Taliban insurgents attack CIA station in Kabul

Afghan Presidential PalaceBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Taliban assailants launched an unprecedented attack against the presidential palace in Afghan capital Kabul on Tuesday morning, which included a targeted assault on a nearby command post of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The daring attack began at approximately 6:30 a.m. outside the eastern gate of the palace, which is located in Kabul’s downtown Shash Darak district. The heavily guarded district contains, aside from most Afghan government buildings, dozens of foreign embassies and media offices. Hundreds of Afghan and foreign officials run for cover as over a dozen explosions were heard near the headquarters of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense, which is located next door to the presidential palace. The attack reportedly began when a group of about four or five insurgents approached the palace’s eastern gate with a small track laden with explosives. As the vehicle approached the gate, the passengers jumped out and began throwing grenades, while the car exploded at the gate. Afghan security guards fled the scene and the assailants were able to enter the grounds of the presidential palace and roamed around for several minutes before they were engaged in a firefight by Afghan and North Atlantic Treaty Organization security personnel. The attackers appeared to concentrate primarily on three buildings: the presidential palace, the Ministry of Defense, and the nearby Ariana Hotel, which is widely understood to host the main CIA command post in Kabul. On Tuesday afternoon, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, told French news agency AFP that “the CIA office” in downtown Kabul was “the main target” of the assault, along with the palace and defense ministry. Read more of this post

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Afghan government blames Pakistan for attempt on spy chief’s life

Assadullah KhaledBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Afghan President and senior cabinet officials have described the recent assassination attempt against the country’s spy chief as the work of “a professional intelligence service” and said they would be asking Pakistan “for clarification”. Assadullah Khaled, who heads Afghanistan’s National Directorate for Security (NDS), survived a suicide attack last Thursday in Kabul. According to Afghan officials, Khaled was attacked by a member of the Taliban posing as a “peace emissary”, who blew himself up as he was meeting Khaled to discuss a possible peace deal with the government. Media reports suggest that the bomber had concealed explosives in his undergarments and that he was not searched out of “respect for [Afghan] traditions and hospitality”. Shortly after the attack, the Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility and said they would try to kill Khaled again. But speaking to reporters last week, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that “more professional hands” were behind the attack on Khaled. The Afghan leader described the suicide attack as a “very sophisticated and complicated act by a professional intelligence service” and said the Afghan security services “know [for] a fact” that the suicide bomber had entered the country from Pakistan. President Karzai stopped short of directly implicating the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) of directly planning the attack; but he said his government would be “seeking a lot of clarifications from Pakistan” about the bombing. Last Sunday Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Janan Musazai told reporters that Afghan officials were “100 percent sure” the suicide bomber had come to Afghanistan from the Pakistani city of Quetta. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #791

Liang GuanglieBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►India sees espionage behind Chinese cash payments to Indian pilots. According to Indian government sources, Chinese Defense Minister General Liang Guanglie gave two envelopes to the two Indian pilots, both wing commanders, who had flown him in a special Indian Air Force aircraft to New Delhi from Mumbai. After seeing off Liang, the pilots opened the sealed envelopes and found cash gifts inside. They immediately reported this to their superiors, who, in turn, informed the Indian Defense Ministry. India is now planning to lodge a protest with China over the incident.
►►NSA says foreign cyberattacks increasingly reckless. Debora Plunkett, of the secretive National Security Agency, whose responsibilities include protecting US government computer networks, has said that other nations are increasingly employing cyberattacks without “any sense of restraint”, citing “reckless” behaviors that neither the United States nor the Soviet Union would have dared at the height of Cold War tensions. She also predicted that Congress would pass long-stalled cybersecurity legislation within the next year. One wonders whether the Stuxnet incident is included in such “reckless” cyberattacks?
►►Taliban ‘using Facebook to lure Australian soldiers’. According to a review of social media by the Australian federal government, Australian soldiers are being warned by their commanders that enemies are creating fake Facebook profiles to spy on them. The report says that Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan are posing as “attractive women” on Facebook to befriend coalition soldiers and gather intelligence about operations. It adds that family and friends of soldiers are inadvertently jeopardizing missions by sharing confidential information online. This is not the first such warning in recent years.

Analysis: Nepotism, ethnic favoritism impede Afghan spy agency

NDS spokesman Lutfullah MashalBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Hundreds of Taliban insurgents were involved in the unprecedented attacks that shook the Afghan capital Kabul and several other key locations around the country last week. And yet not a single Afghan or foreign intelligence operative appeared to have the slightest idea the attacks were coming. No wonder that Afghan President Hamid Karzai was one of many government officials who openly admitted that the “infiltration in Kabul and other provinces [was] an intelligence failure for us”. But why is Afghan intelligence so notoriously unreliable? The answer to this question is complicated, but according to an excellent analysis piece published this week in The Christian Science Monitor, much of it centers on two chronic issues that permeate Afghan society: nepotism and ethnic favoritism. When one speaks of Afghan intelligence, one mainly refers to the National Directorate for Security (NDS), an institution established by the United States, and funded almost entirely by Washington. The roots of the NDS are in the Northern Alliance, the indigenous Afghan opposition to the Taliban, which fought alongside the United States during the 2001 invasion of the Central Asian country. Like most other institutions in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance is composed largely by members of a single tribe, namely Tajiks, many of whom are from Afghanistan’s Panjshir province. As a result, when Washington set up the NDS, it selected its leadership from among the Panjshir Tajiks. They, in turn, relied on their local networks to staff the newly formed organization. As a result, today around 70 percent of the NDS’ staff “hail from Panjshir or have ties with the Northern Alliance”, says The Monitor. This helps establish rapport and ethnic unity among the institution’s 30,000-strong employee community; but it has virtually eliminated the NDS’ ability to collect intelligence from among rival ethnic groups and factions, including the Haqqani Network and the nearly all-Pashtun Taliban. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #716 (analysis edition)

Mordechai VanunuBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Kabul attacks show intel failures in Afghanistan. Dozens, possibly hundreds of people would have been involved in training, equipping and then infiltrating into the heart of Kabul the large number of insurgents who were prepared to fight to a certain death in the Afghan capital last Sunday. Yet neither Afghan nor foreign intelligence operatives appeared to have any idea that an unprecedented wave of attacks was about to engulf both Kabul and several other key locations around the country. So it seems that Afghan President Hamid Karzai may have a point when he says that the “infiltration in Kabul and other provinces is an intelligence failure for us and especially for NATO and should be seriously investigated”.
►►Report claims China spies on US space technology. China is stealing US military and civilian space technology in an effort to disrupt US access to intelligence, navigation and communications satellites, according to a report authored by the State and Defense Departments. The report (.pdf) argues China should be excluded from recommendations made to the US government to ease restrictions on exports of communications and remote-sensing satellites and equipment. Chinese officials have denied the report’s allegations, calling it a “Cold War ghost”.
►►The long and sordid history of sex and espionage. Using seduction to extract valuable information is as old as the Old Testament —literally— Whether from conviction or for profit, women —and men— have traded sex for secrets for centuries. The Cold War provided plenty of opportunities for so-called “honey-pot” scandals. Perhaps the most dramatic case of seduction in recent times involved Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu. In 1986 he visited London and provided The Sunday Times with dozens of photographs of Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons program. But Mossad was on his trail and a female agent —Cheryl Ben Tov— befriended him (reportedly bumping into him at a cigarette kiosk in London’s Leicester Square). She lured him to Rome for a weekend, where he was drugged and spirited to Israel.

News you may have missed #673

Jeffrey Paul DelisleBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Israel outsources intelligence-gathering to rightwing groups. The government and military of Israel have unofficially outsourced some of their intelligence work to private organizations that monitor anti-Israel incitement in the Palestinian media and are associated with right-wing politics, according to several high-ranking government and military sources.
►►NATO report finds Pakistan spies help Taliban. The BBC says it has seen a NATO report stating that the Taliban in Afghanistan are being directly assisted by Pakistani security services. The leaked report, derived from material from 27,000 interrogations with more than 4,000 captured Taliban, al-Qaeda and other foreign fighters and civilians, also claims Pakistan knows the locations of senior Taliban leaders. The US said exactly the same thing last September.
►►Another Russian diplomat ‘leaves’ Canada. Another Russian diplomat has left Canada. Dmitry Gerasimov, a consular officer with the Russian government’s office in Toronto, left in January. He is the second diplomat that the Russian embassy in Canada acknowledges has quit this country in January. The other was Colonel Sergey Zhukov, the defense attaché for the Russian government in Ottawa. All totaled, six Russian diplomats that have been dropped from Ottawa’s list of recognized foreign representatives in the last 11 days. It’s not clear which, if any, of recent these exits can be tied to the Jeffrey Paul Delisle spy controversy.

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 #658

Carlos SoriaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Britain reveals names of officers killed in covert mission. Captain Tom Jennings, of the Special Boat Service, and Squadron Leader Anthony Downing, died when their vehicle was targeted by the Taliban near the Afghan capital Kabul. The UK Ministry of Defence has not released further details “due to the covert nature of the mission”. However, special forces are known to be used to escort MI6 officers and other British intelligence officials for meetings with sources or to persuade Taliban commanders to change sides.
►►New Turkish satellite to ‘zoom in’ on Israel. Until now, only the United States had the technology capable of taking satellite images greater than two meters per pixel resolution in the Middle East, and American law stopped US companies from distributing the pictures to non-US clients. But that is about to change, as Turkey is putting the finishing touches to its Gokturk military satellite, which is scheduled to launch within the next two years.
►►Argentine ex-spy chief shot dead. Carlos Soria (pictured), Argentina‘s former spy chief, was killed in a New Year’s Day shooting at his country house in Patagonia. He was just weeks into his job in the key oil-producing southern province of Rio Negro, when he was shot “after a family argument” at his farmhouse near the town of General Roca. Soria was a member of the ruling Peronist party and a former head of the Argentine intelligence services, under ex-president Eduardo Duhalde in 2002.

US openly accuses Pakistan of waging ‘proxy war’ in Afghanistan

Mike Mullen

Mike Mullen

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
For the first time a senior American official has openly accused the intelligence services of Pakistan of using Taliban-linked groups to wage a “proxy war” in neighboring Afghanistan. United States Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has described the Haqqani Network, an insurgent group closely allied with the Taliban, as Pakistan’s proxy-army in Afghanistan. The Haqqani Network, which is considered by US military commanders as “the most resilient insurgent force in Afghanistan”, is widely seen as responsible for the massive attack on the US embassy and several other targets in Kabul, earlier this month. Some military observers have compared the attacks to the 1968 Tet Offensive by the Viet Cong. Speaking on Tuesday at an event hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Admiral Mullen said he had pressed the government and intelligence agencies of Pakistan to break their links with the Haqqani Network. He did so during a recent meeting with the chief of Pakistan’s armed forces, which reportedly lasted over four hours. By “intelligence services”, Mullen means the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI), Pakistan’s most powerful spy agency. According to Admiral Mullen, the meeting centered on “the need for the [...] ISI to disconnect from [the] Haqqani [Network] and from this proxy war that they’re fighting” in Afghanistan. He also said that “the ISI has been [...] supporting proxies for an extended period of time” and described the ISI-Haqqani collaboration as “a strategy in the country”, rather than simply a series of isolated incidents by shadowy groups operating within the Pakistani intelligence services. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #546

Thomas Drake

Thomas Drake

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Whistleblower says NSA mismanagement continues. Former US National Security Agency employee Thomas Drake was recently sentenced to a year’s probation for leaking secrets about the agency to a journalist. The presiding judge did not sentence him to prison, recognizing that his genuine intention was to expose mismanagement. Soon after his sentencing, Drake told The Washington Times that mismanagement continues at the NSA, which he compared to “the Enron of the intelligence world”. He also told the paper that NSA’s accounts were “unauditable”, like those of most of the other agencies operating under the Pentagon. ►►Taliban claim phones hacked by NATO. The Afghan Taliban have accused NATO and the CIA of hacking pro-Taliban websites, as well as personal email accounts and cell phones belonging to Taliban leaders, in order to send out a false message saying that their leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had died. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the Reuters news agency that the hacking was “the work of American intelligence” and that the Taliban would “take revenge on the telephone network providers”. ►►Rumsfeld memo says ‘US can’t keep a secret’. “The United States Government is incapable of keeping a secret”. This was opined in a November 2, 2005 memo authored by Donald Rumsfeld. The memo by the then-Defense Secretary continues: Read more of this post

Chinese telecoms manufacturer denies spying claims (again)

Huawei HQ

Huawei HQ

By IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
Huawei Technologies is one of China’s fastest-rising corporations. Founded in 1988 to import Western office telephone systems to China, the company today has become one of the country’s leading exporters, producing all kinds of hi-tech communications hardware equipment, ranging from routers to cell towers and undersea cables. But, as intelNews has indicated on several instances, Huawei’s export growth has been hampered in recent years by widely circulated suspicions that the company maintains close ties to the Chinese military and intelligence establishments. In 2009, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) investigated one of Huawei’s Australian-based subsidiaries for links to Chinese intelligence operations. In the following year, the Indian government barred the company from operating in India, citing its allegedly “strong links with the Chinese military”. In August of 2010, several American senators called for an investigation into a proposed collaboration between Huawei and US-based Sprint-Nextel, arguing that the Chinese hardware manufacturer is “effectively controlled by China’s civilian and military intelligence establishment”. Further controversy erupted in the United States in February of this year, when another group of American Congress members accused Huawei of having supplied telecommunications equipment to Iran and the Afghan Taliban. The controversy around Huawei, which currently employs over 110,000 people in China and beyond, centers partly on its founder and chief executive owner, Ren Zhengfei. A former Director of the People’s Liberation Army’s Engineering Corps, Zhengfei founded Huawei a few years after retiring from his government job. His critics claim that he never truly retired from the PLA, and that he maintains routine links with the Communist Party of China, of which he is a member, as well as Chinese military intelligence. Read more of this post

Comment: Five Surprising Truths About the Killing of Bin Laden

Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS* | intelNews.org |
For intelligence and terrorism experts, the frustrating part of Osama bin Laden’s assassination is not the lack of details on the operation, nor the diplomatic ping-pong currently taking place between America and Pakistan. Rather it is the media spectacle that has unfolded around the story ever since it first made headlines. The cacophony of conjecture that has hijacked the global news agenda is maintained by an army of talking heads, who rely on rumor and speculation to satisfy sensationalist media editors. The outcome is a sterile media circus, devoid of substance, which leaves news consumers confused and uninformed. To counter this trend, intelNews lists here five truths of critical importance about Osama bin Laden’s assassination. In summary: One, America does not have to prove it killed bin Laden. Two, bin Laden’s assassination is not a victory against terrorism. Three, it likely will not reduce —and may even increase— terrorism. Four, it will not have the slightest effect on the Taliban or the war in Afghanistan. Five, even if the Pakistani government consciously shielded bin Laden, there is not much the US can do about it. More specifically:

Read more of this post

Taliban operate ‘very extensive’ spy network in British Afghan bases

Richard Kemp

Richard Kemp

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The former head of British troops in Afghanistan has warned that the Taliban are gathering intelligence from a “very, very extensive network of intelligence” operating inside British military bases in the Central Asian country. Colonel Richard J. Kemp, who was Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan in 2003, said the spy network includes “sources in many places” throughout the country, such as NATO military bases and Afghan security forces outposts. He also told Britain’s Daily Telegraph that the network is so effective that it tends to possess more information about the itineraries of foreign officials visiting Afghanistan than Western diplomats, NATO or Afghan military commanders realize. Read more of this post

‘Lord of War’ weapons smuggler enjoys Russian protection

Viktor Bout

Viktor Bout

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The case of notorious arms smuggler Viktor Bout is well known. Born in Dushanbe, Soviet Tajikistan, in 1967, Bout served in the GRU (Soviet military intelligence) until the collapse of the USSR, at which point he began supplying weapons to shady groups, ranging from Congolese rebels and Angolan paramilitaries to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. In March of 2008, Bout, known as ‘Lord of War’, was finally arrested by the Royal Thai Police, after a tip by US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officers. The latter had managed to lure Bout to Thailand by pretending to be Colombian FARC arms procurers. Recently, Washington scored a second victory by convincing Thai authorities to extradite Bout to the United States on terrorism charges. Presumably, Bout will be tried as an arms smuggler acting on his own accord. But is this right? Read more of this post

Pakistanis question validity, timing, of Wikileaks files

Hamid Gul

Hamid Gul

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Senior Pakistani government and intelligence officials have reacted angrily to leaked reports, which suggest that Pakistani spy agencies are secretly working with the Taliban to oppose US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan. The accusations have emerged as part of the largest document leak in US military history, which was made public on Sunday by anti-secrecy activist website Wikileaks. Among the nearly 92,000 intelligence and military files disclosed by Wikileaks are several reports suggesting that General Hamid Gul, who headed Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate in the late 1980s, is among a number of high-profile Pakistanis who regularly help the Taliban organize strikes against US-led coalition troops and their supporters in Afghanistan. But on Monday General Gul, who is a well-known critic of the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan, vehemently rejected the leaked reports, calling them “a pack of lies” and “utterly wrong”. Read more of this post

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