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

Afghans who spied for CIA say they fear retaliation once US forces withdraw

Antony Blinken

AFGHAN CIVILIANS WHO WERE recruited by the United States Central Intelligence Agency as local assets say they fear retaliation by a resurgent Taliban once American forces withdraw from Afghanistan in September. Last April, US President Joe Biden announced that American troops would leave Afghanistan by September 11. The date will mark the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which caused Washington to send troops to Afghanistan in response.

The CIA has been a major component of America’s presence in Afghanistan over the past two decades. When operating in the Central Asian country, CIA officers have routinely relied on local people to collect intelligence, provide translation services, and guard its facilities and personnel. These local assets were typically paid in cash for their services, which were secret in nature and often life-threatening.

Now many of these local assets —possibly thousands— are apprehensive of the pending withdrawal of their American protectors from Afghanistan, and fear retaliation from a resurgent Taliban. According to The Wall Street Journal, these local CIA assets say that “their lives are now at risk”. A large number of them have submitted applications for a US Special Immigrant Visa. This is a State Department program that aims to offer protection to local people who have carried out “sensitive and trusted activities” on behalf of American government personnel abroad.

But the Special Immigrant Visa process is complicated and expensive, and is currently plagued by major delays. The Wall Street Journal reports that, even though the law stipulates Special Immigrant Visa requests must be processed within nine months, applications are currently taking between three to five years to be adjudicated. The Department of State says it is currently working through a backlog of 18,000 applications from around the world. The situation is particularly dire for Afghan CIA assets, says the paper, because many find it difficult to prove they ever worked for the CIA. The spy agency’s record-keeping was minimal throughout its time in Afghanistan, especially in the opening years of the conflict, according to the report. Furthermore, some local assets may not even be named in CIA documentation, so as to protect their identity.

In response to calls for faster processing of Special Immigrant Visa requests, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (pictured) said earlier this month: “We’re determined to make good on our obligation to those who helped us, who put their lives on the line, put their families’ lives on the line working with our military, working with our diplomats”.

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

CIA task force examines ‘Havana Syndrome’ after more officers fall ill

CIA

THE UNITED STATES CENTRAL Intelligence Agency has established a task force to examine recent cases of the so-called “Havana Syndrome”, a mysterious medical condition that continues to puzzle experts. The matter came to light in 2017, soon after 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 diplomatic personnel suffered from sudden and unexplained loss of hearing, and possibly from various forms of brain injuries. In April of 2019 the Canadian embassy evacuated all family members of its personnel stationed in the Cuban capital over similar health concerns. A subsequent study by the National Academies of Sciences reported the collective findings of leading toxicologists, epidemiologists, electrical engineers and neurologists, who examined the symptoms experienced by nearly 40 US government employees.

There are now reports that “more than a dozen” officers of the CIA have returned to the US for medical tests, after reporting symptoms that are associated with the “Havana Syndrome”. Citing “current and former US officials and people familiar with the matter” CBS News said on Thursday that some of the officers required emergency medical evacuation after feeling sick all of a sudden. They returned to the US from three different continents in the early months of 2021, according to CBS.

A White House spokesperson told the news station that the “Havana Syndrome” continued to be an area of “active inquiry”. A spokesperson from the National Security Council added that it was not possible to discuss specifics regarding the CIA personnel. The spokesperson went on to say that a “government-wide effort” was underway to determine those responsible for the phenomenon, and to protect US government personnel serving abroad.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 07 May 2021 | Permalink

Lawmaker with CIA background urges US spies to monitor foreign far-right groups

Elissa SlotkinA MEMBER OF THE United States Congress, who previously worked for the Central Intelligence Agency, has called for foreign white supremacist groups to be closely monitored, warning that they have ties to American militants. Democratic Representative Elissa Slotkin, of Michigan, wrote in a letter that the US should apply the label of “terrorist organizations” to a number of foreign white supremacist groups. She argued that the move would allow US authorities to take more aggressive measures against supporters of such groups inside the US.

Prior to being elected in Congress, Slotkin was an intelligence analyst for the CIA analyst. While at the CIA, she made use of her language fluencies in Arabic and Swahili, while also serving three tours in Iraq. Throughout her tenure in Congress, which began in 2018, Slotkin has shown considerable interest in national and international security affairs.

Last Friday, Slotkin reportedly sent letters to the Director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, and to the new Director of the CIA, William Burns. In her letters, Slotkin urges for a significant increase in the intensity and sophistication of intelligence collection against foreign white supremacist organizations. She argues that the CIA and the FBI must “prioritize resources” so as to collect more, and better, information on these organizations. According to Slotkin, American far-right militants could rely on their existing connections with foreign white supremacist organizations, so as to receive training and resources. These could enable them to carry out attacks in the homeland.

Earlier in April, Slotkin had sent a similar letter to the leadership of the Department of State, urging for more emphasis to be paid to efforts to designate white supremacist groups operating abroad “foreign terrorist organizations”. This would equip the US government with more powers to collect evidence on, and prosecute, Americans who have links with such foreign groups. However, to officially label a foreign organization “terrorist”, the Department of State must first be in possession of significant evidence from intelligence channels.

Thus, Slotkin’s letter to the FBI and the CIA aims to provide the Department of State with intelligence that will allow it to label such groups “terrorist”. In April of last year, the US government designated the Russian Imperial Movement a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” (SDGT) organization. The move marked the first time in history that the US Department of State formally applied the label of terrorist to a white supremacist organization.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 03 May 2021 | Permalink

US political operative convicted for illegal lobbying has CIA links, newspaper claims

Imaad Zuberi

A HIGH-FLYING AMERICAN political operative, who was convicted earlier this year for operating as an unregistered foreign agent, violating campaign-finance laws and large-scale tax-evasion, may have been an informant for the United States Central Intelligence Agency, according to a new report. In February of this year, a court in the US state of Virginia sentenced Imaad Zuberi, a 50-year-old Pakistani-born entrepreneur, to 12 years in prison, for —among other things— lobbying US politicians on behalf of foreign governments, giving illegal financial donations to both American political parties, hiding sources of income from the Internal Revenue Service, and obstructing justice. In addition to his long prison sentence, he is required to pay the US government nearly $18 million in back taxes and fines.

Prior to his conviction, Zuberi was mostly known as a high-level political fundraiser and donor, who had contributed millions to the election campaigns of both Democratic and Republican politicians, including those of Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. After he was arrested and criminally charged in October of 2019, Zuberi quickly confessed to working as a foreign agent and hiding his lobbying activities from the US government. Among his clients were, according to the Associated Press, the governments of Sri Lanka and Turkey, as well as eastern European oligarchs with alleged ties to the Kremlin. According to government prosecutors, Zuberi would receive money from foreign government officials and tycoons in order to introduce them to influential American political figures.

In March of this year, Zuberi’s links to the CIA were discussed in a detailed account of his case by SpyTalk‘s veteran intelligence editor Jeff Stein. After reviewing “confidential case information” and speaking to intelligence insiders, Stein concluded there were “strong suggestions” that Zuberi “may indeed have carried out extremely sensitive operations against major U.S. adversaries for the CIA over the past 15 years”. Stein alleges that, among other things, “Zuberi paid off foreign politicians on the CIA’s behalf” in order to sabotage a foreign oil project by “a major US adversary”.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Zuberi’s legal team is now preparing to challenge his prison sentence in an appeal that will rest primarily on his alleged work for the CIA, detailed by Stein. The Journal claims to have seen Zuberi’s legal filing, which suggests that he has cooperated with the CIA for over a decade. Based on court documents, and sources that the paper described as being “familiar with the businessman’s defense”, it appears that Zuberi’s began cooperating with the CIA as an informant. Eventually, however, his role “grew to involve more formal tasks and missions”, according to the article. The paper did not elaborate on the nature of Zuberi’s alleged work for the spy agency.

The article claims, however, that Zuberi’s alleged links with the CIA were discussed at length during a closed-door hearing in court, under a law that is used in rare instances to protect government-sanctioned intelligence sources and methods. Since that time, Zuberi’s legal team has allegedly secured the assistance of two former CIA officials, who are willing to testify as witnesses in his appeal. The Wall Street Journal said it contacted the CIA for comment, but was told to reach out to the Department of Justice. When contacted by the paper, the Department of Justice said it had no comment to make on Zuberi’s case.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 12 April 2021 | Permalink

CIA base in northern Niger expands, as Islamism spreads in the Sahel

Dirkou NigerA REMOTE BASE THAT houses an outpost of the United States Central Intelligence Agency in northeast Niger appears to have expanded in recent months, as Islamist groups continue to make their presence felt in Africa’s Sahel region. The base was built quietly in 2018 in Dirkou, a small oasis town and commune located 800 miles northeast of Niamey, Niger’s capital. The area where the CIA base is located is sparsely populated and arid, making it one of the world’s most inhospitable regions.

Northeast Niger, where Dirkou is located, is part of the Sahara. The region is largely inhabited by nomads, who journey in caravans between networks of oases that include Dirkou. In recent years, however, the territories of north-central Niger, northern Mali, southern Algeria, northern Chad and southern Libya, have witnessed an alarming growth of extremist groups, many of which are affiliated with al-Qaeda or the Islamic State. Increasing numbers of young men are joining these groups, whose leaders also exploit local grievances stemming from poverty, ethnic divisions and the dramatic effects of climate change.

Since 2014, France, the region’s former colonial power, has spearheaded a counterinsurgency campaign led by a 5,000-strong military force stationed in the Chadian capital, N’Djamena. But the effort has seen few successes, and its commanders have been forced to downgrade their objectives: instead of their original goal of neutralizing the Islamist insurgency, they now hope to contain it in the Sahara, and not let it spread to the region’s urban areas. It is within this context that the CIA outpost in Dirkou was set up in 2018.

The New York Times, which first reported the existence of the CIA outpost three years ago, said last week that it has seen no evidence to suggest that the outpost has been used for anything more than to carry out airborne surveillance using drones. However, the outpost now has a paved runway, which appears to be twice the length of the original landing strip of 2018. There are also a new buildings at the outpost, as well as a fixed perimeter, which indicates increased security, according to The Times. This, says the paper, shows that the CIA would now “be ready to carry out armed drone strikes” in the region, if authorized to do so by the White House.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 10 March 2021 | Permalink

Top Syrian chemical weapons scientist spied for CIA for 14 years, new book claims

Syrian Scientific Studies and Research CenterTHE TOP SCIENTIST IN Syria’s chemical weapons program, reputed to be among the world’s deadliest, spied for the United States Central Intelligence Agency for 14 years, according to a new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Toby Warrick. The claim is included in Warrick’s latest book, Red Line: The Unraveling of Syria and America’s Race to Destroy the Most Dangerous Arsenal in the World, which has been published this week by Doubleday.

The scientist, whose name Warrick is withholding from publication, was partly educated in the United States in the 1980s, after receiving an academic scholarship. Upon returning to Syria, he became a senior researcher in Institute 3000, a secret chemical weapons program that was hidden within the Damascus-based Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC). Known mostly by its French name, Centre D’Etudes et de Recherches Scientifiques (CERS), the center coordinated scientific research throughout the country. Camouflaged as a CERS engineering outfit, Institute 3000 maintained over 40 research and storage facilities that manufactured and housed Damascus’ stockpiles of military grade sarin, mustard gas, VX, and other nerve agents.

Citing interviews with “three former US intelligence officials familiar with the case”, and with a Syrian defector who knew the scientist, Warrick claims that the scientist was in his 30s when he reached out to the CIA. It allegedly happened in the mid-1990s, when the scientist was attending a conference in Europe. A number of months later, the scientist, who is simply referred to as “Ayman” in Warrick’s book, was approached in Damascus by a CIA case officer. He soon began sharing classified information with the CIA, which included samples of nerve agents that the Syrians were working on. In return he received regular payments from the US spy agency “in the form of cash transfers to a foreign bank account”, according to Warrick.

But the scientist’s service to the CIA ended abruptly in late 2001, says Warrick, when officers from Syria’s Mukhabarat intelligence agency appeared at his Damascus office and took him away for questioning. It turns out they were there to investigate reports that he had been asking foreign suppliers to CERS for payoffs, in return for recommending them for contracts with the research agency. But the scientist thought his work for the CIA had been betrayed, so he confessed to everything, without realizing that the Mukhabarat had no idea about his espionage. He was executed by firing squad on April 7, 2002 in the Adra Prison, on the northeast outskirts of Damascus, says Warrick.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 22 February 2021 | Permalink

CIA tells retired personnel to refrain from working for foreign governments

CIATHE CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY has told its retired personnel to refrain from working for foreign governments, “either directly or indirectly”. This was communicated in a note that, according to The New York Times, was drafted several months ago, but was sent out this week by Sheetal Patel, who serves as assistant director for counterintelligence at the CIA.

In the note, Patel reportedly writes that the agency has been noticing a “detrimental trend” of former CIA employees being hired by “foreign governments”, whose goal is to “build up their spying capabilities”. She adds that former CIA personnel who are employed by foreign governments “either directly or indirectly” may effectively undermine the mission of the CIA and “benefit […] foreign adversaries”.

In her note, Patel also urges retired CIA personnel to limit their participation in the media, including television broadcasts, conference panels, podcasts and activity on social media platforms. Media activity by former CIA personnel embodies “[t]he risk of unintended disclosure of classified information or confirmation of classified information by our adversaries”, writes Patel. This risk “increases with each exposure outside of established US government channels”, she concludes.

The paper said it contacted CIA spokeswoman Nicole de Haay, who rejected the claim that Patel’s note was unusual in any way. The CIA “routinely reiterate[s] counterintelligence guidance to current and former CIA officers alike”, said de Haay, adding that “reading more into [Patel’s note] than that is a mistake”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 27 January 2021 | Permalink

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