British spy testifies in disguise in alleged al-Qaeda member’s trial

MI5 HQ Thames HouseBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
A heavily disguised British intelligence officer has given evidence in the trial of the alleged leader of an al-Qaeda cell who is being tried in the United States for planning to bomb the New York subway system. Abid Naseer, 28, from Pakistan, was a studying in Britain in April 2009, when he was arrested by British police along with 12 other people for allegedly planning a series of suicide bombings in a popular shopping center in the city of Manchester. In January 2013, however, he was extradited to the US, where he also faces changes of having tried to organize suicide attacks against the New York public transportation system.

American prosecutors claim Naseer received paramilitary training in Pakistan before moving to the UK intent on carrying out terrorist attacks. Last year, the prosecution asked the judge whether six intelligence officers from the UK’s Security Service (also known as MI5), who monitored Naseer’s activities in the months leading up to his arrest, could provide evidence in court. Moreover, the prosecution requested that the MI5 officers be allowed to provide evidence without revealing their identities, since they work as surveillance operatives and are currently involved in counterterrorism investigations. The judge agreed, and the first of the six MI5 officers gave evidence this week through a video link from an undisclosed location in the Britain.

The witness concealed his identity by wearing a false goatee beard, thick spectacles and what reporters described as “a long black wig”. He was also wearing heavy make-up and was identified in court only as “serial number 1603”, according to British newspaper The Daily Telegraph. He told the court that he was part of a large team of MI5 surveillance officers who closely followed Naseer for over a month while he was allegedly planning suicide operations in Britain and the US. The physical surveillance included following the suspect as he was scouting targets in Manchester and sitting behind him on a bus traveling from Manchester to Liverpool. Naseer is defending himself in the trial and had the chance to cross-examine the MI5 officer, said The Telegraph.

Ex-spy chief says Pakistan probably knew bin Laden’s whereabouts

Osama bin LadenBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A former director of Pakistan’s all-powerful national intelligence agency has said that senior officials in Pakistan were probably aware that Osama bin Laden was living in the country prior to his assassination. Lieutenant General Asad Durrani led the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) from 1990 to 1992. He was later appointed Pakistan’s ambassador to Germany, from 1994 to 1997, and then to Saudi Arabia until 2002.

Durrani was asked during an appearance on Al-Jazeera’s flagship interview program Head to Head, on Tuesday, whether he believed that the al-Qaeda founder could have been living in Pakistan for several years without the ISI knowing about it. The former spy chief said he had no specific information on the issue. He added, however, that although “it is quite possible that [the ISI] did not know”, his personal assessment was that “it was more probable that they did”.

The former ISI strongman was then asked why the ISI would have chosen to shelter bin Laden instead of delivering him to the Americans. He responded that “the idea was that at the right time his location would be revealed” to Washington. He added that “the right time” would have depended on when Islamabad could have received “the necessary quid pro quo”. Speaking with characteristic frankness, Durrani said that “if you have someone like Osama bin Laden, you are not going to simply hand him over to the United States” without asking for something in return. In the case of Pakistan, the reward would possibly have been a bilateral agreement between the US and Pakistan to give the latter greater say over America’s dealings with neighboring Afghanistan.

High-profile US diplomat probed by FBI counterintelligence

Robin L. RaphelBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
A highly experienced American diplomat, who is commonly described as “a fixture in Washington foreign policy circles”, is reportedly being investigated by counterintelligence agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Washington Post named the diplomat last week as Robin L. Raphel, who served as United States ambassador to Tunisia before being appointed as assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, during the administration of US President Bill Clinton. The New York Times described Ms. Raphel as one of the US Department of State’s highest-ranking female diplomats. She is considered an expert on Pakistan and until recently served as an adviser to the Department of State’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ms. Raphel officially retired from the Foreign Service in 2005 and joined the ranks of Cassidy & Associates, a high-powered government-relations firm based in Washington, DC, which is known to have performed lobbying assignments on behalf of the government of Pakistan. In reporting the alleged investigation of Ms. Raphel by the FBI, The Washington Post said last week that the nature of the probe was “unclear”. But it stated that FBI counterintelligence agents had searched the former diplomat’s house and office. Citing unnamed government sources, The New York Times reported that the FBI was trying to determine why Ms. Raphel had taken classified information to her house, and whether she had shared it, or planned to share it, with a foreign government. There was no mention in the article of the identity of the foreign government that may have been privy to classified information allegedly taken home by Ms. Raphel. Media reports suggested that the former diplomat had been placed on leave and stripped of all her government security clearances as part of the ongoing FBI investigation. Insiders note that it is extremely rare for such a prominent figure in Washington to become the subject of an FBI counterintelligence investigation.

CIA resumes drone strikes in Pakistan after six-month hiatus

Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal AreasBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
The United States Central Intelligence Agency appears to have resumed its targeted assassinations using unmanned aerial drones in Pakistan, following a nearly six-moth hiatus. The Agency launched its lethal drone program in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2004, and intensified it in 2008 under the supervision of US President George Bush, who then passed it on to his successor, Barack Obama. Nearly 400 strikes on Pakistani soil have been attributed to the CIA in the past decade, which have killed in excess of 3,000 militants and civilians by some estimates. But, in an unprecedented move, Washington completely seized carrying out airstrikes on Pakistani soil after December 25 of last year. That changed on Wednesday, June 11, when several powerful missiles landed outside a house located a few miles outside of Miramshah, in Pakistan’s North Wazieristan Province. The area is an operational stronghold of Pakistan’s most powerful armed militant group, the Pakistani Talban, and its close affiliate, the Haqqani Network. The air strikes took out a number of vehicles that were allegedly filled with explosives and killed at least 16 people, including alleged Taliban and Haqqani commanders, as well as, reportedly, members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Washington said that those targeted were on their way to conduct cross-border raids in Afghanistan when they were killed. As it always does in these instances, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the strikes as violations of the country’s sovereignty. But reports in the Pakistani media claimed that Washington had sought and received Islamabad’s approval prior to launching last week’s attacks. What prompted the change in policy? According to one local observer, the CIA had agreed to stop its aerial attacks after it was asked to do so by the government of Pakistan, which has been engaged in peace talks with the Taliban for several months. But these talks collapsed following the June 6 suicide attack on Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport by the Taliban and the IMU, which killed 36 people, including all 10 attackers. Read more of this post

Afghan officials see foreign spy agency behind bloody hotel attack

AfghanistanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Afghanistan’s intelligence community believes a foreign spy agency was behind last week’s bloody attack on a luxury hotel that left nine people dead. Last Thursday evening, a group of young men entered the five-star Serena Hotel, located a few blocks away from the Presidential Palace and key government ministry buildings in Afghan capital Kabul. Three hours later, the men, who had hidden handguns in their shoes, entered the hotel restaurant and shot indiscriminately at patrons. They were eventually shot dead by Afghan Special Forces, but not before they had managed to shoot over a dozen people at point blank range, killing nine, including two Canadians, an American and a Paraguayan. Four children and a senior reporter with Agence France Presse were among the dead, while the wounded included an Afghan member of parliament. Many blamed the attack on the Taliban or the Haqqani network, an Islamist militant group responsible for countless high-profile attacks in Kabul and other Afghan cities. Soon afterwards, the Taliban issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, which they said was aimed at demonstrating the ease with which Afghan government security measures could be evaded. On Monday, however, a press release issued by the Office of the Afghan President said a “foreign intelligence service”, rather than an indigenous militant group, was behind the attack. The press release, which bore the signature of Afghanistan’s President, Hamid Karzai, said intelligence officials from the National Directorate for Security had briefed Afghanistan’s National Security Council about the findings of an investigation on the attack. In the statement, which was issued in both Pashto and English, the President’s Office said that neither the Taliban nor the Haqqani network “were even aware” that the attack at the Serena Hotel was going to take place. Instead, the operation “was a direct attack by an intelligence service outside the country”, said the statement. A subsequent announcement released by the Afghan government placed blame on Pakistani intelligence services, saying they were directly involved in the attack. It also stated that an unnamed “Pakistani diplomat” had been seen filming inside the Serena Hotel “a while ago”. Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected Kabul’s allegations, saying it was “highly disturbing that attempts are being made to somehow implicate Pakistan in this terrorist incident”.

 

Saudi Arabia closer than Iran to acquiring nukes, BBC reports

Saudi ArabiaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Saudi Arabia is able to obtain atomic bombs “at will” through a secret pact with Pakistan, and can acquire nuclear weapons far quicker than Iran, according to the BBC. On Wednesday, the British broadcaster’s flagship Newsnight television program cited “a senior decision maker” at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, in claiming that Pakistan had already built nuclear weapons ordered by Saudi Arabia. The weapons, which include “finished warheads” that can be affixed on long-range missiles, “are now sitting ready for delivery” as soon as Riyadh asks for them, according to the BBC. The program’s producers spoke to an unnamed “senior Pakistani official” who allegedly confirmed in general terms the secret agreement between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The pact is said to require the Pakistanis to build and maintain a nuclear arsenal for use by the oil kingdom. Another Pakistani source, identified by Newsnight as “a one-time intelligence officer”, told the program that Pakistan maintained “a certain number of warheads” and that “if the Saudis were to ask for them at any given time they would immediately be transferred”. Newsnight’s diplomatic and defense editor, Mark Urban, wrote on the BBC website that Pakistan may already have transferred several Shaheen ballistic missiles to Saudi Arabia, in preparation for delivering nuclear warheads later on. This is not the first time such allegations have surfaced in public, though it is rare for Pakistani intelligence insiders to be quoted in such reports. Claims of a Saudi-Pakistani nuclear pact have been circulating in diplomatic circles since the mid-1990s, with some sources suggesting that the Saudis funded the Pakistani nuclear weapons program in exchange for access to nuclear warheads. Read more of this post

India disbands spy unit that conducted covert operations abroad

VK SinghBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
A controversial military intelligence unit that conducted at least eight covert operations in foreign countries between 2008 and 2012 has been disbanded by the government of India. The country’s Ministry of Defense authorized the establishment of the unit in late 2008, following the Mumbai attacks, which killed over 150 and injured nearly 600 people. The attacks, which lasted for almost four days, involved a dozen coordinated bombing attacks and shooting incidents in India’s largest urban center, carried out by Pakistani nationalists. The covert-action unit was named Technical Services Division (TSD) and led by retired General VK Singh, who served as the Indian Army’s Chief of Staff from 2010 to 2012. According to Indian news media, the TSD was approved by a host of senior Indian government officials, including Lieutenant General RK Loomba, Director General of India’s Military Intelligence. The new agency was tasked with “planning and executing special operations inside depth areas of countries of interest” to India. It was also tasked with “countering enemy efforts within the country by effective covert means”. Most of its “special operations” on foreign soil are said to have been conducted inside Pakistan, in an effort to combat what the Indian government views as “state-sponsored terrorism” by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI). Its main tactical mission centered on targeting Hafiz Saeed, the leader of Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, said to have been behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks. But the TSD has now been disbanded following revelations that it used its mandate to spy on Indian politicians in New Delhi and the Indian province of Kashmir, whose political views on India’s relations with Pakistan were seen as too conciliatory. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #829

Raymond Allen DavisBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Irish police responds to claims of IRA collusion. For nearly two years, the Smithwick Tribunal in Dublin, Ireland, has been hearing allegations that the Provisional Irish Republican Army had supporters inside the Garda Síochána, Irealand’s police force. This past week, the Garda’s Crime and Security Branch gave the Tribunal a 51-page response to the allegations. The tribunal said it “needed time to read the response” before holding another open session next week.
►►How CIA spy Raymond Davis helped turn Pakistan against the US. The New York Times‘ Mark Mazzetti has penned an excellent retrospective analysis of Raymond Allen Davis imbroglio. In 2011, the CIA contractor was arrested in Lahore for shooting dead two men who allegedly tried to rob him. Davis was only released after the US government offered monetary compensation to the families of the dead men. Mazzetti argues that the furor over the Davis incident threatened to shut down most CIA operations in Pakistan and derail the intelligence-gathering operation in Abbottabad.
►►New book explains CIA shift from spying to killing. Speaking of Mark Mazzetti, he has a new book out called The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth. In it, he explores the post-9/11 transformation of the CIA from its original mission –spying– to a facilitator of targeted killings for the Pentagon. He told National Public Radio that “the CIA has become a machine for killing in many ways. The counterterrorism center has become […] the sort of beating heart of the agency that does man-hunting. And these question of ‘Should the CIA stay in the killing business?’ […] is something that is unresolved but is certainly being discussed”.

Pakistan secretly helped CIA drone strikes (act surprised)

Predator droneBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
For many years, Pakistan’s main spy agency secretly helped the United States launch hundreds of unmanned drone strikes on Pakistani soil, while the government in Islamabad publicly denounced them as infringements on its sovereignty. The US-based McClatchy news agency said on Tuesday it had uncovered the behind-the-scenes collaboration while reviewing “copies of top-secret US intelligence reports”. In an article published on its website, the news agency said the copies of the documents in its possession covered most of the unmanned drone strikes conducted on Pakistani soil by the US Central Intelligence Agency in the years 2006 to 2008 and 2010 to 2011. The documents allegedly show that nearly every strike had been approved by the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), Pakistan’s powerful spy agency run by the military. According to the McClatchy report, so close was the cooperation between the CIA and the ISI that the Pakistanis were even able to add some of their own targets to the CIA’s list of suspected militants for killing. This arrangement was arrived at during the early years of the administration of US President George W. Bush, when the bilateral cooperation between the two spy agencies reached its pinnacle. The report notes, however, that it is difficult to discern whether Pakistani civilian officials, who have been routinely denouncing the CIA unmanned drone strikes as illegal, have been aware of the full extent of the operational collusion between the ISI and the CIA. Technically, the ISI is supposed to operate under the control of Pakistan’s civilian leadership. In reality, however, the secretive intelligence agency is firmly under the control of the country’s military establishment. 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.

Analysis: Will 2013 Be the Year of the Unmanned Drone?

Predator droneBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
As United States President Barack Obama prepares to enter his fifth year in office, one may be excused for thinking that his administration’s response to insurgency warfare essentially boils down to one thing: the joystick. This is the means by which Washington’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) fleet is remotely guided, usually from the safety of ground control stations located thousands of miles away from selected targets. Even prior to last November’s Presidential election, Obama administration officials declared in every possible way that the drone campaign would remain a permanent feature of the White House’s counterinsurgency campaign. Not only that, but it seems increasingly apparent that when, on November 19, 2012, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that America’s UAV fleet would expand, he meant it both in terms of raw numbers and geographical reach. Africa appears now to be high on the list of UAV targets. The US is currently busy establishing a large network of small air bases located in strategic locations throughout the continent, in what US observers have termed a “massive expansion” of US covert operations in Africa. Read more of this post

US wants immunity for Pakistanis implicated in attacks that killed 166

2008 Mumbai attacksBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States government has argued in court that current and former officials of Pakistan’s intelligence service should be immune from prosecution in connection with the 2008 Mumbai attacks. At least 166 people, including 6 Americans, were killed and scores more were injured when members of Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba stormed downtown Mumbai, India, taking the city hostage between November 26 and 29, 2008. The Indian government has openly accused Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) of complicity in the attack, which has been described as the most sophisticated international terrorist strike anywhere in the world during the last decade. Using evidence collected by the Indian government, several Americans who survived the bloody attacks sued the ISI in New York earlier this year for allegedly directing Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Mumbai strikes. But Stuart Delery, Principal Deputy Attorney General for the US Department of State, has told the court that the ISI and its senior officials are immune from prosecution on US soil under the US Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. According to the 12-page ‘Statement of Interest’ delivered to the court by Delery, no foreign nationals can be prosecuted in a US court for criminal actions they allegedly carried out while working in official capacities for a foreign government. The affidavit goes on to suggest that any attempt by a US court to assert American jurisdiction over current or former Pakistani government officials would be a blatant “intrusion on [Pakistan’s] sovereignty, in violation of international law”. It appears that nobody has notified the US Department of State that the US routinely “intrudes on Pakistan’s sovereignty” several times a week by using unmanned Predator drones to bomb suspected Taliban militants operating on Pakistani soil. Washington also “intruded on Pakistan’s sovereignty” on May 2, 2011, when it clandestinely sent troops to the town of Abbottabad to kill al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. Read more of this post

Jailed US spy gave Israel information on Pakistan nuclear program

Jonathan Jay PollardBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An American intelligence analyst, who was jailed in 1987 for spying for Israel, gave his spy handlers information on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, according to declassified documents. Former United States Navy intelligence analyst Jonathan Jay Pollard is currently serving a life sentence for selling classified information to the Israeli government between 1985 and 1987. On December 14, the Central Intelligence Agency declassified its official damage assessment of Pollard’s espionage, who some counterintelligence officials believe was the most prolific mole that ever spied on the US government for a foreign country. This was the second time that the CIA declassified the document, titled The Jonathan Jay Pollard Espionage Case: A Damage Assessment, following an appeal by George Washington University’s National Security Archive. Even though this latest version of the declassified document is still heavily redacted, it contains some new information. One new revelation is that Pollard’s Israeli handlers specifically asked him to acquire intelligence collected by the US government on the Pakistani nuclear weapons program. In a section titled “Implications of Compromises: What Israel Gained from Pollard’s Espionage”, the CIA assessment states that Pollard focused on “Arab and Pakistani nuclear intelligence” and gave his Israeli handlers information on a secret Pakistani “plutonium reprocessing facility near Islamabad”. Further information in the declassified report about this subject is completely redacted. The question is, what kind of information on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program did Tel Aviv acquire from Pollard?  According to A.Q. Khan, the so-called father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb, Islamabad was able to detonate a nuclear device “within a week’s notice” by as early as 1984. Read more of this post

Afghan government blames Pakistan for attempt on spy chief’s life

Assadullah KhaledBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Afghan President and senior cabinet officials have described the recent assassination attempt against the country’s spy chief as the work of “a professional intelligence service” and said they would be asking Pakistan “for clarification”. Assadullah Khaled, who heads Afghanistan’s National Directorate for Security (NDS), survived a suicide attack last Thursday in Kabul. According to Afghan officials, Khaled was attacked by a member of the Taliban posing as a “peace emissary”, who blew himself up as he was meeting Khaled to discuss a possible peace deal with the government. Media reports suggest that the bomber had concealed explosives in his undergarments and that he was not searched out of “respect for [Afghan] traditions and hospitality”. Shortly after the attack, the Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility and said they would try to kill Khaled again. But speaking to reporters last week, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that “more professional hands” were behind the attack on Khaled. The Afghan leader described the suicide attack as a “very sophisticated and complicated act by a professional intelligence service” and said the Afghan security services “know [for] a fact” that the suicide bomber had entered the country from Pakistan. President Karzai stopped short of directly implicating the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) of directly planning the attack; but he said his government would be “seeking a lot of clarifications from Pakistan” about the bombing. Last Sunday Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Janan Musazai told reporters that Afghan officials were “100 percent sure” the suicide bomber had come to Afghanistan from the Pakistani city of Quetta. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #806

Mohammed DahabiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Most staff at US consulate in Libya were CIA personnel. Most of the personnel attached to the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, the Libyan city where a US consulate was attacked ending with the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were spies, according to The Wall Street Journal. The paper said 23 of the 30 Americans evacuated from Benghazi in the wake of the September 11, 2012, attack were employees of the CIA. Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, two of the men killed that day, and later publicly identified as contract security workers with the State Department, were in fact under contract with the CIA, said the paper.
►►India accuses Pakistan of printing counterfeit banknotes. The Central Economic Intelligence Bureau in India says that the Pakistani spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) is printing counterfeit Indian and Bangladeshi currencies from the state-owned security printing presses “under special arrangement” and circulating the same through a well-organized network, which is coordinated by senior ISI officials. This is not the first time that the Indian government has accused Pakistan of counterfeiting Indian currency.
►►Jordan court to announce ex-spy chief’s sentence on November 11. A Jordanian criminal court has postponed a verdict in the case of Mohammed al-Dahabi, who ran the General Intelligence Department between 2005 and 2008 and is on trial for alleged embezzlement of public funds, money laundering and abuse of office. Presiding judge Nashaat Akhras said in court Sunday that the verdict will be pronounced November 11, without giving a reason. Dahabi was arrested in February, when inspectors from the Central Bank of Jordan suspected transactions worth millions of dollars had gone through his bank account.

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