News you may have missed #892 (legislative update)

Jens MadsenBy IAN ALLEN |
►►Canadian lawmakers vote to expand spy powers. Legislation that would dramatically expand the powers of Canada’s spy agency has cleared a key hurdle. The House of Commons on Wednesday approved the Anti-Terror Act, which was spurred by last year’s attack on parliament. The act would give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s (CSIS) the ability to operate overseas and make preventative arrests. It also makes it easier for police to arrest and detain individuals without charge. Dominated by the Conservative party, the Senate is expected to approve the act before June.
►►Danish spy chief resigns over Islamist attacks. The head of Denmark’s Police Intelligence Service (PET), Jens Madsen, quit just hours before a report was due to be released into February’s fatal shootings in Copenhagen by an Islamist. Omar El-Hussein killed two people at a free speech debate and a synagogue before being shot dead by police. “It’s no secret that it is a very demanding position,” said Madsen, without giving a reason for his resignation. Justice Minister Mette Frederiksen declined to say whether the move was linked to criticisms of the police response to the attack.
►►OSCE urges France to reconsider controversial spying bill. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe urged French lawmakers to reconsider provisions of a proposed law that would expand government surveillance, a measure that was backed by French parliamentarians on Tuesday, despite criticism from rights groups. “If enforced, these practices will impact the right of journalists to protect the confidentiality of sources and their overall work”, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic said Wednesday. “If confidentiality of sources is not safeguarded within a trusted communications environment, the right of journalists to seek and obtain information of public interest would be seriously endangered”, he added

In surprise move, Turkey’s spy chief cancels plans to run for office

The director of the all-powerful Turkish intelligence service, who resigned his post last month in order to run for parliament, has surprised observers by announcing his return to his previous duties saying he had a change of heart. Hakan Fidan has been in charge of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) since 2010, when he was personally appointed to the position by then Prime Minister and current President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Following his appointment, he personally supervised operations against political enemies of Erdoğan, who is widely seen as his mentor and close political ally. Early last February, Fidan, a mysterious figure who rarely speaks to the media, announced his resignation as director of MİT in order to run for parliament in June. His move was immediately hailed by the Justice and Development Party, which represents Erdoğan, as well as Turkey’s current Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu.

On Monday, however, Fidan surprised political observers by stating that he had decided not to enter politics after all, and was returning to the post of MİT director, effective immediately. The Turkish strongman’s change of heart appears to have come despite a public approval of his earlier decision to resign his MİT post, from Prime Minister Davutoğlu. Some observers claim that the surprise U-turn may reflect a widening split within the Justice and Development Party, between the prime minister and President Erdoğan, who first appointed Fidan to MİT’s helm back in 2010. Commenting on Fidan’s resignation last month, Erdoğan had signaled displeasure with the move, saying that Fidan “should have stayed [at MİT] instead of leaving without permission”. There are rumors in Ankara that Fidan’s U-turn came after considerable pressure from the pro-Erdoğan faction in the Justice and Development Party. The latter did not approve of Fidan’s resignation from MİT, believing that the spy chief is more needed in helping strike a peace treaty with Turkey’s disaffected Kurdish population. However, Davutoğlu’s people in the party believed that Fidan could add to the political prestige of their electoral campaign.

Does Fidan’s sudden return to MİT signal a widening tactical fragmentation within the Justice and Development Party? Davutoğlu told reporters on Monday that rumors of a division had been invented by the media, and that he and Erdoğan continue to “always consult” each other. Meanwhile the media-shy MİT chief declined to speak publicly about his decision, and instead issued a brief statement that said he had come to the conclusion that it was “necessary” to resume his previous post.

Luxembourg government resigns following spy scandal

Jean-Claude JunckerBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
The prime minister of Luxembourg announced his intent to resign on Thursday, after a parliamentary investigation revealed scores of illegal operations conducted by the country’s intelligence service. Jean-Claude Juncker, a longtime member of Luxembourg’s Christian Social People’s Party, is Europe’s longest-serving elected leader, having been in power constantly since 1995. But on Wednesday, the astute center-right politician, who is also President of the Eurogroup —the eurozone’s finance ministers’ group— announced on Wednesday that he would step down, following seven hours of heated debate in the Luxembourg parliament. Juncker announced his intention to resign after the junior partner of his governing coalition, the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party, which is the country’s second-largest, said it could no longer lend its support to the government. The reason is a parliamentary inquiry, which found that the country’s State Intelligence Service (SREL) has been engaging in serious criminal activity. The investigation was launched last year, after a local newspaper alleged that SREL’s Director, Marco Mille, had employed a surreptitious recording device disguised as a watch to record a private conversation with Prime Minister Junkcer. The parliamentary inquiry, which was released last week, found that SREL has been carrying out countless illegal wiretaps around the country and that it maintains detailed secret files on over 13,000 citizens and residents of Luxembourg. The report also alleges that SREL had set up a front company in order to facilitate the transfer of $10 million from a corrupt Russian businessman to a Spanish intelligence operative, as a personal favor to the Russian. The report did not confirm allegations, made in the country’s press, that the Grand Duke of Luxembourg has been a trusted informant of MI6, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service. Read more of this post

Opinion: When Did Obama Know About CIA Director’s Affair?

David Petraeus and Paula BroadwellBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
The standard reaction to last week’s resignation of Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus, following the revelation of his extramarital affair, has been stunned silence. Not so much because of the affair itself —what is one more affair in the slippery world of Washington politics?— but because it involved the eminent figure of Petraeus. Former aides to the retired General have been confiding to journalists that “never in a million years” would they have thought that the high-achieving CIA Director would have risked his career and reputation in such a reckless fashion. Many thought that the relationship between him and his biographer, Paula Broadwell, had grown suspiciously close in recent years; but Petraeus had a general way of seeming beyond reproach.

It is worth pointing out that much of this unfolding story is so far based on hearsay, as opposed to concrete, verifiable information. It is suggested that Petraeus’ extramarital tryst was accidentally discovered by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who were looking into a seemingly unrelated case. Some news outlets, mostly in the UK, suggest that a female employee of the US military’s Joint Special Operations Command contacted the FBI after receiving threatening messages from Broadwell, warning her to “stay away from [her] man” —allegedly Petraeus. While investigating the Gmail account from which the threatening messages were allegedly sent, the FBI allegedly discovered “thousands” of messages exchanged between the CIA Director and Broadwell, some of which were sexually explicit. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #810 (Petraeus resignation edition)

David PetraeusBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
►►How did Petraeus’ affair come to light? CIA Director David Petraeus resigned after a probe into whether someone else was using his email. The probe eventually led to the discovery that he was having an extramarital affair, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cites “several people briefed on the matter”. An FBI inquiry into the use of Petraeus’s Gmail account led agents to believe the woman or someone close to her had sought access to his email. An extramarital affair has significant implications for an official in a highly sensitive post, such as that held by Petraeus, because it can open an official to blackmail.
►►Who did Petraeus have an affair with? The woman with whom General David Petraeus was having an affair is Paula Broadwell, a West Point graduate and the author of a recent hagiographic book about him, entitled All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, co-written with Vernon Loeb. Slate‘s Fred Kaplan reports that “it had long been rumored that something was going on between Petraeus and Broadwell. When she was embedded with him in Afghanistan, they went on frequent 5-mile runs together. But Petraeus went on 5-mile runs with many reporters, and few people who knew him took the rumors seriously”.
►►Who is leading the CIA now? With General David Petraeus stepping down as director of the CIA, following reports of an extra-marital affair, the agency’s current deputy director will take over as director on an interim basis. His name is Michael Morell, and he was a senior CIA aide in the White House to President George W. Bush. Morell had served as deputy director since May 2010, after holding a number of senior roles, including director for the agency’s analytical arm, which helps feed intelligence into the President’s Daily Brief. He also worked as an aide to former CIA Director George Tenet.

Canadian reporter says Chinese news agency asked him to spy

A longtime Canadian journalist says he resigned his post at China’s state-run news agency after he was asked to use his press-pass privileges to spy on a prominent Tibetan separatist leader. Mark Bourrie, an Ottawa-based reporter and author of several books, told The Canadian Press news agency that he was first approached by Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua in 2009. The veteran journalist was allegedly told by Xinhua officials that the agency planned to expand its news coverage of Canada and wished to compete with other international news services active in North America. Bourrie said that, upon joining Xinhua, he began to cover “routine political subjects”; gradually, however, his superiors started making “some unusual requests”. In one characteristic case, he was asked to report on the identities and contact information of political activists who had participated in legal protests against the visit to Canada of Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2010. Bourrie says he rebuffed such requests, because they did not seem to him to have journalistic value. In April of this year, Xinhua’s bureau chief in Ottawa, Dacheng Zhang, allegedly asked Bourrie to attend a keynote speech by the 14th Dalai Lama at the Sixth World Parliamentarians’ Convention on Tibet, which was held at the Ottawa Conference Center. Based in India, the Dalai Lama is the most prominent international figure of the movement for the independence of the Tibet Autonomous Region, which has been ruled by the People’s Republic of China since 1951. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #734

Aviv KochaviBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►Australian spy agency in rent dispute. The Australian government insists there is no dispute over the lease of the new, state-of-the-art headquarters of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, which cost nearly A$589 to build. But according to a number of government sources, the property has become the subject of a standoff between the ASIO and Australia’s Department of Finance and Deregulation. The Canberra Times reports that the Finance Department has told ASIO it will have to hand over more money than anticipated because of a blowout to building costs and timing. But the ASIO is refusing to pay more than initially agreed.
►►US unveils spy model of bin Laden compound. The United States intelligence community has unveiled a scale model of the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden spent the last few years of his life in hiding. The model was built by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGIA) and used by military and intelligence leaders to plan the daring night raid on May 2, 2011, that killed the al Qaeda founder. Its scale is an exact 1:84; every tree, bush, wall, animal pen, trash can and physical structure in the model existed at one time at the original compound in Abbottabad.
►►Israel military intelligence head in secret US visit. Israeli military intelligence chief Aviv Kochavi made a “secret visit” to Washington earlier this month to discuss the upcoming talks between world powers and Iran. An Israeli security official confirmed the visit, which was reported in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, but could not provide further details. Meanwhile, three senior IDF intelligence officers resigned recently, following what they called “questionable” appointments to key positions. The three colonels held some of the most senior and classified positions in the Israeli military intelligence community.


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