Swedish spy agency investigates drone sightings at three nuclear power plants

Ringhals Nuclear Power PlantSWEDEN’S DOMESTIC SECURITY AGENCY said it had taken over from the police an investigation into sightings of unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, at three nuclear power plants. On Monday, the Swedish Security Service, known by its Swedish acronym, SAPO, confirmed earlier reports that a large-size drone had been spotted on Friday by security guards over the Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant. The facility is located just short of 95 miles north of Sweden’s capital, Stockholm. It is known as the country’s largest producer of electricity, generating one sixth of its electricity supply.

Later, however, reports emerged about sightings of what appeared to be surveillance drones over Sweden’s two other nuclear power plants—namely the Oskarshamn Nuclear Power Plant, located on Sweden’s southeastern Baltic Sea coast, and the Ringhals Nuclear Power Plant, which is situated on the Värö Peninsula, on Sweden’s western coast. According to reports, the drones appeared to be large enough to withstand the gale force winds that were blowing over much of Sweden at the time. The drones disappeared without trace, and Swedish authorities say they have no suspects so far.

On Monday, SAPO said that it had assumed control of the probe into the drone sightings, “in order to be able to investigate the incidents in more detail”. In a report last weekend, the Reuters news agency pointed out that the drone sightings occurred a day after the Swedish military began patrolling the city of Visby, on the island of Gotland. According to Reuters, the patrols were sparked by “increased tensions” between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Like its neighboring Finland, Sweden is not a member of NATO, but there have been frequent calls in recent months for it go join, in light of renewed tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 18 January 2022 | Permalink

Israel busts alleged Iranian spy ring made up of middle-aged women

Shin BetAUTHORITIES IN ISRAEL CLAIM they busted a ring of spies for Iran, which was composed solely of middle-aged Jewish women. The Israel Security Agency, known as Shin Bet, said on Thursday that it had arrested four Jewish women, all of them Iranian-born Israeli citizens. The four women were charged with espionage against the state of Israel. The Shin Bet described the case as “serious” and as part of a broader plan by Iran to build a sophisticated espionage network inside the Jewish state.

According to news reports, the women were recruited via the Facebook social networking platform by a user using the name Rambod Namdar. Namdar claimed to be a Jewish man living in Iran. After recruiting the women, Namdar operated as their handler, and provided them with regular payments in exchange for taking photographs of sensitive military sites and civilian government buildings. According to the Shin Bet, these included the buildings of the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs. The women were allegedly also asked to take photographs of the embassy of the United States, as well as commercial facilities, including shopping malls.

At least two of the women were asked to befriend Israeli politicians and government officials, according to the Shin Bet. The agency also claims that the women were asked to convince their sons to serve their mandatory military service by joining military intelligence units. In one case, according to the indictment, the son of one of the women did serve in an intelligence post in the Israeli military, which allowed his mother to pass a number of military documents to her Iranian handler.

Reports in the Israeli media and the BBC mention that Namdar communicated with the four women “for several years” using the encrypted messaging service WhatsApp. WhatsApp is owned by Meta, the same company that owns Facebook and Instagram.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 14 January 2022 | Permalink

Ex-director of Danish spy agency charged with treason in ‘unprecedented’ case

Lars FindsenIN A CASE THAT observers have described as “unprecedented”, the recently dismissed director of Denmark’s external intelligence agency has been charged with committing acts of treason against the state. Lars Findsen directed the Danish Defense Intelligence Service (FE, or DDIS in English) from 2015 until his sudden dismissal in 2020. Prior to that, he directed the DDIS’ domestic counterpart, namely the Danish Security and Intelligence Service, or DSIS. As intelNews reported at the time, Findsen was dismissed from his DDIS post in August of 2020. His dismissal was announced with a brief statement by the Danish Ministry of Defense, which said simply that Findsen had been “relieved of duty for the time being”, pending an investigation.

Now it has been revealed that Findsen was among four current and former members of the DDIS and the DSIS, who were arrested last month. The Danish government made use of an obscure secrecy clause to bar the nation’s media from reporting the arrests. As a result, Findsen’s whereabouts were not known until Monday, when a court lifted the reporting ban after an early-morning closed-door hearing. Shortly afterwards, the Danish Broadcasting Corporation, Denmark’s public broadcaster, reported that Findsen was arrested on the morning of December 8, 2021, at the Copenhagen Airport.

According to the report, Findsen has been charged with acts of treason related to disclosing state secrets to Danish journalists. Back in 2020, intelNews reported that Findsen’s dismissal was likely related to a damning assessment that had been issued by the Danish Oversight Board, known as TET, which is responsible for overseeing the work of Denmark’s spy agencies. The assessment had blasted the DDIS for effectively lying about its intelligence-collection practices while in full knowledge that they were in violation of Danish privacy law. Later that year, however, Danish intelligence agencies were severely criticized, after reports surfaced that they had secretly helped the United States spy on Western countries, including France, Sweden, Germany and Holland.

The above revelation have prompted strong criticism of the Danish spy services all over Europe. But it is not known whether Findsen’s arrest is connected with any of them. Reports said last night that the other three current and former intelligence personnel who were arrested alongside Findsen had been released on bail. Findsen, however, remains in detention, and faces charges that carry a 12-year prison sentence. Speaking to reporters following his court arraignment, Findsen said he looked forward to the opportunity to dispute the charges against him, which he described as “absolutely insane”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 12 January 2022 | Permalink

Sweden becomes the latest Western country to create an anti-disinformation agency

Swedish Psychological Defence AgencyA FEW MONTHS AFTER France’s establishment of an agency to combat foreign disinformation, Sweden has announced the creation of a new government authority, whose mission is to defend against disinformation by foreign actors. Based in Karlstad, a city 200 miles west of Stockholm, the Swedish Psychological Defense Agency (PDA) was formally established on January 1. Its stated mission is to “safeguard [Sweden’s] open and democratic society, the free information of opinion and Sweden’s freedom and independence”.

The agency says it plans to carry out its mission by working “both preventively and operationally and [by pursing] its tasks in peacetime and in war”. In addition to “identifying, analysing and responding to inappropriate influences and other misleading information directed at Sweden or Swedish interests”, the PDA vows to target disinformation by foreign actors that  aim to weaken “the country’s resilience and the population’s will to defend itself”. Moreover, the new authority aims to provide support against disinformation by foreign actors to various national agencies, local authorities, media organizations, voluntary groups and the population at large. Its ultimate goal is to “develop and strengthen society’s overall capacity of psychological defence”.

The establishment of this new government authority comes several months ahead of the Sweden’s general election, which has been scheduled for September 11 of this year. According to the Swedish government, there is no evidence that foreign actors carried out systematic psychological operations against the Swedish state and its population in the run-up to the most recent general election, which was held in 2018. However, according to the Swedish Security Service (SAPO), “foreign powers [plan to exert] influence on Sweden in the long term”.

Sweden’s announcement of the establishment of the PDA comes six months after the creation of a similarly tasked government agency in France. Established in June of last year, France’s Secretariat-General for National Defense and Security (SGDSN) aims to combat foreign disinformation campaigns that attempt to “undermine the state”. The SGDSN is reported to employ 60 officers at the present time. Other countries, such as the United States and Britain, have set up units within agencies whose mission is to combat foreign disinformation. But France and Sweden appear to be the only Western countries so far that have created independent agencies tasked with such a mission.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 11 January 2022 | Permalink

Kazakhstan arrests spy chief for treason as rift inside government widens

Karim MasimovIN A SIGN OF WIDENING disagreements within the government of Kazakhstan, the once supremely powerful head of the country’s internal intelligence agency has been fired. He was subsequently arrested by his own agency for alleged treasonable acts. Karim Masimov (or Massimov) served twice as prime minister of Kazakhstan under his political mentor, former President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Nazarbayev, who is traditionally referred to as the “father of the nation” kept Masimov in his inner circle of confidants throughout his nearly 30-year rule.

Masimov also served as director of Kazakhstan’s all-powerful National Security Committee (NSC). Founded in 1992, the NSC is one of several successor agencies to the Soviet-era Committee for State Security (KGB). The agency performs a wide array of counterintelligence functions, while also commanding a sizeable border guard force and having responsibility for counter-terrorism and covert action operations. It works closely with the Foreign Intelligence Service (also known as Syrbar, or KNB), which is Kazakhstan’s primary external intelligence agency.

In a surprise move, the government of Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Nazarbayev’s hand-picked successor, fired Masimov from his NSC post on Wednesday. Masimov was reportedly replaced with his chief bodyguard. Less than 24 hours later, the NSC announced it had arrested Masimov, along with several other current and former government officials. In a statement posted on its website, the NSC said Masimov had been arrested as part of a “pre-trial investigation into high treason”. It is not currently known if this move is linked to the ongoing nationwide protests, which have resulted in the deaths of over 160 and the arrests of nearly 5,000 people.

In a report published on Friday, The New York Times, which was able to access the NSC statement about Masimov’s arrest, suggests that Masimov firmly belongs to the pro-Nazarbayev faction of the Kazakh government. This faction is now coming under increasing pressure by the pro-Tokayev faction, which wants to be seen as taking action against the corruption and nepotism associated with the Nazarbayev years. In doing so, President Tokayev is hoping to draw attention away from the shortcomings of his own rule, according to The Times.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 10 January 2022 | Permalink

United States charges New York man with spying for Egyptian government

Egyptian embassy in WashingtonA RESIDENT OF NEW York has been charged by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation with engaging in espionage operations on behalf of the government of Egypt, according to court documents unsealed on Thursday. The FBI claims that the spy “tracked and obtained information regarding political opponents” of Egypt’s ultra-authoritarian president, retired General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. El-Sisi took power in Egypt in a military coup d’etat in 2013, which was followed by heavily staged election in 2014. With most of the opposition refusing to participate, the election resulted in a victory for the Egyptian strongman with 97% of the vote.

The alleged spy is 39-year-old Pierre Girgis. He is charged with conspiracy and acting as an agent of a foreign state without notifying the government of the United States —which is standard legal terminology used to convey acts of espionage. According to the FBI, Girgis’s Egyptian handlers tasked him with spying on US-based critics of President el-Sisi. The documents suggest that Girgis attempted to “covertly gather non-public intelligence” about Egyptian expatriates, and sought to secure access to law enforcement-only training sessions in Manhattan for Egyptian government officials.

In doing the above, Girgis operated “at the direction and control of multiple employees of the Egyptian government”, according to the FBI. One of those employees is alleged to have sent Girgis an encrypted message in 2018, praising him for doing “a lot of good things” and for having “become an important source [of] information collection” for the Egyptian government. The method by which the FBI was able to gain access to the contents of this encrypted communication exchange is not known.

Girgis reportedly surrendered to US authorities on the morning of Thursday, and appeared before a Manhattan federal court later on the same day. The embassy of Egypt in Washington, DC, declined to comment on the case. A spokesperson for the US Department of State said simply that Girgis’ case was “an active law enforcement matter”, which prevented the Department from commenting on it.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 07 January 2022 | Permalink

Israel likely behind 1981 bombings of German, Swiss engineering firms, expert claims

MossadISRAEL’S PRIMARY EXTERNAL INTELLIGENCE agency, the Mossad, was likely behind a series of mysterious bombings in 1981, which targeted German and Swiss engineering firms believed to be aiding the Pakistani nuclear program, according to new exposé by a leading Swiss newspaper. Several bomb attacks targeted a number of engineering firms in Switzerland and what was then West Germany in 1981. Alongside these attacks, there were threatening telephone calls that targeted West German and Swiss engineers.

A previously unknown militant group calling itself the Organization for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in South Asia took responsibility for these actions. Its members mailed a number of political manifestos to the German and Swiss press, and repeatedly issue proclamations via telephone in broken German or English, according to contemporary accounts. Interestingly, the Organization for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in South Asia has never been heard of since.

Now, however, one of Switzerland’s leading newspapers, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), claims in a new report that the violent actions against German and Swiss scientists and engineering firms were likely undertaken by the Israeli Mossad. In a leading article published on Saturday, the Swiss daily cited “new, previously unseen documents from archives” in Switzerland and the United States, which allegedly shed light on these mysterious attacks.

The report rests partly on the work of Swiss historian Adrian Hänni, who argues that Israeli intelligence was eager to prevent Pakistan from acquiring access to nuclear energy. The prospect of Pakistan becoming the first Muslim-majority nuclear state was viewed by Israel as an “existential threat”, according to Hänni. Additionally, the Mossad had credible information that senior officials in Islamabad worked closely with the Islamic Republic of Iran, one of Israel’s mortal regional enemies. These factors convinced the Israeli leadership of the time to authorize a covert operation against a number of European firms and scientists who were allegedly aiding Islamabad’s pursuit of a nuclear arsenal, according to the NZZ.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 05 January 2022 | Permalink

Declassified documents show extent of Libyan support for Provisional IRA

Muammar GaddafiDOCUMENTS RELEASED LAST WEEK by the National Archives of Ireland show the extraordinary support given by the government of Libya to Irish republican separatists in Britain during the 1970s and 1980s. The previously classified documents were released last Tuesday by Ireland’s National Archives, which is the country’s official repository of state records. According to reports, the documents were released to the public in accordance with Ireland’s National Archives Act, which enables the declassification of certain state records 30 years after their production.

The documents contain details about the covert support given by the Libyan government of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi (pictured) to the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA). The PIRA was a separatist militant organization that operated in British-ruled Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland for over 30 years, beginning in 1969. According to reports, the information in the documents came directly from the Libyan government in 1992, as part of a broader effort by the Libyans to mend relations with London following the Lockerbie bombing of 1988.

The documents outline the amount of armaments that the Libyans gave to the PIRA in several covert shipments from 1973 until late 1987. Collectively, the shipments consisted of 1,450 Kalashnikov automatic rifles, 66 machine guns, 180 semi-automatic pistols, 26 rocket-propelled-grenade launchers, 10 surface-to-air missiles, 765 grenades, nearly 6,000kg of Semtex explosive, over a thousand detonators, nearly 1.5 million rounds of ammunition, as well as several flame-throwers. The secret arms shipments came to an end in October 1987, when French military intelligence was able to intercept large quantities of weapons and war materiel that had been hidden aboard the ship MV Eksund by its Irish crew.

But the Libyans continued to secretly fund the PIRA, according to the documents released last week. By 1992, when the information contained in the documents was provided to the British by the Libyan government, Tripoli had given the PIRA “over $12.6 million in cash, the equivalent of roughly $45 million in today’s money”. British intelligence quickly shared this information with the Irish government, which is how these documents ended up in the National Archives of Ireland. The documents also include a list of PIRA volunteers who traveled to Libya and were trained in guerrilla warfare and sabotage. However, the names appear to be fake, and were probably used by the PIRA members “to disguise their travel to Libya”, according to reports.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 03 January 2022 | Permalink

Year in review: The biggest spy-related stories of 2021, part 3

End of Year ReviewSince 2008, when intelNews was launched, it has been our end-of-year tradition to take a look back and highlight what we believe were the most important intelligence-related stories of the past 12 months. In anticipation of what 2022 may bring in this always timely and highly volatile field, we present you with our selection of the top spy stories of 2021. They are listed below in reverse order of significance, starting from 10 and leading up to 1. This is the third part in a three-part series. Part one is available here and part two is here.

04. FBI built a fake phone company in massive global wiretapping operation. The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation built a fake telephone service provider for a secret worldwide operation that officials described as “a watershed moment” in law enforcement history. The operation, known as TROJAN SHIELD, involved over 9,000 law enforcement officers in 18 countries around the world. When the existence of TROJAN SHIELD was announced in a series of official news conferences in June, officials said the operation had “given law enforcement a window into a level of criminality [never] seen before on this scale”.

03. US spied on some of its closest European allies with the help of Denmark. The first claims of an alleged secret collaboration between the signals intelligence agencies of the United States and Denmark surfaced in November of 2020. By January of 2021, it was clear that the Danish government would, sooner or later, need to deal with the fallout of its controversial spy deal with Washington, under which Denmark enabled the US to spy on some of its closest European allies. Still, the news in June that Denmark helped the US spy on countries such as Germany, France, Sweden and Norway, was nothing short of remarkable, and has a huge symbolic significance that cannot be overlooked.

02. For the first time, Chinese and North Korean spies were tried in the US. For the first time, an alleged Chinese spy was tried—and convicted—in the United States. According to prosecutors Yanjun Xu, also known as Qu Hui or Zhang Hui, was a deputy division director in the Ministry of State Security (MSS)—China’s intelligence agency. His conviction was described by observers as a “seminal moment” for American counterintelligence. Also for the first time, an alleged intelligence officer of North Korea, Mun Chol-myong, was tried in a US court. A North Korean citizen based in Singapore, Mun had tried to defraud international banks and launder money though the US financial system, allegedly for the benefit of North Korean spy agencies.

01. At least 14 heads of state were targeted through controversial phone spyware. At least 14 current or former heads of state were among 50,000 individuals worldwide whose personal telephones were allegedly compromised through a controversial surveillance software, known as Pegasus. The spyware is marketed by NSO Group Technologies, an Israeli digital surveillance company based near Tel Aviv. Pegasus can install itself on targeted telephones without requiring their users to click a link, or download an application. The list of the spyware’s targets allegedly contains telephone devices belonging to three presidents, France’s Emmanuel Macron (pictured), South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, and Iraq’s Barham Salih. The devices of three current prime ministers, Morocco’s Saad-Eddine El Othmani, Egypt’s Mostafa Madboul, and Pakistan’s Imran Khan, are also on the list. There are countless others. As a result of these revelations, the US Department of Commerce placed the NSO Group Technologies on a sanctions list in November 3.

This is part three in a three-part series. Part one is available here. Part two is available here.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen | Date: 31 December 2021 | Permalink

Year in review: The biggest spy-related stories of 2021, part 2

Year in ReviewSince 2008, when intelNews was launched, it has been our end-of-year tradition to take a look back and highlight what we believe were the most important intelligence-related stories of the past 12 months. In anticipation of what 2022 may bring in this always timely and highly volatile field, we present you with our selection of the top spy stories of 2021. They are listed below in reverse order of significance, starting from 10 and leading up to 1. This is part two in a three-part series. Part one is available here. Part three is available here.

07. Iranian intelligence networks in Europe were decimated following failed operation. Four Iranian spies were tried in Belgium in February, after unsuccessfully trying to bomb an annual conference of Iranian expatriate dissidents. Conference attendees included the then-US President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who addressed the meeting. Stephen Harper, Canada’s former prime minister, also spoke at the conference. Even worse for Iran, a “green notebook” found in the car of one of the spies, allegedly contained “289 places across 11 European countries”, where Assadi is thought to have met with Iranian spies operating throughout Europe.

06. Russian spies allegedly funded one of Italy’s major political parties. An alleged employee of Russian intelligence was present at a secret meeting in Moscow, in which a plan was discussed to fund Lega Nord, Italy’s leading populist party. Established in 1991, the LN seeks greater autonomy for Italy’s northern regions, and opposes the country’s membership in the European Union. An Italian newspaper claimed in June that Andrey Yuryevich Kharchenko, an alleged employee of Russian intelligence, participated in a secret 2019 meeting in Moscow, in which Kremlin figures offered LN officials to enrich the their party’s election campaign coffers by nearly $70 million.

05. US Pentagon has an army of clandestine operatives that ‘dwarfs the CIA’. The US Department of Defense maintains a worldwide “secret army” of over 60,000 operatives, many of whom have fake identities and manufactured backgrounds, according to a report from Newsweek’s investigative journalist, William Arkin. Arkin claimed that the Pentagon force is “more than ten times the size” of the clandestine wing of the CIA, and is allegedly part of a wider US government effort known as “signature reduction”. The scheme provides undercover government operatives the ability to operate domestically and around the world without the fear of having their links to spy agencies or the military discovered by online sleuths.

This is part two in a three-part series; Part one is available here. Part three is available here.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen | Date: 30 December 2021 | Permalink

Year in review: The biggest spy-related stories of 2021, part 1

End of Year ReviewSince 2008, when intelNews was launched, it has been our end-of-year tradition to take a look back and highlight what we believe were the most important intelligence-related stories of the past 12 months. In anticipation of what 2022 may bring in this always timely and highly volatile field, we present you with our selection of the top spy stories of 2021. They are listed below in reverse order of significance, starting from 10 and leading up to 1. This is part one in a three-part series. Part two is available here. Part three is here.

10. New book claims former Irish head of government was Provisional IRA informant. Controversy has always surrounded, Charlie Haughey—a towering figure in Irish politics. By 1992, when he retired after an illustrious 35-year career, he had served three times as Taoiseach (prime minister) and many more times as minister. Haughey’s critics have always suspected that he was sympathetic to the Provisional Irish Republican Army. If true, however, this latest revelation is nothing short of stunning: a new book by Kevin O’Connor, one of Ireland’s leading investigative reporters, claims that Haughey routinely shared classified information with the IRA, including warnings about British and Irish government spies that operated within the organization.

9. Unlike others, French spies anticipated the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. August found Western nations scrambling to evacuate their citizens and embassy workers from Afghanistan, amidst the chaotic takeover of the country by the Taliban. France, however, began its evacuations at least two months in advance. By late August the French government was being praised from all sides for its “anticipatory planning”. Why was their response so different from those of other Western nations—notably Britain and the United States? Some observers claim that, unlike other Westerners, French spies maintained a “relative distance” from United States intelligence agencies, and were thus not influenced by American projections of what would happen in the war-torn country.

8. Czechs expelled Russian spies, accusing them of blowing up a munitions depot. The Czech Republic unceremoniously expelled a number of Russian diplomats in April, accusing Kremlin spies of being behind a mysterious explosion that leveled a munitions depot in 2014. According to Prague, a team of Russian operatives, posing as Tajiks and Moldovans, blew up a facility belonging to the Military Technical Institute of the Czech Ministry of Defense, killing two security guards and prompting hundreds of evacuations. The Russian operatives allegedly belonged to Unit 29155, a Russian elite spy outfit, whose goal is to subvert European political and economic systems and processes. Several diplomatic tit-for-tat expulsions followed from a number of European nations.

This is part one in a three-part series. Part two is available here. Part three is here..

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen | Date: 29 December 2021 | Permalink

Cell phones of leading Polish opposition figures hacked by government, group claims

Civic Coalition PolandCENTRAL FIGURES OF POLAND’S opposition coalition, which narrowly lost the 2019 parliamentary election, had their cell phones hacked with a surveillance software used by the country’s spy services, according to a new report. A major target of the hacks was Krzysztof Brejza, a member of the lower chamber of the Polish parliament and campaign director of the Civic Coalition, a centrist-liberal alliance. In the parliamentary election of 2019, the Civic Coalition challenged the all-powerful Law and Justice Party (PiS), which has ruled Poland for much of the past decade.

The PiS is a populist pro-Russian party that opposes many of the core policies of the European Union, of which Poland is a member. In contrast, the Civil Coalition is pro-Western and supports Poland’s integration into the European Union. In 2019, while the two parties were competing in a feverish electoral campaign, Poland’s state-owned television aired a number of texts acquired from Brejza’s phone, in what the opposition decried as a “smear campaign”. Eventually, the PiS won the election with a narrow majority.

The information about Brejza’s cell phone hack was revealed last week by Citizen Lab, a research unit of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, which focuses on information technology, international security and human rights. According to the report, at least three senior figures in the Civil Coalition were under telephonic surveillance throughout the election campaign. Brejza’s cell phone was breached over 30 times between April and October of 2019, according to Citizen Lab. The other two victims of the surveillance operation were Ewa Wrzosek, a public prosecutor and leading critic of the PiS, as well as Roman Giertych, an attorney who represents leading members of the Civic Coalition.

The report claims that the surveillance against the Civil Coalition members was facilitated by Pegasus, a controversial spyware that is sold to governments around the world by NSO Group Technologies, an Israeli digital surveillance company based near Tel Aviv. Earlier this year, the United States government blacklisted NSO Group Technologies, in a move that surprised many in Israel and beyond. Meanwhile, on December 24, the Polish government denied it had any role in the phone hacking affair. Poland’s Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, dismissed the Citizen Lab revelations as “fake news”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 27 December 2021 | Permalink

FBI confidential informant who infiltrated the KKK speaks publicly for the first time

Joseph MooreA UNITED STATES ARMY veteran and government informant, who infiltrated the white supremacist organization known as the Ku Klux Klan for over a decade, has spoken publicly about his work for the first time. The informant’s birth name is Joseph Moore, but in 2018 he changed it in order to evade detection by KKK members who might be tempted to track him down. Today the 50-year-old former Army sniper lives with his wife and four children somewhere in Florida, according to the Associated Press.

The news agency said Moore reached out to one of its reporters who had authored a series of exposés about white supremacists working in Florida’s penitentiary system. The reports relied on evidence uncovered by Moore. The former FBI informant told the Associated Press that he has never discussed his undercover work in public, until now. He added that he was not a member of the KKK before “the government approached him, and asked for his help”. That took place in 2007, according to the report.

Moore’s primary mission as an informant for the FBI was to provide evidence of active law enforcement personnel who were active in KKK groups based in Florida and Georgia. After joining the Englewood, Florida-headquartered United Northern & Southern Knights of the KKK, Moore began to regularly attend the group’s meetings wearing hidden surveillance devices. According to the Associated Press, he was able to identify “dozens of police officers, prison guards, sheriff deputies and other law enforcement officers who were involved with the Klan and outlaw motorcycle clubs”.

After a brief respite, the FBI re-established contact with Moore in 2013 and asked him to infiltrate another white supremacist group, known as the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Within a year, Moore had gained the group’s trust and was operating as its director of security, with tasks that included safeguarding the group’s internal communications. During that time, Moore reportedly helped the FBI “foil at least two murder plots” by KKK members, and assisted the government in identifying Klan members who were also working as law enforcement officers throughout Florida.

Moore told the Associated Press that he and his family adopted new names in 2018, in an effort to prevent the men he helped put in prison from finding him once they complete their sentences. But he fears for his and his family’s safety, which is why he chose to go public with his story, in the hope that the exposure will make it harder for the KKK to hurt him. He also said that a number of people associated with the KKK had “appeared at his house” in recent months, prompting him to contact the FBI and his local sheriff’s office. The Associated Press said it reached out to the FBI about Moore’s work as an informant, but received no response.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 24 December 2021 | Permalink

Turkey arrests American diplomat, claims he sold fake passport to Syrian refugee

Istanbul airport arrestTURKISH POLICE ARRESTED A man reported to be an American diplomat, allegedly for selling a forged passport to a Syrian refugee who then attempted to use it in order to travel from Turkey to Germany. The incident was reported on Wednesday by Turkey’s state-run news service, Anadolu Agency. The news story was soon picked up by Hürriyet, Turkey’s leading pro-government newspaper. According to the reports, the alleged American diplomat was arrested on November 11, and he remains in prison today. He is identified only as “D.J.K.” in media reports. According to Turkish sources he works at the United States embassy in Beirut, Lebanon.

The arrest took place at the Istanbul International Airport, Turkey’s busiest air-travel hub. Turkish media aired security camera footage, which shows D.J.K. approaching the Syrian man, identified as R.S., inside the airport’s departures hall. The two men then appear to casually swap jackets before separating. The Syrian man then goes to the departures lounge, where he presents an immigration police officer with a passport. He is arrested by police soon thereafter, as is D.J.K.

Some reports claim that D.J.K. gave R.S. his own passport, while other reports suggest that it was in actually a forged passport that bore D.J.K.’s name. Allegedly R.S. gave D.J.K. $10,000 in exchange for the passport. According to Turkish police, the cash was found inside an envelope that was in D.J.K.’s possession at the time of his arrest. The Syrian man is now facing charges of forging an official document and has reportedly been released on bail. Unlike R.S., D.J.K. remains in prison in Istanbul.

No comment has been issued by the United States embassy in Beirut. Initially, the United States Department of State refused to comment on the case. Late on Wednesday, however, the Reuters news agency cited a source in the Department of State who said D.J.K. was not an American diplomat. The footage of D.J.K. and R.S.’s arrest can be watched here.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 23 December 2021 | Permalink

Israeli ex-intelligence chief claims Israel had role in top Iranian general’s killing

Qasem SoleimaniTHE RECENTLY RETIRED DIRECTOR of Israel’s military intelligence agency has claimed in an interview that Israel had a role in the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, who led Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Soleimani was arguably Iran’s most revered military official. He was killed by an American targeted drone strike on January 3, 2020, in Baghdad, Iraq. The same missile strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who commanded the Popular Mobilization Committee, an umbrella organization composed of around 40 pro-Iranian militias in Iraq. The then-American president, Donald Trump, claimed responsibility for the attack.

In the months that followed Soleimani’s assassination, Iranian state media claimed that the operation that targeted the IRGC had been aided with intelligence and logistical support by the governments of several countries, including Germany, the United Kingdom, Qatar, Kuwait and Lebanon. Meanwhile, reports by Western media alleged that “[i]ntelligence from Israel helped confirm the details” of Soleimani’s whereabouts shortly before he was assassinated. There has been no independent confirmation of these claims.

Now, however, it appears that a recently retired Israeli general, who headed the country’s military intelligence agency during Soleimani’s assassination, has claimed partial responsibility for his killing. According to the Associated Press, Major General Tamir Heyman, who until October of this year headed the Israel Defense Forces’ Military Intelligence Directorate, has become “the first official to confirm Israel’s involvement” in the controversial assassination.

Heyman is believed to have given an interview in late September to Mabalat Malam, the Hebrew-language magazine of the Israeli Intelligence Heritage Center, which is seen as closely affiliated with the Israeli intelligence community. In the interview, which is available in the current issue of the magazine, Heyman says that “Assassinating Soleimani was an achievement, since our main enemy, in my eyes, are the Iranians”. He adds that Soleimani’s killing was one of “two significant and important assassinations during my term” as head of army intelligence.

The Associated Press is among a number of news agencies that reached out to the IDF for clarification about Heyman’s comments. As of Tuesday night, the IDF had not responded to several requests for comment.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 22 December 2021 | Permalink

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