Luxembourg government resigns following spy scandal

Jean-Claude JunckerBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
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

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

David Petraeus and Paula BroadwellBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
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 | intelNews.org |
►►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

Mark BourrieBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
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 | intelNews.org |
►►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.

News you may have missed #673

John KiriakouBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Canada arrest shows spy times have changed in Russia. There are aspects of the spy case of Canadian Sub-Lt. Jeffery Delisle that differ substantially from spy cases dating back to Cold War espionage waged by the now-defunct Soviet system. As a sign of changing times, the Russian media has acknowledged Delisle was allegedly spying for them —something that would never be admitted in Soviet times when the KGB and GRU were in ascendency.
►►US court upholds S. Korean ex-spy’s asylum ruling. Kim Ki-sam, who left South Korea’s state spy agency in 2000, applied for asylum in the US in 2003, saying he would face persecution and prosecution if he was forced to return to South Korea because he had revealed information about secret operations to help then-President Kim Dae-jung win the Nobel Peace Prize. A US court has now upheld a 2008 ruling to grant him political asylum.
►►Kiriakou’s wife resigns from CIA. Heather Kiriakou, who has served as a top analyst at the Agency, resigned Tuesday amid accounts that she had been pressured to step down after her husband —John Kiriakou, a former agency employee— was charged with leaking classified information to the press. Two sources in direct contact with the Kiriakous told The Washington Post that Heather had submitted her resignation under pressure from superiors at the CIA.

News you may have missed #672

Janne KristiansenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Russian military intelligence to ‘change tactics’. Russian military intelligence is adjusting its work methods in response to the “worsening international situation”, Igor Sergun, the head of GRU —the country’s largest espionage agency— has told President Dmitry Medvedev. Currently, the GRU’s main focus is on “hot spots where terrorist and extremist groups are acting, regions with crisis situations, and also the sources and possible routes of illegal proliferation of nuclear materials and the components of weapons of mass destruction”, Sergun told Medvedev.
►►Norway spy chief quits in secrecy gaffe. Norway’s head of intelligence Janne Kristiansen has handed in her resignation because she said too much during a parliamentary hearing. According to a transcript, Ms Kristiansen, who until now headed the country’s Police Security Service (PST), told the hearing that Norway had agents working in Pakistan. According to reports Pakistan has asked the government of Norway to explain Kristiansen’s remarks.
►►Review of Australia’s spy community released. Public findings of the first independent review of Australia’s intelligence community in eight years were released on January 25. The 2011 Independent Review of the Intelligence Community acknowledges and justifies the Australian spy agencies’ unprecedented growth since September 11, which saw some agencies increasing their funding almost 500 per cent in a decade. Meanwhile, David Irvine, Director of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, said in a rare public talk that future Australian spies would be recruited “from within our newly arrived migrant communities”.

Al Jazeera director resigns amidst ‘US intelligence links’ row

Wadah Khanfar

Wadah Khanfar

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The senior executive of the Middle East’s most recognizable news television network has resigned following revelations that he met with American intelligence officials and complied with their requests to alter the content of news reports. A brief news report  posted today on the Al Jazeera website said that Wadah Khanfar, the news network’s Palestinian-born director, had announced his resignation, eight years after assuming the station’s leadership. In a public statement, Khanfar, whose brother is a Hamas activist in the Gaza Strip, said that Al Jazeera “stands as a mature organization” and that he is “confident that [the station] will continue to maintain its trailblazing path”. But he did not mention the incident that might have led to his resignation: namely the recent revelation that he was in constant contact with US intelligence officials during much of his executive career, and that he agreed to alter the content of some Al Jazeera news reports at their request. According to American diplomatic cables leaked by whistleblower website WikiLeaks, Khanfar came in contact with officials from the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA, the Pentagon’s premier spy organization) through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar —the Gulf country that owns and operates Al Jazeera. The leaked cables mention that the Palestinian-born executive attended several meetings with DIA personnel in Doha, Qatar, and even agreed to “remove” news content when requested to do so. In one instance, he reportedly directed his editorial staff to remove strong images of injured Iraqi children lying on hospital beds and of a woman with extensive facial injuries. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #500

Analysis: Russian-Czech spy scandals show new direction in Russian espionage

ÚZSI seal

ÚZSI seal

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Last July saw the resignations of three Czech Generals, including the head of the president’s military office and the country’s representative to NATO, following revelations that one of their senior staffers had a relationship with a Russian spy.  Intelligence observers have become accustomed to frequent reports of Russian-Czech spy scandals in recent years. But, according to reports from Prague, recent Russian intelligence activity in the Czech Republic may indicate a change of direction by Moscow. Some say that Russia’s new espionage doctrine focuses less on military intelligence in the post-US-missile-shield strategic environment, and more on political and economic espionage. To be sure, Russia’s intelligence presence in the Czech capital remains substantial: Czech counterintelligence sources estimate that at least 60 –that is, one in three– Russian diplomats in Prague are engaged in intelligence-related activities. But the intensity of Russian espionage in Prague is not unique. Read more of this post

Analysis: Axing of US DNI points to structural issues

Dennis Blair

Dennis Blair

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Although few American intelligence observers were astonished by last week’s involuntary resignation of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the silence by the White House on the subject has raised quite a few eyebrows in Washington. Admiral Dennis C. Blair, who became DNI in January of 2009, announced his resignation on Friday. Blair’s announcement came after a prolonged period of controversy, which included bitter infighting with the CIA, and culminated with the recent partial publication of a report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which blamed “systemic failures across the Intelligence Community” for the so-called Christmas bomb plot of last December. The problem is that Admiral Blair’s replacement will be the fourth DNI in five years, after John Negroponte, Mike McConnell and Blair himself. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #335

  • Leading al-Qaeda expert to leave FBI. J. Philip Mudd, one of the US intelligence community’s leading al-Qaeda analysts, has quietly retired from the FBI, where he was the National Security Branch’s associate executive director. He will be replaced by 23-year FBI veteran Sean Joyce.
  • Three more domestic spying programs revealed. The US Department of Homeland Security has acknowledged the existence of three more government programs charged with spying on American citizens in the aftermath of 9/11. The programs, Pantheon, Pathfinder and Organizational Shared Space, used a variety of software tools to gather and analyze information about Americans.
  • NSA Utah facility contractors shortlisted. We have mentioned before that for contractors in northern Utah, where the NSA is preparing to build a million-square-foot facility, at Camp Williams, it’s party time. Five of them, including three from Utah, have now been shortlisted by the government.

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News you may have missed #331

  • CIA deputy director to step down. The Agency has denied it for months, but now the longtime rumor that its powerful deputy director, Stephen R. Kappes, was planning to resign has came true. Jeff Stein reports that “recently, grumbling about Kappes from within the CIA and without, on issues ranging from his nit-picking management style to his ties to the old order, has gotten louder. And now, apparently, Kappes has heard enough”.
  • US eyes cash deal for Kyrgyzstan base. How will the recent coup in Kyrgyzstan affect US-Kyrgyz arrangements on the Manas Air Base? A lot will depend on oil purchase deals between the US military and Kyrgyz autocrats.
  • Court case may reveal IRA spy’s role. Freddie Scappaticci, an IRA spy alleged to be the British army agent ‘Stakeknife’ could be forced into court by the wife of another IRA informer, who claims she suffered nervous breakdown after being kidnapped by him.

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News you may have missed #0268

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Lithuania’s spy chief resigns over secret CIA prison probe

Malakauskas

Malakauskas

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The director of Lithuania’s intelligence service unexpectedly resigned on Monday, reportedly in connection with a parliamentary investigation into a reputed CIA secret prison site in the country. IntelNews regulars will remember that last November ABC News cited CIA officials in alleging that the Lithuanian government provided the CIA with an unmarked building located in Lithuanian capital Vilnius, with the understanding that it would be used as a so-called black site for secretly detaining high-value al-Qaeda suspects. Lithuanian government officials denied the allegation, but promised to set up a high-level probe into the matter. But the members of the parliamentary committee that was established to examine the ABC News revelations soon found themselves shunned by Lithuanian intelligence officials. According to the committee head, Arvydas Anusauskas, the parliamentarians were offered ambiguous answers or no answers at all by Lithuanian secret service agencies. Read more of this post

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