Mystery surrounds arrest of alleged Russian spy couple in Sweden

Russian Embassy SwedenNUMEROUS UNANSWERED QUESTIONS SURROUND the arrest of a Russian married couple in Sweden, on charges of espionage. The arrest took place in dramatic fashion in the early hours of Tuesday, November 22. According to the Swedish media, members of the security forces descended via tactical ropes from two Blackhawk helicopters, as startled residents in the typically quiet Stockholm suburb of Nacka looked on.

The raid was apparently conducted based on information received by Sweden’s counterintelligence agency, the Swedish Security Service (SAPO), coupled with tips from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The targets of the operation were Sergei Nikolaevich Skvortsov and Elena Mikhailovna Kulkova, a Russian-born married couple, who moved to Sweden from Russia in 1999. According to their identity documents, Skvortsov was born in Perm on July 28, 1963, and Kulkova in Moscow on May 22, 1964.

Both Skvortsov and Kulkova are university-educated, with a background in science, mathematics and cybernetics. Upon settling in Sweden, they worked in the import-export technology sector. By 2013 they had become Swedish citizens and had a son. Kulkova also had a daughter from a previous marriage. The Russian investigative source The Insider reports that Kulkova’s daughter’s boyfriend worked for Swedish military intelligence.

Swedish authorities allege that the two suspects migrated to Stockholm on orders of the Main Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, known as GRU. The GRU allegedly did not activate them until after they had acquired Swedish citizenship. According to the court indictment, Skvortsov and Kulkova began to actively spy against the United States in 2013 and against Sweden in 2014.

Some sources claim that the case of the Russian couple may be connected to the recent arrests of Payam and Peyman Kia, two Iranian-born Swedish brothers, who were arrested in 2021 and are now facing charges of engaging in espionage on behalf of the GRU. Payam Kia worked for SAPO and had access to classified information from a host of Swedish government agencies. SAPO reportedly launched the probe in 2017, following suspicions that it harbored a spy in its personnel ranks.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 05 December 2022 | Research credit: A.G. | Permalink

Sweden charges two brothers with spying for Russian military intelligence

Säpo swedenAUTHORITIES IN SWEDEN HAVE charged two brothers, one of whom worked in a highly secretive Swedish intelligence unit, with spying for Russian military intelligence for a decade, according to news reports. The charges resulted from a six-year investigation led by the Swedish Security Service (SAPO), which is the country’s counterintelligence agency. SAPO reportedly launched the probe in 2017, based on suspicions that it harbored a spy in its personnel ranks.

The two brothers have been named by Swedish media as Payam Kia, 35, and Peyman Kia, 42. They were reportedly born in Iran and became Swedish citizens in 1994. It is also reported that Payam Kia worked for SAPO and had access to classified information from a host of Swedish government agencies. SAPO accuses the two men of having worked “jointly” to pass information to the Main Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff, known broadly as GRU.

According to Swedish authorities, the two men began spying for Russia in September of 2011 and continued until the fall of 2021. Peyman Kia allegedly acted as a courier, passing information and payments between his brother and his Russian handlers. Per Lindqvist, chief prosecutor for Sweden’s National Security Unit, told the Associated Press news agency that the Kia brothers case involved “extremely sensitive topics”, but did not elaborate. Some reports claim that Payam Kia had access to the files of Swedish spies operating abroad.

The younger of the two brothers was reportedly arrested in September of 2021. His older brother was arrested in November of the same year. They face up to life imprisonment. They both deny the charges against them.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 14 November 2022 | Permalink

More on Russian alleged spies expelled from the Netherlands and Belgium

Kremlin KootAs intelNews reported earlier this week, a joint investigative effort by Dutch and Belgian media exposed details about a group of alleged Russian intelligence officers, who were expelled by Belgium and The Netherlands in March 2022. Dutch state broadcaster NOS and its flagship current affairs program, Nieuwsuur, aired the names, photos and backgrounds of 17 Russian intelligence officers, who were expelled from the Netherlands in March of this year. According to the Dutch government, the expelled diplomats were involved in counterintelligence and in espionage targeting the country’s high-tech sector.

According to the reports, at least 20 Russian official-cover officers were active in the Netherlands in early 2022. The reporters said they spoke with intelligence sources and the Dossier Center. That organization is financed by banned Russian oligarch and Putin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and claims to have access to leaked databases that contain information about the education and background of Russian intelligence officers.

Eight of the expelled officers work for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), while the other nine work for the Main Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff (GRU). Some of them presented themselves as trade representatives in Amsterdam, as military attachés, or as diplomats at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Read more of this post

Journalists reveal names of Russian diplomats expelled by Netherlands for espionage

SVR hq

AN INVESTIGATION BY A consortium of journalists from the Netherlands and Belgium has revealed the identities of 17 Russian diplomats, who were expelled in April by Dutch authorities for allegedly engaging in espionage. The expelled diplomats were among hundreds of members of the Russian diplomatic corps, who were expelled from all over Europe in March and April of this year, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

As intelNews reported on April 4, the diplomats who were expelled from the Netherlands were serving at the Russian embassy in The Hague. Some of them also represented Russia at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) headquarters in The Hague. Russia responded on April 19, by announcing the expulsion of 15 Dutch diplomats from the embassy of the Netherlands in Moscow. As is customary in such cases, neither the Netherlands nor Russia revealed the names of the expelled diplomats.

Now, however, the identities of the expelled Russian diplomats have been revealed, thanks to an investigation by of a group of Dutch and Belgian journalists. The investigation was conducted under the auspices of the Dossier Center, a London-based Russian-language organization that specializes in investigative reporting. The conclusions of the invesgitation were first reported by Belgian newspaper De Tijd and by Netherlands public television, NOS.

According to the investigation, eight of the 17 expelled Russian diplomats were employees of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, known as SVR. The remaining nine were employed by the Main Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff, which is commonly known as GRU. At least six of the expelled diplomats worked as encryption specialists. They handled the communications systems that the Russian intelligence personnel who were stationed in the Netherlands used in order to exchange secret information with Moscow. A smaller number worked in counterintelligence, and were tasked with preventing efforts by adversary intelligence services to recruit Russian diplomatic personnel stationed in the Netherlands.

The report by the Dossier Center includes information about the identities of the Russian diplomats, as well as photographs and detailed biographical data about their background. According to the authors of the report, all information included in the report was collected from open sources, including from social media accounts that were maintained by the expelled Russian diplomats.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 17 October 2022 | Permalink

Study assesses Hamas’ double-agent operations against Israeli intelligence

HamasA NEW STUDY SHEDS light on the little-studied topic of counterintelligence operations launched against Israel by the Islamic Resistance Movement, better known as Hamas. Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni Islamist and nationalist organization with a 35-year history, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007. As is typically the case with Middle Eastern non-state actors, Hamas is a complex umbrella organization that combines social-service and administrative functions with armed elements. The latter include internal policing components and a full-time military wing, as well as reserve armed forces.

Although much research has focused on Hamas’ military and non-military components, the organization’s intelligence functions remain under-studied. For this reason, a new article that assesses Hamas’ double-agent operations against Israeli intelligence deserves attention. The article is titled “An Asymmetric Doubling”: A Nonstate Actor Using the Method of Doubling Sources —Hamas against Israeli Intelligence”, and was authored by Netanel Flamer, a lecturer in Middle Eastern Studies at Bar-Ilan University and postdoctoral fellow at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. It was published last week by the International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence.

In his article, Flamer explains the usefulness of double-agent operations for non-state actors engaged in asymmetric conflicts against opponents with superior resources. Non-state actors tend to place tremendous value in double-agent operations, because they offer them the opportunity to “generate achievements of the greatest impact using the most efficient means”. They can do so despite the relative poverty of their resources, as compared to their adversaries. These types of operations employ human intelligence (HUMINT) sources, who work with two opposing intelligence services, only one of which is privy to their dual role. Such sources are known in intelligence parlance as “double agents”.

Hamas’ Early Counterintelligence Efforts

Interestingly, Hamas’ first counterintelligence outfit preceded its own establishment. Upon its founding in 1987, at the peak of the First Intifada, Hamas was immediately able to rely on al-Majd, a counterintelligence apparatus that had been established a year earlier by Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. The mission of al-Majd was to uncover suspected Israeli collaborators among Palestinian communities in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The organization was also known for deploying varying levels of torture against suspected collaborators, or against their relatives.

By the early 1990s, al-Majd was in a position to launch a number of confirmed counterintelligence operations. A notable early case is that of Maher Abu Srur, a Hamas member who had been recruited by the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service. At the culmination of this double-agent operation, Srur actually murdered his Israeli handler at a Shin Bet safe house in Jerusalem. According to Flamer, al-Majd is known to have launched several other double-agent operations against the Shin Bet, with varying levels of success. Importantly, it often is difficult to determine whether al-Majd double agents were deployed after they were first recruited by the Shin Bet, or whether they were originally deployed by al-Majd as “dangles”. Read more of this post

Hawaii couple alleged to be Russian spies using fake names held without bail

Walter Glenn Primose, Gwynn Darle MorrisonA FEDERAL JUDGE IN HAWAII has denied bail to a married American couple, who are believed to have assumed the identities of dead children in order to lead double lives for over 20 years, according to prosecutors. Local media reports allege that Bobby Edward Fort and Julie Lyn Montague, who were arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on July 22 on the island of Oahu, are Russian spies, and that their names are parts of their assumed identities.

According to the reports, the real names of the couple are Walter Glenn Primose, 66, and Gwynn Darle Morrison, 54. Government prosecutors allege that, in the late 1980s, the couple hurriedly left their home in the state of Texas, telling family members that they were entering the US Federal Witness Protection Program. They are also said to have given some family members permission to take whatever they wanted from their home, before it was foreclosed.

The government claims that the couple then assumed the identities of two infants, Bobby Edward Fort and Julie Lyn Montague, who had died in Texas in 1967 and 1968 respectively. They then used these infants’ birth certificates to obtain social security cards, drivers’ licenses, and even US passports. In 1994, while living in Hawaii under his assumed name, Primrose enlisted in the US Coast Guard, which is the maritime security and law enforcement service branch of the US military. He served there for over 20 years as an avionic electrical technician with a secret level clearance. Following his retirement in 2016, Primrose is said to have worked as a private contractor for the US Department of Defense until his arrest on July 22 of this year. Read more of this post

Analysis: The West should not trust Ukrainian spy agencies. Neither should Ukrainians

Volodymyr ZelenskyON SUNDAY, JULY 17, the Ukrainian administration of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced the most extensive shake-up of the nation’s security leadership since the Russian military invasion. Two key members of Zelenskiy’s inner circle, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova and domestic security chief Ivan Bakanov, were summarily fired. Venediktova was the public face of Kyiv’s war crimes campaign, which was launched in March in response to the Russian invasion. Bakanov, a childhood friend of Zelenskiy, had headed the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) since 2019.

In a subsequent video statement, Zelenskiy said he fired the two officials after he was informed that at least 60 employees of the SBU and the Prosecutor General’s office had defected to the Russians in eastern Ukraine. Last week, in an article for SpyTalk, Kremlin watcher Olga Lautman said Bakanov’s dismissal had been expected for a few days. Regardless, the move has shaken Western observers, and has given rise to legitimate questions about the susceptibility of Ukraine’s security and intelligence services to Russian meddling. Should the Western alliance, and Western intelligence agencies in particular, trust their Ukrainian counterparts? The answer is, invariably, no. In fact, even the Ukrainians themselves are not in a position to trust their own intelligence services.

From the KGB to the SBU

On September 20, 1991, just one week after Ukraine secured its independence from the Soviet Union, the SBU was founded in place of the Soviet KGB. Initially, the new agency handled both internal security and external intelligence functions. But in 2005, the SBU’s Department of Intelligence became a stand-alone agency under the title Foreign Intelligence Service (SZR). Since then, the SZR has functioned as the institutional equivalent of the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), while the SBU has performed domestic security functions that resemble those of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

As is the case with the entirety of Ukraine’s state sector, the two agencies are endemically bloated. Intelligence observers report that the SBU’s 30,000 employees make it far larger in size than its British counterpart, the Security Service (MI5). Meanwhile, according to the latest information, the SZR has “double the number of personnel than the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and is larger than Britain’s [Secret Intelligence Service, or] MI6”. By all accounts, even today, more than 30 years after the dissolution of the USSR, the two agencies continue to resemble Soviet-style bureaucracies in terms of size, sluggishness, and corruption. Read more of this post

US indicts five members of Chinese spy ring, handler remains at large

Chinese Ministry of State SecurityAUTHORITIES IN THE UNITED States have indicted five members of an alleged spy ring for the Chinese Ministry for State Security (MSS), who engaged in sabotage, bribing, harassment, intimidation and entrapment operations. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) alleges [PDF]  that the five men, Qiming Lin, 59, Shujun Wang, 73, Quiang ‘Jason’ Sun, 40, Matthew Ziburis, 49, and Fan ‘Frank’ Liu, 62, operated at the behest of the government of China, conducting several operations on US soil, with an “unlimited budget”.

Lin, Wang, Liu and Ziburis have been arrested. They each face between 10 and 20 years in prison, if convicted. Sun, who is the alleged handler of the spy ring, remains at large. The FBI claims Sun is an MSS officer and is currently in China. The FBI alleges that the five men were tasked with destroying the personal lives and careers of Chinese dissidents living in the United States. Their victims included a Chinese-born American citizen, who is running for Congress. The dissident is not identified in the FBI indictment. However, according to the Business Insider, he is believed to be Yan Xiong, a Long Island resident who escaped to the US after participating in the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations.

Members of the Chinese spy ring allegedly tried to thwart Yan’s Congressional election campaign. Specifically, they are accused of conspiring to extort Yan, by luring him in a ‘honey trap’ operation involving prostitutes. They also conspired to plant child pornography in Yan’s personal computer, and even using physical beatings and intimidation in order to subvert his political career. The spy ring is also believed to have targeted Weiming Chen, a Chinese-born, California-based artist, who has produced sculptures and other artwork critical of the Chinese government.

In most cases, members of the spy ring tried to acquire personal data belonging to their victims, including their US social security numbers, as well as copies of their passports. In several cases, members of the spy ring installed covert surveillance equipment in the cars, residences and work places of their targets. These allowed them to monitor their victims’ personal lives and whereabouts. In announcing the indictments on Wednesday, US Department of Justice representatives said efforts by Chinese spies to intimidate and silence expatriate dissidents living in the US had risen at an “alarming rate” in the past year.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 17 March 2022 | Permalink

Iranian websites use fake Israeli contact data to lure spies, researchers claim

Computer hackingA NUMBER OF WEBSITES sponsored through Google Ads, which seek to hire Iran and Hezbollah experts for “research and consultancies” in Israel, are part of an Iranian counterintelligence program, according to observers. The investigative news website Daily Beast said on Monday it discovered at least 16 such websites, all of which appear to employ the same language, visuals, as well as telephone numbers with Israeli area codes.

The websites’ stated purpose is to employ individuals with inside knowledge of Iranian intelligence and security, as well as individuals with a background in Lebanon’s Hezbollah. The prospective employers claim to be Israeli “consultancy” firms, with names such as “VIP Human Solutions”. The latter describes itself as a “VIP center for recruitment of the most distinguished in the military and security services of Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon”, according to the Daily Beast.

The websites feature Israeli flag visuals, and claim to be associated with recognizable think-tanks and media organizations, including the Gatestone Institute, the Begin-Sadat Center, the Jerusalem Post and Business Insider. However, these purported connections appear to be fictitious and to be designed to give those websites an air of legitimacy. In reality they appear to be hosted by an obscure Bulgarian web hosting company. At times they disappear, but then reappear under a different title and domain name. The oldest among them has been active for just over four years.

The Daily Beast cites a number of Iran observers, as well as intelligence insiders in the United States and elsewhere, who claim that the websites are part of a sting operation by Iranian counterintelligence. They share a number of “behavioral similarities” to prior phishing campaigns perpetrated by hacker groups with documented links to Iranian intelligence agencies, according to the Daily Beast. The purpose of the websites is to lure unsuspecting Iranian and Lebanese nationals who aspire to provide information to Israel in exchange for money, according to the report.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 25 January 2022 | Permalink

Israel busts alleged Iranian spy ring made up of middle-aged women

Shin BetAUTHORITIES IN ISRAEL CLAIM they busted a ring of spies for Iran, which was composed solely of middle-aged Jewish women. The Israel Security Agency, known as Shin Bet, said on Thursday that it had arrested four Jewish women, all of them Iranian-born Israeli citizens. The four women were charged with espionage against the state of Israel. The Shin Bet described the case as “serious” and as part of a broader plan by Iran to build a sophisticated espionage network inside the Jewish state.

According to news reports, the women were recruited via the Facebook social networking platform by a user using the name Rambod Namdar. Namdar claimed to be a Jewish man living in Iran. After recruiting the women, Namdar operated as their handler, and provided them with regular payments in exchange for taking photographs of sensitive military sites and civilian government buildings. According to the Shin Bet, these included the buildings of the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs. The women were allegedly also asked to take photographs of the embassy of the United States, as well as commercial facilities, including shopping malls.

At least two of the women were asked to befriend Israeli politicians and government officials, according to the Shin Bet. The agency also claims that the women were asked to convince their sons to serve their mandatory military service by joining military intelligence units. In one case, according to the indictment, the son of one of the women did serve in an intelligence post in the Israeli military, which allowed his mother to pass a number of military documents to her Iranian handler.

Reports in the Israeli media and the BBC mention that Namdar communicated with the four women “for several years” using the encrypted messaging service WhatsApp. WhatsApp is owned by Meta, the same company that owns Facebook and Instagram.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 14 January 2022 | Permalink

United States charges New York man with spying for Egyptian government

Egyptian embassy in WashingtonA RESIDENT OF NEW York has been charged by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation with engaging in espionage operations on behalf of the government of Egypt, according to court documents unsealed on Thursday. The FBI claims that the spy “tracked and obtained information regarding political opponents” of Egypt’s ultra-authoritarian president, retired General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. El-Sisi took power in Egypt in a military coup d’etat in 2013, which was followed by heavily staged election in 2014. With most of the opposition refusing to participate, the election resulted in a victory for the Egyptian strongman with 97% of the vote.

The alleged spy is 39-year-old Pierre Girgis. He is charged with conspiracy and acting as an agent of a foreign state without notifying the government of the United States —which is standard legal terminology used to convey acts of espionage. According to the FBI, Girgis’s Egyptian handlers tasked him with spying on US-based critics of President el-Sisi. The documents suggest that Girgis attempted to “covertly gather non-public intelligence” about Egyptian expatriates, and sought to secure access to law enforcement-only training sessions in Manhattan for Egyptian government officials.

In doing the above, Girgis operated “at the direction and control of multiple employees of the Egyptian government”, according to the FBI. One of those employees is alleged to have sent Girgis an encrypted message in 2018, praising him for doing “a lot of good things” and for having “become an important source [of] information collection” for the Egyptian government. The method by which the FBI was able to gain access to the contents of this encrypted communication exchange is not known.

Girgis reportedly surrendered to US authorities on the morning of Thursday, and appeared before a Manhattan federal court later on the same day. The embassy of Egypt in Washington, DC, declined to comment on the case. A spokesperson for the US Department of State said simply that Girgis’ case was “an active law enforcement matter”, which prevented the Department from commenting on it.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 07 January 2022 | Permalink

Israeli television channel to air details of ex-Mossad chief’s alleged affair

Yossi Cohen and Benjamin NetnayahuAN ISRAELI TELEVISION CHANNEL has said it will be airing details about an alleged extramarital affair involving the former director of the Mossad intelligence agency, Yossi Cohen. Cohen, 59, who has four children, served as director of the Mossad from 2015 until earlier this year. Last summer, the privately owned Channel 13 television reported that Cohen had “a close relationship” for the past two years with a woman who was not his wife, and who was believed to be a flight attendant. The report added that a complaint about the affair had been handed over to Israel’s Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit, who was reviewing it.

At the time Cohen denied he had an extramarital affair, saying: “there is no flight attendant [and] there is no close relationship”. The former Mossad chief added that he had not been contacted by Attorney General Mandelblit about the complaint, or for any other reason. In its report back in the summer, the television station gave no further information about the alleged complaint, the identity of the flight attendant, or the state of the Attorney General Mandelblit’s investigation.

Now, however, Channel 13 says it will be airing a detailed report about the alleged extramarital affair, on Tuesday, December 21. According to preview clips, the channel’s investigative program, HaMakor, will claim that the affair began in 2018, while Cohen was director of the Mossad. What is more, the program will feature an interview with Guy Shiker, a well-known Israeli financier, who is allegedly the husband of the flight attendant.

In his interview, Shiker tells HaMakor that Cohen bragged to him and his wife about Mossad operations, and shared with them details of spy programs that were almost certainly classified. In a written response, Cohen told the television channel that he never shared any classified information with the couple or with anyone else, and that he did not divulge any operational details that he was not authorized to disclose during his tenure in the Mossad.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 20 December 2021 | Permalink

Denmark arrests four intelligence officers for disclosing ‘highly classified’ information

DDIS DenmarkFOUR CURRENT AND FORMER employees of Denmark’s intelligence community were arrested last week, as part of what Danish authorities described as a “lengthy and ongoing” counterintelligence investigation. News of the arrests came on Thursday in a brief press statement posted online by the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET). Known in Denmark as the Police Intelligence Service, the PET is tasked with domestic counterterrorism and counterintelligence.

In its statement on Thursday, the PET said that four individuals had been arrested the day before during “searches at various addresses” in Denmark. It did not disclose the identities of the four suspects, but said they were all current or former members of Danish intelligence agencies. At least one of them is believed to be a current or former employee of the PET itself. Denmark’s external intelligence agency, the Danish Defense Intelligence Service (FE, or DDIS in English), is also involved, according to reports.

The four suspects are accused of having disclosed “highly classified information from the intelligence services”, according to the information made available by the PET on Thursday. However, PET officials declined requests to discuss further details about the case, stating only that the arrests came after a lengthy counterintelligence investigation, which continues at this time. All four suspects have now been charged with violating Section 109(1) of the Danish Criminal Code, which is the standard law used by Danish prosecutors in espionage cases.

The last major counterintelligence case in Denmark was in 2012, when a Finnish professor at the University of Copenhagen, Timo Kivimäki, was convicted and sentenced to a short prison sentence for spying for Russia. Kivimäki, who today continues to work as an academic, claims that he carried out contractual consulting work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, but denies that he knowingly contacted Russian intelligence operatives in the course of his consulting duties.

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

Recent conviction of Chinese spy in a US court could be game changer, say insiders

Chinese Ministry of State Security

THE RECENT CONVICTION OF a Chinese intelligence officer for espionage in a United States court could be a “seminal moment” for American counterintelligence, according to several former intelligence professionals. They spoke to The Daily Beast’s Shannon Vavra about the case of Yanjun Xu, who is also known as Qu Hui or Zhang Hui. As intelNews and others reported last month, Xu is a deputy division director in the Ministry of State Security (MSS) —China’s intelligence agency.

Xu was arrested by Belgian police in April 2018, while attempting to meet an employee of GE Aviation, a subsidiary of General Electric, whom he had allegedly tried to recruit at an academic conference in China in 2017. The Belgians extradited Xu to the United States, where he was indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiring to commit acts of economic espionage against GE Aviation. During the trial, which took place in Cincinnati, prosecutors successfully made the case that Xu’s espionage activities were part of a broader 10-year plan by the MSS to spy on aviation manufacturers around the world.

Xu’s extradition marked the first time that an employee of a Chinese intelligence agency was tried on American soil. His conviction could be a game changer, says to Bill Evanina, who was director of the United States National Counterintelligence and Security Center until earlier this year. Evanina told The Daily Beast that the case against Xu will almost certainly serve as a “legal template for future cases” by the United States government against Chinese espionage. Evanina’s view was echoed by Jim Olson, former Chief of Counterintelligence for the Central Intelligence Agency. He told The Daily Beast that Xu’s arrest, extradition and conviction “is a huge shakeup for the MSS” and its impact on how China conducts its espionage operations against the United States will be “tremendous”.

Meanwhile China has rejected all accusations against Xu. Liu Pengyu, spokesman for China’s embassy in the United States, told The Daily Beast that the charges against Xu were “pure fabrications”. He added that the Chinese state demands that Washington handles Xu’s case “according to the law and in a just manner”, so that this Chinese citizen’s “rights and interests” would be ensured.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 16 November 2021 | Permalink

Turkish pro-government newspaper publishes interview with alleged Mossad spy

Ram Ben-BarakA POPULAR TURKISH NEWSPAPER has published an interview with a member of a network of spies who were allegedly recruited by the Israeli agency Mossad to spy on Palestinian students living in Turkey. As intelNews reported last week, Turkish intelligence announced the arrests of 15 members of an alleged spy ring for the Mossad. Turkish media said that the 15 individuals were arrested on October 7 during simultaneous raids that took place across four different provinces. The counterintelligence operation to arrest the alleged spies took nearly a year and involved more than 200 officers of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT).

Last Friday, Turkey’s Sabah newspaper published a lengthy interview with one of the 15 alleged spies. The paper, which is politically aligned with the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, referred to the alleged spy using the initials “M.A.S.”, and claimed he is a Turkish citizen who was recruited by the Mossad. The alleged spy told the paper that he was first contacted in December 2018 by “an agent called A.Z.” through the WhatsApp phone application. After providing this individual with information about Turkish universities, he was sent funds via Western Union wire transfers. Other times he was paid by a man he met in a market in Istanbul, after showing him his identity card, along with a receipt that had been sent to him by A.Z.

Eventually, M.A.S. said he was instructed to travel to Switzerland, having first secured a visa for his trip through a company called European Student Guidance Center. Sabah claims the M.A.S.’ trip to Switzerland was paid for by the Mossad. While in there, M.A.S. met his alleged handlers, who taught him how to use strong encryption for sending documents and other information via secure email applications. However, even at that point he did not realize he was working for a foreign government, having been told by his handlers that they were employees of an “intelligence-like organization” in the private sector. According to Sabah, other members of the alleged spy ring met with their handlers, abroad, mostly in Switzerland and Croatia. Most were paid with cryptocurrency, conventional international money transfers, or sometimes in gold jewelry or foreign currency.

Importantly, Sabah did not say how its reporters were able to gain access to M.A.S. after his arrest by the Turkish authorities. The Turkish government has made no official statement about these arrests. Also on Friday, a number of Israeli public figures, including Ram Ben-Barak (pictured), former deputy director of the Mossad and current chairman of the Knesset’s Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense, said that “none of the published names [in Turkey] were [of] Israeli spies”. Ben-Barak also cast doubt on the professionalism and capabilities of Turkish counterintelligence.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 25 October 2021 | Permalink

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