News you may have missed #345

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News you may have missed #0248

  • Cuba insists jailed US contractor is secret service agent. Cuban officials say that a US citizen working for Maryland-based international aid group Development Alternatives Inc., who was arrested in Havana last month, was actually recruiting local Cubans to spy on the government.
  • Analysis: Spying in Eastern Europe heats up again. The Cold War may be 20 years dead and buried, but it seems that the old East-West spying game is not only alive and kicking, but gaining vigor in places like Warsaw, Prague and Tallinn.
  • Obama designates new list of secrecy gatekeepers. The US president has designated over two dozen officials as “original classification authorities” (OCAs), who have the power to classify government information as Top Secret or Secret, and (in most cases) to delegate such authority to their subordinates. Importantly, the directive says that OCAs will lose their job if they fail to “receive training in proper classification […] at least once a calendar year”.

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News you may have missed #0229

  • Russians claim outing ‘100 spies’ in Novosibirsk in 2009. Siberian scientific centers in Novosibirsk, and especially in its suburb of Akademgorodok, nicknamed “science city” by the Russians, are noted for their research in the fields of oil and gas geology, nanotechnology, creation of new materials, and biochemistry, among other subjects. See here for previous intelNews reporting on this issue.
  • Obama proposes liaison exchange with North Korea. US President Barack Obama has proposed setting up a liaison office in North Korea –something like a US Interests Section– in a letter to leader Kim Jong Il. Such a move would help augment the US’ meager intelligence gathering in North Korea.
  • Estonian phone, web data tapped by Swedish intelligence? The Estonian Security Police (KaPo) has cautioned Estonian telecommunications users to avoid discussing “sensitive subjects” by phone and on the Internet, after an Estonian newspaper revealed that large chunks of Estonia’s telecommunications traffic pass through Sweden before reaching the outside world.

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Indians allege Pakistani spies funded through Europe

India-Pak border

India-Pak border

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Indian authorities have told a major newspaper that Pakistani spies operating in India are funded with money transfers from spy handlers in Europe. Indian daily The Telegraph cites Indian counterintelligence sources, who claim that Pakistani embassies in several European nations, including Spain, Estonia and Luxembourg, use “a popular money transfer company” (in all likelihood Western Union) to fund Pakistani agents operating in India. According to the Indians, most money transfers are facilitated through the simple technique of email account password sharing, which allows both the handler in Europe and the agent in India to access the same email inbox, as well as the same money transfer drafts. Read more of this post

Analysis: Assessing the record of Russian espionage

R. Kupchinsky

R. Kupchinsky

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Roman Kupchinsky has penned an article for The Prague Post, in which he examines the recent expulsion of two Russian spies from the Czech Republic as part of a broader decline in Russian intelligence operations. The Jamestown Foundation analyst explains that Vladimir Putin’s campaign to rebuild the Russian espionage activities abroad to their former glory has not borne fruits. Rather, the gradual decay in Russia’s global intelligence presence, which began in the early 1980s, continues to mire the country’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). The SVR is the successor to the KGB’s First Chief Directorate (PGU), which was responsible for foreign operations and intelligence collection. Although Kupchinsky’s view is shared by a many Western intelligence observers, some remain skeptical. Read more of this post

NATO spy convicted by Estonian court

Herman Simm

Herman Simm

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Herman Simm, the Estonian spy who handed classified NATO material to Russia, has been convicted to 12.5 years’ imprisonment and ordered to pay $1.6 million for damages he caused while spying for the Russians. Simm, a high-level official at the Estonian defense ministry, who once headed the country’s National Security Authority, was arrested last November along with his wife and charged with spying for Russia for over 10 years. At the time of his arrest, Simm’s spying activities were described by Western counterintelligence officials as perhaps “the most serious case of espionage against NATO since the end of the Cold War”. Read more of this post

Tallinn government surveillance cameras reveal black bag operation

A surveillance camera monitoring the City Government building in Estonian capital Tallinn has recorded nighttime images of what appears to be a black bag operation by either Kaitsepolitseiamet (KPol), the country’s  Security Police, or by Russian intelligence. Black bag operations refer to covert, surreptitious entries into structures in the course of human intelligence missions. Responding to allegations by Tallinn mayor, Edgar Savisaar, the country’s public prosecutor disclosed that KPol officers had surreptitiously entered the building to “remove secret microphones” from the office of Ivo Parbus, an adviser to the city’s deputy mayor, who has been arrested in connection with a bribing scandal. However, Tallinn’s mayor says that he does not believe the break-in to have been authorized by KPol, and that “he has information that one [of the] person[s seen] entering the building is a former spy of the Russian army”. Read more of this post

Estonian sleeper agent may have been double spy, say Germans

Herman Simm

Herman Simm

Last month, Estonian counterintelligence agents arrested Herman Simm, a high-level official at the Estonian defense ministry, on charges that he spied on behalf of Russian intelligence for nearly 30 years. At the time, Western counterintelligence officials said Simm, who was in charge of handling all of Estonia’s “classified and top secret material on NATO”, was at the center of “the most serious case of espionage against NATO since the end of the Cold War”. But the complexity of this espionage affair has now increased, with German weekly magazine Der Spiegel reporting that Simm was also a paid informant of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence service. Read more of this post

Russian Sleeper Agent Caught Spying on NATO

For the past year many in the know have been suspecting that the sophisticated Russian diplomatic maneuvers on the US missile defense shield are built on inside information on the project. Now a number of reports have emerged in the British press, pointing to a busting of what is probably an extensive network of Russian-handled spies in Estonia. Herman Simm, a high-level official at the Estonian defense ministry, has been arrested along with his wife on charges that he spied on behalf of Russian intelligence for over 10 years. Estonian and Western counterintelligence are still after his handler, who is known as “the Spaniard” because of his cover as a Spanish entrepreneur. Simm, who is described as a “sleeper” agent, was probably at the center of what can be said to be “the most serious case of espionage against NATO since the end of the Cold War”. This is not only because he was “responsible for handling all his country’s classified and top secret material on NATO”, but also because he was in charge of Estonia’s relatively advanced national cyber defense systems, as well as “for many years in charge of issuing security clearance[s]”. Perhaps more importantly, he is said to have been privy to crucial NATO information pertaining to the US missile shield project. No wonder an anonymous German official has described this latest Russian penetration of NATO as a “catastrophe”. This is not the first spy story to emerge out of Estonia since the end of the Cold War. Insiders will remember a story from ten years ago of a high-ranking Estonian police officer who defected to Britain on the run from FSB agents who were blackmailing him for recruitment purposes. [IA]

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