News you may have missed #473

  • Cyprus recognizes Palestine as independent nation. The Israeli assessment is that other European Union countries, including Britain, Sweden, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Denmark, Malta, Luxembourg, Austria and perhaps others are considering a similar move.
  • Top NZ intel scientist had falsified CV. British-born Stephen Wilce was hired as chief of New Zealand’s Defence Technology Agency in 2005, having got top level security clearance. Last year, he had to resign after it emerged that he had made a series of false claims about his past. But the question is how he passed security checks when he applied for the post in 2005.
  • Report uncovers widespread FBI intelligence violations. A new report by the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation has found widespread violations in FBI intelligence investigations from 2001 to 2008. The EFF report suggests that FBI intelligence investigations have compromised the civil liberties of Americans to a greater extent than was previously assumed.

Some spy news in the shadow of WikiLeaks’ revelations

Katia Zatuliveter

Katia Zatuliveter

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The WikiLeaks revelations continue, and so does the global news storm concerning the whistleblower site. Obviously, the news value of the WikiLeaks disclosures is unquestionable. However, there are notable intelligence-related developments taking place outside the now-familiarWikiLeaks context. Take for instance the recent arrest of what appears to be a Polish spy in Limassol, Cyprus. The unidentified man, who was reportedly detained in the vicinity of a Greek-Cypriot military base on the island, was carrying “a camera containing photos of National Guard posts, a laptop, two mobile phones, five memory cards, a GPS system and three pairs of binoculars”. Another interesting development concerns the arrest on espionage charges of Katia Zatuliveter, a Russian citizen who works as an assistant to British Member of Parliament Mike Hancock. Zatuliveter is expected to be deported on the basis of evidence gathered by MI5, Britain’s counterintelligence service, which has apparently been monitoring her for several months. Interestingly, Mr. Hancock, who is a member of the British House of Commons’ Defence Select Committee, is standing by his assistant. Read more of this post

Greek-Cypriot spies behind largest document theft in UN history, report claims

Alexander Downer

Alexander Downer

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Agents of the Greek-Cypriot government were behind the largest document theft in the history of the United Nations, according to reports in the Cypriot and Turkish press. In 2009, Greek-Cypriot newspaper Fileleftheros published extracts of what the paper claimed was a treasure trove of 6,500 UN documents containing sensitive information on the organization’s negotiations with Turkish-Cypriot leaders. The negotiations concerned ongoing talks over a possible reunification of the island, which has been divided for decades between the Greek-majority southern part, and the predominantly Turkish northern part. According to the newspaper’s New York correspondent, the documents were leaked by a source inside the UN. But Cypriot and Turkish media now claim that an internal UN report has concluded that the documents were stolen by Greek-Cypriot intelligence agents, who subsequently leaked some of it to the Greek-Cypriot press. The operation was reportedly headed by a Cyprus Intelligence Service (CIS) agent who befriended Sonja Bachmann, senior aide to Alexander Downer, former Australian Foreign Minister, senior advisor to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Mon, and the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Cyprus negotiations. Read more of this post

Did fugitive spy Metsos lead to Russian spy arrests?

Christopher Metsos

C.R. Metsos

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Soon after the June 27 arrests of 10 Russian non-official-cover (NOC) spies in several US cities, one name came to the attention of intelligence observers: Sergei Tretyakov. Tretyakov was a senior Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) officer who defected to the US in 2000, while second-in-command at the SVR station in Russia’s United Nations mission in New York –the same outfit that run the deep-cover operatives arrested in June by the FBI. The Bureau’s own admission that it began monitoring the operatives around 2001, has caused many to believe that Tretyakov, who died suddenly on June 13, at age 53, may have tipped off the FBI about the NOCs. But Russian investigative journalist Yulia Latynina has raised a second possibility, no less intriguing than the first. Namely that it was not Tretyakov who betrayed the deep-cover operatives to the FBI, but rather the mysterious so-called 11th spy, Christopher R. Metsos, a seasoned SVR operative who is said to have acted as a go-between and financier for all 10 Russian spies. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #401

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Fate of 11th Russian spy suspect remains a mystery

Christopher Metsos

C.R. Metsos

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
As the world’s media attention is focused firmly on last week’s 14-member spy swap between Russia and the United States, the fate of the 11th member of the Russian deep-cover intelligence network remains unknown. The operative, known as Christopher R. Metsos, was listed as “defendant No. 1” in the FBI criminal complaint against the now infamous Russian illegals network. Like his co-defendants, he was not charged with espionage, but with “acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government”. He was also charged with money laundering, and was described as the main financier of his ten co-defendants. However, Metsos escaped arrest in the US, because during the FBI raids he was in Cyprus, where he had arrived on June 17. He was arrested on June 29 at the island’s Larnaca International Airport, while trying to board a flight for Budapest, Hungary. A much younger woman traveling with him was allowed to leave on the flight, according to Cypriot media. Read more of this post

Wanted Russian spy ring member skips bail in Cyprus

Achilleos Hotel

Achilleos Hotel

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Police in the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus have issued an arrest warrant for a member of an alleged Russian spy ring in the United States, who had been released on bail following his capture on Tuesday. The FBI says that Christopher R. Metsos, who holds Canadian citizenship, was the financial go-between in the 11-member Russian spy ring, which was busted in a series of coordinated raids across several US states on Saturday. On June 25, Interpol issued an international arrest warrant for Metsos, who escaped arrest in the US because he was in Cyprus, where he had arrived on June 17. He was arrested at the island’s Larnaca International Airport on Tuesday, while trying to board a flight for Budapest, Hungary. Remarkably, however, Metsos was soon released on bail, awaiting an extradition request from Washington. Predictably, on Wednesday, he failed to report to Larnaca police, as stipulated in his bail release court order. Read more of this post

FBI busts alleged Russian spy ring, 11 arrested [updated]

Anna Chapman

Anna Chapman

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Ten members of an alleged Russian spy ring operating in America’s East Coast were arrested in a series of coordinated raids on Sunday. US Department of Justice insiders said that the arrests, which took place in Arlington, New Jersey, New York, and Boston, marked the culmination of an FBI counterintelligence operation initiated during the second administration of President Bill Clinton. It appears that the alleged Russian agents were non-official-cover (NOC) operatives, otherwise known as ‘illegals’, a term used to identify deep-cover intelligence operatives not associated with the diplomatic representation of the Russian Federation in the United States. Eight of the arrestees were married couples and all were using fake identities. Almost all are fluent in several languages; they include “Vicky Pelaez”, who worked for a New York Spanish-language newspaper, another woman identified as “Anna Chapman” (see photo), and “Mikhail Semenko”, who is said to be fluent in English, Spanish, Russian, and even Mandarin. An eleventh alleged member of the spy ring, named as “Christopher R. Metsos”, remains at large and is wanted by the FBI was captured by Greek-Cypriot authorities at Larnaca airport earlier today, while trying to board a flight for Hungary. Read more of this post

Comment: Are Clinton’s Cyberattack Protests Hypocritical?

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS* | intelNews.org |
The Chinese have accused the US government of hypocrisy in criticizing Beijing for its alleged role in organized hacking attacks, which recently drove Google to abandon its operations in China. Speaking last Thursday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton argued that “[c]ountries or individuals that engage in cyberattacks should face consequences and international condemnation”. But a subsequent editorial in government-owned The People’s Daily essentially said that China is not the only country that engages in cyberwarfare; the US does it too. Is this true? Most likely, yes. Read more of this post

Controversial Israel-Russia drone deal includes secret Iran clause

MK II UAV

MK II UAV

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
I have written before on this blog about a controversial $53 million agreement between Russia and Israel to provide Moscow with Israeli-made intelligence-gathering drones. The agreement, revealed last April, marked Israel’s first-ever sale of military systems to Russia, as well as Moscow’s first known purchase of a foreign weapons system. Last time I wroteintelNews received information that the Israeli move angered some US Pentagon officials. It turns out, however, that the Israeli-Russian deal contains a vital clause: the Israelis have agreed to provide Russia with as many intelligence-gathering drones as they want, and even allow them to reverse-engineer them, providing they cancel an agreement with Tehran to provide the Iranian government with Russian-made state-of-the-art air defense missiles. Read more of this post

Analysis: Cyprus-Russia-Israel Arms Affair Points to Wider Questions

TOR-M1 radar

TOR-M1 radar

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Diplomatic observers were surprised in November 2008, when the then Russian President Vladimir Putin failed to meet his Cypriot counterpart, Dimitris Christofias, during the latter’s official visit to Moscow. Considering the traditionally close bilateral ties between Russia and Cyprus, the excuse from President Putin’s office, that he was too busy attending his United Russia party’s national conference, appeared unconvincing. An article published recently in Greek-Cypriot newspaper O Politis, traced the cause of the Russian President’s apparent snub to a 2007 attempt by the Cypriot government to hand over parts of a Russian-made missile system to Israel. The paper said the Cypriot plan was hatched in response to a request by Israeli intelligence officials, who were interested in acquiring technical insights into the Russian-made TOR-M1 surface-to-air missile defense system. The Israelis were concerned about the TOR-M1 because Iran was also said to be using a variant of the same system, which features a radar apparatus unknown to Israel, the United States or NATO. On the website of the Research Institute for European and American Studies, I explain what this alleged breach of trust between traditional Greek ally Cyprus and Russia may mean for the wider geostrategic balances in the east Mediterranean. Read article →

US prevented Israel from bombing arms ship, says paper

The Francop

The Francop

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Israel wanted to bomb a German cargo ship, which allegedly carried tons of weapons from Syria and Iran to Lebanon, but the plan was “rejected” by US intelligence, according to a London-based Arabic-language newspaper. An article in last Friday’s Asharq Alawsat appears to confirm earlier speculation that the ship, which was seized by Israeli commandos in a predawn raid on Wednesday off the coast of Cyprus, was first brought to the Israelis’ attention by US intelligence agencies on October 18. The newspaper alleges that the raid by Israeli commandos took place only after the US rejected an Israeli suggestion to bomb the ship while it was sailing through the Red Sea. An air attack on the cargo ship, named Francop, would have undoubtedly caused a multinational diplomatic episode. The vessel is reportedly German, leased by Greek-Cypriot charter company UFS Shipping International, and was sailing under the flag of Antigua & Barbuda, with an Egyptian crew and a Polish captain. Read more of this post

Israeli commandos seize ship allegedly carrying tons of weapons

Israeli commandos

Israeli commandos

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A ship apprehended off the coast of Cyprus by Israeli commandos in a predawn raid on Wednesday was carrying hundreds of tons of weapons, according to the Israeli Navy. Israeli military officials told a press conference in Tel Aviv that the ship was loaded with “40 containers filled with 300 tons of weapons each”, hidden under several rows of civilian goods. Israel insisted that the weapons, which include missiles and rockets, originated from Iran and Syria and were bound for Hezbollah, the Shiite Islamic political and paramilitary organization that controls large parts of Lebanon. But the Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, called the Israeli commandos “pirates” and said the seized ship was heading from Syria to Iran, carrying only civilian goods. Israel has yet to release evidence of the ship’s contents, or even name. Read more of this post

Researchers discover gigantic cyberespionage operation

Ronald Deibert

Ronald Deibert

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A team of Canadian researchers claims to have discovered a large cyberespionage ring located mainly in China. The researchers say the ring has managed to infiltrate nearly 1,300 mainly government and corporate computers in at least 103 countries around the world. The report, entitled Tracking GhostNet: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network, was compiled after a ten-month collaboration between Ottawa’s SecDev group and the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre for International Studies. Although the report concludes that the cyberespionage ring is located mainly in China, it specifically rejects claims that GhostNet is inevitably a Chinese government operation, saying that there is no evidence that Beijing is behind the operation. University of Toronto associate professor Ronald Deibert suggested that the operation could potentially be the work of non-state pro-Chinese actors, or could be conducted by a profit-oriented group that sells the acquired information to whoever offers it the highest monetary compensation. “It’s a murky realm that we’re lifting the lid on”, said Dr. Deibert: “This could well be the CIA or the Russians”. Read more of this post

Analysis: Behind the Recent CIA Espionage Indictments

Harold Nicholson

H.J. Nicholson

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In 1997, when Harold James Nicholson was convicted for working for Russian intelligence, he became the highest-ranking CIA officer to be convicted of spying on behalf of a foreign agency. Last Thursday, it emerged that 24-year-old Nathaniel James Nicholson, Harold Nicholson’s youngest son, was arrested by FBI counterintelligence officers and charged with repeatedly contacting Russian officials on behalf of his imprisoned father. According to the court documents (.pdf) released Thursday, the purpose of Nathaniel Nicholson’s contact with the Russians was “to collect moneys from the Russian Federation for his [father’s] past espionage activities”. In reporting on the Nicholsons’ case, The New York Times quoted an anonymous “intelligence official” who played down Harold Nicholson’s importance for the Russians and suggested that “[t]his just shows that the Russians are either sentimental or stupid”. In fact, the Russians are neither, and The New York Times‘ sources should know better than to downplay Nicholson’s continued contact with his Russian handlers. Read article→

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