News you may have missed #0250

  • Pakistanis ask US to quit drone strikes. A Pakistani intelligence official has told the Associated Press that the response to the December 30 suicide bombing that killed seven CIA agents should not include intensifying unmanned drone strikes inside Pakistan. However, the CIA has reportedly “stepped up drone strikes” since the bombing.
  • Bush, Obama administrations guilty for neglecting info sharing. Thomas E. McNamara, former head of the US federal Information Sharing Environment, says the Bush and Obama administrations are both guilty of either losing interest or not focusing at all on promoting information sharing among often-secluded US government agencies.
  • China ends probe into Rio Tinto espionage case. Chinese prosecutors have now taken over the case of Stern Hu, the jailed boss of Anglo-Australian mining corporation Rio Tinto, after officials ended their investigation. Hu was arrested last July on espionage charges.

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News you may have missed #0247

  • US government lowers threshold for inclusion on no-fly lists. According to senior US State Department officials, the government has already lowered the threshold for information deemed important enough to put suspicious individuals on a watch list or no-fly list. CNN reports that suspects will now include citizens of the notorious Islamist country of Cuba….
  • CIA starts sharing data with climate scientists. This blog has kept an eye on the CIA’s Climate Change Center, which was established late last year. It now turns out the Agency had started monitoring climate change in 1992, under project MEDEA (Measurements of Earth Data for Environmental Analysis), but the program was shut down in 2001 by the Bush Administration. The Climate Change Center, therefore, represents the re-establishment of an earlier effort.
  • How the KGB tried to recruit an NBC News reporter. FBI files show that the Soviet KGB tried to recruit the late NBC News reporter Irving R. Levine, while he was stationed in Moscow in the 1950s.

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Blackwater CEO admits he was CIA agent

Erik Prince

Erik Prince

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The founder and CEO of private security company Blackwater has revealed he worked as a CIA spy and carried out a number of secret missions before being fired by the Obama administration. Erik Prince, who heads Blackwater Worldwide, recently renamed Xe, gave a rare interview to Vanity Fair magazine, in which he revealed that his relationship with the CIA was not only that of an operations contractor, but also that of an asset, that is, a spy. Prince’s revelation will not surprise seasoned intelligence observers; as I commented last August, it had become increasingly difficult to distinguish any operational demarcations between the CIA and the company formerly known as Blackwater. However, the mercenary company’s leading role in controversial CIA plans to assassinate high-level foreign officials was seen as a step too far by the new CIA leadership of Leon Panetta. Read more of this post

Analysis: Is an obscure US military unit replacing the CIA?

Joint Special Operations Command logo

JSOC logo

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
An obscure US military unit established in 1980 is gaining prominence in America’s “war on terrorism” and may be slowly replacing the CIA’s functions, according to a well-researched piece in The Atlantic magazine. The US Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) was created soon after the fiasco of the attempted rescue of the hostages held at the US embassy in Tehran. Since 9/11, the unit has emerged from its relative obscurity to join the forefront of America’s so-called “global war on terrorism”. Gathering evidence from a variety of sources investigating the use of paramilitary operations in America’s post-9/11 wars, Max Fisher argues that, even under the Obama Administration, JSOC may in fact be “taking on greater responsibility, especially in areas traditionally covered by the CIA”. Read more of this post

NSA bugging more widespread than thought, says ex-analyst

Wayne Madsen

Wayne Madsen

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A former NSA analyst and US Navy intelligence officer has alleged that the National Security Agency’s (NSA) domestic spying program was more widespread than originally thought, and that it was authorized by the Bush Administration prior to 9/11. Wayne Madsen, who authors the Wayne Madsen Report, says the NSA consulted with US telecommunications service providers about aspects of its STELLAR WIND program in as early as February 27, 2001, several months prior to the events of 9/11. STELLAR WIND was a massive domestic surveillance program involving spying on US citizens. Under the guidance of the office of the US Attorney General, the NSA was systematically allowed to circumvent the standard authorization process under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court, composed of 11 federal judges, and thus conduct what is known as warrantless wiretapping within the United States, which is illegal. Read more of this post

One third of Pakistani spy budget comes from CIA, say officials

ISI HQ

ISI HQ

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
As much as one third of the annual budget of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence has come from the CIA in the last eight years, according to a new report in The Los Angeles Times. The paper says that even more US dollars have been supplied to the ISI through a secret CIA monetary rewards program that pays for the arrest or assassination of militants wanted by Washington. The payments reportedly began during the early years of the George W. Bush administration, and are now continuing under the Obama administration, despite “long-standing suspicions” that the ISI and the Pakistani military maintain close links with the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan and elsewhere. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0185

  • Article claims US employed cyberwar in 2007. A cover story in the Washington-based National Journal claims former US President George W. Bush authorized the National Security Agency to “launch a sophisticated attack […] on the cellular phones and computers that insurgents in Iraq were using to plan roadside bombings”. IntelNews regulars will remember that we had suspected as much.
  • Somali suicide bomb recruiter had US residency. Somali Mohamud Said Omar, who was arrested a week ago in Holland on suspicion of recruiting youth in Minneapolis for suicide missions in Somalia, has a US green card, Dutch media reported Friday.
  • Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial a huge challenge for US judiciary. The alleged 9/11 mastermind’s case poses the question of how to deal with what is likely to be an extremely large body of classified evidence that the prosecution will want to present.

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CIA reportedly wins turf battle with DNI office

Leon Panetta

Leon Panetta

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The CIA has reportedly won a turf battle with the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), after the White House came down in support of the CIA position on Thursday. This blog has kept tabs on the dispute, which started last May, when DNI Dennis Blair argued in a still-classified directive that his office should have a say in certain cases over the appointment of senior US intelligence representatives in foreign cities. Former CIA officials publicly denounced the directive, which would allow the appointment of non-CIA personnel to these positions for the first time in 60 years, as “simple insanity”. Since then, various actors have sided with the two antagonists, with the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence committee supporting the DNI and Vice President Joe Biden backing the CIA’s position. But the stalemate reportedly ended on Thursday, after the White House ruled that the CIA, not the DNI, should appoint senior US intelligence representatives abroad. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0161

  • No new clues in released Cheney FBI interview. Early in October, a US federal judge ordered the FBI to release the transcript of an interview with former US vice-president Dick Cheney, conducted during an investigation into who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame. There were rumors that the classified transcript pointed to George W. Bush as the source of the incriminating leak. But the released interview transcript contains nothing of the kind.
  • Sir Hollis not a Soviet agent, says MI5 historian. “Sir Roger Hollis was not merely not a Soviet agent, he was one of the people who would least likely to have been a Soviet agent in the whole of MI5″, according to Professor Christopher Andrew, author of the recently published In Defense of the Realm. Dr. Andrew’s comments were in response to the book Spycatcher, by former MI5 officer Peter Wright, which alleges that Sir Hollis, former head of MI5, had been a KGB agent.
  • New report says nuclear expert’s death was not suicide. A new autopsy into the death of British nuclear scientist Timothy Hampton has concluded that “he did not die by his own hands”, as previously suggested. The post-mortem examiner said Hampton “was carried to the 17th floor from his workplace on the sixth floor” of a United Nations building in Vienna, Austria, “and thrown to his death”.

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Analysis: Is US supporting suicide terrorists in Iran?

Jundullah men

Jundullah men

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Jundullah, a militant anti-regime Sunni group in Iran, claimed responsibility last week for an October 18 suicide attack that killed 42 people, including five senior members of the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guards corps. Tehran blamed the attack, which is part of a wider low-intensity guerilla war in the country’s southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan province, on the work of covert American, British and Pakistani operatives. Should the Iranian allegations be taken seriously? IntelNews has written before about Washington’s complex relationship with Jundullah and the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), two of several armed groups officially deemed terrorist by the US State Department. In 2007, ABC News went so far as to claim that Jundullah “has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005″.   Read more of this post

Senator says Obama employs Bush tactics on spy secrecy

Russ Feingold

Russ Feingold

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A Democratic senator has alleged that the Obama Administration is copying the Bush Administration’s tactics by “stonewalling and road blocking” Congress on intelligence issues. Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), the only Senator to vote against the USA PATRIOT Act during its first vote, said during a nomination hearing on Tuesday that he suspects the White House is still withholding information from Congressional intelligence panel members. Feingold voiced the allegation during the nomination hearing in Congress of David Gompert, incoming deputy director of national intelligence, who will serve under director of national intelligence Dennis C. Blair. In recent months, Senator Feingold has emerged as one of the most vocal Democratic critics of the Obama administration’s policies on intelligence and security. Read more of this post

Clinton’s mysterious comment raises eyebrows in New Zealand

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A comment by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton following a meeting with a senior New Zealand government official has raised questions by intelligence observers in the pacific nation. Speaking last Friday after an official meeting in Washington with her New Zealand counterpart, minister of foreign affairs Murray McCully, Clinton said the US “very much” values its diplomatic partnership with New Zealand. She then proceeded to say “[w]e are resuming our intelligence-sharing cooperation, which we think is very significant”. This latter comment struck many intelligence observers in Wellington as odd, and for a good reason: nobody was under the impression that the US-NZ intelligence cooperation had been disrupted. The mystery deepened when New Zealand prime minister John Key refused to explain Hillary Clinton’s remark when asked, saying simply “I just don’t comment on issues of national security”. Read more of this post

US Looks Away from Worsening Philippines Rights Record

Lumbera

Lumbera

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS and IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Just days after Filipino prizewinning poet and dramatist Bienvenido Lumbera caught a Naval Intelligence Security Force agent spying on him outside his home, another Filipino intellectual has come forward with allegations of government spying. Pedro “Jun” Cruz Reyes, professor of creative writing at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, said he has been the subject of surveillance investigations by government agents since 2006. Such incidents are not a new phenomenon in the Philippines. In 2005, the US State Department noted in its annual human rights report that the Philippines National Police was the country’s “worst abuser of human rights” and that government security elements often “sanction extrajudicial killings and vigilantism”. However, the report adds that these practices are utilized “as expedient means of fighting crime and terrorism”, which may explain why no discernable action has been taken by US authorities to prevent them. In an article published today in The Foreign Policy Journal we examine the recent record of US-Philippine relations. Continue reading at The Foreign Policy Journal

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News you may have missed #0114

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News you may have missed #0102

  • NSA helped UK arrest convicted bomb plotters. Email correspondence intercepted by the US National Security Agency in 2006 helped lead to the arrest and conviction of three Muslim militants, who were planning attacks in Britain. IntelNews learns that this case was brought up by American intelligence officials who recently threatened to terminate all intelligence cooperation with the UK, in reaction to the release from a Scottish prison of convicted Libyan bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.
  • Bush Administration tried to alter “enforced disappearances” international treaty standards. The aim of the global treaty, long supported by the United States, was to end official kidnappings, detentions and killings like those that plagued Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, and that allegedly still occur in Russia, China, Iran, Colombia, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. But the documents suggest that initial US support for the negotiations collided head-on with the then-undisclosed goal of seizing suspected terrorists anywhere in the world for questioning by CIA interrogators or indefinite detention by the US military at foreign sites. So the Bush Administration tried to alter the language of the treaty from 2003 to 2006, reveals The Washington Post.

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