American spy for Israel released after 30-year sentence ‘still a threat to US’

Pollard - aSenior United States intelligence officials have filed parole documents arguing that an American Navy analyst, who was recently released from prison after serving a 30-year sentence for spying for Israel, continues to pose a threat to national security. Jonathan Jay Pollard is a former intelligence analyst for the United States Navy, who has was jailed in 1985 for selling American government secrets to Israel. During his trial, the US government successfully argued that Pollard was one of the most damaging spies in American history, having stolen a high volume of classified documents in a relatively short period of time.

But Pollard was recently released from prison, having served his full 30-year sentence. However, as part of the conditions of his release, Pollard must consent to the US government having constant access to the hard drive of his personal computer and internet browsing history. He is also obligated to wear a GPS device at all times, which tracks his daily movements in New York, where Pollard has been living since his release from prison. Some intelligence observers, including Newsweek correspondent Jeff Stein, have voiced concerns that Pollard may be tempted to travel abroad in order to collect funds that his Israeli spy handlers may have deposited for him in offshore bank accounts as payment for his past acts of espionage.

Now Pollard’s lawyers have filed a legal brief arguing that his parole conditions are unnecessary and excessive, and that the US government should ease them considerably. However, documents filed late last week with the US Parole Commission by senior intelligence officers acting on behalf of the US Intelligence Community, make the case that Pollard’s parole conditions should continue unchanged. In a report published on Tuesday, the Daily Beast’s Shane Harris says the intelligence officers argue “forcefully” in the documents that Pollard “still poses a risk to national security”. One of the documents (.pdf), filed by Jennifer Hudson, Director of the Information Management Division at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, uses particularly stark language in support of maintaining Pollard’s parole conditions. Hudson argues that “some of the sources and methods used to develop some of the intelligence exposed by Mr. Pollard not only remain classified but are still in use by the Intelligence Community today”.

Harris quotes an unnamed “former senior US intelligence official familiar with Pollard’s case”, who argues that the spy may have known which “up-and-coming” Israeli or other Middle Eastern leaders US intelligence had recruited or was trying to recruit as agents in the early 1980s. These individuals may today be in positions of prominence, and Pollard may be able to harm them. In her declaration filed with the Parole Commission, the ODNI’s Hudson argues that Pollard could also compromise information gathered from US agents in Israel and elsewhere, which could potentially reveal their identities. “Even in cases where [these agents are] no longer alive, such disclosure can place in jeopardy the lives of individuals with whom the source had contact”, she writes.

There is, of course, another reason too, says Harris, for the resistance put up by the US Intelligence Community against easing Pollard’s restrictions: “US spies don’t easily forgive, and they don’t forget”, he says. Pollard’s former colleagues are still angry about his monumental betrayal. The Daily Beast says it contacted one of Pollard’s lawyers for a comment, but there was no response.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 22 June 2016 | Permalink

Elite Hamas military commander reportedly defects to Israel

Kerem Shalom border crossingA senior member of the military wing of Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that governs the Gaza Strip, is believed to have defected to Israel. News of the rumored defection first appeared on the website of Al-Hayat al-Jadida, the official newspaper of the Palestinian Authority, which is based in the West Bank. On Tuesday, Al-Hayat said that the man, a member of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, had not been seen for several days.

The alleged defector was later named as Bassam Mahmoud Baraka, and reportedly comes from a well-known family in Kahn Younis, on the southern sector of the Gaza Strip. Baraka’s father is believed to be a religious judge that serves in Gaza under Hamas’ jurisdiction. According to Al-Hayat, the missing man is an elite member of the al-Qassam Brigades and specializes in operating inside the numerous underground tunnels that are said to span the entirety of the Palestinian enclave. The tunnels are of strategic importance to Hamas, as they secretly connect it with the outside world, despite Israeli efforts to prevent the trafficking of goods and people to and from the Gaza Strip. Some Israeli military officials believe that Hamas operatives are able to travel from one end of the Strip to the other without having to emerge from the ground. Since the 2014 Israeli invasion of Gaza, Tel Aviv has said that it views the elimination of Hamas’ vast underground tunnel network as a national security priority.

According to Palestinian websites, Baraka told members of his family that he was stepping out for a brief hike but never returned. He is believed to have voluntarily approached the border fence that separates Gaza from Israel and surrendered himself to a group of Israeli soldiers. Al-Hayat reports that Baraka’s family has already been informed from representatives of the Red Cross that he is in Israeli hands. Palestinian sources suggest that the Israeli soldiers that took in Baraka were aware of his pending defection and were waiting for him at the border. He was also reportedly carrying a laptop computer with him.

Israel is known to aggressively recruit informants in the Gaza Strip, many of them affiliated with Hamas. In 2010 it was revealed that Mosab Hassan Yousef, whose father is a senior Hamas official, was a secret informant for Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security agency. Yousef defected to Israel and is now believed to be living in the United States.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 15 June 2016 | Permalink

Ex-Mossad chief calls on Israel to speak with Hamas

Efraim HalevyA former director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency has called on the Israeli government to reach out to Hamas, arguing that the Palestinian group is now ready to accept a peace settlement. Efraim Halevy directed the Mossad, Israel’s primary external intelligence agency, for five years before retiring in 2002. He is best known for helping forge a historic peace treaty between Israel and Jordan in 1994, which made the Hashemite Kingdom the second Arab country, after Egypt, to sing a peace accord with the Jewish state.

Halevy was speaking last week at an annual conference hosted in New York by the Israel-based newspaper The Jerusalem Post. During a panel entitled “Does the World Have an Answer to Islamic Terror?”, Halevy said it was time for Israel to speak to Hamas about the possibility of a peace treaty. The former Mossad director said he knew that “senior figures in the United States” had already established contacts with the Palestinian militant group, which controls the Gaza Strip. He also said that he knew “with certainty” that the leadership of Hamas was prepared to consider some kind of a “temporary settlement” based on the promise of the establishment of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 Six-Day War borders. “The leadership of Hamas knows that they have no chance of destroying Israel”, said Halevy, adding that “now is the time to talk to Hamas”. According to the retired spy, a temporary settlement between Israel and Hamas that seeks to establish a Palestinian state would amount to a start in negotiations for a recognition of the state of Israel by Hamas. Halevy criticized Israel for refusing to speak with Hamas, saying that “as long as Israel refuses to talk with Hamas, and in the absence of any other alternative, [Hamas] has no option but to do what it does now”.

Last week was not the first time that Halevy has called for Israel to negotiate with Hamas. In July 2014, he told the American television network CNN that there were numerous radical groups in the Gaza Strip that were more threatening to Israel’s security than Hamas, not to mention Sunni Islamist groups like the Islamic State, which posed a much more pertinent challenge to regional stability. Two years earlier, n 2012, Halevy had issued a public call for dialogue between Israel and Iran, saying that “the Iranians, in their heart of hearts, would like to get out of their conundrum”, referring to Tehran’s nuclear program.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 01 June 2016 | Permalink

Israel, Egypt, Jordan, enter ‘unprecedented’ intelligence-sharing agreement

Yair GolanThe governments of Israel, Egypt and Jordan have entered an intelligence-sharing agreement aimed at joining forces against the Islamic State, which a senior Israeli military commander has described as “unprecedented”. The comment was made on Wednesday by Major General Yair Golan at a press conference hosted by Israel’s Foreign Press Association. General Golan has been serving as Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces since late 2014.

Speaking to reporters in Jerusalem, General Golan said that intelligence was “the most important element in the whole system” when fighting an insurgency of the kind that the Islamic State is conducting in the Middle East. He went on to point out that Egypt is currently engaged in a war against Islamic State forces in the Sinai Peninsula, while “Jordan is terrified by the presence of the Islamic State in [its] cities and towns”. At the same time, Israel tries to “work with them in order to contribute something to their security”, he added, referring to Egypt and Jordan.

The two nations represent the only Arab countries that have signed peace treaties with the Jewish state. A peace treaty between Israel and Egypt was signed in 1979, whereas a similar agreement was struck between Israel and Jordan 15 years later, in 1994. General Golan cited the peace treaties between the three nations as the basis for the intelligence-sharing agreement. But he added that he would not describe the latter as “some sort of reconciliation” between Israel and the people of Egypt and Jordan. However, the agreement is “a good starting point”, he said, adding that he is “quite optimistic” about the future of Israel’s relations with Jordan and Egypt.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 21 April 2016 | Permalink

Romania arrests four Israelis on espionage charges

DIICOT RomaniaDIICOT RomaniaA Romanian agency tasked with security and counterterrorism has announced the arrest of four Israeli citizens on charges of hacking the email accounts of Romanian government officials. The arrests were announced on Thursday by Daniel Horodniceanu, chief of Romania’s Directorate for the Investigation of Organized Crime and Terrorism, known as DIICOT). In a press statement, Horodniceanu said the Israeli citizens are all employees of Black Cube, an Israeli security firm that is known for hiring former members of Israel’s intelligence and and special forces agencies. Among the company’s most high-profile board members was Meir Dagan, the former director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, who died in March after a long illness.

Reports in the Romanian press have named two of the four Israeli citizens as Avi Yanus and Dan Zorella, both former members of the Israeli intelligence community, who are believed to be the founders of Black Cube. Two other Israelis, David Geclowicz and Ron Weiner, are accused of having hacked three email accounts belonging to a high-profile Romanian government agency tasked with anti-corruption efforts. Romanian media claim that the primary target of the Black Cube employees was Laura Codruta Kovesi, director of Romania’s National Anticorruption Directorate. Referred to as DNA, the agency was created in 2003 with the aim of combating serious organized crime and corruption in Romanian politics. The latter is seen by many in Romania as endemic and harmful to the country’s efforts to integrate fully into the European Union.

According to DIICOT, the arrests of the four Israelis were “preventive” and were prompted by an initial complaint filed against them by a former public prosecutor, Ion Lascu, who is Kovesi’s father. When approached by Israeli media, Black Cube confirmed that four of its employees had been arrested in Romania. However, it said its employees were careful to follow Romanian law and dismissed the espionage allegations against them as “unfounded and untrue”. In a statement, the company said it was recently hired to work on a project to collect intelligence on large-scale corruption in Romanian politics. The statement added that Black Cube employees were arrested “after having made significant discoveries” relating to the aforementioned project.

Late on Thursday, Romanian investigators said they were still trying to find out who hired Black Cube to work in Romania.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 07 April 2016 | Permalink

Revealed: Decorated Nazi commander became Mossad assasin

Otto SkorzenyA notorious lieutenant colonel in the Waffen SS, who served in Adolf Hitler’s personal bodyguard unit, worked as a hitman for the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad after World War II, it has been revealed. Austrian-born Otto Skorzeny became known as the most ruthless special-forces commander in the Third Reich. Having joined the Austrian branch of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party at 19, at age 23 Skorzeny began serving in the Waffen SS, Nazi Germany’s conscript army that consisted largely of foreign-born fighters. In 1943, Hitler himself decorated Skorzeny with the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, in recognition of his leadership in Operation EICHE, the rescue by German commandos of Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who had been imprisoned at a ski resort in the Apennine Mountains following a coup against his government.

Skorzeny survived the war and ended up living in Spain under the protection of the country’s far-right dictator, Francisco Franco. The Mossad, Israel’s covert-action agency, which had made it a priority to arrest or kill senior Nazis who had survived the war, intended to kill Skorzeny. However, two veteran Israeli intelligence observers, Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman, revealed on Sunday that, instead of killing Skorzeny, the Mossad decided to recruit him. Based on “interviews with former Mossad officers and with Israelis who have access to the Mossad’s archived secrets”, Raviv and Melman allege that Isser Harel, who directed the Mossad from 1952 to 1963, decided that the former Waffen SS commander would be a useful asset against other Nazis operating in Europe and the Middle East. Specifically, Harel planned to use Skorzeny as a trap to lure a number of Nazi scientists who were secretly working for Egypt’s missile program.

According to Raviv and Melman, a Mossad team was sent to Spain to meet Skorzeny. After a tense incident that involved Skorzeny pointing a loaded weapon at two Mossad operatives, the former Nazi soldier agreed to cooperate with Israel in return for assurances that his name would be removed from the Mossad’s assassination list. Raviv and Melman claim that one of Skorzeny’s most high-profile operations as an agent of the Mossad culminated in the assassination of Heinz Krug in Munich in 1962. Krug was a German rocket scientist who was working for the Egyptian government under the tutelage of Dr Wolfgang Pilz, another rocketry expert who had put together a top-secret missile program for Cairo. Krug was targeted for assassination by Yitzhak Shamir, Israel’s future prime minister, who was then commander of the Mossad’s clandestine operations service.

Krug, who was worried for his life after receiving threatening messages from individuals he believed were connected with the Mossad, reached out to Skorzeny in hopes that the former Waffen SS commander could give him advice on enhancing his personal security. But Skorzeny, operating on orders of the Mossad, shot dead the German scientist in a remote wooded area outside Munich. A Mossad team then poured acid on Krug’s body before burying it in a grave that had been dug in preparation for his killing. According to Raviv and Melman, Skorzeny also sent German scientists in Egypt a number of mail bombs designed by the Mossad, which killed a number of people. Raviv and Melman also state that they received oral confirmation from Rafi Eitan, a legendary Mossad operations officer, that he “met and ran Skorzeny” on behalf of the Israeli intelligence agency.

Skorzeny died of cancer in Spain in 1975. He was 67. It is believed that the Mossad never tried to kill or kidnap him.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 29 March 2016 | Permalink

NSA director made secret visit to Israel last week

Michael RogersThe head of the United States’ largest intelligence agency secretly visited Israel last week, reportedly in order to explore forging closer ties between American and Israeli cyber intelligence experts. Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz said on Sunday that Admiral Michael Rogers, who directs the United States National Security Agency (NSA), was secretly in Israel last week. The NSA is America’s signals intelligence (SIGINT) agency, which is responsible for electronic collection, as well as protecting US government information and communication systems from foreign penetration and sabotage.

According to Ha’aretz, Rogers was hosted in Israel by the leadership of the Israel Defense Forces’ SIGINT unit, which is known as Intelligence Corps Unit 8200. The secretive group, which is seen as Israel’s equivalent to the NSA, is tasked with collecting SIGINT from Middle Eastern locations and protecting Israel’s electronic information infrastructure from adversaries. According to the Israeli newspaper, Rogers’ visit was aimed at exploring ways in which the NSA and Unit 8200 can enhance their cooperation, especially against regional Middle Eastern powers like Iran or non-state groups like Hezbollah.

IntelNews readers will recall that the IDF’s Unit 8200 is viewed by some Middle East observers as the creator of the Stuxnet virus. Stuxnet is a sophisticated malware that is believed to have been designed as an electronic weapon against Iran’s nuclear program. Among these observers is New York Times correspondent David Sanger; in his 2012 book, Confront and Conceal, Sanger claimed that Stuxnet was designed by NSA and Unit 8200 programmers as part of a joint offensive cyber operation codenamed OLYMPIC GAMES. According to Sanger, the two agencies collaborated very closely between 2008 and 2011 in order to bring about Stuxnet and other carefully engineered malware, including Flame.

Ha’aretz said that Rogers’ visit was meant to solidify US and Israeli cooperation on offensive cyber operations, based on the legacy of Stuxnet and Flame. During his visit to Israel, the US intelligence official also met with the heads of other Israeli intelligence agencies, said Ha’aretz.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 28 March 2016 | Permalink

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