NSA ‘high-target’ list includes names of 122 world leaders

NSA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A list of high-priority intelligence targets published over the weekend includes the names of over a hundred current and former heads of state, who were systematically targeted by the United States National Security Agency (NSA). The list appears to be part of a wider “Target Knowledge Base” assembled by the NSA in order to help produce “complete profiles” of what the NSA calls “high-priority intelligence targets”. The list is contained in a classified top-secret briefing created by the NSA in 2009. It was published by German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, which said it acquired it from American intelligence defector Edward Snowden. Snowden, a former computer expert for the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency, is currently living in Russia, where he has been offered political asylum. The leaked briefing explains the function of an extensive NSA signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection program codenamed NYMROD. The computer-based program is allegedly able to sift through millions of SIGINT reports and collate information on individual targets from the transcripts of intercepted telephone calls, faxes, as well as computer data. The list provided to Der Spiegel by Snowden contains 122 names of international political figures, said the newsmagazine, adding that all of them were “heads of foreign governments”. It includes the name of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, Ukraine’s Yulia Tymoshenko, as well as Belarussian strongman Alexander Lukashenko. Colombia’s former President, Alvaro Uribe, and Malaysia’s Prime Minster from 2003 to 2009, Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi, also figure on the list. Interestingly, the leaders of Malaysia, Somalia, the Palestinian Authority and Peru top the NSA’s list of high-value executive targets. Read more of this post

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Snowden leaks reveal GCHQ’s reliance on NSA money, data

GCHQ center in Cheltenham, EnglandBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Information provided by American defector and former intelligence insider Edward Snowden shows that Britain’s signals intelligence agency is very much the junior partner in an uneven relationship with its American counterpart. Snowden, a former computer expert for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), has been given political asylum in Russia. In June, he revealed a number of enormous intelligence-collection programs, including PRISM and TEMPORA. The latter is administered by the General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Britain’s signals intelligence organization. The program enables the agency to access communications traffic carried through fiber optic cables worldwide. But GCHQ also receives data from PRISM, a massive electronic surveillance program operated by the NSA, which provides access to millions of email and online chat exchanges facilitated by some of the world’s foremost Internet service providers. Because of these arrangements, GCHQ’s access to electronic data increased by 7,000 percent between 2008 and 2012, according to an internal GCHQ document provided to The Guardian newspaper by Snowden. The agency’s immense access to information has propelled it to a leading role within Britain’s intelligence establishment. It currently receives over half of Britain’s £1.9 billion annual intelligence budget, while its employee size is more than twice that of Britain’s domestic (MI5) and external (MI6) intelligence agencies combined. Its headquarters, the so-called “doughnut building” in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, was Europe’s largest single construction project when it was being built in the early 2000s.  But the documents provided by Snowden show that, despite its considerable wealth and access to resources, GCHQ’s intelligence planners are deeply concerned about “being left behind by technology” in the fiber optic age. One internal report highlights “the pressure on the agency to deliver” and warns that “the complexity of [GCHQ’s] mission has evolved to the point where existing mission management capability is no longer fit for purpose”. Read more of this post

Australia fears Asia backlash over PRISM surveillance revelations

David IrvineBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The government of Australia is concerned that American whistleblower Edward Snowden may leak classified information that could damage Australia’s relations with its Asian neighbors, including China and Malaysia. Early this month, Snowden, a former technical assistant for the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), disclosed the existence of PRISM, a clandestine electronic surveillance program operated by the US National Security Agency (NSA). Information provided by Snowden to British newspaper The Guardian suggests that Washington routinely shares PRISM intelligence with Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Australia. These four countries, along with the United States, are signatories to the so-called UKUSA agreement, a multilateral accord for cooperation in signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection, which was established secretly in 1946. Australian media reported on Wednesday that the Australian Parliament’s Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security had been briefed by senior intelligence officials on Australia’s role in PRISM. The Sydney Morning Herald said that David Irvine, Director of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, and Ian McKenzie, who heads Australia’s Defence Signals Directorate, were among those who briefed the parliamentary Committee. Its members were reportedly told that the disclosures about PRISM were likely to damage Canberra’s relations with several Asian countries, in ways that are difficult to predict. One unidentified Australian intelligence official told The Herald that Snowden had “very wide access” to classified information held by the NSA, and that some of it probably includes “much detail of communications intelligence cooperation between the US and Australia”. One source went as far as to say that Snowden’s disclosures have already “damaged [...] Australia’s intelligence capabilities”. Read more of this post

UK/US spy agencies targeted heads of state at London G20 meeting

NSA/GCHQ listening station in Menwith HillBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
British and American intelligence agencies targeted the communications of heads of state and other senior officials during a G20 summit held in London in 2009, according to documents. The summit was hosted by the then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and was attended by delegates from 20 major world economies, including then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who was specifically targeted in the spy operation. British newspaper The Guardian, which published the information, said that delegates had their personal computers and cellular telephones monitored during a joint effort by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain’s General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). The two agencies, which are tasked with intercepting communications signals on behalf of their respective governments, maintain a jointly administered listening base inside the Royal Air Force station in Menwith Hill near Harrogate, North Yorkshire. According to one of the documents, entitled “Russian Leadership Communications in support of President Dmitry Medvedev at the G20 summit in London —Intercept at Menwith Hill station”, the listening facility was utilized to spy on the communications of the Russian President during his stay in London. The targeting began as soon as President Medvedev and the Russian delegation arrived in the British capital on April 1, and continued for several days. The top-secret document, which was shared between British, American, Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand intelligence services, noted “a change in the way Russian leadership signals have been normally transmitted” through satellite links from the Russian embassy in London. Another set of documents, also published by The Guardian, indicate that some G20 summit delegates were “tricked into using Internet cafes [that] had been set up by British intelligence agencies” in order to intercept their email communications. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #802 (Jeffrey Paul Delisle edition)

Jeffrey Paul DelisleBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►New information released on Canadian spy case. Newly released information from Canadian naval officer Jeffrey Paul Delisle‘s bail hearing in January reveals that, facing chronic financial difficulties, Delisle began a four-year espionage career by walking into the Russian Embassy in Ottawa in 2007. Wearing civilian clothes, Delisle displayed his Canadian military identification badge and asked to meet someone from GRU, the Russian military intelligence service. Canadian prosecutors said Delisle regularly downloaded a ”vast amount” of classified information to share with his Russian handlers.
►►Canada spy had escape plan. Canadian naval officer Jeffrey Paul Delisle told a Canadian court that he had an escape plan in place —one he never got a chance to use. If he needed to seek refuge or re-establish contact with the Russians, for whom he spied for over four years, he was told he could walk into a Russian embassy —preferably not the one in Ottawa— and inform them he was “Alex Campbell”. The Russians would then ask him “did I meet you at a junk show in Austria?”, and he was supposed to reply “no, it was in Ottawa”.
►►Canada spy accessed Australia intelligence. This is not exactly news for intelNews readers, since we have covered it before, but it appears that Jeffrey Paul Delisle has openly admitted selling highly classified intelligence gathered by the United States, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia to Russian agents. He said he had access to signals intelligence produced by the US National Security Agency, Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, Canada’s Communications Security Establishment, Australia’s Defence Signals and New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau.

Canadian spy compromised Australian, British intelligence

Jeffrey Paul DelisleBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Most regular readers of this blog are undoubtedly familiar with the case of Jeffrey Paul Delisle, a Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy, who until recently was employed at Canada’s ultra-secure TRINITY communications center in Halifax. Delisle was arrested in January on suspicion of passing information gathered from radio and radar signal interceptions to a foreign power, most likely Russia. Back in May, when it was disclosed that the United States helped Canadian counterintelligence investigators build their case against Delisle, we warned that “a far more important subject concerns the degree in which [Delisle’s] penetration has affected Canada’s intelligence-sharing relationship with its [...] partners”. Now a new report in The Sydney Morning Herald reveals that Delisle’s espionage activities compromised Australian secrets that had been shared with Canada under longstanding intelligence cooperation arrangements. Citing “Australian security sources”, the paper said that the Delisle case “has sent shock waves through Western security agencies” due to the volume of compromised information. The Herald claims that the stolen intelligence is “on a scale comparable to the alleged handover to WikiLeaks of US military and diplomatic reports by US Army private Bradley Manning”. An unnamed “Australian security source” told the paper that Delisle’s access to classified information was “apparently very wide” and that Australian intercepts were “inevitably compromised”. Read more of this post

Location of massive Israeli eavesdropping site uncovered

Nicky Hager

Nicky Hager

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An author and investigative journalist from New Zealand has uncovered one of the world’s biggest government-sponsored eavesdropping sites in a desert in Israel. Writing in French monthly review Le Monde Diplomatique, Nicky Hager reveals that the site acts as a base for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Central Collection Unit of the Intelligence Corps, also known as Unit 8200, which is responsible for collecting and decrypting signals intelligence. In his article, written in French, Hager describes the base as one of the world’s largest, and says it is located near the Urim kibbutz, about 30 kilometers west of Beersheba, in Israel’s Negev desert region. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #388

  • Political policing rising in US, ACLU report warns. A new report by the American Civil Liberties Union chronicles government spying and what it describes as the detention of groups and individuals “for doing little more than peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights”.
  • Mistrust still marks ISI-CIA ties, say US officials. John Tierney, chairman of the US House Armed Services Committee, told a Pakistani delegation that there is mistrust between the CIA and ISI, according to a report by the Pakistan Senate’s Standing Committee on Defence. Regular intelNews readers should not be surprised.
  • Britain releases secret document at heart of UKUSA agreement. Authorities in the UK have released a six-page document dating from 1946, which describes the “British-US Communication Intelligence Agreement”, known as BRUSA, later UKUSA. The deal has tied the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand into a worldwide network of electronic listening posts.

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Clinton’s mysterious comment raises eyebrows in New Zealand

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A comment by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton following a meeting with a senior New Zealand government official has raised questions by intelligence observers in the pacific nation. Speaking last Friday after an official meeting in Washington with her New Zealand counterpart, minister of foreign affairs Murray McCully, Clinton said the US “very much” values its diplomatic partnership with New Zealand. She then proceeded to say “[w]e are resuming our intelligence-sharing cooperation, which we think is very significant”. This latter comment struck many intelligence observers in Wellington as odd, and for a good reason: nobody was under the impression that the US-NZ intelligence cooperation had been disrupted. The mystery deepened when New Zealand prime minister John Key refused to explain Hillary Clinton’s remark when asked, saying simply “I just don’t comment on issues of national security”. Read more of this post

Lost notebook reveals plans for New Zealand spy agency reshuffle

Nicky Hager

Nicky Hager

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Plans for a possible radical reshuffling of New Zealand’s intelligence infrastructure were revealed yesterday, with the discovery of a notebook belonging to a government official. The notebook was dropped on a busy Wellington street by an employee of New Zealand’s Treasury Department, who was returning from a classified presentation on the future of the country’s intelligence agencies. It was recovered by Julian Robins, a political correspondent for Radio New Zealand, who proceeded to reveal the notebook’s contents. According to Robins, the government appears to be seriously considering merging the three separate intelligence agencies, which currently operate on different missions, in order to improve synergy and save money. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0025

  • BREAKING NEWS: Several news outlets are reporting this morning that it was former US vice-President Dick Cheney who ordered the CIA to conceal from Congress key information about a covert action intelligence program of an undisclosed nature. See here for more.
  • New book claims Ernest Hemingway was KGB agent. The new book Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America (Yale University Press), co-written by John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr and Alexander Vassiliev, alleges that the Nobel prize-winning novelist was on the KGB’s list of agents in America from 1941, when he was given the codename “Argo” by the Soviets.
  • Thousands of former Stasi spies still working in German civil service. A report in the German edition of The Financial Times claims that over 17,000 former members of East Germany’s Stasi remain employed as civil servants in reunified Germany. Stasi is the name commonly used for the Ministry for State Security, communist East Germany’s secret police.
  • NSA director’s secret visit to New Zealand revealed. A reporter accidentally spotted Lieutenant-General Keith Alexander, director of the US National Security Agency, entering a Wellington building accompanied by security personnel. The revelation prompted a spokesperson at the US embassy in Wellington to admit that Alexander was indeed in New Zealand “for consultations with government officials”. The close signals intelligence relationship between the US and New Zealand have been known since 1996.
  • Chinese national caught trying to purchase crypto hardware. Chi Tong Kuok was arrested by the FBI at the Atlanta International Airport en route from Paris to Panama, where he allegedly planned to purchase US military radios. The US government claims Kuok has admitted he was “acting at the direction of officials for the People’s Republic of China”.
  • Taliban say cell phone SIM cards guide US drone strikes. A Taliban circular says SIM cards planted by informants in cell phones used by militants are used to signal American drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As IntelNews recently explained, there are suspicions that this and similar discoveries are gradually prompting the Taliban and al-Qaeda to stop using cell phones altogether.

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Groundbreaking book on international spying now online

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Nicky Hager’s groundbreaking book Secret Power: New Zealand’s Role in the International Spy Network, is now freely available as an eBook on the writer’s personal website. The book, originally published in 1996, first revealed the existence of the UK-USA Security Agreement (reportedly also known as AUSCANZUKUS) a peculiar intelligence-sharing arrangement between the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, which has existed since World War II. Secret Power focused on New Zealand’s role in the agreement and also documented the US-managed ECHELON, a signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection and analysis network that serves as an intelligence-sharing platform between the UK-USA signatories. Hager, who is widely considered to be New Zealand’s leading investigative journalist, has written several books since Secret Power, including Secrets and Lies and The Hollow Men. His personal website is available here.

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