Analysis: Did Russian spy services secretly bug Polish officials?

Radosław SikorskiBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS* | intelNews.org
Poland’s relations with the United States were strained this week after Poland’s foreign minister allegedly described Warsaw’s alliance with Washington as “worthless” and “complete bullshit” in a private conversation. Radosław Sikorski has not denied the authenticity of a bugged conversation, in which he appears to argue that Poland is wrong to anger Germany and Russia by always siding with America on foreign policy issues. Using highly undiplomatic language, Sikorski denounced Poland’s foreign policy planners as “complete losers” and accused them of having a “slave mentality” in their dealings with American diplomats. He also described British Prime Minister David Cameron as an “incompetent” politician who “believes in his stupid propaganda” about the European Union. Transcripts of the conversation, which allegedly took place between Sikorski and Poland’s former Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski, were published last week in several increments by Polish newsmagazine Wprost.

How did the bugging occur? It appears that Sikorski was among a number of Polish politicians surreptitiously recorded for over a year while dining with colleagues at elite restaurants in Polish capital Warsaw. Polish authorities reportedly believe that managers and waiters at the restaurants placed concealed recording devices near the guests’ tables. Some believe the culprits’ goal was to blackmail the politicians in return for cash payments; others believe that powerful business interests or opposition politicians were behind the recordings. A few observers have even suggested that Rostowski, who is heard talking with Sikorski in the bugged conversation, may have been the source of the leak to Wprost. The magazine’s editors said they received an encrypted email from a business executive, going by the name “Patriot”, with links to four recorded conversations between senior Polish government officials. But it insisted that it was not aware of the identity of the leaker. Read more of this post

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News you may have missed #795

Shakil AfridiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US ‘cannot verify authenticity’ of Afridi interview. The US says it cannot verify an alleged interview by Shakeel Afridi, a Pakistani medical doctor who helped the CIA find Osama bin Laden. In May, a Pakistani court sentenced Afridi to 33 years in jail after he was arrested following the killing by US troops of bin Laden in May 2011 at his compound in the town of Abbottabad. US television channel Fox News said Tuesday it had obtained an exclusive phone interview with Afridi from behind bars, in which he detailed months of torture by Pakistan’s shadowy Inter-Services Intelligence.
►►Evidence suggests US covered up Soviet massacre in Poland. New evidence appears to back the idea that the US administration of President F.D. Roosevelt helped cover up Soviet guilt for the 1940 Katyn massacre, in which more than 22,000 Poles were killed by the Soviets on Stalin’s orders. Historians said documents, released by the US National Archives, supported the suspicion that the US did not want to anger its wartime ally, Joseph Stalin. The documents show that American prisoners of war sent coded messages to Washington in 1943 saying that the killings must have been carried out by the Soviets, rather than the Nazis. Information about the massacre was suppressed at the highest levels in Washington, say historians.
►►Yemen President sacks intel agency heads. Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has sacked the heads of the National Security Agency and  Military Intelligence, just a few hours after two suicide car bombs targeted the country’s Defense Minister in the capital Sana’a killing at least 12 people. The National Security Agency’s Ali Mohammed al-Anisi has been replaced with Ali Hassan al-Ahmadi, while the head of Military Intelligence, Mujahid Ali Ghuthaim, has been replaced with Ahmed Muhsin al-Yafiee. Hadi took office in February this year after year-long street protests forced former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down as part of an UN-backed power transfer deal in return for immunity from prosecution.

News you may have missed #781

Bahri ShaqirinBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Syria denies Vice-President has defected. Syria denied reports over weekend that President Bashar al-Assad’s deputy had defected. Vice-President Farouq al-Shara “never thought for a moment about leaving the country”, said a statement from his office, broadcast on state television and issued in response to reports that the veteran Ba’ath Party loyalist had tried to defect to Jordan. Al-Sharaa’s office said the vice-president “supports get[ting] united support from the [United Nations] Security Council to carry out his mission without obstacles”.
►►What is inside the CIA’s Polish prison? A major political scandal erupted in Poland this year, over an alleged secret CIA ‘black site’ used to house high-ranking terrorism suspects. But exactly was in this prison? In this interview, aired yesterday on Washington DC-based National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition program, host Linda Wertheimer speaks to journalist and author Roy Gutman about his recent trip to Poland, to cover an investigation into the CIA interrogation facilities.
►►US ‘surprised’ after Albania replaces spy chief. Little more than a month after taking office, Albanian President Bujar Nishani has discharged the Director of the country’s State Security Agency, SHISH, Bahri Shaqirin. The move follows a request by Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha, who first proposed that Shaqirin should be removed. His replacement is Visho Ajazi Lika, currently Deputy Minister for Technology and Information. Some analysts note that Shaqirin enjoyed the support of the US Embassy in Tirana. One of its spokespersons said that “the US had not been informed about Shaqiri’s discharge and [Washington was] surprised by this fast and unexpected decision”.

News you may have missed #752

Charles SchumerBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US companies ‘use military-style planes’ to make maps. Companies such as Apple and Google could push the limits of citizens’ privacy thanks to the use of “military-grade spy planes” when creating their next-generation mapping technologies, according to Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY). Schumer expressed his concerns in a letter to the two companies, arguing that hyper-detailed images of people’s backyards and other objects could pose a threat to both privacy and national security. The Senator also pointed out the potential for criminals and, yes, even terrorists to view detailed maps of “sensitive utilities”.
►►CIA wanted ‘torture cage’ for secret prison. Polish Senator Jozef Pinior claims prosecutors in Krakow have a document that shows a local contractor was asked to build a cage at Stare Kiekuty, a Polish army base used as a CIA prison for al-Qaeda suspects in 2002 and 2003. “In a state with rights”, Pinior told the Polish paper Gazeta Wyborcza, “people in prison are not kept in cages”. He said a cage was “non-standard equipment” for a prison, but standard “if torture was used there”. After Poland launched its official investigation of the Stare Kiekuty site, President Bronislaw Komorowski said the probe was needed because “the reputation of Poland is at stake”.
►►US Air Force spy planes facing postwar cut. The US Air Force plans to cut back on the number of Hawker Beechcraft’s MC-12 spy planes it wants to operate after the draw-down from Afghanistan and Iraq, official data indicates. With declining operations, the aircraft began to lose its priority role and recent comments indicated at least some of the aircraft would either be grounded or given to the National Guard or other services. Since the MC-12 was first deployed in Iraq, U. forces have acquired access to more sophisticated surveillance aircraft as well as drones that can perform roles previously assigned to manned aircraft.

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 #708

Bertil StrobergBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Swedish Cold War spy dies at 79. Bertil Stroberg, a former Swedish air force officer, who was convicted of spying for Poland during the Cold War, but always maintained his innocence, has died, following a yearlong battle against cancer. He was sentenced to six years in prison for spying in 1983, but released on parole after serving three years. The key evidence in his case was a letter the prosecution said he had written to the Polish embassy offering to sell military secrets. The letter was signed Sven-Roland Larsson and asked that money be sent in that name to the Central Post Office. Stroberg was arrested when he went to the post office to collect Larsson’s mail.
►►US keeping Britain in the dark on intel issues. American intelligence agencies are increasingly keeping their British counterparts in the dark on key information, for fear those secrets could end up on full display in UK courts. “The Americans have got nervous that we are going to start revealing some of the information and they have started cutting back, I’m sure, on what they disclose”, Ken Clarke, the United Kingdom’s justice secretary, said in a Wednesday interview with the BBC. The American intelligence community has become wary about sharing sensitive intelligence with the UK ever since a 2008 court case forced the British government to disclose specific details on terror detainee operations.
►►Bush official says CIA ‘committed war crimes’. Philip Zelikow, who was a top adviser to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, warned the Bush administration that its use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading” interrogation techniques like waterboarding were “a felony war crime”. What is more, newly obtained documents reveal that State Department counselor Zelikow told the Bush team in 2006 that using the controversial interrogation techniques were “prohibited” under US law —“even if there is a compelling state interest asserted to justify them”. Zelikow’s memo was an internal bureaucratic push against an attempt by the Justice Department to flout long-standing legal restrictions against torture.

News you may have missed #704: Caught-red-handed edition

Zbigniew SiemiątkowskiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Would be CIA spy uses Tweeter to attack CIA. Lynnae Williams was on track to become a CIA agent. Today, the 35-year-old aspiring journalist and would-be CIA spy uses Twitter to expose what she feels are corrupt and unethical practices by the mysterious organization. In 2009, Williams spent more than three months training to become a CIA spy. She says she was sent to the CIA’s “psychological prison”, a public mental-health hospital in Virginia. There, she says, doctors pushed drugs for schizophrenia and manic depression in a white-walled environment with inedible food. Eventually, the CIA stopped paying her and suspended her security clearance. She’s now looking to sue the agency for wrongful termination. And in the meantime, she’s using BlogSpot and her @wlynnae account to post tweets.
►►US ambassador says Russia is spying on him. US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul suggested yesterday that the Russian government is spying on him. “Everywhere I go [Russian television station] NTV is there”, he tweeted. “Wonder who gives them my calendar? They wouldn’t tell me. Wonder what the laws are here for such things? I respect [the] press’ right to go anywhere and ask any question. But do they have a right to read my email and listen to my phone?”. McFaul also posted on his Twitter feed yesterday: “When I asked these ‘reporters’ how they knew my schedule, I got no answer”.
►►Poland ex-spy boss charged over CIA prison. Zbigniew Siemiątkowski, the former head of Poland’s foreign intelligence service faces charges of illegal detention and use of corporal punishment at an alleged secret CIA ‘black site’ used to house high-ranking terrorism suspects. Investigators allege the spy boss exceeded his powers and breached international law through the use of “unlawful deprivation of liberty” and “corporal punishment” against prisoners of war.

News you may have missed #683

Lech WalesaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Walesa scorns new claims he was communist informant. Poland’s former President and Solidarity founder Lech Walesa has brushed off new claims that crucial documents concerning his alleged collaboration with Poland’s communist secret services may be stored in the Polish parliament’s archives. “I know that if there are any papers on me that are unknown, they are only toilet paper”, he said in an interview with Polish television network TVN. Rumors and accusations that Walesa, an anti-communist union leader was in fact a secret communist informant have been circulating for years in Poland.
►►Israeli embassy in Singapore dismisses Barak assassination plot. The Israeli embassy in Singapore confirmed Friday that Defense Minister Ehud Barak had visited the city-state, but dismissed reports of an assassination plot targeting him. Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jarida wrote recently that Barak had been targeted for assassination by three members of a Hezbollah militant cell during his trip to Singapore from February 12-15.
►►Moves to question Turkish spy chiefs quashed. State prosecutors have abandoned an attempt to question Turkey’s spy chiefs over past secret contacts with Kurdish militants, after government moves to curb their investigation of the intelligence agency (MİT). State media said on Monday that prosecutors lifted an order summoning MİT head Hakan Fidan. Nice to be reminded who is really in charge in 21st-century ‘democratic’ Turkey.

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.

News you may have missed #522 (European Union edition)

Hundreds of European mercenaries ‘fighting for Gaddafi’

Libya

Libya

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Hundreds of European mercenaries, including large numbers of European Union citizens, have voluntarily enrolled in the armed forces of the Libyan government, and are fighting under the command of Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi. According to criminologist Michel Koutouzis, the Greek CEO of a French-registered consulting firm with connections to Libya, up to 500 European soldiers-of-fortune have been hired by the Libyan government to provide “special services”, particularly in heavy weaponry and attack helicopters. Koutouzis says that most of the European mercenaries, who sell their services for thousands of dollars a day, come from Eastern Europe, especially Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and Serbia, but there are also French, British and Greek nationals currently in Libya. He also claims that Gaddafi is supported by serving military personnel from Russia, Syria and Algeria. It is believed that the Gaddafi camp is also employing thousands of non-specialist mercenaries from various African nations, including Somalia, Mali, Niger, Chad, and the Central African Republic. Unconfirmed reports have surfaced in the American press that the Gaddafi forces are employing female snipers from Colombia. Read more of this post

Book claims CIA framed Bulgaria over assassination attempt on Pope

John Paul II

John Paul II

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A new book claims that the United States Central Intelligence Agency concocted a link between the Bulgarian intelligence services and the 1981 failed assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II. Entitled Kill the Pope: The Truth About the Assassination Attempt on Pope John Paul II, the book is authored by Italian investigative journalist Marco Insaldo and Turkish researcher Yasemin Taksin. Both say that Kill the Pope is the result of a twenty-year study into the incident. Pope John Paul II was shot four times by a 9mm handgun fired by Turkish citizen Mehmet Ali Ağca, while riding in the back of an open-roof car at the Vatican’s St Peter’s Square. Although Ağca’s motives are shrouded in mystery, many intelligence historians believe that he was operating as an agent for the Bulgarian secret services. It has been speculated that the Soviet KGB instructed Bulgarian intelligence to use Ağca and another Turk, Oral Çelik, to kill the Polish-born Pope, because he had strong ties with Poland’s dissident Solidarność (Solidarity) movement. But Insaldo and Taksin insist that there is no evidence to connect the Bulgarian government to the assassination operation, and that Ağca operated under the command of Turkey’s Grey Wolves, a nationalist, anti-Western paramilitary group, which consists of both secular and Islamist factions. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #492 (history edition)

  • Holocaust spy’s memoir gets movie treatment. The extraordinary memoir of Jan Karski, a Polish resistance fighter who gave the first eyewitness report on the Holocaust to the Allies, is to be made into a film by the producer of The King’s Speech. In 1943, Karski escaped from Nazi-occupied Poland and went to London with a hidden microfilm, revealing the persecution of Europe’s Jews by the Third Reich.
  • British spy files shed light on Nazi saboteurs in the US. Declassified British intelligence files describe the activities of Nazi sabotage teams sent to the US in June 1942 to undermine the American war effort. A detailed new account of the German mission, code-named Pastorius, is provided in a report written in 1943 by MI5 intelligence officer Victor Rosthchild.
  • New information on Evdokia Petrova’s defection. New information has emerged on the 1954 defection to Australia of Evdokia Petrova, wife of Vladimir Petrov, who was the most senior Soviet intelligence official to have defected to the West until that time.

Comment: Russian Espionage Steals 2010 Limelight

GRU emblem

GRU emblem

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
As the first decade of the 21st century is coming to an end, few would dispute that Israeli and American spy agencies have been among the most talked-about intelligence organizations of 2010. The reasons for this are equally undeniable: the United States tops the list because of its political prominence, which inevitably attracts media attention; Israel tops it because of the sheer ferocity of its espionage output throughout the Middle East. And yet there is nothing new about this, since neither the Central Intelligence Agency nor the Mossad are exactly novices when it comes to high-profile media exposures. The same cannot be said with respect to Russian intelligence agencies, which went through a period of prolonged hibernation following the end of the Cold War. Indeed, the year that is about to end demonstrates that the stagnant interlude in Russian espionage may well be in its closing stages.

Read more of this post

Some spy news in the shadow of WikiLeaks’ revelations

Katia Zatuliveter

Katia Zatuliveter

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The WikiLeaks revelations continue, and so does the global news storm concerning the whistleblower site. Obviously, the news value of the WikiLeaks disclosures is unquestionable. However, there are notable intelligence-related developments taking place outside the now-familiarWikiLeaks context. Take for instance the recent arrest of what appears to be a Polish spy in Limassol, Cyprus. The unidentified man, who was reportedly detained in the vicinity of a Greek-Cypriot military base on the island, was carrying “a camera containing photos of National Guard posts, a laptop, two mobile phones, five memory cards, a GPS system and three pairs of binoculars”. Another interesting development concerns the arrest on espionage charges of Katia Zatuliveter, a Russian citizen who works as an assistant to British Member of Parliament Mike Hancock. Zatuliveter is expected to be deported on the basis of evidence gathered by MI5, Britain’s counterintelligence service, which has apparently been monitoring her for several months. Interestingly, Mr. Hancock, who is a member of the British House of Commons’ Defence Select Committee, is standing by his assistant. Read more of this post

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