News you may have missed #789

Mikhail FradkovBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Putin adds spy chief to energy commission. Russian President Vladimir Putin has reinforced a presidential commission seen as Kremlin’s vehicle for vying for control over the country’s crucial oil and gas sector, by adding the country’s top police officer and senior spy to its ranks. They are Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev and Mikhail Fradkov, director of the Foreign Intelligence Service, formerly a department of the KGB. The commission is driven by Igor Sechin, a former KGB officer and close ally of President Putin.
►►US spy sat agency plans major expansion. The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), America’s secretive spy satellite agency, operates a vast constellation of spy satellites in orbit. But these surveillance spacecraft have traditionally only been able to gaze down on a few small areas of the planet at a time, like flashlights probing the dark. And this, only with careful advance planning by human operators on the ground. Now the NRO wants to expand the current flashlight-like satellite deployment to a horizon-spanning, overhead spotlight that can illuminate vast swaths of the planet all at once. The agency also wants new spacecraft that can crunch the resulting data using sophisticated computer algorithms, freeing the satellites somewhat from their current reliance on human analysts.
►►GCHQ warns of ‘unprecedented’ cyberattack threat. The British government’s electronic eavesdropping and security agency, GCHQ, has warned the chief executives of Britain’s biggest companies about an allegedly “unprecedented threat” from cyber-attacks. “GCHQ now sees real and credible threats to cybersecurity of an unprecedented scale, diversity, and complexity”, said Ian Lobban, the agency’s director. The magnitude and tempo of the attacks pose a real threat to Britain’s economic security’, Lobban adds, but notes that about 80% of known attacks would be defeated by embedding basic information security practices.

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News you may have missed #758

Heinz FrommBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►NSA head claims Americans’ emails ‘won’t be read’. The House of Representatives in April approved a bill that would allow the government and companies to share information about hacking. Critics have raised privacy concerns about the sharing of such information, fearing it would allow the National Security Agency, which also protects government computer networks, to collect data on American communications, which is generally prohibited by law. But in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, NSA Director Keith Alexander said that the new law would not mean that the NSA would read their personal email.
►►German spy chief quits in neo-Nazi files scandal. The head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Verfassungsschutz, Heinz Fromm, resigned last week, after admitting that his agency had shredded files on a neo-Nazi cell whose killing spree targeting immigrants rocked the country late last year. The “National Socialist Underground” (NSU), which went undetected for more than a decade despite its murder of 10 people, mostly ethnic Turkish immigrants. German media have said an official working in the intelligence agency is suspected of having destroyed files on an operation to recruit far-right informants just one day after the involvement of the NSU in the murders became public. Fromm had led the Verfassungsschutz since 2000.
►►US spy agency accused of illegally collecting data. The US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) is pressuring its polygraphers to obtain intimate details of the private lives of thousands of job applicants and employees, pushing the ethical and legal boundaries of a program that is designed to catch spies and terrorists, an investigation has found. The NRO appears so intent on extracting confessions of personal or illicit behavior of its employees, that its officials have admonished polygraphers who refused to go after them and rewarded those who did, sometimes with cash bonuses. And in other cases, when it seems the NRO should notify law enforcement agencies of its candidates’ or employees’ past criminal behavior, it has failed to do so.

News you may have missed #750 (US edition)

NROL-38 reconnaissance spacecraftBy TIMOTHY W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
►►US spy agency launches new satellite. The US National Reconnaissance Office, the agency tasked with overseeing America’s intelligence satellites, successfully placed a new spy satellite into orbit. The Christian Science Monitor reports that the NROL-38 reconnaissance spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The satellite launch, sitting atop an Atlas 5 rocket, was streamed live via Webcast for several minutes before being terminated due to national security restrictions and the classified nature of the mission. Particulars regarding the capabilities or specific purpose of the spy satellite were not provided. However, just a few days before, the US Air Force’s highly classified space plane known as the  AX-37B returned to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
►►FBI takes on larger domestic intelligence role. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation, under a newly devised action plan, will be afforded a greater role in domestic intelligence efforts in the US, according to a recent Washington Post article.  Senior level field agents at the bureau are expected to serve as representatives for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the agency created after 9/11 to oversee activities of all US intelligence efforts. The Post quotes CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood, who —remarkably, considering CIA/ODNI relations in recent years— said that the agency has not opposed the ODNI’s move to elevate FBI agents in the US, and that “the program is working well”.
►►CIA declassifies 9/11 documents. The CIA released this past week hundreds of pages of declassified documents related to the September 11, 2001, attacks, which detail the agency’s budgetary woes leading up to the deadly strikes and its attempts to track al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The National Security Archive at George Washington University says it obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request. The documents are heavily redacted and offer little new information about what the US knew about the al-Qaeda plot before 2001.

News you may have missed #720

Betty SappBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Lebanese national wanted for spying for Israel. A Lebanese military court has issued an arrest warrant for a Lebanese national suspected of spying for Israel. The judge in the case accused the suspect, whose name is yet to be released, of being in touch with Israel and passing on information about Ron Arad, an Israeli Air Force weapon systems officer who went missing in 1986.
►►Article sheds light on UK Home Office’s ex-spy official. An article in The Sunday London Times examines the role of Charles Farr, a former MI6 officer, who is considered as “the heart” of the British Home Office’s security policy. Farr, who joined MI6 some time in the 1980s, and served in South Africa and Jordan among other places, directs the Office’s Security and Counter-Terrorism unit. He is now in charge of the Home Office’s Communications Capabilities Development Programme, an attempt to augment online government surveillance. One former official, who had a showdown with Farr over policy, tells The Times: “He’s almost messianic. He’s like he’s on a mission to protect the nation. When you disagree with him he gets very emotional. He’s one of these guys who goes white and shakes when he loses his temper”.
►►First woman tapped to lead US spy satellite agency. For the first time in its storied history, the secretive builder and operator of America’s spy satellites, the National Reconnaissance Office, will be run by a woman. Betty Sapp, currently principal deputy director at the spysat agency, will move up one slot and replace NRO Director Bruce Carlson, who many credit with turning around the agency’s problem-plagued acquisition system. While Sapp is the first woman to lead the NRO, she is the second woman to lead one of the major intelligence agencies. Letitia “Tish” Long, director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, gets to claim the honor of first woman to break that glass ceiling.

News you may have missed #595

Bruce Carlson

Bruce Carlson

►►US commander sees proliferation threat in Libyan chemicals. Libya’s stockpile of chemical warfare materials remains a potential source of proliferation, General Carter Ham, the US military commander for Africa, told reporters on Wednesday. In addition to chemical materials, Ham said he is concerned about shoulder-fired missiles falling into the hands of al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or Boko Haram, the continent’s three major extremist organizations.
►►NRO spy satellites on time and on budget. Bruce Carlson, director of the US National Reconnaissance Office, has told reporters in Washington that every one of his agency’s programs is on time and on budget. This is seen as a success for the US intelligence community, which is known for botched and grossly over-budget programs outsourced to industry.
►►Watchdog says Canadian spies must follow same rules abroad. A new report by the watchdog body for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service argues that rules governing the conduct of Canadian spies do not relax once they leave Canada. While it cleared CSIS of complicity in any detainee abuse in America’s ‘war on terrorism’, the report did criticize the country’s spymasters for lax record keeping and for sending CSIS officers overseas without sufficient guidance.

Obama administration approves new spy satellite program

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Very few media outlets picked up last week news of an oral approval by Obama administration officials of a new spy satellite program that will further blur the line between private and US Pentagon satellite imagery provision. The new plan, provisionally called “2-plus-2″, is said to replace the fiasco of Boeing Corporation’s delayed and hugely over-budget Future Imagery Architecture reconnaissance project, which the DoD terminated in 2005. The DoD now appears poised to punish Boeing by awarding 2-plus-2 “to Lockheed without a competitive bidding process”, later this year. Under the new plan, whose initial budget Pentagon officials have refused to reveal, includes building from scratch two state-of-the-art satellites for Pentagon use. It also stipulates increased collaboration between the Pentagon and private satellite imagery providers, such as DigitalGlobe and GeoEye, who currently pocket approximately $25 million a month from the Pentagon. Notably, the new contract has a “guaranteed access” stipulation, which gives the Pentagon “top priority and the ability to direct the satellites if there is a war or another emergency”. The contract is subject to Congressional approval, but intelligence officials have said they are “confident it will pass”.

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