News you may have missed #846

North and South KoreaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Cuba confirms it hid weapons on seized N. Korean ship. Cuba has admitted being behind a stash of weapons found on board a North Korean ship seized in the Panama Canal. The ship was seized by Panama last week after “undeclared military cargo” was found hidden in a shipment of sugar. United Nations sanctions prohibit the supply of arms to North Korea in the continuing dispute over its nuclear program. But the Cuban foreign ministry said the ship was carrying “obsolete arms” from Cuba “for repair” in North Korea.
►►British undercover officers stole identities of dead children. Britain’s Metropolitan Police Service, which is responsible for policing most of the city of London, has admitted that its undercover police officers expropriated the identities of at least 43 dead children. But police officials refused to inform the children’s families at the time, saying the practice was considered “essential to protect covert officers who were working inside dangerous extremist groups”.
►►Snowden has ‘thousands’ of damaging NSA documents. The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, who first reported on the disclosures of former CIA employee Edward Snowden, has said that the self-styled whistleblower has “literally thousands of documents” in his possession, which are essentially an “instruction manual for how the NSA is built”. The information could allow someone to evade or mimic NSA surveillance tactics, the journalist said.

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News you may have missed #843 (analysis on Snowden leak)

James ClapperBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Countries approached by Snowden for asylum and their responses. According to a statement from WikiLeaks, former CIA/NSA employee Edward Snowden has applied for asylum in a total of 21 countries, but with little success so far. Here is a list of the countries he approached and their responses –or lack thereof– so far. Bolivia and Venezuela appear somewhat positive, but Ecuador and Russia have denied any possibility of giving Snowden political asylum. Other countries, including Cuba and China, have yet to issue a response to Snowden’s request.
►►US ODNI admits giving ‘erroneous’ answer during Senate testimony. James Clapper, America’s most senior intelligence official, who heads the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, has told a Senate oversight panel that he “simply didn’t think” of the National Security Agency’s efforts to collect the phone records of millions of Americans when he testified in March that it did “not wittingly” snoop on their communications. He had told during his testimony that NSA did “not wittingly” collect “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans”. But that was before Snowden spilled the beans….
►►Are the Europeans being hypocrites over spying? If you buy the latest reporting out of Europe, France is outraged, simply outraged, at news that the National Security Agency has been eavesdropping on the European Union through its mission in New York and embassy in Washington. All of which is pretty hilarious, given France’s penchant for stealing American defense technology, bugging American business executives and generally annoying US counterintelligence officials. And it’s not just France, either.

US spies on Germany, EU agencies, as much as on China and Iraq

European Union offices in Washington, DCBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
America spies on the communications of German and other European Union agencies with the same intensity it spies on China and Iraq, documents show. German newsmagazine Der Spiegel aired these claims on Sunday, based on documents it said it obtained from American whistleblower Edward Snowden. Snowden, a former technical expert with the Central Intelligence Agency, remains holed up inside the transit section of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport, as Russian authorities have rejected repeated requests by Washington to extradite him to the US. According to Spiegel, American intelligence operatives placed interception equipment in the offices of the European Union’s representation in Washington, DC, before infiltrating the building’s computer network. Similar methods were aimed at the EU’s official representation to the United Nations in New York, and even in Brussels, Belgium, where the EU is headquartered. In a separate article, also published on Sunday, Der Spiegel said the National Security Agency, America’s foremost communications interception agency, monitors data from over half a billion communications exchanges taking place in Germany each month. The data is derived from telephone calls, emails, mobile text messages, and even chat transcripts, said the newsmagazine. The information appears to suggest that United States communications intelligence agencies are far more active in Germany than in any other of the EU’s 28 member states. Late on Sunday, a spokeswoman at the Office of the German Federal Prosecutor told Spiegel that the question of whether German citizens’ rights have been violated by illegal American intelligence activities is currently being looked at, and that “criminal charges” relating to the spying revelations “appear likely”. Read more of this post

Snowden flees to Russia despite US passport revocation

Edward SnowdenBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An American former intelligence contractor, who leaked classified information about intelligence operations, was able to leave Hong Kong for Russia on Sunday, despite having his United States passport revoked. Earlier this month, Edward Snowden, a former technical assistant for the Central Intelligence Agency, disclosed the existence of PRISM, a clandestine electronic surveillance program operated by the US National Security Agency (NSA). Shortly before leaking information about US intelligence operations to the world’s media, Snowden traveled to Hong Kong, a territory under the control of the People’s Republic of China. Last week, Washington charged Snowden, a self-described whistleblower, under the Espionage Act, and revoked his American passport, in an attempt to prevent him from leaving Hong Kong. But reports emerged on Sunday that Snowden had boarded an Aeroflot flight from Honk Kong to Russian capital Moscow, despite the revocation of his American passport. US authorities claim that Snowden’s transfer to Moscow occurred after Washington revoked his American passport, which raises the question of how the former CIA employee was able to exit Chinese territory. Several reports suggest that Snowden was accompanied by “unidentified diplomats” as he left Hong Kong for Moscow. Previously, the US had applied considerable diplomatic pressure on China, requesting Snowden’s extradition. But Hong Kong allowed the American fugitive to board a plane to Moscow, saying it had been given “no legal basis to restrict Mr. Snowden from leaving”. Read more of this post

Skype set up secret project to enable government snooping

SkypeBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Skype, the world-famous company that provides Internet-based communications between registered users, set up a secret project five years ago to facilitate persistent requests by government agencies to listen in on users’ phone calls. The New York Times revealed the secret project, codenamed Project CHESS, on Wednesday, citing individuals with inside knowledge of the program, who asked to remain anonymous so as “to avoid trouble with the intelligence agencies”. For many years, it was believed that the US National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence agencies had found it impossible to intercept Skype’s instant messaging and voice traffic. This was because, like other voice-over-Internet protocol (VOIP) communications providers, Skype uses technology that converts audio signals to data, and transports them through most of the Internet infrastructure in binary, rather than audio, format. Furthermore, Skype uses very complex algorithms to encrypt its customers’ communications. The company had repeatedly pointed to the technical complexities of VOIP communications in arguing that it was often technically impossible to facilitate communications interception requests by government authorities. In 2009, rumors began to circulate in the cybersecurity community that Skype’s VOIP encryption system had been cracked. It now seems that, around that time, the company, which was then still owned by eBay, was already negotiating with the United States government in order to help intelligence agencies gain access to its users’ communications. Read more of this post

Analysis: PRISM revelations harm US political, financial interests

NSA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Ever since June 6, when Edward Snowden, a former United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) technician, exposed a vast communications spying system called PRISM, observers have focused on the ramifications of this controversy inside America. But in an excellent analysis written for ComputerWorld magazine’s New Zealand edition, Taylor Armerding points out that Snowden’s revelation could result in extensive international blowback for the United States, in both the political and economic realms. Armerding quotes Toronto University political science professor Ron Deibert, who argues that this latest revelation of massive communications interception activity by the National Security Agency (NSA) carries with it “unintended consequences [...] that will undermine US foreign policy interests”. Deibert points out that the spy scandal has the potential to undercut America’s role and influence in global Internet governance. In the words of renowned security expert Bruce Schneier, many around the world are beginning to view the US as “simply too untrustworthy to manage the Internet”. Even policymakers and ordinary users friendly to Washington are worried about what they perceive as the “huge disadvantages” of their dependence on US-managed Internet networks that host the content of social media sites, cloud computing databases, or telecommunications exchanges, says Deibert. But the biggest potential damage to US interests, argues Armerding, is not political, but economic. “It is not just personal information that is being swept into the NSA’s massive databases”, he notes; “it is corporate data as well”. Indeed, the vast foreign and domestic spying represented by PRISM poses a direct threat to the global competitiveness of the American technology sector. Read more of this post

Swiss parliament halts US tax deal following CIA espionage claims

Swiss National Council chamberBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The lower house of the Swiss parliament has voted to stop considering a legislation designed to help the United States identify tax evaders, just days after a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee revealed an espionage operation targeting a Swiss bank executive. The legislation, which was drafted by the government of Switzerland, is aimed at addressing demands by Washington for Swiss banks to turn over to US authorities the identities of American tax dodgers. It is believed that tens of thousands of wealthy Americans manage to evade their tax obligations each year by exploiting strict Swiss banking privacy laws, which effectively shield them from US internal revenue authorities. The legislation has already been approved by the upper house of the Swiss Federal Assembly (the Council of States), but it needs to be cleared by the lower house (the National Council) before it can be officially enacted. Interestingly, the legislation was halted in the lower house just days after American intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed a US espionage operation aimed at recruiting a Swiss bank official. Snowden, a former technical assistant for the CIA, disclosed the existence of PRISM, a clandestine national security electronic surveillance program operated by the United States National Security Agency (NSA). In addition to PRISM, Snowden, 29, spoke about a CIA operation in 2007, when he was allegedly stationed under diplomatic cover at the CIA station in Geneva, Switzerland. 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 #842 (world reaction to Snowden leak)

Edward SnowdenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Chinese media focus on Snowden leaks. The front pages of Chinese state media were covered Thursday with the allegations of ex-CIA employee Edward Snowden, who says the US government has been hacking computers in China for years. Speaking to media in Hong Kong, where he is currently staying, Snowden said the US has been hacking computers in Hong Kong and mainland China since 2009. He said targets include public officials, businesses and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Those claims by Snowden were the top story on most of China’s major news portals on Thursday
►►Switzerland furious about Snowden’s charge that CIA spies on Swiss banks. One of the many lurid details in The Guardian’s remarkable interview with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was his account of what initially prompted him to leak: namely a CIA tour in Switzerland, where CIA officers recruited Swiss banking officials. The Snowden disclosure could not come at a worse time for the Swiss government, which is trying to convince parliament to back its emergency plan that would allow Swiss banks to turn over data on tax evaders to the US government.
►►Is Russia considering giving asylum to Snowden? Asked if the 29-year-old could claim asylum from Russia, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin told the newspaper Kommersant: “If such a request is received, it will be considered”. Any attempt by the Kremlin to give refuge to Mr Snowden, amid calls for his prosecution under the US Espionage Act, is likely to infuriate the White House and provoke a major diplomatic standoff.

News you may have missed #841 (Snowden leak analysis)

Edward SnowdenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US officials defend spy programs as safeguards against terror. Intelligence officials sought to convince US House lawmakers in an unusual briefing that the government’s years-long collection of phone records and Internet usage is necessary for protecting Americans —and does not trample on their privacy rights. The parade of FBI and intelligence officials who briefed the entire House on Tuesday was the latest attempt to soothe outrage over NSA programs which collect billions of Americans’ phone and Internet records.
►►Some in US intelligence see Chinese behind Snowden leak. Former CIA officer Bob Baer told CNN that some US intelligence officials “are seriously looking at [the revelations made by Edward Snowden] as a potential Chinese covert action. Hong Kong is controlled by Chinese intelligence”, Baer told CNN Sunday evening. “It’s not an independent part of China at all. I’ve talked to a bunch of people in Washington today, in official positions, and they are looking at this as a potential Chinese espionage case”.
►►Leak highlights risk of outsourcing US spy work. The explosive leak uncovering America’s vast surveillance program highlights the risks Washington takes by entrusting so much of its defense and spy work to private firms, experts say. Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old man whose leak uncovered how spy agencies sift through phone records and Internet traffic, is among a legion of private contractors who make up nearly 30 percent of the workforce in intelligence agencies. From analyzing intelligence to training new spies, jobs that were once performed by government employees are now carried out by paid contractors, in a dramatic shift that began in the 1990s amid budget pressures.

Ex-CIA technician who leaked Verizon court order comes forward

Edward SnowdenBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Last week, British newspaper The Guardian revealed a secret court order that enables the United States government to collect the telephone records of millions of customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest cellular phone service providers. On the morning of Sunday, June 9, the individual responsible for leaking the secret court order came forward on his own volition. He is Edward Snowden, a former technical assistant for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The 29-year-old computer expert, who has been working for the National Security Agency (NSA) for the last four years, told The Guardian that he decided to leak the injunction because he felt it posed “an existential threat to democracy”. He added that he was not motivated by money in disclosing the document. Were he after money, he said, he “could have sold these documents to any number of countries and gotten very rich”. In a video published on The Guardian’s website, Snowden told the paper that his disillusionment with America’s “federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers” began even before 2007, when he was stationed under diplomatic cover at the CIA station in Geneva, Switzerland. He finally decided to act three weeks ago, he said, after careful consideration of the ramifications of his decision for his life and career.

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News you may have missed #840

John KiriakouBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►S. Korea prosecutors might seek ex-spy chief’s arrest. Prosecutors said Monday they will decide sometime this week whether to seek an arrest warrant against Won Sei-hoon, who headed South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) for about four years until early this year. He is suspected of ordering agents to post a slew of politically sensitive comments on the Internet in order to sway public opinion in favor of the ruling party candidate prior to the December 19 national election. Won, who headed the NIS under former President Lee Myung-bak, has been barred from leaving the country pending investigation.
►►CIA self-described whistleblower writes about life in prison. In 2012, former CIA officer John Kiriakou pleaded guilty to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. In January of this year, he was sentenced to 30 months in a low security prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania. In a letter released by his lawyer, Kiriakou describes his day-to-day life behind bars, from his own tiny cell to an almost anthropological study of the lunchroom and the relatively rare prison fights.
►►Comment: End the spy budget secrecy in Israel. Since the establishment of the Israeli state, the security establishment has enjoyed confidentiality with regard to the details of its budget, justified by the need to keep secrets from enemy intelligence services. This lack of transparency has impaired public scrutiny of security expenditure, which represents a large chunk of the Israeli economy. When the watchful eye is distant, the temptation is great to inflate job slots, exaggerate salary increments and hike up pension conditions.

News you may have missed #815 (analysis edition)

Polygraph testBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Should polygraph tests be trusted?  US federal polygraph programs have flourished, targeting a growing number of private contractors with more intensely personal questions than ever before. More than 70,000 people are now screened yearly in the US. Yet thousands of people a year could be identified as lying in polygraph screenings when they are not, according to statistical models by the National Academies, which advises the federal government on scientific matters. Under the current system, many of them would have no way to legally challenge polygraphists’ conclusions, especially in the intelligence world.
►►Why the US does not need another law against intelligence leaks. Leonard Downie Jr., vice president at large of The Washington Post, warns that the 2013 Intelligence Authorization Act “would make it a crime for career intelligence officers to provide almost any type of information to the news media, whether the information is classified or not”. He argues that the proposed legislation would “end contacts that often benefit both the government and the public by allowing the exchange of accurate information about vital national security issues and intelligence activities, including abuses requiring attention”.
►►The preventable decline of British defense intelligence. Defense intelligence refers to something rather different from ‘military intelligence’. It takes place at the topmost levels of defense coordination and decision-making and draws together participation from all of the armed services with civilian subject-matter and technical experts and produce consolidated assessments for senior civil servants, ministers and the service chiefs of staff. Philip Davies, director of the Brunel Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies in the United Kingdom, argues that, in Britain, defense and military intelligence remains “something of a poor cousin in the intelligence community, the eternal Peter robbed to pay the Paul of other, seemingly more urgent, defense expenditure and policy priorities”.

News you may have missed #803

Shakil AfridiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Phone seized from Pakistani doctor who helped CIA find bin Laden. Pakistani authorities have seized a Thoraya satellite phone from jailed doctor Shakil Afridi, who helped the CIA trace Osama bin Laden, and also arrested four police commandos guarding his cell. After interrogation, one of the four arrested commandos confessed that he had provided the satellite phone to Afridi. The doctor had reportedly made more than 68 calls from the satellite phone set and most of these calls were long-distance, but the authorities are assessing the satellite phone data to ascertain the country location.
►►US whistleblower protections extended to intelligence community. US President Barack Obama has extended whistleblower protections to national security and intelligence employees. A new Presidential policy directive says employees “who are eligible for access to classified information can effectively report waste, fraud, and abuse while protecting classified national security information. It prohibits retaliation against employees for reporting waste, fraud, and abuse”. The President has also instructed agencies, including the CIA, to establish a review process, within 270 days, that allows employees to appeal actions in conflict with the directive that affect their access to classified information. It is worth noting that the Obama administration has been criticized by open-government advocates for aggressively prosecuting self-described whistleblowers.
►►What do CIA spies do after retirement? What do former spies do when they quit the spy game? Plan covert action campaigns against the nasty old ladies in their homeowners’ association? Overthrow their city council for fun? No, the majority of former CIA case officers work as consultants or contractors within the US intelligence community. However, while returning to work as intelligence consultant is the norm, some few do forge a different path, applying lessons learned from government service to a new life in the private sector.

News you may have missed #799

Russell TiceBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Is NSA using UK spy base to guide predator drones? Surrounded by farmland and sheep, hundreds of National Security Agency staff go to work every day at RAF Menwith Hill, where they eavesdrop on communications intercepted by satellite dishes contained in about 30 huge golf ball-like domes. Menwith Hill has been used by the NSA since the 1960s; but lately there is growing disquiet in Britain over whether intelligence gathered at the base is being used to help with the CIA’s controversial clandestine drone strikes. And the British government is keeping mum.
►►Aussie envoy seduced by spy feared her phone was bugged. Former senior Austrade commissioner to Hanoi Elizabeth Masamune, who recently admitted before an Australian court that she had sexual relations with a Vietnamese intelligence officer, told police she feared her Hanoi offices were bugged. In her statement during the trial of eight former Reserve Bank company executives on bribery charges, she said that after receiving a call from a journalist she recalled “being concerned of the level of information which she had. I was also more concerned about whether my phone was being monitored”, she said.
►►NSA whistleblower describes beating polygraph test. Russell Tice, the National Security Agency whistleblower who helped blow the lid open on warrantless wiretapping conducted by the federal government on US citizens post-9/11, says that he took between 12 and 15 polygraph tests during his nearly 20-year-long government career. The tests mellowed over time, Tice says, and they may have also gotten easier to beat. Tice, who is no longer at the NSA, says he, along with those still in contact with at the agency, marvel at how easy it is to beat the lie detector.

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