News you may have missed #818 (USA edition)

Osama bin LadenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►The real-life female CIA officer who helped track bin Laden. The Washington Post has a good article on the real-life career of a female CIA officer who helped the Agency track al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. It is disappointing, however that the article, authored by Greg Miller and Toby Warrick, is headlined “In Zero Dark Thirty she’s the hero; in real life, CIA agent’s career is more complicated”. The CIA employee in question is not an “agent”; she is an officer. In the CIA, agents are assets, people recruited and handled by CIA officers. Amazing that The Post, with its experienced journalists and editors would confuse such a basic operational distinction.
►►US spy agencies to detail cyber-attacks from abroad. The US intelligence community is nearing completion of its first detailed review of cyber-spying against American targets from abroad, including an attempt to calculate US financial losses from hacker attacks based in China. The National Intelligence Estimate, the first involving cyber-espionage, will also seek to determine how large a role the Chinese government plays in directing or coordinating digital attacks aimed at stealing US intellectual property, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a classified undertaking.
►►CIA begins LGBT recruiting. As part of the CIA’s efforts to diversify its workforce, the spy agency is reaching out to a group that once was unable to get security clearance: lesbians and gay men. CIA officials have held a networking event for the Miami gay community sponsored by the Miami-Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and the CIA. “This is the first time we’ve done a networking event of this type with any of the gay and lesbian chamber of commerces in the United States,” says Michael Barber, a self-identified “straight ally” and the spy agency’s LGBT Community Outreach and Liaison program manager.

News you may have missed #795

Shakil AfridiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US ‘cannot verify authenticity’ of Afridi interview. The US says it cannot verify an alleged interview by Shakeel Afridi, a Pakistani medical doctor who helped the CIA find Osama bin Laden. In May, a Pakistani court sentenced Afridi to 33 years in jail after he was arrested following the killing by US troops of bin Laden in May 2011 at his compound in the town of Abbottabad. US television channel Fox News said Tuesday it had obtained an exclusive phone interview with Afridi from behind bars, in which he detailed months of torture by Pakistan’s shadowy Inter-Services Intelligence.
►►Evidence suggests US covered up Soviet massacre in Poland. New evidence appears to back the idea that the US administration of President F.D. Roosevelt helped cover up Soviet guilt for the 1940 Katyn massacre, in which more than 22,000 Poles were killed by the Soviets on Stalin’s orders. Historians said documents, released by the US National Archives, supported the suspicion that the US did not want to anger its wartime ally, Joseph Stalin. The documents show that American prisoners of war sent coded messages to Washington in 1943 saying that the killings must have been carried out by the Soviets, rather than the Nazis. Information about the massacre was suppressed at the highest levels in Washington, say historians.
►►Yemen President sacks intel agency heads. Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has sacked the heads of the National Security Agency and  Military Intelligence, just a few hours after two suicide car bombs targeted the country’s Defense Minister in the capital Sana’a killing at least 12 people. The National Security Agency’s Ali Mohammed al-Anisi has been replaced with Ali Hassan al-Ahmadi, while the head of Military Intelligence, Mujahid Ali Ghuthaim, has been replaced with Ahmed Muhsin al-Yafiee. Hadi took office in February this year after year-long street protests forced former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down as part of an UN-backed power transfer deal in return for immunity from prosecution.

News you may have missed #793

Yasser ArafatBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Britain recruits tech start-ups for spy gadgets. British security services seem to have decided to widen the net for suppliers of state-of-the-art spyware for “covert surveillance”. Traditionally, British intelligence organizations including MI5 and GCHQ, have relied on a network of trusted contractors. But the change in approach represents an opportunity for burgeoning technology companies. According to a senior Whitehall official, who spoke to The Financial Times, these agencies “are appealing to a wide range of innovators, small and large, and saying: ‘Here are some problems we encounter. Can you solve them?’”.
►►French investigators to exhume Arafat’s remains. Three French investigating magistrates will travel to Ramallah in the West Bank to exhume the remains of the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat so they can take tissue samples to determine what killed him. New evidence emerged from an investigation in July by the Al Jazeera television network when the Institut de Radiophysique, in Lausanne, Switzerland, said it had discovered significant traces of the rare radioactive element polonium-210 on the late leader’s clothing and toothbrush.
►►Panetta speaks out against book on bin Laden killing. As former US Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette continues to make headlines about his book, No Easy Day, about the killing of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has spoken out publicly on the subject for the first time. The former Director of the CIA said “the American people have a right to know about this operation”. But, he added, “people who are a part of that operation, who commit themselves to the promise that they will not reveal the sensitive operations and not public anything […] when they fail to do that, we have got to make sure that they stand by the promise that they made to this country”.

News you may have missed #787

Alexander Makowski By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►An interview with a senior Yemeni spy. Here’s something you don’t read every day: an interview with Ahmed Bin Mo’aili, 66 (pictured here), who worked as a spy for Yemen’s Political Security Organization (PSO) for more than 30 years. He says that, due to his “different duties in different countries”, which required him to travel in several Arab countries, he acquired “tens of wives” over the years. He is now upset with the PSO because the Organization has “separted him from his 31 children who live all around the Arab countries he has worked in and who are awaiting his return”.
►►Cyprus wants answers from UK over Syria spy claims. Dr. Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus, has asked British authorities for “a full explanation” into media reports that UK military installations in Cyprus are providing intelligence to Syrian rebels. Earlier this month, The London Times claimed that two British military bases on Cyprus, located in Dhekelia and Akrotiri, were being used to collect signals intelligence on Syria. The data collected at the listening posts, operated by the General Communications Headquarters, Britain’s foremost signals intelligence agency, was passed on to the Free Syrian Army through Turkish intelligence operatives, said The Times. But the Cypriot Foreign Minister said that it was crucial that the bases were not being used for purposes not enshrined in the island’s Treaty of Establishment, which mandates the British Bases to be used for defensive purposes only.
►►CIA ‘turned down offer’ to kill bin Laden in 1999. In late 1999, two years before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people, a group of Afghan agents loyal to an anti-Taliban guerrilla leader proposed assassinating Osama bin Laden. In returne, they asked for the $5 million reward the Bill Clinton administration had offered for bin Laden’s capture. But the CIA rejected the plan, saying: “we do not have a license to kill”. This is according to the book Ferreting Out Bin Laden (not yet available in English), by Polish former spy Alexander Makowski (pictured), who claims he was the Afghans’ go-between on the plot. Makowski’s credentials are many: the son of a spy, he attended primary school in Great Britain, high school in the United States, and received a postgraduate law degree from Harvard. He graduated from the Polish military intelligence academy at Stare Kiejkuty before spending 20 years in Polish intelligence.

News you may have missed #737

Shakil AfridiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Turkey suspects bird of being Israeli spy. News agencies are poking fun at Turkish authorities, who say they believe that they have found a bird used for espionage purposes by Israel. An investigation was reportedly launched in Ankara several days ago, after a farmer discovered a dead Merops Apiaster, commonly known as the European Bee-Eater, in his field. The bird had a ring reading “Israel” on one of its legs. The reports undoubtedly lend a certain degree of irony to the announcement that Israel Aerospace Industries (owned by the Israeli government) is in fact developing insect drones for indoor surveillance.
►►CIA discloses names of 15 killed officers. The CIA has disclosed the names of 15 of its operatives killed in the line of duty over the last 30 years, the result of a new effort to honor fallen officers. Fourteen of the dead already had a star inscribed in their memory on the CIA’s wall of honor in the lobby of the old headquarters building on the agency’s Langley, VA, campus. But their names had been withheld. In a closed agency ceremony Monday their names were added to the Book of Honor, which accompanies the stars. In addition, a new star was added this year for Jeffrey R. Patneau, who died at age 26 in Yemen in 2008 from injuries sustained in a car accident. He was the 103rd CIA officer recognized as having died in the line of duty.
►►Pakistan convicts doctor who helped CIA find bin Laden. A Pakistani court imposed a 33-year sentence Wednesday on Shakil Afridi, a doctor who assisted the CIA hunt for Osama bin Laden. Afridi, a government surgeon in the semiautonomous Khyber Agency along the border with Afghanistan, was convicted of treason for using a vaccination drive to try to gather DNA samples at the compound where bin Laden was in hiding. His conviction prompted dismay among US officials, who said that the punishment will lead to cuts in aid. According to a Pakistani prison official, Afridi “has been kept away from other prisoners to avert any danger to his life”.

News you may have missed #734

Aviv KochaviBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Australian spy agency in rent dispute. The Australian government insists there is no dispute over the lease of the new, state-of-the-art headquarters of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, which cost nearly A$589 to build. But according to a number of government sources, the property has become the subject of a standoff between the ASIO and Australia’s Department of Finance and Deregulation. The Canberra Times reports that the Finance Department has told ASIO it will have to hand over more money than anticipated because of a blowout to building costs and timing. But the ASIO is refusing to pay more than initially agreed.
►►US unveils spy model of bin Laden compound. The United States intelligence community has unveiled a scale model of the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden spent the last few years of his life in hiding. The model was built by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGIA) and used by military and intelligence leaders to plan the daring night raid on May 2, 2011, that killed the al Qaeda founder. Its scale is an exact 1:84; every tree, bush, wall, animal pen, trash can and physical structure in the model existed at one time at the original compound in Abbottabad.
►►Israel military intelligence head in secret US visit. Israeli military intelligence chief Aviv Kochavi made a “secret visit” to Washington earlier this month to discuss the upcoming talks between world powers and Iran. An Israeli security official confirmed the visit, which was reported in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, but could not provide further details. Meanwhile, three senior IDF intelligence officers resigned recently, following what they called “questionable” appointments to key positions. The three colonels held some of the most senior and classified positions in the Israeli military intelligence community.

News you may have missed #684

Boris KarpichkovBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Pakistan sacks health workers who helped CIA locate bin Laden. Seventeen local health workers have been fired in Abbottabad for their part in a CIA scheme to try to confirm the presence of Osama bin Laden in the northern Pakistani town. The low-ranking health department employees were punished for helping Dr Shakil Afridi, who was assigned by the CIA to set up a fake vaccination scheme in Abbottabad, ahead of the US military operation that found and killed the al-Qaida leader there.
►►Estonia arrests couple for spying for Russia. Estonian prosecutors said Aleksei Dressen, who works for Estonia’s security police, and his wife, Viktoria Dressen, were arrested at Tallinn airport as she was boarding a flight to Moscow on February 22. Aleksei Dressen allegedly went to the airport to give his wife a folder that contained classified information. Meanwhile, in neighboring Lithuania, the government has released the names of 238 citizens who were reservists for the KGB during the Cold War.
►►KGB defector talks to British newspaper. Since fleeing to Britain in the late 1990s Boris Karpichkov has preferred to keep a low profile —unlike another, better-known Moscow agent who fled to London, one Alexander Litvinenko. He says he ran audacious disinformation operations against the CIA and broke into and planted bugs in the British embassy in Riga. But in 1995 he grew unhappy with the increasingly corrupt FSB (the KGB’s successor), which, he says, failed to pay him. He spent several months in a Moscow prison before slipping into Britain on one of the false passports he was given as a KGB officer. He hasn’t been back to Russia since.