News you may have missed #651

Chris VanekerBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Israel defense minister forbids spy official’s lecture. Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak has refused to allow the head of research for Military Intelligence, Brigadier General Itai Baron, to lecture at the annual conference of Israel’s ambassadors unless the lecture is deemed ‘unclassified’. The conference deals with diplomatic and security issues and public affairs, and the lectures are given by senior Israeli government and military officials.
►►CIA agrees to look into OSINT FOIA request. Open Source Works, which is the CIA’s in-house open source analysis component, is devoted to intelligence analysis of unclassified, open source information. Oddly enough, the directive that established Open Source Works is classified. But in an abrupt reversal, the CIA said that it will process a Freedom of Information Act request by intelligence historian Jeffrey Richelson for documents pertaining to Open Source Works.
►►Dutch former pilot convicted of espionage. A court in The Hague has sentenced former F-16 pilot Chris Vaneker to five years in jail after finding him guilty of selling state secrets to a Russian diplomat. Vaneker wanted half-a-million euros for the information he was trying to sell to the military attaché at the Russian embassy in The Hague. The pilot and the Russian diplomat were arrested in March.

Analysis: CIA Open Source Center monitors Facebook, Twitter, blogs

CIA HQ

CIA HQ

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Associated Press has been given unprecedented access to the United States Central Intelligence Agency’s Open Source Center, which is tasked with, among other things, monitoring social networking media. The Center, which was set up in response to the events of 9/11, employs several hundred multilingual analysts. Some are dispatched to US diplomatic missions abroad, but most work out of “an anonymous industrial park” in the US state of Virginia, which the Associated Press agreed not to disclose. The analysts, who are jokingly known in CIA OSINT (open-source intelligence) parlance as “ninja librarians”, engage in constant mining of publicly available information. The latter ranges from articles found in scholarly journals, to civilian television and radio station programs, as well as information available on the Internet. According to the Associated Press report, the Center began paying particular attention to social networking websites in 2009, when Facebook and Twitter emerged as primary organizing instruments in Iran’s so-called “Green Revolution”. The term describes the actions that Iranians opposed to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took to protest the disputed election results that kept him in power. Since that time, the CIA’s Open Source Center has acquired the ability to monitor up to five million tweets a day, and produces daily snapshots of global opinion assembled from tweets, Facebook updates and blog posts. Its executive briefings reportedly find their way to President Barack Obama’s Daily Brief on a regular basis. The Associated Press was given access to the Center’s main facility, and interviewed several of its senior staff members, including its Director, Doug Naquin. He told the news agency that the CIA Open Source Center had “predicted that social media in places like Egypt could be a game-changer and a threat to the regime”, but had been unable to foresee the precise development of Internet-based social activism in the Arab world. Read more of this post

Israel used Facebook to stop European pro-Palestine activists

Facebook

Facebook

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Israeli intelligence services managed to stop dozens of European pro-Palestine activists from flying to Israel, by gathering open-source intelligence about them on social media sites, such as Facebook. According to Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor, intelligence gathered on Facebook formed the basis of a blacklist containing over 300 names of European activists, who had signed up on an open-access Facebook page of a group planning nonviolent actions in Israel this summer. Israeli intelligence agencies forwarded the names on the lists to European airline carriers, asking them not to allow the activists onboard their flights, as they were not going to be allowed into the country. This action prompted airline carriers to prevent over 200 activists from boarding scheduled flights to Israel. Israeli security officers detained over 310 other activists, who arrived in Israel on several European flights last week. Of those, almost 70 were denied entry to the country, while more detentions are expected to take place later this week, according to Israeli Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Hadad. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #293

  • US DHS monitors websites. According to a document released by the US Department of Homeland Security, Cryptome, Wired‘s Danger Room blog, and WikiLeaks, are among websites the DHS systematically monitors “in order to provide situational awareness and establish a common operating picture”. IntelNews wants to take this opportunity to say ‘hi’ to members of the DHS lurking around.
  • Russian spy lived in Dayton, stole secrets. Iowa-born and -bred communist and US Army engineer, George Koval, was a master at blending in. And, as it turns out, he was also a master spy for the Soviet Union. He did just that while working on the Manhattan Project in Dayton for six months in 1945.
  • Niger army suspends constitution. No word yet in Niger about the elections promised by the military coup plotters who appear to have staged a successful coup. For those who may not know, in international politics, Niger means uranium –lots of it. It’s also worth asking what ten agents of Bulgaria’s counterterrorism unit were doing in Niger on the day of the coup.

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US spy agencies invest in Internet-monitoring company

In-Q-Tel logo

In-Q-Tel logo

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture-capital investment arm, is funding a private software company specializing in monitoring online social media, such as YouTube, Twitter and Flickr. The company, Visible Technologies, unleashes web crawlers that scan and sift through over half a million Internet sites a day, looking for open-source intelligence (OSINT) of interest to its customers. The latter receive real-time updates of Internet activity, based on specific sets of keywords they provide. Noah Shachtman, of Wired’s Danger Room blog, correctly notes that In-Q-Tel’s latest investment is indicative of a wider trend within US intelligence agencies to enhance their foreign OSINT collection and analysis. Incidentally, the US Pentagon has shown similar interests since 2006. Read more of this post