CIA declassifies 1978 Camp David Accord files

Sadat, Carter and BeginBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The United States Central Intelligence Agency has declassified 1,400 pages of intelligence files relating to the Camp David Accords, the historic peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, which was signed in 1978. The treaty, the first between Israel and an Arab country, was signed on September 17, following thirteen days of high-level negotiations between Egypt and Isarel at the Camp David presidential retreat in the US state of Maryland. The two signatories were Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. The high-level summit was hosted by US President Jimmy Carter. All three heads of state were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize later that year, which they shared for helping bring about the first peace treaty between an Arab nation and Israel. The 250 previously classified documents on the Accords, which were released by the CIA earlier this week, date from January 1977 to March 1979. They include comprehensive political assessments and personality profiles of President Sadat, Prime Minister Begin, and other key personalities participating at the summit, which were given to President Carter to read before the meeting. One of the documents refers to a meeting between Carter and CIA analysts at the Agency’s headquarters in August 1978, during which the American President was coached about how to negotiate with the two Middle Eastern leaders. Or, as the document puts it, Carter was “steeped in the personalities of Begin and Sadat”. The papers also include declassified transcripts of meetings of the US National Security Council, in which the Accords were discussed. Read more of this post

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Israel asked for Jordan’s approval to bomb Syria, say sources

Regional map of SyriaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The government of Israel has sent Jordan at least two requests in the past two months to bomb targets in Syria, according to intelligence sources. The Atlantic magazine, which published the revelation on Monday, said Tel Aviv has been seeking Amman’s “permission” to move ahead with “a plan to take out many of Syria’s chemical weapons sites”. Citing unnamed “intelligence officials in two countries”, The Atlantic said that the Israeli requests were communicated to the Jordanian government by officials from the Mossad, Israel’s primary covert-action agency. In both instances, the Mossad delegation was allegedly dispatched to Amman on the orders of the Office of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister. However, the Jordanians are so far resisting the Israeli proposals, says The Atlantic, telling their Jewish neighbors that “the time [is] not right” for direct military action. It is worth pointing out that Israel does not technically require Jordan’s permission to bomb Syria. Its air force can do so without assistance from Amman. This was demonstrated on September 6, 2007, when Israel bombed a target at Al-Kibar, deep in the Syro-Arabian Desert, thought to be the site of a nuclear reactor. Even though Tel Aviv has not officially admitted a role in the attack, Israeli officials have repeatedly hinted that Israel was behind it. According to German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, which published a detailed account of the bombing, the attack was codenamed Operation ORCHARD. The difference this time appears to be that many of Syria’s chemical weapons facilities, which Israel allegedly wants to destroy, are located along the Syrian-Jordanian border. Read more of this post

Intelligence wars heat up in Lebanon amid regional instability

Lebanese-Israeli-Syrian borderBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
As the security situation in Syria and Egypt deteriorates, Lebanon is rapidly emerging as a major intelligence hub in the wider geopolitical power-struggle currently unfolding in the Middle East. On Monday, Lebanon’s leading Arabic-language newspaper, An-Nahar, reported the discovery last month of a foreign espionage network allegedly operating in Lebanese capital Beirut. The paper said that the clandestine network was spying on behalf of “a major Western country”, and was unearthed by forces loyal to Hezbollah, the Shiite group that controls large parts of southern Lebanon. The network allegedly consisted of at least three men, all Lebanese citizens, who lived in close proximity to each other in Beirut’s southern suburbs —a traditional Hezbollah stronghold. The three men were not Hezbollah members, said An-Nahar, but one was stoutly religious and all had good relations with local Hezbollah cells operating in their respective neighborhoods. The alleged head of the spy ring was an unnamed Lebanese citizen who had lived in the Ukraine for several years, where he operated a human smuggling network transporting Arab men into Europe. However, he was eventually arrested by French authorities in Paris and spent two years in prison. According to An-Nahar, the man was able to secure a deal with his captors, under which he would be allowed to return to Lebanon in exchange for informing them about the activities of a senior Hezbollah official wanted by Interpol. His ultimate mission was allegedly to lure the Hezbollah official, with whom he was friends, to Europe, where he could be arrested. Hezbollah has refused to comment on the newspaper’s claims. But the militant Shiite group did confirm on Tuesday the reported explosions of three alleged Israeli spy devices found in Southern Lebanon. Read more of this post

Jordan issues ‘immediate travel ban’ against former spy chief

Mohammed DahabiBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The former director of Jordan’s powerful intelligence service has been barred from leaving the country and has had his personal and family assets frozen, according to reports from the Middle Eastern country. General Mohammed Dahabi assumed command of Jordan’s General Intelligence Department (GID) in 2005, after which time the agency began working particularly closely with the United States Central Intelligence Agency. By January of 2008, when a royal decree replaced General Dahabi with Mohammed al-Raqqad, many intelligence observers were describing the GID as “America’s most valuable intelligence partner in the Arab world”. But French news agency Agence France Presse (AFP) reported on Wednesday that the General Prosecutor’s Office in Jordanian capital Amman had ordered an “immediate travel ban” against General Dahabi, and declared all his known assets frozen until further notice. The AFP report quoted an anonymous “judicial source”, who told the agency that the order was signed by Amman’s Prosecutor-General Mohammed al-Surani, something that signifies the consent of Jordan’s highest governing echelons —namely the royal family. Reports from Amman suggest that the Prosecutor General’s order was issued less than 24 hours after the Central Bank of Jordan, which is totally owned by the government, filed “a complaint” against the former spy chief. No further details were been given to the media, but similar “complaints” from the Central Bank of Jordan in the past have usually concerned allegations of extensive money laundering. Last month, Jordan’s King Abdullah II launched —amidst great fanfare— a new national anti-corruption campaign, aimed at increasing the government’s popularity among younger voters. The campaign was launched in response to the increasingly vocal Jordanian opposition, which is inspired by events surrounding the Arab Spring, and accuses Jordan’s royal family of nepotism and corruption. Read more of this post

Israeli Mossad training Iranian exiles in Kurdistan: French newspaper

Predomiantly Kurdish Middle East regionsBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A leading French newspaper has claimed that Israeli intelligence agents are recruiting and training Iranian dissidents in clandestine bases located in Iraq’s Kurdish region. Paris-based daily Le Figaro, France’s second-largest national newspaper, cited a “security source in Baghdad”, who alleged that members of Israeli intelligence are currently operating in Iraq’s autonomous northern Kurdish region. According to the anonymous source, the Israelis, who are members of the Mossad, Israel’s foremost external intelligence agency, are actively recruiting Iranian exiles in Kurdistan. Many of these Iranian assets, who are members of Iran’s Kurdish minority and opposed to the Iranian regime, are allegedly being trained by the Mossad in spy-craft and sabotage. The article in Le Figaro claims that the Iranian assets are being prepared for conducting operations inside the energy-rich country, as part of Israel’s undercover intelligence war against Iran’s nuclear energy program. The Baghdad source told the French daily that part of Israel’s sabotage program against sensitive Iranian nuclear facilities, which includes targeted assassinations of Iranian nuclear experts, is directed out of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, “where [Mossad] agents have stepped up their penetration”. For this, “the Israelis are using Kurdish oppositionists to the regime in Iran, who are living are refugees in the Kurdish regions of Iraq”, the source told Le Figaro. Although the article makes no mention of official or unofficial sanction of the Israeli operations by the Iraqi Kurdish authorities, it implies that the alleged Mossad activities are an open secret in Iraqi Kurdistan. This is not the first time that allegations have surfaced in the international press about Israeli intelligence activities in Kurdistan. In 2006, the BBC flagship investigative television program Newsnight obtained strong evidence of Israeli operatives providing military training to Kurdish militia members. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #645

Turki al-Faisal

Turki al-Faisal

►►Polish authorities arrest retired spy. The former head of Poland’s State Protection Bureau (1993-96) has been detained by officers of the country’s Central Anticorruption Bureau. Identified as Gromoslaw Cz., the arrestee is a retired general and intelligence officer, who participated in the extraction of CIA officers in Iraq in 1990. According to TVN 24 news, Gromoslaw Cz.’s detention is connected with events surrounding the privatization of the G-8 group of energy companies in the years 1994-2004, which eventually set up Energa concern in 2005.
►►Are China’s hotel rooms bugged? What could have been a dull security conference in Canada last week turned into a pretty interesting one, when former diplomat Brian McAdam claimed that “virtually all” hotels in China are rigged with hidden microphones and video cameras. The latter, he said, are used by the Chinese government to recruit many of its informants, by catching them in the act in carefully planned liaisons.
►►Ex-spy chief says Saudi Arabia may join nuke arms race. Saudi Arabia may consider acquiring nuclear weapons to match regional rivals Israel and Iran, its former intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal said on Monday. “Our efforts and those of the world have failed to convince Israel to abandon its weapons of mass destruction, as well as Iran [...]. Therefore it is our duty towards our nation and people to consider all possible options, including the possession of these weapons” Faisal told a security forum in Riyadh.

Blast reported in Isfahan, site of major Iranian nuclear facility

Iran

Iran

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Iranian media are reporting a blast in the city of Isfahan, in central Iran, which is home to one of Iran’s most active nuclear facilities. News reports, including one from Iran’s state-operated FARS News Agency, say that the blast was heard across the city at 2:40 p.m. on Monday, and that an investigation is currently underway to determine its cause. With a population of nearly two million, Isfahan, capital of the province by the same name, is Iran’s third largest city. It is also home to one of the country’s premier nuclear research facilities, which includes a nuclear plant that produces uranium pellets for use in nuclear reactors. Intriguingly, after an initial period of silence, regional government officials in Isfahan appeared to downplay reports of the explosion. Speaking to Iran’s Mehr news agency, the Deputy Governor of Isfahan, Mohammad-Mehdi Ismaeli, said characteristically that reports of an explosion were “unfounded”, and speculated with a dose of sarcasm that “maybe someone’s water heater blew up”.  But Western reports from Iran, including one by United Press International, interpret the media attention given to the Isfahan blast as an indication of “how the country is being spooked by cover operations against its nuclear program”. Reports of the alleged blast come only weeks after a major explosion at a military base 25 miles west of Iranian capital Tehran killed 17 members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards Corps, including Major General Hassan Moqqadam. The late General was described by Iran’s state media as the “founder of Iran’s missile program” and a pioneer in the country’s missile development after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Meanwhile, the former Director of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, Meir Dagan, has reiterated his warnings against plans by Tel Aviv to attack Iran. Speaking on Israeli television on Tuesday, Dagan cautioned Israel Read more of this post

News you may have missed #638 (analysis edition)

Dominique Strauss-Kahn

Strauss-Kahn

►►What really happened to Strauss-Kahn? Earlier this year, Dominique Strauss-Kahn lost his political career and his job as head of the International Monetary Fund after he was indicted in New York on sexual assault charges, which were later dropped. But investigative journalist Edward J. Epstein alleges that the French politician may have been the target of a deliberate attempt to destroy him as a political force. His allegations relate to a missing BlackBerry phone which is said to have been hacked by Strauss-Kahn’s political rivals.
►►Spy game revs up with Arab Spring. A broad –perhaps too broad– primer on espionage and intelligence operations in the Middle East, with quotes by several academics and former intelligence operatives. Parts of it are probably too basic for intelNews regulars, but worth a look nonetheless.
►►Why is UK police not investigating Climategate? The UK police force tasked with investigating the hacking of emails and documents from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (the debunked “Climategate“), seems to have quietly de-prioritized its investigation. According to documents released under the UK Freedom of Information Act, the amount spent on attempts to identify the hacker in the last year was just £5,649.09 (less than $8,000), suggesting police work on the investigation has ground to a halt.

News you may have missed #631

Tommy Douglas

Tommy Douglas

►►Some spy files on Canadian prominent politician released. Newly declassified records from the early 1960s show that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police spied on Saskatchewan Premier Tommy Douglas (pictured), suspecting him of communist sympathies. Douglas, a popular leftwing politician, led the first social democratic government in North America.
►►Aussie diplomats urged to welcome defectors in 1980s. The Australian government urged its spies and diplomats to encourage foreign officials to defect to Australia and welcome intelligence they might bring with them, according to internal documents from the 1980s, released this week. The directives noted that applications from defectors were not expected to be numerous “but failure on our part to handle them deftly could result in the loss of intelligence relevant to Australia’s security and other interests”. One observer notes that the 1980s policy towards defectors still applies today in Australia’s diplomatic community.
►►Iran arrests two Kuwaitis on suspicion of espionage. Iran’s semiofficial Fars news agency says Iranian security has detained two Kuwaiti citizens in southwestern Iran for suspected espionage activities. Fars quoted Bahram Ilkhaszadeh, governor of Abadan, a town close to Kuwait, as saying that Iran’s security agents detained the two on possession of “spying equipment”. Kuwait has denied the charges.

Western companies provide Syrian regime with monitoring systems

Syria

Syria

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An Italian communications company is working with the Syrian government to provide it with a sophisticated email surveillance system, using equipment created by American, French and German firms. The Syrian regime has come under sustained pressure by Western governments in recent months. The latter urge Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad, to stop using lethal violence against protesters, citing independent reports that over 3,000 civilians have been killed by government forces since March. But Bloomberg News Agency cites an unnamed insider who claims Area SpA, a telecommunications surveillance company based in Milan, Italy, has technicians in several Syrian cities working feverishly to provide the  Syrian authorities with a state-of-the-art email surveillance system. According to the unnamed source, when completed, the surveillance system will be able to “intercept, scan and catalog virtually every e-mail that flows through the country”. The project, which has been codenamed ASFADOR, is directed by senior Syrial intelligence officials, who are supervising the work of several Italian technicians working in Damascus and elsewhere. Bloomberg reports that numerous Area SpA technicians have been traveling to Syria “in shifts”, as the company is anxiously trying to accommodate pressures by Syrian officials, who say “they urgently need to track people”. The Italian company, known for providing Italian law enforcement with telephone surveillance hardware and software, is apparently using equipment by European and American firms, including France’s Qosmos SA, Germany’s Ultimaco Safeware AG, and America’s NetApp Inc. Bloomberg, which claims it has seen blueprints of the surveillance system, contacted Area SpA’s chief executive officer, Andrea Formenti, who refused to comment on the case, except to say that his company “follows all laws and export regulations”. Wondering where you’ve heard all this before? Read more of this post

More Arabs want to work for Mossad, says Israeli Foreign Ministry

Ahmed Jamal Daif

Ahmed Jamal Daif

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The unprecedented political changes in the Arab world have generated a flurry of electronic correspondence between young Arabs and the Israeli government, according to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Israeli officials say that the lifting of Internet restrictions in much of the Arab world has allowed young people to access the Israeli government’s Arabic-language websites and social networking sites. This has facilitated “thousands of messages [...] with words of praise, requests for asylum [...], and even offers [by young Arabs] to serve in the [Israel Defense Forces] and Mossad”. In a carefully coordinated public relations campaign, the Ministry voluntarily released on Monday some anonymous messages —allegedly from Arabs and Iranians— to Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, which leans politically toward Israel’s center-right Kadima party. In one message, an Iraqi computer technician wrote to request political asylum, adding that Israel is the Middle East’s “only country that respects personal freedom”. In another released message, an Iranian Muslim expressed the will to resettle in Israel, because its population is “the strongest and most cultured in the region”. The story in Yedioth Ahronoth includes comments by the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Paul Hirschson, who argues that the flood of electronic correspondence from the Muslim world “is illustrative of the fact that across the Middle East there are people who hold Israel in far higher regard than is presumed”. Hirschson added that some of the electronic messages have come from “from Arab politicians and officials”. Read more of this post

White House considering covert operations against Iran

Iran

Iran

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
One of the major strategic objections to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was the near-certain prospect that removing the Sunni-dominated Ba’ath Party from power would increase Iranian-Shiite influence in the country. As the US military exit strategy gradually unfolds in Iraq, the administration of US President Barack Obama is faced with precisely this prospect. While US troops are leaving Iraq, Iran is doing what any logical regional power would do: namely strengthening its clandestine footprint inside Iraq and preparing Tehran-allied Iraqi groups for the impending showdown with Sunni power centers. An article that appeared in today’s Wall Street Journal notes that “growing concern [about regional] influence from Iran” has prompted the Obama administration to explore covert ways of countering it. According to the article, US intelligence agencies have detected “increased arms smuggling [by Iran] to its allies” in Iraq, Bahrain and Syria (and, one would suppose, Lebanon, though this is not mentioned in the piece). The administration has therefore “pushed the military and intelligence communities to develop proposals to counter Tehran”, says the Journal. The push has prompted American intelligence and military planners to request “greater authority to conduct covert operations to thwart Iranian influence in neighboring Iraq”. This essentially implies an appeal for a Presidential “finding”, a secret executive authorization that —under the National Security Act— would provide the required legal basis for covert operations conducted abroad. Read more of this post

Western companies help Bahrain spy on democracy activists

NSN Logo

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
While Western governments preach to the world about the benefits of democracy, Western companies supply some of the most detestable dictatorial regimes with surveillance technologies for use against pro-democracy activists. One example in point is the repressive government of Bahrain, which, according to Amnesty International, is responsible for some of the most extensive human rights violations anywhere in the Middle East. Bahrain is the kind of place where even medical professionals who treat people wounded by police or soldiers in demonstrations are charged with “incitement”. Despite the fervor of the pro-democracy movement that has risen as part of the Arab Spring, the oil-rich royal clique that rules the nation has managed a series of debilitating hits against the reformists. The success of the crackdown is largely due the use of sophisticated telecommunications surveillance systems that allow Bahraini authorities to spy on cell phones and social networking platforms used by members of the pro-democracy opposition. Who supplied the Bahraini dictators with this equipment? Step forward German engineering conglomerate Siemens AG, and Finnish multinational Nokia. An article published this week in Bloomberg’s Markets magazine, fingers the German company as the primary supplier of telecommunications surveillance systems to the Bahraini royals. The latter rely on contracts with Nokia’s Trovicor GmbH subsidiary to maintain the sophisticated software and hardware. Bloomberg says it was notified of the Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) partnership by two unnamed insiders, “whose positions at the companies gave them direct knowledge of the installations and the sale and maintenance contracts”. Read more of this post

Turkish intel report raises fears of Syrian, Iranian support for PKK

PKK banner

PKK banner

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
By all accounts, in 1998 Syria discontinued its clandestine support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a leftist secessionist movement that aspires to create a Kurdish homeland comprising mostly of territories in Turkey’s Anatolia region. But a leading Turkish newspaper claims that, according to a classified intelligence report, Damascus has resumed its support for the PKK. The paper, Zaman, said that according to the report, Turkey’s main intelligence directorate, the MİT, has concluded that Syria has “started to support the PKK” again, thus reverting to its pre-1998 stance. It was on that year that Damascus expelled the PKK’s founder and leader, Abdullah Öcalan, who had previously been given shelter and protection in the country. A few months later, Öcalan was snatched by Turkish commandos from the hands of Greek diplomats in Nairobi, Kenya, and flown to Turkey, where he is now serving a life sentence. Following Öcalan’s expulsion, Syria, which is home to an estimated 400,000 Kurds, quietly began cooperating with Ankara against the PKK and its sister organizations operating on Syrian soil. But the MİT report cited by Zaman says that, under the fear of anti-government militancy and continuous popular and ethnic uprisings, Damascus has tried to mend relations with its Kurdish minority, and is now “providing shelter to some of the PKK’s most important leaders”. The classified report, which Zaman says gives “a highly detailed overview” of the PKK’s regional activities, also alleges that Syria has increased its security collaboration with Iran, which is also home to several thousand ethnic Kurds. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #534

MI6 HQ

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
According to extracts from the diary of Alastair Campbell, British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s communications director from 2000 to 2003, officials from the MI6 intelligence agency told Blair that France and Germany aimed to “exploit his feud” with then Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown. Gotta love European unity. In Kuwait, meanwhile, the oil state’s Al-Shahed daily quotes “knowledgeable sources”, who claim that “a lot of spy networks exploit the Kuwaiti environment” and use the country as a transit point to spy on neighboring countries. Hopefully the Kuwaitis will not emulate authorities in Dubai, which in March of last year called on all foreign spies “to leave the region within a week. If not”, they warned, “we will cross that bridge when we come to it”. In the nearby state of Israel, public opinion is still divided about former Mossad chief Meir Dagan’s criticism of the Netanyahu government. As Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg notes, Dagan has “called into question the wisdom –and, privately, even the sanity– of any Israeli leader who contemplates a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities”. But why is he doing it, and could it backfire?

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