S. Korean spy agency admits error, says ‘executed’ N. Korean general is alive

NIS South KoreaThe intelligence agency of South Korea has admitted it made an error when it claimed earlier this year that North Korean authorities had executed one of the regime’s most prominent military figures. On February 10, South Korean newspapers printed a series of articles suggesting that Pyongyang had executed General Ri Yong-gil, who led the Korean People’s Army (KPA), holding post that was equivalent to the United States’ chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The articles said at the time that the information about General Ri’s execution came directly from the National Intelligence Service (NIS), South Korea’s primary external spy agency. The general had allegedly been executed after being found guilty of “factionalism, abuse of power and corruption”. The reports added that General Ri had turned into an alcoholic and was in poor health as a result. Speculation as to the reason for General Ri’s alleged execution brought up the possibility that he had led an opposition faction within the KPA. This, in turn, led some analysts to speculate that the administration of Kim Jong-un was close to collapse.

However, after the seventh congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), which concluded on Monday, not only has the view of Kim’s rule as weak been overturned, but General Ri appears to have come back from the dead. On May 10, the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the WPK, announced that General Ri had been appointed member of the WPK’s Central Military Commission. The announcement also said that the General would also be a candidate member of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee, in accordance with the Committee’s wishes. It appears, therefore, that, not only is General Ri alive and well, but that he also features prominently the inner sanctum of the WPK’s political leadership.

Soon after Rodong Sinmun’s announcement, Hong Yong-pyo, South Korea’s Minister of Unification, told reporters in Seoul that the government would have to “check the details” of General Ri’s fate. An anonymous South Korean government official told newspapers that the NIS had assumed General Ri had been purged because he “hadn’t been seen for some time”. But critics of the government in Seoul accused the conservative administration of President Park Geun-hye of using “skewed perceptions” of the regime in Pyongyang in order to block negotiations with North Korea, and urged “some serious soul-searching” regarding the dependability of the NIS. IntelNews regulars will recall that Won Sei-hoon, who headed the NIS from 2008 to 2013, was jailed last year for interfering with national elections in order to further Park’s electoral power.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 13 May 2016 | Permalink

News you may have missed #792 (US diplomatic attacks edition)

US consulate in Benghazi, LibyaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Attack on US diplomats ‘was intelligence failure’. James Corum, an American military historian and the author of several books on military history and counter-insurgency, argues that the mob attacks on US diplomatic facilities in Cairo, Benghazi and Sana’a marked “one of the worst intelligence failures in American history”. Either, he says, US intelligence agencies had no warnings of mass action against the embassies, or senior intelligence officers disregarded or downplayed the information received from field agents. Finally, he suggests that “the real explanation is probably the latter”.
►►Attack on consulate in Libya ‘may have been planned’. Senior US officials and Middle East analysts raised questions Wednesday about the motivation for the Benghazi attack, noting that it involved the use of a rocket-propelled grenade and followed an al-Qaeda call to avenge the death of a senior Libyan member of the terrorist network. Libyan officials and a witness said the attackers took advantage of a protest over the film to launch their assault. Libyan Deputy Interior Minister Wanis al-Sharif said the security force was outgunned by the attackers, who joined a demonstration of “hundreds” of people outside the consulate
►►What happened in Benghazi was a battle. “It was not a simple mob that attacked the US consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday, killing four Americans. Benghazi was the scene of a pitched battle, one in which unknown Libyan assailants besieged American diplomats with small-arms fire for over four hours, repelling several attempts by US personnel to regain control of it. Nor was what happened in Benghazi a simple story of Americans assaulted by the Libyans they helped to liberate from Muammar Gaddafi last year. Libyan security forces and a sympathetic local militia helped the Americans to suppress the attack and get the diplomats inside to safety”.

CIA declassifies internal review on Iraq ‘intelligence failure’

Report cover pageBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An internal report on the alleged failure of the Central Intelligence Agency to accurately read the intentions of the Iraqi regime in the run-up to the 2003 invasion by the United States, has been declassified. The report, entitled Misreading Intentions: Iraq’s Reaction to Inspections Created Picture of Deception, was authored in 2006, classified ‘secret’. It was prepared by the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence (DI), the part of the Agency that is responsible for collating and assessing gathered intelligence in order to assist the decisions of US policy-makers on key foreign issues. The report describes what it sees as the DI’s intelligence failure to assess the true state of Iraq’s purported weapons of mass destruction program in the run-up to the US invasion. It says that invalid predispositions and “analytic liabilities” among CIA analysts prevented the Agency from seeing the issue of weapons of mass destruction from the viewpoint of the Iraqi government. Although heavily redacted, the report seems to state that CIA analysts spent little time examining the view, held by many at the time, that the Iraqi regime had in fact terminated its WMD program by 1995. Furthermore, Agency analysts failed to realize in time that, although it had terminated its WMD program, the Iraqi regime maintained a deliberate policy of ambivalence about the purported existence of the program, in order to save face, deter potential adversaries and appear more dangerous than it actually was. Such a policy of deception was well within the character of the Iraqi regime and should have been detected by American intelligence experts, says the report. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #772

Israeli team at the 1972 Munich OlympicsBy TIMOTHY W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
►►India restricts agency-to-agency contacts with CIA. According to The Deccan Herald, Indian intelligence officials are growing increasingly wary of the frequent interactions between their own intelligence personnel and the CIA. Cooperation between the US intelligence organizations and Indian government agencies has been increasing under the guise of counter-terrorism efforts. Calcutta News reports that a book published by author Prem Mahadevan, called The Politics of Counterterrorism in India, identifies at least two CIA penetrations of Indian intelligence officials since 2001.
►►Canadian spy revealed classified information in “massive leak”. As was previously reported on this blog, former Sub-Lieutenant Jeffrey Paul Delisle, a navy intelligence officer, is accused of spying for Russia. According to The New Zealand Herald, the accused Canadian spy provided the Russian government with classified information on the US, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia in what is being termed a “massive leak”.
►►Germany had advance warning of 1972 Olympics massacre. Israel-based English-language newspaper The Jerusalem Post is reporting that an article in the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, stated Germany had advance warning about a potential terrorist attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic games. Previously classified documents accessed by Der Spiegel show that not only were there indications of a terror plot, but that there were explicit warnings and details. Perhaps more damaging are the lengths and extremes that German intelligence officials went to in order to cover up blatant mistakes in the case.

News you may have missed #729 (intel blunder edition)

Alleged Venezuelan 'spy crossword'By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US drones ‘incidentally’ spy on Americans. A leaked US Air Force document stipulates that a drone that happens to capture surveillance images of Americans may store them for a period of 90 days. The paper appears to justify spying on citizens, as long as it is “incidental”. The document accepts that the Air Force may not record information non-consensually; however it does state: “collected imagery may incidentally include US persons or private property without consent”. The report, dated April 23 was discovered by Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists and has been put online.
►►Indian intel blunder sparks anger in Pakistan. India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) intelligence agency sparked outrage in Pakistan and self-deprecatory jokes in India itself last week, after it listed ordinary Pakistani shopkeepers as terrorists on a mission to attack some of India’s landmark institutions. RAW, which is considered India’s premier intelligence agency, issued an advisory to state governments in which it said that five trained militants from Pakistan’s banned Lashkar-e-Taiba group had sneaked into India with fake identities to attack a nuclear facility, oil refinery, seaport and defense academy. Within hours after photographs of the five men were released, a Pakistani television channel reported that two of the three men on the list were shopkeepers and one was a guard, all living in Lahore, and that none of them had ever left Pakistan.
►►Venezuelan spies face criticism over ‘crossword puzzle’ plot. Venezuelan government critics, and even some supporters, are ridiculing a Venezuelan state TV host’s allegation that a newspaper crossword puzzle may have had a hidden call for a plot to kill President Hugo Chavez’s elder brother. Intelligence agents questioned Neptali Segovia, the author of the puzzle, after state TV presenter Miguel Perez Pirela pointed out that Wednesday’s crossword contained the word “ASESINEN”, or kill, intersecting with the name of Chavez’s brother, “ADAN”. He noted they were below the word “RAFAGAS”, meaning either gusts of wind or bursts of gunfire.

News you may have missed #716 (analysis edition)

Mordechai VanunuBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Kabul attacks show intel failures in Afghanistan. Dozens, possibly hundreds of people would have been involved in training, equipping and then infiltrating into the heart of Kabul the large number of insurgents who were prepared to fight to a certain death in the Afghan capital last Sunday. Yet neither Afghan nor foreign intelligence operatives appeared to have any idea that an unprecedented wave of attacks was about to engulf both Kabul and several other key locations around the country. So it seems that Afghan President Hamid Karzai may have a point when he says that the “infiltration in Kabul and other provinces is an intelligence failure for us and especially for NATO and should be seriously investigated”.
►►Report claims China spies on US space technology. China is stealing US military and civilian space technology in an effort to disrupt US access to intelligence, navigation and communications satellites, according to a report authored by the State and Defense Departments. The report (.pdf) argues China should be excluded from recommendations made to the US government to ease restrictions on exports of communications and remote-sensing satellites and equipment. Chinese officials have denied the report’s allegations, calling it a “Cold War ghost”.
►►The long and sordid history of sex and espionage. Using seduction to extract valuable information is as old as the Old Testament —literally— Whether from conviction or for profit, women —and men— have traded sex for secrets for centuries. The Cold War provided plenty of opportunities for so-called “honey-pot” scandals. Perhaps the most dramatic case of seduction in recent times involved Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu. In 1986 he visited London and provided The Sunday Times with dozens of photographs of Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons program. But Mossad was on his trail and a female agent —Cheryl Ben Tov— befriended him (reportedly bumping into him at a cigarette kiosk in London’s Leicester Square). She lured him to Rome for a weekend, where he was drugged and spirited to Israel.

News you may have missed #475 (Arab revolution edition)

  • Obama ‘disappointed’ with US intelligence on Tunisia. US President Barack Obama sent word to National Intelligence Director James Clapper that he was “disappointed with the intelligence community” over its failure to predict that the outbreak of demonstrations would lead to the ouster of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunis.
  • An Intelligence Failure in Egypt? The US intelligence community is like the offensive line of the government. They protect the quarterback all day long, and no one notices until they give up a sack. Which raises the question: was US President Barack Obama blindsided by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt?
  • Did US intelligence fail in North Africa? “One former official said US president Barack Obama recently urged the CIA to put as much effort into analysis of the situation in North Africa as into covert operations, including those targeting al-Qaida”.

News you may have missed #0251 (analysis edition)

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Former MI6 head testifies in UK Iraq War commission

Sir John Scarlett

Sir John Scarlett

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Sir John Scarlett, who until recently headed MI6, Britain’s foremost external spy agency, chaired the country’s Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) in the run-up to the Iraq War. He was therefore in charge of an influential government report, produced in September 2002, which argued that Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction constituted an immediate threat to Britain. As part of the official inquiry into Britain’s entry in the Iraq War, Sir John testified yesterday about the controversial report, known as ‘the dodgy dossier’, which has been criticized as a monumental intelligence failure that helped drag the country into an unpopular war. The former JIC chairman admitted that British intelligence services were aware before the War that Iraq had dismantled its long-range missiles and thus had no way of shooting its chemical munitions at distant targets, including Britain. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0100

  • Iran says US is forging nuclear intelligence. Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, says the US government is using forged intelligence to make the case to the UN’s nuclear watchdog group that Iran is pursuing an atomic weapons program. What is arguably missing in the Iranian nuclear debacle is conclusive IAEA confirmation of the existence of Iran’s nuclear arms program, as in the case of Syria.
  • Pakistanis call for intelligence dialogue with India. Mahmud Ali Durrani, Pakistan’s former national security adviser, has called for a “frank dialogue” between Pakistani and Indian security services. As intelNews reported earlier this year, Durrani was fired for his dovish stance vis-à-vis India and for being “too pro-American”.
  • US official was investigated for espionage. Alberto Coll, a Cuban-American who lost a senior job at the Navy War College after he was convicted of lying about a 2004 trip to Havana, was also investigated for espionage, according to an FBI document.

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Comment: CIA Insiders Issue Torture Probe Warnings

A.B. Krongard

A.B. Krongard

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Sensing that a government probe into its post-9/11 practices is around the corner, the CIA has employed its usual practice of issuing public warnings through friendly news outlets. Several Agency insiders appear to have simultaneously decided to break their customary silence. Speaking to The Washington Post, they sternly warned that “[m]orale has sagged at the CIA” because of the rumored government investigation into torture of detainees and other controversial intelligence projects.

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The CIA in Iran Today: A Realistic Assessment

Iran protestors

Iran protestors

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
It is hardly surprising to witness the sudden cessation of the US media frenzy that placed Iran under the microspore last month. And yet I believe that now, as the regime in Tehran is redeploying its machinery of social control, is the perfect time to calmly and sensibly provide a rational assessment of what really took place in Iran in June, as well as the US involvement, if any. The CIA’s past shenanigans in Iran are by now widely known and understood –particularly by the Iranians themselves, who, regardless of their feelings toward the present regime in Tehran, are suspicious of collaborating with US agencies. But what is the US involvement in fomenting unrest in Tehran today? More importantly, to what extent can the CIA’s ongoing covert activities in the Middle East be said to have played a role in last June’s seemingly spontaneous popular uprising in Tehran? With this question in mind, I wrote The CIA in Iran Today: A Realistic Assessment, which you can now read in Jeremy Hammond’s Foreign Policy Journal. Here’s a tip: for the CIA’s intelligence directorate  analysts, the recent unrest in Iran was more like 1979 than 1953. Read article →

Breaking news: CIA has no clue about what’s going on in Iran

Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Amidst all the furor about CIA meddling in the Iranian anti-government demonstrations, an informed voice of reasoning comes from intelligence veteran and current GQ intelligence and security correspondent Jeff Stein. Stein, who does not rule out attempts by the CIA to promote the demonstrators’ agenda in Tehran, wisely cautions pundits that Iran is currently “nearly impervious to Western intelligence –and Israeli intelligence, too”. Consequently, despite allegations to the contrary, “there can be little confidence that [anyone at the CIA] really knows what’s going on in Iran”, says Stein. Read more of this post