Japanese government ‘not aware’ of existence of clandestine spy unit

Japanese Ministry of Defense in TokyoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The government of Japan has denied claims made in the media of a clandestine intelligence collection unit, which has allegedly been operating for decades without the knowledge of senior cabinet officials. On Tuesday, the Tokyo-based Kyodo News Agency cited an unnamed former member of Japan’s territorial army, known as Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF), who revealed the existence of a previously secret unit. The unit is allegedly tasked with human intelligence (HUMINT) collection and is said to have been operating since before the end of the Cold War. The unnamed source told Kyodo that the unit’s existence has been kept hidden from senior Japanese government officials, including the prime minister and the minister of defense. He also told the news agency that the unit’s existence has been kept secret even from senior commanders inside GSDF. Its headquarters is allegedly based deep in the basement of Japan’s Ministry of Defense, located in Tokyo’s Ichigaya district, in the eastern portion of Shinjuku. However, the unit operates a complex network of safe houses, located mostly in rented commercial properties throughout Japan and Southeast Asia. The source described part of his intelligence training, which he had to undertake before joining the HUMINT unit. He said classes took place at a nondescript GSDF training facility in the western Tokyo suburb of Kodaira. Those trained came almost exclusively from GSDF, with just a handful of officers from Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force and Maritime Self-Defense Force. The Kyodo article said the unit inductees are given a “temporary leave of absence” from their GSDF posts and are “prohibited from contacting outsiders” during their HUMINT missions. Read more of this post

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Analysis: The Current State of the China-Taiwan Spy War

China and TaiwanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Last week I spoke about the current state of the espionage war between China and Taiwan with Tim Daiss, a Southeast Asia-based American journalist who has been covering the Asia-Pacific region for over a decade. Our discussion formed the basis of a comprehensive piece on the subject, published in British newspaper The Independent, in two parts (part one and part two). I told Daiss that the Ministry of State Security —China’s primary national intelligence agency— is not known for its technological prowess. However, the sheer size of Beijing’s intelligence apparatus is proving a good match for the more advanced automated systems used by its less populous regional rivals, including Taiwan. When it comes to traditional human intelligence, the Chinese have been known to employ time-tested methods such as sexual entrapment or blackmail, as was confirmed most recently in the case of Taiwanese Major-General Lo Hsien-che. Lo, who headed the Taiwanese military’s Office of Communications and Information, was convicted of sharing classified top-secret information with a female Chinese operative in her early 30s, who held an Australian passport. During his trial, which marked the culmination of Taiwan’s biggest spy scandal in over half a century, Lo admitted that the Chinese female spy “cajoled him with sex and money”. In addition to honey-trap techniques, Chinese spies collect intelligence by way of bribery, as do many of their foreign colleagues. In the case of China, however, a notable change in recent years has been the accumulation of unprecedented amounts of foreign currency, which make it easier for Chinese intelligence operatives to entice foreign assets, such as disgruntled or near-bankrupt state employees, to sell classified data. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #824 (India edition)

Tony MendezBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►CIA honed ARGO exfiltration skills in India. The Oscar-winning movie Argo has popularized the 1980 exfiltration by the CIA of a group of American diplomats from Tehran. But few know that Tony Mendez, the CIA officer in charge of the Iran operation, cut his teeth exfiltrating CIA targets in India. In his book, titled Argo, Mendez mentions the 1970 exfiltration of a Soviet defector in India codenamed Nestor. He claims that Nestor was a “huge catch” for the CIA, as he provided the Agency with “invaluable intelligence on the KGB’s operations in Central and Southeast Asia”.
►►Ex-CIA officer says al-Qaeda wanted India-Pakistan nuclear war. In his latest book, Avoiding Armageddon: America, India, and Pakistan to the Brink and Back, former CIA officer Bruce Riedel says al-Qaeda helped plan the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Its goal was to “spark a nuclear war between India and Pakistan in order to polarize the world between Islam and the ‘Crusader-Zionist-Hindu’ conspiracy”. But the group’s plan was hampered by India’s restraint and refusal to strike back using force, he argues.
►►Man passing defense info to Pakistan held in India. Reports suggest that Sumer Khan, 34, from Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer district, has been arrested for sending strategic information to Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency via emails and mobile calls for the past three years. A source said that Khan was caught after his calls to Pakistan were intercepted by Indian military intelligence and Intelligence Bureau. The arrest comes just two days after the conclusion of India’s biggest-ever air exercise, ‘Iron Fist’, in Jaisalmer.

News you may have missed #819 (UKUSA edition)

Charles E. AllenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Aussie spies’ exemption from Freedom of Information laws to end? Currently, all Australian intelligence agencies are exempt from the operation of federal Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation that allows the public and journalists to seek access to government records. But now Australian Information Commissioner John McMillan has called for the intelligence agencies to no longer be exempted from FOI laws. Professor McMillan and FOI Commissioner James Popple have made the recommendation in a 97-page submission to the review of FOI laws by former Defence Department secretary and diplomat Allan Hawke.
►►US spy agencies move towards single super-cloud. The US intelligence community is developing a single cloud computing network to allow all its analysts to access and rapidly sift through massive volumes of data. Now in its eighth month, the goal of the effort is to connect the Central Intelligence Agency’s existing cloud to a new cloud run by the National Security Agency. This NSA-run network consists of five other intelligence agencies and the FBI. Both of these clouds can interoperate, but the CIA has its own unique needs because it must work with human intelligence, which necessitates keeping its cloud slightly separate, according to Charles Allen, formerly Undersecretary of Homeland Security for intelligence and analysis.
►►Canadian Army struggles with intelligence-gathering. The Canadian Army is trying to hold on to its intelligence-gathering capability and its ability to disrupt spying in the face of budget strain, according to documents from the Canadian Department of National Defence. The Canadian Press, which obtained the documents, says the Army is “anxious to protect HUMINT network and to better resource its counterintelligence abilities”, but is worried that its shrinking budget in the post-Afghanistan War era will cause “degradation” in those disciplines.

MI5 arrests Royal Navy petty officer for trying to spy for Russia

Edward DevenneyBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An member of the British Royal Navy has been arrested in a counterintelligence sting operation, after trying to sell top-secret government documents to people he believed were Russian operatives. Petty Officer Edward Devenney, who has been in the Royal Navy for over a decade, was arrested earlier this week while meeting with two MI5 officers posing as Russian spies. Originally from Northern Ireland, Devenney, 29, appears to have been motivated by disgruntlement against the Navy, after his planned promotion to commissioned officer was halted due to financial austerity measures imposed on the military by the British government. According to the court indictment, Devenney contacted an unnamed “embassy of a foreign country” in London, offering to provide classified information in exchange for money. It is unknown at this point how exactly MI5, the British government’s foremost counterintelligence organization, became privy to the content of Devenney’s communication with officials at the unidentified embassy. What is known is that, after several messages were exchanged between the parties, Devenney arranged to meet two people he believed were Russian government employees. In reality, the two individuals were MI5 officers, who were able to film the clandestine meeting. Devenney was apparently arrested on the spot, having first announced that he wished to “hurt the Navy” because his promotion to a commissioned officer had been “binned” by the British government. Read more of this post

Taiwan arrests eight military officers for spying for China

China and TaiwanBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Authorities in Taiwan have announced the arrest at least eight current and former military officers on suspicion of conducting espionage on behalf of China. The eight are accused of leaking Taiwanese military secrets to Beijing, in a case that some Taiwanese legislators described yesterday as one of the most serious instances of espionage in the island’s history. According to official statements issued yesterday, the person in charge of the alleged spy ring appears to be Lieutenant Colonel Chang Chin-hsin, who until his retirement earlier this year was charge of political warfare at the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography (METOC) Office. Based outside of Taipei, METOC is in charge of producing mapping data for use by Taiwan’s naval forces, including cartographic manuals used by Taiwanese warships and submarines guarding the Taiwanese coastline. Taiwanese authorities allege that Chang “initiated contacts” with Chinese mainland officials while still serving in the Taiwanese Navy. Following his recruitment, Chang gradually enlisted several other members of the Taiwanese military by offering hefty monetary bribes in exchange for military secrets. Taipei authorities claim that they found out about Chang’s espionage activities in March of this year, and that Taiwan’s Military Prosecutors Office gathered evidence against him before he was able to seriously compromise national security. Read more of this post

Moscow denies knowledge of alleged Russian spy ring busted in Texas

Alexander FishenkoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Government officials in Moscow have denied knowledge of an alleged Russian spy ring, which is accused by United States authorities of procuring sensitive microelectronics technology on behalf of the Russian military. Early on Wednesday morning, the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted pre-dawn raids at several locations in Houston, Texas, and arrested eight members of the alleged spy ring. Four of the arrestees are allegedly Russian citizens, while the remaining five are from Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Ukraine. Four are naturalized American citizens. They include Alexander Fishenko, chief executive officer of Apex System LLC, which is accused by the FBI of having exported over $50 million in dual-use microelectronic devices to Russia since 2008. US federal prosecutors allege that three more spy-ring members are currently in Moscow; they include Yuri Savin, Director of Marketing at a company called Artrilor, which is said to have been at the receiving end of Apex System’s export operations. According to the indictment, Arc Electronics told its US suppliers that the microelectronics technologies were intended for use in various types of streetlights. But in reality, said the FBI, the company gave the hi-tech supplies to the Russian Ministry of Defense for use in airborne surveillance systems, as well as in remote weapons guidance systems, among other military applications. The FBI says it has in its possession extensive audio intercepts of the suspects communicating with Russian intelligence, as well as conferring among them about how to hide incriminating documents from US federal authorities. But Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, told Russian reporters on Thursday that the charges against the 11 individuals were “of a criminal nature” and had “nothing to do with intelligence activity”. Read more of this post

FBI raids alleged Russian front-company, indicts 11 on spy charges

Russian Ministry of DefenseBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States has indicted employees of an alleged Russian front-company in Texas, accused of procuring sensitive microelectronics technology for use by Russian military and intelligence agencies. Public prosecutors in New York said yesterday that the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted raids in locations around Houston, Texas, which included the headquarters of Arc Electronics, Inc. The export firm is accused of having shipped over $50 million-worth of military-grade microelectronics since 2008. The supplies were received in Moscow, Russia, by a mysterious procurement company called Apex System LLC. Counterintelligence investigators in the US claim both firms are part of an elaborate scheme set up by Russian military intelligence, aimed at stealing dual-use electronics hardware created by American firms. According to the indictment, Arc Electronics told its US suppliers that the microelectronics technologies were intended for use in various types of streetlights. But in reality, said the FBI, the company gave the hi-tech supplies to the Russian Ministry of Defense for use in airborne surveillance systems, as well as in remote weapons guidance systems, among other military applications. Federal prosecutors said that, for over four years, Arc Electronics engaged in a prolonged “surreptitious and systematic” scheme to circumvent US government export controls, thus seriously damaging US national security. Following the early-morning raids, the FBI unsealed indictments against 11 Arc Electronics employees, most of whom were charged with “acting as unregistered agents of the Russian Federation in the United States” —legal jargon for espionage. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #776

Alexei NavalnyBy I. ALLEN and T.W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
►►US Army critiques its own intel collection system. An intelligence gathering system, known as the Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS), widely used by the US Army in Afghanistan to detect roadside bombs and predict insurgent activity, has severe limitations and is “not suitable”. This is according to a memo sent on August 1 by the Army’s senior equipment tester, General Genaro J. Dellarocco, to the Army’s chief of staff, General Raymond Odierno. The memo hammers the DCGS system for its “poor reliability” and “significant limitations” during operational testing and evaluation earlier this year.
►►Russian lawyer exposes wiretap find on Tweeter. Russian lawyer and political activist Alexei Navalny, who discovered a wiretapping device at his workplace, allegedly installed by the Russian government, has used YouTube and Tweeter to publicize his discovery. The wiretap was allegedly found attached to a set of wires hidden inside the wall molding of Navalny’s office at the Moscow-based organization Anti-Corruption Fund. It was reportedly discovered with the help of a bug detector. The same wires seem to also be attached to a hidden camera.
►►Volkswagen victim of Chinese industrial espionage? A recent article by Agence France Presse claims that German-based Volkswagen has become a victim of industrial espionage. While operating under a joint partnership agreement with the Chinese automobile company First Automobile Works, to build and manufacture cars for China’s burgeoning domestic market, designs and technical specifications for Volkswagen engines were apparently stolen. An unnamed Volkswagen manager stated that the loss was “quite simply a catastrophe”. It’s worth noting, however, that a similar accusation leveled against China in 2011 by French automaker Renault, turned out to be a criminal hoax.

Ukraine jails North Koreans in missile espionage case

One of the two North Koreans being led to courtBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A court in Ukraine has jailed two North Korean citizens on charges of trying to obtain secret technical information about missile engines. A Ukrainian government official said on Monday that the North Koreans had each been sentenced to eight years in prison, and that “they will serve their sentence in Ukraine”. Speaking to Russian-language Ukrainian daily Segodnya, the official said that Ukrainian authorities had expected that Pyongyang would request extradition of its two citizens, but that the North Korean government’s reaction had been “passive”. According to the paper, the two convicted men, who have not been named, were employed by the North Korean trade mission in Belarusian capital Minsk. It was from there that, several months ago, they arrived by train to Kiev, where they tried —unsuccessfully— to recruit a number of locals as informants. One of the latter tipped off Ukrainian authorities, who placed the two North Koreans under surveillance. Eventually, the two suspects were arrested in a rented garage in the Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk, while photographing technical documents with a pair of handheld miniature digital cameras. The Segodnya report stated that the documents consisted of doctoral dissertations, marked ‘confidential’, which described highly technical methods of designing effective solid- and liquid-fuel supply systems for missile engines. Some of the documents concerned the technical specifications of computer software to assist in the design of missile fuel supply systems, said the paper. The confidential documents had reportedly been taken from the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau, a cornerstone of the Soviet —and now the Ukrainian— space industry, which in the early 1960s developed the R-16 (known in the West as SS-7), the first inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) successfully deployed by the Soviet Union. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #760

Aleksei DressenBy TIMOTHY W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
►►Turkey breaks up major military espionage ring. Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News reported on July 9 that 51 active-duty soldiers from over twelve cities have been implicated in a major espionage ring involving Turkey’s military. Following a series of raids on July 7, at least 40 people were detained and four others were taken into custody. The raids were in response to an investigation launched in 2009, regarding warcraft radar locations in Turkey, illegal surveillance, as well as wiretapping of military officers.
►►Taiwan navy misplaces classified naval charts. During the decommissioning last June of Taiwan’s Hai Ou missile boats, classified naval charts were discovered to have gone missing during a final inventory check. The Taipei Times reports that the individual officer tasked with the responsibility of safeguarding the charts in question claimed to have burned one by accident, but was unable to account for the second chart. The classified charts contained information on Taiwanese naval activity including deployments in the Taiwan Strait.
►►Estonia security official and wife jailed for treason. Aleksei Dressen, a former security official at Estonia’s Interior Ministry, and his wife, Viktoria, were both convicted of treason, receiving 16 years and 6 years respectively. During a closed trial the proceedings did not provide direct evidence as to whom Dressen and his wife were working for. However, reports indicate that Dressen’s handlers were most likely representatives of Russia’s FSB.  The prosecution alleged that Dressen brought classified state secrets from the Estonian Interior Ministry to the airport in an envelope and then passed them along to his wife, who acted as a courier to Russian handlers. Heili Sepp, the Estonian prosecutor, indicated that the sentencing of the Dressens was part of a plea bargain effort, noting: “To our knowledge, this is the harshest punishment meted out in plea bargain proceedings in Estonia”.

Russian professors jailed for passing military secrets to China

The R-30 BulavaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Two Russian professors were convicted yesterday of handing over to Chinese government agents highly classified technical details about one of Russia’s most secretive military projects. Svyatoslav Bobyshev and Yevgeny Afanasyev, both employees of the military-affiliated Baltic State Technological University in St. Petersburg, had been arrested in March 2010 on suspicion of spying for a foreign government. The two have now been sentenced by the St. Petersburg City Court to 12 and 12 ½ years in prison respectively, after having been found guilty of treason. According to the court documents, Bobyshev and Afanasyev traveled to China in 2009, where they passed on to Chinese military intelligence officers highly secret technical details about Russia’s R-30 Bulava ballistic missile. Specifically, the two professors are accused of sharing information relating to Bulava’s underwater launch specifications. Additionally, the Russian government prosecutor said that the two were preparing to provide the Chinese with information about two of Russia’s land-based missile systems, the Topol-M and Iskander. The R-30 Bulava (the Russian word for “mace”) is the name for Moscow’s latest-generation submarine-based ballistic missile technology. It is widely considered to be one of the future cornerstones of Russia’s nuclear weapons capability, and is thought to be the most expensive weapons project currently being developed in the country. The missile was approved for production last year, and is expected to come to service this coming October, when it will begin to replace Russia’s Soviet-era stock of submarine-launched nuclear missiles. Read more of this post

Founder of Polish special forces unit found shot dead in Warsaw

Slawomir PetelickiBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Polish authorities have launched an official investigation into the death of a senior retired military intelligence officer who founded Poland’s best-known special forces unit. The body of Brigadier General Slawomir Petelicki, who held senior intelligence positions in both communist and post-communist Poland, was discovered by his wife on Saturday. It was reportedly lying on a pool of blood on the floor of the garage located under his apartment in the Mokotow district of Polish capital Warsaw. Polish media said on Monday that Petelicki’s body carried a single gunshot wound to the head and that a gun was found at the site. Petelicki, 66, had joined Poland’s Ministry of Internal Affairs in 1969 and was soon afterwards posted as a “Military Attaché” at the Polish consulate in New York. He later served in a similar capacity at the Polish embassy in Stockholm, Sweden, as well as in China and North Vietnam, among other countries. He managed to survive the post-communist purges in Poland’s intelligence community, and in 1990 he was assigned to a brand new special forces unit codenamed JW 2305. Through his leadership, the obscure unit was eventually transformed into the GROM (meaning ‘thunder’ in Polish) Special Forces regiment, which he led from 1990 until 1995. Initially, the existence of GROM was kept secret and was not openly acknowledged by the Polish government until 1994. Polish authorities said on Monday that they were treating Petelicki’s death as a case of suspected suicide. But many of the late intelligence officer’s colleagues and friends have voiced skepticism about the alleged suicide, claiming that the Brigadier General had not seemed depressed, and that he was not the kind of person who would contemplate taking his own life. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #743 (espionage edition)

Vladimir LazarBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Denmark professor jailed for spying. Timo Kivimäki a Finnish professor of international politics in Copenhagen, Denmark, has been sentenced to five months in prison for spying, following a trial held behind closed doors, from which even the verdict was not released. Several Russian diplomats left Denmark after the start of the spy case and, according to Danish media, Kivimäki’s lawyer, Anders Nemeth, had attempted to have them return to act as witnesses.
►►Retired Russian colonel convicted of spying for US. A Russian court has ruled that retired Colonel Vladimir Lazar spied for the US, and sentenced him to 12 years in prison. Lazar will be sent to a high-security prison and stripped of his military rank, the Federal Security Service said in a statement. Prosecutors said Lazar purchased several computer disks with more than 7,000 images of classified maps of Russia from a collector in 2008 and smuggled them to neighboring Belarus, where he gave them to an alleged American intelligence agent.
►►India arrests military intel staffer for spying. The soldier, identified only as Shivdasan, worked for the Indian Army’s Technical Support Division, which is a newly founded unit within Indian Military Intelligence. He was reportedly trapped by the Indian Directorate of Revenue Intelligence in an elaborate operation that involved a “double agent” and a relative of the soldier in Dubai.

How an ambitious Nazi spy operation in the US ended in failure

Norden bombsightBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A well-researched article in The Chicago Tribune revisits one of the least known covert action episodes of World War II, which involved an ambitious Nazi espionage operation on US soil. The article, written by Ron Grossman, centers on Herbert Haupt, one of several American citizens and Nazi sympathizers, who were involved in the ruse. The German-born Haupt grew up in Chicago’s North Side and was working in West Garfield Park, at a factory that produced parts used for the Norden bombsight. The Norden bombsight was a sophisticated device that calculated the trajectory of a bomb dropped by an airplane, based on real-time flight conditions; moreover, it was connected to the aircraft’s autopilot, and was thus able to alter bomb trajectories according to changes in the wind, altitude, aircraft speed, or other effects. The Norden bombsight facilitated unprecedented bombing accuracy from high altitudes, and was thus rightly considered one of America’s most highly valued military secrets. In 1941, shortly before the United States entered World War II, Haupt took a leave of absence from his factory job and disappeared from the streets of Chicago’s North Side. It was later revealed that he traveled to Mexico City and presented himself at the German embassy there, offering to conduct espionage work for Nazi Germany. After securing a sum of money from German embassy officials, Haupt sailed to Japan and eventually made his way to Germany. A few months later, he illegally re-entered the US, sailing on a German U-boat that landed secretly in Florida carrying four German agents, all fluent English speakers. A second U-boat, carrying another four German agents, had landed almost simultaneously on Long Island. Haupt’s mission was to reenlist at the Norden bombsight factory in Chicago, so as to provide Nazi Germany with access to the top-secret device. Read more of this post

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