NSA chief preempts move to fire him by entering talks with Trump

Michael S. RogersThe director of the United States National Security Agency has taken the unprecedented step of entering talks with president-elect Donald Trump, amidst reports that President Barack Obama may fire him. Admiral Michael S. Rogers, 57, a US Navy cryptologist with a military career that spans over three decades, has been at the helm of the NSA since April of 2014. Last weekend, however, The Washington Post alleged that senior US military and intelligence officials urged President Obama to fire him. Citing “several US officials familiar with the matter”, The Post said on Saturday that a recommendation to fire Admiral Rogers was delivered to the President in October by Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter and the Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper.

Secretary Carter is allegedly displeased with the NSA director’s performance, following what The Post said were “persistent complaints from NSA personnel” that Admiral Rogers is “aloof, frequently absent” from his duties, and tends to disregard input from his advisors at NSA. DNI Clapper added to Rogers’ list of concerns, while also proposing that the NSA should be led by a civilian administrator. The paper alleged that the president agreed with the recommendations and had planned to replace Admiral Rogers with an acting NSA director shortly before the election of November 8. That would reportedly allow the incoming president to appoint a new director of their preference in the new year. However, the move was delayed due to ongoing discussions about balancing the NSA’s military and civilian roles.

In the meantime, it appears that the NSA director preempted his impending firing by entering negotiations with president-elect Donald Trump about joining the new administration. According to The Post, Trump is considering appointing Admiral Rogers to the post of DNI, to replace Clapper. The paper described the Admiral’s move to meet with Trump without notifying his superiors —including the president— as “unprecedented for a military officer”. The NSA director’s move has allegedly displeased the Obama administration, but it is unclear how the president will respond. During a press conference in Lima, Peru, on Sunday, President Obama declined to answer questions about Admiral Rogers’ rumored replacement. He described the NSA director as “a terrific patriot”, but added that it was not his practice to comment on matters relating to personnel appointments. The Department of Defense, Office of the DNI, and the NSA have all declined to comment on the matter.

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

US lawmakers say Snowden was coached by foreign spy agency

Edward SnowdenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Two American lawmakers with senior positions in Congressional intelligence committees have expressed strong views that American defector Edward Snowden was probably coached by Russian intelligence prior to his defection. Speaking separately on Sunday, the two lawmakers —both Republican— said they suspected that Snowden had “acted in concert” with Russian intelligence in order expose Washington’s worldwide surveillance programs and steal military secrets. Snowden, a former technical expert for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), is currently in Russia, where he has been granted political asylum. On Sunday, Mike Rogers, who chairs the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence at the United States House or Representatives, said he was convinced Moscow had “at least in some part something to do” with Snowden’s defection. During separate interviews at NBC’s Meet The Press and CBS’ Face the Nation, Rogers said he thought it highly unlikely that Snowden’s defection was “a gee-whiz luck event”. He added that the former intelligence technician’s arrival in Russia had been likely pre-arranged by the FSB —the Russian Federal Security Service (though he likely meant the SVR, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, which is responsible for intelligence activities outside the borders of the Russian Federation). The Republican lawmaker said that Snowden’s defection plan, ranging “from how he prepared to leave [to] his route of departure and how quickly [he] ended up in Moscow”, points to involvement by Russian intelligence. Also on Sunday, Republican Congressman Michael McCaul told ABC’s This Week that he did not think “Snowden woke up one day and had the wherewithal to do this all by himself”. The lawmaker, who chairs the US House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, cautioned that he could not prove definitively that Russia had a role in Snowden’s defection. Read more of this post

Situation Report: China’s Huawei Going Mobile? (Exclusive)

Huawei TechnologiesBy TIMOTHY W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
The Chinese firm, Huawei Technologies, a provider of information and communications technology, has been constantly under fire in the United States and around for the world for its supposed deep ties to China’s military and intelligence establishment. It is not without some justifiable concern either. Prior to starting Huawei Technologies, the company’s founder and CEO, Ren Zhengfei, served for more than 10-years in China’s People’s Liberation Army’s engineering corps. This reality, rightly or wrongly, has added fodder for concerns that Chinese government interests are intertwined with those of Huawei. On September 13, Huawei Technologies and another Chinese firm, ZTE, were the subject of a Congressional hearing titled “Investigation of the Security Threat Posed by Chinese Telecommunications Companies Huawei and ZTE”. The purpose of the hearing, as explained by the US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, was to assess the potential danger of “telecommunications equipment manufactured by companies with believed ties to the Chinese government”. Read more of this post

Israeli PM had ‘sharp exchange’ with US Ambassador over Iran

Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack ObamaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A United States Congressman, who chairs the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, says he witnessed a “sharp exchange” between the Israeli Prime Minister and the American Ambassador to Israel, over the Iranian nuclear program.  Earlier this week we reported that Representative Mike Rogers (R-MI), who visited Israel in an official capacity last week, said that he did not believe Israel would attack Iran before the US Presidential elections in November. But in a radio interview with the Detroit-based WJR station on Thursday, Rogers said he thought Israeli leaders were “at wits’ end” over what he described as indecisiveness by the Barack Obama administration in responding to the Iranian nuclear program. The Republican politician said that the meeting he attended at the Israeli Prime Minister’s office was supposed to be a “discussion on intelligence and technical issues”. But it quickly “spun out of control”, he said, when the Israeli leader allegedly criticized the US Ambassador to the country, Dan Shapiro, over the US government’s perceived unwillingness to go beyond imposing diplomatic sanctions on Iran. Rogers described the situation as “a very tense […], very sharp exchange” between the two men, which revealed “elevated concerns on behalf of the Israelis” about the unfolding Iranian nuclear stalemate. Responding to a question from the interviewer, Rogers added that he did not think he had ever witnessed “such a high-level confrontation” between a representative of the American government and a foreign official. Read more of this post

Ex-CIA Director cautions Israel against attacking Iran

Michael HaydenBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The former Director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency has warned that an Israeli attack on Iran would likely backlash and might actually push Tehran to build nuclear weapons earlier than currently projected. General Michael Hayden, the only person to lead both the CIA and the US National Security Agency, told Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on Monday that Iran is not yet close to building a nuclear weapon and that Israel should carefully consider how to respond to its neighbor’s alleged nuclear weapons ambitions. During his CIA tenure, General Hayden supervised the 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate, produced cooperatively by all 16 agencies of the US intelligence community, which concluded that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons activities. In his interview on Monday, Hayden said that, in his view, the conclusion of the 2007 NIE “still holds”, as Tehran has not yet made the decision to weaponize its missile and fissile material. Hayden, who was recently appointed as national security adviser to Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, said that, by rushing to attack Iran now, Israeli military leaders would “actually push [Tehran] to do that which [an attack] is supposed to prevent: getting nuclear weapons”. The retired General added that any military attack on Iran would “pose a difficult challenge” in terms of its strategic outcome, since “there is no absolute certainty that all targets are known” inside Iran. Furthermore, he said, even if Israel decided to attack Iran militarily, it would have to go beyond mere air raids, and would soon discover that its resources were limited. Read more of this post

Analysis: US spy agencies stil in the dark about Syria

Regional map of SyriaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
It has been almost a year since the ongoing anti-government uprising erupted in Syria. But intelligence agencies in the United States are still struggling to make sense of most aspects of the spiraling conflict. In February, the US Department of State closed down its embassy in the Syrian capital Damascus and recalled all of its diplomatic personnel, including US Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, to Washington. Since then, the Central Intelligence Agency, which conducted its operations in Syria largely out of the US embassy there, has been forced to rely on scattered fragments of its agent network in Damascus, as well as on the work of a handful of allied intelligence services, including those of Jordan, Turkey, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. Naturally, the closure of the US embassy in Syria has boosted the role of the signals intelligence collection and satellite reconnaissance. But, none of these intelligence collection channels have been able to compensate for the lack of adequate human intelligence collection from inside Syria. As a result, according to The Washington Post, which cites “senior US officials”, US intelligence-gathering on the situation in Syria is currently “fragmentary [and] out of focus”. Specifically, the US intelligence community remains unclear about the tactical and strategic intentions of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and has limited information about the makeup and strength of the opposition forces in the country. Perhaps more importantly, American intelligence analysts have little evidence on which to base any sort of firm conclusions about the extent of involvement of militant Islamists in the funding and operations of the Syrian opposition. Read more of this post

Comment: Is China the New Spy Superpower?

US and China

US and China

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS* | intelNews.org |
In fifteen years of monitoring intelligence-related developments, I have rarely seen so many news items about China appear simultaneously in the Western press, as I did during the past fortnight. On December 5, financial news network Bloomberg reported that the United States government invoked “Cold War-era national security powers” to compel telecommunications companies operating on American soil to disclose confidential data about their networks. The plan, spearheaded by the US Department of Commerce, but undoubtedly prompted and monitored by the National Security Agency, features a detailed survey distributed to dozens of telecommunications service providers, as well as hardware and software developers. The latter are reportedly required to supply “a detailed accounting” of every piece of “foreign-made hardware and software” installed on their networks, in a move that Bloomberg interprets as “a hunt for Chinese cyber-spying”. A few days later, intelligence researcher and author David Wise opined in The New York Times that the West had better recognize that China “has developed a world-class espionage service —one that rivals the CIA”. He qualified his statement by providing several examples of major espionage triumphs achieved by the Chinese intelligence services in the last decade, such as the acquisition of design blueprints for the US-built B-1 bomber and Northrop Grumman’s B-2 stealth bomber. Other examples given by Wise include China’s attainment of the design specifications for the US Navy’s Quiet Electric Drive system, aimed at enhancing the stealth abilities of submarines, as well as the remains of the modified Black Hawk helicopter that crashed in Abbottabad, Pakistan, during the CIA-led operation to assassinate al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden last May. Most of all, Wise laments the acquisition by the Chinese of the design specifications for the W-88 warhead, the symbol of America’s next-generation of mini-nuke weapons. Read more of this post