Russia, US, in largest spy swap since World War II

Igor Sutyagin

Igor Sutyagin

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The Russian and American governments have agreed to conduct one of history’s largest spy exchanges, as ten Russian agents captured in the US last month have been swapped for four Russian citizens imprisoned by Moscow for spying for the US and Britain. The ten Russians arrested by the FBI in June were non-official-cover (NOC) operatives, otherwise known as ‘illegals’, a term used to identify deep-cover intelligence operatives not associated with a country’s diplomatic representation. According to reports, they were all instructed by the SVR, Russia’s equivalent of MI6, which is responsible for all foreign intelligence operations abroad, to plead guilty to “acting as unregistered foreign agents” a charge not equivalent to espionage in either seriousness or repercussions. They were then legally forbidden from ever returning to the United States and summarily expelled. They were taken from the courtroom directly to the airport, where they boarded a plane to Vienna, Austria. In return, Russian government sources have confirmed that four Russian citizens, arrested in recent years for spying on behalf of the US or Britain, will be released from prison and delivered to US authorities. Read more of this post

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Was release of French ‘spy’ part of Iranian-French deal? [updated]

Majid Kakavand

Majid Kakavand

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
This blog has closely monitored the case of Clotilde Reiss, a French language assistant who was arrested in Iran last year on accusations of being a ‘nuclear spy’. Despite the obviously nonsensical nature of the allegations, Reiss, a 25-year-old Farsi-speaking French-language assistant at the University of Isfahan, was forced to confess to her ‘crime’ on Iranian television. Last August, however, after spending nearly two months in the notorious Evin prison complex, Reiss was released on bail, on condition that she would remain confined inside the walls of the French embassy compound in Tehran. Then, last weekend, her ten-year prison sentence was suddenly commuted to a fine of $285,000, and she was able to return home to France on Sunday. Why the sudden change of heart on the part of Tehran? Read more of this post

US report sheds light on mysterious Chinese front company

Lev Leviev

Lev Leviev

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A new report by a US Congressional commission sheds light on a mysterious Chinese corporate group, which intelligence observers have long-suspected to be a front company for Chinese spy agencies. Named after the street address of its headquarters, the Hong Kong-registered 88 Queensway Group is noted for its dynamic investments around the world, particularly in Africa, where the Chinese government has been extremely active in recent years. But new information (.pdf) compiled by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission of the US Congress, alleges that the 88 Queensway Group “falsely represents itself as a private business when it actually is [an arm of the] Chinese intelligence community [and] public security apparatus”. Read more of this post

Botched CIA mission in Siberia revealed

Ulan Ude

Ulan Ude

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Five American “tourists” temporarily detained in 2001 by Russian border agents were in fact CIA agents on a covert mission to Siberia, court documents have revealed. The five were among thirteen agents traveling to Siberia on a chartered CIA flight. They were detained in the far-eastern Russian city of Petropavlovsk by Russian authorities, because Langley had failed to secure visas for them in time for their departure. The Americans’ CIA cover was revealed last week during a court case involving alleged fraud by a US government contractor involved in the operation. The CIA group was apparently traveling to Ulan Ude, Siberia in order to purchase two Russian helicopters for use in CIA missions in Afghanistan. Read more of this post

Israel’s covert war on Iranian nuclear program intensifies

Ahmedinejad

Ahmadinejad

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
Citing unnamed “US intelligence sources”, British newspaper The Daily Telegraph has revealed what it calls a covert “decapitation program” by Israeli intelligence, targeting Iran’s nuclear program. The program has also been confirmed by Reva Bhalla, a senior analyst with Stratfor. Israel’s program is part of an international intelligence effort to hamper Iran’s nuclear program. As intelNews has reported before, this effort includes an extensive CIA operation approved by President George W. Bush in early 2008 and “hand[ed] off to President […] Barack Obama”.  The Israeli program, however, appears to be much more extensive than America’s, and includes assassinations, bribing, “front companies and double agents”, according to The Daily Telegraph. The most aggressive part of the scheme centers on “the planned assassination of top figures involved in Iran’s atomic operations”, according to Ms. Bhalla. Read more of this post