Intelligence officer who forged credentials did not betray secrets, says Sweden

Sweden militaryA man who rose through the ranks of the Swedish Armed Forces by using forged credentials, and worked as an intelligence officer in NATO while liaising with the Russian security services, did not betray national secrets, according to Swedish officials.

The man, who has not been named by the Swedish government, served in the Försvars- makten —the Swedish Armed Forces— for 18 years. He used forged certificates to claim that he had a university degree in political science. He also claimed that he had successfully completed the Swedish Army’s officer training program, a claim that he supported with a forged certificate of completion.

During his military career, he participated in Sweden’s international peacekeeping missions in Kosovo, as well as in Afghanistan, where he served with the rank of major. Between 2007 and 2010, and then again in 2013, the unnamed man was an employee of the Swedish Military Intelligence and Security Service (MUST), where he worked as a liaison between MUST and Russia’s Federal Security Service.

In 2012 he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel and was dispatched to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, which is the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Allied Command Operations. Sweden is not a member of NATO but has close ties with the alliance. While in Belgium, the unnamed man joined the Afghanistan Mission Network, an intelligence-sharing platform for nations that participated in military and peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan. He then joined Sweden’s United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali as its chief of staff, with the rank of major.

The forgeries that he used to join the military were reportedly detected in 2019, but the case did not become public until earlier this month, when the Stockholm-based newspaper Dagens Nyheter published an claimed about it. On Thursday, the chief of staff of the Försvarsmakten, General Micael Byden, told the Defense Committee of the Swedish Parliament that the unnamed man did not harm Sweden’s national security. General Byden briefed the committee on the results of an internal investigation into the case by the armed forces. He claimed that the investigation had found “nothing that indicates that classified information had been disseminated” to Russia or any other foreign power by the unnamed man. NATO has not commented on the case.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 24 January 2020 | Permalink

French counterterrorism officer charged with selling forged documents online

DGSI FranceAn officer in France’s elite counterterrorism agency is to be tried along with four accomplices for selling forged identity documents and private data on the darknet. The case first emerged in 2018, after officers with France’s Central Office for the Prevention of Illegal Immigration (OCRIEST) detected a seller of high quality forged copies of official documents on the darknet.

The seller, who went by the nickname Haurus, offered French identification cards, drivers’ licenses, birth certificates and even bank documents, in exchange for between €100 and €300 ($110 and $330). The quality of the documents on sale was substantially higher than most forgeries sold on the darknet. According to French government investigators, the fake docments qualified as what anti-forgery experts call “the gold standard”. Haurus also sold private phone records and other information to track the whereabouts of individuals.

Government investigators eventually received an anonymous tip that helped identify Haurus. According to prosecutors, Haurus was an officer in the General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI), which serves as France’s main counterterrorism agency. In accordance with France’s strict privacy laws, he has been identified only as “Cédric D.”, 33. According to Le Parisien newspaper, Cédric D. worked as a counterterrorism investigator specializing on jihadist terrorist networks.

Upon his arrest, Cédric D. led prosecutors to four more people, including a private investigator, all of whom were eventually apprehended. Cédric D. was kept in pre-trial detention for several months. He was released five months ago and remains under judicial supervision. The investigation into his activities has now concluded, and a trial is expected to commence soon in the Paris suburb of Nanterre.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 23 January 2020 | Permalink

North Korean leaders used fraudulent Brazilian passports to travel abroad

Josef PwagThe late Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-il, and his son and current Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, used forged Brazilian passports to secure visas for overseas trips and to travel abroad undetected, according to reports. The Reuters news agency cited five anonymous “senior Western European security sources” in claiming that the two North Korean leaders’ images appear on Brazilian passports issued in the 1990s. The news agency posted images of the passports, which appear to display photographs of Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un. It said that the two leaders’ faces had been verified through the use of facial recognition software.

The passports were issued in the name of Josef Pwag and Ijong Tchoi. Both bear fake dates of birth and list Sao Paulo, Brazil, as the passport holders’ birthplace. Both passports bear the issuance stamp of the “Embassy of Brazil in Prague”, Czech Republic, and are dated February 26, 1996. Reuters cited an anonymous source from Brazil, who said that the fake passports were not forged from scratch. They were in fact genuine travel documents that had been sent out in blank form for use by the Brazilian embassy’s passport issuance office. The Reuters report quotes an unnamed Western security official who said that the forged passports were mostly likely used by their holders to secure travel visas from foreign embassies in Southeast Asia, mostly in Japan and Hong Kong. They could also have been used as back-ups, in case the two Kims needed to be evacuated from North Korea in an emergency —for instance an adversarial military coup or a foreign military invasion. At the very least, the passports indicate a desire to secure and safeguard the Kims’ ability to travel internationally.

North Korea’s intelligence services are known for making extensive use of fraudulent passports. Readers of this blog will recall that the two female North Korean agents who killed Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-un’s half-brother, in February of 2017, had been supplied with forged passports. The two women, who are now in prison in Malaysia, were using Indonesian and Vietnamese passports.

Reuters said it contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brazil, which said it was still investigating the whether the two passports were indeed issued to members of North Korea’s ruling family, and how they came to be issued. The news agency also contacted the embassy of North Korea in Brazil, but officials there declined to comment.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 01 March 2018 | Permalink

Fake Syrian passports given to ISIS members found in Greek refugee camps

Syrian passportFake Syrian passports designed for use by members of the Islamic State trying to enter Europe have been found in refugee camps in Greece during an investigation by the law enforcement agency of the European Union (EU). Officials from Europol, the EU agency that coordinates intelligence operations against organized crime across EU-member-states, said that the fake travel documents were found during a fact-finding mission in Greek refugee camps. The mission was part of a larger investigation into the production and use of forged passports by the Islamic State, the Sunni militant group that is also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

According to the Italian newspaper La Stampa, which published the claim, Europol is investigating the production and distribution of fake passports by ISIS in its strongholds of Syria and Iraq, and among refugee networks in European countries like Belgium, Austria, Italy and Greece. Greece is the most widely used route into Europe by hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria and the rest of the Middle East, who leave their countries in hopes of migrating to the prosperous countries of Western Europe. Nearly 60,000 of them have been trapped in Greece since April, when Macedonia shut down its borders, thus preventing migrants from heading north. These people have been living in refugee camps since that time, hoping for a chance to continue the journey northwards.

But in a leading article published last weekend, La Stampa claimed that ISIS is using the refugee crisis form Syria to infiltrate Europe with militants intent on launching attacks on soft targets. The militants are supplied with false identity papers, said La Stampa, primarily fake Syrian and Iraqi passports. They then use these passports to enter Greece. Their goal is to eventually travel north to countries such as Belgium, Germany, Austria or France, and claim asylum there. La Stampa quoted one unnamed Europol official as saying that fake passports “that were destined to supposed members of ISIS” had been identified in refugee camps in Greece. It has been confirmed that at least two of the perpetrators of last November’s attacks in Paris, France, which killed over 130 people, entered the EU using forged Syrian passports. The Italian daily also noted that the reliability of Turkey, from where the vast majority of Syrian refugees entered Europe in recent years, remains fragile after the failed July 15 coup, which has altered the balance of power in that country. As a result, the EU-Turkey migrant deal may collapse “at any moment”, said the paper.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 24 August 2016 | Permalink

IRA source in high-profile counterfeit money case claims his life is in danger

SupernoteA former senior member of the Official Irish Republican Army in the United Kingdom claims that he was abandoned by British and American spy agencies after he testified in a high-profile counterfeiting case. The case involves members of the Official IRA, including its alleged former chief of staff, who is wanted in the United States in connection with the so-called supernote counterfeit money investigation. The supernote, also known as superdollar or superbill, is a fake 100-dollar bill believed to be one of the highest-quality counterfeit banknotes ever detected. The US government believes that a nation-state is behind the production of the supernote, with North Korea being the primary suspect.

In 2000, in cooperation with the US Secret Service, British intelligence conducted a large-scale undercover operation codenamed MALI. According to the BBC’s investigative news program Panorama, the operation focused on Seán Garland, the former chief of staff of the Official IRA and former president of its political wing, the Workers’ Party of Ireland. The Official IRA and the Provisional IRA were the two main splinter groups of the “old” IRA, which parted ways in 1969 due to ideological and tactical differences. In 1972, the Official IRA declared a unilateral ceasefire and eventually morphed in to a leftwing political party calling itself the Workers’ Party of Ireland. Operation MALI allegedly found that the Workers’ Party former president, Seán Garland, traveled to Russia and visited the embassy of North Korea in Moscow. He is said to have picked up a package containing supernotes, which he then secretly smuggled into Ireland and from there to England, in exchange for money. Garland was arrested in 2005 in Belfast, UK, but managed to flee to Ireland when he was released on medical leave. He was arrested again in 2009 and released on bail. In 2011, his extradition request to the US was rejected by an Irish court on a technicality, but he remains wanted by Washington. Ireland is also considering whether there are legal grounds to prosecute Garland in Dublin. He and his supporters deny the charges against him and claim that they are politically motivated.

Last week, however, the man believed to be behind the tip-off that led to Garland’s arrest, said his life was in danger. The man, who uses the pseudonym “Michael O’Brien”, was a member of the Official IRA in the 1970s. But he says that after 1996 he worked as an undercover informant for Britain’s Security Service (MI5) and the Anti-Terrorist Branch of the British Police. He claims that it was he who first alerted British authorities about the involvement of members of the Workers’ Party of Ireland in the distribution of supernotes from Russia to Europe. He is also believed to have testified behind closed doors at a US court hearing involving Garland and other alleged conspirators in the counterfeit money case. However, O’Brien told The Sunday Times last week that his cover was blown in January of this year. Since then, he has allegedly been the subject of death threats and had to abandon his home in Belfast as a result. He also claims that the US Secret Service and British police have failed to provide him with protection. O’Brien told The Times that he chose to speak to the media in order to protect himself from possible assassination by Irish republicans.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 04 July 2016 | Permalink

ISIS now has the ability to issue official-looking Syrian passports

Syrian passportThe Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is now able to produce authentic-looking Syrian passports using machines that are typically available only to governments, according to an American intelligence report. The report was accessed by the New York-based station ABC News, which said it was issued by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the investigative wing of the United States Department of Homeland Security. According to ABC News, the 17-page report was issued in early December to law enforcement departments across the US. It warns that ISIS is most likely able to print government-quality travel documents using Syrian passport templates.

According HSI, the militant group was first able to access passport-issuing technology when it conquered Raqqa, the Syrian city that today serves as the capital of the so-called Islamic State. The city has a passport office with at least one passport-issuing machine, said the report. A few months later, ISIS came in possession of a second passport-issuing machine when it captured the eastern Syrian city of Deir al-Zour. The HSI report states that the city’s passport office, which contained “boxes of blank passports” and at least one passport-printing machine, came into the hands of ISIS militants undamaged. Currently, the whereabouts of the Raqqa and Deir al-Zour passport machines “remain fluid”, says the report, pointing out that both machines are believed to be portable.

The intelligence report goes on to state “with moderate confidence” that ISIS has issued authentic-looking Syrian passports to individuals, and that some of them may have traveled to Europe and the US. Further on, the report says that Syria is virtually awash with fake documents; it cites an unnamed source who says that high-quality fake Syrian passports can be purchased in the black market in Syria for less than $400, and that some government employees will backdate passport stamps in exchange for a fee. IntelNews readers will recall that two of the suicide bombers who attacked Paris in November were carrying fake Syrian passports.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 14 December 2015 | Permalink

Who leaked Iranian nuclear document that turned out to be a hoax?

The leaked documentBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
On November 27, the Associated Press published an alleged Iranian document which it said proved Iran was working on a nuclear bomb. The news agency said the disclosure was the latest in a series of similar leaks to the media by “officials from a country critical of Iran’s atomic program”. However, the authenticity of the document, which contained a diagram calculating the explosive force of a nuclear weapon, is now heavily disputed. An analysis of the leaked document in the latest issue of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists concluded that it was either massively erroneous or a hoax designed by amateurs. The Bulletin, a specialist publication founded by physicists involved in the Manhattan Project, said the document was “unlikely to have been made by research scientists working at a national level”. The obvious question is who leaked the disputed document and why? An article in British newspaper The Guardian cites unnamed “Western officials” who claim that the diagram, along with several previous disclosures of a similar nature, was leaked by Israel “in an attempt to raise international pressure on Tehran”. If this is so, the leak appears to have seriously backfired and may have compromised the credibility of an ongoing investigation into the Iranian nuclear program by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This is because the leaked document was part of an intelligence file on Iran’s nuclear program, compiled by the IAEA, which formed the factual basis for a new set of penalties and sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States and the European Union in November of 2011. The question that some United Nations officials are now asking is, if the leaked document is indeed a hoax, how could the IAEA guarantee the authenticity of the remaining documents on its file on Iran? Read more of this post