South Korean court convicts ex-spy director of interfering in elections

Won Sei-hoonBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
A former director of South Korea’s intelligence agency has been convicted in court of directing intelligence officers to post online criticisms of liberal politicians during a presidential election campaign. Won Sei-hoon headed South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) from 2008 to 2013, during the administration of conservative President Lee Myung-bak. Since his replacement in the leadership of NIS, Won has faced charges of having ordered a group of NIS officers to “flood the Internet” with messages accusing liberal political candidates of being “North Korean sympathizers”. Prosecutors alleged that Won initiated the Internet-based psychological operation because he was convinced that “leftist adherents of North Korea” were on their way to “regaining power” in the South. The illegal operation took place during the 2012 presidential election campaign, which was principally fought by Moon Jae-in, of the liberal-left Democratic Party, and Park Geun-hye, of the conservative Saenuri party. Park eventually won the election and is currently serving South Korea’s eleventh President. The court heard that a secret team of NIS officers had posted nearly 1.5 million messages on social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, in an effort to garner support for the Saenuri party candidate in the election. On Thursday, a court in Seoul sentenced Won to two and a half years in prison, which was much shorter than the maximum five-year penalty he was facing if found guilty. In reading out its decision, the court said on Thursday that “direct interference [by the NIS] with the free expression of ideas by the people with the aim of creating a certain public opinion cannot be tolerated under any pretext”. The new jail conviction comes right after the defendant completed a 14-month sentence stemming from charges of accepting bribes in return for helping a private company acquire government contracts. Read more of this post

Panama tries to block extradition of Colombia’s former spy chief

Ana BelfonBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Senior government officials in Panama continue to shelter one of Colombia’s notorious former spy chiefs, who is wanted in Colombia for spying on opposition figures. María del Pilar Hurtado directed the highly disreputable Administrative Department for Security (DAS) from 2007 to 2009. But on October 31, 2010, she left Colombia, apparently unobstructed, despite being a chief subject in a high-level investigation into political spying by DAS. Hours later, she surfaced in Panama, where she formally requested political asylum. The latter was granted to her on November 19, 2010, causing the amazement of public prosecutors in Bogota, who have accused the Panamanian government of subverting Colombian justice. Hurtado is among 18 senior officials in the administration of Colombia’s former President Alvaro Uribe. Critics of DAS accuse him of authorizing a massive program of political surveillance, which targeted the former Presidents, Supreme Court judges, prominent journalists, union leaders, human rights campaigners, and even European politicians. Finally, after years of diplomatic pressure by Uribe’s successor, Panama’s supreme court ruled last week that Hurtado’s asylum had been granted to her in violation of the Panamanian constitution. It consequently ordered that her residence permit, which was granted to her under the personal authorization of Panama’s heavy-handed President, Ricardo Martinelli, would become invalid after three working days. The three working-day deadline was set to expire at 5:00 p.m. local time on Tuesday. However, shortly before the cut-off time, Panama’s Attorney General, Ana Belfon (pictured), stepped in and effectively extended Hurtado’s residence permit deadline. In a dramatic move, Belfon filed an appeal on behalf of the government, asking the Supreme Court to clarify the conditions of the former spy chief’s deportation back to Colombia. In accordance with Panamanian legal procedure, the Supreme Court’s decision to cancel Hurtado’s residence permit is now suspended and the Colombian former spymaster will continue to enjoy the Panamanian government’s protection until the Supreme Court responds to the Attorney General’s appeal. Read more of this post

South Korean ex-spy chief jailed for accepting bribes

Won Sei-hoonBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
One of the most powerful figures in South Korea’s intelligence establishment has been sentenced to prison for accepting bribes in return for helping a private company acquire government contracts. Won Sei-hoon headed South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) from 2008 to 2013, during the administration of President Lee Myung-bak. The once supremely powerful organization, founded in 1961 as the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, was intimately involved in the murky South Korean politics of the Cold War era, during which the country’s political life was dominated by bloody military coups and political repression. In the late 1980s, a process of democratization began in the NIS, and in recent years many intelligence observers believed that the agency had managed to shed its controversial reputation. On Wednesday, however, a court in South Korean capital Seoul sentenced Won to two years in prison for receiving kickbacks from the private sector while heading the NIS. Won was accused of having taken over $150,000 from Hwang Bo-yeon, former director of Hwangbo Construction, in exchange for lobbying the government to award construction contracts to the company. Regular readers of this blog will recall that Won is also standing accused of having meddled in the 2012 Presidential Election. According to the official indictment in the case, Won is said to have ordered a group of NIS officers to “flood the Internet” with messages accusing liberal political candidates of being “North Korean sympathizers”. Prosecutors allege that Won initiated the Internet-based psychological operation because he was convinced that “leftist adherents of North Korea” were on their way to “regaining power” in the South. Read more of this post

Files reveal names of Americans targeted by NSA during Vietnam War

NSA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The names of several prominent Americans, who were targeted by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) during the height of the protests against the Vietnam War, have been revealed in declassified documents. The controversial communications interception operation, known as Project MINARET, was publicly acknowledged in the mind-1970s, during Congressional inquiries into the Watergate affair. We know that MINARET was conducted by the NSA between 1967 and 1973, and that it targeted over a thousand American citizens. Many believe that MINARET was in violation of the Agency’s charter, which expressly prevents it from spying on Americans. But despite the media attention MINARET received during the Watergate investigations, the names of those targeted under the program were kept secret until Wednesday, when the project’s target list was declassified by the US government. The declassification decision was sparked by a Freedom of Information Request filed by George Washington University’s National Security Archive. The two Archive researchers who filed the declassification request, William Burr and Matthew Aid, said MINARET appears to have targeted many prominent Americans who openly criticized America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The reason for the surveillance was that US President Lyndon Johnson, who authorized the operation, was convinced that antiwar protests were promoted and/or supported by elements outside the US. The newly declassified documents show that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a major surveillance target of the government. Read more of this post

CIA kept file on American academic Noam Chomsky, say experts

Noam Chomsky in 1970By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A 1970 communiqué between two United States government agencies appears to show that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) kept a file on the iconic American linguist and political dissident Noam Chomsky. Widely seen as a pioneer of modern linguistics, Chomsky adopted an uncompromisingly critical stance against the US’ involvement in the Vietnam War in the early 1960s. The US Intelligence Community’s systematic surveillance of antiwar and civil rights activists at the time prompted legal scholars and historians to deduce that Chomsky’s activities must have been routinely spied on by the American government. But a number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in recent years turned up blank, with the CIA stating that it could “not locate any records” responsive to the requests. Scholars insisted, however, and a recent FOIA request unearthed what appears to be proof that the CIA did in fact compile a file on the dissident academic. The request was submitted to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) by attorney Kel McClanahan, executive director of National Security Counselors, a group specializing in “lawfully acquiring from the government material related to national security matters and distributing it to the public”. According to Foreign Policy magazine blog The Cable, McClanahan’s FOIA request revealed a memorandum sent from the CIA to the FBI on June 8, 1970. In it, the Agency seeks information about an upcoming trip by American antiwar activists to North Vietnam, which, according to the CIA, had received the “endorsement of Noam Chomsky”. The memo also asks the FBI for information on the trip’s participants, including Professor Chomsky. The Cable spoke to Marquette University Professor Athan Theoharis, domestic surveillance expert and author of Spying on Americans, who opined that the CIA request for information on Chomsky amounts to an outright confirmation that the Agency kept a file on the dissident academic. Read more of this post

S. Korea parliament probes spy agency’s elections meddling

Won Sei-hoonBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A parliamentary probe began last week into whether South Korea’s main intelligence agency tried to steer voters away from the liberal candidate during the 2012 presidential election. The country’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) is accused of having deliberately leaked a classified document in order to embarrass the late South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, who was also a member of the liberal Uri Party (now Democratic Party) of South Korea. IntelNews readers will recall that Won Sei-hoon, who headed NIS from 2008 to 2013, was recently indicted for meddling in the 2012 Presidential Election. According to the indictment, Won ordered a group of NIS officers to “flood the Internet” with messages accusing DP candidates of being “North Korean sympathizers”. Prosecutors allege that Won initiated the Internet-based psychological operation because he was convinced that “leftist adherents of North Korea” were on their way to “regaining power” in the South. The NIS affair has gripped South Korea’s media headlines for months, but fuel was added to the fire in June, when the NIS “mistakenly” declassified an internal document describing a series of secret North-South Korean negotiations. The document, from 2007, shows that the then-President of Korea, Roh Moo-hyun, from the Uri Party, had proposed to North Korean officials the establishment of a “maritime peace zone” along the disputed border between the two nations. Liberal politicians allege that, according to South Korean declassification laws, the document should have remained secret for many decades, and accuse the NIS of deliberately leaking it in order to promote the image of South Korean liberals as “North Korean sympathizers”. Meanwhile, another senior South Korean security official, former Seoul metropolitan police chief Kim Yong-pan, has also been indicted for allegedly hampering a police investigation into Won’s internet campaign. This series of apparently interlinked events is now at center stage in the parliamentary probe, as rival parties prepare to clash over the allegations. Read more of this post

S. Korea’s spy agency accused of politicization, ‘dividing country’

Won Sei-hoonBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
South Korea’s main opposition party has accused the country’s intelligence agency of acting as a “political provocateur”, “championing conservative causes” and promoting partisanship among the electorate. Lawmakers from the liberal Democratic Party (DP) of South Korea were reacting to allegations last week that the country’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) deliberately leaked a classified document in order to embarrass former South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. IntelNews readers will recall that, earlier this year, Won Sei-hoon, who headed NIS from 2008 to 2013, was indicted for meddling in the 2012 Presidential Election. According to the indictment, Won ordered a group of NIS officers to “flood the Internet” with messages accusing DP candidates of being “North Korean sympathizers”. Prosecutors allege that Won initiated the Internet-based psychological operation because he was convinced that “leftist adherents of North Korea” were on their way to “regaining power” in the South. If Won, who has since resigned from his NIS post, is found guilty, he faces sentencing of up to five years in prison. Won’s indictment has increased tensions between the DP and the conservative Saenuri Party, which is currently in power in Seoul, and is believed to have strong ties with NIS executive circles. The NIS is supposed to be politically nonpartisan, though its history is highly controversial. Democratization within the NIS only began in the late 1980s, as South Korean politics gradually emerged from a Cold War period dominated by bloody rightwing military coups. This past June, as the country continued to deliberate the 2012 Internet postings affair, the NIS “mistakenly” declassified an internal document describing a series of secret North-South Korean negotiations. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #821 (civil liberties edition)

Bernard SquarciniBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►French domestic spy chief cleared of snooping charges. Back in October of 2011, intelNews reported that Bernard Squarcini, who then headed France’s domestic intelligence agency, the DCRI, had been charged with spying on a journalist with the daily Le Monde. The accusation was part of a wider case of domestic snooping, in which Squarcini was believed to have been trying to detect the source of government leaks to the press, allegedly on orders by then-President Nicolas Sarkozy. Earlier this month, however, an appeals court in Paris rejected two of three charges against the former DCRI chief. Squarcini could face up to five years in prison if convicted of the remaining charge.
►►FBI documents termed Occupy movement as ‘terrorism’. A number of heavily redacted US government documents, released following a Freedom of Information Act request, reveal that the FBI organized a nationwide law enforcement investigation and monitoring of the Occupy Wall Street movement beginning in August of 2011. In some documents, the FBI refers to the Occupy Wall Street protests as a “criminal activity” and “domestic terrorism”.
►►Wiretapping by Russian spy agencies doubled in five years. Wiretapping by Russia’s intelligence agencies has nearly doubled over the past five years, according to The Moscow Times. In Western countries, intelligence agencies were given wider powers after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But in Russia, the exponential growth of wiretapping began after 2007, when terrorism by Islamic-inspired separatists was already on the decline. A federal law passed in 2010 expanded the legal grounds for wiretapping Russian citizens. Now, intelligence officers can wiretap someone’s phones or monitor their Internet activity simply because they allegedly received reports that an individual is preparing to commit a crime.

Illegal spy agency operated in West Germany, new book claims

Willy BrandtBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Conservative politicians in Cold-War West Germany set up an illegal domestic intelligence agency in order to spy on their political rivals, a forthcoming book claims. In Destroy After Reading: The Secret Intelligence Service of the CDU and CSU, German journalist Stefanie Waske exposes what she says was an elaborate plot to undermine West Germany’s rapprochement with Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe. The book, which is scheduled for publication in February of 2013, claims that the illegal intelligence agency, known as ‘the Little Service’, was set up by politicians from Germany’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its sister organization, the Christian Social Union of Bavaria (CSU). The two parties allegedly founded ‘the Little Service’ in 1969, in response to the election of Willy Brandt as German Chancellor in 1969. Brandt, who was leader of the center-left Social Democratic Party of Germany (SDP), was elected based on a program of normalizing West Germany’s relations with Eastern Europe. Under this policy, which became known as ‘Neue Ostpolitik’ (‘new eastern policy’), Brandt radically transformed West German foreign policy on Eastern Europe. In 1970, just months after his election, he signed an extensive peace agreement with the Soviet Union, known as the Treaty of Moscow, which was followed later that year by the so-called Treaty of Warsaw. Under the latter agreement, West Germany officially recognized the existence and borders of the People’s Republic of Poland. Brandt’s Neue Ostpolitik, which continued until the end of his tenure in the Chancellery in 1974, earned him the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to achieve reconciliation between West Germany and the countries of the Soviet bloc, primarily East Germany. But Brandt’s policy of rapprochement alarmed the CDU/CSU coalition, says Waske, which quickly set up ‘the Little Service’ by enlisting former members of Germany’s intelligence community. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #672

Osama bin LadenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►CIA claims bin Laden death photos would trigger violence. The Central Intelligence Agency says releasing images of a dead Osama bin Laden “could trigger violence, attacks, or acts of revenge against the United States”. Disclosing such images, including one showing the bullet wound to bin Laden’s head, the government said, “plausibly and logically pose a particularly grave threat of inflaming anti-American sentiment and resulting in retaliatory harm”. The agency made that argument Wednesday in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch, which claims the CIA should release the photos taken by US forces. The American public, Judicial Watch said, has a “right to these historical artifacts”.
►►Kuwait accused of tapping phones of prominent citizens. According to the report published in Kuwaiti media, the country’s State Security Department purchased an integrated intelligence system from a former Soviet country last year, and placed it in a restricted zone inside the headquarters’ building. But last July, everything in the isolated room, including staff members hired specifically to operate the devices, vanished without an explanation, said sources. An investigation is currently ongoing to unearth the mystery behind the devices’ disappearance, and also examine information which hint that the devices could have been used by a certain unnamed individual to spy on prominent Kuwaitis.
►►Did US FDA spy on whistleblowers? The US Food and Drug Administration electronically spied on whistleblowers who alerted the Obama administration and Congress of alleged misconduct in the agency, according to a complaint filed in a US federal court. Named as defendants in the lawsuit are the FDA and several of its employees, the Surgeon General, the Health and Human Services Secretary, among others.

News you may have missed #676

Diego MurilloBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►US admits Pakistani doctor was CIA agent. The United States has confirmed publicly for the first time that a Pakistani doctor long suspected of collecting vital evidence before the assassination of Osama bin Laden was indeed working for the CIA. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has told 60 Minutes on CBS that Shakil Afridi helped provide proof that the compound in Abbottabad, to which they had tracked a Bin Laden courier, was indeed sheltering the al-Qaeda leader. Panetta also told 60 Minutes that he remains convinced that someone in the Pakistani government “must have had some sense” that a person of interest was in the compound. He added that he has no proof that Pakistan knew it was bin Laden.
►►Czech secret services accused of political spying. The Czech government “spies on” the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM), Miroslav Grebenicek, its former leader, said in a parliamentary question to Prime Minister Petr Necas. Grebenicek said he had recently received information that the Interior Ministry and some intelligence bodies were “tasked to spying on the KSCM or to incite for, organize and execute the shadowing of the KSCM”. Necas dismissed the allegation, saying that the government does not shadow any party.
►►Colombian paramilitaries protected by spy agency. Colombia’s rightwing paramilitary organization AUC received the support of the country’s now-defunct intelligence agency DAS. The group also helped the government of former President Alvaro Uribe in a conspiracy to discredit the country’s Supreme Court that was investigating ties between the paramilitaries and politicians, according to official testimony by senior AUC commander Diego Murillo, alias “Don Berna”.

News you may have missed #675

Eugene ForseyBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US ‘has engaged in cyberwarfare’. Former National Security Agency Director Mike McConnell said in an interview with Reuters that the United States has already used cyber attacks against an adversary. Most believe he was referring to Stuxnet, the computer virus unleashed against Iran in 2010.
►►Philippines studying US offer to deploy spy planes. The Philippines is considering a US proposal to deploy surveillance aircraft on a temporary, rotating basis to enhance its ability to guard disputed areas in the South China Sea, the Philippine defense minister said last week. The effort to expand military ties between the United States and the Philippines, which voted to remove huge American naval and air bases 20 years ago, occurs as both countries grapple with the growing assertiveness of China.
►►Canadian intelligence spied on constitutional expert. Canadian security forces kept close tabs on renowned constitutional scholar Eugene Forsey from his early days as a left-wing academic to his stint as a senator, according to newly declassified documents. The collection of more than 400 pages, which has been obtained by Canadian newspaper The Toronto Star, reveals the RCMP Security Service (the predecessor to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service), followed Forsey for four decades throughout his career as an economics professor, research director for the Canadian Congress of Labour (now called the Canadian Labour Congress), a two-time Ottawa-area candidate for the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation and then his 1970 appointment as a Liberal senator. No surprises here.

Revealed: German spy agency monitors leftwing politicians

Die Linke's Gregor GysiBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Well over a third of leftwing German parliamentarians are currently being monitored by the country’s domestic intelligence agency, according to a government report released on Sunday. Germany’s quality newsmagazine Der Spiegel has cited an internal document from the Ministry of the Interior, which states that 27 of the Left Party’s 76 members of parliament are currently “being observed” by the authorities. The document, which is dated January 4, 2012, also reveals that the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV, Germany’s primary domestic spy organization) is keeping tabs on another 11 Left Party elected officials serving in regional parliaments. The document does not name the 27 parliamentarians, but the list is believed to include the Left Party’s leading political figures. The party, known in Germany as Die Linke, is one of the country’s largest, having received nearly 12% of the national vote in the 2009 federal elections. It was established in 2007, after the Electoral Alternative for Labor and Social Justice party merged with the Party of Democratic Socialism —the successor of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, which ruled East Germany until 1989. The party’s electoral stronghold rests in the regions of the former East Germany, while some of the party’s older members held senior government positions under East Germany’s communist system. For this reason, some in Germany view the Left Party as an extremist organization —a characterization that presumably forms the rationale for the BfV’s monitoring operation. On the other hand, some critics raise concerns that, even if some Die Linke members have links with the former East German security establishment, the BfV operation against the party is too intense, and that more attention should instead be given to German neo-Nazi groups, such as the National Democratic Party (NPD). Read more of this post

News you may have missed #667

Bob RaeBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Canadian authorities spied on political leader. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police spied on Bob Rae, current leader of Canada’s Liberal Party, when he was a student, and likely amassed a personal dossier on him, newly declassified documents reveal. Really, is there anyone in Canada who has not been spied on by the RCMP?
►►US intel community says Taliban want Afghanistan back. The Associated Press cites “two current and one former US official” who said anonymously that the classified Afghan National Intelligence Estimate declares the Afghanistan War “at a stalemate“, and says NATO security gains are “far outweighed by corruption at all levels of Afghan government”.
►►Canadian naval officer charged with espionage. A member of the Royal Canadian Navy has become the first person charged under the country’s post-9/11 secrets law for allegedly passing protected government information to an unknown foreign body. Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Paul Delisle, 40, was charged Monday under the Security of Information Act, which came into effect in 2001.

News you may have missed #660

Margaret ThatcherBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Taiwan President accused of spying on political opponents. Taiwan’s opposition challenger for the presidency, Tsai Ing-wen, has accused intelligence services under the control of incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou of tracking her campaign events for political advantage. The allegations – unproven and denied by Ma – conjure up memories of Taiwan’s one-party past when Ma’s party, the Nationalists, used their total control of the state apparatus to persecute opponents.
►►Analysis: Has Israeli-Australian spy relationship been restored? Intelligence sharing between Israel and Australia was halted this time last year, when a Mossad hit squad with forged Australian passports assassinated senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in in Dubai. But Australian newspaper The Age reports that “the flow of top secret intelligence between the two countries has now been restored”, in a move apparently initiated by the Australian side.
►►Thatcher threatened to ban BBC program on MI5 and MI6. The Conservative government of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher threatened to “veto” a BBC investigative program about British intelligence services MI5 and MI6, because it would reveal details about how they operated and question their public accountability. In a letter marked “top secret and personal”, cabinet secretary Sir Robert Armstrong, recommended that Margaret Thatcher consider invoking the rarely used power, saying that “the government has the power to ban any program”. Thatcher wrote on the note: “I would be prepared to use the veto”.

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