News you may have missed #892 (legislative update)

Jens MadsenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Canadian lawmakers vote to expand spy powers. Legislation that would dramatically expand the powers of Canada’s spy agency has cleared a key hurdle. The House of Commons on Wednesday approved the Anti-Terror Act, which was spurred by last year’s attack on parliament. The act would give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s (CSIS) the ability to operate overseas and make preventative arrests. It also makes it easier for police to arrest and detain individuals without charge. Dominated by the Conservative party, the Senate is expected to approve the act before June.
►►Danish spy chief resigns over Islamist attacks. The head of Denmark’s Police Intelligence Service (PET), Jens Madsen, quit just hours before a report was due to be released into February’s fatal shootings in Copenhagen by an Islamist. Omar El-Hussein killed two people at a free speech debate and a synagogue before being shot dead by police. “It’s no secret that it is a very demanding position,” said Madsen, without giving a reason for his resignation. Justice Minister Mette Frederiksen declined to say whether the move was linked to criticisms of the police response to the attack.
►►OSCE urges France to reconsider controversial spying bill. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe urged French lawmakers to reconsider provisions of a proposed law that would expand government surveillance, a measure that was backed by French parliamentarians on Tuesday, despite criticism from rights groups. “If enforced, these practices will impact the right of journalists to protect the confidentiality of sources and their overall work”, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic said Wednesday. “If confidentiality of sources is not safeguarded within a trusted communications environment, the right of journalists to seek and obtain information of public interest would be seriously endangered”, he added

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Germans kidnapped in Ukraine had ‘intelligence connections’

Map of UkraineBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Four German military observers, who were kidnapped in Ukraine by pro-Russian separatists, are members of a military agency that has intelligence contacts, but are not themselves spies, according to a leading German newspaper. The German observers were abducted along with several other Western military officials on April 25, in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk. They were participating in a military verification mission organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). At the time of the abduction, one pro-Russian separatist leader, Vyacheslav Ponomarev, said his group had decided to detain the OSCE monitors due to “credible information” that they were spies for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The OSCE strongly denied the accusation that its monitors were intelligence operatives, saying that the kidnappers’ claims were aimed at damaging the reputation of the organization. With nearly 60 signatories to its charter, the OSCE has operated since 1975 with the aim of securing peace across the European continent. It regularly supplies military observers to investigate what it terms “uncommon military operations” in nations that formally invite their presence, as Ukraine did last month. On Monday, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung said that, although the four German OSCE observers are not employees of German intelligence agencies, they do maintain “certain connections” with Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service, known as Bundesnachrichtendienst, or BND. The Munich-based broadsheet claimed that the inspectors, who had been given diplomatic status during their deployment in Ukraine, are not members of staff at the BND or MAD, Germany’s Military Counterintelligence Service. However, they are employed at the Verification Center of the Bundeswehr —Germany’s federal armed forces. The mission of the Center, which is based in the town of Geilenkirchen, in Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia, is to verify compliance with weapons control agreements signed between Germany and other countries. Read more of this post

Russian spy agencies accused of hacking election monitor sites

FSB officer

FSB officer

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Election monitors have accused Russia’s domestic intelligence service of launching a series of coordinated hacking attacks on opposition websites, timed to coincide with last Sunday’s elections. On that day, Russians voted —as they have done every five years since 1991— to determine the composition of the Duma, the country’s lower house. Election results show an unprecedented 14 percent drop for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, coupled with an equally sharp rise in the Communist Party share of the votes, which doubled to about 20 percent. But the election drew strong condemnations from international election monitors, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which said that the campaign was “slanted in favor of the ruling party”. Now Russian opposition organizations are accusing the government of launching a series of “massive” distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against their websites on the night of the elections. Websites affected include the prominent opposition magazine The New Times, the Ekho Moskvy radio station, the Russian arm of the Livejournal blogging website, business daily Kommersant, popular online news portal Slon.ru, as well as the Western-financed political watchdog group Golos. All of these outlets were simultaneously attacked on Sunday evening; their servers were bombarded with data that overwhelmed their computer systems and eventually knocked them offline. Liliya Shibanova, who directs Golos, told a news conference in Moscow late on Sunday night that the organization’s Internet and telephone systems, including an election violation hotline, had been blocked. She claimed that only Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), successor to the domestic intelligence wing of the Soviet-era KGB, had the resources required to launch such a massive attack. Read more of this post

Vienna is world’s largest espionage hub, say experts

Vienna

Vienna

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A few months ago, a federal office under Austria’s Interior Ministry published a report on foreign intelligence activity in the country, in which it predicted that “Austria will remain an operational area for foreign intelligence agencies […], which will account for a consistently high number of intelligence agents”. An article in German newspaper Die Welt explains that not only does post-Cold-War Vienna continue to be “a spy hub between East and West”, but the Austrian capital now has “the highest density of [foreign intelligence] agents in the world”. Read more of this post