News you may have missed #764

Baroness FalknerBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US government agency spied on whistleblower scientists. The US Food and Drug Administration has been found operating a massive surveillance campaign targeting its own scientists for writing letters to journalists, members of Congress and President Barack Obama. The scientists were expressing their concern over the FDA’s approval of medical imaging devices for colonoscopies and mammograms that could endanger patients with high levels of radiation. The covert spying operation, which is most likely illegal, led the agency to monitor the scientists’ computers at work and at home, copying emails and thumb drives and even monitoring individual messages line by line as they were being composed in real time.
►►UK lawmaker tells MI6 chief to ‘stop bragging’. The head of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), Sir John Sawers, has been accused by Liberal Democrat parliamentarian Baroness Falkner of Margravine of demonstrating a “lack of judgment” for “bragging” about MI6’s role in slowing Iran’s nuclear program. Earlier this month, Sir John said in an interview that covert operations by British spies had prevented Iran from developing nuclear weapons as early as 2008. But Lady Falkner said in a speech at the House of Lords that “Sir John’s comments could almost be construed as bragging. In my view”, she continued, “it would be best for the veneer of silence to descend on the Secret Intelligence Service once again. There is such a thing as too much information”.
►►German domestic intel agency gets new director. The German government has appointed terrorism expert Hans-Georg Maassen to head the country’s domestic intelligence body, known as the “Verfassungschutz. Maassen’s appointment comes after several turbulent weeks for the agency that have resulted in three of its top officials stepping down amid a scandal connected to a series of murders by a Neo-Nazi group calling itself the National Socialist Underground.

News you may have missed #758

Heinz FrommBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►NSA head claims Americans’ emails ‘won’t be read’. The House of Representatives in April approved a bill that would allow the government and companies to share information about hacking. Critics have raised privacy concerns about the sharing of such information, fearing it would allow the National Security Agency, which also protects government computer networks, to collect data on American communications, which is generally prohibited by law. But in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, NSA Director Keith Alexander said that the new law would not mean that the NSA would read their personal email.
►►German spy chief quits in neo-Nazi files scandal. The head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Verfassungsschutz, Heinz Fromm, resigned last week, after admitting that his agency had shredded files on a neo-Nazi cell whose killing spree targeting immigrants rocked the country late last year. The “National Socialist Underground” (NSU), which went undetected for more than a decade despite its murder of 10 people, mostly ethnic Turkish immigrants. German media have said an official working in the intelligence agency is suspected of having destroyed files on an operation to recruit far-right informants just one day after the involvement of the NSU in the murders became public. Fromm had led the Verfassungsschutz since 2000.
►►US spy agency accused of illegally collecting data. The US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) is pressuring its polygraphers to obtain intimate details of the private lives of thousands of job applicants and employees, pushing the ethical and legal boundaries of a program that is designed to catch spies and terrorists, an investigation has found. The NRO appears so intent on extracting confessions of personal or illicit behavior of its employees, that its officials have admonished polygraphers who refused to go after them and rewarded those who did, sometimes with cash bonuses. And in other cases, when it seems the NRO should notify law enforcement agencies of its candidates’ or employees’ past criminal behavior, it has failed to do so.

Analysis: United States and Germany spy on each other

BND seal

BND seal

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Newly released documents reveal that the Central Intelligence Agency has maintained an active program of espionage against Germany in the post-Cold War era, and experts say that Germany reciprocates the ‘favor’. According to an article in the latest issue of German newsmagazine Focus, the US intelligence community, led by the CIA, has been keeping tabs on Germany’s intelligence agencies since the 1950s, and continues to do so today. The magazine’s editors say they are in possession of internal government documents, which describe constant CIA monitoring on the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s main external intelligence agency. The CIA’s spying extends to Germany’s counterintelligence agency, known as the Federal Office for Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz). CIA operations against the Office have reportedly included the interception of telephone calls, some of which involved high-level conversations between German and British or French intelligence officials. Focus claims that CIA spying against the BND actually intensified following German reunification in 1990, as the American agency kept tabs on German intelligence officers with former Nazi or communist past. According to one report, the CIA was able to verify that at least two BND officers with service in the Nazi SS had joined a NATO sabotage unit. The magazine spoke to an unnamed former BND counterintelligence officer, who said he was not in the least surprised by the revelations. Commenting yesterday on the Focus report, Washington-based reporter Jeff Stein argued that a little friendly spying is to be expected among allied intelligence services. The veteran intelligence correspondent spoke to an unnamed former CIA officer, who told him that the espionage between Washington and Berlin has not been “a one-way street” —the BND also spies on the CIA and other American intelligence agencies. Read more of this post

German provincial spy boss caused bomb scare

Günter Heiss

Günter Heiss

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The director of German’s domestic intelligence organization in the state of Lower Saxony will receive a fine for instigating a bomb scare by leaving his briefcase unattended during a social gathering. Günter Heiss, who heads the northwester German state’s office of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz), has admitted responsibility for the blunder. He was among 700 guests at a cocktail party hosted in the Hannover city hall by Lower Saxony’s Christian Democratic parliamentary group. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0007

  • German counterintelligence chief accuses Russia of commercial spying. Burkhard Even, Germany’s director of counterintelligence at the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, has told German newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag that Russian spies have intensified espionage operations on the German energy sector to help Russian firms gain commercial advantages. On May 26, intelNews reported on similar accusations by the German Association for Security in Industry and Commerce (ASW). Its director told Mitteldeutsche Zeitung that the targeting of German research and commercial enterprises by mainly Chinese and Russian agents is so extensive that it usually costs the German economy over €20 billion per year, and it may be costing as high as €50 billion per year since 2007.
  • Spanish intelligence agents kicked out of Cuba. Spanish newspaper ABC reports that the recently expelled officers of Spain’s National Intelligence Centre (CNI) were secretly recorded at Havana cocktail parties “making derogatory comments about the Castro brothers and other [Cuban] government officials”. 
  • Proposed US bill would boost congressional oversight of covert spy programs. Key lawmakers in Washington have endorsed a proposed bill that would force the president to make fuller disclosure of covert spy programs. The legislation, which has already been approved by the House Intelligence Committee, would force the president to disclose classified operations to all members of Congress’ intelligence oversight panels. 
  • Report claims CIA, Mossad scoring points against Hezbollah. A new report claims American and Israeli intelligence organizations have scored notable recent successes against Hezbollah, in places such as Azerbaijan, Egypt and Colombia.