Comment: The Significance of the Killing of Lebanon’s Security Chief

The bombing that killed Wissam al-HassanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS*| intelNews.org |
Perhaps the only concrete reality reflected in last week’s assassination of Lebanon’s security chief is the confusion that continues to dominate Western reporting about Lebanese politics. On Friday, Lebanese capital Beirut experienced its most powerful bombing in nearly four years, when a car laden with explosives detonated killing at least eight and injured nearly 100 people. Among the dead was Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan, head of the intelligence section of Lebanon’s national police force, known as the Internal Security Forces (ISF).  Hassan, a career intelligence officer, was a Sunni Muslim strongly associated with Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Hariri, who was assassinated in Beirut in 2005, was openly anti-Syrian, as was Hassan. This political identification is extremely telling in a country like Lebanon, which has existed under near-complete Syrian political and military domination for the past three-and-a-half decades. Throughout this period, the position of different actors on the Syrian question has been the core defining parameter in Lebanese politics. The same applies to Lebanese institutions. As one such institution, the ISF is widely perceived as strongly anti-Syrian, and is often considered the main rival of the Security Organ of Hezbollah, the Shiite paramilitary group that controls most of southern Lebanon. Read more of this post

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News you may have missed #0255 (espionage edition)

  • South Korea jails alleged spy for 10 years. A 37-year-old college professor, identified only as Lee, has been handed a 10-year prison sentence for allegedly spying undercover on behalf of North Korea for 17 years. South Korean authorities said Lee, who was charged in November, was recruited by the North in 1992, while studying in New Delhi, India.
  • New details in Nozette spy case. Maryland scientist Stewart Nozette, who is accused of giving classified defense information to an FBI agent posing as an Israeli intelligence officer, may have impersonated a naval research official in order to acquire classified information, according to new court documents.
  • I didn’t kill Islamic Jihad members because I was busy spying for Israel“. Mahmoud Qassem Rafeh, a retired Lebanese Internal Security Forces official, has already confessed to having “collaborated with Israeli intelligence agents” between 1993 and 2006. But he denies having participated in the 2006 assassinations of two Islamic Jihad leaders in Lebanon, because on the night of the assassinations he was conducting a reconnaissance mission in Lebanon on behalf of Israeli spy agency Mossad.

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Israel mum on mysterious devices found in Lebanon

One of the devices

One of the devices

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Israel has refused to either confirm or deny it planted a number of communications interception devices that were uncovered last week by security forces in southern Lebanon. Responding to a “request for clarifications” issued by the United Nations, the Israeli government said simply that “collecting intelligence in southern Lebanon will continue as long as the government in Beirut is not in full control of its territory”, an obvious reference to Hezbollah, the Shia Islamic political and paramilitary organization that controls large parts of Lebanon. Three the devices were found last week, attached to a telecommunications cable on the outskirts of the southern Lebanese village of Houla. Interestingly, two of the devices self-destructed by exploding as Lebanese security personnel were approaching. Read more of this post

Mysterious self-destructing devices found at Lebanon-Israel border

One of the devices

One of the devices

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Lebanese authorities have revealed the discovery last week of three communications interception devices near the Israel-Lebanon border. Interestingly, two of the devices self-destructed by exploding as Lebanese security personnel were approaching. Members of the Lebanese Armed Forces decided to detonate a third device, fearing that it too might explode at any moment. The three devices were attached to a telecommunications cable on the outskirts of the southern Lebanese village of Houla. Israeli officials have so far refused to address the accusation of the Lebanese government that the devices were planted by Israeli spies. Read more of this post

Russians helped Lebanon bust Israeli spy ring, claims site

FSB agent

FSB agent

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Israeli website DEBKAfile claims that the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) is the primary counterintelligence force behind the busting of the Al-Alam spy ring in Lebanon, which intelNews has been monitoring since February, when it first erupted. The website, known for its contacts with intelligence circles, says that it was Russian, not French, surveillance technology that helped uncover the spy ring. The article cites “Western intelligence sources in the Middle East”, who apparently revealed that a specialist FSB unit was commissioned by Hezbollah, the Shia Islamic political and paramilitary organization that controls large parts of Lebanon, to root out the massive spy ring. The unit then proceeded to do so “with the help of super-efficient detection systems”, DEBKAfile claims. Read more of this post

Analysis: Early Thoughts on Medhat’s Assassination

Kamal Medhat

Kamal Medhat

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Kamal Medhat, 58, was a senior Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) official. He was assassinated on March 23 by a roadside bomb that struck a PLO convoy outside the entrance to the Mieh Mieh refugee camp, located near Sidon in southern Lebanon. Since Medhat’s assassination, intelNews has received several emails from readers pointing the finger at Israel’s intelligence services. There is no doubt that Medhat’s assassination is a significant setback for the broader secular Palestinian movement, and especially for Fatah, of which Medhat was a senior member. A former aide to the late PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, Medhat had previously served as Fatah’s director of intelligence in Lebanon, and was a key supporter of Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. To my knowledge, Medhat was the most senior Palestinian official (of any faction) assassinated in Lebanon in nearly 30 years. Nevertheless, although an Israeli role in his assassination should not be ruled out, it would be premature to conclude at this stage that Israeli intelligence services were behind the operation. Read article →