Secret CIA training program helping Ukrainians fight Russian troops, sources say

Kyiv Molotovs UkraineA SECRET TRAINING PROGRAM run by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which began shortly after Russia invaded eastern Ukraine in 2014, is now helping the Ukrainians beat back Russian military advances. According to Yahoo News, which revealed the existence of the CIA program earlier this week, the CIA began training Ukrainian special operations forces personnel in eastern Ukraine, starting in 2015. That was only months after the Kremlin sparked a separatist war in eastern Ukraine and the Crimea, eventually pulling them away from the control of Kyiv.

Yahoo news reports that the CIA carried out the training with the help of personnel from the Special Activities Center (SAC, called Special Activities Division in 2015, when the secret program began). The SAC operates under the Agency’s Directorate of Operations. Within the SAC, paramilitary operations and training are carried out by the Special Operations Group (SOG). A small team from SOG, “in the low single digits”, arrived in eastern Ukraine and began training Ukrainian forces in a variety of military and paramilitary techniques.

The news website claims that the Ukrainians were taught by the CIA how to engage in anti-tank warfare, which included the use of American-supplied FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles. They were also taught sniping techniques, as well as how to operate in insurgency formations without being detected by Russian electronic surveillance tools. The CIA program took place alongside a more extensive, US-based training program for Ukrainian special operations forces, which was run by the United States military. That program also began in 2015, according to Yahoo News.

The training program continued for a number of years, according to Yahoo News. In fact, members of SAC/SOG were on the ground in Ukraine in early February, just days before the Russian invasion began. At that time, the administration of US President Joe Biden, expecting a Russian invasion, ordered that all CIA personnel should leave Ukraine, fearing that they could get captured by Russian forces. Yahoo News’ Zach Dorfman said he spoke to “over half a dozen former officials”, who claimed to have recognized CIA-style training in the tactics being employed on the ground by the Ukrainians.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 18 March 2022 | Permalink

Ukraine relies on expanded intelligence relationship with the US, sources claim

Ukraine Russia borderUKRAINE IS INCREASINGLY RELIANT on its close intelligence relationship with the United States, which has grown dramatically in depth and intensity since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, according to a new report. The report, authored by Zach Dorfman, national security correspondent for Yahoo News, cites “more than half a dozen former US intelligence and national security officials”. It suggests that the intelligence relationship between Ukraine and the US has been “mutually advantageous” in recent years, and is “as robust […] as just about [any other] in Europe”.

On the American side, the intelligence cooperation effort is led by the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, two agencies that frequently exchange information with their Ukrainian counterparts. The information, which includes intelligence obtained from intercepted communications, has largely concentrated as of late on Russian military operations and activities. The two agencies have also participated in intelligence exchanges with the Ukrainians, with officials from the two sides engaging in reciprocal visits “to swap information” and provide training.

According to Yahoo News, CIA paramilitary operations officers have been training Ukrainian special operations forces personnel, as well as Ukrainian intelligence officers, since 2015. The training takes place “at an undisclosed facility in the southern United States”, the report states. Moreover, the NSA has engaged in offensive cyber operations against Russian government targets jointly with Ukrainian government agencies. This collaboration is especially lucrative for the NSA, whose collection capabilities in Eastern Europe are relatively limited.

Lastly, the Ukrainians have been providing US government agencies like the Department of the Treasury with financial intelligence on Russian efforts to evade economic sanctions. This information often includes data on the collusion between Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs, as many of the latter have close ties to the Russian government.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 03 February 2022 | Permalink

Lawyers of alleged Venezuelan coup mastermind claim CIA knew about his activities

Cliver Alcala CordonesLAWYERS FOR A FORMER Venezuelan military officer, who tried to topple President Nicolás Maduro in 2020 with the help of American former soldiers, have claimed that senior officials in the United States Central Intelligence Agency were aware of his activities “at the highest levels”. The court case centers on Major General Clíver Alcalá Cordones, a retired member of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Army, who is being tried in a Manhattan court. Alcalá is accused of being a member of a drug smuggling ring that worked closely with Colombian terrorist organizations to smuggle over 250 metric tons of cocaine to the US.

Prior to his arrest for drug trafficking, Alcalá had been living in Colombia since at least 2019, from where he allegedly masterminded the so-called “enfrentamiento en El Junquito” (“El Junquito raid”), or “Operación GEDEÓN”. GEDEÓN refers to a failed coup plot against Maduro, which was carried out on May 3 and 4 by a group of up to 60 armed men. It is alleged that the coup was launched from Colombia with the support of Silvercorp USA, a private security group led by Jordan Goudreau, a Canadian-born former sergeant in the US Green Berets. At least six coup plotters, who participated in the first phase of the operation, are believed to have been killed by the Venezuela military. Many more were arrested before being able to reach a network of safe houses that had allegedly been set up their supporters inside Venezuela. At least two of the arrestees, Airan Berry and Luke Denman, are American citizens and former soldiers.

On January 28, the Associated Press reported that lawyers for Alcalá have filed a letter that claims his “efforts to overthrow the Maduro regime have been well known to the United States government”. This is because these activities were “reported to the highest levels of the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Council, and the Department of the Treasury”, according to Alcalá’s lawyers. The letter provides no details about which officials in the US government allegedly knew about Alcalá’s activities. In an accompanying document, however, the lawyers for the accused are seeking “documents and information” containing relevant communications between a number of US officials, including former Attorney General William Barr, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, senior White House officials, as well as the CIA station in Colombia.

According to the news agency, Alcalá’s lawyers hope that, by providing proof that the US government knew about their client’s paramilitary activities, his argument that he was not operating illegally will be bolstered. More broadly, however, the accusation raises fresh questions about what the administration of US President Donald Trump knew about the coup plot in Venezuela, which involved several American citizens. The government of the United States has consistently rejected allegations by the Venezuelan government that the coup was planned with American assistance or knowledge. The Associated Press said it contacted the CIA for comment, but received no response.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 31 January 2022 | Permalink

Havana syndrome unlikely to be caused by adversary action, CIA report finds

CIAMOST CASES OF THE so-called “Havana syndrome”, a mysterious medical condition affecting mostly American government officials abroad, are unlikely to have been caused by a directed energy weapon or other device constructed by a foreign adversary, according to the United States Central Intelligence Agency. The condition is believed to have afflicted around 1,000 American and Canadian diplomats around the world in recent years, and many claim it is the result of a mystery weapon built by Russia or other adversaries of the United States.

The matter first came to light in 2017, when Washington recalled the majority of its personnel from its embassy in Havana, Cuba, and at least two more diplomats from its consulate in the Chinese city of Guangzhou. The evacuees reported experiencing “unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena” and hearing “unusual sounds or piercing noises”. Subsequent tests showed that the diplomats suffered from sudden and unexplained loss of hearing, and possibly from various forms of brain injury. In the most recent known case, “about two dozen” personnel at the US embassy in Vienna showed Havana syndrome symptoms in the first half of 2021.

But now a study by the CIA has concluded that the vast majority of Havana syndrome cases could be “explained by environmental causes, undiagnosed medical conditions or stress”. The study, described as “comprehensive” by CIA sources, supports the view that environmental causes, rather than “a sustained global campaign by a foreign power”, could explain most Havana syndrome cases. According to The Times, the conclusion of the CIA study is broadly shared by other members of the United States intelligence community, though confidence levels vary.

The Director of the CIA, William Burns, said yesterday that the agency had “reached some significant interim findings”, but would continue to investigate the Havana syndrome, given that two dozen cases remained difficult to explain. However, the conclusions of the study appear to have displeased many victims, according to The Times. One organized group of victims described the CIA study as “interim” and said that its results “cannot and must not be the final word on the matter”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 21 January 2022 | Permalink

US, British spy agencies preparing Ukraine to withstand Russian invasion – reports

Ukraine Russia borderBRITISH, AMERICAN AND OTHER Western intelligence agencies are quietly preparing Ukrainian military and security experts to withstand a possible Russian attack, according to a number of media reports. The New York Times reported on Monday that cyberwarfare units from the United States and the United Kingdom have been dispatched to Ukraine. Their mission is believed to be helping the former Soviet republic in confronting possible large-scale cyberattacks from Moscow.

According to The Times, Ukraine has been undergoing a widespread series of cyberattacks from Russia almost without stop during the past several years. The attacks have consisted of multiple sabotage and espionage campaigns, which have targeted nearly every Ukrainian government agency, as well as the country’s energy infrastructure. These attacks have historically been low in number and intensity. This has changed in recent months, however, according to American officials.

Some observers are concerned that a series of large-scale cyberattacks may precede a military invasion by the nearly 200,000 Russian troops that are currently present along the Russian-Ukrainian border. Were they to materialize, these cyberattacks will probably attempt to sabotage core functions of Ukraine’s economy and government, including the banking and air-traffic systems. Moscow’s broader goal, according to The Times, would be to subvert the ability of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government to govern Ukraine. This, in turn, could lead to its fall and replacement by a pro-Russian administration. If a pro-Russian government is threatened by a pro-Western revolt —something that Ukraine has seen in the past— it could potentially request military assistance from Moscow, which would provide a political pretext for an invasion.

Meanwhile, British newspaper The Daily Mirror said on Monday that American intelligence agencies have “secretly agreed to arm and train Ukrainian troops on how to fight a guerrilla war against Russian forces if they invade”. The paper said that meetings to discuss these plans have been taking place between officials from the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency. The goal of such an effort, the report claims, would be to mirror the American help given to Afghan fighters by the CIA during the Soviet-Afghan war of the 1980s.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 21 December 2021 | Permalink

Trump transition was ‘far and away’ most difficult in CIA history, internal report claims

Donald Trump CIA

THE PERIOD IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING the electoral victory of Donald Trump in 2016 was “far and away the most difficult” transition between administrations in the history of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This is the conclusion of a recently declassified CIA analysis of how American presidents-elect are briefed. The term ‘president-elect’ refers to individuals who have won the US presidential election, but have yet to assume the presidency. Presidents-elect are briefed by the CIA during the transition period, which typically lasts about 75 days, from early November until late in January of the following year.

The CIA analysis appears in the most recent edition of Getting to Know the President: Intelligence Briefings of Presidential Candidates and Presidents-Elect, 1952–2016. It is authored by John L. Helgerson, a 38-year veteran of the CIA, who retired in 2009 as the Agency’s Inspector General. The volume contains lessons learned by analysts who briefed presidents-elect in over sixty years. Chapter nine of the book, which contains an assessment of Trump as president-elect, was released [pdf] last week.

The chapter chronicles some of the challenges faced by the CIA in the days immediately after Trump’s electoral victory in 2016. Such challenges included CIA analysts having to wait for over a week for the Trump team to begin communicating them, its members “apparently having not expected to win the election”. Additionally, the Trump transition team had not thought of a way to safeguard printed documents shared with them by the CIA, which necessitated the Agency having to install a safe in the Trump transition team’s headquarters.

Eventually, president-elect Trump began receiving the President’s Daily Brief (PDB), a highly sensitive classified document produced each morning for the eyes of the president, vice president and a limited number of senior administration officials. However, unlike his vice-president elect, Mike Pence, Trump did not read the PDB, and eventually told the CIA he wanted a less text-heavy approach to the document if he was going to read it. The CIA complied with the request, as it tries to adapt its briefing method to the intelligence consumers’ preferred mode. Read more of this post

CIA director concludes surprise two-day visit to Russia for high-level meetings

William BurnsTHE DIRECTOR OF THE United States Central Intelligence Agency has returned to Washington from a surprise visit to Russia, where he led a high-level team of American officials in meetings with their Russian counterparts. The two-day visit was announced almost simultaneously by both the American and Russian governments, following the arrival of the CIA director, William Burns, to Moscow on Tuesday.

Little information has emerged about the participants in the meetings. A statement from the American embassy in Moscow said simply that Burns had traveled there at the request of President Joe Biden, and that other United States officials had traveled with him. It is believed that Karen Donfried, the State Department’s assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, traveled with Burns. According to the American embassy, the meetings were held on Tuesday and Wednesday and concerned “a range of issues in the bilateral relationship between the United States and Russia.

A minute-long video, which was posted on social media by the Russian TASS news agency on Tuesday, showed a group of five American officials meeting with five Russian officials. The latter appeared to include Nikolai Patrushev, a close political ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who heads the Security Council of Russia —a body that is roughly equivalent to the United States National Security Council. Prior to his current role, Patrushev served as director of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).

It is worth noting that Burns speaks Russian and served twice as a diplomat in Russia, most recently as the American ambassador there. Some observers noted that Burns’ trip to Moscow is part of a broader pattern of increasingly frequent meetings between American and Russian officials in recent months. The last four months have seen at least four visits to Russia by senior officials in the Biden administration.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 04 November 2021 | Permalink

New book details ‘special relationship’ between CIA and Polish intelligence

CIA

A NEW BOOK BY longtime Washington Post foreign correspondent John Pomfret details what the author describes as “a hugely important intelligence relationship” between the United States Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence community of Poland. In From Warsaw With Love: Polish Spies, the CIA, and the Forging of an Unlikely Alliance (Henry Holt and Co., October 2021), Pomfret claims that Polish intelligence has “functioned for decades almost as an adjunct to the [CIA]”.

According to Pomfret, the “special relationship” between the CIA and Polish intelligence began in the spring of 1990, when the first meeting between the two sides was arranged following a CIA official’s impromptu visit to Poland’s embassy in Portugal. Later that year, a team of Polish intelligence officers managed to exfiltrate half a dozen American government workers who had been left behind in Baghdad, as the US was preparing to launch a military operation in Kuwait, aimed at ejecting thousands of Iraqi troops from the tiny oil kingdom.

By the mid-1990s, the relationship between the CIA and Polish intelligence could be described as “special”, says Pomfret. Accordingly, the CIA station in Warsaw hosted “a flood of new joint operations” as its case officers were “working with Polish spies across the globe”. This formed a “blood bond” between the two services, claims Pomfret, with the Poles even allowing American intelligence officers to “roam through the headquarters of the Polish spy agency unescorted”.

Additionally, Polish intelligence handled assets in “some of the world’s most dangerous places”, as well as access to countries where the United States had no intelligence presence —for instance North Korea and Cuba. In the 2000s, CIA commended several Polish intelligence officers for the Legion of Merit, which is the US military’s highest award offered to citizens of foreign countries. Among the Legion of Merit recipients was a team of Polish intelligence officers who successfully collected air samples near nuclear facilities in Iran, according to Pomfret.

The relationship between American and Polish spies was not always smooth. Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, Poland hosted what was arguably the most important of the CIA’s global network of “black sites”, where terrorism detainees were interrogated, often violently. The CIA kept Polish officials away from the black site, while at the same time promising to keep under wraps the former communist country’s role in the controversial scheme. That promise was not kept, however, as Poland was eventually outed as being among a long list of hosts of CIA black sites, says Pomfret.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 26 October 2021 | Permalink

CIA asks its case officers to focus more on security in ‘unusual’ message

CIA

IN A MESSAGE DESCRIBED by observers as “unusual”, the United States Central Intelligence Agency has warned its case officers to give priority to security when recruiting spies in foreign countries. Fictional treatments of espionage work usually refer to CIA personnel as “spies”. In real-life espionage work, however, this term is actually reserved for citizens of foreign countries who are recruited by CIA case officers to work as informants.

According to The New York Times, large numbers of these foreign CIA informants have been “captured or killed” in recent years. The number is reportedly so high that the CIA’s counterintelligence mission center sent “an unusual top secret cable” last week to every CIA station around the world, drawing attention to that fact. The cable was unusual in its candor and even went so far as to relay the precise number of informants who had been captured, killed or compromised in recent times. According to the paper, the cable made specific mention of informants who were neutralized in countries such as Pakistan, Iran, China and Russia.

The top-secret cable continued by highlighting the importance of placing security at the center of the CIA’s mission, especially when recruiting new informants, said The Times. Case officers —personnel in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, whose job is to recruit foreigners— are expected to recruit with consistency, and are promoted based on that consistency. But the top-secret cable “reminded CIA case officers to focus not just on recruiting sources, but also on security issues, including vetting informants and evading adversarial intelligence services”, according to The Times. The paper added that the language in the cable implied that CIA case officers have often underestimated the agency’s adversaries abroad.

The Times said it reached out to the CIA with questions about the top-secret memo, but “a CIA spokeswoman declined to comment”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 07 October 2021 | Research credit: J.S. | Permalink

CIA sees early signs of al-Qaeda regrouping in Afghanistan, says US official

David CohenAMERICAN INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES ARE noticing early signs that al-Qaeda may be regrouping in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, according to the deputy director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency. The presence of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan was the primary reason behind the invasion of the country by the United States in 2001. In subsequent years, the militant group, which was behind the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, suffered heavy losses, and saw its members disperse across the region. Many others were captured or killed.

Now, however, with the Taliban back in power in Afghanistan, there are concerns that al-Qaeda may make a comeback in the war-torn country. Under the leadership of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda worked closely with the upper echelons of the Taliban in the 1990s and early 2000s. Contacts between the two groups continue to exist, and could potentially deepen following the exit of the United States and its Western allies from Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, David Cohen, who serves as deputy director of the CIA, said that American intelligence agencies are closely monitoring the situation. Speaking at the Intelligence and National Security Summit in Washington, DC, Cohen acknowledged that the shuttering of the United States embassy in Kabul, as well as the closure of a network of CIA stations across Afghanistan, had “diminished” the ability of American intelligence agencies to assess conditions on the ground. He added, however, that current intelligence reports indicate “some potential motion of al-Qaeda [returning] to Afghanistan”.

Cohen added that much of the intelligence that has been collected in recent weeks comes from “over-the-horizon platforms”, meaning that the collection is taking place from countries that border Afghanistan. However, the CIA in particular is already working to develop “methods to work within the horizon”, he said. At the moment, the United States intelligence community estimates that it could take al-Qaeda between one and two years to amass its former strike capability, so as to directly threaten American interests.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 15 September 2021 | Permalink

Mystery arrest of Russian mercenaries in Belarus ‘was US-Ukrainian sting operation’

Belarus KGB

THE BIZARRE CASE OF the arrest of three dozen Russian mercenaries in Belarus in 2020, allegedly for trying to destabilize the country, was in reality a joint Ukrainian-American sting operation that went awry, according to a new report. IntelNews readers will remember the puzzling July 2020 announcement by Belarusian authorities of the arrest of 33 Russians, who were said to be employees of Wagner Group, a Kremlin-backed private military firm.

The 33 Russians were charged with terrorism against the government of Belarussian strongman Alexander Lukashenko, who was then seeking a sixth term in office. Soon afterwards, the Belarussian State Security Committee (KGB) said the Russians had entered the country as part of a 200-strong group of mercenaries working for Wagner, in order to “destabilize the situation during the election campaign” of Lukashenko. That, however, made little sense, given that Lukashenko is one of Moscow’s strongest international allies. To add to the mystery, the Russians were quietly released from custody just a few days later.

What was behind that mysterious case? According to the American news network CNN, the bizarre incident was part of an international sting operation set up by the Ukrainian intelligence services with the support of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Citing three former high-ranking Ukrainian military intelligence officials, CNN claims that the sting operation aimed to lure, and eventually arrest, Russian mercenaries who have participated in the Kremlin’s invasion of eastern Ukraine since 2014.

The news network claims that the Ukrainian intelligence services set up a fake Russian private military company and used it to advertise $5,000-a-month contracts to provide security for Venezuelan oil facilities. Hundreds of Russian would-be contractors sent in applications. When quizzed by the fake company about their bona-fides, the applicants freely provided evidence of their participation in the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War.

The ultimate goal of the sting operation was to sign up the Russian contractors and offer to transport them to Turkey, from where they would supposedly fly to Caracas and begin working. In reality, however, the Russians would be transported to Ukraine, where they would face arrest and potential imprisonment for war crimes. However, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented their transportation via air. Instead, the sting organizers chose to transport them by bus to neighboring Belarus, from where they planned to transport them to Ukraine. However, the presence of 33 burly Russians in a hotel sanatorium outside of Minsk raised suspicions, and led to their eventual arrest by the Belarussian security forces.

The report by CNN claims that the CIA provided the Ukrainian intelligence services with “cash, technical assistance and advice”. But the news network also says that United States officials “deny having a direct role” in the sting operation.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 13 September 2021 | Permalink

Russia denies rumors that its chief security official met with CIA director in India

Russian embassy India

A RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN has denied reports Moscow’s Security Council Secretary met secretly this week with the director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency in the India. The United States, however, has not commented on the reports.

As intelNews and others reported yesterday, General Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, arrived in Delhi on September 7, “for high-level consultations on Afghanistan”, according India’s Ministry of External Affairs. General Patrushev, who is Russia’s highest-ranked security official, traveled to India at the invitation of his counterpart there, National Security Adviser Ajit K. Doval.

Interestingly, The Hindu, one of India’s two newspapers of record, reported on Tuesday that “an American delegation of intelligence and security officials” were visiting Delhi, and had already “held consultations” with officials. According to the newspaper, the American delegation was led by no other than CIA Director William Burns, who is said to be touring the region, and is also expected to visit Islamabad in the coming days.

Like General Patrushev, Burns met with National Security Adviser Doval about “issues arising from the Afghanistan evacuation effort and Taliban government formation”, said The Hindu. But unlike the Russian delegation’s visit, which was announced by the Indian government, the alleged American delegation’s visit remains speculative, and has not been officially confirmed by either Delhi or Washington.

It was not long before Indian media began to report that the American and Russian teams had met in secret, allegedly in order to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, however, a spokesman for the Russian Security Council flatly refuted the rumors of a meeting between Burns and Patrushev. The Russian-government owned TASS news agency quoted Russian Security Council spokesman Yevgeny Anoshin as saying that “Patrushev did not plan to, and did not meet, with the CIA head in Delhi”.

The United States government has yet to comment on these reports.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 09 September 2021 | Permalink

High-level American, Russian intelligence delegations visit India on the same day

Nikolai PatrushevHIGH LEVEL DELEGATIONS OF intelligence officials from the United States and Russia visited India on the same day this week, for talks with Indian officials about the situation in Afghanistan, according to news reports. This development highlights the frantic pace with which Moscow and Washington are maneuvering around the region, following the dramatic takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban last month.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs announced on Tuesday that General Nikolai Patrushev (pictured), Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, would be in Delhi “for high-level consultations on Afghanistan” between September 7 and 8. General Patrushev —Russia’s highest-ranking security official— is traveling to India at the invitation of his Indian counterpart, National Security Adviser Ajit K. Doval, according to the announcement. He was scheduled to meet with, aside from Doval, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishanka.

Late yesterday, however, the Chennai-based English-language newspaper The Hindu reported that “an American delegation of intelligence and security officials” had visited Delhi on Tuesday, and had “held consultations” with officials there. According to the newspaper, the American delegation was led by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director William Burns, who is touring the region and is also expected to visit Islamabad in the coming days. The report also said that Burns spoke at length with Doval about “issues arising from the Afghanistan evacuation effort and Taliban government formation”.

It is worth noting that India’s Ministry of External Affairs and the embassy of the United States in Delhi declined to confirm or deny the news about the CIA director’s visit to the country.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 08 September 2021 | Permalink

Afghanistan chaos could revive CIA’s counterterrorism mission, say observers

US embassy in Afghanistan

THE RAPID TAKEOVER OF Afghanistan by the Taliban, and the potential descent of that country into an even deeper chaos, could force the United States Central Intelligence Agency to revive its counterterrorism mission, which it has been trying to put on the back-burner in recent years. This is discussed in an insightful article published last Friday in The New York Times by Julian Barnes, Adam Goldman and Mark Mazzetti (author of The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth).

The three reporters cite anonymous “current and former officials” who claim that the spiraling instability of Afghanistan “could draw the CIA back into a complex counterterrorism mission for years to come”. This comes as American officials are “reworking plans to counter threats that could emerge from Afghanistan’s chaos”, according to the report. Their ultimate fear is that Afghanistan could emerge as a beehive for militants of all backgrounds and stripes, just as Syria did in the 2010s, and before it Afghanistan in the 1990s. Even if the Taliban want to stop this from happening, the CIA has no faith in their ability to do so, the authors note.

But what can the CIA do in that regard? The spy agency has lost its extensive system of stations and outposts throughout Afghanistan. Its networks of agents inside the war-torn country have crumbled, and it doesn’t even have access to a US or other Western diplomatic facility from which to operate in-country. It will therefore need to negotiate with neighboring countries in order to establish facilities that can allow it to run agents and operations inside Afghanistan. This will not be easy, given the influence of Pakistan, Russia and China in the broader region.

The article cites a number of “senior US officials” who argue that the CIA’s priorities will not necessarily change after what happened in recent weeks in Afghanistan. Yes, there may be more urgency on counterterrorism following the victory of the Taliban, they say. They note, however, that US intelligence agencies are perfectly capable of handling “multiple priorities at once”. But the article also quotes Don Hepburn, who served both in the CIA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who says that focusing on both state and non-state actors with the same intensity is not necessarily as simple as it sounds: “The agency is being drawn in many, many directions”, he cautions.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 30 August 2021 | Permalink

CIA considers establishing stand-alone China mission center, report claims

CIA headquarters

THE UNITED STATES CENTRAL Intelligence Agency is weighing the possibility of establishing a stand-alone mission center that would focus on China, according to a new report. Traditionally, questions regarding China have fallen under the agency’s Mission Center for East Asia and Pacific, which focuses on the broader geographical region that includes China. However, according to the Bloomberg news agency, that may about to change.

Quoting “three current and former officials” with knowledge of “internal deliberations” at the CIA, Bloomberg said on Thursday that the proposal to establish a stand-alone China mission center orginages from the agency’s new director, William Burns. According to the report, Burns is looking for ways to “make it easier to secure headcount, funding and high-level attention for [the spy agency’s] China-related activities”.

A stand-alone China mission center would allow the CIA to utilize and combine diverse resources across its various directorates and units. Additionally, elevating the topic of China to a stand-alone mission would reflect the policy priorities of the administration of US President Joe Biden, said Bloomberg. The report comes less than a month after Burns said during an interview that the CIA might deploy China specialists at US government facilities around the world. This would mirror the agency’s approach to the challenge posed by Soviet Union during the Cold War.

During his Senate confirmation hearing in February of this year, Burns stated that he viewed China as the most serious threat to American national security in the near and long term. He added that China’s “adversarial [and] predatory leadership” aimed to “replace the United States as the world’s most powerful and influential nation”.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 13 August 2021 | Permalink

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