Did US spies hack French government computers using Facebook?

The Palais de l'ÉlyséeBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A sophisticated computer virus discovered at the center of the French government’s secure computer network was planted there by the United States, according to unnamed sources inside France’s intelligence community. Paris-based magazine L’Express, France’s version of Time magazine, says in its current issue that the alleged American cyberattack took place shortly before last April’s Presidential elections in France. It resulted in the infection of the entire computer system in the Palais de l’Élysée, which is the official residence of the President of France. The French magazine cites unnamed sources inside the French Network and Information Security Agency (ANSSI), which is responsible for cybersecurity throughout France. The sources claim that the snooping virus allowed its handlers to gain access to the computers of most senior French Presidential aides and advisers during the final weeks of the administration of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, including his Chief of Staff, Xavier Musca. The article claims that the virus used a source code nearly identical to that of Flame, a super-sophisticated version of Stuxnet, the virus unleashed a few years ago against the computer infrastructure of the Iranian nuclear energy program. Many cybersecurity analysts believe that the US and Israel were instrumental in designing both Stuxnet and Flame. IntelNews understands that the alleged virus was initially directed at employees of the Palais de l’Élysée through Facebook. The targets were allegedly befriended by fake Facebook profile accounts handled by the team that operated the virus. The targets were then sent phishing emails that contained links to phony copies of the login page for the Palais de l’Élysée intranet website. Read more of this post

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Did French intelligence agent kill Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi?

Nicolas Sarkozy and Muammar GaddafiBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Nearly a year after the sensational death of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, sources in Libya have claimed that a French intelligence agent killed the Libyan leader acting under orders by the French government. The Libyan dictator was captured by armed fighters of the Libyan National Liberation Army on October 20, 2011, after his convoy was reportedly bombed by North Atlantic Treaty Organization aircraft. Videos showed Gaddafi being taken aboard a van alive; mysteriously, however, he was pronounced dead a few hours later. The Libyan National Transitional Council blamed the Libyan leader’s death on overzealous militia members, but this explanation did not satisfy the United Nations, which called for an investigation into the incident. But Mahmoud Jibril, a National Transitional Council member who was Libya’s interim Prime Minister during most of 2011, has said in an interview that Gaddafi was killed by a French intelligence officer. Speaking yesterday on Egyptian television, Jibril said that the agent “mixed with the revolutionary brigades” and killed Gaddafi by shooting him twice in the head from close range. Jibril’s comments came two days after one of Italy’s most reputable newspapers, Corriere della Sera, published a report claiming that the alleged French intelligence agent was acting under direct instructions by the French government. The paper said that the order had come down from the office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. According to the article, Sarkozy was eager to prevent the possibility of Gaddafi standing trial, particularly after the Libyan leader had threatened to expose his alleged financial dealings with the French President. These refer to persistent rumors in France that the Libyan dictator had contributed millions of dollars to Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign. Read more of this post

Libya’s spy chief was lured by French-Mauritanian intelligence trap

Abdullah al-SenussiBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
The arrest of Muammar al-Gaddafi’s spy chief in Mauritania last week was the culmination of a carefully planned French intelligence operation, which was secretly aided by the Mauritanian government, according to informed insiders. Abdullah al-Senussi, Colonel Gaddafi’s brother-in-law, who used to head the Mukhabarat el-Jamahiriya, Libya’s intelligence agency, was captured at the Nouakchott International Airport in the Mauritanian capital on March 17. He was detained as soon as he arrived there on a chartered flight from Mali. He had previously entered Mali from Niger, and was reportedly under the government’s protection. But the ongoing uprising of the pro-Gaddafi Tuareg in the north of the country, which has now resulted in a military coup in Bamako, caused the former Libyan spy chief to seek refuge elsewhere. According to a well-researched article by Reuters news agency, al-Senussi was gradually convinced to travel to Mauritania by the al-Me’edani clan, a pro-Gaddafi nomadic tribe that had previously worked for the Libyan security agencies and whose members had been given Libyan nationality by Colonel Gaddafi’s regime. The clan, says the Reuters article, was persuaded to turn its back on al-Senussi as part of a behind-the-scenes agreement between French and Mauritanian intelligence agencies. The deal was struck after a high-level agreement between the Nicolas Sarkozy government in Paris and the Mauritanian government of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. A career soldier and high-ranking officer, Abdel Aziz assumed power in the country in a 2008 military coup that was widely condemned by international bodies, including the United Nations. But the military regime in Nouakchott was pleased to see Paris engineer a thaw in relations between the two countries in 2009. Ever since then, the French government has publicly praised the regime of President Abdel Aziz as a “key partner” in combating terrorism. Mauritania’s decision to help France capture al-Senussi was a repayment to the country’s former colonial master for its support after the 2008 military coup, according to Reuters. Following his arrest, al-Senussi is believed to be held at the headquarters of the Mauritanian intelligence service in Nouakchott. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #695

Nicolas Sarkozy and Muammar GaddafiBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►Spies meet over Syrian crisis. CIA chief David Petraeus met Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday for closed-door talks focusing on the crisis across the border in Syria. Meanwhile, General Murad Muwafi, who heads Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate, left Cairo on Tuesday for a visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Also, US General Ronald Burgess, Defense Intelligence Agency Director, has arrived in Egypt and is expected to meet with several Egyptian officials to discuss the situation in Syria.
►►Gaddafi contributed €50m to Sarkozy election fund. Damaging new claims have emerged about the funding of Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign and his links with former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The French investigative website Mediapart claims to have seen a confidential note suggesting Gaddafi contributed up to €50 million to Sarkozy’s election fund five years ago.
►►Analysis: US relations on the agenda for Pakistan’s new spy chief. Yusuf Raza Gilani has appointed Lieutenant General Zahir ul-Islam as the new chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, the main spy arm of the Pakistani military, ending weeks of speculation he would extend the term of Lieutenant Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, due to retire on March 18. The new spymaster faces a tough task fixing ever-worsening ties with the United States, but analysts say he is unlikely to reform an institution accused of helping militants in Afghanistan.

News you may have missed #605

Hamid Karzai

Hamid Karzai

►►French intelligence ‘spied on Socialist politician’. Hand-picked” French intelligence agents allegedly spied on the private life of François Hollande, the Socialist whom polls predict is best-placed to beat Nicolas Sarkozy in next year’s presidential elections. They are also said to have spied on Hollande’s partner, Valérie Trierweiler –-potentially France’s future first lady.
►►US to release Cuban spy under supervision. Rene Gonzalez, the first of five Cubans imprisoned in the United States as spies since 1998 will regain his freedom Friday but won’t be able to go home for three more years because of a court order requiring he remain under US supervision.
►►Afghan intelligence says it stopped plot to kill Karzai. A plot to kill Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been foiled by Afghan intelligence agents in Kabul who arrested six men with links to al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network. The discovery of the plot comes just two days before the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan in retaliation for the September 11 attacks in the US and, had it been successful, would have plunged the country further into chaos.

News you may have missed #0249

  • Analysis: Making Sense of the New CIA Battlefield in Afghanistan. “The military backgrounds of the fallen CIA operatives cast a light on the way the world of intelligence is increasingly muscling up and becoming militarized [...]. This is no longer intelligence as anyone imagines it, nor is it military as military was once defined [...]. And worse yet, from all available evidence, despite claims [...] it seems remarkably ineffective”.
  • CIA planned to ‘rendition’ suspects in Germany in 2001. The CIA had 25 agents in Germany after the September 11 attacks and planned to illegally rendition al-Qaeda suspects without informing the German government. In the end, the plan was scrapped because of objections by the Agency’s German section.
  • French president appoints woman in charge of spy school. Nicolas Sarkozy is to create a ‘school for spies’, whose principal job will be to discourage French intelligence chiefs from spying on, and fighting against, one another. There are rumors that the school’s first director will be woman academic with no previous experience of espionage.

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News you may have missed #0141

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French “trial of the century” continues with ex-spy’s testimony

Philippe Rondot

Philippe Rondot

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A complex court case in France, which the nation’s media have dubbed “trial of the century”, continued this week with the testimony of one of France’s most distinguished intelligence agents. Retired General Philippe Rondot, who worked for France’s domestic (DST) and foreign intelligence (DGSE), and advised several French leaders, gained international fame in 1994, when he managed to arrest Venezuelan-born operative Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, known as Carlos the Jackal. General Rondot was called earlier this week to testify whether France’s former Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, helped forge a series of documents showing that France’s current President, Nicolas Sarkozy, had laundered millions of dollars in defense contract bribes through secret accounts in Luxembourg’s Clearstream bank. Mr. de Villepin will face up to five years in prison if found guilty of the forgery. Read more of this post

Spy chief’s records feature prominently in France’s “trial of the century”

Yves Bertrand

Yves Bertrand

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A five-year court case described in France as “the trial of the century” or “France’s Watergate” resumed on Monday with the appearance in court of one of five defendants, who is no other than France’s former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. He is accused of forging a series of documents showing that France’s current President, Nicolas Sarkozy, had laundered millions of dollars in defense contract bribes through secret accounts in Luxembourg’s Clearstream bank. At the center of the trial is the adversary relationship between Mr. de Villepin, who was former French President Jacques Chirac’s preferred successor, and Nicolas Sarkozy. Mr. Sarkozy accuses Mr. de Villepin of ordering an intelligence investigation into his financial dealings in order to ruin his reputation and score a political victory. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0065

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