Announcement: Conference on social media and intelligence

Social networkingBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
During the past four years, this blog has reported several incidents pointing to the increasing frequency with which spy agencies of various countries are utilizing social networking media as sources of tactical intelligence. But are we at a point where we can speak of a trend? In other words, is the rapid rise of social networking creating the conditions for the emergence of a new domain in tactical intelligence collection? Some experts now contend that the growth of social networking has given rise to a new form of intelligence-gathering: social media intelligence (SOCMINT). There are even some who believe SOCMINT should become a separate entity altogether in the intelligence process. On March 7, 2014, the Netherlands Intelligence Studies Association (NISA) will be holding a one-day conference in Amsterdam, to discuss this new phenomenon and consider some of the practical, ethical and political dilemmas involved in SOCMINT. The conference will open with a keynote speech by Sir David Omand, former director of Britain’s’ signals intelligence agency, the GCHQ, who currently teaches at the War Studies Department at King’s College, London. Other speakers come from intelligence and security services in Holland and Belgium, as well as from a variety of academic centers and non-governmental organizations in Europe and the United States. Longtime readers of this website will be familiar with NISA. The group was founded in 1991 with a mission to help focus and streamline academic work on intelligence, security and law enforcement. Read more of this post

Medical review article considers Arafat poisoning theory

Yasser Arafat in Tunis in 1993By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
The publication of a peer reviewed article in one of the world’s leading medical journals has reinforced the possibility that the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat may have died of poisoning. A nine-month study into the possible poisoning of the founder of Palestinian nationalist group Fatah, was commissioned in 2012 by Qatari news channel Al Jazeera. It was undertaken by a team of researchers at the Institut de Radiophysique (IRA) in Lausanne, Switzerland. According to the results, announced in July of that year, significant traces of the radioactive substance polonium 210 were discovered on the personal artifacts that Arafat used during his final days while in hospital in Paris, France, in 2004. According to the IRA, some of the Fatah leader’s personal belongings, including his underwear and his toothbrush, contained levels of polonium that were as many as ten times higher than those in random samples used as control subjects in the study. Shortly after the IRA study, Arafat’s wife and daughter filed an official complaint with French judicial authorities, who in turn decided to open an official murder investigation into the death of the late Palestinian national leader. Now British medical journal The Lancet has published a peer reviewed analysis of the IRA research, which outlines and endorses its conclusions. The article, entitled “Improving forensic investigation for polonium poisoning”, was authored by a group of researchers at the IRA in Lausanne and at the University Centre of Legal Medicine, which is also in Switzerland. It explains the procedures followed during the forensic investigation of  Arafat’s belongings, and examines the theory that Arafat may have been poisoned. The researchers state that the “findings [of the investigation] support the possibility of Arafat’s poisoning with 210Po”. Read more of this post

Announcement: Calling All Undergraduate Students of Intelligence

Security and Intelligence Studies JournalBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The academic study of security and intelligence used to be seen as a strictly graduate-level preoccupation. Today, however, it is routinely encountered in undergraduate curricula and constitutes one of the fastest growing programs in political science. In response to the rising undergraduate interest in this field of study, the Security and Intelligence Studies program at King University in Bristol, Tennessee, launched The Security and Intelligence Studies Journal last spring. It is the world’s first undergraduate scholarly journal focusing exclusively on themes of intelligence, security, counterterrorism, geopolitics and international relations. The first issue of the SIS Journal was published in May of 2013 and is available on Amazon. It contains some of the finest undergraduate research on the theme: “security challenges in the 21st century”. For its second issue, the SIS Journal calls on interested authors to submit papers of up to 3,000 words in length on the theme: “Al-Qaeda – past, present, future”.

The theme’s elaboration, which can be found on the journal’s website, is as follows: “In less than a quarter of a century, al-Qaeda has grown from a small administrative unit in the Hindu Kush Mountains to a leading global agent of Sunni militancy. The history of this enigmatic organization is replete with unpredictable twists and turns that continue to mystify scholars and counterterrorism experts alike. During the last decade, the demise of central al-Qaeda figures, including its founder and Emir, Osama bin Laden, have prompted some to proclaim the organization extinct. Others point to the rise of al-Qaeda-inspired franchise groups in the Arabian Peninsula and parts of Africa, as well as lone-wolf terrorist acts around the world, in arguing that al-Qaeda’s ideology is far from obsolete. The Security and Intelligence Studies Journal calls on interested authors to explore various aspects of al-Qaeda’s past, present, or future, in an effort to shed scholarly light on one of the world’s most mysterious and elusive militant groups”.

The deadline for submissions of relevant scholarly papers of up to 3,000 words in length has been set for October 20, 2013. The SIS Journal editors encourage undergraduate students from around the world with a serious scholarly interest in security and intelligence to contact the journal by visiting its website or emailing the editors at kcsis@king.edu, to express their interest in submitting a paper. Collaborative works are welcome. We also kindly ask academics to forward this call for papers to their undergraduate students.

CIA finances geoengineering study on climate change

CIA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is among the principal funding bodies of a scientific research program on using geoengineering to slow down or halt climate change. The 21-month $630,000 study will be administered by the US National Academy of Science (NAS). Alongside the CIA, the project is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The science of geoengineering encompasses techniques of large-scale intervention on the Earth’s climatic system, aimed at controlling solar radiation and removing carbon dioxide from the environment. Its ultimate goal is to reduce global warming by removing a portion of greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere and by causing the planet to absorb reduced amounts of solar radiation. The NAS study will be the first one of its kind at the Academy to be financially backed by an intelligence agency. In addition to exploring technical ways of altering the course of climate change, the study aims to evaluate the implications of geoengineering efforts on international security and American national security in particular. The CIA’s interest in climate science is not new. Since the middle of the last decade, intelligence agencies have shown interest in the national security ramifications of climate change, as well as in climate change negotiations between governments. In 2009, the CIA opened its Center on Climate Change and National Security, a small unit led by senior specialists from the Agency’s Directorate of Intelligence and the Directorate of Science and Technology. Read more of this post

World’s first undergraduate intelligence journal publishes first issue

Security and Intelligence Studies JournalBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The study of security and intelligence used to be considered strictly a graduate-level preoccupation. Today, however, it is routinely encountered in undergraduate curricula and constitutes one of the fastest growing programs in the humanities. To satisfy the growing undergraduate interest in this field of study, King University in Bristol, Tennessee, launched The Security and Intelligence Studies Journal. It is the world’s first undergraduate scholarly journal focusing exclusively on themes of intelligence, security, counterterrorism, geopolitics and international relations. The first issue of the Journal is now out and available to purchase on Amazon for $9.00. It contains some of the finest undergraduate research on subjects ranging from the rise of Islamic militancy in West Africa, the Syrian Civil War, the Iranian nuclear program, to terrorism funding, and the rise of far-right militancy in the United States, among other issues. On the journal’s website, visitors can find subscription information, as well as the journal’s theme for issue 2, which is scheduled for publication in December 2013. Undergraduate students from all over the world are invited to submit 3,000-word papers on the subject: Al-Qaeda: past, present, future. The theme’s description is as follows: “In less than a quarter of a century, al-Qaeda grew from a small administrative unit in the Hindu Kush Mountains to a leading global agent of Sunni militancy. The history of this enigmatic organization is replete with unpredictable twists and turns that continue to mystify scholars and counterterrorism experts alike. In the past decade, the demise of central al-Qaeda figures, including its founder and Emir, Osama bin Laden, have led some to proclaim the organization extinct. Others point to the rise of al-Qaeda-inspired franchise groups in the Arabian Peninsula and parts of Africa, as well as lone-wolf terrorist acts around the world, in arguing that al-Qaeda’s ideology is far from obsolete. Read more of this post

Announcement: Calling All Undergraduate Students of Intelligence

The Security and Intelligence Studies JournalBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The academic study of security and intelligence used to be considered strictly a graduate-level preoccupation. Today, however, it is routinely encountered in undergraduate curricula and constitutes one of the fastest growing programs in the humanities. There is thus no reason for undergraduate students with a serious interest in security and intelligence to wait until graduate school before publishing their scholarly work. To satisfy the increasing undergraduate interest in this field of study, the Security and Intelligence Studies program at King College in Bristol, Tennessee, is launching The Security and Intelligence Studies Journal. It is the world’s first undergraduate scholarly journal focusing exclusively on themes of intelligence, security, counterterrorism, geopolitics and international relations. The Security and Intelligence Studies Journal is committed to highlighting outstanding undergraduate research that critically examines the current domestic and international security landscape. The theme for the journal’s first issue, which is scheduled for publication in late April 2013, is: “security challenges in the 21st century”. The theme’s elaboration, which can be found on the journal’s website, is as follows: “As our globalized society trudges deeper into the labyrinth of the 21st century, innumerable challenges threaten the security of the world. From collapsing economic markets, to multifaceted geopolitical tensions between Western and developing nations, to the ominous rise of militant ideologies, the intertwined destinies of nations transform local problems into global challenges and local struggles into international conflicts. The Security and Intelligence Studies Journal calls on interested authors to explore a 21st-century security challenge, and propose creative and innovative solutions, within the context of democratic political institutions”. The deadline for submissions of relevant scholarly papers of up to 3,000 words in length has been set for February 28, 2013. We encourage undergraduate students from around the world with a serious scholarly interest in security and intelligence to contact the journal by visiting its website or emailing the editors at KCSIS@king.edu, to express their interest in submitting a paper. Collaborative works are welcome. We also kindly ask academics to forward this call for papers to their undergraduate students.

Are Kremlin’s spies targeting Russian scientists with foreign links?

Igor SutyaginBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Back in November, we reported on the case of Valentin Danilov, a Russian physicist who spent nearly a decade in prison, allegedly for spying on his country on behalf of China. What is interesting about Danilov is that, even after his release from prison, following a pardon issued by the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin, he fervently maintains his innocence. He is not alone; many Russian scientists and human rights campaigners have argued for years that Danilov should never have been convicted. In some cases, activists accuse the Kremlin of persecuting Danilov for political reasons, namely to reinforce Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “attempts to intimidate academics with ties to other countries”. A well-written analysis by Time magazine’s Simon Shuster argues that Danilov’s story is not unique in Russia. There have been at least a handful of similar cases in the last decade, all involving Russian scientists with links to foreign countries or organizations. Shuster mentions the example of nuclear expert Igor Sutyagin, former division head in the Russian Academy of Sciences’ USA and Canada Institute, who served 11 years of a 15-year sentence for allegedly passing state secrets to a CIA front company. Sutyagin, who now lives in London, United Kingdom, was one of four jailed Russians expelled to the West in exchange for the repatriation of ten Russian illegals captured by the FBI in the summer of 2010. But he maintains he was never a spy, and claims that all of the information he gave to the two Americans who employed him, in return for money, came from open sources. Undoubtedly, observers are free to draw different conclusions about either Danilov or Sutyagin. But the question that Shuster poses is, at a time when virtually no field of scientific research can develop without international collaboration, is Moscow being overly suspicious of its academics, and is this hampering Russian science as a whole? Read more of this post