News you may have missed #805 (analysis edition)

US consulate in Benghazi, LibyaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Should the US be wary of Huawei? Regular readers of intelNews know that this blog has been covering the subject of Chinese telecommunications hardware manufacturer Huawei for several years now. During the past few weeks, the United States Congress has flagged the company as being too closely associated with the Chinese intelligence establishment. Other countries have done so as well. But not everyone agrees. New York-based newspaper The Wall Street Journal said recently that “bashing Chinese companies on national security grounds seems like a risk-free strategy” for US politicians and added that, unlike Congress, American governors and mayors are eager to promote investment by Chinese companies. Moreover, Wired‘s Marcus Wohlsenemail suggests that, spies or no spies, US telecommunications companies should fear Huwaei, which is here to stay.
►►Should CIA share some of the blame for Benghazi? For the last month, the US media and Congress have been grilling the State Department for the security failures during the deadly assault on a US compound in Benghazi, Libya. But what if the State Department is the wrong target of scrutiny? According to a counter-theory advanced recently by The Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank, the CIA, not the State Department, bears some responsibility for the security lapse that led to the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, but is flying under the radar due to the classified nature of its activities in Libya.
►►Could unmanned drones go rogue? Unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, have been in the news a lot lately: the US Congress has given the green light for their use by state and local law enforcement, academic researchers, and the private sector. UAVs are rapidly becoming a new tool in patrolling US borders and in NATO military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But non-state actors, including organized criminal gangs and drug cartels, may also be seeing the benefits of UAVs before too long. Read an interesting analysis piece that includes comments by intelNews‘ own Joseph Fitsanakis.

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White House review ‘found no evidence’ of Huawei spying for China

Huawei TechnologiesBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A review commissioned by the government of the United States has reportedly found no evidence that Chinese telecommunications hardware manufacturer Huawei Technologies spied for the Chinese government. The 18-month-long review, which was ordered directly by the White House, examined the question of security vulnerabilities posed by telecommunications hardware suppliers, which could theoretically harm US service providers and pose a danger to US national security. The report, which was allegedly aided by several US intelligence agencies and other federal government departments, was based on detailed interviews with nearly 1,000 telecommunications equipment consumers across the United States. It was concluded at the start of 2012, but remains largely classified. However, Reuters news agency cites “two people familiar with the probe”, who claim that the probe contains “no clear evidence” that Huawei spied for the government of China. At the same time, however, the probe concluded that Huawei telecommunications hardware contains numerous structural vulnerabilities which could help hackers exploit telecommunications networks supported by the Chinese company. According to one source quoted by Reuters, the White House report found that the telecommunications hardware sold by Huawei was “riddled with holes”. Read more of this post

Situation Report: Samsung accuses LG of corporate espionage

Samsung smartphones on display in KoreaBy TIMOTHY W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
Most technology companies spar with rivals over patent portfolio infringement, pricing arrangements, bundling of products and services with partners, and other trade practices. More recently, technology companies have been waging a war for talent and human capital. But in Korea, a dispute between Samsung and LG Electronics has been taken to a new level with Samsung publicly accusing LG of conducting corporate espionage. According to VenterBeat, Samsung has leveled corporate espionage charges against an employee at LG regarding particularly sensitive display technology that is used in smartphones and other mobile devices. This technology is of great value to Samsung, as its displays are used in nearly 98 percent of mobile phones around the globe. The critical display technology, active-matrix organic light-emitting diode, or MOLED, technology, is an extremely thin-film, which is a lynchpin technology for televisions and mobile devices. This technology replaced previously existing display technologies because it required significantly less power and therefore less battery drain and it also increased response rates to mere milliseconds. Such technology was perfectly positioned to help spur on the proliferation of the mobile and smartphone boom. Read more of this post

Did cell phone companies help India spy on the United States?

Page from the Lords of Dharamraja document leakBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Leaked documents acquired by a computer hacker collective appear to show that international cell phone manufacturers helped Indian intelligence agencies spy on the United States, in return for access to the Indian cellular phone market. The documents, which are written in English, were posted online on Saturday by a group of Indian hackers calling themselves Lords of Dharamraja. In a statement, the group said they obtained the documents by breaking into the computer servers of Indian Military Intelligence, after managing to acquire the source code of Symantec Corporation, makers of Norton antivirus software. According to the documents, the companies arm-twisted to assist Indian intelligence agencies to spy on the US included Apple, Nokia, and Research in Motion, the company that builds BlackBerry devices. The documents also appear to show that Indian intelligence agencies were particularly eager to spy on the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Established by the US Congress in 2000, the Commission is tasked with researching and reporting on the national security implications of bilateral trade between the US and China. Allegedly, the cellular telephone makers provided Indian intelligence agencies with backdoor access to personal phones used by Commission members. These back doors allegedly allowed the Indian Military Intelligence Directorate and India’s Central Bureau of Investigation to spy on Commission members beginning in April of 2011. Read more of this post

Nixon White House may have bugged Pentagon leadership

Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Everyone familiar with American political history knows about the ‘White House Plumbers’, a covert special investigations unit established during the Presidency of Richard Nixon, and tasked with spying on his political opponents. The unit’s bungled attempt to burgle the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee, in 1972, eventually led to Nixon’s resignation. But the Watergate burglary was but one of many operations conducted by the ‘Plumbers’, who were one of several ‘dirty tricks’ units managed by the Nixon White House. Now, nearly 40 years after the Watergate scandal erupted, veteran intelligence correspondent Jeff Stein provides new information that suggests the Nixon White House may have bugged the Pentagon telephones of senior American military officials. Stein managed to track down Dave Mann, a former member of the Pentagon’s Counterintelligence Force, who in 1971 stumbled upon a classified report claiming that listening bug signals had been detected emanating from offices in the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The signals had been picked up by a technical surveillance countermeasures (TSCM) team during a routine sweep of the Pentagon, in search of unauthorized interception devices. Mann run some tests to verify the TCM team’s report, and discovered that the bug signals originated from the personal office telephone line of General William Westmoreland, who was then the US Army’s Chief of Staff. He also discovered that the telephone of his assistant had been compromised, as well as the telephone lines belonging to the US Army’s assistant secretary, its logistics director, and at least one general. Mann’s personal conclusion was that the phone lines were most likely bugged with the cooperation of the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company, which was at that the time considered an operational wing of the FBI, under Director J. Edgar Hoover. 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

Proposed US-Chinese telecom deal worries US legislators

Huawei HQ

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Three US Congress members have raised security concerns about a proposed deal between American and Chinese telecommunications companies, claiming that it could facilitate Chinese espionage in the United States. The proposed collaboration is between US-based Sprint-Nextel and Cricket Wireless, and Chinese hardware manufacturers ZTE Corporation and Huawei Technologies. But three US Senators, Jon Kyl (R-AR), Susan Collins (R-ME), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), have written to US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski, claiming that the ZTE and Huawei are effectively controlled by China’s civilian and military intelligence establishment. According to the legislators, if the proposed deal goes through the Chinese government may be able to use ZTE and Huawei to “manipulate switches, routers, or software embedded in American telecommunications networks so that communications can be disrupted, intercepted, tampered with, or purposely misrouted”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #411

  • Third Lebanese telecom worker charged with spying for Israel. A Lebanese prosecutor has charged a third state telecommunications employee with spying for Israel. Milad Eid, who worked at the state-owned fixed-line operator Ogero, is accused of “dealing with the Israeli enemy [and] giving them technical information in his position as head of international communications at the Telecommunications Ministry”.
  • Author Roald Dahl was British spy, new book claims. A new book by Donald Sturrock, entitled Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl, claims that children’s author worked for British Security Coordination (BSC), a 1940s secret service network based in the United States, and was ‘run’ from New York by Canadian industrialist William Stephenson.
  • Israeli nuclear whistleblower wants to leave country. Nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu has been released from prison after serving a 10-week sentence for violating the terms of his parole by speaking to a foreign journalist. Upon his release, he asked that he be allowed to leave the country.

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News you may have missed #399

  • Alleged Lebanese spy for Israel flees to Germany, says Lebanon. Lebanese media claim that Rasan al-Jud, who Lebanese authorities accuse of having aided Israel with the help of employees at Alfa, Lebanon’s state-owned cellular telecommunications provider, has fled Lebanon and is currently in Frankfurt, Germany. But a German Foreign Ministry spokesman has said that “the Foreign Ministry does not have any particular knowledge about the news item”.
  • Japan defends costly visit by Korean spy. Japan’s government has defended a costly four-day visit by Kim Hyun-Hee,  a former North Korean spy, who blew up a South Korean jet in 1987, killing 115 people. Despite the high expectations, the former spy produced little news about Japanese nationals kidnapped decades ago by Pyongyang.
  • Analysis: Slaying the US intelligence behemoth. Commenting on the recent Washington Post investigative series on the US intelligence complex, author Philip Smucker comments that there is an essential disconnect at work. Namely, Islamic perceptions are not understood to be ‘hard intelligence’. The US is still trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, or to apply conventional intelligence to an asymmetrical world.

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News you may have missed #0286

  • More on CIA spies working for corporations. Author Eamon Javers provides more information about his new book, in which he examines the increasing phenomenon of CIA agents working for private corporations on the side.
  • Rio Tinto spy controversy thickens. Anglo-Australian mining company Rio Tinto says it is “extremely worried” about four of its staff, who were arrested last July by Chinese authorities and have now been formally charged with espionage.
  • Court keeps White House spy emails secret. Two weeks ago, US President Barack Obama declared in his State of the Union address that “it’s time to require lobbyists to disclose each contact they make on behalf of a client with my administration or Congress”. This does not appear to apply to telecommunication industry lobbyists, who campaigned in favor of facilitating warrantless communications interception through the National Security Agency’s STELLAR WIND program.

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FBI wiretaps broke the law thousands of times from 2002 to 2006

FBI memos

FBI memos

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Considering the extent of illegal domestic telephone surveillance practiced by US intelligence agencies after 9/11, the disclosure of yet another wiretap scandal can hardly surprise anyone. But the latest revelation by The Washington Post points to an alarming collusion between FBI agents, their supervisors, as well as telephone industry employees, all of whom consciously disregarded even the severely lax standards of the USA PATRIOT Act. The paper says it acquired several internal FBI memos (.pdf), through “a government employee outside the FBI, who gained access to them”. These memos appear to show widespread abuse of more than 2,000 US telephone call records (but not content, it appears), which FBI agents obtained between 2002 and 2006, by presenting telephone companies with fake National Security Letters (NSLs). The NSLs claimed the records were required for emergency counterterrorism investigations. But in reality these investigations bore no connection to terrorism, and the NSLs were never followed up with actual subpoenas, as they were supposed to. Read more of this post

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