More evidence uncovered of Chinese spy programs that target expatriates

Chinese Ministry of State Security

AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE activities of China’s state security apparatus has uncovered more evidence of the existence of a worldwide spy operation aimed at forcibly repatriating fugitives and dissidents living abroad, including many who reside in Western countries. The operation, code-named FOXHUNT (first reported in 2015), and a sister-project, code-named SKYHUNT, were launched in 2014. They reportedly constitute a major pillar of the nationwide campaign against corruption, which was initiated in 2012 by Chinese Premier Xi Jinping. This extensive campaign is so far believed to have led to the indictment of over 100,000 people for financial crimes, though critics say it is also being used by Xi to neutralize political opponents and dissidents across China.

The investigative group ProPublica, which carried out the study of FOXHUNT and SKYHUNT, said on Thursday that the same techniques used to capture international fugitives wanted for financial crimes, are also employed against expatriates who criticize the Chinese state’s politics. Most of the targets of these operations live in countries that are located near China —such as Vietnam, Laos, or Malaysia. Thousands of others, however, live in Western Europe, Australia and the United States, where “hundreds of people, including US citizens”, have been targeted by the Chinese state, according to ProPublica.

Operations FOXHUNT and SKYHUNT are carried out by “undercover repatriation teams” of Chinese government agents, who allegedly enter foreign countries “under false pretenses”, according to ProPublica. At the same time, Chinese intelligence officers enlist expatriates as assets and use them as “intermediaries to shield Chinese officers”, said the report. These intermediaries are coached to “relentlessly hound their targets”, or surveil their activities and report about them to their handlers.

In several countries, including Vietnam and Australia, Chinese “undercover repatriation teams” have at times abducted their targets, “defying with impunity [local] laws” and international borders, the ProPublica report claims. But in countries like the United States, the Chinese tread more lightly, relying mainly on coercion aimed at compelling their targets to voluntarily return to China. In many cases, according to the report, authorities in China have subjected their targets’ family members to “harassment, jail [or] torture”. Allegedly, they have even recorded “hostage-like videos” that were shown to the targets of the repatriation operations, in an effort to force them to return to China.

Alongside wealthy Chinese tycoons with oversized offshore bank accounts, repatriation targets have reportedly included political dissidents and whistleblowers who had managed to escape abroad. Other victims were members of the Tibetan or Uighur communities in exile, as well as followers of religious sects, such as the Falun Gong. The Chinese government denies that operations FOXHUNT and SKYHUNT exist. But critics claim that Beijing’s forced repatriation program is real, and reflects “the authoritarian nature of the Chinese government and their use of government power to enforce conformity and repress dissent”, ProPublica reports.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 23 July 2021 | Permalink

CIA using Macau casinos to recruit Chinese officials, says report

Sands casino in Macau ChinaOfficials in China think that United States spy agencies are using casinos in Macau to entrap Chinese government employees, according to a report produced on behalf of an American-owned casino chain in the former Portuguese colony. The report was produced by a private investigator and was commissioned by Sands China, the Macau branch of a casino venture owned by American gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson. Its goal was to investigate why the Chinese-appointed authorities in Macau were hostile to the gambling industry in general and Sands China in particular.

The report is dated June 25, 2010, and includes a warning that it should not be shared with Chinese officials in Macau or in mainland China. It cites several unnamed officials in China’s Liaison Office, which governs Macau and Hong Kong, as well as sources in China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Chinese businessmen with close ties to the government in Beijing. It suggests that Beijing is weary of the damage caused to its public image by thousands of its employees gambling away an estimated $2 billion each year in Macau. Additionally, says the report, the central government in Beijing is hostile to the foreign-owned gambling industry in Macau because it believes that it collaborates with Western intelligence agencies. Sands China establishments in Macau, in particular, are believed by the Chinese government to be recruiting grounds for the United States Central Intelligence Agency, says the 2010 report.

Citing “well-placed sources” in the Chinese capital, the report suggests that the fear of espionage is “the primary subject” that causes Beijing’s hostility toward Sands China. It notes that “many of the [Chinese] officials we contacted were of the view that US intelligence agencies […] have penetrated and utilized the casinos [in Macau] to support their operations”. It adds that Chinese counterintelligence agencies have “evidence” that CIA operatives “monitor mainland government officials” who visit Macau to gamble, paying particular attention to those losing large amounts of money, or those visiting Macau without the knowledge of their superiors. They then “lure and entrap” them, forcing them “to cooperate with US government interests”.

The report was uncovered by the Investigative Reporting Program of the University of California Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and published on Wednesday in British broadsheet The Guardian. The paper said the report was among a set of documents filed with a court in Las Vegas, where the former head of Sands’ Macau casinos is suing the company for wrongful dismissal. The Guardian contacted the Sands Company, which rejected the contents of the report as “a collection of meaningless speculation”. Its senior vice president for global communications and corporate affairs, Ron Reese, also dismissed the report as “an idea for a movie script”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 23 July 2015 | Permalink:

Did Czechoslovakian spies plan to blackmail British leader?

In 1975, Czechoslovakian intelligence officer Josef Frolík, who had defected to the United States, published a book titled The Frolik Defection: The Memoirs of an Intelligence Agent. Among several revelations in the book was an alleged plot by the ŠtB, Czechoslovakia’s Cold-War-era secret intelligence service, to sexually blackmail British Conservative politician Edward “Ted” Heath. According to Frolík, the ŠtB had concluded that Heath, a lifelong bachelor and Britain’s Prime Minister from 1970 to 1974, was gay. Based on this —highly questionable— belief, Jan Mrázek, an ŠtB officer working out of the Czechoslovakian embassy in London, had allegedly devised a plan in the mid-1960s, which aimed to expose Heath to homosexual blackmail. Frolík claims in his book that Mrázek developed the plot around Heath’s well-known preoccupation with classical music. Specifically, he planned to recruit Czechoslovakian classical organist Jiří Reinberger, who would be instructed to meet the British conservative politician in London and invite him to Prague for a concert. While there, the ŠtB hoped that a romantic affair would ensue, under the watchful eye of Czechoslovakian spies, who would make sure to capture the more intimate moments of the two men on camera. The audiovisual evidence would, the ŠtB believed, convince Heath to spy for Czechoslovakian intelligence. According Frolík, the plan was put to action but was eventually scrapped after MI5, Britain’s counterintelligence agency, warned Heath that a trip to Czechoslovakia would expose him to blackmail by that country’s intelligence service. When Frolík’s book came out, Heath, who had stepped down from his post as Britain’s Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, dismissed the story as a fabrication, and threatened to sue the author. But was Frolík telling the truth? Read more of this post

Embassy cables show US spied on UK Foreign Office

Ivan Lewis

Ivan Lewis

The latest release of US embassy cables from whistleblower website WikiLeaks shows that the US Department of State ordered its diplomats to actively report on the personal lives of British Foreign Office officials. On several instances, American diplomats in London appear to have reported on the personal life of Ivan Lewis, a Labour Party politician who served as Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs during the closing days of Gordon Brown’s government. It seems that the reports on Lewis were compiled at the request of the State Department in Washington, which issued calls for specific background information on Lewis’ personal life. In response to the request, a memorandum was sent from the US embassy in London on August 12, 2009, suggesting that Lewis was “possibly prone to depression” and that he was described by one of his colleagues as “a bully”. The cable also indicated that Lewis had apologized “in 2007 to a female in his office who accused him of sexual harassment”, and suggested that the incident had been purposely leaked to the British media by Downing Street a few months later, after Lewis publicly joined the internal Labour Party revolt against Brown. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #445

  • WikiLeaks files show Iranian involvement in Iraq. The latest WiliLeaks release of nearly 392,000 US military reports from Iraq shows, among other things, that Iran was a major combatant in the Iraq War. According to the documents, Tehran’s elite Quds Force trained Iraqi Shiite insurgents and imported weapons like Explosively Formed Projectile bombs into Iraq for use against civilians, Sunni militants and US troops.
  • WikiLeaks founder on the run. Julian Assange’s fate seems as imperiled as that of Private Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old former Army intelligence operative under detention in the US for leaking Iraq and Afghan war documents to WikiLeaks. Last Monday, Mr. Assange’s bid for a residence permit in Sweden was rejected. His British visa will expire early next year.
  • Money problems of US spies may threaten US security. Elizabeth Bancroft The executive director of the US Association of Former Intelligence Officers, has suggested that government agencies should monitor intelligence service employees with security clearances, who may have fallen into bankruptcy during the ongoing economic crisis. Spy agencies are worried that financial problems might leave these employees open to bribery or blackmail.

News you may have missed #320

  • Wikileaks alleges US government surveillance. British quality broadsheet The Guardian is one of a handful of mainstream media outlets to seriously examine the allegation of Wikileaks, that its editor and co-founder, Julian Assange, became the target of “half a dozen attempts at covert surveillance in Reykjavik”, by individuals who said they represented the US Department of State. The article, written by Joseph Huff-Hannon, also cites intelNews.
  • Saudi charity wins wiretap case against NSA. The Saudi-based charity Al-Haramain was taken to court in September 2004 by the US government, which accused it of maintaining terrorist links. But the charity has successfully demonstrated that the National Security Agency engaged in warrantless spying on it. However, the judge limited liability in the case to the government as an institution, rejecting the lawsuit’s effort to hold individual US government officials personally liable.
  • Kremlin accused of KGB-style honey-traps. The Kremlin has been accused of sanctioning a Soviet-style honey-trap campaign against opposition politicians and journalists using entrapment techniques based on money, drugs and women. The allegations follow the release of a string of videos on the web purporting to show an opposition politician, a political analyst and the editor of the Russian edition of Newsweek magazine in compromising situations.

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US State Dept. third highest official was espionage suspect, says ex-FBI agent

Marc Grossman

Marc Grossman

Marc Grossman, Under Secretary of State during the Bush Administration, was suspect in a lengthy counterespionage probe by the FBI, according to a former senior Bureau agent. John M. Cole, an 18-year FBI veteran who worked for the Counterintelligence Division of the Bureau’s National Security Branch, said the investigation into Grossman centered on activities by Turkish and Israeli intelligence in the United States. Cole was speaking to former CIA agent Philip Giraldi, currently of The American Conservative magazine, a paleoconservative publication, which was one of a handful of US media outlets that gave column space to recent revelations of Turkish intelligence activities by FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds. Edmonds, a translator for the FBI, spent seven years trying to get a US court to hear her allegations that Turkish intelligence agents penetrated her unit, the State Department, the Pentagon and Congress. Read more of this post

Ex-FBI translator alleges Turkish intelligence activities in US

Sibel Edmonds

Sibel Edmonds

A former FBI translator has alleged that agents acting at the behest of the Turkish government have bugged, blackmailed and bribed US politicians. Sibel Edmonds has spent seven years trying to get a US court to hear her allegations that Turkish intelligence agents penetrated her unit, the State Department, the Pentagon and Congress. On August 8, she gave a public testimony at the Washington headquarters of the National Whistleblowers Association, in an attempt to keep her case alive in the public eye. Among other allegations, she said that Turkish intelligence agents bugged the apartment of a female member of Congress and then blackmailed her, threatening to expose her extra-marital affair. Read more of this post

Taiwan says unwilling spies blackmailed by China

The Taiwanese government has announced the arrest of four Taiwanese civil servants caught spying on behalf of China. Justice Ministry spokesperson, Luo Chi-wang, said the four were blackmailed by Chinese intelligence officers after they were photographed walking into a red-light-district bar in an unnamed city of mainland China. The Chinese officers warned the four civil servants that they would send copies of the photographs to their families unless they worked as operatives for the Ministry of State Security (MSS), the intelligence agency of the People’s Republic of China. Read more of this post

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