News you may have missed #543 (CIA edition)

John Rizzo

John Rizzo

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Ex-CIA officer warns of Israeli attack on Iran. Few in the CIA are more knowledgeable about Shiite politics than Robert Baer, a veteran of the Agency’s National Clandestine Service, who spent over 20 years in the Middle East, notably in Lebanon. Last weekend, Baer spoke to Los Angeles radio station KPFK, and said that “[t]here is almost near certainty [in Israel] that Netanyahu is planning an attack [on Iran] and it will probably be in September before the vote on a Palestinian state. And he’s also hoping to draw the United States into the conflict”. Baer is not alone in issuing such warnings in recent months. Former Mossad director Meir Dagan has been echoing Baer’s concerns. ►►Campaigners seek arrest of ex-CIA legal chief. We have written before about John A. Rizzo, the CIA’s former Acting General Counsel, who has been termed “the most influential career lawyer in CIA history”. Some readers may remember that Rizzo retired hurriedly from his post in 2009, amidst fears that he could get in trouble for acting as what some observers termed “a legal enabler” of the CIA torture practices under the George W. Bush administration. Now a group of human rights campaigners in Britain and Pakistan are seeking Rizzo’s arrest for his role in justifying the CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, the legality of which is often questioned by experts. The CIA has refused to comment on the campaign to indict Rizzo. ►►Analysis: The fallout from the CIA’s vaccination ploy in Pakistan. We wrote on Monday that not everyone is amused by news that the CIA tried to collect DNA evidence on Osama bin Laden by running a phony vaccination program in Pakistan. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #534

MI6 HQ

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
According to extracts from the diary of Alastair Campbell, British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s communications director from 2000 to 2003, officials from the MI6 intelligence agency told Blair that France and Germany aimed to “exploit his feud” with then Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown. Gotta love European unity. In Kuwait, meanwhile, the oil state’s Al-Shahed daily quotes “knowledgeable sources”, who claim that “a lot of spy networks exploit the Kuwaiti environment” and use the country as a transit point to spy on neighboring countries. Hopefully the Kuwaitis will not emulate authorities in Dubai, which in March of last year called on all foreign spies “to leave the region within a week. If not”, they warned, “we will cross that bridge when we come to it”. In the nearby state of Israel, public opinion is still divided about former Mossad chief Meir Dagan’s criticism of the Netanyahu government. As Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg notes, Dagan has “called into question the wisdom –and, privately, even the sanity– of any Israeli leader who contemplates a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities”. But why is he doing it, and could it backfire?

Ex-Mossad chief stripped of Israeli diplomatic passport

Meir Dagan

Meir Dagan

By IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
The former chief of Israel’s primary external intelligence agency has been told to return his diplomatic passport immediately, a move that has been described as “unusual” by Israeli media. According to news reports, Meir Dagan, who led the Mossad from 2002 until January of this year, had requested that he be allowed to use his diplomatic passport for a series of upcoming international trips. But the Israeli government turned down his request and ordered him instead to surrender his diplomatic passport, effective immediately. The move comes several weeks after Dagan launched a barrage of serious criticisms against Israel’s political leadership. Earlier this month, he told journalists that the country’s current government is led by “reckless and irresponsible” people, who will not hesitate to engage in military adventurism in Iran in order to ensure their political survival at home. In May, he warned that any military action against Iran would be “patently illegal under international law” and that it would probably not achieve its goals, since Iranian nuclear installations are deliberately dispersed in locations across that vast country.  Israel’s Channel 2 reported that it is usual practice to allow government officials to use their diplomatic passports until they expire, ever after they retire from their government positions. Read more of this post

Former Mossad chief calls Israeli leadership ‘reckless’

Meir Dagan

Meir Dagan

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The man who headed for eight years Israel’s most powerful spy agency has launched a new round of serious criticisms against the country’s political leadership. Meir Dagan, who led the Mossad from 2002 until January of this year, told Israeli newspapers that Israel’s current government is led by “reckless and irresponsible” people, who will not hesitate to engage in military adventurism abroad to ensure their political primacy at home. Israeli commentators interpret these comments as a reference to a reputed military attack by Tel Aviv against Iran’s nuclear energy program installations. Dagan’s comments follow similar criticisms he leveled against the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month. Speaking at a conference held at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, he warned that any military action against Iran would be “patently illegal under international law” and that it would probably not achieve its goals, since Iranian nuclear installations are deliberately dispersed in locations across that vast country. Consequently, the widespread nature of the attack could lead to a prolonged war, “the kind of thing where we know how it starts, but not how it will end”, he told conference participants. Read more of this post

Attacking Iran ‘a stupid idea’ says Mossad ex-chief

Meir Dagan

Meir Dagan

By IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
The former director of Israel’s Mossad spy agency has described the option of a military attack by Israel on Iran’s nuclear installations as “the stupidest thing I have ever heard”. Meir Dagan, who led the Mossad from 2002 until January of this year, was speaking publicly for the first time since his retirement, at a conference held at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. He told conference participants that any military action against Iran would be “patently illegal under international law” and that it would probably not achieve its goals, since Iranian nuclear installations are deliberately dispersed in locations across that vast country. Consequently, the widespread nature of the attack could lead to a prolonged war, “the kind of thing where we know how it starts, but not how it will end”, said Dagan. His comments found their way to the front pages of most Israeli newspapers over the weekend, and were headlined in television and radio station news programs, prompting responses by several former and acting Israeli officials. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #467

  • Ex-Mossad chief says Iran nuke program behind schedule. Meir Dagan, Israel’s recently retired spy chief, thinks Iran will not be able to build a nuclear bomb before 2015, further pushing back Israeli intelligence estimates on the subject. Time for critics of the 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate to reconsider their views?
  • NSA breaks ground on Utah cybersecurity center. Ground was broken last Thursday on the Utah Data Center, a $1.2 billion, 1 million-square-foot cybersecurity center being built for the US National Security Agency at Camp Williams, near Salt Lake City. Secrecy is expected to shroud the center, with the groundbreaking being one of the public’s last chances to take an open look at the project.
  • Colombian judge orders arrest of ex-spy chief. Colombia’s Prosecutor General has ordered the arrest of Jorge Noguera, a former director of the country’s DAS intelligence agency, for his alleged involvement in the spying on government opponents. This is not the first time Noguera, who was director of the DAS between 2002 and 2006, has been sent to jail. He was imprisoned and released twice for his alleged involvement in allowing members of paramilitary organization United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia to infiltrate the intelligence agency.

Some spy news in the shadow of WikiLeaks’ revelations

Katia Zatuliveter

Katia Zatuliveter

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The WikiLeaks revelations continue, and so does the global news storm concerning the whistleblower site. Obviously, the news value of the WikiLeaks disclosures is unquestionable. However, there are notable intelligence-related developments taking place outside the now-familiarWikiLeaks context. Take for instance the recent arrest of what appears to be a Polish spy in Limassol, Cyprus. The unidentified man, who was reportedly detained in the vicinity of a Greek-Cypriot military base on the island, was carrying “a camera containing photos of National Guard posts, a laptop, two mobile phones, five memory cards, a GPS system and three pairs of binoculars”. Another interesting development concerns the arrest on espionage charges of Katia Zatuliveter, a Russian citizen who works as an assistant to British Member of Parliament Mike Hancock. Zatuliveter is expected to be deported on the basis of evidence gathered by MI5, Britain’s counterintelligence service, which has apparently been monitoring her for several months. Interestingly, Mr. Hancock, who is a member of the British House of Commons’ Defence Select Committee, is standing by his assistant. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #457

  • Belgium investigates Colombian spying allegations. Judicial authorities in Brussels have formally opened an investigation into the alleged spying activities of Colombia’s foreign intelligence agency, DAS, in Belgium. The investigation is in response to claims by human rights organizations that the DAS broke Belgium’s espionage laws and spied on European Union politicians.
  • Russia reshuffles foreign intelligence after spy scandal. Russia’s foreign intelligence service, the SVR, is holding a “minor staff reshuffle” following last summer’s Russian-American spy scandal, in which 10 alleged deep-cover Russian spies were arrested in the United States.
  • Israel gets new spy chief amid big shuffle. Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has appointed Tamir Pardo, a veteran spy, as the new chief of the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence service. Pardo, who was twice deputy director of the Mossad, will replace hard-charging former army general and black operations specialist Meir Dagan, who has run the agency since 2002.

Some underreported WikiLeaks revelations

WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
There is little point in recapping here the bulk of disclosures contained in the ongoing WikiLeaks revelations. The news sphere is jam-packed with them —and perhaps this is the real story in the WikiLeaks revelations, namely the fact that espionage and intelligence issues have near-monopolized the global news cycle for the first time since the post-Watergate Congressional investigations of the 1970s. But it is worth pointing out a handful of news stories on the WikiLeaks revelations that have arguably not received the media coverage that they deserve. Undoubtedly the most underreported disclosure concerns a 2007 meeting between US officials and Meir Dagan, the then Director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency. During the meeting, Dagan apparently “presented US with five-step program to perform a coup in Iran“.  But there are other underreported disclosures. Take for instance the revelation that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally authorized US diplomats to engage in all-out and indiscriminate spying on senior United Nations officials. Although there is nothing here that will surprise seasoned intelligence observers, the breadth of intelligence collection that US diplomats are instructed to engage in (which includes collecting credit card numbers and biometric data of UN officials) is astonishing and certainly unprecedented. Moreover, it should be noted that many senior UN officials are in fact American, which leads to the intriguing question of whether US diplomats are routinely required to engage in intelligence collection against American UN officials. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #456 (Israel edition)

  • US Senate intel committee ex-chief wants Israel spy free. Former Democratic Senator Dennis DeConcini, who used to chair the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has called for the release of Jonathan Pollard, a US Navy Intelligence Analyst who was found guilty in 1987 of spying on the US on behalf of Israel. Pollard “is guilty, but it’s time for this to be resolved in a better way”, said DeConcini.
  • Israel about to announce next Mossad chief. On Thursday, or at the latest, early next week, the Israeli Prime Minister will announce his pick for the top post at the Mossad. Despite widespread speculation, nobody really knows who will replace Meir Dagan, the current Mossad chief.
  • Mossad book authors accused of plagiarism. The Mossad, a new book on the major exploits of Israel’s storied spy agency, has been on the Israeli best-seller list for months. But if much of the text sounds familiar, it’s because the authors, Nissim Mishal and Michael Bar-Zohar, apparently relied on previously published material –without crediting the original sources.

Israel intel chief hints at role in Syrian nuclear facility bombing

Amos Yadlin

Amos Yadlin

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Israel’s outgoing senior military intelligence chief has implied that Israel had a role in a mystery 2007 bombing of an undisclosed Syrian government facility, which is widely believed to have been a nuclear reactor. Speaking on Tuesday before the Knesset’s Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense, Amos Yadlin, who heads Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate, referred to having overseen intelligence operations against two nuclear programs during his tenure. Delivering a public statement before the Committee, Yadlin noted that he had “been through two wars and […] contended with two nuclear programs of enemy states”. Security observers consider this an indirect reference to Operation ORCHARD, the 2007 attack carried out by Israeli fighter jets in the night of September 6, 2007. The target location was Al-Kibar, a site deep in the Syro-Arabian Desert, twenty miles from Deir al-Zour. Neither Syria nor Israel have directly commented on the attack, which is widely thought to have targeted a Syrian nuclear reactor. Read more of this post

CIA spies consider Mossad ‘most unfriendly’ agency

Mossad seal

Mossad seal

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
This blog frequently considers the issue of US-Israeli intelligence relations, said to be undergoing a turbulent period in recent times. Indeed, the change of guard at the White House, the rearrangement of Washington’s policy priorities following the economic crash, as well as the dramatic rightwing shift in Israeli politics have rapidly altered the political playing field between the two nations. To this extent, it is worth noting that Meir Dagan, director of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, told a Knesset committee last July that “Israel is gradually turning from an asset to the United States to a burden”. How is this evident in intelligence relations between Washington and Tel Aviv? The Washington Post’s security correspondent Jeff Stein may be able to help fill in the picture. He wrote a few days ago that an internal poll, which was recently administered to CIA operatives, found that Israeli intelligence agencies are considered the world’s least friendly and most uncooperative with their US counterparts. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #387

  • Blackwater to ‘abandon US government market’. Erik Prince, occasional CIA operative and CEO of Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, has said in an interview that he is tired of Congressional oversight regulations and plans to abandon US government business forever. Meanwhile, there are reports that Xe has just won a $100 million contract to guard CIA facilities in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
  • Congress won’t back down on CIA oversight battle. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is battling a veto threat by US President Barack Obama, as well as against the CIA and powerful House and Senate Democrats and Republicans, over Congressional oversight of US intelligence services.
  • Mossad chief to step down after eight years. Mossad Director Meir Dagan’s request to extend his term by another year has been denied, and he will step down in three months’ time, according to Israeli media reports. The chief of Dubai Police, which exposed a January 2010 Mossad assassination of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, said Dagan’s ousting is related to the botched operation.

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Analysis: Israel Suffers Strategic Blowback in Flotilla Raid

Gaza Freedom Flotilla raid

Flotilla raid

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Speaking before a parliamentary committee about last month’s Israeli raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which killed nine and injured over 60 international volunteers, a senior Israeli intelligence official warned  that “[e]vents [like this] are likely to go out of control and the situation could deteriorate to extreme scenarios”. The official was no other than Meir Dagan, director of the Mossad, Israel’s foremost external intelligence agency. As I explain in an article published yesterday in Daily News Corner, to some extent, Dagan’s “extreme scenario” has already materialized. The raid’s outrageous death toll has further-worsened Israel’s deteriorating relations with Australia and has caused the outright termination of the Jewish state’s diplomatic contacts with several non-Western countries that used to be among its closest international friends, such as Turkey, South Africa, Ecuador and Nicaragua. More importantly, the flotilla attack has even stigmatized Israel’s relations with the United States, a development that fits into the broader pattern of steadily worsening US-Israeli relations in recent years. It is no coincidence that, on the day after the raid, Mossad chief Dagan said that “Israel is gradually turning from an asset to the United States to a burden”. Read article →

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Israel becoming a burden to the US, says Mossad chief

Meir Dagan

Meir Dagan

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The director of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad has publicly stated the agency’s concerns that Israel is gradually turning from an asset to a burden for American foreign policy. Speaking before the Israeli Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Meir Dagan said it was obvious to him that “Israel is gradually turning from an asset to the United States to a burden”. The former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) commander, who has led the Mossad since 2002, remarked that every year since the end of the Cold War there are progressively “fewer Israeli assets in the US”. The importance of Israel in US foreign policy was “greater when there was conflict between the blocs”, said the Mossad chief, “while this year there has [again] been a decrease” in Israel’s significance. He went on to lament the 2008 election success of US President Barack Obama, which was “a declaration that [the US] was adopting a softer approach and did not want to use force to solve conflicts”. Read more of this post

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