Britain’s MI6 appoints new director amidst mounting global crises

Alex YoungerBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, also known as MI6) has announced the appointment of a new director at a period that some see as the most critical for the agency since the end of the Cold War. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in a brief statement on Saturday that Alex Younger will be replacing Sir John Sawers, who earlier this year announced he would be stepping down from the post. Prior to his appointment, Younger, 51, held the position of chief of global operations, which is considered the number two position at MI6. The Foreign Office statement described Younger as a “career SIS officer” who has worked for the agency since 1991, when he joined from the Scots Guards regiment of the British Army. He holds an economics degree and has served with MI6 in the Middle East, Europe, and Afghanistan, where he represented the agency as its most senior officer in the country following the US-led military of 2001. Upon his return to the United Kingdom, Younger directed MI6’s counterterrorism preparations in the lead-up to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Some observers noted on Sunday that the new director’s appointment comes at a crucial period for Britain’s principal external intelligence agency, as it prepares to expand its operations in Iraq and Syria, in response to the growth of the Islamic State there. Additionally, British intelligence is refocusing on Eastern Europe, as the crisis in Ukraine threatens to further-damage relations between East and West, which appear to be on their direst state since the Cold War. Younger’s appointment will be seen as a reaffirmation by the government of the work of Sir John, who has led MI6 for four years. Many were surprised when Sir John, who was a diplomat, not an intelligence officer, was named as director of MI6 in 2010. It was said at the time that his appointment was meant to be seen as a public response by the government over strong accusations that the agency had seriously underperformed in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Sir John has tried to restore MI6’s reputation and has been particularly noted for his public appearances, which included lectures and speeches at parliamentary hearings. Read more of this post

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Ex-MI6 counterterror chief urges caution in tackling ISIS threat

Richard BarrettBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Britain should not hurriedly change its laws to counter the perceived danger posed by homegrown militants that have joined the Islamic State, according to the former head of counterterrorism for Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). Richard Barrett, a former diplomat, served as Director of Global Counter Terrorism Operations for MI6, Britain’s foreign intelligence agency, and is considered an international authority on counterterrorism. He told The Guardian newspaper that it would be wrong for the British government to introduce legislation effectively criminalizing travel to Iraq or Syria by British subjects. Barrett was responding to a newspaper article by London mayor Boris Johnson, who criticized Britain’s conservative government for not taking active steps to prevent British citizens form traveling to Syria and Iraq in order to join the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS. Johnson said he supported calls for British members of the Islamic State to be stripped of their British citizenship, even if that meant they would be left stateless —a violation of United Nations law. The London mayor further suggested that all British citizens travelling to Syria and Iraq without first notifying the government, should be legally considered as having traveled there “for a terrorist purpose”. He added that the burden should be on them to prove that they were “acting innocently” while abroad. But Barrett dismissed Johnson’s proposals, saying that they would cancel age-old principles of British common law and could potentially criminalize British citizens who traveled to the Middle East for legitimate purposes. Read more of this post

British spy chiefs ‘warn against’ Western military action in Ukraine

Map of UkraineBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
The heads of British intelligence agencies are said to have advised London that interfering militarily in Ukraine would likely prompt a violent Russian response. The Sunday People said last weekend that Whitehall has been advised a Western military interference in Ukraine would “risk spiraling into an all-out war with Russia”. The Labour-supporting paper, which is published by the Trinity Mirror group, claimed that the head of MI6, Sir John Sawers, is understood to have told British Prime Minister David Cameron that the Russian government “will not stand idly by” if Western troops enter Western Ukraine, ostensibly to prevent westward military advances by Russian forces. One “senior source” told The People that the message delivered to Whitehall was that “it’s not worth starting World War Three over Ukraine”. The briefing appears to rest on intelligence acquired from sources in Russia, as well as by MI6 operatives on the ground in eastern Ukraine, which, according to the paper, “have been moving around [eastern Ukraine] covertly, monitoring border crossing points and towns where Russian support is strongest”. Meanwhile on Monday the United States Department of State distributed an 11-page document with photographs alleging that Russian Spetsnaz (special purpose forces) troops are among the occupiers of government buildings in eastern Ukraine. The same document was distributed last week by Ukrainian officials at a meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Early on Tuesday, US Vice President Joe Biden, who is visiting Ukrainian capital Kiev, pledged $50 million to help the country’s government carry out unspecified “political and economic reforms”. About a fifth of that amount has been earmarked to help fund Ukraine’s presidential election in late May of this year. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #860

Edward SnowdenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Top US-backed rebel commander flees Syria. General Salim Idris of the Free Syrian Army, who was the most senior Western-backed rebel commander in Syria, has fled the country amid growing infighting with Islamist rebels, American officials have said. The rebel military leader fled into Turkey and flew to Doha, Qatar on Sunday, after Islamist rebel groups took over his headquarters and warehouses of US-supplied military gear along the border between Turkey and Syria.
►►NSA co-worker calls Snowden ‘genius among geniuses’. Forbes magazine’s Andy Greenberg says he was contacted by a former co-worker of NSA technical expert Edward Snowden, who described the defector as “a principled and ultra-competent, if somewhat eccentric employee, and one who earned the access used to pull off his leak by impressing superiors [at NSA] with sheer talent”. The unnamed source continued: “that kid was a genius among geniuses […], I’ve never seen anything like it”.
►►Iran claims to have captured MI6 spy. Iran says it has captured a spy working for British intelligence agency MI6 in the south-eastern city of Kerman. The head of Kerman’s revolutionary court said the alleged spy had admitted being in contact with four British intelligence officers 11 times, both inside and outside the country. He said the accused was now on trial and had confessed. The nationality of the alleged spy is not yet known. The UK Foreign Office said it did not comment on intelligence matters.

Further evidence shows Litvinenko worked for MI6 when killed

Alexander LitvinenkoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
In 2012, a court in the United Kingdom was told that former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who died of poisoning in 2006, had been working for British and Spanish intelligence when he was killed. Now British newspaper The Independent says it has proof that the late Russian spy provided “expert analysis” on Russian politics for British intelligence, shortly before his death. Litvinenko was an employee of the Soviet KGB and one of its successor organizations, the FSB, until 2000, when he defected with his family to the UK. He soon became known as a vocal critic of the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2006, Litvinenko came down with radioactive poisoning soon after meeting a former KGB/FSB colleague, Andrey Lugovoy, at a London restaurant. Many suspect that the Russian government is behind Litvinenko’s murder. But the dead spy’s family has argued for years that his killers did not only kill an intelligence defector, but also an officer of British intelligence. On Thursday, The Independent said it had seen a diplomatic memo that was given to Litvnenko for analysis by British external intelligence agency MI6. The document, known in the British Foreign Office lingo as a “diptel” (diplomatic telegram), was dispatched to several British embassies around the world in 2000. It includes a descriptive analysis of a confidential meeting in London between British intelligence officials and Sergei Ivanov. Currently a political powerhouse in Putin’s administration, Ivanon was at the time an unknown quantity in Western circles. He had entered politics after having spent nearly two decades working for Soviet and Russian external intelligence. The diptel seen by The Independent outlines the exchange of views between Ivanov and the British officials during the meeting, and evaluates his stance on a broad range of issues, ranging from the rise of Islamic militancy, to China, the Middle East, and the role of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Read more of this post

Ex-MI6 head ‘might air memoirs’ to set Iraq War record straight

Sir Richard DearloveBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The former director of Britain’s external spy service has hinted he might publish his personal account of the decisions that led to Britain’s entry in the Iraq War, if he is criticized in a public inquiry on the subject. Sir Richard Dearlove led the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, known as SIS or MI6, from 1999 until his retirement in 2004. He is currently on sabbatical from his post as Master of Cambridge University’s Pembroke College, in order to research and author his autobiography. The memoir is believed to be largely preoccupied with the intelligence that led to the British government’s decision to enter the United States-led 2003 war in Iraq. Sir Richard had previously indicated that he intended to make his memoirs posthumously available as a resource to academic researchers. But in an email to British tabloid The Mail on Sunday, he hinted he would consider publishing his personal account if he finds himself criticized by the Iraq Inquiry. Known in Britain as the Chilcot Inquiry, after its Chairman, Sir John Chilcot, the Iraq Inquiry was commissioned by the British government in 2009 to investigate the executive decisions that led the country to participate in the invasion of Iraq. One of the inquiry’s many goals was to evaluate the intelligence provided by MI6 to the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair. There have been rumors that the inquiry’s declassified findings, which are scheduled for publication soon, are critical of MI6’s performance and place particular blame on Sir Richard’s role in the debacle. Read more of this post

UK planned to spy on 2009 Commonwealth heads of state meeting

Delegates at the 2009 CHOGMBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
British intelligence agencies had plans to spy on a British Commonwealth meeting, which was attended by Queen Elizabeth and the President of France, among other heads of state. The plans to spy on the meeting, which was held in 2009, are revealed in a document disclosed to The Guardian newspaper by American whistleblower Edward Snowden. Earlier this month, Snowden, a former technical assistant for the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), disclosed the existence of PRISM, a clandestine national security electronic surveillance program operated by the United States National Security Agency (NSA). The Guardian said on Sunday that it had in its possession a page from an internal classified document given to NSA by Britain’s General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), which is tasked with collecting signals intelligence. The document apparently outlines plans to spy on international delegates in order to “give UK ministers an advantage in talks with their Commonwealth counterparts”. Some “key intelligence [collection] requirements” at the summit, which took place in 2009 in Trinidad, included “intelligence on South Africa’s views on Zimbabwe”, as well as “climate change reporting”. The document, says The Guardian, also sets out a schedule for various British intelligence agencies to arrive and begin operations in the South American island-nation. GCHQ is instructed to initiate its surveillance activities following the arrival of the international delegates. On the other hand, the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, also known as MI6), which is Britain’s primary external intelligence agency, is expected to set up operations in Port of Spain several days prior to the event. Read more of this post

MI6 archives reveal plans for WWII and Cold War black operations

Sir Stewart MenziesBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Recently declassified British archives reveal a host of audacious plans for covert operations aimed at Nazi-occupied Europe during wartime and, after 1948, inside the Soviet Union. The plans, proposed by British intelligence officials, ranged from relatively innocuous psychological operations to assassinations of key political figures. The wartime plans were proposed in 1944 by Charles Peake, a British intelligence officer detailed to the headquarters of General Dwight Eisenhower. The iconic American military commander was in charge of plans for Operation OVERLORD, the allied troop landings on the beaches of Normandy in northern France. According to documents released last week by the United Kingdom National Archives, Peake’s proposal was entitled “Assassination Priorities for OVERLORD”. It contained an extensive list of senior German and French Axis officials that should be targeted for assassination in preparation for the D-Day landings. The hit list included “certain Germans in key positions in France”, notably Field Marshals Gerd von Rundstedt and Erwin Rommel. It also incorporated several senior members of France’s Nazi-controlled Vichy administration under Marshal Philippe Pétain. The proposal, however, was quickly shot down by no other than General Stewart Menzies, Director of the Secret Intelligence Service (known as MI6), who feared that intrusive covert actions by allied operatives would cause brutal reprisals against allied prisoners of war. Ironically, Menzies, known in government simply as “C”, drafted an ever more ambitious plan for black operations after the end of World War II, this time targeted at the Soviet Union. Read more of this post

Alongside CIA, British spies also bankrolling Afghan government

AfghanistanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
British officials have publicly admitted that senior members of the Afghan government receive “direct cash payments” from London on a regular basis. British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported over the weekend that the funds have been delivered to Afghan cabinet members “periodically” ever since 2001, when British troops entered Afghanistan alongside their American colleagues. The revelation comes only a week after the publication of a New York Times exposé, which disclosed that the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had delivered “tens of millions of dollars [in] off-the-books cash” to Afghanistan’s governing elite. The newspaper added that there was little evidence that such bribes had helped promote Washington’s interests in the country in any substantial way. According to British officials, London has channeled “a smaller fraction” of the amount paid by the CIA. The British funds are delivered to senior members of the government of Hamid Karzai by MI6, Britain’s foremost external intelligence agency. The funds are then allegedly spent on what Afghan government officials call “special projects”, implying that they are used as bribes to pacify local warlords, many of which are ethnic Pasthuns and belong to the Taliban. Last week, following The New York Times revelations, Mr. Karzai told the loya jirga —Afghanistan’s grand assembly— that there was “nothing unusual” about the CIA funneling money to his government. He added that he had implored the CIA’s Station Chief in Afghan capital Kabul to continue making regular payments despite popular concern in the US, as the funds were vital to the stability of the government: “we really need it”, he said. Read more of this post

Intelligence historian calls on MI6 to declassify Lumumba files

Patrice LumumbaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An historian whose book on British intelligence prompted the claim of Britain’s complicity in the 1961 assassination Patrice Lumumba has called for MI6 to declassify its secret files on the late Congolese Prime Minister. Calder Walton is a Cambridge University-educated intelligence historian whose first book, Empire of Secrets, examines the activities of British intelligence in the last days of the British Empire. A review of the book, published by Bernard Porter in The London Review of Books in March, prompted a claim that London had organized the assassination of the iconic pan-Africanist activist, who in 1960 had become Congo’s first democratically elected Prime Minister. Many believe that the United States had a hand in Lumumba’s assassination, which was aimed at preventing him from establishing close relations between uranium-rich Congo and the Soviet Union. But British Labour politician and Life peer Lord Lea of Crondall said in a letter published in response to the review of Walton’s book that Lumumba had been killed with the help of MI6, Britain’s primary external intelligence service. He claimed he had been told so by the late Baroness Park of Monmouth, who at the time of Lumumba’s death headed the Leopoldville station of MI6. In his book, Walton, who until 2009 served as research assistant for Professor Christopher Andrew’s authorized official history of MI5, Defence of the Realm, says it is unclear who organized Lumumba’s assassination. He argues that “at present, we do not know […] whether British plots to assassinate Lumumba […] ever amounted to anything”. But speaking to The London Times on Wednesday, the historian and author urged MI6 to declassify its internal archives on the Congolese leader. Read more of this post

Did MI6, not CIA, kill Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba?

Patrice LumumbaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The 1961 abduction and murder of iconic Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba was organized by British, not American, intelligence, according to a claim made this week by a British Labour politician and Life peer. Lord Lea of Crondall said in a letter published in the current edition of The London Review of Books that he was told so by Baroness Park of Monmouth, who at the time headed the Leopoldville station of MI6, Britain’s primary external intelligence service. Lumumba was a pan-Africanist activist who in 1958 helped found the Mouvement National Congolais, later becoming the organization’s leader. In 1960, he became Congo’s first democratically elected Prime Minister. However, his government soon became embroiled in the Cold-War rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union. Many believe that Washington, fearing that Lumumba would attach uranium-rich Congo to the Soviet sphere of influence, tasked the Central Intelligence Agency with organize a coup d’état against him. It was carried out by Congolese Colonel Joseph Mobutu Sese Seko, who then ruled Congo with an iron fist until his death in 1997. In January 1961, pro-Mobutu soldiers, assisted by Belgian troops, abducted Lumumba and executed him following several days of beatings and torture. But according to Lord Lea, Baroness Park told him shortly before she died, in 2010, that she had orchestrated Lumumba’s killing on behalf of MI6. Known as Daphne Park until she entered the peerage, Park was often referred to as “the queen of spies” due to her four decades in the service of MI6. As one of the top female British intelligence officers, Park served as Second Secretary at the British Embassy in Moscow between 1954 and 1956, before being transferred to Congo in 1959. While there, she served as Consul and First Secretary at the British embassy in Leopoldville —renamed Kinshasa following Congo’s independence. Read more of this post

Spy claims against diplomat cast shadow over Anglo-Russian relations

Denis KeefeBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Widespread allegations of espionage against Britain’s deputy ambassador to Russia threaten to derail the ongoing diplomatic rapprochement between Russia and the United Kingdom, according to a leading British newspaper. Painstaking efforts to rebuild Anglo-Russian relations, which crumbled after the 2006 assassination of Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko in London, are scheduled to culminate later this week, when senior Russian cabinet officials will be visiting London for a “strategic dialogue” with their British counterparts. But British newspaper The Sunday Telegraph reports that Whitehall is increasingly annoyed by persistent attacks in the Russian media against Denis Keefe, the UK’s deputy ambassador to Moscow. Keefe, a career diplomat with over 30 years in the Foreign Office, much of it during the Cold War, is a Cambridge University graduate who speaks six languages, including fluent Russian. Prior to arriving in Moscow, he served as British ambassador to Georgia, where he was stationed during the 2008 Russia-Georgia war. Almost as soon as he arrived in Russia, Keefe found himself at the center of persistent allegations in the Russian media that he is “an undercover spy, with his diplomatic position serving as a smokescreen”. Several Russian news reports have indirectly accused him of contacting dissident groups inside Russia in an effort to undermine the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Telegraph, which published for the first time an account of the Russian media claims in the West, said that Russian reporters appear to hound Keefe every time he makes a public appearance in the country. In one recent instance, two journalists asked him whether he was “a spy for MI6”, Britain’s primary external intelligence agency, insisting that he give a “straightforward answer to this question”. Keefe reportedly responded that this was “not a serious question” and had “nothing to do” with him. Read more of this post

British journalists worked for MI6 during the Cold War: investigation

George BlakeBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Numerous notable journalists working for some of Britain’s most prestigious publications routinely collaborated with British intelligence during the Cold War, according to a BBC investigation. In 1968, Soviet newspaper Izvestia published the contents of an alleged British government memorandum entitled “Liaison Between the BBC and SIS”. SIS, which stands for Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6, is Britain’s foremost external intelligence agency. The paper, which was the official organ of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, claimed that the foreign correspondents of most leading British newspapers secretly collaborated with the British intelligence community. It also alleged that the BBC’s world radio service had agreed with MI6 to broadcast preselected sentences or songs at prearranged times. These signals were used by British intelligence officers to demonstrate to foreign recruits in the Eastern Bloc that they were operating on behalf of the UK. At the time, the BBC virulently rejected the Izvestia’s claims, calling them “black propaganda” aimed at distracting world opinion from the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops, which had taken place some months earlier. But an investigation aired this week by the BBC Radio 4’s investigative Document program suggests that the memo published by the Soviet newspaper was probably genuine. The program says it discovered a memorandum in the BBC’s archives, which laments the embarrassment caused to MI6 by the Soviet claims. The memorandum, dated April 24, 1969, describes MI6 as “our friends”. The BBC program, which is available to listen to here, discusses the Soviets’ claims that several notable British journalists were MI6 agents. Read more of this post

British government tries to block probe into ex-KGB officer’s murder

Alexander LitvinenkoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The family of a Russian spy, who died of poisoning after defecting to Britain, has accused the British government of trying to cover up the affair in order to avoid embarrassing Russia. Alexander Litvinenko was an employee of the Soviet KGB and one of its successor organizations, the FSB, until 2000, when he defected with his family to the United Kingdom. He soon became widely known as a vocal critic of the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2006, Litvinenko came down with radioactive poisoning soon after meeting a former KGB/FSB colleague, Andrey Lugovoy, at a London restaurant. He died in hospital three days later. A public inquest into Litvinenko’s murder had been scheduled for May, 2013. On Tuesday, however, it was revealed that the British government had filed a written petition to limit the information disclosed in the inquest. According to The London Times, British Foreign Secretary William Hague filed a Public Interest Immunity Certificate (PIIC), which, if allowed to stand, would limit the scope of the inquest on national security grounds. It is believed that the government wishes to block information linking Litvinenko to the Secret Intelligence Service —also known as MI6— Britain’s primary external spy agency. Last December, Ben Emmerson, the lawyer representing Litvinenko’s widow, claimed that the late Russian spy was a “registered and paid” agent of MI6 and Spanish intelligence at the time of his death. Read more of this post

Philby’s son, widow, speak on 50th anniversary of his defection

Philby interview c.1967 By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
For most of us, January 23, 2013, was a day like any other. But for intelligence history aficionados it marked the 50th anniversary of the escape to Moscow of notorious double spy Harold Adrian Russell Philby. Known as ‘Kim’ to his friends, Philby secretly defected to the USSR from his home in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1963. He is widely considered history’s most successful double spy. While working as a senior member of British intelligence, he spied on behalf of the Soviet NKVD and KGB from the early 1930s until his defection. In 1965, he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. When he died, in 1988, he was buried with honors by the Soviet authorities. Philby’s defection sent ripples of shock across Western intelligence and is often described as one of the most dramatic moments of the Cold War. On the 50th anniversary of Philby’s defection to Moscow, British newspaper The Daily Telegraph carried an article with excerpts of interviews with one of Philby’s sons, Dudley Thomas Philby, and his Russian widow, Rufina Pukhova Philby. Born in 1946, Dudley ‘Tommy’ Philby is the third of Kim’s five children with his second of four wives, Aileen Furse Philby. Aileen died in 1957, when Tommy was just 11 years old; his contact with his father was cut off as soon as the double spy defected to the USSR in January 1963. But it was resumed a few months later, when he received a letter from his father in Moscow. Eventually, Tommy visited Kim five times in Moscow in the 1970s. Speaking on the anniversary of his late father’s defection, he described him as “a very kind man” and “a very good father”, who “had his belief [in] communism [and] carried it out”. He told The Telegraph that he personally did not agree with his father’s political views, but added: “he was what he was, what could I do?”. He told the paper that Kim eventually came to think that “it was all wrong”, implying that Philby grew disillusioned with the Soviet system. Read more of this post

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