A CIA paramilitary officer was killed in Somalia, reports claim

CIA memorial wallA PARAMILITARY OPERATIONS OFFICER serving in the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has reportedly been killed in Somalia. This is a rare occurrence for the clandestine agency, which has lost about 140 officers in its 73-year history. The New York Times, which first reported the news on Wednesday, said the officer had joined the CIA after serving in the US Naval Special Warfare Development Group, which is commonly known as SEAL Team Six. Upon joining the CIA, the late officer served in the Special Activities Center (formerly Special Activities Division), which is the Agency’s paramilitary section.

The identity of the officer has not been released, and it is unlikely that it will become known in the future. It is believed that the officer’s family has been notified. Citing “current and former US officials”, The Times said it was not known whether the officer had been killed while participating in a counterterrorism raid, or whether he had been targeted by al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda affiliate that is active in the Horn of Africa. Neither al-Qaeda nor al-Shabaab, have said anything about the alleged incident.

The US has been participating in a low-intensity war against Islamist militants in the region for over a decade. There are currently over 700 American military personnel in Somalia, most of whom provide training for the Somalian Armed Forces. But the CIA, as well as US Special Operations Forces personnel, are also known to carry out raids throughout the country. Additionally, the CIA, in association with the Department of Defense and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, has carried out dozens of drone strikes in Somalia in recent years.

In September of this year, Yahoo News reported that the CIA had lost four paramilitary operations officers in 2008. The four men allegedly died during a secret maritime operation off the coast of the Philippines, and their bodies were never recovered. According to the report, the four men were members of the CIA’s Maritime Branch, one of the three branches of the Special Operations Group, which works under the Special Activities Center. The agency never spoke publicly about the officers’ deaths, but allegedly notified their families, who were also invited to Langley for a private ceremony attended by the CIA’s leadership.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 25 November 2020 | Permalink

Afghan spy chief warns drone warfare is Taliban’s new fighting method

TalibanTHE DIRECTOR OF AFGHANISTAN’S main intelligence agency warned on Monday that the Taliban are for the first time resorting to using drones in order to carry out attacks against the Afghan government. Groups such as the Islamic State in Syria, and Houthi rebels in Yemen, have been using modified drones to drop makeshift bombs on enemy targets since at least 2016. But the Taliban have not previously been known to make use of such weapons.

The information was shared by Ahmad Zia Shiraj, director of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS), during an address to the Afghan parliament. Headquartered in Kabul, the NDS is Afghanistan’s primary domestic and foreign intelligence agency. It forms part of Afghanistan’s National Defense and Security Forces, along with the branches of the Armed Forces and the police. Its director reports directly to the Office of the President of Afghanistan.

Speaking during a parliament session on Monday, Shiraj said that the Taliban have begun to use drones to drop explosives on targets. These are commercially available hobby drones, which are equipped with video cameras and designed for filming. The Taliban purchase these drones and modify them so that they can carry and release explosives, said Shiraj. He added that Taliban forces had used drones to carry out attacks in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz, as well as in Paktia, on the Afghan-Pakistani border.

Media reports in October claimed that the Taliban used a drone to drop a bomb on the headquarters of the Kunduz governorate, killing at least four people. The New York Times noted at the time that, if true, the use of a drone to carry out an attack could be the first in the 19-year war between the Taliban and the American-supported Afghan government, and called it “a worrisome shift” in tactics. On Monday, Shiraj did not mention specific attacks, but he did say that there had been more than one such incidents. He said that the NDS would pressure the Afghan government to stop the importation of commercial drones.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 24 November 2020 | Permalink

British SIGINT agency criticized for ‘vanity project’ that went 83% over budget

GCHQBRITAIN’S SIGNALS INTELLIGENCE AGENCY has been severely criticized in a report for undertaking a pointless “vanity project” that exceeded its allocated funds by 83 percent and needlessly cut into its operational budget. The agency, known as the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is responsible for collecting signals intelligence (SIGINT) and protecting the information systems of the British government and Armed Forces.

In 2015, the country’s Conservative government announced the establishment of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), under the GCHQ, whose mission would be to protect Britain from cyber-espionage, cyber-terrorism and cyber-sabotage, among other cyber-security goals. Soon after the announcement was made, the then-Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, appointed a planning committee whose chief priority was to decide where to house the NCSC. The decision was made to house it in London, rather than the GCHQ’s Cheltenham base in southwestern England, so as to place it in close proximity to government and business centers.

But the planning committee rejected an initial plan to house the NCSC in Canary Wharf, one of London’s primary business districts, located on the Isle of Dogs. The reasons were that Canary Wharf is not close to the Palace of Westminster —Britain’s seat of government— and that Canary Wharf would be “very unpopular” with NCSC personnel. Instead, the committee chose Nova South, a luxury building situated near London’s Victoria station, which is one of the world’s most expensive urban areas. The government’s National Security Adviser, Mark Lyall Grant, rejected the Nova South option, arguing it would be too costly without adding any real benefits to the NCSC’s operations. But in May of 2016 Osborne overruled Grant’s decision and unilaterally decided to house the NCSC at Nova South.

Now a report (.pdf) from the British Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee has described Osborne’s role in the decision-making process as “highly unsatisfactory”, and his choice to house the NCSC at Nova South as “unacceptable”. According to the report, Osborne viewed the NCSC’s location as “a pet project” that prioritized image over cost and operational effectiveness. The result was that the NCSC housing project “considerably over-shot the funds originally allocated”, by over 80 percent. What is worse, according to the report, the money shortfall has been affecting the GCHQ’s operational budget by nearly £3 million ($4 million) a year since 2016.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 20 November 2020 | Permalink

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s half-nephew is in CIA custody, report claims

Kim Jong-nam murderTHE HALF-NEPHEW OF North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who disappeared in 2017 and has not been seen since, is in the custody of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), according to a new report. The missing man’s name is Kim Han-sol. He is the son of the late Kim Jong-nam (pictured), the eldest son of Kim Jong-il and grandson of Kim Il-Sung, who founded the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in 1948. A critic of North Korea’s rulers, Kim lived in self-exile in the Chinese territory of Macau, and split his time between China, Singapore and Malaysia.

In February of 2017, Kim Jong-nam was assassinated in audacious attack at a busy airport in Malaysia by two women who used a poisonous substance to murder him in broad daylight. Suspicions fell immediately on the North Korean government, and many assumed that his two children and wife would be next. The family, who lived in Macau at the time, frantically made plans to leave for the West and seek political asylum there. To make it more difficult for potential assassins to find them, Kim Jong-nam’s family members made the decision to separate and take different routes to Europe.

As intelNews has reported before, Kim Jong-nam’s eldest son, Kim Han-sol, sought and received protection from an obscure North Korean dissident group, which calls itself Cheollima Civil Defense and is also known as Free Joseon. Cheollima Civil Defense, whose members support on principle anyone who challenges the regime in Pyongyang, helped Kim’s family relocate to the West, allegedly with assistance from China, the United States and Holland.

However, unlike Kim Jong-nam’s wife and youngest son, Kim Han-sol never made it to Europe, and his whereabouts remain unknown. Now a new report in The New Yorker magazine claims that Kim Han-sol flew from Macau to Taiwan, escorted by Cheollima Civil Defense members. From there, he was scheduled to take a flight to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, where Cheollima Civil Defense members and Dutch activists were waiting for him. But he never emerged from the arrivals gate. According to The New Yorker, that was because a team of CIA officers intercepted Kim Han-sol in Taiwan and took him under US custody.

The magazine claims Kim Han-sol remains under US custody to this day, but does not clarify whether that is a voluntary arrangement on the part of the North Korean exile. It is also not clear if Kim Han-sol’s mother and brother are with him, or if they are aware of his whereabouts. It is believed that Kim Jong-nam’s income came from a North Korean government slush fund that he was managing in Macau, and that much of the fund came from illicit sources. It is possible that Kim Han-sol was also involved in running that fund, which would explain the CIA’s interest in him.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 18 November 2020 | Permalink

Danish spy service helped US collect intelligence on NATO allies, report claims

DDIS Denmark

A SECRET COOPERATION BETWEEN Danish and American intelligence agencies enabled the United States to collect intelligence on some of its closest European allies, according to a new report. Affected countries include Germany, France, Sweden, Norway, and Holland, according to Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten and Danmarks Radio, Denmark’s public-service broadcaster. The two media outlets say they spoke to “several independent sources” who confirmed the allegations.

The revelations appear to be connected with the surprise firing of Lars Findsen, director of the Danish Defense Intelligence Service (FE, or DDIS in English), in August of this year. It was reported at the time that Findsen was fired following a series of whistleblower revelations. However, almost nothing was released by the Danish government about the precise nature of the revelations. It was claimed that the revelations concerned “improper intelligence collection practices”.

It now appears that the whistleblower revelations concerned a secret intelligence collection agreement struck between the DDIS and the US National Security Agency (NSA) in 2008. According to the agreement the NSA would help the DDIS tap a number of fiber optic Internet cables that pass through Danish territory, in return for being given access to the content of intercepted traffic. This collaboration was physically facilitated at a data-processing center located on the Danish island of Amager, south of the Danish capital Copenhagen, which was allegedly built for that purpose.

In 2015, however, a Danish whistleblower approached the Danish Oversight Board, known as TET, which is responsible for supervising the work of Denmark’s intelligence agencies. The whistleblower alleged that the Amager data-processing center had been used by the NSA to spy on Danish targets, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Finance. Moreover, a list of the keywords used by the NSA between 2012 and 2015 to flag Internet traffic allegedly suggests that the governments of Germany, France, Sweden, Norway and Holland were also targeted.

The revelation has prompted a heated political discussion in Denmark, while Norwegian, Swedish and Dutch authorities have launched investigations into the alleged spying. Some in Denmark are now calling for the Minister of Defense, Trine Bramsen, to release to the public a four-volume report produced by the TET about the alleged DDIS-NSA collaboration.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 17 November 2020 | Permalink

More details emerge about alleged killing of al-Qaeda #2 in Iran by Israeli spies

Abu Mohammed al-Masri

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS SAYS it has confirmed a claim made last week by The New York Times, according to which an Israeli assassination team killed al-Qaeda’s deputy leader in a daring operation inside Iran in August. The paper said on November 13 that Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, who went by the operational name Abu Muhammad al-Masri, had been assassinated in Tehran on August 7. He was the deputy leader of al-Qaeda, and was wanted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation for helping plan the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

On Sunday, the Associated Press said it was able to corroborate the The Times’ story with “four current and former US [intelligence] officials”, one of whom had “direct knowledge of the operation” and another, a former CIA officer, had been briefed about it. The news agency said the operation was carried out by Israel, acting on information given to it by the US. The Americans gave the Israelis information about al-Masri’s whereabouts in Iran, as well as the cover he was using to avoid detection.

Al-Masri was killed by a team of Israeli assassins while driving his car in a quiet street in the suburbs of Tehran, according to The Times. The assassins, who were riding on motorcycles, shot him with guns equipped with silencers. Al-Masri’s daughter, Maryam, who was riding with him in the car, was also killed. This was part of the plan, said the Associated Press. Al-Masri’s daughter was also the widow of Hamza bin Laden, the son of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. Hamza bin Laden was killed in 2019 by the US at the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to the Associated Press, US intelligence planners believed Maryam was “being groomed for a leadership role in al-Qaeda” and “was [already] involved in operational planning”.

Iranian media portrayed the incident as the murder of Habib Daoud, a Lebanese professor of history, who was gunned down in the Iranian capital along with his daughter by unknown suspects. In reality, said the Associate Press, the father and daughter were killed by the Kidon, (“tip of the spear” in Hebrew), an elite assassination unit within Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 16 November 2020 | Permalink

Senior US Republicans split on whether CIA director Gina Haspel should be fired

Gina Haspel

SENIOR FIGURES IN THE United States Republican Party appear to be split on whether President Donald Trump should fire Gina Haspel, the first female director of the Central Intelligence Agency, who has been serving in that capacity since 2018. According to The New York Times, Haspel is on a list of senior intelligence and national security officials that the embattled American president plans to fire in the coming days. He already fired key defense officials this week, including the Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, as well as the Pentagon’s head of policy and director of intelligence.

Trump administration insiders, who want to see Haspel gone, are aware that Trump will not be president for much longer, and are thus pushing for her immediate termination, said The Times. They blame Haspel for not stopping the CIA whistleblower who filed a complaint about the president’s July 2019 telephone call with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky. The complaint led to Trump’s impeachment in the House of Representatives. Haspel had no role in that incident, but senior Trump loyalists believe she could have stopped the complaint before it reached the office of the US Intelligence Community’s Inspector General.

Haspel is also accused by Trump loyalists of not following the directives of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, under John Ratcliffe, a Trump appointee who serves as the most senior intelligence officer in the US government. The CIA and the ODNI have not seen eye-to-eye since the latter’s founding in 2005. Additionally, unlike Haspel, who rose through the ranks of the Intelligence Community, Ratcliffe had no intelligence experience before this year, when he was appointed by Trump to lead the ODNI. It is believed that his status as an outsider has made it difficult for him to exercise leadership in the close-knit Intelligence Community.

But other senior Republicans have rallied around Haspel. They are said to include the powerful Senator Mitch McConnell, who on Tuesday met with Haspel in his office on Capitol Hill. The closed-door meeting between McConnell and Haspel alarmed the Trump inner circle, with Donald Trump, Jr., calling the CIA director a “trained liar” and accusing those Republicans who support her of undermining his father. The CIA declined to comment on the story.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 13 October 2020 | Permalink

In unusual move, US spy agencies say they won’t share intelligence with Biden for now

ODNI DNI

THE COORDINATING AGENCY OF the United States Intelligence Community has said it will not share national security information with Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden until he has been officially “ascertained”. The term refers to a process described in the Presidential Transition Act of 1963, which provides instructions for the orderly and peaceful transition of power in the US.

The process of transition includes giving the American president-elect access to the same national security information that the sitting president has access to. This process, described as “uncontroversial” by observers, has been followed without fail since at least 1963, when the Presidential Transition Act became law. However, in a statement published on Tuesday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said it would not support “a potential presidential transition” until “ascertainment of the candidate” by the administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA) has been completed.

The GSA, an independent US government agency with a personnel force of over 12,000, chaired by Emily Murphy, must sign an official letter of “ascertainment” before the transition of power becomes official. However, this has not yet happened, as the sitting US president, Donald Trump, is refusing to concede the election, citing irregularities and fraud. The ODNI said on Tuesday that it would “not have contact with any transition team until notified by the GSA administrator”.

Furthermore, Biden has not been given access to the President’s Daily Brief (PDB), an analytical compendium of timely information that is produced by the US Intelligence Community every morning. The Democratic Party candidate for president confirmed that he had been given no access to the PDB, which typically requires authorization by the sitting president. In a separate development, it was reported on Tuesday that the State Department is refusing to facilitate telephone calls between Biden and leaders of foreign countries, as is typical during the presidential transition process.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported late on Tuesday evening that the White House instructed US federal agencies to continue preparing the Trump administration’s budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year, which is due in February —three weeks after Trump is scheduled to depart the White House, based on the election projections of every major US news network.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 11 November 2020 | Permalink

UK spy agency to launch offensive cyber operation against anti-vaccine propaganda

GCHQ

BRITAIN’S SIGNALS INTELLIGENCE AGENCY is preparing to launch a major offensive cyber operation against state-sponsored propaganda aimed at undermining research on the COVID-19 vaccine. According to the London-based Times newspaper, which published the information about the purported cyber operation, it will be aimed mostly against disinformation campaigns coming out of Russia.

The alleged disinformation campaigns appear to be targeting research taking place at Oxford University, which seeks to create an effective vaccine against the novel coronavirus. A main theme in these campaigns promotes the claim that the vaccine will turn those who take it in to chimpanzees. Dozens of memes around this theme are said to have flooded Russian social media websites, with English-language translations making the rounds on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The Times reports that the British government considers shutting down the alleged Russian disinformation campaign a strategic priority, which grows in significance the closer British scientists get to their goal of creating a successful vaccine against the pandemic. London has therefore ordered the British Army’s 77th Brigade, which specializes in information operations, to launch an online campaign that will counter deceptive narratives about a potential vaccine against the coronavirus.

Whitehall has also mobilized the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Britain’s signals intelligence agency, which focuses on cyber-security, to launch offensive operations against the sources of the disinformation, says The Times. The paper cites a government source as saying that the spy agency will be using tools originally developed to monitor and incapacitate websites and other online platforms used by the Islamic State for recruitment.

According to the paper, the operational mandate of the 77th Brigade and GCHQ prevents them from tackling disinformation and misinformation originating from ordinary social media users, rather than state agencies. Additionally, the offensive cyber campaign cannot target websites that are based in Britain’s so-called Five Eyes allies, namely Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. Instead, British spies are required to notify their Five Eyes counterparts, so they can take action instead.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 09 November 2020 | Permalink

Austrian government signals major overhaul of spy service, following Vienna attack

BVT AustriaAUSTRIAN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS SIGNALED on Thursday the beginning of a major overhaul of the country’s intelligence community, in response to this week’s terrorist attack in Vienna, which killed four people. Another 20 people were wounded by a lone gunman, who used an automatic weapon to spread panic in the Austrian capital before he was shot dead by Austrian police.

The gunman was later identified as Kujtim Fejzulai, an Austrian citizen of Albanian extraction, who was born in North Macedonia and held citizenship there too. The shooter was known to Austrian authorities, as he had been previously convicted of trying to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State. He had been imprisoned as an Islamic radical, but had been released after allegedly duping Austrian judges, who believed he had reformed.

In the days following the attack, it emerged that Slovakian authorities had notified Austrian security agencies in July that Fejzulai had tried to purchase ammunition in Slovakia. On Wednesday, Austria’s Director General for Public Security, Franz Ruf, said that Austrian intelligence authorities “sent questions back to Bratislava”, but then there had been a “breakdown” in the system. Austrian Minister of the Interior Karl Nehammer added that “something apparently went wrong with the communication in the next steps”.

Nehammer and others, including Austrian Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler, called for the establishment of an independent commission to examine the Fejzulai case and “clarify whether the process went optimally and in line with the law”. The Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, said on Thursday that the country did not have “all the legal means necessary to monitor and sanction extremists”, adding that he would initiate the creation of a panel that would supervise a “realignment” of the intelligence agencies. He was referring to the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism, known by the initials BVT. He did not provide details.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 06 November 2020 | Permalink

US forces are secretly helping the Taliban fight the Islamic State in Afghanistan

Taliban

UNITED STATES TROOPS ARE secretly re-purposing weapons that were initially used to fight the Taliban, in order to help the Taliban defeat the Islamic State in northeastern Afghanistan, according to a new report. The American military’s newfound role in Afghanistan reportedly reflects the view of the White House that the Taliban have no aspirations outside of Afghanistan, while the Islamic State seeks to challenge America’s interests worldwide.

The rumors that the US Department of Defense has been providing assistance to the Taliban as they battle the Islamic State in Afghanistan are not new. In March of this year, General Frank McKenzie, Commander of US Central Command, admitted as much during Congressional testimony. He told the US House Armed Services Committee that the Taliban had received “very limited support from us”, but declined to elaborate during open-door testimony.

What did General McKenzie imply? According to veteran military affairs reporter Wesley Morgan, US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) forces in Afghanistan have been instructed to provide air cover to Taliban forces as they fight the Islamic State. Morgan said he spoke to members of a JSOC Task Force in Afghanistan’s northeastern Kunar Province, who confirmed General McKenzie’s comments from back in March.

Importantly, the JSOC’s air support to the Taliban is reportedly provided without direct communication between the US forces and the Taliban. Instead, the Americans simply “observe battle conditions” and “listen in on the [communications of the] group” in order to determine what kind of air support it needs. The resources used in that capacity consist of weaponry that was initially deployed against the Taliban, but is now being secretly repurposed to assist the Taliban in their fight against the Islamic State. According to Morgan, the JSOC team in Kunar, which provides air cover to the Taliban, jokingly refers to itself as the “Taliban air force”.

Miller adds it is unclear whether the Afghan government in Kabul is aware that US forces are providing assistance to the Taliban. It is also unclear whether al-Qaeda, which is a close ally of the Taliban, is benefiting from that assistance. Recently a United Nations report warned that al-Qaeda remains “heavily embedded” with the Taliban in Afghanistan, despite assurances by officials in the administration of US President Donald Trump that the two groups are in the process of parting ways.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 03 November 2020 | Permalink

Austrian financier dubbed ‘world’s most wanted man’ worked for several agencies

Jan Marsalek

AN AUSTRIAN FINANCIER, WHO disappeared and is wanted by Western spy agencies in connection with a massive financial scandal in Germany, may have worked for several spy agencies simultaneously, according to reports. Jan Marsalek, dubbed by some as “the world’s most wanted man”, is connected with the sudden collapse of Wirecard AG in Germany last month.

Wirecard (est. 1999) was a German provider of financial services, such as mobile phone payment processing and other electronic payment transaction systems. The company also issued physical and virtual credit and pre-paid cards. But on June 25 of this year the company declared insolvency, after an audit revealed that nearly €2 billion ($2.3 billion) in cash deposits were missing from its accounts. Soon afterwards the company’s shares lost over 70 percent of their value and its management team, including its chief executive officer, Markus Braun, stepped down. Braun was eventually arrested. But Marsalek, who had worked as Wirecard’s chief operating officer since 2010, was nowhere to be found.

Marsalek, 40, was also in charge of Winecard’s operations in Asia and specifically the Philippines, where the fictitious €2 billion had reportedly been deposited. On June 18, after getting fired from his job, Marsalek told colleagues that he was leaving immediately for Manilla, in order to track down the missing funds and clear his name. However, he never arrived there, as he seemed to disappear into thin air on the way. An investigative report by The Financial Times revealed that Marsalek never made use of his airline ticket to the Philippine capital, and that the immigration records that showed him entering the country and then flying from there to China had been forged. This was later confirmed by the Philippines government.

Last Thursday, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that, according to some German lawmakers, Marsalek may have operated as an informant for the Austrian Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism (BVT). The paper cited a number of German lawmakers, who said they were told during a briefing of the German Parliament’s Committee on Intelligence Oversight that Marsalek probably worked “for several intelligence agencies at the same time” prior to his disappearance. The lawmakers did not provide details of these allegations. Meanwhile, Marsalek’s whereabouts remain unknown.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 02 November 2020 | Permalink

US official who penned anonymous 2018 New York Times article reveals his identity

Miles Taylor

A UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT official, who in 2018 wrote an anonymous editorial in The New York Times claiming to be part of a secret group of insiders trying to thwart President Donald Trump’s policies, has revealed his identity. The September 2018 editorial raised eyebrows in Washington for claiming that “many Trump appointees have vowed to […] thwart Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office”. The president called the article treasonous and urged the Department of Justice to investigate its source.

In 2019, the same government official published a book, titled The Warning, with the author identified only as “Anonymous — a senior Trump administration official”. In the months that followed there was intense speculation in Washington about the identity of the author. The list of possible candidates included Vice President Mike Pence, then-United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, and a host of senior officials in the Department of Defense.

On Wednesday, the anonymous author voluntarily revealed his identity. He is Miles Taylor, a Trump appointee, who served in various posts in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from 2017 until 2019. When he left the DHS, Taylor was serving as Chief of Staff to DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf. He had previously served as Chief of Staff to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. In August of this year, Taylor became the highest-ranking former member of the Trump administration to endorse Joe Biden for president. He now works as Head of National Security for Google.

The revelation prompted an immediate response from the White House, with the president’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany describing Taylor as “low-level, disgruntled former staffer”. Speaking at a rally in the US state of Arizona, President Trump called Taylor a “sleazebag” and “a low-level lowlife that I don’t know”. However, the Associated Press reported late on Wednesday that “as DHS chief of staff, Taylor was in many White House meetings with the president on his border policy and other major Homeland Security issues”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 29 October 2020 | Permalink

Israeli Mossad secretly secured COVID-19 vaccine from China, say sources

Yossi Cohen Mossad

THE ISRAELI EXTERNAL INTELLIGENCE agency, the Mossad, has allegedly secured a Chinese-produced vaccine against the coronavirus, according to reports on Israeli television. The report came as the Israeli government confirmed over the weekend that “several diplomatic efforts are occurring behind the scenes” to acquire various vaccines against COVID-19.

According to The Jerusalem Post newspaper, an unnamed senior official in Israel’s Ministry of Health “who is in the know” said that Israel was close to reaching agreements with developers in several countries to purchase coronavirus vaccines. On Monday, however, Israel’s Channel 12 television said “multiple sources” had confirmed that the Mossad had secured the Chinese vaccine and “brought it to Israel”, so that it could be studied by Israeli scientists.

It was not immediately apparent why the Mossad, Israel’s primary external intelligence agency, was involved in the acquisition of the coronavirus vaccine. The implication in the report was that Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Ministry of Health, were not involved in the effort to acquire the Chinese-made vaccine. On the other hand, this should not be taken to mean that the Mossad stole the vaccine from China. As intelNews has reported, the Mossad Director Yossi Cohen previously served as head of a national committee to secure resources needed to combat COVID-19, including medicines and protective supplies.

Channel 12 news said no Israeli government officials would agree to comment on the story on record. According to one theory, the Mossad purchased the vaccine from China in secret, because Israel did not want to offend the United States at a time when tensions between Washington and Beijing are growing. Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Health referred questions about Mossad’s role in acquiring a COVID-19 vaccine to the Office of the Prime Minster. A spokesman there refused to comment on the story.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 28 October 2020 | Permalink

Trump plans to axe defense secretary, FBI, CIA directors, if re-elected, say sources

Donald TrumpIF RE-ELECTED IN NOVEMBER, United States President Donald Trump has laid out plans to replace the secretary of defense, as well as the directors of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), according to a new report. The website Axios, which published the report on Sunday, said the US president and his senior advisors have drafted a much longer list of names of senior military and intelligence officials who will be axed in November. However, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, FBI Director Christopher Wray and CIA Director Gina Haspel top the list, said Axios.

The website cited two sources who have allegedly discussed with President Trump himself the fate of these and other officials. The sources told Axios that CIA Director Haspel is “despised and distrusted almost universally” within the president’s inner circle, whose members view her motives with “a lot of suspicion”. Another source familiar with “conversations at the CIA” told Axios that Haspel intends to step down —and possibly retire— “regardless of who wins the election” in November.

Trump is also “incensed” with FBI Director Wray, because he told Congress last month that the Bureau had not detected significant election-related fraud with either online activity or mail-in ballots, according to Axios. Additionally, the president reportedly lost trust in Defense Secretary Esper after he objected to the White House’s plan to deploy active-duty military personnel in major American cities, in response to popular protests sparked by allegations of abusive practices by law enforcement.

Axios added that, despite President Trump’s critical comments about his Attorney General, William Barr, in recent weeks, he has no “formal plans” to replace him at the present time.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 26 October 2020 | Permalink