News you may have missed #619 (WikiLeaks edition)

Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren

►►US suspends diplomat for linking blog to WikiLeaks. The State Department has suspended Peter Van Buren (pictured), a 23-year veteran foreign service officer, for writing a book critical of US policy in Iraq and blog posts that included a link to a WikiLeaks cable. Van Buren, who worked in human relations, said he was escorted out of the State Department on Monday and barred from returning for two days while officials there decide what to do next with him. They had stripped him of his top secret security clearance a few days earlier, he said.
►►Solomon Islands minister was CIA source. Classified US diplomatic cables from 2006, recently published by WikiLeaks, have revealed that the Solomon Islands’ former Foreign Affairs Minister and businessman Laurie Chan has acted as a reliable source of US and Australian intelligence in the Pacific island country.
►►Diplomatic cable sheds light on suicides of Bulgarian spies. A diplomatic following cable, sent by John Beyrle, US Ambassador to Bulgaria before going to Moscow, dated January 25, 2007, has been released by WikiLeaks. The cable sheds light on reshuffles in the leadership of the country’s intelligence services and the suicides of two high-ranking intelligence employees.

News you may have missed #540

Jim Judd

Jim Judd

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►► Bulgaria bars ex-spies from holding diplomatic posts. Bulgaria’s conservative-majority parliament has voted to bar individuals who once worked for the country’s communist-era secret service from holding top diplomatic jobs. The aim of the legislation is what Eastern European countries call ‘lustration’, namely the process of cleansing of their security and intelligence agencies from Soviet-era operatives. The practical problem with that, of course, is that, in doing so, Eastern European intelligence services do away with some of their best-trained operatives. Moreover, there is nothing to suggest that Bulgaria’s post-communist spy agencies are significantly more law-abiding than their communist-era predecessors. Regular IntelNews readers might remember our coverage of Operation GALERIA as a case in point. ►► Ex-spymaster says Canada is too concerned about torture. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s (CSIS) struggle to isolate itself from complicity in torture by US and British spy agencies has reached the “point where we were probably alienating foreign partners” by not sharing intelligence. This is the opinion of Jim Judd, former Director of CSIS. He also argued that “strident anti-torture interpretations” would affect “everything and anything CSIS did, with respect to foreign intelligence agencies”. Judd, a career spy who retired in 2009, is considered something of a hawk, and probably rightly so. ►► NSA whistleblower requests reduced sentence (update: No jail time for Drake, judge releases him saying he has been through “four years of hell”). Thomas Drake was a senior official with the US National Security Agency. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0163

  • South Korean ex-spy master dies. Lee Hu-rak, who has died at age 85, headed the Korea Central Intelligence Agency, a predecessor of today’s National Intelligence Service, from 1970-1973. He was best known for brokering the signing of a historic 1972 peace document with North Korea, after an unprecedented secret trip to Pyongyang, during which he met North Korean leader Kim Il Sung.
  • Spy like us. How a mild-mannered Baltimore antique dealer became one of the FBI’s best undercover agents.
  • Bulgaria quits plans to disband State National Security Agency. Bulgaria’s government has made clear it does not plan to suspend, but just to “streamline”, the operations of the scandal-prone State National Security Agency DANS.

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News you may have missed #0118

  • Second spy operation against media revealed in Bulgaria. A few months ago, Bulgarian public opinion was shocked by revelations about Operation GALLERY (a.k.a. Operation GALERIA), a project by Bulgarian State Agency for National Security (DANS) aimed to intimidate the country’s press. Now a second domestic spying program has been discovered by the appropriately named Bulgarian Parliamentary Committee for Controlling DANS.
  • US military cannot analyze surveillance footage influx. The heaps of intelligence footage gathered by US military spy drones and surveillance cameras are already more than analysts can handle. So DARPA, the US military’s research arm, is looking for a software program that will automate the analysis process.

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News you may have missed #0095

  • New revelations about Bulgarian domestic spying case. It appears that Operation GALLERY (a.k.a. Operation GALERIA), by the Bulgarian State Agency for National Security (DANS), was primarily aimed at the Bulgarian tabloid newspaper Weekend and journalist Dimitar Zlatkov. Journalist Ognyan Stefanov, who was nearly beaten to death after authoring an article implicating DANS officials in illicit trafficking activities (see previous intelNews coverage), appears to have been simply collateral damage.
  • Taliban use CIA-supplied mines against US-led forces in Afghanistan. Evidence from the US Defense Department, Canadian forces in Afghanistan and the Taliban itself suggest that the increased damage to NATO tanks by Taliban forces has come from anti-tank mines provided by the US to the jihadi movement in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
  • Massive domestic spying revealed in Russia. From January to June this year, Russian intelligence agents surreptitiously opened 115,000 letters, listened in on 64,000 personal phone conversations, and broke into 11,000 private homes according to information from Russia’s Supreme Court.

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News you may have missed #0077

  • US Army documents reveal Mexican military’s role in massacre. Newly declassified documents from the US Defense Intelligence Agency describe the Mexican Army’s role in backing paramilitary groups in Chiapas at the time of the Acteal massacre. The massacre involved the killing of 45 people attending a prayer meeting of Roman Catholic indigenous townspeople, including a number of children and pregnant women, who were members of the pacifist group Las Abejas (“The Bees”).
  • Tamils in the UK continue fundraising despite spy fears. Members of the Tamil community in Oxford, England, have vowed to continue fundraising despite fears that the Sri Lankan government is spying on them.
  • Major purge at Bulgarian intelligence agency. More key officials of Bulgaria’s State National Security Agency (DANS) have submitted their resignations after its director, Petko Sertov, was recently replaced. Sertov was allegedly axed because Bulgaria’s “American partners were said to have lost faith” in him.

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News you may have missed #0060

  • Ex-FBI translator tests US Justice Department again. Former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds has spent seven years trying to get a court to hear her allegations that Turkish intelligence agents had penetrated her unit, the State Department, the Pentagon and Congress. This weekend she’s going to try again.
  • Bulgaria appoints new National Security Agency director. Tsvetelin Yovchev is the new head of the State National Security Agency (DANS). The Agency’s previous director, Petko Sertov, recently handed his resignation, allegedly after Bulgaria’s “American partners were said to have lost faith” in him. He will now serve as Bulgaria’s general consul in Thessaloniki, northern Greece.
  • US paper sees power struggle inside Iranian intelligence. The Washington Times claims the recent firing of intelligence minister Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, two other Ali Khamenei loyalists and nearly 20 other high-ranking officials, has weakened Khamenei’s hold over the Iranian intelligence ministry and has strengthened the power of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards.

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