Embassy cables show US spied on UK Foreign Office

Ivan Lewis

Ivan Lewis

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The latest release of US embassy cables from whistleblower website WikiLeaks shows that the US Department of State ordered its diplomats to actively report on the personal lives of British Foreign Office officials. On several instances, American diplomats in London appear to have reported on the personal life of Ivan Lewis, a Labour Party politician who served as Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs during the closing days of Gordon Brown’s government. It seems that the reports on Lewis were compiled at the request of the State Department in Washington, which issued calls for specific background information on Lewis’ personal life. In response to the request, a memorandum was sent from the US embassy in London on August 12, 2009, suggesting that Lewis was “possibly prone to depression” and that he was described by one of his colleagues as “a bully”. The cable also indicated that Lewis had apologized “in 2007 to a female in his office who accused him of sexual harassment”, and suggested that the incident had been purposely leaked to the British media by Downing Street a few months later, after Lewis publicly joined the internal Labour Party revolt against Brown. Read more of this post

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News you may have missed #474

  • Israel jails Arab activist for spying. A court in Haifa has sentenced prominent Israeli Arab activist Ameer Makhoul to nine years in prison and another year suspended sentence for charges of spying and contacting a foreign agent from Lebanon-based Hezbollah.
  • Assange used disguise to evade surveillance new book reveals. WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange disguised himself as an old woman in a wig for fear he was being followed by US intelligence, according to a book published this week by British quality broadsheet The Guardian. According to another book, to be published by journalists at German weekly newsmagazine Der Spiegel, Assange expressed private fears that the content of the US embassy cables was too explosive for his organization to withstand.
  • US Congressman wants to know who wants to know. Republican Representative Darrell Issa wants to know the names of hundreds of thousands of ordinary American citizens who have requested copies of federal government documents in recent years. Issa, the new chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, saying he simply wants to “make sure agencies respond in a timely fashion to Freedom of Information Act requests”. Hmmm…

News you may have missed #472

  • French spies become embroiled in Renault’s espionage saga (corrected). The Renault spying saga has taken a new turn with the carmaker accusing France’s domestic intelligence agency DGSE DCRI of sabotaging its reputation. Jean Reinhart, Renault’s lawyer, said that the DGSE DCRI had leaked details of the inquiry into accusations of industrial espionage.
  • Palestinian Authority documents leaked by ex-MI6 agent. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Wednesday in an interview that a US citizen, who worked in the US State Department, and a British former MI6 official, are responsible for leaking the so-called ‘Palestine papers‘.
  • NY Times editor calls Assange ‘spy-like’. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange resembles a character from a detective novel and is “elusive, manipulative and volatile”, the executive editor of The New York Times says in an upcoming book. Open Secrets: WikiLeaks, War and American Diplomacy, a digital book featuring an introduction by Times executive editor Bill Keller and contributions from other Times reporters, goes on sale Monday.

South African spy chief had secret US talks, embassy cable reveals

Moe Shaik

Moe Shaik

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
South Africa’s spy chief regularly gave the American embassy in Pretoria detailed information on internal African National Congress (ANC) politics, according to a diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks. The cable, entitled “Zuma Advisor Threatens to Expose Political Skeletons”, was authored on September 10 2008 by the embassy and communicated to several recipients, including the State Department, CIA, and the National Security Council. It reveals that Moe Shaik, who heads the South African Secret Service (SASS), the country’s external intelligence agency, met regularly with an unnamed political officer of the US embassy and “always share[d] insights into the motivations and strategies of the Zuma camp”. The reference is to Jacob Zuma, President of the governing ANC, who assumed the organization’s leadership in May of 2009, after a bitter internal party struggle. Several months prior to Zuma’s election as ANC’s President, the organization’s rival faction, which was loyal to Thabo Mbeki, attempted to challenge Zuma’s eligibility by leveling corruption charges against him. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #468

Analysis: Understanding WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
The WikiLeaks cablegate revelations appear to be subsiding in the new year, and so is the public debate about their meaning and consequences. And yet, as calmer moods prevail, now is the appropriate time to probe the WikiLeaks phenomenon. To do so constructively, it is necessary to move beyond a mere political assessment of WikiLeaks. The question of whether the website, its founder, and its hundreds of volunteers, are criminals, heroes, terrorists, or dissidents, cannot even begin to be answered until WikiLeaks is understood, first and foremost. By ‘understood’, I don’t mean empathize. I mean comprehending WikiLeaks as an ideological paradigm, a technological vehicle reflective of the personal philosophies of its members, but also representative of a much wider sociotechnical trend. Click here to read my analysis brief published today by the Research Institute for European and American Studies.

News you may have missed #465

  • Germany denies secret spy collaboration with the US. Germany’s aerospace center denied Monday that it is working with the US on a $270 million high-tech secret spy program, insisting that its plans for a high-resolution optical satellite have purely scientific and security uses. The denial was in response to US State Department cables obtained by WikiLeaks and revealed by Norwegian daily Aftenposten.
  • Was Iranian nuclear defector tortured? Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, who returned to Tehran in July after what he called a “kidnapping” by the CIA, has been held in detention by Iranian authorities for two months and tortured so badly he was hospitalized, according to a dissident Iranian web site.
  • WikiLeaks reveals France leads industrial spying in Europe. France is the country that conducts the most industrial espionage on other European countries, even ahead of China and Russia, according to leaked US diplomatic cables, reported in a translation by Agence France Presse of Norwegian daily Aftenposten‘s reporting.

News you may have missed #464 (Mossad edition)

WikiLeaks revelations keep coming, but few pay attention

WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Most Western news outlets are now focusing almost exclusively on the fate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Few are paying attention to the details of Assange’s rape allegations in Sweden, which have sparked an interesting —though limited— debate about possible links between Assange’s accusers and American intelligence. Even fewer are paying attention to the actual US diplomatic cable revelations by WikiLeaks, which keep appearing daily, mostly in British quality broadsheet The Guardian (The New York Times has largely lost interest at this point). One such revelation, published on Monday, concerns allegations by the Director of the Shabat, also known as Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security service), that Palestinian group Fatah asked Israel to attack rival Palestinian group Hamas, in 2007. The leaked cable claims Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin told US diplomats that Fatah, the secular Palestinian nationalist faction that controls the West Bank, was “demoralized” and “desperate” to halt the rapid rise of Islamic Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. Diskin further told US officials that Fatah understood it could only survive with Israeli support, and had thus directly “asked us [Israel] to attack Hamas”. Perhaps more importantly, the leaked cable appears to confirm intense speculation among some intelligence observers that Fatah is “actively gathering information on behalf of Israeli intelligence”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #460

Leaked cable confirms end of US-NZ spy quarrel

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
To regular readers of this blog, this is not so much a revelation, as it is a confirmation. Back in October of 2009, we wrote about a peculiar comment made Hillary Clinton. The United States Secretary of State had told a press conference that “we [the US] are resuming our intelligence-sharing cooperation [with New Zealand], which we think is very significant”. Resuming? When had it been disrupted, and why? Most intelligence observers agree that the only glitch that could have caused the cooperation to end would have been New Zealand’s nuclear ban. It was in 1984 when, under mounting popular pressure, the Labour government of David Lange voted to bar nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed ships from entering New Zealand territorial waters. At the time, the ban was heralded by the global nuclear disarmament movement as a major victory. But Washington did not see it that way. Successive US administrations pressured Wellington to repeal the nuclear-free legislation and allow US warships to make use of strategic New Zealand ports. Washington’s pressure increased in the years after 9/11, culminating in 2006, when it threatened to cancel a free-trade agreement between the two countries if New Zealand refused to repeal the ban. It appears that, at some point in time, possibly after 9/11, the US actually terminated intelligence sharing between the two countries in order to force New Zealand to comply. Read more of this post

Even more underreported WikiLeaks revelations

WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
It appears increasingly likely that Sweden will extradite Julian Assange to the United States, where the WikiLeaks founder will face espionage charges. But the WikiLeaks revelations keep coming, although not all of them receive the worldwide media attention that they deserve. Take for instance the disclosure that at least three senior Australian Labour Party (ALP) politicians have operated as “protected sources” (diplomatic parlance for secret informants), providing regular updates on internal ALP politics to US embassy operatives in Canberra. According to internal US diplomatic cables released on Thursday, ALP politicians Bob McMullan, Michael Danby and Mark Arbib, who currently serves as the Australian federal government’s Minister for Sport, regularly held secret meetings with US embassy officials after 2004.  All three deny accusations that they acted as spies for the US. Another underreported WikiLeaks revelation concerns a 2008 proposal by the Saudi government to create an US- and NATO-backed Arab military force to invade Lebanon, seeking to obliterate Shiite paramilitary group Hezbollah, which controls large sections of the country. Read more of this post

More underreported WikiLeaks revelations

Julian Assange

Julian Assange

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
As the world’s media shift their attention to the consequences of the WikiLeaks revelations for its founder Julian Assange, as well as the reactions of American officials, the leaked diplomatic cables keep coming in, almost on an hourly basis. Some of the least noticed revelations include a 2009 dispatch from a US diplomat in Tel Aviv, which appears to confirm the close secret relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, despite the fact that these two countries have no official diplomatic connections. Another diplomatic cable reveals that Iranian intelligence officials approached their Canadian counterparts in 2008 and offered to share with them “information on potential attacks in Afghanistan”. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Canadians reacted guardedly, with Canadian Security Intelligence Service Director Jim Judd stating that his agency had “not figured out what they [the Iranians] are up to”. Read more of this post

Some underreported WikiLeaks revelations

WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
There is little point in recapping here the bulk of disclosures contained in the ongoing WikiLeaks revelations. The news sphere is jam-packed with them —and perhaps this is the real story in the WikiLeaks revelations, namely the fact that espionage and intelligence issues have near-monopolized the global news cycle for the first time since the post-Watergate Congressional investigations of the 1970s. But it is worth pointing out a handful of news stories on the WikiLeaks revelations that have arguably not received the media coverage that they deserve. Undoubtedly the most underreported disclosure concerns a 2007 meeting between US officials and Meir Dagan, the then Director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency. During the meeting, Dagan apparently “presented US with five-step program to perform a coup in Iran“.  But there are other underreported disclosures. Take for instance the revelation that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally authorized US diplomats to engage in all-out and indiscriminate spying on senior United Nations officials. Although there is nothing here that will surprise seasoned intelligence observers, the breadth of intelligence collection that US diplomats are instructed to engage in (which includes collecting credit card numbers and biometric data of UN officials) is astonishing and certainly unprecedented. Moreover, it should be noted that many senior UN officials are in fact American, which leads to the intriguing question of whether US diplomats are routinely required to engage in intelligence collection against American UN officials. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #448

  • Russian intel source threatens WikiLeaks. A Russian secret services expert has denied that whistleblower website WikiLeaks poses a threat to Russia, and warned that the “right team” of people could simply shut down WikiLeaks “forever” if it posts classified Russian government documents.
  • UK female spy gave rare interview about WWII exploits. It has emerged that British wartime spy Eileen Nearne, who died aged 89 in September, and whose exploits echoed the fictional character Charlotte Gray, gave an interview 13 years ago –in disguise– in which she told how she was tortured by the Gestapo.
  • Lebanon sentences 3 to death for spying for Israel. A Lebanese military court on Monday sentenced three people to death for spying for Israel. Two of the Lebanese nationals, Sami Farhat and Amar al-Halabi, were sentenced in absentia because they have fled the country. The third man, Jawdat el-Hakim, is held by Lebanese authorities. Dozens of alleged Israeli spy cells have been uncovered in Lebanon in the past year.
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