News you may have missed #650

Robert BaerBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US ex-DoD official says drone captured by Iran ‘seems fake’. Newspaper USA Today quotes an anonymous US former Pentagon official, who said that, according to video footage of the drone on display in Iran, not only is it the drone the wrong color, but also the welds along the wing joints do not appear to conform to the stealth design that helps it avoid radar detection.
►►Ex-CIA officer says collapse of CIA operations benefits Iran. The collapse of CIA operations in Lebanon, following Hezbollah’s unmasking of several CIA spies and the recent naming of the agency’s station chief, is a serious blow to the US’ ability to gather intelligence, says Robert Baer, a former CIA officer who operated in Lebanon in the 1980s.
►►Iran indicts 15 in alleged US-Israeli spy ring. An Iranian prosecutor announced on Tuesday that his government has indicted 15 people who allegedly spied on the Islamic Republic for the US and Israel. Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi did not name the alleged spies, who are suspected of having ties to the American CIA and Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency. IntelNews readers may remember that, in May, Iran’s intelligence minister, Heidar Moslehi, announced the alleged discovery of a CIA-directed spy network in Iran of more than 30 people.

Does Iran have access to satellite jamming technology?

Iran displays captured US droneBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A European intelligence official has said that Iran downed an unmanned American surveillance aircraft earlier this month by remotely sabotaging its satellite navigation system. The official, who has not been named, told The Christian Science Monitor that the Iranians used a state-of-the-art laser system to effectively “blind” the American spy satellite that guided the drone’s global positioning system (GPS). In doing this, Iran’s military was able to remotely skyjack the aircraft and assume control over its navigational system. The paper also published an exclusive interview with an Iranian electronic warfare specialist, who claimed he was part of a team that hacked into the drone’s communication frequency and reprogrammed its GPS data. Eventually, the Iranian specialists managed to cause the unmanned aircraft to switch into autopilot mode, and guided it to land relatively smoothly on Iranian territory, where it was eventually captured intact by Iranian authorities. If this is true, it will mark the first-ever indication that the Iranian state is in possession of sophisticated satellite jamming technology. In an important development, Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Akbar Salehi, told Iran’s government-run IRNA news agency on Saturday that the American drone was brought down by Iranian armed forces, without any foreign assistance. If this is so, then does it mean that the Iranians developed the state-of-the-art jamming system themselves? Read more of this post

Iran shows video footage of captured CIA surveillance drone

Iran

Iran

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Iranian state television has aired pre-recorded footage of a surveillance drone that looks similar to the stealth RQ-170 Sentinel, which the US Central Intelligence Agency admitted it was missing earlier this week. Images of the unmanned surveillance drone, built by US military contractor Lockheed Martin, were broadcast during the main news bulletin on Thursday evening. The captured aircraft was shown in near-immaculate condition, resting on a display platform, with two men in Iranian military fatigues inspecting it. One of them was identified in the news report as Amir Ali Hajizadeh, Brigadier General of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Aerospace Forces. He told the news reporters that the drone was brought down last week “in an electronic ambush” conducted jointly by the Revolutionary Guards and the Iranian armed forces. He did not specify what he meant by “electronic ambush”, nor the exact location where the drone was physically captured by Iranian authorities. However, one report in the Iranian press alleged that the aircraft was initially detected by Iranian forces while flying over the town of Kashmar, in east Iran, located nearly 250 kilometers (about 150 miles) from the Afghan-Iranian border. If this report is accurate, it would signify that the CIA drone was flying deep within Iranian airspace, thus disputing initial claims to the contrary by the US Department of Defense. Another Iranian news outlet quoted anonymous military sources in Tehran, which said that the Chinese and Russian governments had already requested from the Iranian authorities permission to view the captured aircraft. Another pro-government newspaper said that Tehran was considering sharing the intelligence gathered from the captured drone with its regional allies in the Syrian government and the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah. Read more of this post

US considered covert mission to recover drone captured by Iran

Iran

Iran

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
What a difference two days can make! On Monday we speculated that Iran may have captured intact a United States Air Force RQ-170 Sentinel surveillance drone. At that time, most American officials questioned or flatly denied Iran’s capture claims. It now appears almost certain that Iran is indeed in possession of the aircraft; what is more, it seems increasingly likely that the captured drone was conducting a Central Intelligence Agency reconnaissance mission when it crashed in the desert along the country’s 1,000 km-long border with Afghanistan. The significance of the drone’s capture by Iranian authorities can be discerned from the fact that US officials are said to have considered last weekend several options for retrieving it from Iranian territory. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, the US Department of Defense, in association with the CIA, discussed at least three separate plans for recovering or destroying the aircraft wreckage. One of the options discussed involved sending an airborne team of US covert operatives into northeast Iran to locate the crashed drone, disassemble it, and carry its top-secret mechanical and electronic components back to a US base in Afghanistan. The US also considered deploying Special Forces stationed in Afghanistan, or tasking US intelligence assets inside Iran, with locating and blowing up the crashed drone. A third option involved destroying the downed aircraft with a remote airstrike from Afghanistan. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #561

Francis Gary Powers

Francis G. Powers

►►US to phase out U-2 spy plane after 50 years. After more than 50 years gathering intelligence 13 miles above the ground, the United States’ U-2 spy planes will be phased out and replaced by unmanned drones by 2015, according to reports this past week. The classified U-2 program came to light in 1960, when a Soviet surface-to-air missile brought down a U-2 flown by CIA pilot Gary Powers, who parachuted to safety but was soon captured.
►►Security company unearths ‘massive’ cyberespionage operation. A widespread cyberespionage campaign stole government secrets, sensitive corporate documents, and other intellectual property for five years from more than 70 public and private organizations in 14 countries. This is according to Dmitri Alperovitch, vice president of threat research at the cyber-security firm McAfee, who uncovered the alleged plot. The operation, dubbed SHADY RAT, targeted the United Nations and the United States, among other national and international entities.
►►South Korea expands spy ring investigation. South Korean authorities have expanded the controversial investigation into the alleged Wangjaesan spy ring, to include Read more of this post

News you may have missed #551

Salva Kiir Mayardit

Salva Kiir

►►Analysis: The fallout from the CIA’s vaccination ploy in Pakistan. We wrote earlier this month that not everyone is amused by news that the CIA tried to collect DNA evidence on Osama bin Laden by running a phony vaccination program in Pakistan. In an editorial published in The Washington Post on July 15, two American public health professionals argued that the CIA’s DNA-collection operation “destroyed credibility that wasn’t its to erode” and “burned bridges that took years for health workers to build”. The issue is developing into a very interesting case study in intelligence ethics, as two new articles on the subject were published this week. One is by Jack C. Chow formerly US ambassador on global HIV/AIDS and ex-assistant director-general of the World Health Organization on HIV/AIDS. The other, by Slate magazine columnist Tom Scocca, argues that the the CIA vaccination scheme “reveals the moral bankruptcy of American spooks”.
►►South Sudan dissolves intelligence and security bodies. The president of the newly established Republic of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, has issued an order dissolving the country’s national security and intelligence organs. There are at least two intelligence agencies in existence in the new nation, both of which were illegally formed in 2006, before South Sudan’s independence.
►►China warns US to halt spy plane flights. China has demanded that the United States stops spy plane flights near the Chinese coast, saying they have “severely harmed” trust between the two countries, state-run media reported Wednesday. The warning comes a month after two Chinese fighter jets chased an American U-2 reconnaissance plane into Taiwanese airspace.

Latest from Hungary and Turkey on Budapest assassination

Trache murder

Trache murder

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
Despite the overwhelming silence in Western media about last week’s suspicious murder in broad daylight of a Syrian man in Hungary, the story continues to make headlines in Israel, the Arab world, Turkey and Hungary. IntelNews reported on Friday that a Bassam Trache, a Syrian man who had lived in Hungary for 20 years, was shot dead in Budapest on Wednesday morning, as he was driving his car. Witnesses reported that the assailant stole a small black briefcase from the 52-year-old victim’s vehicle, before fleeing the scene of the crime on foot. It also emerged that, in the week prior to the mysterious shooting, Hungarian air controllers located two Israeli Gulfstream spy planes hovering over the Hungarian capital, close to the airport, where Wednesday’s shooting occurred. Read more of this post