News you may have missed #770

Horn of Africa mapBy TIMOTHY W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
►►Kaspersky Lab is ‘thwarting US cyber spies’. According to an article in Wired magazine, Eugene Kaspersky, the CEO of Russia-based Kaspersky Labs has been working to support Russian allies in the Kremlin and the FSB. Kasperksy’s firm first discovered the cyber attack weapon known as Stuxnet. As the profile piece notes, “Kaspersky’s rise is particularly notable —and to some, downright troubling— given his KGB-sponsored training, his tenure as a Soviet intelligence officer, his alliance with Vladimir Putin’s regime, and his deep and ongoing relationship with Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB”.
►►Al-Shabaab executes alleged CIA and MI6 assets. Somalia’s largest and most deadly armed Islamist group, al-Shabaab, announced that it had captured and executed at least three informants who were allegedly passing intelligence to the CIA and to MI6. The Associated Press stated that Al-Shabaab’s official Twitter feed stated that the individuals, who were summarily interrogated and then executed by firing squad, “were part of a wide network of spies deployed by the British and American intelligence agencies”.
►►Australian intelligence briefed on Canadian spy. The espionage case against accused Canadian spy, former Sub-Lieutenant Jeffrey Paul Delisle, continues to garner intrigue. As was previously reported on this blog, Delisle, a former navy intelligence officer is accused of spying for Russia. But a report in The National Post states that representatives of Canada’s intelligence service briefed members of Australia’s intelligence services on the Delisle’s case and that information exchanges appear ongoing. The particulars of Australia’s involvement in the case are explained here.

News you may have missed #759 (analysis edition)

Carter HamBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►What goes on in the mind of a spy? An interesting article on the psychology of espionage operatives and those who handle them. It includes several insightful observations, including this one: “Just as they face outward physical dangers, agents face many inner psychological adversities. These pressures in the psyche are as taxing as physical hardships. Furthermore, while physical hazards and hardships disappear once the active espionage is over, the psychological toll can linger”. IntelNews has covered psychological and psychiatric issues around espionage before.
►►Researchers propose using decoys to detect leaks. A group or researchers working for the US Pentagon’s research wing have come up with a new plan for busting leakers: spot them by how they search, and then entice the secret-spillers with decoy documents that will give them away. Computer scientists call it it “fog computing”, and it is seen as part of a broader assault on so-called “insider threats”, launched by the Pentagon in 2010, after the WikiLeaks imbroglio. In a related development, the US federal government announced recently that it spent over $11 billion to protect its secrets last year, double the cost of classification a decade ago. The total does not include the costs incurred by the US Intelligence Community, which remains classified.
►►US General says US military spies ‘across Africa’. America’s top commander in Africa, General Carter Ham, has revealed that the US military has conducted spy operations all over the continent as part of the fight against international adversaries from al Qaeda-allied terror groups that target the homeland to suspected war criminals like Joseph Kony. “Do we collect information across Africa? Yes, we do”, the commander of US Africa Command said in a leadership conference at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Ham noted that US troops do at times go on “short-term deployments of capabilities” in various African nations, but always with the permission of the host country.

South African intel officials faked threats to increase spy budget

ANC centenary celebrationsBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The tendency of some spy agencies to overstate security threats in order to secure governmental funds is hardly novel. But officials in the South African Secret Service appear to have gone a step further: they allegedly paid some of their informants to make bogus threats against the government, in order to prompt an increase in counterterrorist funding. According to Pretoria News, which is owned by The Independent, South Africa’s largest newspaper consortium, the bogus threats were aimed at creating “a false impression of imminent, unprecedented attacks on black people and African National Congress (ANC) members”. The ultimate goal of the perpetrators, says the paper, was to benefit personally from an increase in counterterrorist funding, which is said to run at around R600 million (US$72 million) per year. The plan was carefully designed to coincide with the run-up to the ANC’s centennial celebrations, which took place in January of this year. In one case, an informant was paid by Secret Service officials to record a video message threatening an uprising by whites against the country’s black-majority government, unless the latter put an end to the occupation of white-owned farmland by landless peasants. One video, which made “chilling threats” against black Africans and members of the ANC, was made publicly available on YouTube, causing widespread concern and prompting the government to beef up security measures around ANC facilities in several areas of the country. The threats also led to an extensive government investigation. Read more of this post

‘Massive expansion’ in US covert operations in Africa

US military base in DjiboutiBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States administration of President Barack Obama is implementing a near-unprecedented expansion of covert operations by American military forces throughout Africa, aimed at a host of armed groups deemed extremist by Washington. A lead article published yesterday in The Washington Post quotes over a dozen unnamed American and African officials, as well as military contractors, who refer to the US military-led effort as Project CREEKSAND. It allegedly involves secret operations in several African countries, conducted out of a large network of small air bases located in strategic locations around the continent. According to The Post, most of the airplanes used in Project CREEKSAND are small, unarmed, disguised to look like private aircraft, and bear no military markings or government insignia. In reality, however, they carry sophisticated electronic equipment designed to collect signals intelligence, while some are used to transport US Special Forces troops during capture or kill missions. The paper quotes an unnamed “former senior US commander […] involved in setting up the [air bases] network”, who alleges that the US government has built about a dozen such bases throughout Africa since 2007. These secret air bases are located in countries such as Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, and Seychelles. Most of the US personnel involved in Project CREEKSAND consists of Special Operations forces tasked with “training foreign security forces [and] performing aid missions”. However, The Post alleges that there are also small teams of US operatives who are “dedicated to tracking and killing suspected terrorists”. Read more of this post

Australian special forces secretly operating in Africa, says newspaper

Special Air Service RegimentBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
One of Australia’s most prominent newspapers suggested in a leading article yesterday that a secret Australian special forces squadron has been illegally conducting espionage operations in several African countries during the past year. According to Melbourne-based The Age, the 4 Squadron of Australia’s Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) has been deployed in “dozens of secret operations” during the past 12 months, in countries such as Kenya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. Members of 4 Squadron have been operating dressed in civilian clothing, carrying forged identity papers, and with strict instructions to deny any connection with SASR if captured, said The Age. Although the existence of 4 Squadron has never been officially acknowledged, the unit is believed to have been established in 2004 or 2005, and is currently thought to be based at Swan Island in Victoria, north of the town of Queenscliff. Its initial mission was to provide armed protection to officers of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) whenever the latter are deployed in warzones or other exceptionally dangerous overseas environments. But 4 Squadron’s missions in Africa, which The Age says were authorized in 2010 by then Prime Minster Kevin Rudd, do not include ASIS officers, and instead require SASR members to act both in a military and civilian capacity in espionage assignments. According to the paper’s allegations, 4 Squadron missions have involved regular assessment and evaluation of inter-African border control standards, developing scenarios for evacuating Australians, mapping out landing sites for possible military interventions, and gathering first-hand intelligence on local politics and the activities of insurgents. The paper claims that the scope and breadth of 4 Squardon’s African assignments have raised concerns within the SASR, with some senior officials viewing the unit’s actions as “a possibly dangerous expansion of Australia’s foreign military engagement”. Read more of this post

CIA joins hunt for white British woman who joined Somali militants

Samantha LewthwaiteBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
American intelligence officials are said to be actively cooperating with Kenyan authorities in the hunt for a white British woman believed to have joined a Somali group that is part of al-Qaeda in East Africa. The woman, Samantha Lewthwaite, 28, was married to Jermaine Lindsay, a British suicide bomber who blew up a train at London’s King’s Cross station on July 7, 2005. Lewthwaite, who by that time had two children by Lindsay, disappeared soon after the so-called 7/7 bombings, and allegedly reappeared in England in 2009, to give birth to her third child, which she reportedly had with a Moroccan man. Today she is considered an important organizer of al-Shabaab, (The Party of Youth), which used to be the youth wing of Somalia’s Islamic Courts Union (ICU). The Sunni-Muslim ICU ruled most of Somalia until the 2006 US-supported invasion of the country by Ethiopia. Ever since that time, al-Shabaab has become one of Africa’s most highly organized militant groups, relying on hundreds of Westerners who have flocked to Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania, and elsewhere, to join a peculiar form of jihad (holy war) inspired largely by al-Qaeda. According to reports from the UK, Lewthwaite is one of at least three British planners involved in setting up al-Shabaab’s operations in Kenya, Somalia, and elsewhere. She first entered Kenya several years ago, using a forged passport belonging to a South African identity theft victim called Natalie Faye Webb. In February of 2011, she is believed to have entered Kenya again, on foot, via Tanzania. Her travels are thought to be connected with her fundraising and other organizing activities on behalf of al-Shabaab, which appear to include —aside from financing— procuring weapons and training recruits. Not long ago, Kenyan police said a white woman matching Lewthwaite’s description managed to escape during a raid at the house of a suspected Islamist militant in Kenyan capital Nairobi. Read more of this post

US Special Forces now fighting the LRA in four African countries

Lord's Resistance ArmyBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
American troops fighting one of Africa’s most notorious rebel groups are now officially stationed across four African countries, a move that highlights the expansion of Washington’s military presence in the continent. Last October, the administration of US President Barack Obama announced the deployment of 100 US Special Forces members to Uganda, to fight an insurgency group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Founded in the 1980s, the LRA is widely considered the world’s most brutal Christian terrorist group. Its leader, Joseph Kony, who is wanted along with four of his commanders by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, is seen as a prophet by his followers. Washington had initially said that the Special Forces members would act as “advisors” to the Ugandan government, which has sustained the majority of the LRA’s attacks over the years. But Rear Admiral Brian L. Losey, the US Special Operations’ senior commander for Africa, said on Wednesday that, in addition to Uganda, American forces are currently stationed in military bases in Nzara, South Sudan, Obo, Central African Republic, and Dungu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Speaking to Western reporters on the telephone, Rear Admiral Losey said that counterinsurgency activity directed at the LRA “will increase in frequency” during the spring and summer, and hinted that the Christian rebel group would soon be forced to go on the defensive. It is important to note that this official acknowledgement does not mark the beginning of Washington’s military involvement in activities against the LRA. In 2009, The New York Times revealed that the US Department of Defense assisted in the planning of a major offensive against the LRA. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #674

Fayez KaramBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Lebanese ex-general gets prison sentence for spying for Israel. Last Tuesday’s sentence of former Brigadeer General Fayez Karam (pictured) means he will spend six more months in jail. He has been in prison since mid-2009, said the officials on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. Karam, who in the late 1980s led Lebanon’s counterespionage unit, ran for a parliament seat in 2009 as a senior member of the Free Patriotic Movement of Christian leader and Hezbollah ally Michel Aoun.
►►US may share intelligence with Nigeria. Nigeria and the United States plan to “explore the development of intelligence fusion capability”. This statement was contained in a joint communiqué issued at the end of a two day inauguration of a regional security cooperation working group held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja, Nigeria. The two countries will be collaborating “on training, logistics intelligence sharing, modernization of the security services and other requirements”.
►►Afghan jailed for 16 years for spying for Iran. An Afghan man, named only as Mahmmood, has been jailed for 16 years for spying for neighboring Iran. He was allegedly found in possession of photographs of foreign and Afghan military installations in western Herat province, and had Iranian intelligence officials’ phone numbers in his notebook.

US admits African war crimes suspect Charles Taylor was CIA agent

Charles TaylorBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |

Editor’s note: Since publishing this story, The Boston Globe issued a correction, which includes the following: “This story drew unsupported conclusions and significantly overstepped available evidence when it described former Liberian President Charles Taylor as having worked with US spy agencies as a “sought-after source’’ […]. The Globe had no adequate basis for asserting otherwise and the story should not have run in this form”.

Ever since his 2006 arrest for war crimes, Liberia’s former President, Charles Taylor, has consistently claimed that he was an agent of the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Now declassified US government documents have officially confirmed that Taylor was indeed an agent of the CIA and the US Defense Intelligence Agency for several decades. The 63-year-old, who ruled his West African homeland from 1997 to 2003, is currently being tried at the United Nations Court in The Hague on multiple counts of civilian murders, rapes, and deploying underage soldiers during a brutal civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone. Rumors that Taylor was being protected by Washington started surfacing in 2003, after he left Liberia and was given protection in US-allied Nigeria, despite his indictment by the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone. In July 2009, intelNews reported Taylor’s claim that his 1985 “escape” from the Plymouth County maximum security Correctional Facility in Massachusetts, which allowed him to return to Liberia and take over the country through a military coup, took place with US government assistance. His persistent claims led The Boston Globe newspaper to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, which has resulted in the declassification of nearly 50 separate documents covering “several decades” of Taylor’s work for the CIA and the DIA. The documents confirm that both agencies employed Taylor as an agent beginning in the early 1980s, long before he became Liberia’s ruler. But the FOIA release does not contain details of Taylor’s work for US intelligence, in an alleged effort to “protect intelligence sources and methods” and so as not to “harm national security”, according to The Boston Globe. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #637

Dmitri Bystrolyotov

D.A. Bystrolyotov

►►South African spy boss to quit. Director General of the State Security Agency Jeff Maqetuka, who has been entangled in a never-ending war with Minister Siyabonga Cwele, is expected to step down this week, according to South Africa’s Sunday Independent. The paper claims that that plans are afoot to expedite Maqetuka’s departure from the country’s intelligence infrastructure by placing him on summer leave and then making sure he would not return to work in 2012.
►►Slovakian defense minister resigns over wiretap scandal. The interception of journalists’ telephone calls by the Slovakian Defense Ministry’s counterintelligence arm has cost the country’s Defense Minister, Lubomír Galko, his job. The scandal involved Slovakia’s Military Defense Intelligence (VOS). It has also emerged that the VOS operation involved wiretapping of the head of TV news channel TA3 and two senior Defense Ministry employees, according to leaked documents obtained by Slovak media outlets.
►►Book on Soviet spy Dmitri Bystrolyotov. Excerpt from Emil Draitser’s book Stalin’s Romeo Spy: The Remarkable Rise and Fall of the KGB Most Daring Operative (Northwestern University Press, 2010), about one of the 20th century’s most outstanding undercover operatives. Bystrolyotov acted in Western Europe in the interwar period, recruiting and running several important agents in Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy.

Ex-CIA officer points to al-Qaeda banners appearing in Libya

Charles S. Faddis

Charles S. Faddis

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Amidst the excitement in the West over the toppling of the late Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, few have been paying attention at the frequent appearances of the al-Qaeda banner in locations around Libya. The characteristic black flag bears the Arabic inscription of the shahada, the Islamic creed, which states that “there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger [prophet]”. Within hours following the official pronouncement of the lynching of Colonel Gaddafi, al-Qaeda banners were flying over the de facto headquarters of Libya’s US-backed National Transitional Council (NTC) in Benghazi, as well as in numerous other locations around the North African country. There have even been reports of threats leveled against reporters who were observed trying to photograph or film the unmistakable banners. Former CIA covert operations officer Charles Faddis, who spent several years working in the Middle East, has penned a new article urging Western policy makers to stop viewing the NTC as a force promoting some sort of Western-type democratic administration in Libya. Undoubtedly, he says, some NTC members do “wish for a Libya with a Western style democratic government”. But the NTC is an umbrella group bringing together “individuals from many walks of life in the opposition”, he says, including fighters motivated primarily by tribal and regional loyalties, as well as Islamist activists guided by distinctly conservative interpretations of the Qur’an. One such activist is Mustafa Abdul Jalil, leader of the NTC, who in his historic celebratory speech following the formal end of the civil war, told ecstatic supporters that, from now on, Libya would be “an Islamic state”, and that all legal provisions that conflicted with the Sharia —Qur’anic law— would be invalidated. Since that day, there have been reports of beauty salons closing and of women being forced to wear the hijab, says Faddis. Read more of this post

Were British-funded mercenaries protecting Gaddafi in his final moments?

Muammar al-Gaddafi

Gaddafi

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The South African intelligence services are reportedly investigating reports that a British security company was providing protection for Muammar al-Gaddafi when he was killed by rebels. On October 20, the Libyan leader and his armed entourage were traveling from his hometown of Sirte toward the Libya-Niger border, when they were hit by NATO missiles. Colonel Gaddafi was later captured and lynched by armed rebels loyal to Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC). But British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reports that an unnamed British security company was paid millions of dollars by the Libyan leader to smuggle him out of Sirte and into Niger. According to The Telegraph, the company is now under investigation by South African authorities, because one of its agents, a woman based in Kenya, allegedly recruited at least 19 South African mercenaries for the operation to exfiltrate Gaddafi from Libya. The 19 joined a group of approximately 50 mercenaries, who were sent to Libya and were with the Libyan leader when he was captured by the NTC rebels on October 20. The paper says that several members of the mercenary group were former associates of Simon Mann, a British former Special Forces (SAS) officer who was arrested in Zimbabwe in 2004 while planning a coup against Teodoro Obiang, longtime dictator of energy-rich Equatorial Guinea. The Telegraph article quotes Danie Odendaal, a former member of South Africa’s apartheid-era security services, who claims he was among Gaddafi’s armed entourage during his capture on October 20. Odendaal claims that many South Africans were injured and at least two were killed along with Gaddafi. Read more of this post

Did Australian bodyguard help Gaddafi’s son flee to Niger?

Gary Peters

Gary Peters

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An Australian private security consultant is accused of having helped one of Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi’s sons escape to relative safety in Niger. For several years, Gary Peters, who lives in Ontario, Canada, worked as a personal bodyguard for Al-Saadi al-Gaddafi, the third oldest son of Libya’s deceased former leader. A few days ago, Peters, who is now back in Canada, told the country’s National Post newspaper that he led “an international security team” tasked with exfiltrating Saadi Gaddafi to the African country of Niger, located immediately to the south of Libya. He also told the paper that he was injured when the three-car convoy carrying Gaddafi’s international security team came under fire as it returned to Libya from Niger. But he said he only “discovered” his injuries while onboard a flight back to Toronto, and was subsequently hospitalized in Canada. Now the paper hosts comments from Nada Basir, spokesperson of the Canadian Libyan Council, which has called for an official investigation into whether Peters broke international laws and sanctions imposed on Libya, by helping a member of the Gaddafi family escape abroad. As with other members of Libya’s former ruling family, Saadi Gaddafi is wanted by INTERPOL, which has issued an international arrest warrant in his name. Basir told The Post that it was an insult to have a Canadian resident apparently defy the NATO mission in Libya, to which the government of Canada is party; he added that Canada’s Libyan community hopes that the government takes this issue seriously. Peters previously told the newspaper that he had been interviewed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but that no charges had been filed against him. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #618

Abdullah al-Senoussi

Al-Senussi

►►US Congressman urges expulsion of ‘Iranian spies’ at the UN. New York Congressman Peter King says the US should kick out Iranian officials at the UN in New York and in Washington because many of them are spies. Speaking at a hearing Wednesday, the Democrat said such a move would send a clear signal after the recent alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington.
►►Colombia’s intelligence chief denies knowledge of illegal wiretapping. Felipe Muñoz, the director of Colombia’s intelligence agency DAS has denied knowledge of illegal interception of unionists’ emails and phone calls by DAS employees, following the announcement that the Inspector General’s Office will be investigating these allegations. According to the allegations, Muñoz and other leading DAS officials were aware of the illegal interception.
►►Gaddafi intelligence chief now in Niger. Moammar Gadhafi’s intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi (pictured), who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, has slipped into the desert nation of Niger and is hiding in the expanse of dunes at the Niger-Algeria border, a Niger presidential adviser said last week. Meanwhile, Gaddafi’s former spy chief, Moussa Koussa, has denied claims made in a BBC documentary that he tortured prisoners.

Covert war in Somalia involves CIA, European mercenaries

Richard Rouget

Richard Rouget

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Regular readers of this blog will remember Jeremy Scahill’s report in The Nation last July, about the US Central Intelligence Agency’s expanding operations in Somalia. Since the 2006 US-led Ethiopian invasion, the Western-backed Somali government has been engaged in a brutal war with al-Shabaab, the youth wing of the Islamic Courts Union, which ruled most of the country in the years after 9/11. Scahill revealed that the CIA maintains a growing security complex in the country, located right behind Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International Airport. The complex allegedly contains over a dozen buildings, as well as several metal hangars, which house CIA aircraft. Now a new report by United Press International claims that the clandestine American campaign in the horn of Africa “appears to be growing daily”, and that the CIA complex contains a prison for renditioned militant suspects. The latter are routinely interrogated by members of a Mogadishu-based CIA team consisting of approximately 30 case officers, analysts, linguists, and others. The UPI article suggests that the growing CIA presence in the Somali capital is part of a wider expansion of America’s counter-terrorist campaign in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Indonesia, and the Philippines. However, the instances when CIA personnel venture outside Mogadishu are few and far between. For this purpose, the Somali government is using American financial aid to hire European private security firms, including Bancroft Global Development, a combat consulting group with a growing presence in Mogadishu. Bancroft’s 40-member team consists of Scandinavian, South African, and French former special forces members, including Richard Rouget (also known as ‘Colonel Sanders’), a former officer in the French Army who has recent combat experience in several African countries. Read more of this post