News you may have missed #651

Chris VanekerBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Israel defense minister forbids spy official’s lecture. Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak has refused to allow the head of research for Military Intelligence, Brigadier General Itai Baron, to lecture at the annual conference of Israel’s ambassadors unless the lecture is deemed ‘unclassified’. The conference deals with diplomatic and security issues and public affairs, and the lectures are given by senior Israeli government and military officials.
►►CIA agrees to look into OSINT FOIA request. Open Source Works, which is the CIA’s in-house open source analysis component, is devoted to intelligence analysis of unclassified, open source information. Oddly enough, the directive that established Open Source Works is classified. But in an abrupt reversal, the CIA said that it will process a Freedom of Information Act request by intelligence historian Jeffrey Richelson for documents pertaining to Open Source Works.
►►Dutch former pilot convicted of espionage. A court in The Hague has sentenced former F-16 pilot Chris Vaneker to five years in jail after finding him guilty of selling state secrets to a Russian diplomat. Vaneker wanted half-a-million euros for the information he was trying to sell to the military attaché at the Russian embassy in The Hague. The pilot and the Russian diplomat were arrested in March.

News you may have missed #544

Google

Google

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Russia a ‘leading suspect’ in cyberespionage attack on US. I wrote on Monday about the cyberespionage operation that targeted a leading US defense contractor last March, and resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of classified documents. US Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III, who disclosed the operation, said only that it was conducted by “a foreign intelligence service”. According to the last sentence of this NBC report, US officials see Russian intelligence as “one of the leading suspects” in the attack. ►►Al-Qaeda acquires Pakistani spy service manuals. Jamestown Foundation researcher Abdul Hameed Bakier reports that al-Qaeda operatives have managed to get access to espionage training manuals used by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI). Copies of the documents have apparently been posted on Internet forums that are sympathetic to al-Qaeda, and bear the mark of the As-Sahab Foundation, al-Qaeda’s media wing. ►►Google-NSA collaboration documents to remain secret —for now. Even before Google shut down its operations in China, following a massive cyberattack against its servers in early 2010, the company has maintained close contact with American intelligence agencies. But after the 2010 cyberattack, some believe that Google’s relationship with the US intelligence community has become too cozy. In February of 2010, the ACLU said it was concerned about Google’s contacts with the US National Security Agency (NSA). Other groups, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), have filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests seeking access to the inner workings of Google’s relationship with NSA. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #536 (US edition)

James Risen

James Risen

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US federal agencies sitting on decade-old FOIA requests. In the United States, as Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests are growing, a new study has found that eight government agencies are sitting on requests filed over ten years ago. According to the Knight Open Government Survey, conducted by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, the single oldest request is now 20 years old. FOIA requires agencies to process and respond to a request within 20 business days. ►►US journalist seeks to avoid testifying at CIA agent’s trial. A sizeable percentage of FOIA requests are filed by journalists, who are also on the receiving ends of most intelligence-related ‘leaks’ in the United States. One of those journalists, James Risen, of The New York Times, has been subpoenaed by the Obama administration to testify at the trial of Jeffrey Sterling. Sterling is a former CIA employee, who has been arrested under the Espionage Act for allegedly revealing details about Operation MERLIN to Risen. MERLIN was a botched US effort to provide Iran with a flawed design for building a nuclear weapon, in order to delay the alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program. Times lawyers argue that the First Amendment should shield Risen from having to testify at Sterling’s trial. ►►US intel research agency works on 3-D holographs. Also in the United States, IARPA, the US intelligence community’s technical research wing, has announced that it is working on a system that lets intelligence analysts collaborate with each other using “interactive 3-D holographic displays”. Through this system, IARPA hopes that intelligence personnel could take simultaneous virtual strolls through real-life target locations, help plan raids, etc.

News you may have missed #474

  • Israel jails Arab activist for spying. A court in Haifa has sentenced prominent Israeli Arab activist Ameer Makhoul to nine years in prison and another year suspended sentence for charges of spying and contacting a foreign agent from Lebanon-based Hezbollah.
  • Assange used disguise to evade surveillance new book reveals. WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange disguised himself as an old woman in a wig for fear he was being followed by US intelligence, according to a book published this week by British quality broadsheet The Guardian. According to another book, to be published by journalists at German weekly newsmagazine Der Spiegel, Assange expressed private fears that the content of the US embassy cables was too explosive for his organization to withstand.
  • US Congressman wants to know who wants to know. Republican Representative Darrell Issa wants to know the names of hundreds of thousands of ordinary American citizens who have requested copies of federal government documents in recent years. Issa, the new chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, saying he simply wants to “make sure agencies respond in a timely fashion to Freedom of Information Act requests”. Hmmm…

News you may have missed #409

  • Probe unearths secrets of Bulgaria’s assassination bureau. Previously unknown details on Service 7, Bulgaria’s Cold War-era assassination bureau, have been unearthed by one of Bulgaria’s leading newspapers, following a probe into 5,000 pages of declassified archives from the country’s former communist intelligence service, the First Directorate of the Committee on State Security.
  • US Pentagon bars troops from reading WikiLeaks. Any citizen, any foreign spy, any member of the Taliban, and any terrorist can go to the WikiLeaks web site, and download detailed information. Members of that same military, however, are now banned from looking at those internal military documents, because “doing so would introduce potentially classified information on unclassified networks”.
  • Analysis: Chasing Wikileaks. “[W]hatever the imperfections of WikiLeaks as a startup, its emergence points to a real shortcoming within our intelligence community. Secrets can be kept by deterrence –that is, by hunting down the people who leak them […]. But there are other methods: keep far fewer secrets, manage them better –and, perhaps, along the way, become a bit more like WikiLeaks. An official government Web site that would make the implementation of FOIA quicker and more uniform, comprehensive, and accessible”.

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Documents detail history of previously unknown US spy agency

John V. Grombach

J.V. Grombach

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A collection of tens of thousands of documents discovered in a barn in a small Virginia town, have brought to light the history and operations of a previously unknown US spy agency that competed for prominence with the CIA during the early stages of the Cold War. The secrecy-obsessed agency was known at various times as the Secret Intelligence Branch, the Special Service Branch, the Special Service Section, or the Coverage and Indoctrination Branch; but insiders referred to it simply as “the Lake” or “the Pond”. It was created in late 1942 by the then newly established US Department of Defense, whose officials did not approve of the civilian character of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), forerunner of the CIA. In its 13-year existence, the Pond operated on a semi-autonomous base under the Departments of Defense and State, but maintained a poor relationship with the CIA, which it considered too “integrated with British and French Intelligence and infiltrated by Communists and Russians”. This information is contained in the files, which were stored in several safes and filing cabinets by the organization’s secretive leader, US Army Colonel John V. Grombach, who died in 1982. Read more of this post

US officials sought ‘national security’ clause to keep bailout details secret

Securities and Exchange Commission logo

SEC logo

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
US officials in charge of regulating securities exchanges sought to apply a ‘national security’ clause to information relating to the government’s bailout of giant insurance company American International Group (AIG). Emails obtained by Reuters show that, in November of 2008, the New York Federal Reserve (NYFR), which administered the bailout, collaborated with AIG in requesting that US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) officials apply “special security procedures” to shield bailout-related information from public scrutiny. Instead of dismissing the –possibly illegal– request, SEC officials advised NYFR and AIG to publicly file heavily redacted versions of the documents in question, and request “confidential treatment” for the redacted portions, citing ‘national security’ clauses. Read more of this post