News you may have missed #751

Leonid ShebarshinBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Ex-CIA officer remembers his KGB rival. In April, Leonid Shebarshin, a retired General of the KGB, who was often referred to as “the last Soviet spy”, was found dead in his downtown Moscow apartment. Apparently, he had committed suicide. Now Milt Bearden, who was the CIA’s Chief of the Soviet/East European Division during the final years of the USSR, has written a piece in which he remembers Shebarshin. He says that, even though Shebarshin was “the closest thing [he] had to a main adversary” in the USSR, the two became friends in the late 1990s, despite the fact that Shebarshin remained a true believer in the USSR until the very end of his life.
►►NSA won’t reveal how many Americans it spied on. Last month, US Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall –both members of the US Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence– asked the NSA how many persons inside the US it had spied upon since 2008. But Charles McCullough, the Inspector General of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, has told the two Senators that giving such a figure of how many Americans were spied on was “beyond the capacity” of NSA’s oversight mechanisms, and that –ironically– looking into this matter would violate the privacy of American citizens.
►►Russian scientist who ‘spied for China’ freed. Igor Reshetin, the former director of Russian rocket technology firm TsNIIMASH-Export, who was jailed in 2007 for selling state secrets to China, has been released on parole. Reshetin had been initially sentenced to nearly 12 years, for illegally selling state-controlled technology secrets to a Chinese firm, and with stealing 30 million rubles (US$925,000) through a scheme involving bogus companies. His initial sentence was later reduced on appeal.

News you may have missed #582

John Yoo

John Yoo

►►US government conceals Bush surveillance memos. The Justice Department is refusing to release legal memos by lawyer John Yoo, which the George W. Bush administration used to justify its warrantless surveillance program, one of the most contentious civil liberties issues during the Republican president’s time in office.
►►Ex-CIA bin Laden Unit boss wants rendition back. Michael Scheuer, a former insider and vocal critic of the US intelligence establishment, has described the Arab revolutions as “an intelligence disaster for the US and for Britain, and other European services”. Speaking from Scotland, he also urged for a return to the Bush administration’s rendition program, in order to gather new intelligence on Middle Eastern and North African groups.
►►French firm helped Gaddafi spy on opposition. We have written before about technical intelligence support provided by Western firms to some of the world’s most brutal regimes, including Iran and Bahrain. We can no add Libya to the long list. The Wall Street Journal reports that Amesys, a subsidiary of French telecommunications firm Bull helped the Gaddafi regime spy on the emails and chat messages of its opponents.

News you may have missed #565 (United States edition)

DHS seal

DHS seal

►►Secret watch-list proposal causes US privacy groups protests. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is planning to duplicate the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database to expand an extensive database called Watchlist Service. The proposed database will include names, birthdays, photos and biometrics of targeted individuals. But the DHS has proposed to exempt the database from Privacy Act provisions, which means that a person can never know if they are on it.
►►US blacklists Syrian banks over WMD ties. The Obama administration unveiled punitive measures on Wednesday against two Syrian financial institutions for their alleged ties to nuclear proliferation in Syria and North Korea. The government-run Commercial Bank of Syria and a subsidiary, the Syrian-Lebanese Commercial Bank, are now prohibited from engaging in transactions with US individuals and from accessing any assets under US control. The US Department of the Treasury alleges that the banks have carried out transactions on behalf of the Scientific Studies and Research Center in Syria and the Tanchon Commercial Bank in North Korea, both of which the US blacklisted several years ago for supporting “WMD proliferation activities”.
►►FBI revises surveillance exam after cheating revelations. About a year ago, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed that hundreds of its agents were caught having cheated on an examination about new surveillance guidelines (known as Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0178

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News you may have missed #0154 [updated]

  • Breaking news: Castro’s sister says she spied for the CIA. Juanita Castro, Fidel and Raúl Castro’s sister, says she voluntarily spied for the CIA from 1961 to 1964, when she left the island for Miami. She said she met a CIA officer called “Enrique” at a hotel in Mexico City in 1961; she was then given the codename “Donna” and codebooks so she could receive encoded instructions from Washington.
  • Was Milan Kundera a communist police informant? Documents unearthed by Czech academics allegedly show that the Czech-born author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being denouncing a Western spy to Czechoslovakia’s StB secret police during his student days.
  • Afghans complain about US spy balloon. A US spy balloon (see previous intelNews coverage) flying over the city of Kandahar in Afghanistan, is prompting privacy complaints from residents.

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Could Order 65 signify the end of communications privacy in Russia?

FSB agent

FSB agent

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
As of July 21, Russian postal services and Internet providers are required by law to provide Russian intelligence agents with on demand access to the dispatch information and content of private correspondence. This is stipulated in Order 65, which the Russian government and the Russian Ministry of Communications made public on July 6.  Apart from granting automatic communications inspection rights to officers of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and seven other intelligence and security organizations of the Russian state, the new law requires all Russian post office sorting facilities to set up “special rooms where security officers will be able to open and inspect private mail”. Additionally, all Internet service providers are now required to grant the FSB and other intelligence and security agencies complete access to their electronic databases. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0029

  • Iranians revolting against Nokia for alleged spying complicity. Consumer sales of Nokia handsets in Iran have allegedly fallen by up to 50%, reportedly because of the company’s membership in the Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) partnership. As intelNews has been pointing out since last month, NSN allegedly helped supply the Iranian government with some of the world’s most sophisticated communications surveillance systems.
  • Analysis: Why NSA’s Einstein 3 project is dangerous. This editorial argues that US President Barack Obama’s decision to proceed with a Bush administration plan to task the National Security Agency with protecting government computer traffic on private-sector networks is “antithetical to basic civil liberties and privacy protections” in the United States.
  • New US government report says Bush secrecy hampered intelligence effectiveness. A new report from the Offices of Inspectors General of the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, CIA, NSA, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence, says that the Bush administration’s decision to keep NSA’s domestic wiretap program secret seriously hampered the broader intelligence community’s ability to use the program’s output.

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UK Home Office to propose outsourcing interception database

A few months ago, UK Home Office Minister, Jacqui Smith, postponed the proposal of a controversial legislation placing in the hands of private companies a database containing all of the country’s intercepted telephone call and Internet traffic use data. The huge database collects the identity and location of all telephone callers and website visitors in the UK. Smith was eventually forced to abandon the plan, but now says she intends to publish a consultation paper re-introducing it to the public. She enjoys the backing of British law enforcement and intelligence services, who say “it is no longer good enough for communications companies to be left to retrieve such data when requested” to do so. Read more of this post