Accused Chinese nuclear spy ‘to plead guilty’ in US court this week

China General Nuclear PowerA man at the center of the first case of Chinese nuclear espionage in United States history will be pleading guilty on Friday, according to court documents. This could mean that the alleged spy has decided to give the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) details of Chinese nuclear espionage in the US. The accused man is Szuhsiung ‘Allen’ Ho, a Taiwanese-born engineer and naturalized American citizen. Ho was arrested by the FBI in April on charges of sharing American nuclear secrets with the government of China.

The investigation began when the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) contacted the FBI with concerns about Ching Huey, a TVA senior manager. When the FBI questioned the TVA executive, he admitted that Allen Ho had paid him in exchange for information about nuclear power production. He also said that he had traveled to China for that purpose, and that the Chinese government had covered his travel expenses. A few months later, the FBI arrested Ho in Atlanta, Georgia, and charged him with espionage. The FBI also claims that Ho’s US business firm, Energy Technology International, gave secrets to China General Nuclear Power, a Chinese company that supplies nuclear energy technology to the Chinese government. According to Ho’s indictment, he used his technical expertise and business acumen to give Beijing US government information that could help China’s civilian and military nuclear program.

Government prosecutors argued successfully that Ho, who has close family in China, including a son from a former marriage, could flee there if freed. Prosecutors also claim that Ho has access to several million US dollars abroad. For the past months, Ho’s defense denied the espionage accusations against him. But on Tuesday, a newspaper in Knoxville, Tennessee, where Ho has been charged, said that the jailed engineer is preparing to plead guilty in court on Friday. Observers believe that this move by Ho’s legal team means that he has decided to cooperate with the FBI. He could therefore provide US authorities with information about Chinese nuclear espionage in the US, and secrets on “the inner workings of China’s nuclear program”, said the newspaper.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 4 January 2017 | Permalink

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Russia charges engineer with spying for foreign agency

The R-30 BulavaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Russian authorities have charged an engineer working at a top-secret military facility in the Urals with espionage, accusing him of passing classified information about Russian ballistic missiles to agents of a foreign government. According to the InterFax news agency, which has strong links with the Russian government, the engineer had disclosed “secret data [and] state secrets concerning the area of strategic defense systems “. The Moscow-based news agency quoted an unnamed “Russian law enforcement official” who said that the accused spy worked at a critical research and development position inside a “restricted government facility that develops missile technology”. The source told InterFax that the alleged spy was working on the Russian R-30 Bulava ballistic missile, which is said to be in its final development stage. The R-30 Bulava (the Russian word for “mace”) is the name for Moscow’s latest-generation submarine-based ballistic missile technology. It is widely considered to be one of the future cornerstones of Russia’s nuclear weapons capability, and is thought to be the most expensive weapons project currently being developed in the country. The missile was approved for production last year, and is expected to come to service this coming October, when it will begin to replace Russia’s Soviet-era stock of submarine-launched nuclear missiles. The program is strongly linked to the country’s Borei-class ballistic-missile-capable nuclear submarines, which are expected to be able to launch the R-30 Bulava while underwater and in motion. Read more of this post

Israel ‘conducts espionage incursions into Iran from Kurdish Iraq’

Kurds in the Iran-Iraq border regionBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS & IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Israeli intelligence services are routinely using an undisclosed base in Iraqi Kurdistan to launch regular intelligence missions into Iran, according to The Sunday Times. The London-based newspaper cited unnamed “Western intelligence sources” in alleging that Israeli commandos and highly trained special forces members have been conducting cross-border operations from northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan province. But, says the paper, these risky intelligence missions have been intensified to an unprecedented degree in the past few months, as the Israelis are desperately seeking “smoking gun evidence” to convince the United States and the United Nations that Iran is actively constructing a nuclear warhead. The Israelis, according to the Times, deploy twelve-member fully armed teams into Iran on modified Black Hawk helicopters, which are able to fly for approximately 500 miles without needing to refuel. After landing into Iran, the Israeli commandos, who are usually in Iranian military uniforms, are transported to target locations in vehicles made to look like those used by the Iranian military. Their target destinations include Iranian military complexes such as that in Parchin, located 19 miles southeast of Tehran. The Times claims that the Israeli commando teams have also been to Fordow, near Qum, a heavily guarded former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps base that houses an underground uranium enrichment facility. The article claims that, once they reach their destination, the Israeli commando teams use “sensitive equipment” to monitor levels of radioactivity and record the magnitude of any explosives tests that might be carried out at those locations. IntelNews has paid particular attention over the years to reports of alleged cooperation between Israeli intelligence agencies and Kurdish groups in Iraq and elsewhere. Read more of this post

CIA installed nuclear surveillance device atop Himalayas mountains

Nanda DeviBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States Central Intelligence Agency tried at least twice to install a nuclear-powered surveillance device atop the Indian Himalayas, in an effort to spy on China. The decision to plant the device was taken in 1964, soon after communist China detonated its first nuclear bomb. In 1965, a team of CIA operatives attempted to climb Nanda Devi in the Garhwal Himalayas, which, at 25,645 feet (7,816 meters), is the highest mountain peak located entirely within Indian territory. But the top-secret mission failed miserably after adverse weather forced the CIA team to give up its effort approximately 2,000 feet below the summit. Battling against a heavy snowstorm, the CIA officers abandoned the 125-pound device, which was eventually swept away (.pdf document) by an avalanche. Incredibly, the team members deserted the surveillance device even though they knew it contained plutonium 238, which can emit radioactivity for over 500 years. In 1966, the same CIA team returned to Nanda Devi, in an effort to recover the complex surveillance instrument, but failed to locate it. In response to the second failed mission, the Agency decided to close the book on Nanda Devi, and instead constructed an identical surveillance device, which was transported and installed on Nanda Kot, a mountain peak located about nine miles (15 km) southeast of Nanda Devi. At 6,861 meters, Nanda Kot is about 3,000 feet shorter and far less steep than Nanda Devi. In 1967, a successful CIA attempt was made to reach the peak of Nakda Kot, where the radioactive surveillance device was installed. It is believed that it served its purpose before being abandoned there in 1968. Ten years later, in 1978, both operations were revealed in an article published in US-based Outside magazine. The revelation caused a major political uproar in India, as many Indians consider the Himalayas ‘sacred’ ground. Now the National Archives of India has released a batch of previously classified internal documents from India’s Ministry of External Affairs. Read more of this post

US government wants to use secret witnesses in CIA leak trial

James Risen

James Risen

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Prosecutors in the case of an ex-CIA officer accused of disclosing classified information to a journalist have asked the court for permission to introduce evidence in secret and to use privacy screens to shield the identities of witnesses. Jeffrey Sterling, who worked for the CIA’s Iran Task Force,  faces 10 felony counts and up to 120 years in prison for sharing information about the CIA’s operations in Iran. Court documents do not name the recipient of Sterling’s information, but it is common knowledge that Sterling spoke to James Risen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for The New York Times. In chapter 9 of his 2006 book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, Risen details a botched operation by the Iran Task Force, which tried to pass to the Iranians a series of faulty nuclear bomb design documents. To do this, the CIA apparently recruited a Russian former nuclear scientist, who had defected to the United States. The unnamed scientist was told to travel to Vienna, Austria, in early 2000, and offer to sell the documents to the Iranians. But the documents contained a deliberate technical flaw, which, Risen alleges, the Russian CIA operative thought was so obvious that it could make him look untrustworthy in the eyes of the Iranians, thus endangering the entire mission. The Russian scientist ended up letting the Iranians know about the flaw, reveals Risen. He further alleges that the CIA operation may have actually helped the Iranian nuclear weapons program, as Iranian scientists would have been able to “extract valuable information from the blueprints while ignoring the flaws”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #519

  • Australian ex-spy wins right to compensation. The former spy, known only as FXWZ, worked for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation for almost 15 years before leaving it in 1979. Now at 67, he has won the right to compensation claiming that his work for ASIO induced a mental disorder.
  • Eritrea releases UK citizens detained for espionage. The four British men, two of whom are former Royal Marines, were arrested in Eritrea last December on suspicion of espionage, after they were caught in possession of arms including 18 different types of snipers, ammunition and night vision equipment. They have been released after a months-long diplomatic row between Eritrea and Britain.
  • Pakistan to deport US national suspected of spying. Twenty-seven year-old Matthew Craig Barrett has been arrested for allegedly scouting nuclear facilities near the Pakistani capital Islamabad, and is expected to be deported soon.

Russia may swap convicted spy for ‘merchant of death’ held in US

Viktor Bout

Viktor Bout

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Moscow and Washington may swap a Russian former defense official, convicted for spying for the United States, with notorious Russian weapons dealer Viktor Bout, who is being held in a US prison. Andrei Klychev, 49, who worked at Rosatom Russia’s Nuclear Energy State Corporation, was arrested last year on espionage charges. Last week, he was given an 18-year sentence in a closed-door trial, for spying on behalf of the United States. But Russia’s Interfax news agency reported on Wednesday that Russia is actively considering swapping Klychev with Viktor Bout, history’s most notorious weapons smuggler, whose shady activities inspired the 2005 motion picture Lord of War. Bout, who was born in 1967 in Dushanbe, Soviet Tajikistan, served in the GRU (Soviet military intelligence) until the dissolution of the USSR, at which point he began supplying weapons to groups ranging from Congolese rebels and Angolan paramilitaries to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. In March of 2008, Bout was arrested by the Royal Thai Police, after a tip by US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officers. The latter had managed to lure Bout to Thailand by pretending to be Colombian FARC arms procurers. Read more of this post