Norway spy agency urges IT firms to be cautious when outsourcing operations abroad

Broadnet NorwayThe Norwegian National Security Authority (NSM) has warned the country’s information technology firms to prioritize national security over cutting costs when outsourcing their operations abroad. The warning follows what has come to be known as the “Broadnet affair”, which, according to the Norwegian government, highlighted the dangers of extreme cost-cutting measures by Norway’s heavily privatized IT industry. The incident is named after Broadnet, Norway’s leading supplier of fiber-optic communications to the country’s industry and state sectors. Among Broadnet’s customers is Nødnett, an extensive digital network used by agencies and organizations that engage in rescue and emergency operations, including police and fire departments, as well as medical response agencies. Although 60% of the Nødnett network is owned by the Norwegian government, Broadnet is a member of the Nødnett consortium, and is thus supervised by Norway’s Ministry of Transport and Communications.

In September of 2015, Broadnet fired 120 of its Norway-based employees and outsourced their jobs to India, in search of cost-cutting measures. The company signed a multimillion dollar contract with Tech Mahindra, an outsourcing firm based in Mumbai. But an audit by the Norwegian government soon discovered several instances of security breaches by Tech Mahindra staff. The latter were reportedly able to access Nødnett without authorization through Broadnet’s core IT network, which was supposed to be off-limits to outsourced staff without Norwegian security clearances. Soon after the breaches were discovered, Broadnet began to bring its outsourced operations back to Norway. By the end of 2017, all security-related IT tasks had been returned to Norway. In the meantime, however, Broadnet had come under heavy criticism from the Norwegian government, opposition politicians, and the NSM —the government agency responsible for protecting Norway’s IT infrastructure from cyber threats, including espionage and sabotage.

The NSM warning —published earlier this month in the form of a 20-page report— makes extensive mention of the Broadnet affair. It recognizes the right of Norwegian IT firms to outsource some or all of their operational tasks as a cost-cutting measure. But it also stresses that the country’s IT firms are required by law to abide to national security protocols when outsourcing part of their IT portfolios to foreign companies. There have been numerous instances in recent years, where “risk management obligations relative to outsourcing decisions by Norwegian [IT] companies have fallen short”, the NSM report states. It adds that IT firms must abide to strict protocols of risk management when making outsourcing decisions. It also states that the firms’ Norway-based senior managers must regain complete overview of outsourced projects at every step of the way.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 27 June 2018 | Permalink

Trump administration allegedly considering plan to privatize CIA operations

Trump CIAThe United States Central Intelligence Agency and the White House are considering several proposals to hire private companies to carry out covert operations abroad, according to a report. BuzzFeed News said on Thursday that the proposals were communicated to the White House in the summer. The news site, which described the proposed plans as “highly unusual”, quoted “three sources who have been briefed on or have direct knowledge of the proposals”. The sources told BuzzFeed that, if approved, the plans would include the establishment of large intelligence networks in so-called “denied areas” —namely foreign environments deemed hostile. The networks would recruit and handle local agents, carry out psychological operations, capture terrorism suspects and rendition them to the US or third countries. “Islamic extremism” is mentioned as the primary target of the proposals.

According to BuzzFeed, one of the proposals involves Amyntor Group, a private company headquartered in the remote town of Whitefish, in northwestern Montana. The company is staffed by former members of the US Intelligence Community who have security clearances. It specializes in intelligence training and risk assessment. But it also collects and analyzes intelligence and provides counterintelligence services for government agencies in America and what it calls “friendly foreign governments” abroad. The company has reportedly been holding discussions with senior officials in the administration of President Donald Trump in recent weeks, according to two of BuzzFeed’s sources. The same sources say that the move toward privatization of some intelligence operations is being led by a feeling in the Trump administration that the CIA has a negative view of the White House. They claim that the CIA is not prepared to go along with the Trump administration’s efforts to make the agency’s operations more aggressive and, in the words of its new director, Mike Pompeo, “much more vicious”. They therefore see privatization as a way to bypass the resistance and skepticism of the CIA’s upper management.

BuzzFeed said it contacted the CIA about the Amyntor Group proposal, but the agency preferred not to comment. A press officer for the National Security Council, which is chaired by President Trump, said that its members were not aware of the privatization proposals. Amyntor Group commented through one of its lawyers, who told BuzzFeed that any contract signed between the company and the US government would be directed and controlled “by the proper government authority”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 01 December 2017 | Permalink

US Pentagon wasted $450 million in Afghan spy training program, says watchdog

Afghan National ArmyNearly half a billion of American taxpayers’ funds were wasted by contractors hired by the United States government to train Afghan intelligence personnel, according to a scathing report by a Congressional body. The funds were spent between 2010 and 2013 by the US Department of Defense, in order to train several thousand members and a few dozen aspiring trainees of the Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). Two companies, Legacy Afghanistan R&D and Afghanistan Source Operations Management, oversaw the training program. It was primarily executed by a contractor, Imperatis Corporation, and a subcontractor, New Century Consulting, at a total cost of $457 million to the US taxpayer.

But according to a new report, the four-year program was a monumental, multimillion dollar waste. The report was written by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). The body was established by the US Congress in 2008 to supervise the effectiveness of US government-funded reconstruction programs in Afghanistan. Dated July 2017, the SIGAR report says it is “almost impossible” to evaluate the effectiveness of the ANDSF intelligence-training program, because none of the contractors and subcontractors involved in it kept adequate training records. Based on the available information, the SIGAR report concludes that there is virtually “no indication of improvement in intelligence operations” by ANDSF as a result of the four-year training program.

Part of the reason for the poor value of the program is that “a significant portion” of the intelligence trainees enrolled in it performed below the minimum standards required. Additionally, few trainees actually completed the courses that were required prior to graduation. Shockingly, the US Pentagon paid the contractors in full despite the fact that they had failed to keep adequate records of their performance, an omission which legally entitled the Pentagon to refuse to payment. Even more incredibly, the SIGAR report also found that Imperatis Corporation billed the US taxpayer nearly $4 million between March and December of 2011 for training courses that had been canceled and were not being offered.

The training program’s subcontractor, New Century Consulting (owned by retired US Special Forces Colonel Tim Collins), was criticized two years ago in another SIGAR report for spending $130 million of US taxpayers’ funds on “unsupported” and “questioned” purchases. The program’s main contractor, Imperatis Corporation, went out of business in May 2016.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 03 August 2017 | Permalink

News you may have missed #848

US consulate in Benghazi, LibyaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►UK officials saw ‘communist spies’ in Japan in 1983. British officials believed in the early 1980s that Japanese institutions had been “slightly” penetrated by communist intelligence services, according to documents declassified last week at the National Archives in London. The documents, from 1983, assert that there were approximately 220 communist intelligence officers working in Japan: 100 for the Soviet Union, 60 for China and 60 for other communist countries.
►►‘Dozens of CIA operatives on the ground’ during Benghazi attack. CNN claims that “dozens of people working for the CIA” were on the ground the night of the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. The news station adds that, according to one source, the CIA is involved in “an unprecedented attempt to keep [its] Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out”.
►►Australians call for national debate on privatization of intelligence. Dr Troy Whitford, Associate Investigator with the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security, and lecturer at Charles Sturt University, has called for “a national debate on the extent, cost and consequences of Australia’s security and intelligence outsourcing”. The call was apparently prompted by news that 51% of the intelligence gathering in the US is now carried out by non-government contractors.

News you may have missed #841 (Snowden leak analysis)

Edward SnowdenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US officials defend spy programs as safeguards against terror. Intelligence officials sought to convince US House lawmakers in an unusual briefing that the government’s years-long collection of phone records and Internet usage is necessary for protecting Americans —and does not trample on their privacy rights. The parade of FBI and intelligence officials who briefed the entire House on Tuesday was the latest attempt to soothe outrage over NSA programs which collect billions of Americans’ phone and Internet records.
►►Some in US intelligence see Chinese behind Snowden leak. Former CIA officer Bob Baer told CNN that some US intelligence officials “are seriously looking at [the revelations made by Edward Snowden] as a potential Chinese covert action. Hong Kong is controlled by Chinese intelligence”, Baer told CNN Sunday evening. “It’s not an independent part of China at all. I’ve talked to a bunch of people in Washington today, in official positions, and they are looking at this as a potential Chinese espionage case”.
►►Leak highlights risk of outsourcing US spy work. The explosive leak uncovering America’s vast surveillance program highlights the risks Washington takes by entrusting so much of its defense and spy work to private firms, experts say. Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old man whose leak uncovered how spy agencies sift through phone records and Internet traffic, is among a legion of private contractors who make up nearly 30 percent of the workforce in intelligence agencies. From analyzing intelligence to training new spies, jobs that were once performed by government employees are now carried out by paid contractors, in a dramatic shift that began in the 1990s amid budget pressures.

British spy agency to scrap $140m IT system over security fears

DeloitteBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, MI5, has decided to “accept defeat” and scrap a multimillion digital records management program over fears it could create a dangerous “intelligence vacuum”. The program, which has so far cost the British taxpayer over £90 million ($140 million) in payments to private consultants, was first conceived in the run-up to the London 2012 summer Olympic Games. While evaluating terrorist-related threats posed by the hosting of the Games in the United Kingdom, British security officials decided that the government-wide intelligence-sharing system in place was archaic and in need of serious overhaul. They hired a group of senior IT management consultants from Deloitte, one of the world’s largest professional services firm, headquartered in New York, NY. The pricey corporate experts were tasked with helping MI5 digitally collate intelligence data collected or produced by all departments of the British government. Deloitte’s planning team had projected that the multi-million dollar system would be in place and operational by the summer of 2012, before the Olympic Games were held in London. This, however, proved wildly optimistic; Deloitte barely managed to scrape together a watered-down version of the promised records management program in late 2012. When the program was tested by MI5’s intelligence collection managers, it was found to contain serious errors that, according to British newspaper The Independent, could leave the country’s intelligence agencies “vulnerable and struggling with an intelligence vacuum”. When initially questioned about the Deloitte debacle by British lawmakers, MI5’s (now retired) Director, Sir Jonathan Evans, told the frustrated members of the British House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee not to worry. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #797

Mohamed MorsiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Egypt names new intelligence chief. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi last week issued a decree naming Mohammed Raafat Shehata the country’s new head of intelligence, after the former spy chief was forced into retirement. Shehata had been acting director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Services Directorate since August 8, when his predecessor Murad Muwafi was sacked, after after gunmen killed 16 Egyptian border guards in Sinai.
►►Ex-Blackwater firm to teach US spies survival skills. The Defense Intelligence Agency announced on Thursday evening it would award six private security companies a share of a $20 million contract to provide “individual protective measures training courses” for its operatives. Among them is Academi, the 3.0 version of Blackwater, now under new ownership and management. The US military’s intelligence service is hiring the firm, along with five others, to train its operatives to defend themselves as they collect information in dangerous places.
►►Turkey court convicts 326 of coup plotting. A Turkish court on Friday convicted 326 military officers, including the former air force and navy chiefs, of plotting to overthrow the nation’s Islamic-based government in 2003, in a case that has helped curtail the military’s hold on politics. A panel of three judges at the court on Istanbul’s outskirts initially sentenced former air force chief Ibrahim Firtina, former navy chief Ozden Ornek, and former army commander Cetin Dogan, to life imprisonment but later reduced the sentence to a 20-year jail term because the plot had been unsuccessful. The trial of the high-ranking officers —inconceivable in Turkey a decade ago— has helped significantly to tip the balance of power in the country in favor of civilian authorities.

News you may have missed #721

Yuval DiskinBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US spies clash with military over outsourcing spy satellites. Members of the US intelligence community and the military are finding themselves on opposite sides regarding the future of American spy satellites. Since the US first began using satellites to collect intelligence data, the government largely relied on its own technology. But in recent years, as private companies have developed sophisticated satellites of their own, Washington has been increasingly relying on commercial sources for spy missions. Now senior intelligence officials have urged the Obama administration to move away from relying on commercial satellite imagery.
►►Israeli ex-spy criticizes plans for war with Iran. Many Israeli retired officials have criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, but the censure from Yuval Diskin, who stepped down as head of the Shin Bet domestic intelligence service last year, was especially harsh. “I have no faith in the prime minister, nor in the defense minister”, Diskin said in the remarks broadcast by Israeli media on Saturday. “I really don’t have faith in a leadership that makes decisions out of messianic feelings”. Speaking in New York, former Mossad Director Meir Dagan said simply that Diskin “spoke his own truth”.
►►Litvinenko’s widow still waiting for answers. In 2000, after Vladimir Putin became President of the Russian Federation, KGB/FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko fled with his family to the UK, where they claimed political asylum and, later, British citizenship. During his time in London, Litvinenko consulted for MI5 and MI6, worked at a corporate security agency, and wrote two books, including Blowing Up Russia, which alleged that the Russian apartment bombings of 1999 were organized by the FSB, to justify war with Chechnya and sweep Putin into power. He died in 2006 of radioactive poisoning. Six years on, Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, says she is still waiting for answers.

News you may have missed #673

Jeffrey Paul DelisleBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Israel outsources intelligence-gathering to rightwing groups. The government and military of Israel have unofficially outsourced some of their intelligence work to private organizations that monitor anti-Israel incitement in the Palestinian media and are associated with right-wing politics, according to several high-ranking government and military sources.
►►NATO report finds Pakistan spies help Taliban. The BBC says it has seen a NATO report stating that the Taliban in Afghanistan are being directly assisted by Pakistani security services. The leaked report, derived from material from 27,000 interrogations with more than 4,000 captured Taliban, al-Qaeda and other foreign fighters and civilians, also claims Pakistan knows the locations of senior Taliban leaders. The US said exactly the same thing last September.
►►Another Russian diplomat ‘leaves’ Canada. Another Russian diplomat has left Canada. Dmitry Gerasimov, a consular officer with the Russian government’s office in Toronto, left in January. He is the second diplomat that the Russian embassy in Canada acknowledges has quit this country in January. The other was Colonel Sergey Zhukov, the defense attaché for the Russian government in Ottawa. All totaled, six Russian diplomats that have been dropped from Ottawa’s list of recognized foreign representatives in the last 11 days. It’s not clear which, if any, of recent these exits can be tied to the Jeffrey Paul Delisle spy controversy.

News you may have missed #670: Analysis edition

Michael ChertoffBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Some argue US DHS should change intelligence mission. A decade after Congress created the Department of Homeland Security, the Aspen Homeland Security Group, which is co-chaired by former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff (pictured), says it is time for the agency to shift its focus from foreign threats to working with local governments and the private sector. Aspen pushes for even more intelligence outsourcing —no surprises there.
►►Not-so-covert Iran war buys West time but raises tension. “Ten out of 10. They hit the target and nobody got caught”, former US intelligence officer Robert Ayers told Reuters of the January 11 killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan. “What makes these things so impressive is they gather a lot of information and do their ‘on the ground’ homework, which can take months”. Sidney Alford, a British explosives expert, says the hit was technically “professional. It worked and it worked very well”.
►►Inside Mossad’s war on Tehran. “In the five attacks on nuclear scientists, the hit squad has used a motorbike every time. The motorcyclist is ubiquitous in the capital’s traffic jams, often wearing a surgical mask for protection against the heavy pollution and able to move close to the target between the lines of stationary cars without attracting attention”.

News you may have missed #661

Reza KahliliBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Britain increases pay for key intelligence staff. Having seen many of its key intelligence staff lured away by tech heavyweights like Google and Microsoft, the UK government is apparently offering bonuses and payouts to key intelligence staff to ensure they don’t leave their jobs at the Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ). The UK Cabinet Office has stated that the bonuses to be paid to its key staff have been already given the green light.
►►Ex-CIA spy sees split in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Reza Kahlili (codenamy WALLY) is the pseudonym used by an Iranian defector to the US, who claims to have worked as a CIA agent in the 1980s and early 1990s. Kahlili (pictured), who says he was a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the ideological protectors of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, argues that a serious split is developing within the IRGC, with one faction favoring the overthrow of the government.
►►A rare look at Fort Bragg’s Special Warfare Center. The US Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg is a CIA-approved paramilitary training facility, aimed at members of the US Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and Marine Corps special operators. The piece claims –rather unconvincingly– that the Center is “an illustration of how special operations and intelligence forces have reached an easier coexistence, after early clashes where CIA officers accused the military operators of ineptly trying to run their own spy rings overseas without State Department or CIA knowledge”.

News you may have missed #648

Academi HQ

►►IntelNews editor interviewed on RT. IntelNews senior editor, Dr Joseph Fitsanakis, was interviewed yesterday on the main news program of the popular international news channel RT. The interview, concerning the rebranding of private security company Xe Services (formerly Blackwater) to Academi, can be watched here (watch video at the bottom of the page).
►►Contractors making a killing working in UK cyberdefense. Britain has spent more than £100 million ($160 million) in the past year on consultants to combat cyber espionage and the growing use of the internet by terrorists. Now, members of Parliament are investigating the soaring costs of employing private contractors, some paid the equivalent of £150,000 a year, three times the average wage at GCHQ, the UK’s signals intelligence agency.
►►Japan launches second spy satellite. Japan’s space agency, JAXA, has launched an intelligence-gathering satellite, its second this year. Japan launched its first pair of spy satellites in 2003, prompted by concerns over North Korea’s missile program. It currently has four optical information-gathering satellites in orbit. Officials refused to provide details of the capabilities of the most recently launched satellite.

News you may have missed #639

GCHQ

GCHQ

►►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 #597

Abdel Hakim Belhaj

Abdel Belhaj

►►Inside the CIA’s secret Thai prison. The United States Central Intelligence Agency appears to have used Bangkok’s former Don Muang International Airport as a secret prison to torture Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who is now the commander of rebel Libyan military forces in Tripoli. If true, Belhaj’s allegations are the first public descriptions of a CIA black site in Thailand. Bangkok-based journalist Richard S Ehrlich investigates.
►►How is the US government using security contractors? “Mark Lowenthal, who was a high-ranking CIA official before joining the contractor work force, told the [US House Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee] that during his time as assistant director of Central Intelligence for Analysis and Production, half of his staff was made up of contractors”.
►►Leaked cables show Australia nuclear power push. In 2008, John Carlson, head of the Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation Office, which acts as the country’s nuclear safeguard authority, advised the then prime minister Kevin Rudd that no scheme to limit carbon emissions would succeed without the building of civilian nuclear power stations, according to leaked US diplomatic cables. When contacted by the media, Carlson refused to confirm or deny the accuracy of the revelations.

News you may have missed #584

Nicky Hager

Nicky Hager

►►Billing dispute reveals details of secret CIA flights. On August 12, 2003, a conracted Gulfstream IV aircraft carrying six passengers took off from Dulles International Airport for Bangkok. When it returned four days later, it carried Indonesian terrorist Riduan Isamuddin, who had been captured in Thailand and would spend the next three years in various secret CIA prisons. The Gulfstream IV’s itinerary, as well as the $339,228 price tag for the journey, are among the details of shadowy CIA flights that have emerged in a New York courthouse, in a billing dispute between contractors. Incidentally, even the airplanes’ owners didn’t always know that the CIA was using them.
►►French admit secret service spied on reporter. French interior minister Claude Guéant has admitted that the secret service spied on investigative reporter Gérard Davet, from the newspaper Le Monde, in order to trace the source of a leak about the so-called “Bettencourt party funding scandal“, which has been a source of embarrassment for President Nicolas Sarkozy’s party.
►►NZ let Israeli spies go free in return for passports. Another revelation from Nicky Hager’s book Other People’s Wars (see previous intelNews coverage here). The investigative reporter claims that New Zealand’s Security Intelligence Service released captured Mossad spies Eli Cara and Uriel Zoshe Kelman, in return for Read more of this post