News you may have missed #401

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News you may have missed #389

  • Secrecy over attack on Syrian nuclear plant unjustified, says ex-CIA chief. The secrecy surrounding the Israeli attack on the nuclear plant in eastern Syria in September 2007 was justified only for the period immediately after the operation, according to the CIA head at the time, Gen. Michael Hayden. That secrecy had been meant to save Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from embarrassment that could have provoked him to retaliate, argues Hayden in an authorized scholarly journal article.
  • No proof yet of Colombian spying, says Ecuador. Ecuadorean Security Minister Miguel Carvajal said Thursday that allegations that Colombian security agency DAS spied on Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa and other officials is “so far just a newspaper story”. Late last month, the Ecuadorean government threatened to break off diplomatic ties with Colombia over the media revelations.
  • GCHQ releases Stalin-era Soviet intercepts. A series of newly released telegrams and telephone conversations, intercepted by the UK’s General Communications Headquarters, paint a picture of Joseph Stalin’s regime in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War.

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News you may have missed #0104

  • Pro-secrecy ex-NSA/CIA director joins declassification board. Michael V. Hayden is not exactly an advocate of declassifying US government records. But he is the latest appointee to the Public Interest Declassification Board, an official body that advises the President on declassification policies, priorities and potential reforms.
  • CIA agent who headed plan to lift sunken Soviet submarine dies. CIA agent Christopher Fitzgerald led a 1974 CIA project to recover a Soviet submarine that had sunk in 17,000 feet of water about 750 miles northwest of Hawaii in 1968. But the recovery team nearly caused a nuclear explosion when the submarine split while being raised, and its body hit the ocean floor.
  • CIA director heads agency recruiting drive of US Muslims. CIA chief Leon Panetta is to meet with Arab-Americans in Michigan, in an effort “to promote diversity within the intelligence agency”. But, as intelNews has noted before, this will not be easy, especially in Michigan.

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News you may have missed #0045

  • Ex-CIA, -NSA director defends warrantless wiretapping. Michael Hayden, who was director of the CIA from 2006 to 2009 and of the NSA from 1999 to 2005, has penned an article in The New York Times, in which he says that the Bush Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program helped the US intelligence community “connecting the dots, something for which we were roundly criticized after Sept[ember] 11 as not sufficiently doing”.
  • US House intelligence panel member calls for new Church Committee. Rush Holt (D-NJ) a senior member of the US House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, has called for a resuscitation of the Church and Pike investigations into intelligence practices of the 1970s.
  • BBC radio launches series on MI6. The BBC’s Radio 4 has launched today a new three-part series examining the 100-year history and operations of MI6, Britain’s foremost external intelligence agency. The programs, which can also be listened to online, include interviews with senior intelligence officers, agents and diplomats.

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Comment: NSA listened in on Rep. Harman secret phone deal

Jane Harman

Jane Harman

By IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
Representative Jane Harman (D-CA) has been in the limelight since Sunday evening, when veteran national security correspondent Jeff Stein published an article alleging that the Democratic politician struck a quid pro quo deal with a suspected Israeli spy. In the article, Stein cites several unnamed “former national security officials” who say Harman’s incriminating telephone conversation with the suspected Israeli agent was picked up in 2005 by a FISA-authorized NSA wiretap. During the call, the agent asked Harman to pressure US Justice Department officials to show leniency toward two American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobbyists, who were arrested in 2005 for receiving classified information by convicted Israeli spy Lawrence Anthony Franklin. The two lobbyists, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, are still awaiting trial.

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Outgoing CIA head confirms Obama backing down on torture

Hayden

Hayden

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
On January 15, I suggested that, after nominating Panetta, incoming US President Barack Obama was slowly backing away from his dispute with the CIA leadership. This interpretation has now been publicly confirmed by no other than departing CIA Director, Michael V. Hayden. Speaking to journalists about his imminent departure from the Agency, Hayden made sure to let them know that Mr. Obama privately assured him “he has no plans to launch a legal inquiry” into the CIA’s use of controversial interrogation methods in the “war on terrorism”. He also stated that the President Elect offered similar guarantees to Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnel, during a secret meeting in Chicago in December 2008. Read more of this post

Rift between CIA and Obama transition team continues

During the past several weeks we have been reporting that US President-Elect Barack Obama’s plans for the CIA have “created anxiety in the ranks of the agency’s clandestine service”, as the The New York Times put it. The Agency has effectively warned Obama a that he “may have difficulty finding a candidate who can be embraced by both veteran officials at the agency and the left flank of the Democratic Party”. It is believed that Obama is trying to alleviate the agency’s “anxiety” by proposing to retain the CIA’s current leadership. On Tuesday the Democratic Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Silvestre Rees of Texas, was enlisted by the CIA to pressure Obama to “keep the country’s current national intelligence director and CIA chief in place for some time to ensure continuity in US intelligence programs”. Read more of this post

Comment: Obama may retain current CIA leadership

In early November, US President-Elect Barack Obama appeared to be determined to install John Brennan, former head of the National Counterterrorism Center and supporter of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques”, to the post of Director of the CIA. The stir caused by Brennan’s support of torture techniques soon caused him to resign from the candidacy. The New York Times described Brennan’s resignation as “the biggest glitch so far in what has been an otherwise smooth transition for Mr. Obama”. On December 3, the paper warned that Obama’s decision to exclude Brennan from the CIA has “created anxiety in the ranks of the agency’s clandestine service”. It also quoted an unnamed intelligence official who cautioned the Obama transition team that Obama “may have difficulty finding a candidate who can be embraced by both veteran officials at the agency and the left flank of the Democratic Party”. In other words, the Clandestine Service does not intend to co-operate with a progressive attempt to restructure the CIA along essentially democratic lines. The threat appears to have been received. US News and World Report has cited the usual anonymous “intelligence sources” in speculating that “it is possible that [the President-Elect] might ask CIA Director Mike Hayden to stay on for a while”. Read more of this post

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