most targets of the NSA’s interception have no links to terrorism; instead, the US target list is primarily focused on “high-profile individuals in the politics and business domains”. Le Monde said it acquired the information on the NSA operations in France from former NSA and Central Intelligence Agency technical expert Edward Snowden. Snowden defected from the US last summer and is currently living in Russia, were he has been offered political asylum. According to the French daily, over 70 million French telephone exchanges were intercepted by the NSA between December 10, 2012, and January 8, 2013, under an NSA collection program codenamed US-985D. The number represents over 2.5 million intercepted telephone calls per day in France. Another report, which appeared in German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, claimed that the NSA targeted the email communications of the Mexican government, and managed to hack personal email accounts belonging to numerous senior Mexican government officials. The article, which appeared on Sunday, said that the American signals intelligence agency had implemented Operation FLATLIQUID, which aimed at exploiting mail servers used by senior government officials in Mexico. Read more of this post

Is US-Mexico anti-drug intelligence cooperation about to end?

Enrique Peña NietoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Some senior American officials believe that the anti-drug intelligence cooperation between the United States and Mexico is in its closing stages, following tens of thousands of deaths in the past decade. Intelligence cooperation between the two countries reached unprecedented levels in the post-9/11 era, following the establishment of the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). In the past decade, cooperation between Mexico’s Center for Research and National Security (CISEN) and ODNI, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency, resulted in what some observers call “unprecedented bilateral action” directed against Latin American narcotics cartels. This arrangement culminated under the administration of Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón, when the CIA —and to a lesser extent the US Drug Enforcement Administration and the National Security Agency— were given unprecedented access to Mexican territory and civilian communications networks. However, in an extensive article published Sunday, The Washington Post says the close operational connection between Mexican and US intelligence agencies is quickly winding down. Citing interviews with over “four dozen current and former US and Mexican diplomats, law enforcement agents, military offices and intelligence officials”, the paper suggests that Mexico City is wary about Washington’s involvement in the so-called ‘war on drugs’. The major change on the Mexican side, says The Post, occurred last December with the inauguration of Mexico’s new President, Enrique Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which has returned to power after 13 years in opposition. Under Nieto’s administration, the Mexican security establishment, worn out by over 60,000 deaths and as many as 25,000 forced disappearances in the past few years, is intent on shifting its priorities. Instead of focusing on so-called ‘beheading operations’ —arresting or otherwise neutralizing the leadership of drug cartels— it has decided to stabilize the situation by containing —rather than eliminating— the operations of drug networks. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #825

Ben ZygierBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Australian Mossad officer was facing 20 years in prison. Mossad operative Ben Zygier was facing 20 years in prison on “serious espionage” charges when he hanged himself in an Israeli prison, suggests a report published Wednesday by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The report is the first confirmation of the nature of Zygier’s indictment. Under Israeli criminal law, the only security-related crimes that carry a 20-year prison sentence fall under the heading of “serious espionage”.
►►MS-13 smuggles missile launchers and teams up with Zetas. Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, became El Salvador’s deadliest gang through force of numbers and the power of the handgun. Now if they weren’t deadly enough, the gang is transitioning into adopting heavier weapons while teaming up with Mexico’s Zetas. But according to a recent report, the gang is moving “away from a dependence on handguns via the acquisition of automatic rifles such as AK-47s, along with grenades, rocket propelled grenade launchers, and Light Anti-Tank Weapons”, or LAWs.
►►Secretive US anti-smuggling program marks one-year anniversary. A nascent and somewhat secretive US government anti-smuggling program is marking its first anniversary this week. It is called E2C2, shorthand for Export Enforcement Coordination Center, and 18 law enforcement and intelligence agencies use it to find links between their targets and other investigations. The E2C2 was created by presidential order in 2010, but the collaboration has evolved slowly. According to a Government Accountability Office report, the E2C2 opened nine months late, in part because of “some difficultly” between agencies over how the center would operate.

US expels Venezuelan diplomat over cyberespionage allegations

Livia Acosta NogueraBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States has ordered the immediate expulsion of the head of the Venezuelan consulate in Miami, over allegations that she helped coordinate a cyberattack against US government targets in 2008. The diplomat, Livia Acosta Noguera, was declared “persona non grata” (an unwelcome person) by the US Department of State last Friday, and was given 72 hours to leave the country. State Department officials refused to discuss the reasons for Acosta’s expulsion. But the BBC said that the expulsion order was prompted by a letter sent last month to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by four members of the US Congress. The letter’s authors reportedly raised concerns about a documentary aired in December by Univision, a US-based Spanish-language broadcaster, titled “The Iranian Threat”. According to reports, the documentary alleged that Acosta was part of a multinational team of diplomats from Venezuela, Iran and Cuba, who, while stationed in Mexico in 2008, helped orchestrate a cyberespionage operation against US targets. The alleged operation was aimed at computer servers belonging to the US government computer, including some at the Department of Defense, the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the White House. Computer servers at several nuclear power plants across the US were also reportedly targeted. The documentary exposé, which later appeared in print in US-based Spanish-language newspaper El Nuevo Herald, included allegations that Acosta is in fact a member of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service, Venezuela’s foremost external intelligence agency. Read more of this post

Alleged Russian spies in Germany used low-tech methods to evade detection

Anna Chapman

Anna Chapman

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A couple arrested in Germany last week on suspicion of working for Russian intelligence, was using low-tech radio communications to receive orders from Moscow, according to media reports. The two arrestees have been identified as Andreas and Heidrun Anschlag; German prosecutors accuse them of spying for SVR, the successor to the KGB’s First Chief Directorate (PGU), responsible for foreign operations and intelligence collection abroad. They are said to have worked as non-official-cover operatives for the KGB and SVR since at least 1990, when they entered Germany from Mexico, using forged Austrian travel documents. Authorities in Germany say that Heidrun Anschlag, 51, was caught by German police in the act of listening to encrypted radio messages from Moscow. German investigators are reportedly puzzled by the fact that, in the Internet age, when most intelligence operatives employ digital secure communications, the Anschlags insisted on using a low-tech method that mostly died with the end of the Cold War. But intelNews readers will remember the case of former United States State Department analysts Walter and Gwendolyn Myers, who were arrested in 2009 for spying on the US for Cuba for over 30 years. Shortly after the Myers’ arrest, we wrote that the couple appeared to have avoided capture for decades, precisely because their communications with the government of Cuba were too low-tech to be detected by sophisticated US monitors. The latter tend to focus on scanning for encrypted satellite or microwave communications which —among other hi-tech means— are now the communication method of choice for modern clandestine spy networks. But some intelligence agencies, including —apparently— the SVR, appear to insist on using old-school oral cipher signals, based on straightforward number-to-letter codes, which they broadcast to their agents over predetermined shortwave frequencies at specified times. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #501 (United States edition)

  • Ex-double agent Hanssen’s house goes on sale. The five-bedroom home on Talisman Drive in Vienna, Va., offered by Llewellyn Realtors for $725,000 as “perfect for a growing family”, is the former lair of ex-FBI counterintelligence agent Robert Hanssen, who is regarded as one of the most damaging spies ever to betray the US government.
  • Ex-CIA officer critical of US activities in Pakistan. Speaking on Pakistan’s TV show Express 24/7, former CIA officer Robert Baer said there were no less than 16 US intelligence agencies working in Pakistan and none of them talked to each other, with even officials from the New York police department at one point in time conducting investigations in Pakistan.
  • US agents descending on Mexico According to Mexican daily El Diario, the country’s Attorney General’s Office estimates that there are currently over 500 US intelligence operatives working in Mexico, up from just 60 in 2005.

Revelations continue in ex-CIA agent’s trial in Texas

Luis Posada Carriles

Carriles

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A United States government informant testifying at the immigration trial of a former CIA agent has described how he was smuggled into the US from Mexico onboard a luxury boat. It was believed that the former agent, Cuban-born Luis Posada Carriles, had arrived in the US from Honduras in 2005 using a forged Guatemalan passport. But Gilberto Abascal, an anti-Castro Cuban exile who has been an informant for the FBI since 1999, has told a court in Texas that Carriles was smuggled into Miami on a 90-foot luxury yacht, which carried him from Mexico’s Isla Mujeres to a waterfront Cuban restaurant. Abascal told the court that Carriles disembarked the yacht using a small speedboat, before the yacht’s owner, Santiago Alvarez, reported to US Customs in Miami. Remarkably, Carriles’ smuggling went according to plan, despite the fact that the Miami Chief of Police was among the restaurant’s patrons at the time of the speedboat’s arrival. Carriles is a militant anticommunist who is idolized by America’s anti-Castro Cubans, but is considered a terrorist in parts of Latin America due to his self-confessed participation in a string of bombings of hotels in Havana, Cuba, in 1997. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0212

  • Government investigator gets US passports using fake names. A GAO investigator managed to obtain four genuine US passports using fake names and fraudulent documents. He then used one of the fake passports to buy a plane ticket, obtain a boarding pass, and make it through a security checkpoint at a major US airport. The post-9/11 security environment in all its glory.
  • Documents on Argentina’s Operation MEXICO declassified. Operation MEXICO was the codename for a clandestine Argentine rendition program aimed at abducting and murdering leaders of the Montonero Peronist Movement, a leftwing militant group, living in exile in Mexico City in the late 1970s.
  • Mistrial declared in the trial of FBI informant Hal Turner. Turner will still face a single count of unlawfully threatening three Chicago-based federal appeals judges, by writing on his blog that they “deserve to be killed” for upholding a gun control ordinance.

Bookmark and Share

Analysis: The role of spies in Latin America

Latin America

Latin America

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
These days it’s a full-time job keeping up with intelligence news coming out of Latin America. In recent weeks alone, there were major spy scandals involving the busting of an alleged Colombian espionage ring in Venezuela, the acknowledgment by Bogotá that it spied on Ecuador, and the ongoing high-level intelligence scandal that some say may cause recalls of diplomats between Chile and Peru. So what is going on in Latin America? How widespread is espionage in the continent and is it on the rise? The BBC’s Juan Paullier has consulted several regional and international experts for his well-written analysis on the subject. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0154 [updated]

  • Breaking news: Castro’s sister says she spied for the CIA. Juanita Castro, Fidel and Raúl Castro’s sister, says she voluntarily spied for the CIA from 1961 to 1964, when she left the island for Miami. She said she met a CIA officer called “Enrique” at a hotel in Mexico City in 1961; she was then given the codename “Donna” and codebooks so she could receive encoded instructions from Washington.
  • Was Milan Kundera a communist police informant? Documents unearthed by Czech academics allegedly show that the Czech-born author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being denouncing a Western spy to Czechoslovakia’s StB secret police during his student days.
  • Afghans complain about US spy balloon. A US spy balloon (see previous intelNews coverage) flying over the city of Kandahar in Afghanistan, is prompting privacy complaints from residents.

Bookmark and Share

Mexican agency spied on Nobel laureate author Márquez

Márquez

Márquez

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Mexico’s defunct Dirección Federal de Seguridad  (DFS) intelligence agency spied on Colombian-born Nobel laureate author Gabriel García Márquez, according to revelations published in El Universal newspaper. The Mexican daily aired declassified documents allegedly showing that the DFS tapped the author’s home telephone, systematically monitored his whereabouts, and kept a “bulging file” on him spanning several decades. The monitoring began in 1967, when Márquez moved from Colombia to Mexico, and continued until at least 1985. The apparent reason for the spying is that the Mexican state considered the best-selling author of Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude to be a communist sympathizer and even “a Cuban agent”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0077

  • US Army documents reveal Mexican military’s role in massacre. Newly declassified documents from the US Defense Intelligence Agency describe the Mexican Army’s role in backing paramilitary groups in Chiapas at the time of the Acteal massacre. The massacre involved the killing of 45 people attending a prayer meeting of Roman Catholic indigenous townspeople, including a number of children and pregnant women, who were members of the pacifist group Las Abejas (“The Bees”).
  • Tamils in the UK continue fundraising despite spy fears. Members of the Tamil community in Oxford, England, have vowed to continue fundraising despite fears that the Sri Lankan government is spying on them.
  • Major purge at Bulgarian intelligence agency. More key officials of Bulgaria’s State National Security Agency (DANS) have submitted their resignations after its director, Petko Sertov, was recently replaced. Sertov was allegedly axed because Bulgaria’s “American partners were said to have lost faith” in him.

Bookmark and Share

News you may have missed #0028

  • Iran could have the bomb in six months, says German intelligence. Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) alleges that if the Iranians “wanted to they could test a nuclear bomb within half a year.”
  • Australian PM threatens China over Rio Tinto spy case. Kevin Rudd warned China it has “economic interests at stake”, less than a week after Beijing arrested the Australian chief of the Anglo-Australian mine company’s iron ore operations in China.
  • 12 Mexico intelligence officers mutilated and killed. The mutilated bodies of the one female and 11 male federal intelligence officer were left in a heap beside a road in rural Michoacan state. Drug gangsters launched a brutal offensive against the Mexican government last Saturday, after the capture of their senior leader, Arnaldo “La Minsa” Rueda. “We’re waiting for you,” read a taunting sign left with the bodies.
  • NRO releases unclassified portions of 2009 budget. The super-secretive US National Reconnaissance Office, which is in charge of US satellite spying, has released fragments of its FY2009 Congressional Budget Justification Book. Incidentally, a couple of weeks ago there were rumors circulating in Washington that NRO may be broken up into several smaller agencies.

Bookmark and Share

US military group sees Canada Muslims as potential security threat

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
For the past two months, I have been reporting that the US intelligence community sees the radical fringe in Britain’s Muslim community as “the most likely source of another terrorist spectacular on US soil”. It turns out that the US Pentagon’s Joint Task Force-North, a group that provides military support to federal agencies in domestic security operations, has a different opinion. For it, Muslims residing in Canada present the “greatest potential for foreign terrorists’ access to the homeland”. This is according to a briefing document that the group inadvertently published on the reading room section of its website a couple of weeks ago, only to abruptly remove it last Wednesday. According to InsideDefense, which noticed the report before it was withdrawn, the internal document blames Canadian immigration policies for “creating a favorable environment” for “foreign terrorist opportunities”. Read more of this post

Analysis: Behind the Recent CIA Espionage Indictments

Harold Nicholson

H.J. Nicholson

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In 1997, when Harold James Nicholson was convicted for working for Russian intelligence, he became the highest-ranking CIA officer to be convicted of spying on behalf of a foreign agency. Last Thursday, it emerged that 24-year-old Nathaniel James Nicholson, Harold Nicholson’s youngest son, was arrested by FBI counterintelligence officers and charged with repeatedly contacting Russian officials on behalf of his imprisoned father. According to the court documents (.pdf) released Thursday, the purpose of Nathaniel Nicholson’s contact with the Russians was “to collect moneys from the Russian Federation for his [father’s] past espionage activities”. In reporting on the Nicholsons’ case, The New York Times quoted an anonymous “intelligence official” who played down Harold Nicholson’s importance for the Russians and suggested that “[t]his just shows that the Russians are either sentimental or stupid”. In fact, the Russians are neither, and The New York Times‘ sources should know better than to downplay Nicholson’s continued contact with his Russian handlers. Read article→

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 751 other followers