US designates two African armed groups as foreign terrorist organizations

THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT of state has designated two armed groups, based in Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as foreign terrorist organizations. In a statement released last week, the US Department of State identified the groups as Mozambique’s Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama and Congo’s Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). In its statement, the US Department of State also said that the two groups have declared allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Established in Uganda in 1996, the ADF has had a presence in the eastern regions of Congo for over two decades. The ADF insurgency is rooted in regional ethnic rivalries. However, the group’s rhetoric became increasingly Islamist-centered in the 2000s. In 2013, following an intense recruitment campaign in Uganda, the ADF launched a series of attacks in northeastern Congo. It is currently involved in an insurgency against the Congolese military, which launched a major offensive against the group in 2019. Mozambique Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama, known locally as Al-Shabab (no relation to the Somali group by the same name), first appeared in 2017. Two years later, its leader, Abu Yasir Hassan, declared the group’s allegiance to ISIS and proclaimed that its goal was to establish an Islamic emirate in Mozambique.

US officials regularly refer to the two groups as “ISIS-DRC” and “ISIS-Mozambique”. In the spring of 2019, ISIS declared that the two groups were the armed wings of the so-called Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP). The militant group added that the mission of ISCAP was to build a caliphate in central, eastern, and eventually southern Africa. In addition to designating ISIS-DRC and ISIS-Mozambique as foreign terrorist organizations, the US Department of State named their leaders, Seka Musa Baluku and Abu Yasir Hassan, as “specially designated global terrorists”.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 16 March 2021 | Permalink

Informant helped FBI infiltrate US militia accused of plot to kidnap politician

Michigan governor mansionA CONFIDENTIAL INFORMANT, WHO infiltrated an armed militia on behalf of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, will testify in a United States court about an alleged plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan. State prosecutors accuse members of Wolverine Watchmen, a self-styled anti-government militia, with plotting to kidnap Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer in October of last year. A total of 14 men have been charged in connection with the alleged plot.

Two days or preliminary hearings have taken place this week, relating to three of those charged. Pete Musico, 43, Joseph Morrison, 26, and Paul Bellar, 22, are facing several charges, including providing material support to acts of terrorism and belonging to Wolverine Watchmen, which the FBI says was a domestic terrorist organization. According to the FBI, the group was founded specifically to recruit individuals who agreed with the goal of capturing and killing politicians, including Governor Whitmer.

The group’s ultimate goal, says the FBI, was to overthrow the government of the state of Michigan and then launch an all-out war against the federal government of the United States. The plan would begin with an attack on the Michigan governor’s residence, during which the assailants would use Molotov cocktails to draw out members of law enforcement. They would then detonate home-made bombs and other explosive devices to kill law enforcement responding to the fire.

However, according to testimony delivered on Thursday by FBI Special Agent Henrik Impola, a member of Wolverine Watchmen, who did not agree with the plot, contacted the authorities. The FBI then convinced the disillusioned member of the group to continue to attend meetings, in order to infiltrate the organization and provide further evidence of the plot. According to reports, the confidential informant is scheduled to testify at the hearing in the coming days.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 05 March 2021 | Permalink

Venezuelan intelligence spied on Citgo executives on US soil, spy alleges

CitgoVENEZUELAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICES SPIED on executives of the Citgo Petroleum Corporation in the United States for at least a year, according to court testimony by a Venezuelan former counterintelligence official. The espionage targeted six executives of Citgo, a Texas-headquartered oil company owned by the Venezuelan government. The executives have been named as Gustavo Cardenas, Jose Luis Zambrano, Jose Pereira, Alirio Jose Zambrano, Tomeu Vadell and Jorge Toledo. Five of them are reportedly American citizens.

In 2017 the Venezuelan government accused the six executives of knowingly involving Citgo in a corrupt refinancing agreement, thus damaging the company’s financial wellbeing. They were arrested in Caracas and last year were given prison sentences ranging from eight to 13 years. The United States government condemned the court proceedings for lack of impartiality, and late last year imposed sanctions on the judge and leading prosecutors in the case.

On Wednesday the Reuters news agency said it had reviewed court documents from the appeal of the so-called “Citgo Six”. The documents include testimony from Ramon Balza, who in 2017 was director of operations for the Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM). The DGCIM is the military counterintelligence agency of Venezuela. According to Reuters, Balza told the appeals court on August 11 that the DGCIM and other Venezuelan intelligence agencies have been monitoring senior Citgo officials “ever since [Citgo] became Venezuelan”. He added that the monitoring includes physical surveillance, as well as wiretaps.

Balza’s testimony suggests that DGCIM and other Venezuelan intelligence personnel spied on the six (and possibly other) Citgo executives on American soil prior to their arrest in 2017. It is also possible, says Reuters, that the espionage against the executives was carried out by non-diplomatic foreign agents of Venezuela.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 04 March 2021 | Permalink

Top Syrian chemical weapons scientist spied for CIA for 14 years, new book claims

Syrian Scientific Studies and Research CenterTHE TOP SCIENTIST IN Syria’s chemical weapons program, reputed to be among the world’s deadliest, spied for the United States Central Intelligence Agency for 14 years, according to a new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Toby Warrick. The claim is included in Warrick’s latest book, Red Line: The Unraveling of Syria and America’s Race to Destroy the Most Dangerous Arsenal in the World, which has been published this week by Doubleday.

The scientist, whose name Warrick is withholding from publication, was partly educated in the United States in the 1980s, after receiving an academic scholarship. Upon returning to Syria, he became a senior researcher in Institute 3000, a secret chemical weapons program that was hidden within the Damascus-based Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC). Known mostly by its French name, Centre D’Etudes et de Recherches Scientifiques (CERS), the center coordinated scientific research throughout the country. Camouflaged as a CERS engineering outfit, Institute 3000 maintained over 40 research and storage facilities that manufactured and housed Damascus’ stockpiles of military grade sarin, mustard gas, VX, and other nerve agents.

Citing interviews with “three former US intelligence officials familiar with the case”, and with a Syrian defector who knew the scientist, Warrick claims that the scientist was in his 30s when he reached out to the CIA. It allegedly happened in the mid-1990s, when the scientist was attending a conference in Europe. A number of months later, the scientist, who is simply referred to as “Ayman” in Warrick’s book, was approached in Damascus by a CIA case officer. He soon began sharing classified information with the CIA, which included samples of nerve agents that the Syrians were working on. In return he received regular payments from the US spy agency “in the form of cash transfers to a foreign bank account”, according to Warrick.

But the scientist’s service to the CIA ended abruptly in late 2001, says Warrick, when officers from Syria’s Mukhabarat intelligence agency appeared at his Damascus office and took him away for questioning. It turns out they were there to investigate reports that he had been asking foreign suppliers to CERS for payoffs, in return for recommending them for contracts with the research agency. But the scientist thought his work for the CIA had been betrayed, so he confessed to everything, without realizing that the Mukhabarat had no idea about his espionage. He was executed by firing squad on April 7, 2002 in the Adra Prison, on the northeast outskirts of Damascus, says Warrick.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 22 February 2021 | Permalink

Rumors of federal informants are splintering American far-right groups

Proud BoysPERSISTENT RUMORS ABOUT THE existence of federal informants in their midst are dividing some of the American far-right groups that participated in last month’s attack on the Capitol in Washington. As Yahoo News’ Will Sommer and Kelly Weille correctly point out, mutual suspicions and paranoia about government informants are nothing new in American far-right circles. These groups always assume that they are being monitored by government, and have sophisticated counterintelligence practices in place.

But mutual suspicion between leading far-right figures and their supporters has reached new heights in recent weeks, according to reports. This is most notable among the Proud Boys, which is arguably the most recognizable group in the militant fringes of the Republican Party. Ever since a report by the Reuters news agency last month claimed that the leader of the organization, Enrique Tarrio, was a federal informant, the Proud Boys have seen many of their local groups splinter. Numerous senior leaders in the organization have reportedly voiced suspicions against each other, while several state chapters have left the national organization.

The split appears to be led by several Proud Boys chapters in Indiana, which have denounced the organization’s leadership. A number of chapters in Oklahoma have followed suit. Meanwhile, Yahoo News reports that the Manitoba chapter of the Proud Boys has dissolved. Many other chapters in Canada are expected to follow suit, after the Canadian government officially declared the organization a terrorist entity. Acceding to reports, Australia and New Zealand are considering following on Canada’s steps.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 15 February 2021 | Permalink

Proud Boys leader was undercover informer for police and FBI, says Reuters

Proud BoysIN AN EXCLUSIVE REPORT published on Wednesday, the Reuters news agency claimed that Enrique Tarrio, the high-profile leader of the Proud Boys far-right group in the United States, was an undercover informer for police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Miami-based Tarrio, 36, is the national chairman of the Proud Boys organization, whose members embrace street brawls and support physical confrontations against members of leftwing groups in the United States and Canada.

Members of the Proud Boys participated in the infamous attack on the United States Capitol Complex on January 6, 2021. It has been reported that at least five members of the Proud Boys organization have been charged for participating in the attack. Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal newspaper said that, in a post on the messaging application Telegram, Tarrio wrote: “What if we invade it?”. One of Tarrio’s thousands of followers on Telegram responded with “January 6th is D day in America”.

However, the Reuters news agency said on Wednesday, according to information obtained from a former prosecutor, and based on a federal court proceeding involving Tarrio, it would appear that the Proud Boys leader has operated repeatedly as an undercover informant for local and federal law enforcement. The transcript of the 2014 federal court proceeding shows that both Tarrio’s defense attorney and the prosecution asked the judge in the case to reduce his prison sentence. Their request was apparently based on Tarrio having provided the government with information that led to “the prosecution of 13 people on federal charges in two separate cases”. Tarrio’s lawyer at the time said that his client had “worked undercover in numerous investigations”, while an FBI special agent described him as “a key component” in investigations by local police.

These claims appear to have been confirmed to Reuters by Vanessa Singh Johannes, a former federal prosecutor in a case involving Tarrio. She told Reuters that Tarrio had “cooperated with local and federal law enforcement, to aid in the prosecution of those running other, separate criminal enterprises, ranging from running marijuana grow houses in Miami to operating pharmaceutical fraud schemes”.

It is not known at this time whether Tarrio has cooperated with law enforcement on cases involving the Proud Boys organization or other far-right groups and individuals. Reuters said Tarrio spoke to one of its reporters on Tuesday, and “denied working undercover or cooperating” with law enforcement. When he was relayed information from the transcript of the 2014 federal court proceeding, he told the Reuters journalist: “I don’t recall any of this […]. I don’t know any of this”.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 28 January 2021 | Permalink

White nationalists are accosting disillusioned Trump, QAnon supporters, experts warn

US Capitol - IAWHITE NATIONALISTS IN THE United States are launching a concerted effort to recruit disillusioned supporters of former President Donald Trump, as well as adherents of the QAnon conspiracy, according to experts who spoke to The Financial Times. Their efforts have been prompted by the mass exodus of Trump and QAnon followers from mainstream social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, in recent months. Trump has himself been barred from these online platforms, and his supporters have been urging the former president’s followers to join social media, such as Parler, Gab and Telegram, which are seen as friendly to conservatives.

Many of the former president’s most ardent supporters are convinced that Trump was cheated out of office, and are increasingly issuing calls for an uprising against the government, and even secession. Meanwhile, followers of the QAnon conspiracy movement are in disarray following Trump’s election defeat. Trump’s exit from the White House directly contradicted a major prediction adhered to by QAnon supporters. They were convinced that Trump would remain in office and fight a war to the death against a cabal of Satanist cannibals who supposedly control America.

According to experts, white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other far-right campaigners are finding fertile ground among the millions of disillusioned Trump and QAnon supporters, who are flooding into the non-mainstream corners of the social media universe. They warn that far-right activists are consciously and systematically infiltrating pro-Trump and QAnon online groups, in an attempt to “draw the remnants of these movements towards the extreme right”. These attempts appear to have been intensified after January 20, when Joe Biden was inaugurated president, experts told The Financial Times.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 26 January 2021 | Permalink

FBI is vetting all 25,000 US National Guard members at Biden’s inauguration

US Capitol attackIN AN UNPRECEDENTED MOVE, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is reportedly vetting every member of the United States National Guard who will be present at the upcoming inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris. According to the Associated Press, the decision to vet the National Guard troops was taken after US defense officials expressed concerns about a potential “insider attack […] from service members involved in securing” the inauguration ceremony.

Approximately 25,000 members of the National Guard will be present in Washington on Wednesday, alongside police and other security personnel. Their numbers are expected to dwarf protective measures taken in previous inaugural events, including those of Barack Obama and Donald Trump. It is not uncommon for troops to undergo background checks, especially in the post-9/11 security environment. But it is highly unusual for the FBI to vet that many individuals so quickly in preparation of a specific event. It is also uncommon in recent years for the focus to be on domestic rightwing threats to security, as opposed to Islamist threats.

On Monday the Associated Press quoted the Secretary of the Army, Ryan McCarthy, who said that military officials were “conscious of the potential threat” to security by insider threats. He added that he had “warned commanders to be on the lookout for any problems within the ranks” in the run-up to Wednesday. The news agency said the FBI began vetting the troops over a week ago, and expected to complete the process in time for the inauguration.

Meanwhile, in a related report, the Associated Press said last week that investigators probing the attack on the US Capitol on January 6 were concerned about the large numbers of attackers who appeared to display evidence of military training during the riot. There were “scores of people” mixed in the crowd of insurgents who “either had military training or were trained by those who did”, said the news agency. Others sported military-style gear, such as body armor, helmets, tactical vests, and two-way radios. There were even groups of insurgents who appeared to employ military tactics, such as moving among the crowd in formation.

The US Department of Defense is reportedly conducting investigations into its members who were allegedly involved in the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Large police departments around the country, including Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Houston, are also investigating whether any of their employees participated in the attack on the Capitol, according to the Associated Press.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 19 January 2021 | Permalink

Domestic extremists now pose the ‘greatest terrorism threat’ to the US, says report

US Capitol - IADOMESTIC EXTREMISTS, MOTIVATED BY conspiracy theories and opposed to mitigation measures against the coronavirus, pose “the greatest domestic terrorism threats” against the United States in 2021, according to a new government report. The report, dated January 13, is contained in a Joint Intelligence Bulletin, which is produced jointly by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Counterterrorism Center. It was accessed by Yahoo News, which reported on its contents on Wednesday.

Using blunt language, the bulletin warns that the attack on the Capitol on January 6 is very likely to motivate extremists to carry out more violent attacks across the country in 2021. In the coming months, violence will likely be “more sporadic, lone actor or small cell violence”, and will be carried out by “a loosely organized, sustained, and significant […] population” of domestic violent extremists (DVEs). These can be grouped into anti-government or anti-authority violent extremists (AGAAVE), militia violent extremists (MVEs), and racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists (RMVEs), according to the bulletin.

These actors broadly view the riot as a success for their cause and perceive it “as a step toward achieving their initiatives”. It will therefore “likely serve as a significant driver of violence [and] inspire others to commit” further violence in the coming weeks and months, the bulletin warns. The attack on the Capitol should therefore be seen as “part of an ongoing trend, in which extremists use demonstrations to carry out ideologically motivated violence”. Such violence is increasingly directed against members of the media, who are seen by DVEs as being complicit “in a system hostile to their beliefs”.

The bulletin also cautions that the recent purges of DVE users from mainstream social media platforms is prompting them to resort to fringe platforms, which they perceive as more secure. This mass migration is “further challenging” the ability of the authorities “to identify and warn of specific threats”, the bulletin concludes.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 14 January 2021 | Permalink

Austria expels alleged assassin accused of working for Turkish government

Berivan AslanAUSTRIAN AUTHORITIES HAVE REPORTEDLY expelled from the country an Italian citizen of Turkish origin, who was allegedly hired by the Turkish government as an assassin. The man, Feyyaz Öztürk, 53, reportedly turned himself in to Austrian intelligence last year. According to the British press, Öztürk claimed he had been hired by the Turkish government to assassinate Berivan Aslan (pictured). Aslan, who is of Kurdish heritage, is a Viennese parliamentarian and a leading critic of Turkey’s treatment of its minority Kurdish population.

News reports claimed Öztürk’s mission was to terrorize members of the Kurdish expatriate community in Austria and elsewhere in Europe, who tend to be vocal critics of the Turkish government’s human rights record. British newspaper The Telegraph claimed that Öztürk had been tasked by Ankara to “ensure [Aslan] was hurt or died”, so that “other politicians get the message”. Öztürk also claimed that Turkish intelligence officials had blackmailed him in order to force him to carry out Alsan’s assassination. Moreover, he had been asked to kill two more Austrian public figures who are of Kurdish origin.

However, Öztürk reportedly aborted the assassination operation in March of last year, after he broke his leg in an accident during a trip to the northern Italian city of Rimini. Austrian prosecutors confirmed that an official investigation on Öztürk had concluded. It found that he had carried out “military espionage on behalf of a foreign state”, but did it not identify the state. Turkey has strongly denied that its intelligence agencies have any connection with Öztürk.

Öztürk’s espionage trial has been scheduled for February 4. However, according to Austrian law, he cannot be held in pre-trial detention and must be freed prior to his day in court. Rather than allow him freedom of movement inside Austria, the authorities decided to expel him to Italy. Öztürk’s lawyer said yesterday that her client had been designated “an imminent danger to public security” and taken to the Italian border shortly before Christmas.

The lawyer added that Öztürk wishes to return to Austria to attend his trial in February. There are suspicions among intelligence observers that the Austrian state would prefer Öztürk not to return to Austria, so as to avoid exposing espionage methods and sources in court. Meanwhile, Aslan said she remains under police protection, which was initially extended to her last year, when the alleged assassination plot against her became known.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 13 January 2021 | Permalink

Mutual distrust of China heightens US-Indian intelligence cooperation to historic levels

India External Affairs MinistryINTELLIGENCE COOPERATION BETWEEN THE United States and India has reached historic levels in the closing months of 2020, and is driven by the two countries’ mutual distrust of China. This development is particularly noteworthy for India, which has traditionally maintained a non-aligned stance in military and intelligence matters for much of its existence. New Delhi’s increasingly close relationship with Washington is described by some experts as “a revolution in the way that India views the world and aligns with partners in Asia”.

The deepening intelligence cooperation between India has its roots in 2002, when the military forces of the two nations formalized intelligence-sharing systems on matters of regional security. In 2016, a new bilateral logistics agreement enabled them to share each other’s facilities in order to repair or resupply vehicles, vessels and aircraft. Two years later, the US gave India access to secure communications equipment that is also used by the US Navy and Air Force.

These military- and intelligence-sharing agreements were reinforced in recent months, after India and China were involved in a bloody border dispute in the Himalayan region. The heated dispute lasted for over a month, resulting in the death of nearly 30 Indian and Chinese military officers. The incidents alarmed observers, as they marked the first violent clashes between Indian and Chinese troops in several decades. Since that time, India has deliberately deepened its intelligence-sharing relationship with the US, led by its growing rift with China.

The most recent demonstration of the deepening relationship between India and the US is the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), which was signed by Washington and New Delhi in October of this year. It allows US intelligence agencies, such as the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, to provide India with archival and real-time geospatial data. The latter includes aeronautical, nautical and topographical intelligence, much of which concerns China or the activities of Chinese vessels and aircraft in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. BECA is said to be instrumental in allowing India to advance its understanding of Chinese military targets, as well as detect the pattern of Chinese military activity in the wider region. However, the agreement has raised concerns among officials in India’s regional foe, Pakistan, as well as in Russia, which has historically been one of India’s closest regional allies.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 23 December 2020 | Permalink

British Channel Islands being used as ‘offshore global spy center’ study finds

Cell Phone - IATHE CHANNEL ISLANDS, AN archipelago consisting of dependencies of the British Crown located off the northern coast of France, are being used as an offshore global spy center due to their unregulated telecommunications industry, according to a new study. The archipelago is made up of Jersey and Guernsey, groups of islands that are not technically part of Britain, but are instead considered offshore British territories. They are regularly new study as offshore tax havens.

But now a referred to by Britain’s Guardian newspaper and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, claims that lax regulation of the Channel Islands’ telecommunications systems is allowing foreign spy agencies and contractors to use them as a base to carry out worldwide surveillance operations. Many of these operations rely on SS7, a decades-old feature of the global cellular telecommunications system, which allows cellular providers to provide service to mobile phone users as they travel internationally.

The SS7 system allows a mobile phone registered in a specific country to be used in a different country, and its user to be billed for the service. But to do so with accuracy, the SS7 system enables the service provider to track the owner of the device being charged for the phone call. This is done through what is known in cellular telecommunications parlance as a Provide Subscriber Location, or PSL, request.

Citing “leaked data, documents and interviews with industry insiders”, the study claims that intelligence agencies exploit the Channel Islands’ lax telecommunications regulation, which allows them to file PSL requests, not for billing purposes, but to detect the physical whereabouts of targets around the world. They do so by renting access from mobile phone operators based in the Channel Islands.

These PSL requests originate from Britain’s +44 country code, which is generally trusted in the global telecommunications industry, and are thus facilitated without raising suspicions. Notably, many of these PSL queries do not seek to acquire bulk data on users, but rather target specific individuals around the world. Additionally, if handled in certain ways, PSL queries can provide spies with access to the content of targeted communications, and thus information relating to unsuspecting users’ personal data, including text messages, bank accounts and passwords.

The study suggests that the British government is aware of this misuse of the system, but is finding it difficult to stop it because it has no direct legal jurisdiction over the Channel Islands.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 22 December 2020 | Permalink

Research uncovers vast online disinformation network with presence in 100 countries

EU DisinfoLabA TEAM OF RESEARCHERS in Belgium has uncovered one of the world’s largest known online disinformation networks, which has existed for 15 years and is believed to incorporate at least 750 fake media outlets in over 100 countries. The network, described by researchers as “one of the most persistent and complex operations” in the area of disinformation, is believed to exist in order to support the national interests of India.

A team of researchers at the Brussels-based EU DisinfoLab has termed the network “Indian Chronicles”. This is also the title of an extensive 90-page report (.pdf), which was published on Wednesday. The researchers stress that the size of the disinformation network, and its systematic promotion of Indian interests, do not in themselves provide proof that the Indian government and its intelligence services are behind the project.

They do note, however, that the Indian Chronicles network of fake media outlets relies extensively on news reports that are produced by the Asian News International (ANI). Founded in 1971 in Delhi, ANI is India’s largest news bureau and the nation’s most prolific provider of news-related television content. There is no evidence that ANI is aware of the Indian Chronicles network. Additionally, according to EU DisinfoLab, the disinformation network has links with “at least 10” non-government organizations (NGOs) that have been accredited by the United Nations.

Some of these NGOs have been known to promote Indian views vis-à-vis Pakistan’s and China’s views in the United Nations and other intergovernmental bodies. They also own think-tanks and publishing houses that publish books and monographs supporting Indian positions on international affairs. The network also relies on hundreds of fake news websites that use fake personas of fictitious editors and reporters, and have been registered using fake names and non-existent contact information. The content of these fake publishers is then forwarded to United Nations and other intergovernmental bodies, in an attempt to influence decision-making, according to EU DisinfoLab.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 10 December 2020 | Permalink

Trump administration cancels parole for US Navy analyst who spied for Israel

Pollard - aA UNITED STATES NAVY analyst who spent 30 years in prison after being convicted of spying on the United States for Israel, is expected to receive a hero’s welcome in Israel in the coming days, after the administration of President Donald Trump lifted his parole restrictions that prevented him from leaving the country. Jonathan Pollard, a former intelligence analyst for the United States Navy, was released from an American prison in 2015, after serving a lengthy sentence for selling US government secrets to Israel.

Throughout Pollard’s time in prison, the government of Israel lobbied for his release, claiming that the convicted spy did not harm American interests, but was simply trying to help Israel. However, the US Intelligence Community and successive American presidents consistently rejected Israel’s claims, arguing that Pollard’s activities were severely detrimental to US interests. Pollard was eventually released after serving the entirety of his sentence.

Ever since his release, Pollard had been required to wear an ankle monitor at all times. His Internet browsing was strictly regulated by the US government and he was not permitted to leave his New York home after sunset. He was also not permitted to leave the US, and Washington had refused to allow him to move to Israel, for fear that the Israeli government would provide him with monetary rewards for his espionage.

But now Pollard is expected to travel to Israel soon, after the Department of Justice announced on Friday that his parole would not be renewed —a move that effectively allows Pollard to leave the United States for the first time since his imprisonment. His lawyer, Eliot Lauer, told an Israeli television station that Pollard would soon be departing for Israel, adding that he looked forward to “seeing our client in Israel”. On Saturday, a press statement issued from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrated the lifting of Pollard’s parole restrictions, and said Israeli leaders “hope to see Jonathan Pollard in Israel soon”.

Pollard is expected to receive a hero’s welcome in Israel, where he has achieved celebrity status. He is especially revered by supporters of the center-right Likud party, which is currently led by Netanyahu. There are, however, many in Israel who see Pollard as an opportunist and have derided him publicly for accusing the state of Israel of abandoning him. Others in the Israeli intelligence community see the Pollard episode as deeply damaging to relations between the United States and Israel, and are critical of the decision to recruit Pollard, whose carelessness and brazen espionage style were bound to lead to his arrest sooner or later.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 23 November 2020 | Permalink

Senior Homeland Security officials resign, reportedly under White House pressure

Department of Homeland Security DHS

TWO SENIOR OFFICIALS AT the United States Department of Homeland Security have resigned, reportedly after coming under pressure to do by the White House. The resignations may point to the latest incidents in an ongoing string of firings and resignations in the US intelligence and national security communities, part of a concerted effort by President Donald Trump.

The more senior of the two DHS officials who have resigned as of today is Bryan Ware, DHS assistant director for cybersecurity. Ware served at the DHS’s cybersecurity wing, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). CISA was created by the Trump administration two years ago, when the president signed into law the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act. The mission of the young agency is to streamline cybersecurity efforts across government agencies and departments, in order to improve the government’s cybersecurity protections.

Ware’s resignation coincided with a rare announcement by top officials at CISA, which called the US presidential election of November 3 “the most secure in American history”. The officials, who are members of the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council (GCC) Executive Committee, added that “[t]here is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was in any way compromised”. The announcement appeared to be a refutation of claims made by President Trump and his supporters that the election was marred by significant irregularities.

The DHS assistant secretary for international affairs, Valerie Boyd, also resigned as of today. In her resignation letter, Boyd states that her “belief that people of character should support the institution of the Presidency […] has been tested many times these past few years”. In his farewell letter to colleagues, Ware states that his departure from the DHS came “too soon”, indicating that the decision to resign was not his own. Several sources suggest that both Ware and Boyd were pressured to resign by White House aides close to President Trump.

Reporters said last night that officials at the White House, the DHS and the CISA did not respond to requests for comment about the two DHS officials’ resignations. There were also rumors last night that CISA director, Chris Krebs, would be fired by President Trump in a matter of days.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 13 November 2020 | Permalink