Australia fears Asia backlash over PRISM surveillance revelations

David IrvineBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The government of Australia is concerned that American whistleblower Edward Snowden may leak classified information that could damage Australia’s relations with its Asian neighbors, including China and Malaysia. Early this month, Snowden, a former technical assistant for the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), disclosed the existence of PRISM, a clandestine electronic surveillance program operated by the US National Security Agency (NSA). Information provided by Snowden to British newspaper The Guardian suggests that Washington routinely shares PRISM intelligence with Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Australia. These four countries, along with the United States, are signatories to the so-called UKUSA agreement, a multilateral accord for cooperation in signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection, which was established secretly in 1946. Australian media reported on Wednesday that the Australian Parliament’s Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security had been briefed by senior intelligence officials on Australia’s role in PRISM. The Sydney Morning Herald said that David Irvine, Director of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, and Ian McKenzie, who heads Australia’s Defence Signals Directorate, were among those who briefed the parliamentary Committee. Its members were reportedly told that the disclosures about PRISM were likely to damage Canberra’s relations with several Asian countries, in ways that are difficult to predict. One unidentified Australian intelligence official told The Herald that Snowden had “very wide access” to classified information held by the NSA, and that some of it probably includes “much detail of communications intelligence cooperation between the US and Australia”. One source went as far as to say that Snowden’s disclosures have already “damaged […] Australia’s intelligence capabilities”. Read more of this post

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Uri SaguyBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Israeli ex-intel chief says warns of ‘hysteria’ over Iran. Major General Uri Saguy (a.k.a. Uri Sagi), who was head of the IDF’s Operations Directorate during the 1982 Lebanon war, and Military Intelligence chief from 1991 to 1995, has warned of an “orchestrated and purposely timed hysteria that puts the country into a state of anxiety, artificial or not”, regarding the Iranian nuclear issue. Saguy, who resigned from the IDF in 1995 due to a conflict between him and the Chief of General Staff, added that “it would be a mistake if Israel uses force, certainly now, in order to thwart the Iranian nuclear potential”. The essence of Saguy’s message, notes Ha’aretz‘s Amir Oren, is that Israel’s citizens cannot trust Defense Minister Ehud Barak or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
►►Australian spy chief warns of economic espionage. The director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, David Irvine, has warned that the online revolution has left Australian companies increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks and commercial espionage. Speaking to a business audience in Canberra, Irvine said that most online attacks in the business world go undetected, despite growing awareness of the threat. Asked how much commercial cyber crime went undetected, he said: “I would be very surprised if we who are active in this area are picking up the greater proportion of it, in fact, quite the reverse”.
►►Top US military official objects to attack on Iran. As Israeli officials are telling local reporters that they’re really, really ready to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, and they mean it this time, the top US military officer is saying what a terrible idea that would be. “I may not know about all of [Israel’s] capabilities”, said General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “But I think that it’s a fair characterization to say that they could delay but not destroy Iran’s nuclear capabilities”. Left unsaid: in a few years, the US and Israel would be back to the same standoff with Iran —except this time it might do so amidst a proxy terrorist war to avenge the Iranians.

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Glenn CarleBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►MI6 role in rendition could be concealed in new bill. Libyan government officials Sami al-Saadi and Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who allege that they were taken by rendition by Britain to Libya eight years ago, are expected to begin legal proceedings against the British government and Jack Straw, Britain’s former foreign secretary, next month. However, after pressure from the security services, MI5 and MI6, the British government is preparing to publish a Justice and Security Bill that could allow these cases to be held in their entirety behind closed doors.
►►Aussie spy agency defends new headquarters. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation says its new headquarters in Canberra is not at risk of being spied upon, despite the use of a lot of glass. ASIO director general David Irvine told a senate committee on Thursday it would be impossible for someone with a high resolution camera on the other side of Lake Burley Griffin to spy on the nation’s spies. Australian Greens senator Scott Ludlam had asked whether the design of the “glass palace” could threaten the secrecy of its work.
►►Good interview with ex-CIA officer Glenn Carle. In this interview, Carle, a retired CIA case officer who wrote The Interrogator: An Education, says his former employers have called his publisher asking them to pulp his book; they rang every major network to prevent him going on air. They are, he says several times, “vicious” and have perpetrated a stain on America’s national character.

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Janne KristiansenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Russian military intelligence to ‘change tactics’. Russian military intelligence is adjusting its work methods in response to the “worsening international situation”, Igor Sergun, the head of GRU —the country’s largest espionage agency— has told President Dmitry Medvedev. Currently, the GRU’s main focus is on “hot spots where terrorist and extremist groups are acting, regions with crisis situations, and also the sources and possible routes of illegal proliferation of nuclear materials and the components of weapons of mass destruction”, Sergun told Medvedev.
►►Norway spy chief quits in secrecy gaffe. Norway’s head of intelligence Janne Kristiansen has handed in her resignation because she said too much during a parliamentary hearing. According to a transcript, Ms Kristiansen, who until now headed the country’s Police Security Service (PST), told the hearing that Norway had agents working in Pakistan. According to reports Pakistan has asked the government of Norway to explain Kristiansen’s remarks.
►►Review of Australia’s spy community released. Public findings of the first independent review of Australia’s intelligence community in eight years were released on January 25. The 2011 Independent Review of the Intelligence Community acknowledges and justifies the Australian spy agencies’ unprecedented growth since September 11, which saw some agencies increasing their funding almost 500 per cent in a decade. Meanwhile, David Irvine, Director of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, said in a rare public talk that future Australian spies would be recruited “from within our newly arrived migrant communities”.

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David Irvine

David Irvine

►►Egypt extends detention of alleged Israel spy. An Egyptian court has extended the detention of alleged Israeli spy Ilan Grapel by 45 days, the Egyptian Al-Ahram newspaper reported on Wednesday. Grapel was arrested in Cairo in June.
►►Australian spy chief raises cyberespionage concerns. The advent of cyberespionage is serving only to reinvigorate the craft of espionage, making such spying easier than ever, the Australian Security Intelligence Organization chief, David Irvine, has told a conference in Canberra. Espionage, which has taken a back seat to terrorism since the attacks of September 11, 2001, is alive and well, said Irvine.
►►US intel official says al-Qaeda operations could end in two years. Michael G. Vickers, the US undersecretary of defense for intelligence, said at a defense conference that if the current pace of US operations continues, “within 18 to 24 months, core al-Qaeda’s cohesion and operational capabilities could be degraded to the point that the group could fragment”. Vickers’s remark represents the first time that a senior US official has offered a time frame for achieving the collapse of the organization responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

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David Irvine

David Irvine

►►UK Prime Minister criticizes Russia over murdered spy. British Prime Minister David Cameron criticized Russia on Monday over its refusal to hand over Andrei Lugovoy, a former KGB agent suspected in the 2006 poisoning death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London. He also rejected a call from Russia for the restoration of links between the two countries’ intelligence agencies. But the two sides did “set aside their political differences […] to sign multi-million dollar business deals”. Oh, well.
►►Aussie spy agency investigating more terror threats than ever. The Australian Security Intelligence Organization has trebled in size over the past decade and now has unprecedented powers. In a rare interview, ASIO Director General David Irvine says he is worried about the potential of an attack similar to the recent shootings and bombings in Norway.
►►‘Cuban Five’ spy member seeks return home after prison. Rene Gonzalez, a former Cuban intelligence officer convicted of spying in the US, wants a federal judge to permit his return to Cuba after his release from prison next month. But US government prosecutors say Gonzalez never showed remorse for his crimes and that there’s no justification for him to go to Cuba.

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David Irvine

David Irvine

►►Australian computer networks spied ‘massively’. Cyberespionage is being used against Australia on a “massive scale” and some foreign spies are using Australian government networks to penetrate the cyberdefenses of allies such as the United States. This according to the Director of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) David Irvine. Speaking at a business forum, Mr. Irvine said that “it seems the more rocks we turn over in cyberspace, the more [cyberespionage] we find”.
►►US to give Iraq wiretapping system. The US will give the government of Iraq a wiretapping system that will allow it to monitor and store voice calls, data transmissions and text messages from up to 5,000 devices simultaneously. The system is to be installed with the acquiescence of the three current cellular communications providers in Iraq, according to the US Air Force. A similar system was set up by a US contractor three years ago in Afghanistan.
►►Judge says NSA whistleblower faced ‘tyrannical’ US government. This blog has kept an eye on the case of Thoma Drake, a former US National Security Agency employee  who was taken to court for leaking secrets about the agency to a journalist. But the judge in his case, Richard D. Bennett, refused Read more of this post