The CIA will not spy on UAE despite its actions against US interests, say sources

US embassy EmiratesThe United States Central Intelligence Agency will not collect human intelligence on the United Arab Emirates, even though the oil kingdom’s actions often run directly counter to American interests, according to sources. The CIA’s policy, which some sources described as “highly unusual”, fails to recognize the growing distance between American interests and the UAE’s foreign policies, according to Reuters. The news agency cited “three former CIA officials familiar with the matter” who claimed that the CIA’s policy is out of touch and may be endangering US national security.

The CIA collects human intelligence on every nation whose actions or decision affect American interests. Such nations include close American allies like Israel, Germany and Saudi Arabia. The nations that are excluded from the CIA’s target list is very short, and includes its so-called “Five Eyes” partners, namely the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Bizarrely, however, this exclusive list includes the UAE, according to an allegation made by Reuters on Monday. The CIA is believed to have “a liaison relationship” with the UAE’s Intelligence Community when it comes to collecting intelligence on common adversaries, such as Iran, or non-state threats like al-Qaeda and Hezbollah. But it does not collect intelligence on the UAE, despite the fact that the tiny but powerful oil kingdom “operates as a rogue state” in the Middle East and beyond, according to some former CIA officials. The UAE leadership was instrumental in propping up, and eventually abandoning, Sudan’s autocratic leader Omar Hassan al-Bashir. The small oil kingdom is now heavily involved in the political strife in Sudan, while also funding militias in Yemen, Libya and Somalia, said Reuters. It now has military bases in several parts of Africa, such as Eritrea and Somaliland, and its leaders are forging increasingly close links with China and Russia.

One anonymous CIA official told Reuters that the CIA’s failure to adapt its intelligence-collection policy to the UAE’s growing military and political power is nothing short of “a dereliction of duty”. The news agency said it contacted the CIA, the National Security Agency and the White House with questions about American intelligence activities in the UAE, but received no response. The government of the UAE and the UAE embassy in Washington, DC, did not respond to requests for comments.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 27 August 2019 | Permalink

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Russian deep-cover spy speaks to Western media for first time

Elena Vavilova Andrei BezrukovOne of the ten Russian deep-cover spies who were arrested in the United States in 2010, and swapped with American- and British-handled spies held by Moscow, has spoken to Western media for the first time. Elena Vavilova was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in June of 2010 along with her husband, Andrei Bezrukov. In its two decades of operating under deep cover in the US, the married couple used the stolen identities of two dead Canadian citizens, Tracy Foley and Donald Heathfield. Vavilova claimed to be of French-Canadian origin and worked as a real estate agent. The couple never spoke Russian at home and their two sons, Alex and Tim Foley, were unaware of their parents’ secret identities.

Last week, Vavilova, who now works as a private consultant in Moscow, spoke to Shaun Walker, Russia correspondent for British newspaper The Guardian. It was the first face-to-face encounter between a Western news outlet and one of the 10 outed Russian ‘illegals’. The reason for the interview was Vavilova’s upcoming book, A Woman Who Can Keep Secrets (in Russian), which presents a fictionalized account of her career and marriage to Bezrukov. It offers rare insights into the longstanding Russian ‘illegals’ program, which dates back to Soviet times. The book’s two protagonists meet as students in Siberia, where they are eventually recruited by the KGB, and spend several years training in languages and tradecraft. Part of their training includes living in a KGB house modeled after suburban American homes, so that they can get used to domestic life in the West. This account is believed to include true elements of the lives and careers of Vavilova and Bezrukov. The two married in Russia but moved to Canada separately, using fake Canadian identities. They pretended to meet for the first time in Canada, where they ‘dated’ and eventually ‘married’ before moving to the US to begin their espionage work.

Vavilova told Walker that the popular view of the 10 Russian illegals as having achieved little of intelligence value during their time in the US is misguided. “Of course I can’t talk about it”, she said, “but I know what we were doing and it doesn’t matter what others say”. She also said that training for illegals involved learning how to handle guns and using martial arts. But she added that these skills were never used in the field and were mostly good for building self-confidence —especially for missions that took place under cover of night in America, where street crime was far more prevalent than in Russia during the Cold War. Walker said that Vavilova’s English remains perfect, as does her husband’s. Like Vavilova, Bezrukov now works as a consultant and also teaches at a university in Moscow. Vavilova refused to discuss current Russian politics in her interview.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 26 August 2019 | Permalink

CIA seeking new ways to protect officers’ secret identities online, says official

Dawn MeyerriecksIn a rare public appearance on Sunday, a senior member of the United States Central Intelligence Agency discussed ways in which ongoing technological changes pose challenges to concealing the identities of undercover operatives. Dawn Meyerriecks worked in industry for years before joining the CIA in 2013 as deputy director of the agency’s Directorate of Science and Technology. On April 22, she delivered one of the keynote speeches at the 2018 GEOINT Symposium. The meeting was held in Tampa, Florida, under the auspices of the Virginia-based United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation, which brings together government agencies and private contractors.

In her speech, Meyerriecks discussed what she described as “identity intelligence”, namely the detailed piecing of a person’s identity from data acquired from his or her online activity and digital footprint left on wireless devices of all kinds. This data, combined with footage from closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems and other forms of audiovisual surveillance, poses tremendous barriers to clandestine operations, said Meyerriecks. Today, around 30 countries employ CCTV systems with features so advanced that they render physical tracking of human operatives unnecessary, she added. She went on to warn that the combination of these advanced systems with all-encompassing digital networks in so-called smart cities, as well as with the Internet of things, pose serious threats to the CIA’s ability to operate in secret. Abandoning the online grid is not a solution, said Meyerriecks, because doing so draws attention to the absentee. “If you have […] a six figure or low seven figure income, and you own no real estate, you don’t have any health [or] life insurance policies to speak of, you turn your cell phone off every day from 8:00 to 5:00, who do you work for?”, she said.

These technological challenges will not put an end human intelligence, but they are forcing “a sea of change” in the so-called “patterns of life” of clandestine operatives, said Meyerriecks. These operatives “are going to have to live their cover in a whole different way”, she said without elaborating. Ironically, technology may provide solutions to these challenges, for instance through phone apps that fake the geospatial coordinates of the device —“a growing area of research”, she remarked. Another example of a technological solution to the problem is the use of artificial intelligence algorithms to map CCTV camera networks in urban centers. These maps can help clandestine personnel avoid areas where camera networks are present, noted Meyerriecks.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 25 April 2018 | Permalink

Analysis: Europe Offers Different Counterterrorism Approach

Counterterrorism

Counterterrorism

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
I have in the past posed the intriguing question of whether US intelligence agencies should learn from the French approach to counterterrorism. This issue has now come up again in an interesting Washington Post essay, which examines the different approaches to Islamic militancy by American and European intelligence organizations. Some of these differences are undoubtedly contextual: there are no First Amendment rights in Europe, and European law enforcement and intelligence organizations enjoy a somewhat wider legal latitude in which to operate domestically. Moreover, the Europeans, especially the French and the British, have a longer experience than the Americans in dealing with armed insurgencies. But there are also critical differences in tactics. Importantly, the European approach to Islamic militancy has not only been more pro-active than the American, but also a lot more discreet and clandestine. Read more of this post

Former agent reveals aspects of CIA’s bin Laden hunt

Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Arthur “Art” Keller, a retired CIA agent who spent several years looking for Osama bin Laden in the Afghan-Pakistani border areas has given a rare interview to The London Times. Until his recent retirement, Keller participated in the 50- to 100-strong covert CIA force in the region, whose primary task since 9/11 has been to capture or kill senior al-Qaeda commanders. He told the paper that the failure to find bin Laden has led the agency to start bringing back retired members of “The Cadre”, a close-knit group of Pashto- and Dari-speaking CIA agents, who spent many years in Afghanistan in the 1980s, during America’s proxy war with the Soviet Union. Read more of this post

Al-Qaeda book warns West is winning spy war

al-Libi

Abu al-Libi

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A guidance report authored by an al-Qaeda field commander in Afghanistan says that Western-handled spies have infiltrated the organization’s networks and are sabotaging is activities. As intelNews pointed out on July 12, the report, penned by Abu Yahya al-Libi, also contains an illustrated essay on the CIA’s use of SIM cards planted on al-Qaeda militants’ cell phones to direct unmanned drone strikes. But most of the circular, entitled Guidance on the Ruling of the Muslim Spy, is devoted to cautionary advice on the “swarms of locusts” of Western-aligned spies, who have even penetrated “the military and financial supply roads of the mujaheddin, which are far from the enemy’s surveillance”. Read more of this post