News you may have missed #699

Hilda MurrellBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Diplomatic war over the arrest of Gaddafi’s spy chief. The Libyan authorities have confirmed the arrest in Mauritania of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi, who was reportedly detained at Nouakchott airport. Senussi, 63, was Gaddafi’s brother-in-law, and has been described as one of his most trusted aides. But his arrest has kicked off an international row about which of his alleged crimes —ranging from terrorism to war crimes and mass murder— should take precedence in the pursuit of justice. The Mauritanians are now saying that they are willing to extradite al-Senussi, but this remains to be seen in practice.
►►Azerbaijan arrests 22 in alleged Iran spy plot. Azerbaijan has arrested 22 of its own citizens, on suspicion of spying for Iran. Weapons and ammunition were seized, authorities say, accusing the group of links to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. Their alleged targets included the US and Israeli embassies as well as Western-linked companies. Surveillance by the Azeri security services is reported to have helped foil the alleged Iranian-sponsored plot.
►►Was there MI5 link to murder of UK nuclear activist? One of Britain’s leading human rights lawyers, Michael Mansfield QC, has demanded a fresh police inquiry to establish what the British intelligence services knew about the murder of a prominent anti-nuclear campaigner. The lawyer said new evidence meant that an independent police force should be appointed to examine enduring concerns and inconsistencies relating to the death of Hilda Murrell, in March 1984.

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News you may have missed #686

Folkert Arie van KoutrikBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►WikiLeaks to publish 5 million StratFor emails. In its latest high-profile data dump, WikiLeaks is to reveal five million internal and external emails from StratFor today. In a press release late Sunday, Wikileaks said the emails “show StratFor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods”, and reveal “how StratFor has recruited a global network of informants who are paid via Swiss banks accounts and pre-paid credit cards. Stratfor has a mix of covert and overt informants, which includes government employees, embassy staff and journalists around the world”.
►►Analysis: Blurred line between espionage and truth under Obama. “There is plenty of authorized leaking going on, but this particular boat leaks from the top. Leaks from the decks below, especially ones that might embarrass the administration, have been dealt with very differently [...]. And it’s worth pointing out that the administration’s emphasis on secrecy comes and goes depending on the news. Reporters were immediately and endlessly briefed on the “secret” operation that successfully found and killed Osama bin Laden. And the drone program in Pakistan and Afghanistan comes to light in a very organized and systematic way every time there is a successful mission”.
►►Nazis had spy in MI5 but failed to use him. Dutchman Folkert Arie van Koutrik was the first German agent to ever infiltrate MI5 when he was employed by them in 1940, just a month before Anthony Blunt, who was later exposed as a Soviet spy. Koutrik had already worked for Abwehr, the German secret service, before the war as a double agent with MI6 in Europe and exposed some of the UK’s top agents. But, incredibly, after he moved to the UK and joined MI5 all contact appears to have broken off.

Ex-KGB spy Litvinenko was working for MI6 when he died

Alexander LitvinenkoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Confidential documents leaked to the British press show that a leading medical examiner wants to reinspect the 2006 death of a former Soviet intelligence officer, in light of new revelations. Alexander Litvinenko was an employee of the Soviet KGB and its successor organization, the FSB, who in 2000 defected with his family to the United Kingdom. He soon became known as an increasingly vocal critic of the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2006, Litvinenko came down with radioactive poisoning soon after meeting a former colleague, Andrey Lugovoy, in a London restaurant. The latter is believed by British authorities to have assassinated Litvinenko “with the backing of the Russian state”. Although much of the case remains shrouded in mystery, an important new clue was added to the equation in October, when Litvinenko’s widow publicly admitted that her husband had been a paid employee of British intelligence services MI5 and MI6. Marina Litvinenko told British tabloid newspaper The Mail on Sunday that Alexander had advised both agencies on “combat[ing] Russian organized crime in Europe”. She had previously denied rumors that her husband had been working for British intelligence when he was killed —ostensibly by the Russian government. The revelation appears to have prompted a British coroner to request that the medical investigation into Litvinenko’s death be reopened. Documents leaked to The Mail on Sunday appear to show that Andrew Reid, a coroner at St Pankras Hospital in London, has formally requested that both MI5 and MI6 release all of their internal files on Litvinenko, in the context of a new investigation. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #665

Matthew M. AidBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Joseph Fitsanakis interviewed on ABC Radio National. IntelNews‘ own Dr Joseph Fitsanakis was interviewed on Friday by reporter Suzanne Hill, for ABC Radio National’s flagship evening news program ‘PM‘. In the interview, which was about the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, Fitsanakis points the finger at the Mossad, and explains why he doesn’t believe the United States had anything to do with the killing. You can listen to the interview here. The transcript is here.
►►India releases diplomat jailed for spying. Last April, Madhuri Gupta, second secretary at the Indian high commission in Islamabad, Pakistan, was arrested for working for Pakistan’s ISI spy agency. She apparently had a “relationship of personal affection” with an aide of her Pakistani handler. On Tuesday, she was granted bail by an Indian court, after 21 months in prison.
►►Matthew Aid interviewed about his new book. Matthew M. Aid, author of The Secret Sentry, has written a new book, Intel Wars: The Secret History of the Fight Against Terror. You can listen to an extensive interview he gave on January 11 on NPR’s Fresh Air, in which Aid outlined his view that “overlapping jurisdictions, bureaucratic policies and a glut of data have crippled the intelligence community in its war against would-be terrorists”.
►►British spies to be cleared on torture allegations. The British government, including Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service, has just finished a four-year inquiry into the country’s security and intelligence services, sparked by allegations by terrorist suspects released from Guantanamo Bay, that they were severely tortured. The results have not yet been announced. But British media report that, according to information from trusted sources, the inquiry has concluded that (…drumroll…) there is no evidence that officers from either MI5 or MI6 were aware of the mistreatment of prisoners.

News you may have missed #662: UK edition

Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson with Adolf HitlerBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Hacked StratFor info exposes thousands of intel officials. Customer user data obtained from StratFor by Anonymous last month includes the private details of 221 British military officials and 242 NATO staff. Civil servants working at the heart of the UK government —including several in the Cabinet Office as well as advisers to the Joint Intelligence Organisation, which acts as the British Prime Minister’s eyes and ears on sensitive information— have also been exposed.
►►Book claims MI5 tapped phones of King Edward. According to a new biography of Tommy Robertson, who pioneered Britain’s wartime counterintelligence operations, MI5 agents tapped the phones of King Edward VIII and his brother the Duke of York, at the height of the ‘abdication crisis’. Edward VIII was infatuated with –and, in 1936, gave up his throne to marry– American divorcee and socialite Wallis Simpson, who was suspected by many in the British government of having Nazi sympathies.
►►UK spy watchdog wants to stop court disclosure of state secrets. The parliamentary watchdog for Britain’s spies, the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), is lobbying the government to introduce sweeping curbs that could prevent UK courts from examining intelligence material. The committee claims that its proposed new powers would ensure that intelligence obtained from foreign agencies, such as the CIA, is never publicly disclosed. This proposal clearly goes back the case of Binyam Mohamed; he was detained in Pakistan, where he was questioned by MI5, and eventually ended up in Guantánamo Bay, where he says he was tortured. In late 2009, British courts clashed with David Miliband, the then foreign secretary, over the publication of a summary of US intelligence material relating to Mohamed.

News you may have missed #660

Margaret ThatcherBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Taiwan President accused of spying on political opponents. Taiwan’s opposition challenger for the presidency, Tsai Ing-wen, has accused intelligence services under the control of incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou of tracking her campaign events for political advantage. The allegations – unproven and denied by Ma – conjure up memories of Taiwan’s one-party past when Ma’s party, the Nationalists, used their total control of the state apparatus to persecute opponents.
►►Analysis: Has Israeli-Australian spy relationship been restored? Intelligence sharing between Israel and Australia was halted this time last year, when a Mossad hit squad with forged Australian passports assassinated senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in in Dubai. But Australian newspaper The Age reports that “the flow of top secret intelligence between the two countries has now been restored”, in a move apparently initiated by the Australian side.
►►Thatcher threatened to ban BBC program on MI5 and MI6. The Conservative government of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher threatened to “veto” a BBC investigative program about British intelligence services MI5 and MI6, because it would reveal details about how they operated and question their public accountability. In a letter marked “top secret and personal”, cabinet secretary Sir Robert Armstrong, recommended that Margaret Thatcher consider invoking the rarely used power, saying that “the government has the power to ban any program”. Thatcher wrote on the note: “I would be prepared to use the veto”.

British Nazi was in fact MI5 double spy, new book reveals

Arthur OwensBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A Welsh nationalist, whose aversion to British rule led him to spy for Nazi Germany during World War II, was in fact a double spy for Britain, and was instrumental in helping he Allies win the war, a new book reveals. The book, Snow: The Double Life of a World War II Spy, by Madoc Roberts and Nigel West (At Her Majesty’s Secret Service, A Matter of Trust, etc), centers on the life of Arthur Owens, who was recruited by the Abwehr, Germany’s military intelligence, in 1935, during a business trip to the Continent. Given the operational codename JOHNNY O’BRIEN by the Germans, he quickly began providing Berlin with inside information on Britain’s military buildup in the run-up to the War. But, according to Roberts and West, who base their account on declassified government documents, British counterintelligence agency MI5 became aware of Owens’ espionage activities and eventually recruited him as a double agent for the Crown. According to the book, Owens, who was given the codename SNOW by his British masters, became one of the human intelligence cornerstones of MI5’s XX (Double-Cross) System. Consisting of a close-knit group of deception specialists, XX is known for a series of outrageous —and often highly successful— covert operations during World War II, including Operation FORTITUDE, a plan to deceive the Germans about the location of the invasion of Europe by the Western Allies. The authors claim that agent SNOW’s activities successfully lured a large number of Nazi agents into the arms of MI5, thus eventually paving the way for some of MI5’s greatest wartime counterintelligence successes. In fact, it is believed that Owens’ pro-Nazi activities were so convincing, and his operational cover so deeply buried within the XX System, that in 1941 his MI5 handlers recommended that he be interned in a British prison. But the book alleges that, while in prison in Dartmoor, England, SNOW continued his intelligence collection for the Crown and kept feeding his handlers with information extracted from the prison’s German inmates. Read more of this post

Half of all IRA leaders were government spies, report claims

Ian HurstBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A report to be presented before an Irish government inquiry states that nearly half of the leadership of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) during the ‘Troubles’ of the 1960s and 1970s consisted of informants working for British or Irish intelligence services. The 24-page report is part of a larger dossier of evidence that is soon to be presented before the Smithwick Tribunal, a judicial inquiry into the 1989 killing by the Provisional IRA of two police officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (see previous intelNews coverage here). The evidence dossier has reportedly been prepared by Ian Hurst, former member of the Force Research Unit (FRU), a secretive body within the British Army’s Intelligence Corps, tasked with running agents inside militant groups. Hurst, who worked in the Intelligence Corps from 1981 to 1990, was responsible for handling informants and agents inside Irish paramilitary groups, including the Provisional IRA. He is believed to be the first-ever member of the FRU to have spoken publicly about his experience. In the report, which was leaked to The Belfast Telegraph, Hurst suggests that approximately one in every four volunteers of the Provisional IRA was an agent of an intelligence organization, and that among leading members this number increased to one in two. Among them was allegedly the British agent codenamed STAKEKNIFE, identified by some as Freddie Scappaticci, a senior member of the Provisional IRA Northern Command’s Internal Security Unit (ISU), tasked with counterintelligence operations (Scappaticci denies these claims). Read more of this post

Newspaper reveals name of Russian ‘spy’ expelled from Britain

Mikhail Repin

Mikhail Repin

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In December of 2010, the British government quietly ordered the expulsion of a diplomat from the Russian embassy in London, whom it accused of “activities incompatible with his diplomatic status” —technical terminology implying espionage. Moscow quickly responded with an expulsion of a British diplomat stationed in the Russian capital. The tit-for-tat incident saw no publicity, and neither man was named, as is customary in such cases. But, in its Saturday edition, British newspaper The Daily Telegraph identified the expelled Russian diplomat as Mikhail Viktorovich Repin, Third Secretary in the Political Section at the Russian embassy in London. The paper said that Repin, a fluent English speaker, was a junior officer of the political directorate of the SVR, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, operating under standard diplomatic cover. Repin arrived in London in late 2007, shortly after the British government expelled four Russian diplomats in connection with the fatal poisoning of former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who had defected to Britain. A “tall, suave, urbane young man”, “Michael”, as he identified himself, quickly became a permanent fixture on the embassy reception circuit and the various events hosted by London-based organizations and think tanks. He specifically joined —and regularly attended meetings of— the Royal United Services Institute, the International Institute of Strategic Studies, and Chatham House —formerly known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs. Most people that met him in those gatherings took him for “a fast-track civil servant, defense industry high flier or political adviser”, says The Telegraph. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #639 (Katia Zatuliveter edition)

Katia Zatuliveter

Katia Zatuliveter

►►Russian woman accused of spying wins right to stay in UK. Katia Zatuliveter, 26, who was accused by British counterintelligence service MI5 of being a spy for Russia, has won a court appeal against her planned deportation. A panel of the UK’s Special Immigration Appeals Commission, which included the former MI5 director general Sir Stephen Lander, ruled that MI5’s suspicions about Zatuliveter had been reasonably held, but were wrong.
►►Zatuliveter espionage case reveals MI5 fears. MI5, the security service, will be hugely disappointed that the Special Immigration Appeals Commission has overturned the government’s attempt to deport Katia Zatuliveter on allegations that she spied for Russia. But senior figures at the domestic intelligence service will have no regrets about undertaking their yearlong attempt to secure the expulsion of an individual who has given them ample grounds for suspicion.
►►How big is the threat from Russian spies? There may well be Russian spies operating in Britain today, but Katia Zatuliveter –who has won an appeal against deportation– is not one of them, and the failure of the case against her is an embarrassing blow to a security service for whom the Russians were once the top target.

News you may have missed #636

Lebanon

Lebanon

►►Careless codeword may have cost CIA its Lebanon network. Hezbollah have reportedly just rolled up the CIA’s network of spies in Lebanon. If so, it’s because of one of the stupidest, least secure code words in history. According to ABC News, Hezbollah operatives figured out that CIA informants, who had infiltrated the Iranian proxy group, were meeting with their agency handlers at a Beirut Pizza Hut. How could Hezbollah deduce that location? “The CIA used the codeword ‘PIZZA’ when discussing where to meet with the agents,” ABC reports.
►►UK spy chiefs to be publicly questioned for first time. The heads of British intelligence agencies are set to be questioned for the first time in public, under plans to make spies more accountable. The directors of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ will face Parliamentarians on the Intelligence and Security Committee. Although, they have recently begun to make rare public appearances, and deliver speeches, it will be the first time the intelligence agency heads will face public cross-examination over their activities.
►►Documents reveal largest domestic spy operation in Canadian history. Police organizations across Canada co-operated to spy on community organizations and activists in what the Royal Canadian Mounted Police called one of the largest domestic intelligence operations in Canadian history, documents reveal. Information about the extensive police surveillance in advance of last year’s G8 and G20 meetings in southern Ontario comes from evidence presented in the case of 17 people accused of orchestrating street turmoil during the summits.

News you may have missed #626

Katia Zatuliveter

Katia Zatuliveter

►►Analysis: On largely forgotten CIA officer Jim Thompson. The CIA’s longtime man in Southeast Asia, Jim Thompson, fought to stop the agency’s progression from a small spy ring to a large paramilitary agency. He was in many ways unique, but by the 1950s and early 1960s he would become part of a larger, growing, and much less idealistic machine, one that would expose his naiveté –and punish him for it. Interesting historical analysis from Foreign Policy.
►►Court blocks naming NATO official who had affair with alleged Russian spy. We have written before that Katia Zatuliveter, who is accused by British MI5 of being a spy for Russia, has admitted having a four-year affair with Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock, as well as with a Dutch diplomat and a NATO official. The latter, a German diplomat, was pictured in a newspaper last week. However, his face was obscured because of the terms of a court order that means he cannot be identified.
►►Promises made about Colombia’s new spy agency. Colombia’s disgraced DAS intelligence agency has finally been dissolved. Now the government’s senior National Security adviser, Sergio Jaramillo, has said that Colombia’s new intelligence service will focus on combating “government infiltration by criminal organizations”. I guess it doesn’t hurt to be ambitious.

News you may have missed #616

CSIS seal

CSIS seal

►►S. Koreans say several N. Korean assassination bids stopped. South Korea has arrested several North Korean agents for plotting to assassinate anti-Pyongyang activists, according to Won Sei-Hoon, head of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, who spoke to the parliament’s intelligence committee. Earlier this month, Seoul prosecutors charged a North Korean agent with trying to murder Park Sang-Hak, an outspoken activist in Seoul, with a poison-tipped weapon.
►►MI5 inspectors’ website shut down after security blunder. A new website for the former High Court judges responsible for oversight of MI5, MI6 and wiretapping has been shut down after it emerged that anyone could edit any page of it. The security blunder forced the Intelligence Services Commissioner, Sir Mark Waller, and the Interception of Communications Commissioner, Sir Paul Kennedy, to pull the plug on their new website.
►►Report urges Canadian spies to share more info with diplomats. Canada’s spy agency needs to share more information with the Department of Foreign Affairs so the department is better prepared for negative reactions to Canadian intelligence work overseas, according to a new report by Canada’s Security Intelligence Review Committee. The Committee, which reports to Parliament on the work of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, found the organization had “limited exchanges” with Canada’s diplomats on its operations.

News you may have missed #613 (court case edition)

Katia Zatuliveter

Katia Zatuliveter

►►Russian accused spy admits affair with British MP. Katia Zatuliveter, 26, who is accused by British counterintelligence service MI5 of being a spy for Russia, has admitted having a four-year affair with Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock, 66, while she worked as his parliamentary researcher. She also admitted that before meeting Mr Hancock she had affairs with a NATO official and a Dutch diplomat. However, she has denied working as a spy or targeting Mr Hancock in a honey trap operation.
►►Trial for ex-CIA officer accused of leaking secrets delayed. The trial for Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer charged with leaking classified defense information has been delayed. Opening arguments were expected to begin this week, but the trial was postponed on Monday after prosecutors said they intended to appeal the judge’s decision to strike two witnesses.
►►UK justice secreary plans closed-door terrorism trials. Intelligence gathered by British intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6, even if obtained by torture, will never be disclosed in court proceedings, under proposals announced by British justice secretary Kenneth Clarke. The proposals have been welcomed by the security and intelligence agencies, but criticized by civil rights groups for promoting “secret justice”.

News you may have missed #603

Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai

Syed Fai

►►Turkey has names of Israeli soldiers who attacked Gaza Flotilla. According to Turkish media, government officials succeeded in amassing the list of 174 names of officers and soldiers involved in the 2010 MV Mavi Marmara attack, by planting intelligence agents inside Israel. Turkish government officials have denied the reports.
►►Ex-MI5 chief to hear deportation case of alleged spy. A British judge has ruled that Sir Stephen Lander, former director of MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence service, can help to decide whether Katia Zatuliveter should be deported from the UK for allegedly spying for Russia. Zatuliveter, a Russian citizen who worked as an assistant to former British Member of Parliament Mike Hancock, may be deported on the basis of espionage evidence gathered by MI5.
►►Analysis: Pakistan’s spy plot to influence Washington. Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai came to the US on Saudi money with hopes of helping people in the disputed Indian territory of Kashmir. But he found himself spending millions on behalf of Pakistan’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence and, now, under arrest. An excellent article by The Atlantic‘s Kim Barker, Habiba Nosheen, and Raheel Khursheed.

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