US hesitant to share Boko Haram intel with Nigerian government

Boko Haram militantsBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
United States military officials said on Tuesday that the Pentagon is not “at this point” sharing intelligence on the Boko Haram militant group with the Nigerian government. Last month, members of the armed group, which campaigns for an Islamist state in predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria, abducted at least 200 teenage girls from a boarding school in Chibok, a primarily Christian village located in the northeast of the country. Since then, the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, has threatened to kill or sell the girls as slaves unless the government of Nigeria releases Boko Haram prisoners. In the past week, the US has become directly involved in the search for the missing girls. On Monday, the US Department of Defense deployed fixed-wing aircraft on a variety of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions concentrating on Boko Haram strongholds in the northeast of the country, near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon. Meanwhile, 30 American advisers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Defense Intelligence Agency, and Department of State, are already in Nigerian capital Abuja, assisting in the search for the kidnap victims. American media has reported that the US Department of State is now sharing commercial satellite imagery with the Nigerian government in the context of the search. However, the Pentagon said that it is not “at this point [...] sharing raw intelligence data” on Boko Haram with the Nigerian government. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Army Colonel Steve Warren, a spokesman for the US Department of Defense, refused to discuss the precise reasons why the Pentagon is withholding intelligence data from the Nigerian military. There is speculation, however, that the decision may be related to fears in Washington that the notoriously corrupt Nigerian military may have been infiltrated by Boko Haram members and sympathizers. Read more of this post

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US court dismisses lawsuit against CIA over scientist’s death

CIA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A United States federal court has dismissed a lawsuit filed against the Central Intelligence Agency over an alleged murder of an American Department of Defense scientist, which occurred in 1953. The lawsuit concerned the case of Dr. Frank Olson, a specialist in biological warfare working for the US Pentagon at Fort Detrick, Maryland. It appears that Olson, who studied the effects of toxins on the brain, participated —knowingly or unknowingly— in Project MKNAOMI/ MKULTRA. The project was a joint effort by the CIA and the US military to study the effects of substances such as heroin and LSD on the human brain. On November 28, 1953, Dr. Olson fell to his death from the window of his room on the 13th floor of New York City’s Statler Hotel. In an internal report that was declassified in 1975, the US government admitted that Dr. Olson had been assigned the task of military-scientific liaison with the CIA’s Technical Services Staff —the unit in charge of MKULTRA. Moreover, the report disclosed that the late scientist had been administered LSD by his CIA colleagues without his knowledge nine days prior to his sudden death. Ever since the report was aired, Dr. Olson’s family has maintained that the scientist did not voluntarily plunge from his hotel window on November 28, 1953. Rather, they claim, he was pushed to his death by CIA personnel, after he raised strong objections against the testing of chemical and biological substances on non-consenting human subjects by the Agency’s Technical Services Staff. But US District Judge James Boasberg ruled that, although the CIA had yet to come clean on the controversial history of MKULTRA, the lawsuit by Dr. Olson’s family had been “filed too late”; he added in his ruling that an earlier settlement between the dead scientist’s family and the US government effectively barred the possibility of a new lawsuit. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #838 (analysis edition)

Predator droneBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Delisle spy case barely caused ripples between Canada and Russia. The arrest of Jeffrey Delisle, a Canadian naval officer spying for Russia, did little to discourage Canada from welcoming that country’s defense chief to a Newfoundland meeting of Arctic nations last year. The visit underscored the puzzling lengths to which the Canadian government went to carry on a business-as-usual relationship with the one-time Cold War adversary. Most other planned military contacts between the two nations last year —including participation in the anti-terrorism exercise Operation Vigilant Eagle— also remained curiously normal.
►►Don’t believe the hype on Chinese cyberespionage. Within a day of each other, The Washington Post published a shocking list of US defense programs whose designs have reportedly been stolen by Chinese cyberattacks, and ABC news said the plans for Australia’s spy headquarters were also stolen by Chinese hackers. It makes China sound like a secret-sucking cyber espionage machine, but is that really the case? The knee-jerk interpretation to this disclosure (and others) is that China is a powerhouse of cyber espionage capable of stealing whatever secrets they want and that the US is powerless to stop them. This seems very unlikely.
►►US Predator drone program quietly shifted from CIA to DoD. The White House has quietly shifted lead responsibility for its controversial armed drone program from the CIA to the Defense Department. In a landmark speech last week at National Defense University in Washington, US President Barack Obama offered some clues into the status of the program, opaquely signaling it will now primarily be conducted by the United States military.

US Senate blocks Pentagon plan to launch new CIA-style agency

The US Department of DefenseBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Last week the United States Department of Defense flooded media outlets with press releases announcing the planned establishment of a new military intelligence organization that would rival the Central Intelligence Agency in both size and scope. Not so fast. The US Senate has just blocked the plan citing gross mismanagement of the Pentagon’s existing intelligence operations. The proposed Defense Clandestine Service centers on plans to build an extensive overseas intelligence network, run by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency and based on the CIA model of stations located in large metropolitan centers. The DoD said that the new intelligence organization will help the US armed forces broaden their intelligence collection from the current concentration in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the Senate, which was asked to review and approve the plan’s financial requirements, submitted under the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, has refused to do so. Moreover, it issued a written rationale, drafted by the Senate Armed Services Committee, in which it explicitly forbids the Pentagon using US taxpayers’ money to expand its overseas intelligence operations. According to The Washington Post, the reason for the plan’s rejection is two-fold. First, the Senate appears unhappy with the financial management of the DoD’s existing intelligence collection efforts. The Senate report cites serious concerns about the excessive financial cost and management failures associated with the Pentagon’s ongoing intelligence operations. It specifically mentions “poor or non-existent career management” for DoD intelligence operatives who are often transferred back to regular military units after undertaking “unproductive” assignments overseas, despite extensive intelligence training. The Senate Armed Services Committee’s report stipulates that, before it asks for more money to build the proposed new agency, the Pentagon must “demonstrate that it can improve the management of clandestine [human intelligence] before undertaking any further expansion”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #816

Kim Jong-namBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Danish minister vows more control over spy agency. Following the uproar created by the revelations from former Danish secret service (PET) agent Morten Storm, Denmark’s Minister of Justice, Morten Bødskov, is now calling for parliament to have more control over the domestic intelligence agency. In an interview with Berlingske newspaper, Bødskov said that he is seeking increased powers for parliament’s Kontroludvalg, a committee established in 1964 to oversee PET. The move comes in response to the many questions that have arisen about PET’s actions following Storm’s decision to contribute to a series of articles in Jyllands-Posten newspaper that chronicled his time as a PET double-agent.
►►South Korea jails alleged North Korean assassin. A South Korean court has jailed an unidentified North Korean spy reportedly ordered to attack Kim Jong-nam, the eldest son of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Kim Jong-nam, who is believed to have fallen out of favor with Kim Jong-il in 2001, was thought to have been living in Macau, but media reports indicate he may have moved to Singapore. South Korean media said the alleged assassin had spent a decade in China tracking down North Korean defectors before coming to the South, and that he had admitted trying to organize “a hit-and-run accident” targeting Kim Jong-nam.
►►US Pentagon to double the size of its worldwide spy network. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the US Pentagon’s military intelligence unit, is aiming to recruit 1,600 intelligence collectors —up from the several hundred overseas agents it has employed in recent years. The DIA’s new recruits would include military attachés and others who do not work undercover. But US officials say that the growth will be driven a new generation of spies who will take their orders from the Department of Defense. The project is reportedly aimed at transforming the DIA into a spy service more closely aligned with the CIA and elite military commando units.

News you may have missed #786

Richard Masato AokiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US Pentagon wants to share intel with Egypt. The US Department of Defense is offering Egypt a package of classified intelligence-sharing capabilities designed to help it identify military threats along its border with Israel. According to an unnamed senior US official, the Pentagon leadership is concerned about “rising militancy” along the Egyptian-Israeli border. The purported intelligence package includes satellite imagery, data collected through unmanned drones, as well as intercepts of cell phone and other communications among militants suspected of planning attacks. The Egyptian intelligence chief was summarily fired earlier this month, after more than a dozen Egyptian soldiers were killed near Israel’s border when gunmen attacked a post and tried to enter Israel.
►►Researcher disputes Aoki was FBI informant. Last week author Seth Rosenfeld alleged that prominent 1960s Black Panther Party member Richard Masato Aoki, who gave the Black Panthers some of their first firearms and weapons training, was an undercover FBI informer. But the claim, which is detailed in Rosenfeld’s new book, Subversives, is disputed by another researcher, Diane C. Fujino. A professor and chair of Asian American studies at UC Santa Barbara, and author of the recently published Samurai Among Panthers, Fujino argues that Rosenfeld has not met the burden of proof on Aoki, and that he “made definitive conclusions based on inconclusive evidence”.
►►Russian intelligence to monitor blogosphere. Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, the FSB, says it plans to fund a program that monitors the Internet’s “blogosphere”, with an aim to “shape public views through social networking”. Citing unnamed sources from inside the FSB, Russian newspaper Kommersant said that the project’s research stage will cost around $1 million. The article implies that the online surveillance and opinion-shaping program will target both Russian- and foreign-language online users. This is not the first time that the FSB has displayed interest in online social networking in recent years.

Situation Report: Intel-on-Demand in a Web 2.0 World (Exclusive)

US President Barack Obama and his BlackBerry phoneBy TIMOTHY W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
In the United States, the President’s Daily Brief (PDB), “the highest-level intelligence analysis targeted at the key national security issues and concerns of the President”, is increasingly going digital. For that matter, so is much of the output produced by the US Intelligence Community at large. According to AOL Defense News, “The President and his top officials want and will get a single mobile device allowing them to access highly classified and unclassified data wherever they are”. The mobility feature is driven by a desire not to be tethered to a desk or a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF). In addition to the obvious benefits of mobility, the digitized PDB allows for a more in-depth and interactive reading of intelligence matters. In the example of the PDB, as the President reviews the nation’s most sensitive intelligence information on a specialized tablet, he can jump back and forth, click on links to take a deeper dive, see follow-up briefings, review background materials for greater context, view videos, photographs, maps and other visual aids. In fact, the PDB has gone from a static page to an interactive assessment of top intelligence concerns, landing it squarely in a quasi Web 2.0 world for the Intelligence Community. That is not to say that the President is checking Twitter, Facebook or the Rasmussen Report’s daily Presidential Tracking Poll numbers. Instead, reports indicate the digitized hardware has been scaled way down. For obvious reasons, specific details regarding the hardware’s composition and features remain classified. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #739

The US Department of DefenseBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US Supreme Court to consider case on secret wiretapping. The Supreme Court has agreed to consider blocking a constitutional challenge to the government’s secret wiretapping of international phone calls and emails. At issue is whether Americans who have regular dealings with overseas clients and co-workers can sue to challenge the sweep of this surveillance if they have a “reasonable fear” their calls will be monitored. The case, to be heard in the fall, will put a spotlight on a secret surveillance program that won congressional approval in the last year of President George W. Bush’s presidency.
►►Analysis: Why is CIA applauding DoD’s intel grab? Last month, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced the creation of a new US espionage agency: the Defense Clandestine Service, or DCS. The new agency is expected to expand the Pentagon’s espionage personnel by several hundred over the next few years, while reportedly leaving budgets largely unchanged. The news nonetheless surprised some observers in Washington because the move appeared, at least initially, to be a direct challenge to the Central Intelligence Agency, whose National Clandestine Service leads the country’s spy work overseas. Then came a second surprise: former CIA officers and other intelligence experts started applauding. The question is why.
►►FBI forms secretive online surveillance unit. On May 22, CNet’s Declan McCullagh revealed that the FBI had quietly formed a new Domestic Communications Assistance Center (DCAC), tasked with developing new electronic surveillance technologies, including intercepting Internet, wireless, and VoIP communications. According to McCullagh, DCAC’s goal is “to invent technology that will [...] more readily eavesdrop on Internet and wireless communications”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #719

Benny GantzBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Iran says it has cracked US spy drone secrets. Iran claims it has cracked the encryption on the computer software onboard a US RQ-170 Sentinel drone which crashed in the country in December. General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guards aerospace division, said engineers were decoding the last pieces of data from the spy plane, which came down near the Afghan border. An Iranian defense official recently said that Tehran has had several requests for information on the craft and that China and Russia have shown an interest.
►►Israel steps up covert operations says defense chief. Israel’s defense chief, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, has confirmed his forces are carrying out increased special operations beyond the country’s borders. In an interview published on Wednesday to mark the eve of Israel’s Independence Day, Gantz said Israel was ready to attack Iran’s nuclear sites if ordered to do so. But he added that did not mean he was about to order the air force to strike. He also said that he had increased the number of covert Israeli operations in other countries, but gave no details. “I do not think you will find a point in time where there is not something happening, somewhere in the world”, he said.
►►US Pentagon plans new intelligence-gathering service. The US Pentagon is revamping its spy operations to focus on high-priority targets like Iran and China in a reorganization that reflects a shift away from the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan that have dominated America’s security landscape for the past decade. Under the plan approved last week by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, case officers from the new Defense Clandestine Service would work more closely with counterparts from the Central Intelligence Agency at a time when the military and spy agency are increasingly focused on similar threats.

News you may have missed #689: NSA edition

Michael HaydenBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►Ex-NSA Director calls Stuxnet a ‘good idea’. General Michael Hayden, once head of the NSA and CIA, who was no longer in office when the Stuxnet attack on Iran occurred, but who would have been around when the computer virus was created, denies knowing who was behind it. He calls Stuxnet “a good idea”. But he also admits “this was a big idea, too. The rest of the world is looking at this and saying, ‘clearly, someone has legitimated this kind of activity as acceptable'”.
►►NSA develops secure Android phones. The US National Security Agency has developed and published details of an encrypted VoIP communications system using commercial off-the-shelf components and an Android operating system. A hundred US government employees participated in a pilot of Motorola hardware running hardened VoIP called ‘Project FISHBOWL’, NSA Information Assurance Directorate technical director Margaret Salter told the RSA Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. “The beauty of our strategy is that we looked at all of the components, and took stuff out of the operating system we didn’t need”, said Salter. “This makes the attack surface very small”.
►►Senior US Defense official says DHS should lead cybersecurity. In the midst of an ongoing turf battle over how big a role the National Security Agency should play in securing America’s critical infrastructure, Eric Rosenbach, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Cyber Policy in the Department of Defense, said on Wednesday that the NSA should take a backseat to the Department of Homeland Security in this regard. “Obviously, there are amazing resources at NSA, a lot of magic that goes on there”, he said. “But it’s almost certainly not the right approach for the United States of America to have a foreign intelligence focus on domestic networks, doing something that throughout history has been a domestic function”.

US Pentagon computers cannot be protected, says NSA head

General Keith AlexanderBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The man in charge of America’s most powerful intelligence agency says the United States Department of Defense computer network is so disordered and chaotic that it cannot be defended from cyberattacks. General Keith Alexander directs the National Security Agency, America’s wealthiest intelligence institution, which expert James Bamford has described as “the world’s most powerful spy agency”. As America’s foremost signals intelligence agency, the NSA is largely responsible for protecting the integrity, security and cohesion of the country’s public and restricted military communications networks, including computer networks. To do so, it consumes an annual budget that dwarfs those of most other intelligence agencies, and employs entire armies of computer security experts and other professionals. But, according to General Alexander, who also heads the US Pentagon’s new Cyber Command, there is not much his army of cyberwarriors can do to either prevent or repel possible large-scale cyberattacks directed against the DoD’s computer networks. The NSA chief was speaking yesterday at the International Conference on Cyber Security, a high-profile gathering of experts at New York’s Fordham University. He told the conference, which is sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that the Pentagon’s computer infrastructure is too anarchic and chaotic to be successfully defended from cyberespionage, cyberterrorism, or cyberwarfare assaults. He said the DoD computer system consists of so many interconnected networks —over 15,000 in all— that the NSA “can’t see them all [let alone] defend them all”. As a result, said Alexander, the DoD’s current communications infrastructure “is indefensible”. Read more of this post

South Korea to buy from France, after US delays sale of spy planes

RQ-4 Global HawkBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States has unexpectedly delayed a previously agreed sale of spy drones to South Korea, prompting the Asian country to announce it will begin purchasing spy planes from France. The South Korean military has been under increasing pressure to improve its intelligence reconnaissance capabilities since last year, when North Korean forces opened fire at South Korea’s Big Yeonpyeong island, killing four and injuring over a dozen people. But an earlier agreement with Washington to supply Seoul with RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude surveillance spy planes, appears to have been derailed, after the Pentagon failed to approve the sale. South Korea’s state-run Yonhap news agency quoted an anonymous “government source” who said that Seoul had expected to receive the unmanned drones, built by US defense contractor Northrop Grumman, by 2015. But the sale cannot be completed without official approval by the US Department of Defense, which “has yet to send a letter of agreement” for the planned transaction. The South Korean government source did not explain why the US government appears to be backing out of the deal. But US sources tell intelNews that Washington’s move may be “of a punitive nature”, intended to penalize South Korea for challenging Northrop Grumman’s actions in the Korean Peninsula. IntelNews readers may remember a little-reported incident in November of 2009, when the government in Seoul ordered the arrest of two former South Korean army colonels, identified only as “Hwang” and “Ryu”, for allegedly leaking South Korean defense secrets to Northrop Grumman. The two worked for the Security Management Institute, a Seoul-based intelligence think-tank with strong connections to South Korea’s armed forces. According to the indictment by the prosecutor, Hwang and Ryu gave Northrop Grumman classified information on hardware purchase plans and operations of South Korea’s navy and coast guard. Read more of this post

US considered covert mission to recover drone captured by Iran

Iran

Iran

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
What a difference two days can make! On Monday we speculated that Iran may have captured intact a United States Air Force RQ-170 Sentinel surveillance drone. At that time, most American officials questioned or flatly denied Iran’s capture claims. It now appears almost certain that Iran is indeed in possession of the aircraft; what is more, it seems increasingly likely that the captured drone was conducting a Central Intelligence Agency reconnaissance mission when it crashed in the desert along the country’s 1,000 km-long border with Afghanistan. The significance of the drone’s capture by Iranian authorities can be discerned from the fact that US officials are said to have considered last weekend several options for retrieving it from Iranian territory. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, the US Department of Defense, in association with the CIA, discussed at least three separate plans for recovering or destroying the aircraft wreckage. One of the options discussed involved sending an airborne team of US covert operatives into northeast Iran to locate the crashed drone, disassemble it, and carry its top-secret mechanical and electronic components back to a US base in Afghanistan. The US also considered deploying Special Forces stationed in Afghanistan, or tasking US intelligence assets inside Iran, with locating and blowing up the crashed drone. A third option involved destroying the downed aircraft with a remote airstrike from Afghanistan. Read more of this post

Analysis: CIA retains special operations role in post-9/11 era

CIA HQ

CIA HQ

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Despite its ‘shoot ’em-up’ image in popular culture, the Central Intelligence Agency is predominantly responsible for collecting and analyzing intelligence for the benefit of US policymakers. The Agency’s paramilitary tasks —also known as ‘special operations’— form a somewhat smaller part of its overall mission. The CIA is America’s only government agency that can legally authorized by the President to perform special operations. The question is, should it? One of the 9/11 Commission Report’s chief recommendations was that the CIA should be stripped of its special operations function, and that the latter should be surrendered to the Department of Defense, in the form of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). Clearly, JSOC has played an important role in post-9/11 counterterrorist operations. Yet it is equally clear that, not only has the CIA not been stripped of its paramilitary tasks, but the latter have actually been drastically augmented by the Obama administration —not least through the continuing unmanned drone program in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A well-written analysis by Politico’s Josh Gerstein correctly notes that recommendations to eliminate the CIA’s paramilitary role and transfer it to the Pentagon “remain unpopular in the highest echelons”. The article quotes Philip Zelikow, a University of Virginia professor and former executive director of the 9/11 Commission, who is one of the few intelligence planners that favor transferring special operations from the CIA to the Department of Defense. He says that military functions “ought to be performed by trained military organizations [...]. Do you want the CIA operating a combatant command responsible for fighting our twilight wars, especially in a world when twilight wars are the wars we mainly fight?”. The argument seems to be that, as special operations become increasingly central in America’s ‘war on terrorism’, they should be commanded by a military, rather than a civilian, agency. An unnamed former CIA official puts forward the Agency’s view in the article: what do you do “if you have a [host] country that wants to deny a program”? In other words, how do you exercise plausible deniability through the Department of Defense? “[T]he CIA is going to [have to] move to the front of the queue”, he answers. 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

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