CIA warned Tunisian officials about murder of opposition politician

Brahmi supporters in TunisBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The Tunisian government has admitted that it received advance warning by “an external intelligence source” of an assassination operation against a popular opposition figure. The politician, Mohammed Brahmi, a widely respected member of the country’s National Constituent Assembly, was gunned down 11 days after the alleged warning was received. His death, in July of this year, plunged the country into political chaos, which continues to dominate Tunisian politics today. Speaking to lawmakers on Thursday, Tunisia’s Minister of the Interior, Lotfi Ben Jeddou, said the warning had been received on July 15, 2013. He refused to identify the source of the warning, but Tunisian media speculated that it was most likely the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The warning was included in a memorandum, which stated that Brahmi was likely to be targeted by “Salafist elements” because of his secular and liberal political beliefs. The minister said that the warning contained no “further clarification”, but added that the absence of details in the memorandum did not justify the failure of the Tunisian security establishment to adequately respond to it. Brahmi, died on July 25 after being shot over a dozen times at close range outside his house in the al-Gazala neighborhood of Tunisian capital Tunis. On Saturday, two days after Minister Ben Jeddou’s revelation, Tunisian newspaper Al Maghreb published a leaked memorandum that contains a summary of the warning about Brahmi’s killing. The leaked summary, which is signed by Tunisia’s Director General of National Security, Mustafa Ben Amor, appears to be dated July 15, 2013, exactly 11 days before Brahmi’s assassination. It describes a warning issued by a CIA official, concerning credible threats to Brahmi’s life. Read more of this post

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Israel wiretapped PLO head office in Tunisia: report

Yasser Arafat in Tunis in 1993By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Israeli intelligence was able to intercept the conversations of senior Palestinian leaders in Tunisia in the months leading to the 1993 Oslo Accords, according to an article published Monday by a leading Israeli newspaper. Veteran security correspondent Ronen Bergman wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth  that sophisticated listening devices were planted in the office of Mahmoud Abbas. Today, Abbas, known also as Abu Mazen, is the President of the Palestinian National Authority, based in the occupied West Bank. But in 1993 he was Deputy Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), serving under its founder and Chairman, Yasser Arafat. At that time, the PLO was headquartered in Tunisian capital Tunis, where it had relocated in 1982 after it was driven out of Lebanon during Israel’s invasion. Bergman said that the operation, codenamed GOLDEN FLEECE, was authorized by Shabtai Shavit, who was at the time Director of the Mossad, Israel’s primary covert-action agency. The operation, considered one of the Mossad’s most important and secret at the time, was carried out by a Palestinian agent who had been recruited by Israeli intelligence. The agent, described by Bergman as a “man within the PLO leadership”, was allegedly affiliated with Fatah, a Palestinian political party that has traditionally formed the largest faction within the PLO. The agent allegedly managed to plant at least two eavesdropping devices at the personal office of the PLO’s Vice Chairman, one in his office chair and one inside one of the desk lamps in the room. Bergman says that, on the day the devices became operational, Shavit held an emergency meeting to inform the Mossad’s senior commanders about their existence. Read more of this post

Israel admits assassinating Palestinian commander in Tunisia

Abu JihadBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Authorities in Israel have authorized the publication of an interview acknowledging Israel’s role in the assassination of a senior Palestinian military commander in Tunisia in 1988. The target of the assassination was Khalil al-Wazir, better known as Abu Jihad, one of the co-founders of Fatah, the secular wing of the Palestinian Liberation Organization chaired by Yasser Arafat. In the 1960s and 1970s, Abu Jihad rose within the ranks of Fatah and eventually became commander of its armed wing, known as al-Assifa. However, he was killed on April 16, 1988, when a group of unidentified gunmen stormed his villa in Tunisian capital Tunis, before managing to slip away. In the past 23 years, the Israeli intelligence services have been repeatedly singled out as prime suspects in Abu Jihad’s assassination. Nearly 15 years ago, Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronot announced that it had secured an interview with an Israeli commando who had a leading role in the operation and had been the one who fired the shots that killed the Fatah commander. But the interview was blocked from publication by the Israeli military censors, who, under Israeli law, have the power to prevent the airing of information that might harm national security. In 2000, however, the commando, Nahum Lev, died in a motorcycle accident, which prompted the Israeli newspaper to renew its application for the ban on the interview to be lifted. This week, Israeli authorities officially lifted the ban, which allowed Yedioth Ahronot to run the interview with Lev. The airing of the interview was coupled by a more substantial account of the operation, which appeared in the specialist Israel Defense magazine. According to the article, the operation was planned over several months by the Israeli covert action agency Mossad and the Sayaret Matkal, a special forces unit of the Israel Defense Forces. It involved 26 commandos who allegedly reached the Tunisian shore on rubber boats. Several of them walked the streets of Tunis disguised as women tourists. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #681

Vladimir NesteretsBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Mossad ‘bolsters activity in Tunisia’. The Mossad has bolstered its activity in several Tunisian cities since the start of the revolt that ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali last January, Tunisian magazine Al-Musawar has reported. According to the magazine, the Israeli intelligence agency has been working with its US-based counterpart, the CIA, to revive its spy network in post-revolution Tunisia.
►►US ‘used quake’ to send Special Forces into Pakistan. The US Pentagon used the Kashmir earthquake of 2005 to send operatives from the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) into Pakistan, reveals a new book by D.B Grady and Marc Ambinder, entitled The Command: Deep Inside the President’s Secret Army. The authors claim that dozens of CIA operatives and contractors entered Pakistan using valid US passports and posing as construction and aid workers, thus avoiding the requisite background checks from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency.
►►Russian officer convicted of spying for CIA. A Russian military court last week convicted Lt. Col. Vladimir Nesterets of providing the CIA with secret information on Russia’s new intercontinental ballistic missiles and sentenced him to 13 years in prison. The officer pleaded guilty to passing on that classified information in exchange for money, said the Federal Security Service, the main agency that replaced the Soviet-era KGB. Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency quoted the officer’s wife, Irina, as saying she could not understand the guilty plea because her husband had told her he did nothing wrong and had not betrayed his country.

News you may have missed #522 (European Union edition)

Analysis: Arab revolutions cause blind spot for US spies

Christopher Dickey

Dickey

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
An unusually blunt piece published in Newsweek magazine describes the Arab democratic revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and elsewhere as serious detriments to US intelligence collection in the Muslim world. Written by Newsweek’s Middle East Regional Editor Christopher Dickey, the lengthy article argues that the ongoing political changes in several Arab countries make US counterterrorism professionals long for the days “when thuggish tyrants, however ugly, were at least predictable”. It even quotes an unnamed senior intelligence officer who denounces the celebration of democracy in the Arab world as “just bullshit”, and sees “disaster […] lurking” in the region. The reason for such vehement reaction is plain: US intelligence professionals are witnessing an elaborate network of informants across the Arab world, which they painstakingly built and cultivated since the late 1960s, crumble before their very eyes. These informants, who had senior government positions in secularist Arab dictatorships, “are either gone or going”, says Christopher Boucek, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Read more of this post

Suspicion mounts as US unlocks Moussa Koussa’s foreign assets

Moussa Koussa

Moussa Koussa

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Eyebrows were raised in intelligence circles on Monday, after the United States lifted its freeze of foreign assets belonging to Libya’s former intelligence chief, who defected to London last week. Libya’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Moussa Koussa, who headed the country’s intelligence agency from 1994 to 2009, managed to escape to the UK from Tunisia on a Swiss-registered private airplane. He is currently reported to be in an MI6 safe house in England, allegedly being interrogated about his inside knowledge of the regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi. But Koussa is also thought to be the mastermind behind the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed nearly 300 people. The 57-year-old defector is also believed to have facilitated Libya’s funding of the Provisional Irish Republican Army and to have authorized the assassination of several Libyan dissidents living in Britain. In light of that, the news that Washington lifted its sanctions on Koussa’s sizeable fortune abroad is worth noting. It is also interesting to note that Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, is reportedly pressuring European Union member-states to follow the US’ example in also unfreezing Koussa’s foreign assets. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #475 (Arab revolution edition)

  • Obama ‘disappointed’ with US intelligence on Tunisia. US President Barack Obama sent word to National Intelligence Director James Clapper that he was “disappointed with the intelligence community” over its failure to predict that the outbreak of demonstrations would lead to the ouster of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunis.
  • An Intelligence Failure in Egypt? The US intelligence community is like the offensive line of the government. They protect the quarterback all day long, and no one notices until they give up a sack. Which raises the question: was US President Barack Obama blindsided by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt?
  • Did US intelligence fail in North Africa? “One former official said US president Barack Obama recently urged the CIA to put as much effort into analysis of the situation in North Africa as into covert operations, including those targeting al-Qaida”.

Egypt intelligence highlights Congress-CIA tensions

Egypt uprising

Egypt uprising

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A US Congressional hearing over a career CIA official’s promotion turned into a heated exchange on Thursday, as Congress members accused America’s intelligence community of failing to provide forewarning of the political instability in Egypt. Speaking before the US Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, Stephanie O’Sullivan, former Director of the CIA Directorate of Science and Technology, was faced with an unexpected barrage of questions concerning the Agency’s alleged failure to provide US policy planners with accurate warning of the Egyptian popular uprising. Shortly after the start of the hearing, which was intended to deliberate O’Sullivan’s nomination for the position of Deputy Director of the Office of Director of National Intelligence, attention turned to Egypt, with members of the Committee pressuring the CIA executive to explain why the US intelligence community had failed to issue ample warnings on Egypt. O’Sullivan responded repeatedly that the CIA and other US intelligence services had provided warnings to Obama Administration officials in November and December of 2010, about extreme political volatility in North Africa. Read more of this post

Tunisian security officials arrested, killed, amid counter-coup fears

Ali Seriati

Ali Seriati

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Several key figures in Tunisia’s crumbling security apparatus have being either apprehended or killed, amid fears that they were planning a countercoup against the country’s new unity government. Most notable among the arrestees is General Ali Seriati, longtime director of deposed Tunisian dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s Presidential Security Force. Seriati was arrested on Sunday, reportedly “by citizens as he tried to cross into Libya”. Reports from Tunis suggest that Ben Ali’s Interior Minister, Rafik Belham Kacem, who commanded the country’s’ domestic intelligence apparatus, has also been detained. Meanwhile, the BBC reports that Imed Trabelsi, a politically powerful nephew of the former dictator’s wife, was lynched to death late on Saturday. Seriati and Kacem’s arrests are seen as attempts by the new government to prevent a widely feared coup plot, organized by the remnants of Ben Ali’s security apparatus, aimed at returning him to power. Initial stages of the coup materialized on Saturday, when several gunmen riding in unmarked cars launched a wave of armed attacks against opposition targets in capital Tunis and elsewhere. Political observers in the country appeared to immediately connect the attacks with General Seriati’s Presidential Security Force, said to include some of the former president’s staunchest supporters. Read more of this post

Scotland Yard urged to drop advisor with terrorist ties

Harrath

Harrath

For four years, the Scotland Yard, headquarters of the London Metropolitan Police Service, has employed Mohamed Ali Harrath as an “anti-terrorism advisor” while funding his London-based Muslim television station with tens of thousands of pounds. Last week The London Times discovered that Harrath is wanted by the Tunisian authorities and by Interpol “because of his links to an alleged terror organization”. The organization, known as the Tunisian Islamic Front (FIT), is said to advocate “an Islamic state by means of armed revolutionary violence”. The Tunisian government is not known for its democratic credentials, but British intelligence organizations seem to agree with its assessment of FIT. In 2003 an MI5 witness implicated “FIT [in] terrorism activities in France” before Britain’s Special Immigration Appeals Commission. Read more of this post

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