Australia spied on US law firm representing Indonesia in trade talks

Australian Signals DirectorateBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Australian intelligence spied on an American law firm representing the government of Indonesia in a trade dispute with the United States, according to leaked documents. The documents, from February 2003, show that the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) specifically targeted the law firm because it represented the commercial interests of the Indonesian state. The ASD is Australia’s intelligence organization responsible for signals intelligence and information security. The leaked documents also show that that the Australian spy agency offered to share the intelligence collected from the operation with its American counterpart, the National Security Agency (NSA). The New York Times, which published the leaked information, said the operation appeared to have been aimed strictly at subverting the Indonesian government’s international commercial interests and had nothing to do with national security. The paper said it acquired the documents from Edward Snowden, an American intelligence defector currently living in Russia, who used to work for the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency. The leaked papers do not specify the precise trade negotiations between Washington and Jakarta, which appear to have been targeted by the ASD. Nor do they identify the American law firm spied on by the Australians. But the paper suggested that Mayer Brown, one of the world’s largest law firms, with offices in over 22 cities around the globe, was acting as the Indonesian government’s legal consultant at the time the leaked documents were drafted. A memorandum included in the leaked documents notes that the ASD had “been able to continue to cover the [trade] talks [between the US and Indonesia], providing highly useful intelligence for interested US customers”. Read more of this post

About these ads

News you may have missed #868

Jonathan PollardBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Honduras suspends eight consuls in US. Honduras has suspended eight of its 10 consuls in the US, days after local media alleged that the consuls had issued illegal papers in exchange of payments of up to $50. The consulates affected are in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans and New York. The case came to light after a group representing Hondurans living in the US said a number of consulates were issuing “consular IDs” —documents that bear the crest and flag of Honduras, but which are not officially recognized forms of identification.
►►Al-Qaeda’s expulsion of Syrian group prompts US debate. The Obama administration is engaged in a debate on whether a law giving the president authority to attack al-Qaeda affiliates still applies to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), after al-Qaeda’s recent decision to sever ties with the group. Current and former US intelligence officials said last week’s expulsion marked the first time al-Qaeda had ejected a group that had formally joined its fold, a potentially risky move at a time when the terrorist network’s affiliates have largely eclipsed the core group in strength and relevance.
►►Ex CIA head says anti-Semitism likely in Pollard case. Former CIA Director James Woolsey says anti-Semitism could be a factor in the US refusal to release Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish American jailed for spying for Israel. Wolsey has long advocated for releasing Pollard who was sentenced to life in prison in 1985 for spying on the United States. “I certainly don’t think that it is universally true, but in the case of some American individuals, I think there is anti-Semitism at work here”, Woolsey said.

Comment: Nuland’s leaked phone call is ‘populist intelligence’

Victoria NulandBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
My phone started ringing off the hook on Thursday evening, when a video appeared on YouTube containing a frank conversation between Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt. Nuland, Assistant Secretary at the United States Department of State, and Pyatt, US Ambassador to Ukraine, were discussing US diplomatic moves on the political standoff in Ukraine. In the conversation, which was clearly meant to be private, Nuland expresses frustration with efforts by the European Union, which she deems weak and inadequate. In a shocking display of candor, Nuland tells Pyatt that the US should “help glue this thing and [...] have the UN help glue it and, you know, f**k the EU”.

On Thursday night I spoke at the main news program of BBC television, where I agreed with most observers —some of the US government officials— that Russia was the obvious culprit behind the leaked conversation. The geopolitical interests of Washington and Brussels coincide almost completely when it comes to Ukraine, as both wish to detach the former Soviet republic from the Russian sphere of influence. So driving a wedge between the two allied sides is clearly to the benefit of Moscow. I added that the two American officials should have known better than to speak so frankly on the phone, given the constant monitoring of diplomatic communications by both adversary and friendly intelligence services, which is common knowledge in diplomatic circles. Read more of this post

Thatcher was warned about CIA activities in Britain, files show

Margaret ThatcherBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was warned in 1984 that American intelligence carried out operations in the United Kingdom without London’s consent. Although she dismissed the warnings, she authorized British counterintelligence to investigate the matter. A secret file from the British Foreign Office, which was declassified last month, shows that concerns about alleged American spy activity in the UK were communicated to the Tory Prime Minister by Paddy Ashdown —now Lord Ashdown— a Member of Parliament for Britain’s Liberal Party. In November of 1984, Ashdown notified Thatcher that he was concerned about a series of “clandestine activities” carried out by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) aimed at preventing communist countries from acquiring advanced computer technology developed by companies based in Britain. The written warning stated that CIA operatives had made “clandestine approaches” targetting individuals employed by leading British computer firms, inquiring about technology transfers to the Soviet Bloc. Ashdown added that the American intelligence agency had failed to provide the British government with advance notice of these activities, as was customary between the two allies. In his letter to Thatcher, the Liberal Party MP concluded that, based on his personal investigation into the matter, he was convinced the CIA operation was “still continuing”. The Prime Minister responded to Ashdown with an official letter explaining that there was “no evidence of improper activity by the CIA” or that British espionage laws had been violated by American intelligence personnel. She added that there was “close cooperation” between London and Washington on enforcing multilaterally agreed export controls, which included computer technology, and concluded that saw no need for an inquiry at that time. But London-based newspaper The Guardian, which accessed the declassified files on the case, said that Whitehall ordered the Foreign Office to investigate Ashdown’s allegations. The Foreign Office then tasked the Security Service (MI5) to find out whether the US had broken an agreement between the two countries to refrain from clandestine operations on each other’s territory unless the latter were authorized by both nations. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #864

Otis G. PikeBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Germany says Obama’s NSA promise fails to address concerns. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government said yesterday that President Barack Obama’s pledge for new restrictions on mass surveillance by US spy agencies so far offered “no answer” to Germany’s concerns over spying. Merkel’s chief spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters that Berlin would “look very closely at what practical consequences the announcements of the US president carry”, but added that key German concerns had not yet been addressed.
►►Longtime US Congressman who took on CIA dies. Otis G. Pike, a longtime Democratic Congressman from New York, who took on the CIA following the Watergate revelations, has died, aged 92. In 1975, he became chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, which began examining suspicions that the CIA had had its hand in coups in Chile and other countries and was spying on American citizens. The inquiry paralleled one in the Senate, chaired by Frank Church. These committees marked the first time that Congress looked into allegations of abuse by the CIA and other US intelligence agencies.
►►East Timor slams Australia at The Hague over alleged spying.  The International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, is hearing a case brought against Australia by the government of East Timor. The small island nation accuses Australia of bugging the offices of key Timorese officials in an attempt to acquire inside information on a crucial energy deal. It alleges that a group of Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) officers disguised themselves as a refurbishing crew and planted numerous electronic surveillance devices in an East Timorese government office. The information collected from the listening devices allegedly allowed Australia to gain an upper hand during negotiations that led to the Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS) treaty.

US lawmakers say Snowden was coached by foreign spy agency

Edward SnowdenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Two American lawmakers with senior positions in Congressional intelligence committees have expressed strong views that American defector Edward Snowden was probably coached by Russian intelligence prior to his defection. Speaking separately on Sunday, the two lawmakers —both Republican— said they suspected that Snowden had “acted in concert” with Russian intelligence in order expose Washington’s worldwide surveillance programs and steal military secrets. Snowden, a former technical expert for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), is currently in Russia, where he has been granted political asylum. On Sunday, Mike Rogers, who chairs the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence at the United States House or Representatives, said he was convinced Moscow had “at least in some part something to do” with Snowden’s defection. During separate interviews at NBC’s Meet The Press and CBS’ Face the Nation, Rogers said he thought it highly unlikely that Snowden’s defection was “a gee-whiz luck event”. He added that the former intelligence technician’s arrival in Russia had been likely pre-arranged by the FSB —the Russian Federal Security Service (though he likely meant the SVR, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, which is responsible for intelligence activities outside the borders of the Russian Federation). The Republican lawmaker said that Snowden’s defection plan, ranging “from how he prepared to leave [to] his route of departure and how quickly [he] ended up in Moscow”, points to involvement by Russian intelligence. Also on Sunday, Republican Congressman Michael McCaul told ABC’s This Week that he did not think “Snowden woke up one day and had the wherewithal to do this all by himself”. The lawmaker, who chairs the US House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, cautioned that he could not prove definitively that Russia had a role in Snowden’s defection. Read more of this post

US regular troops enter Somalia for the first time in 20 years

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.orgAl-Shabaab militants in Somalia
For the first time since 1993, when American troops left Somalia following the infamous ‘Black Hawk down’ incident, the US army has secretly stationed a group of regular troops in the troubled African country. The last time United States troops were in Somalia, in support of a wider United Nations stabilization operation, the administration of US President Bill Clinton decided to abandon the operation. The decision has been largely attributed to an incident known as “The Battle of Mogadishu”, in which nearly 20 American soldiers were killed. Images of their bodies being dragged by Somali militiamen through the streets of the capital resulted in major policy shift in Washington, with successive US administrations avoiding prolonged military engagements in Somalia ever since. In the post-9/11 era, American military and intelligence planners have deployed Predator drones against Somali targets from a US base in neighboring Djibouti, while rare cases have involved US Special Forces entering the country for a few hours at a time. Washington has also spent hundreds of millions of dollars to fund the nascent Somali military. But American Presidents have avoided any long-term military or civilian presence on the ground; Washington does not even maintain an embassy in Mogadishu —though most observers agree that the Central Intelligence Agency has operated a base there for years. On January 12, however, The Washington Post published a statement by US Africa Command (AFRICOM) spokesman Army Colonel Thomas Davis, in which he confirmed that the Pentagon recently established a “military coordination cell” in Somalia that “is now fully operational”. Read more of this post

Leftist group behind 1971 burglary of FBI office comes forward

FBI field office in Media, PaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Members of an American leftwing group, who in 1971 burgled a regional branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), stealing documents that revealed illegal government activities, have come forward. The mysterious group, which called itself The Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI, is credited by historians as having unearthed the initial revelations that eventually led to the exposure of COINTELPRO. The acronym stood for COunter INTELligence PROgram; it incorporated a host of questionable and often illegal activities by the FBI, which were aimed at discrediting domestic political organizations considered ‘radical’ by longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. The program targeted mostly nonviolent antiwar groups and black civil rights organizations and leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was regarded by Hoover as a communist agent. In association with the Watergate scandal, the COINTELPRO revelations led to the creation of the Church and Pike committees in Congress, which radically restructured the oversight of the United States Intelligence Community. The burglary took place on the evening of March 8, 1971, in the town of Media, Pennsylvania. It resulted in the theft of over 1,000 documents, which were then reproduced and mailed anonymously to several national newspapers, including The New York Times and The Washington Post. Nearly half of the stolen documents concerned surveillance and disruption operations —mainly blackmail, intimidation and sabotage— against liberal groups. They also included a controversial directive by Director Hoover to place “an FBI agent behind every mailbox” in America. A furious Hoover placed as many as 200 agents on the burglary case; but the investigation got nowhere, and the Bureau was forced to close the case in March 1976, having failed to conclusively identify the burglars. But now a new book written by Betty Medsger, who at the time of the burglary was working for The Washington Post, has revealed for the first time the identities of four of the eight-member team that carried out the burglary. Read more of this post

German magazine reveals more information on elite NSA spy unit

NSA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Last June, we reported on the existence of an elite cyberatack unit within the United States National Security Agency (NSA), which operates under the Agency’s Office of Tailored Access Operations. Veteran NSA watcher Matthew M. Aid, who made the initial revelation, said at the time that the Office, known at NSA simply as TAO, maintains a substantial “hacker army” that works in close cooperation with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Now German newsmagazine Der Spiegel says it viewed internal documents that confirm the existence of TAO as the NSA’s elite operational unit. The publication describes TAO as “something like a squad of plumbers that can be called in when normal access to a target is blocked”. It adds that TAO operatives are routinely detailed to a host of American intelligence agencies to help conduct intelligence operations ranging from traditional espionage to counterterrorism and cyberwarfare. Furthermore, TAO’s personnel, which are allegedly far younger than the average NSA officer, are experts in exploiting the technical deficiencies of the information-technology industry. They have therefore been able to compromise communications hardware and software produced by some of the world’s biggest IT companies and service providers, including Huawei, Cisco and Microsoft. The Spiegel article claims that TAO was established in 1997, several years before the Internet became a prominent engine of economic and cultural activity around the world. Its personnel, which initially consisted of a few select technical experts, was housed at the NSA headquarters in Fort George Meade, Maryland, but “in a separate wing, set apart from the rest of the agency”. Notably, Der Spiegel cites a paper produced by a former TAO unit head, which states that the program has produced “some of the most significant intelligence our country has ever seen” and urges for its continued growth. Read more of this post

White House denies reports it offered to release Israeli spy

Jonathan Jay PollardBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Sources from the White House have anonymously denied a flurry of recent reports in Israeli media that Washington has offered to release Jonathan Jay Pollard, who spied on the United States for Israel. On Friday, Israel’s Channel 10 News claimed that US Secretary of State John Kerry had offered to secure freedom for Pollard, in exchange for the release of 26 longtime Arab prisoners from Israeli jails. Pollard, a US Navy intelligence analyst who spied for Israel in exchange for money, has so far served 28 years of a life sentence in a US prison. Many in US counterintelligence consider Pollard, who acquired Israeli citizenship in 1995, one of the most damaging double spies in American history. But he is widely viewed as a hero in Israel, and many conservative Israelis, as well as pro-Israel Americans, are actively pressuring the US administration of President Barack Obama to release him. Channel 10 said on Friday that Washington might consider freeing Pollard in return for Israel releasing 26 longtime Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons. The Jewish state has so far released 52 Palestinians in the first two phases of a four-phase program, aimed at prompting Palestinian groups to enter peace talks with Tel Aviv. However, a separate report aired on Israel National Radio on Friday evening said that the US Secretary of State had merely promised to pass on to US President Barack Obama an official request to free Pollard, issued by the Israeli government. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #862

Cyprus, Israel, Syria, LebanonBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Covert CIA program helped Colombia kill rebel leaders. A covert CIA program has helped Colombia’s government kill at least two dozen leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the rebel insurgency also known as FARC, The Washington Post reported Saturday. The National Security Agency has also provided “substantial eavesdropping help” to the Colombian government, according to The Post.
►►Israel asks US not to spy on it. Israeli officials broke their silence over the US surveillance scandal Sunday, angrily demanding an end to Washington’s spying on Israel. Last week more documents leaked by former NSA technical expert Edward Snowden uncovered a partnership between the NSA and British intelligence agency GCHQ from 2008 to 2011 to monitor office email addresses from the then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
►►Germany reacts coolly to French request on Central Africa. Germany reacted coolly last week to a French request that European countries step up support for its military mission in Central African Republic, playing down the likelihood of any financial assistance on the eve of an EU summit. France has deployed 1,600 troops there to prevent worsening violence between Christian militias and largely Muslim Seleka rebels who ousted ex-President Francois Bozize.

US sees Iranian commandos behind deadly Iraq raid

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Mujahideen-e-Khalq
United States officials have concluded that Iranian commandos were behind a deadly attack that took place earlier this year on Iraqi soil, which targeted a compound populated by Iranian anti-government exiles. The attack took place on the evening of September 1, 2013, in Camp Ashraf. The camp is controlled by the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), also known as the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran. In 1979, the MEK, which operates under a peculiar breed of Marxist, feminist and Islamic ideology (see photo), began an armed war against Tehran’s Islamic government. Many in MEK’s armed wing resettled on the Iraqi side of the Iraq-Iran border, where they received funding and diplomatic support from the government of Saddam Hussein. Although Washington officially considers the MEK to be a terrorist organization, it also views it as a source of valuable intelligence on Iran. It has therefore allowed the group to maintain its control of Camp Ashraf, though it has confiscated much of its weaponry. It is estimated that over 50 members of the group were killed in the September 1 attack, while at least seven others are believed to be in Iran, after they were abducted by the attackers. The latter are thought to have comprised of Iranian commandos and Arabic-speaking Iraqi Shiite paramilitaries. American officials have said little about the attack; in early December, US Secretary John Kerry refused to comment on the incident during an open-door, unclassified Congressional hearing. But earlier this week, Foreign Policy magazine said it spoke to a US official who was “briefed on the intelligence community’s assessment of the attack”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #861 (Syria edition)

Regional map of SyriaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Report from Syrian city controlled by al-Qaeda. Raqqa, a city in northeastern Syria with approximately one million inhabitants, is now under control of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the most powerful al-Qaeda affiliate currently operating in Syria. Since ISIS came to power in May, its abuse of Raqqa’s citizens has been well documented. On the surface, this violence appears to be indiscriminate and irrational. Yet, it is also organized and tactical.
►►US weighing closer ties with hardline Islamists in Syria. As the moderate faction of the Syrian rebellion implodes under the strain of vicious infighting and diminished resources, the United States is increasingly looking to hardline Islamists in its efforts to gain leverage in Syria’s civil war. On Monday, the State Department confirmed its openness to engaging with the Islamic Front following the group’s seizure of a Free Syrian Army headquarters last week.
►►Turkey shipped tons of arms to Syria rebels. Turkey has shipped 47 tons of weapons to Syrian rebels since June despite repeated government denials, a local newspaper reported on Monday. The Hurriyet Daily News, citing UN and Turkish Statistics Institute records, said 29 tons of military equipment were sent to opposition fighters in September alone. The government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a vociferous opponent of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has openly supported the rebels but has always denied arming them.

New generation of FBI counterintelligence agents enters the field

FBIBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, America’s foremost counterintelligence agency, is preparing to field its first generation of operatives who acquired the bulk of their professional experiences after 9/11. In an enlightening analysis published in Newsweek, veteran intelligence corresponded Jeff Stein says the FBI’s is now being staffed by a new breed of field agents. This new cohort, which is gradually replacing the older generation of counterterrorism and counterintelligence agents, is far more skilled in the geopolitics of Islam, something that distinguishes them from their older colleagues. Tim Murphy, who recently retired as Deputy Director at the Bureau, told Stein that now “everyone in [FBI] counterterrorism knows the difference [between Sunnis and Shiites]”, which was not the case for many years after 9/11. The new FBI agents, said Murphy, also know “know the difference between factions in al Qaeda [and] the political and religious differences” that feed political Islam. The retired official added that over half of the agents on duty now at the FBI entered the Bureau after 9/11. Their interest in counterterrorism and counterintelligence has been furthered by the FBI’s decision to open up a host of new career branches for agents with specializations in intelligence. The latter have now started to enter the Bureau with degrees in international relations, intelligence studies, or computer science, whereas some years ago backgrounds in law and accounting topped the lists of new recruits. But new counterintelligence and counterterrorism agents are far more into “the world of al-Qaeda and Hezbollah, Chinese hackers and Russian spies”, says Stein. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #860

Edward SnowdenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Top US-backed rebel commander flees Syria. General Salim Idris of the Free Syrian Army, who was the most senior Western-backed rebel commander in Syria, has fled the country amid growing infighting with Islamist rebels, American officials have said. The rebel military leader fled into Turkey and flew to Doha, Qatar on Sunday, after Islamist rebel groups took over his headquarters and warehouses of US-supplied military gear along the border between Turkey and Syria.
►►NSA co-worker calls Snowden ‘genius among geniuses’. Forbes magazine’s Andy Greenberg says he was contacted by a former co-worker of NSA technical expert Edward Snowden, who described the defector as “a principled and ultra-competent, if somewhat eccentric employee, and one who earned the access used to pull off his leak by impressing superiors [at NSA] with sheer talent”. The unnamed source continued: “that kid was a genius among geniuses [...], I’ve never seen anything like it”.
►►Iran claims to have captured MI6 spy. Iran says it has captured a spy working for British intelligence agency MI6 in the south-eastern city of Kerman. The head of Kerman’s revolutionary court said the alleged spy had admitted being in contact with four British intelligence officers 11 times, both inside and outside the country. He said the accused was now on trial and had confessed. The nationality of the alleged spy is not yet known. The UK Foreign Office said it did not comment on intelligence matters.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 533 other followers