Russia expels Polish, German diplomats in ongoing spy row

Polish embassy in MoscowBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The Russian government has formally expelled several Polish and German diplomats in what appears to be a tit-for-tat move, following the removal of Russian envoys from Warsaw and Berlin on charges of espionage. The Polish government expelled a number of Russian diplomats last week, after it announced the arrest of two Polish citizens in Warsaw, on charges of spying for a foreign intelligence agency. Polish media reported that a colonel in the Polish Army had been arrested by security personnel for operating as an unregistered agent of an unnamed foreign country. Subsequent media reports said a second man, a lawyer with dual Polish-Russian citizenship, had also been arrested. According to unconfirmed Polish media reports, the two men had been recruited by the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency. Last Friday, Polish media reports said that four Polish diplomats stationed in Moscow had been given 48 hours to leave the country. One report suggested that the diplomats included an employee of the political section of the Polish embassy in the Russian capital, as well as three military attachés. The four had reportedly left the country by Sunday night. Authorities in Moscow said they had been forced to take the step of expelling the Polish diplomats following Warsaw’s “unfriendly and unfounded step” of ordering a number of Russian envoys to leave Poland. The four Poles were officially declared “unwanted persons” in Russia for “activities incompatible with their [diplomatic] status”, which is considered code-language for espionage. Also on Monday, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs ordered the expulsion from Moscow of a German diplomat, just hours after a Russian diplomat was asked to leave the German city of Bonn by German authorities. Diplomatic sources said the German diplomat, a female employee at the German embassy in Moscow, was expelled in direct response to the earlier removal of the Russian diplomat, who was exposed as a spy following an extensive surveillance operation that lasted several months. German authorities refused to comment on the case. In Poland, Minister of Foreign Affairs Grzegorz Schetyna said simply that Warsaw “now considered the matter closed”.

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News you may have missed #885

Shin BetBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Americans’ cellphones targeted in secret US spy program. The US Justice Department is scooping up data from thousands of mobile phones through devices deployed on airplanes that mimic cellphone towers, a high-tech hunt for criminal suspects that is snagging a large number of innocent Americans, according to people familiar with the operations. The US Marshals Service program, which became fully functional around 2007, operates Cessna aircraft from at least five metropolitan-area airports, with a flying range covering most of the U.S. population, according to people familiar with the program.
►►Israel’s usually secretive spy agencies get into public spat. Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, known as the Shin Bet, has been trading barbs with the military over whether faulty army intelligence left Israel unprepared for war with the militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The spat went high-profile this week when Israel’s Channel 2 aired a report featuring Shin Bet officials –-rendered in pixilated, shadowed form-– claiming the military had brushed aside the agency’s assessment, months before fighting erupted in July, that an armed conflict with Hamas was in the making.
►►Poland mulls military intelligence brigade close to Belarus border. Polish Armed Forces will make emphasis on the unfolding of reconnaissance troops and will set up a separate brigade and military command in the north-east of the country, National Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said on Thursday. The region he visited is located along the border with Belarus and close to the border with Russia’s westernmost Kaliningrad region, an exclave on the south-east shore of the Baltic Sea.

More information emerges on Poles who ‘spied for Russia’

Zbigniew J.By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
More information has emerged on two Polish citizens who were arrested earlier this month in Warsaw on charges of spying for a foreign intelligence agency. Polish media reported last week that a colonel in the Polish Army had been arrested by security personnel for operating as an unregistered agent of a foreign country. Subsequent media reports said a second man, a lawyer with dual Polish-Russian citizenship, had also been arrested. According to Polish media reports, the two men had been recruited by the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency. The organization is believed to have over a dozen officers stationed at the Russian embassy in the Polish capital, posing as diplomats, as well as an unknown number of non-official-cover operatives, who are not officially connected to the Russian diplomatic mission. One of the two arrestees has been identified simply as Zbigniew J., and is said to be a lieutenant colonel serving in Poland’s Ministry of National Defense. Polish newsmagazine Wprost said last weekend that Z.J. worked in the Ministry’s “enlightenment and morale” department, a post that required him to visit military units around the country as part of a team of experts. He would then impart the information gained from his travels to his GRU handler, an officer serving under diplomatic cover in Russia’s Warsaw embassy, during biweekly meetings. Wprost said Z.J. would receive small amounts for cash in exchange for his services, which are believed to have amounted to approximately $30,000 over the course of several years. The newsmagazine suggested that Z.J.’s motivations were primarily financial and were related to unspecified “personal troubles”. The second alleged spy arrested last week has been named as Stanisław Szypowski. He is a lawyer-turned-political-lobbyist who worked for Stopczyk & Mikulski, a prestigious law firm involved in a government-funded project to build facilities able to import liquefied natural gas into Poland. Read more of this post

Poles who ‘spied for Russia’ worked on strategic natural gas project

Polish Ministry of National DefenseBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
At least one of the two men arrested in Poland last week for spying for a “foreign entity” was working on a project of strategic significance, aimed at reducing Poland’s dependency on Russian natural gas. Polish media reported last Wednesday that a colonel in the Polish Army had been arrested by security personnel for acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign country. Subsequent media reports said a second man, a lawyer with dual Polish-Russian citizenship, had also been arrested. Later in the day, an official statement from the office of the Senior Military Prosecutor said simply that Poland’s Ministry of National Defense had “detained a Polish Army officer on suspicion of being a member of a foreign intelligence service”. But there was no mention of the country for which the detained men allegedly spied for. This past Saturday, Reuters revealed that the two men were suspected of spying for Russia. The news agency cited Marek Biernacki, a Polish parliamentarian, who is also a member of the Polish Parliament’s Committee on Intelligence and had allegedly been briefed by Polish intelligence officials about last week’s arrests. Biernacki told journalists that the actions relating to the two detainees had been “taken in respect of two agents of the Russian state”. In accordance with Polish law, the public prosecutor named the civilian detainee as Stanislaw Sz., using only his first name and the first two letters of his last name. Reuters said the man had been employed at the well-connected law firm of Stopczyk & Mikulski, whose website listed him until recently as an employee. Stanislaw Sz. was allegedly involved in a project to construct a coastal terminal in Swinoujscie, located on Poland’s Baltic Sea coast, for importing liquefied natural gas. The import terminal, which is scheduled to become operational in 2015, will allow Poland to import gas from the Persian Gulf. That will in turn reduce the country’s heavy dependence on imported Russian natural gas at a time when Warsaw’s relations with Moscow continue to deteriorate. Reuters said that the precise nature and timing of Stanislaw Sz.’s involvement with the Swinoujscie terminal is unclear, but it characterized the project as being of strategic importance for both Poland and Russia. Read more of this post

Senior Polish defense official detained for ‘spying for Russia’

Polish Ministry of National DefenseBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A high-ranking official in Poland’s Ministry of National Defense has reportedly been arrested on suspicion of spying for Russia. Poland’s Dziennik Gazeta Prawna said early on Wednesday that a man had been detained by Polish security personnel because it was thought he had been acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign country. Another source, Poland’s commercial news Radio Zet, reported that two men had been arrested, a colonel in the Polish Army and a lawyer with dual Polish-Russian citizenship. Later in the day, an official statement from the office of the Senior Military Prosecutor said simply that Poland’s “Ministry of National Defense detained a Polish Army officer on suspicion of being a member of a foreign intelligence service”. But it made no mention of the country for which the detained officer allegedly spied for. A spokesman for the Defense Ministry, Lieut. Col. Janusz Wojcik, said he could not disclose any details at the moment, adding only that the arrests were based on evidence complied by the counterintelligence service of the Polish Army. Another Polish official, Lieut. Col. Paul Durka, said the arrests had been coordinated by Poland’s Military Police and the Polish Army’s Internal Security Agency (ABW). But Polish media alleged that the defense official was apprehended for spying for Russia and suggested that his arrest was carried out in dramatic fashion by ABW forces inside the headquarters of the Ministry of National Defense, centrally located on Polish capital Warsaw’s Independence Avenue. This claim, which was later confirmed by ABW spokesman Lieut. Col. Maciej Karczyński, likely signifies that the spy suspect was captured in the act of espionage, following an extensive surveillance operation. Relations between Poland and Russia have been tense since the end of the Cold War, with several intelligence-related incidents making news headlines. In early 2010, the Polish government announced the arrest of a Russian resident of Warsaw, who was accused of working as a non-official-cover operative for Russia’s Main Intelligence Directory (GRU). Later that year, Polish media claimed that Stefan Zielonka, a senior SIGINT officer with Poland’s Military Intelligence Services (SWW), who disappeared without trace in early May of 2009, had defected to Russia. Read more of this post

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

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)

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