News you may have missed #776

Alexei NavalnyBy I. ALLEN and T.W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
►►US Army critiques its own intel collection system. An intelligence gathering system, known as the Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS), widely used by the US Army in Afghanistan to detect roadside bombs and predict insurgent activity, has severe limitations and is “not suitable”. This is according to a memo sent on August 1 by the Army’s senior equipment tester, General Genaro J. Dellarocco, to the Army’s chief of staff, General Raymond Odierno. The memo hammers the DCGS system for its “poor reliability” and “significant limitations” during operational testing and evaluation earlier this year.
►►Russian lawyer exposes wiretap find on Tweeter. Russian lawyer and political activist Alexei Navalny, who discovered a wiretapping device at his workplace, allegedly installed by the Russian government, has used YouTube and Tweeter to publicize his discovery. The wiretap was allegedly found attached to a set of wires hidden inside the wall molding of Navalny’s office at the Moscow-based organization Anti-Corruption Fund. It was reportedly discovered with the help of a bug detector. The same wires seem to also be attached to a hidden camera.
►►Volkswagen victim of Chinese industrial espionage? A recent article by Agence France Presse claims that German-based Volkswagen has become a victim of industrial espionage. While operating under a joint partnership agreement with the Chinese automobile company First Automobile Works, to build and manufacture cars for China’s burgeoning domestic market, designs and technical specifications for Volkswagen engines were apparently stolen. An unnamed Volkswagen manager stated that the loss was “quite simply a catastrophe”. It’s worth noting, however, that a similar accusation leveled against China in 2011 by French automaker Renault, turned out to be a criminal hoax.

News you may have missed #699

Hilda MurrellBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Diplomatic war over the arrest of Gaddafi’s spy chief. The Libyan authorities have confirmed the arrest in Mauritania of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi, who was reportedly detained at Nouakchott airport. Senussi, 63, was Gaddafi’s brother-in-law, and has been described as one of his most trusted aides. But his arrest has kicked off an international row about which of his alleged crimes —ranging from terrorism to war crimes and mass murder— should take precedence in the pursuit of justice. The Mauritanians are now saying that they are willing to extradite al-Senussi, but this remains to be seen in practice.
►►Azerbaijan arrests 22 in alleged Iran spy plot. Azerbaijan has arrested 22 of its own citizens, on suspicion of spying for Iran. Weapons and ammunition were seized, authorities say, accusing the group of links to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Their alleged targets included the US and Israeli embassies as well as Western-linked companies. Surveillance by the Azeri security services is reported to have helped foil the alleged Iranian-sponsored plot.
►►Was there MI5 link to murder of UK nuclear activist? One of Britain’s leading human rights lawyers, Michael Mansfield QC, has demanded a fresh police inquiry to establish what the British intelligence services knew about the murder of a prominent anti-nuclear campaigner. The lawyer said new evidence meant that an independent police force should be appointed to examine enduring concerns and inconsistencies relating to the death of Hilda Murrell, in March 1984.

News you may have missed #642

Predator drone

Predator drone

►►Australia concerned China using civilian satellites to spy. Concerns that China may use civilian satellite tracking stations to monitor Australian military operations have been dismissed by the Swedish Space Corporation. The company owns and operates two satellite tracking stations 400 km north of the West Australian capital, Perth. One was used by the China Satellite Launch Company last month in China’s first space docking operation.
►►Did Iran capture US stealth drone intact? For the second time this year, the Iranian government is claiming it forced down a stealthy US Air Force spy drone. Only this time, it says it bagged the RQ-170 “with little damage” by jamming its control signal —a potentially worrying development for American forces heavily reliant on remote-controlled aircraft. A US official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters that “there is absolutely no indication up to this point that Iranians shot down this drone”.
►►Canadian Mounties spied on native protest groups. Canada’s federal government created a vast surveillance network in early 2007 to monitor protests by First Nations, including those that would attract national attention or target “critical infrastructure” like highways, railways and pipelines, according to RCMP documents. The RCMP intelligence unit reported weekly to approximately 450 recipients in law enforcement, government, and unnamed “industry partners” in the energy and private sector. The news follows revelations last month of the RCMP’s largest-ever domestic intelligence operation, aimed against G8 and G20 protesters.

News you may have missed #553 (Canada edition)

Northrop Frye

Northrop Frye

►►Analysis: Are Chinese spies getting an easy ride in Canada? Carl Meyer, of Embassy magazine, asks why Canada’s counterintelligence agencies are unwilling or unable to bring Chinese spies to court in recent years. Readers of this blog may recall controversial comments made last year by the director of CSIS, Richard Fadden, who claimed that some Canadian politicians work for foreign powers.
►►Canadian agency ‘illegally spying on Canadians’. Canada’s ultra-secret Communications Security Establishment, which engages in electronic communications interception, is prohibited from spying on Canadian citizens. But a new Canadian government report appears to instruct it to engage in mining ‘metadata’ from digital communications of Canadians. Readers of this blog may remember that, in 2009, a court permitted for the first time the CSE and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to eavesdrop on Canadian nationals traveling overseas.
►►RCMP spied on Canadian academic Northrop Frye. Speaking on spying on Canadians… Read more of this post

US Senate to review allegations CIA tried to smear professor

Juan Cole

Juan Cole

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The Intelligence Committee of the United States Senate will review allegations, made on Friday by a former CIA officer, that the spy agency tried to gather derogatory information about an American university professor who is critical of the ‘war on terrorism’. According to its chairwoman, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Committee may “take further action”, depending on its preliminary findings. The allegations surfaced last Friday in an article by New York Times reporter James Risen. Acting on a tip by an unnamed source, Risen spoke to former CIA officer Glenn L. Carle, who confirmed that the Agency “at least twice” displayed an interest in gathering discrediting information about University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole. Dr Cole, who specializes in Middle Eastern history and speaks fluent Arabic, Persian, and Urdu, has been consistently critical of US foreign policy in the Middle East through his writings on his influential blog, Informed Comment. Carle, who made the allegations to The New York Times, retired from the CIA in 2007, after a career that spanned two decades in the Agency’s National Clandestine Service. In the last few years of his public service, Carle was a senior counterterrorism official at the US National Intelligence Council, which operates under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #427

  • Did Belarus KGB murder opposition activist? The death of Belarussian opposition activist and journalist Oleg Bebenin has thrown a murky light on both the circumstances of his demise and those who might be behind it. Some point the finger at Minsk’s modern-day KGB, whose leadership was reshuffled earlier this year by President Alexander Lukashenko.
  • Colombian agency behind domestic spying honey trap. Former Colombian detective Alba Luz Florez has revealed that she seduced a national police captain as a way of infiltrating the Colombian Supreme Court, during a 2007 domestic spying operation by the country’s scandal-besieged Administrative Department of Security.
  • Ex-MI6 worker jailed for trying to sell secrets. A British court has jailed Daniel Houghton, a former employee of MI6, Britain’s external spy agency, for trying to sell secret intelligence documents to the Dutch secret services. Interestingly, the Dutch notified MI6 after they were approached by Houghton, who has dual British and Dutch citizenship.

News you may have missed #330

  • Pakistan released captured Taliban behind CIA’s back. IntelNews has not joined the chorus of commentators who have been claiming that the relationship between Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate and the CIA has warmed up. It now appears that even as the ISI was collaborating with the CIA, it quietly freed at least two captured senior Afghan Taliban figures.
  • Kiwi activists accuse police of spying. New Zealand’s Peace Action Wellington has submitted an Official Information Act (OIA) request relating to domestic police surveillance, after accusing the police of “heavily spying on and running operations on protest groups”. It is not the first time that similar accusations have been directed against the country’s police force.
  • CIA suspected existence of Israeli nukes in 1974. Israel will neither confirm nor deny the rumored existence of its nuclear arsenal. But the CIA, which has kept an eye on Israel’s nuclear weapons project since at least the early 1960s, was convinced of its existence by 1974, according to a declassified report.

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News you may have missed #315

  • Nuclear bunker spy comes out of hiding. A British retiree named Mike Lesser has revealed he was one of the so-called “spies for peace”, a group of peace activists who in the 1960s helped uncover Britain’s secret network of underground bunkers built to protect the government in case of nuclear war.
  • Aussie spy agency spied on little girls. Secret files kept by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation reveal spooks tailed the teenage children of suspected socialists and communist sympathizers during the late 1960s, and anyone with whom they associated, including school friends and boyfriends.
  • Analysis: Under Panetta, a more aggressive CIA. Expectations among CIA hardliners were low when Leon Panetta arrived at the Agency’s headquarters in February 2009. But almost from the first week, Panetta positioned himself as a strong advocate for the CIA, to the extent that critics worry that Panetta has become a captive of the agency he leads.

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News you may have missed #0279

  • Pakistani spy agencies drug political activists. Intelligence agencies in Pakistan are using drugs to extract information from political activists, with the cooperation of doctors on the payroll of the state, according to one of Pakistan’s leading newspapers.
  • Georgia jails alleged Russian spy. Vakhtang Maisaia, a military expert who advised Georgia’s mission to NATO, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for spying for Russia during the 2008 South Ossetia War. Last week, Tsotne Gamsakhurdia, son of Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Georgia’s first post-communist president, was formally charged with “collaborating with Russian intelligence services”.

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News you may have missed #0260

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News you may have missed #0254 (activism edition)

  • US activists file lawsuit over domestic spying. Anti-war activists in Washington State are suing military analyst John Towery and police officials for allegedly infiltrating and spying on two antiwar groups in Olympia. The suit also names the City of Olympia and a US Coast Guard employee.
  • Antiwar activist to stage sit-in at CIA HQ. American political activist Cindy Sheehan says she intends to stage a sit-in in front of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, on January 16, to protest the Agency’s unmanned drone attacks in Pakistan. Sheehan, whose son was killed in the Iraq War in 2004, attracted international attention for her extended protest at a makeshift camp outside President George Bush’s Texas ranch.
  • Is there legal basis for CIA drone strikes in Pakistan? We at intelNews have asked this question before. Now the American Civil Liberties Union is asking it also, and has requested to see the US government’s estimates of civilian casualties caused by the strikes.

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Comment: Is There a ‘DNA Problem’ in US Spying?

Sam Tanenhaus

Sam Tanenhaus

By IAN ALLEN* | intelNews.org |
The controversy of the apparent ineffectiveness of US intelligence agencies to uncover the so-called Christmas Day bomb plot has reignited the discussion about the operational shortcomings of the US intelligence community. Sam Tanenhaus, editor of of The New York Times Book Review, has authored an interesting commentary, in which he delves into some of what he sees as the design deficiencies in American intelligence.

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News you may have missed #0231

  • Chinese honey trap methods net another victim. This time it was M.M. Sharma, an Indian diplomat posted with India’s mission in China, who reportedly had an affair with “a Chinese female spy”. She managed to gain access to his personal computer and “peruse [classified] documents without any restraint”. London’s ex-deputy mayor, Ian Clement, must feel better knowing he is not alone.
  • NSA’s $1.9 billion cyber spy center a power grab. Extensive –if a little ‘light’– analysis of the US National Security Agency’s planned new data storage center in Utah, by Chuck Gates of Deseret News.
  • Connecticut police spying on Democratic Party activists? Kenneth Krayeske, a political activist and free-lance journalist is suing the Connecticut State Police, claiming that officers engaged in “political spying [by using] cloaked Connecticut State Police addresses [to] subscribe to e-mail bulletin boards and lists […] that contain political information relating to the Green Party, the Democratic Party” and independent political activists.

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Canadian police spying on anti-Olympics groups sparks debate

Jamie Graham

Jamie Graham

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Intense debate has been sparked in Canada by the revelation that local police departments are actively spying on peaceful citizen groups opposing the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, due to be held in Vancouver in February. The surprise disclosure was made by Victoria Police chief Jamie Graham, during his keynote speech at the Vancouver International Security Conference, a closed-door event held earlier this month to discuss emergency management and public safety arrangements for the Games. Speaking at the Conference, Graham, who formerly was Chief of Vancouver Police, revealed that law enforcement operatives planted among an anti-Olympics protest group an undercover officer, who posed as the driver of a leased bus and drove the group to an anti-Olympics demonstration. Read more of this post

EU foreign minister’s husband shunned KGB approaches in 1980s

Peter Kellner

Peter Kellner

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The husband of the recently appointed European Union minister for foreign affairs has acknowledged that the KGB tried to cultivate a relationship with him in the 1980s. Peter Kellner, who now presides over influential British polling company YouGov, is married to Baroness Ashton of Upholland (born Catherine Margaret Ashton), who assumed the prominent EU post on November 19. Intelligence documents show that British domestic intelligence agency MI5 had tagged Kellner and his wife as “communist sympathizers”, because of their anti-apartheid activism and long-term involvement with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, considered a “subversive” movement within the intelligence services. Read more of this post