News you may have missed #672

Janne KristiansenBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►Russian military intelligence to ‘change tactics’. Russian military intelligence is adjusting its work methods in response to the “worsening international situation”, Igor Sergun, the head of GRU —the country’s largest espionage agency— has told President Dmitry Medvedev. Currently, the GRU’s main focus is on “hot spots where terrorist and extremist groups are acting, regions with crisis situations, and also the sources and possible routes of illegal proliferation of nuclear materials and the components of weapons of mass destruction”, Sergun told Medvedev.
►►Norway spy chief quits in secrecy gaffe. Norway’s head of intelligence Janne Kristiansen has handed in her resignation because she said too much during a parliamentary hearing. According to a transcript, Ms Kristiansen, who until now headed the country’s Police Security Service (PST), told the hearing that Norway had agents working in Pakistan. According to reports Pakistan has asked the government of Norway to explain Kristiansen’s remarks.
►►Review of Australia’s spy community released. Public findings of the first independent review of Australia’s intelligence community in eight years were released on January 25. The 2011 Independent Review of the Intelligence Community acknowledges and justifies the Australian spy agencies’ unprecedented growth since September 11, which saw some agencies increasing their funding almost 500 per cent in a decade. Meanwhile, David Irvine, Director of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, said in a rare public talk that future Australian spies would be recruited “from within our newly arrived migrant communities”.

News you may have missed #639



►►GCHQ will sell cyberdefense tech to private firms. The GCHQ, Britain’s signals intelligence agency, is to market some of its security technologies to companies in the private sector, in an attempt to bolster defenses against the foreboding threat of cyberwarfare. The UK government’s “cyber security strategy”, which was unveiled this month, has earmarked £650 million in public funding to set up a four-year National Cyber Security Program, a percentage of which will be used to collaborate with private companies. Click here for an excellent analysis on the public-private cybersecurity collaboration in Britain.
►►Was there a coup attempt in Trinidad? Many in Trinidad and Tobago were expressing skepticism yesterday about an alleged assassination plot, which Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said had been uncovered against her and several of her ministers. Police said nearly a dozen people had been arrested, including members of the army and police, but authorities have not given more details, citing the need to maintain security in operations to dismantle the plot.
►►US Senators resist $7 Billion in spending cuts for spy satellites. The Obama Administration wants to stop incessant spending by Defense Department contractors, especially those who have wasted billions of US taxpayers’ money in failed spy satellite projects. But the contractors’ friends in Congress, including lawmakers on the US Senate Intelligence Committee, are trying to stop the White House from cutting a $7 billion commercial satellite program being developed by GeoEye Inc. and DigitalGlobe Inc. What else is new?

News you may have missed #627

Omar Suleiman

Omar Suleiman

►►Egyptian ex-spy chief appointed security adviser to Saudi Crown Prince. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz has appointed Egypt’s former Director of General Intelligence, Omar Suleiman, as his security advisor. From 1986 until his forced resignation in spring this year, Suleiman had been the main conduit between Washington, Tel Aviv and the government of Hosni Mubarak.
►►Russia’s spy chief in rare interview. It is very rare that the men that run Russia’s powerful intelligence services give detailed interviews. But that’s just what Alexander Shlyakhturov, the head of military intelligence service, known as the GRU, did earlier this month with the Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
►►US intel agencies brace for budget cuts. After seeing spending double over a decade, US intelligence agencies are bracing for about $25 billion in budget cuts over the next 10 years. “We’re going to have less capability in 10 years than we have today”, said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who sits atop the 16 departments, agencies and offices that comprise the US intelligence community and spend a combined $80 billion a year.

News you may have missed #621



►►Pakistan denies spying on German forces in Afghanistan. Pakistani officials have rejected a German newspaper report that the country’s secret service spied on German security forces in Afghanistan. Without citing its sources, mass-selling weekly Bild am Sonntag reported on Sunday that Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency warned its interior ministry that Pakistan had spied on 180 German police officers deployed in Afghanistan to train locals.
►►CIA expert says US government lacks security operating system. Industry is not providing the US government with the basic tools it needs to build a secure information infrastructure, according to Robert Bigman, chief of the CIA’s Information Assurance Group. “What we need is a secure operating system”, he said during a panel discussion at the Security Innovation Network showcase in Washington last month. “We gave up some time ago on the battle to build a secure operating system, and we don’t have one”.
►►US increased spy spending in 2011. The US Congress appropriated $54.6 billion for intelligence programs in the 2011 fiscal year, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence disclosed last week. The amount, which does not include what was spent on military intelligence, is a slight increase from the year before but could be the end of the upward trend, says CNN’s Security Clearance blog.

News you may have missed #614

James Clapper

James Clapper

►►US spy chief proposes double-digit budget cuts. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Monday said he has proposed double-digit budget cuts in intelligence programs to the White House because “we’re all going to have to give at the office”. Clapper, in a speech at the GEOINT conference in Texas, said his office had “handed in our homework assignment” to the Office of Management and Budget, “and it calls for cuts in the double-digit range, with a B (for billion), over 10 years”.
►►French spy chief charged with snooping on reporter. France’s opposition on Tuesday called for the resignation of Bernard Squarcini, head of the country’s domestic intelligence agency, the DCRI, after he was charged over spying on a journalist with the daily Le Monde.
►►Researcher forecasts new virus similar to Stuxnet. The discovery of an espionage computer virus in Europe similar to the virus that attacked Iran’s nuclear plants last year suggests that a new, similar cyberattack is about to launch, computer virus researcher Mikko Hypponen says. The new virus, Duqu, was first reported by security company Symantec on its blog Tuesday. Its code is very similar to that of Stuxnet, the virus detected last year that was designed to sabotage equipment at Iranian nuclear plants.

News you may have missed #559

Manuel Noriega

Manuel Noriega

►►Why did Pakistani spy chief secretly visit China? Reports reveal Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, head of Pakistan’s main military intelligence agency, the ISI, flew on a secret mission to Beijing for urgent talks this Monday. China’s ties with Pakistan have traditionally been tense, and have become worse in recent years, because China accuses Pakistan of harboring secessionist Chinese Muslim militants. Some observers suggest that Pasha’s trip may have been more of a summons than a visit.
►►France to extradite Manuel Noriega to Panama. France has confirmed it will extradite Manuel Noriega to Panama, where he is wanted over human rights violations during his rule in the 1980s. The former Panamanian military leader is currently serving a prison sentence in France for money laundering. Speaking during his trial in Paris last year, the former US ally claimed that millions of dollars he deposited in several French bank accounts were CIA payments for his services, not income from illicit drug sales.
►►US intel budget drops by $500 million. More than $500 million would be cut from US intelligence agencies under a bill authorizing programs and spending for spying operations next year, Read more of this post

Former US spy chief questions ‘war on terrorism’ logic, tactics

Dennis Blair

Dennis Blair

America’s former top intelligence official has publicly questioned the logic and methods informing Washington’s “war on terrorism”, and called for the CIA unmanned drone assassination program in Afghanistan and Pakistan to be grounded. Dennis C. Blair, who was Director of National Intelligence (DNI) until May of 2010, was speaking last week at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.  In an hour-long forum conversation with television journalist Leslie Stahl, Blair —a retired Admiral— explained that, in his view, America’s “war on terrorism” is misconceived, strategically counterproductive and ludicrously expensive. Speaking on the CIA’s unmanned drone war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Admiral Blair agreed that the drone attacks have killed some “mid-level” Taliban or al-Qaeda operatives, but said that the strikes have had a negligible overall impact on American security. As a terrorist outfit, al-Qaeda has shown that it is able to easily “sustain its level of resistance to an air-only campaign”, said Blair. Additionally, the former DNI said that unilateral air strikes are legally questionable and have proven strategically damaging, by “alienating the countries concerned” and dominating Washington’s relations with key nations such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia (click here to read intelNews’ criticism of American raids in Somalia). In doing so, the drone attacks tend to “threaten the prospects of long-term reform” in those countries, said the retired Admiral. Earlier in the conversation, Blair had questioned the economic basis of America’s “war on terrorism”, telling his audience that the US intelligence and security establishment currently spends around $20 million a year for each member of al-Qaeda scattered around the world. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #525

  • Hacker group LulzSec to disband after attacks on CIA. The publicity-seeking hacker group that has left a trail of sabotaged websites over the last two months, including attacks on law enforcement and releases of private data, said unexpectedly on Saturday it is dissolving itself.
  • NSA veteran publishes book on secretive listening base. Good book review of Inside Pine Gap: The Spy Who Came in From the Desert, written by 23-year US National Security Agency veteran David Rosenberg, who worked for 18 years at the joint US-Australian intelligence facility at Pine Gap, a small technical encampment outside Alice Springs in the Australian outback.
  • Aussie spy agencies feeling budget cuts effect. Australia’s Federal Government has been urged, in a report by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, to review the effects of its cost-saving drive on the country’s intelligence community.

News you may have missed #523

  • Archbishop of Canterbury branded ‘subversive’ by MI5. A senior officer of MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, labeled Rowan Williams ‘a subversive’ in the 1980s, over his involvement with a group of leftwing campaigners.
  • Pakistan ambassador defends arrest of bin Laden informants. Pakistan Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani has defended his country’s decision to round up more than 30 people, some of whom may have helped US intelligence track down Osama bin Laden. Meanwhile, the US government is still bankrolling the Pakistani intelligence services. No changes there.
  • US weighs harsher penalties in wake of CIA/FBI hacker attacks. Under a new White House proposal, the 10-year maximum sentence for potentially endangering national security would double, and so would the five-year sentence for computer thefts up to $5,000. Also, the one year maximum for accessing a government computer —either to deface it or download an unimportant file— could become a three-year sentence.

News you may have missed #455

  • Israel says it did not kill German politician. Israel has rejected a claim by a Swiss chemistry professor that the 1987 murder of German politician Uwe Barschel had the hallmarks of a Mossad assassination. For more on Barschel see previous intelNews story here.
  • Foreign cyber spies targeted UK defense official. Foreign spies, probably working for the People’s Republic of China, targeted senior British defense official Joanna Hole, in a sophisticated spear phishing operation that aimed to steal military secrets. The plan was foiled last year when Hole became suspicious of an email she received from a contact she had met at a conference.
  • The 10 most interesting CIA-backed startups. America’s only federally funded venture capital firm, In-Q-Tel, was created in 1999 during the tech boom. The company invests in startups developing technologies that could prove useful to the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

News you may have missed #443

  • First budget cuts in a decade for UK spy agencies. Spending on Britain’s intelligence agencies is set to fall by 7%, for the first time in more than a decade. This is be expected to force MI5, MI6 and GCHQ to cap staff numbers, merge some of their operations, and scrap plans to modernize some of their buildings. Looks like even more British spies will be moving to Australia.
  • South Koreans arrested for trying to defect to North. Three South Koreans, including a medical doctor, are being investigated after allegedly trying to defect to North Korea from China. It is extremely unusual for South Koreans or other nationals to attempt to defect to the North.
  • Plame calls Fair Game movie ‘accurate portrayal’. CIA agent Valerie Plame has said the movie Fair Game, based on her book, is a “really good, accurate portrayal of what we went through, both personally and in the political maelstrom that we live through”. The Bush administration was accused of blowing Plame’s cover as retaliation after her diplomat husband openly challenged the reasoning behind the Iraq War.

US money transfer firms linked to Dubai killing of Hamas official

Mahmoud al-Mabhouh


Preliminary results of an ongoing international investigation into the January 2010 murder of a senior Hamas official show that US-based money transfer companies were used to finance the killing. The body of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, co-founder of the Palestinian Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, was discovered by staff at Dubai’s luxury Al-Bustan Rotana Hotel, where al-Mabhouh was a guest, on January 20, 2010. His murder is widely believed to have been the work of a multi-member hit squad operating under the command of Israeli external intelligence agency Mossad. But, according to American newspaper The Wall Street Journal, the funds used by the Israeli hit squad members during the assassination operation came from fund transfers in the United States. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #370

  • Ukrainians ‘not spying any more’ on Russian FSB. Ukrainian counterintelligence services have stopped monitoring Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officials stationed in Ukraine, according to a leading Ukrainian weekly. Ukrainian-Russian relations have dramatically improved since February, when Ukraine’s pro-Moscow leader Viktor Yanukovych was elected President.
  • US House votes to allow auditing of spy agencies. Despite several veto threats from the White House, the US House of Representatives has adopted an amendment to defense authorization bill HR 5136, which would give the Government Accountability Office the power to audit intelligence agencies.
  • Leading Turkish daily wiretapped. Turkish former deputy police chief Emin Aslan, who was arrested in 2009 in a drug trafficking investigation, says he was told in 2008 that the phone lines at Turkey’s leading daily Milliyet were wiretapped. The wiretapping appears to be connected to the notorious Ergenekon affair.

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Reports of a possible rogue US DoD operation in Pakistan

Michael Furlong

Michael Furlong

A New York Times article published late yesterday alleges the existence of a clandestine intelligence network of private contractors, set up by a US Pentagon employee, possibly without supervision or approval by senior US Defense officials. The network, which appears to operate under the cover of an Internet-based research company, is actually used to gather intelligence on the activities and whereabouts of individuals on the CIA’s assassination list, claims the paper. What is more, the network coordinator, retired US Air Force officer Michael D. Furlong, is currently being investigated by the US Department of Defense for fraudulent dealings with private contractors. It is not clear whether these were the same contractors (mostly former CIA and US Special Forces operatives) who were employed in the undercover intelligence network uncovered by The New York Times. Read more of this post

US to stop funding scandal-prone Colombian spy agency

The US Congress has voted to stop subsidizing Colombia’s soon-to-be dismantled Administrative Department of Security (DAS) intelligence agency. The Colombian government recently decided to disband DAS, after it was found to have illegally wiretapped the phones of several public figures, including the chief of the Colombian National Police, the minister of defense, as well as those of former Presidents, Supreme Court judges, prominent journalists, union leaders and human rights campaigners. The activities of the scandal-prone agency had not, until now, affected US-Colombian relations, nor had they dampened US-Colombian intelligence cooperation. Read more of this post