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.

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Pakistan releases CIA operative in ‘carefully choreographed’ deal [updated]

Raymond Allen Davis

Raymond Davis

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Pakistani groups had warned of “Egyptian-style protests” if CIA operative Raymond Allen Davis was released from detention, so his release earlier today, which hardly surprised intelligence observers, appears to have been arranged so as to limit its feared political spillover. In a move that The Washington Post described as “carefully choreographed”, Islamabad handed Davis to the Americans, while the latter thanked the families of the two men killed by Davis for “their generosity” in forgiving him. The exchange was announced later in the day, so by the time it made the rounds on Pakistani media, it was after nightfall, and too late to organize street protests. Some violent clashes between police and demonstrators were reported in Lahore (where the killings took place), but the streets other Pakistani cities appear to be generally quiet. Davis, who was charged with murder by a Pakistani court earlier this year, appears to have been freed after the US agreed to give $700,000 to the families of each of his two victims. The total cost to the US behind Davis’ deal may be as high as $2.3 million (update: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton  has said the US “did not pay compensation” for Davis’ release). Read more of this post

US reducing spy presence in Pakistan, say papers

Pakistan

Pakistan

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Several Pakistani publications report that the United States has suspended some of its intelligence operations in Pakistan and is pulling several of its operatives out of the country. The Islamabad-based Express-Tribune, which is partnered with The International Herald Tribune (the global edition of The New York Times), says that the US move is designed to pre-empt an ongoing investigation by Pakistani authorities into the whereabouts and activities of hundreds of US diplomats in several of the country’s regions. According to the paper, Pakistan’s foreign ministry is in the process of conducting its first detailed investigation into the US diplomatic community in Pakistan in almost three years. The ministry has told the Express Tribune that it has detected 851 Americans operating in Pakistan with diplomatic immunity, of whom nearly 300 “are not working in a diplomatic capacity”. The paper also cites sources inside Pakistan’s ministry of the interior, which claim that as many as 414 American diplomats operating in Pakistan are members of the US intelligence community. Over 40 US intelligence operatives have allegedly left the country or have completely suspended their activities in recent weeks. Read more of this post

Media concealed agent’s CIA capacity at US request

Raymond Allen Davis

Raymond Davis

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Several American news outlets withheld information about the CIA capacity of a US citizen who was arrested in Pakistan last month after killing two men. Raymond Allen Davis (note: this may not be his real name), who holds a United States diplomatic passport, was detained in Lahore on January 25, after using an unregistered Glock semi-automatic pistol to shoot dead two men, who he says tried to assault him. There has been intense speculation about Davis’ professional capacity, with many observers suspecting he works in intelligence. His CIA role was confirmed earlier this week by British newspaper The Guardian, which cited officials in Pakistan and the US in revealing that Davis, 36, is “beyond a shadow of a doubt” an employee of the CIA. Shortly after that revelation, three US-based news outlets, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Associated Press, confirmed Davis’ CIA credentials, saying that they had been aware of them for weeks. The Times and the Post both suggested that they decided to consciously suppress Davis’ CIA role after the Obama administration told them that not doing so would endanger the CIA operative’s life. Read more of this post

US-Pakistan spy ties still tense, despite alleged thaw

Cantt, Lahore

Cantt, Lahore

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Last December, US officials accused Pakistani security agencies of conducting a “blatant harassment campaign [against] American diplomats”, which reportedly included “frequent checking of American diplomatic vehicles in major cities across the country”. Recent articles in the Pakistani press appear to confirm these reports, indicating that they may be connected with ongoing attempts by US intelligence to increase its limited footprint in Pakistan beyond the safety of the US embassy compound in Islamabad. One such case is in Cantt, Lahore’s military zone, where it appears American intelligence officers have covertly leased “an outpost of several houses”. It is not clear when precisely the Americans began leasing the houses. But the Pakistanis, who have surrounded Cantt with security checkpoints, noticed the increased traffic by vehicles carrying US personnel, and started insisting on inspecting them, as they do with all vehicles entering and exiting Cantt. Read more of this post

Book claims CIA turned blind eye on Pakistan’s post-9/11 terror links

Jean-Louis Bruguiere

J.L. Bruguiere

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A new book by France’s former leading investigating magistrate on counterterrorism affairs alleges that the CIA allowed the Pakistani army to train members of a notorious Islamist militant group, even after 9/11. In the book, entitled Ce que je n’ai pas pu dire (The Things I Would Not Utter), Jean-Louis Bruguiere says the US spy agency was aware that Pakistani army trainers worked with Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani group responsible for a series of sophisticated strikes in India, including the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The former magistrate bases his allegations on official testimony provided by Willy Brigitte, a French citizen from Guadeloupe, who was arrested in Australia in 2003, in connection with Lashkar-e-Taiba activities there. Soon after the US invasion of Afghanistan, Brigitte traveled to Pakistan aiming to join the Taliban insurgency, but was unable to cross the Pakistani-Afghan border. Read more of this post

Taliban execute Mehsud’s family members on espionage charges

Baitullah Mehsud

Baitullah Mehsud

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Four relatives of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud were reportedly arrested last week by Taliban militants, who suspect them of having informed Pakistani and US intelligence about Mehsud’s whereabouts. Pakistani and US officials say they are almost certain that Mehsud was killed in an unmanned drone air strike (probably remotely operated by the CIA) earlier this month. Mehsud’s family members arrested by the Taliban include his father-in-law, Ikramuddin Mehsud, his son, Ziauddin Mehsud, his brother, Saeedullah Mehsud, and his nephew, Iqbal Mehsud. Earlier today, Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, told reporters that the Taliban have executed Mehsud’s family members, listed above, after “confirming” their espionage activities. Read more of this post