United States reaches agreement with ex-NSA staff who helped Emirates hack targets

US Department of JusticeThree former employees of American spy agencies, who helped the United Arab Emirates hack targets around the world, including United States citizens, have agreed to cooperate with the investigation into their activities. The US Department of Justice said on Tuesday that it had reached a “deferred prosecution agreement” with the three Americans, Ryan Adams, Marc Baier and Daniel Gericke. At least two of them are believed to have worked for the US National Security Agency before transferring their skills to the private sector.

According to US government prosecutors, the three men initially worked for a US-owned private cyber firm, before being hired by another firm that is registered to the UAE, which offered them “significant increases in their salaries”. According to the book This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends, by New York Times reporter Nicole Perlroth, the UAE firm was behind Project RAVEN, a highly intrusive cyber-espionage campaign against domestic and international critics of the UAE monarchy.

As intelNews reported earlier this year, the existence of Project RAVEN was revealed by the Reuters news agency in 2019. Its extensive list of targets included foreign governments, officials of international bodies, as well as lawyers, human rights activists and suspected terrorists. Several of those targets were reportedly American citizens. Perlroth claims in her book that among Project RAVEN’s targets was former First Lady Michelle Obama.

The information released this week by the US Department of Justice details an agreement between the three defendants and the US government, according to which they are required to cooperate fully with the investigation into their activities. They are also required to pay a combined total of nearly $1.7 million to the US government as a form of restitution for violating military export-control standards. Moreover, they are banned from holding security clearances in the future, and are subject to a number of employment restrictions.

Several US news outlets described the agreement between the US government and the three defendants as the first of its kind. Meanwhile, a number of US government officials, including Bryan Vorndran, assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division, warned other former US government employees to not violate “export-controlled information for the benefit of a foreign government or a foreign commercial company”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 16 September 2021 | Permalink

New report sheds light on Russian private military group’s operations in Libya

Khalifa HaftarA new documentary aired on Tuesday by the BBC offers new evidence of extensive involvement in Libya by the Wagner Group, a secretive security firm believed to operate on behalf of Russian military intelligence. After first appearing in Ukraine in 2014, the company has been seen to operate around the world as a private paramilitary entity. Its mission is allegedly to afford the Kremlin “plausible deniability” capabilities for operations in the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe. As intelNews has explained before, there is evidence that the Kremlin provides payments to Wagner. But concrete information about the secretive firm is hard to come by, and the Russian government strongly denies having links to it.

Now, however, a new television documentary produced by the BBC claims to have uncovered reliable evidence of extensive involvement by Wagner in the Libyan conflict —as well as links between Wagner and the Russian military. Wagner personnel first appeared in Libya in April of 2020, when they were seen operating in support of the Tobruk-based Libyan National Army, commanded by Field marshal Khalifa Haftar. In the spring of 2020, as the conflict was winding down, Wagner group forces retreated from areas south of the city of Tripoli, which were eventually occupied by Haftar’s rival, the Government of National Accord.

The documentary, co-produced by BBC News Russian and BBC News Arabic, is titled “Haftar’s Russian Mercenaries: Inside the Wagner Group”. It is based on the discovery of a Samsung Galaxy tablet, which was left behind in the Tripoli area by a retreating Wagner fighter. According to the BBC the information recovered from the tablet provides “unprecedented insight” into Wagner’s operations in Libya. It includes maps of the terrain in the Russian language, as well as a list of codenames used by Wagner personnel during their operations in the North African country.

Another series of documents recovered from the tablet list weapons used by the group during its operations in Libya. Acceding to the information released online by the BBC, the weapons lists include state-of-the-art radar and other military equipment, which experts claim are “only be available from the Russian military”. The documentary also lays out allegations of war crimes conducted by Wagner personnel in Libya, which include mining and even booby-trapping civilian areas.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 11 August 2021 | Permalink

Main suspect in potentially momentous hacker-for-hire case seeks plea deal in NY

Computer hacking

IN A DRAMATIC CASE, described by observers as “unusual”, a suspect in a hacker-for-hire scheme of potentially global proportions has told United States government prosecutors he is ready to discuss a plea deal. The case centers on Aviram Azari, a highly sought-after private detective who served in an Israeli police surveillance unit in the 1990s before launching a private career in investigations.

Azari was arrested in Florida in 2019 during a family vacation, and was shortly afterwards indicted in New York on charges of aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit computer hacking, and wire fraud. These charges reportedly date back to 2017 and 2018. Azari’s alleged objective was to target carefully selected individuals in order to steal their personal information, including email usernames and passwords. Last year, The New York Times reported that the case against Azari is connected with a potentially massive hacker-for-hire scheme code-named DARK BASIN.

Further information about DARK BASIN was published by Citizen Lab, a research unit of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, which focuses on information technology, international security and human rights. It said DARK BASIN was orchestrated by an India-based firm called BellTroX InfoTech Services. It also claimed that the company is one of a number of hacker-for-hire firms based in India. These companies are said to be employed by private detectives in Western countries, who are usually hired by large multinationals or wealthy individuals.

Accordingly, the targets of DARK BASIN activities appear to have been investment firms based in the US and elsewhere, as well as government officials, pharmaceutical companies, lawyers, large banks, and even environmental activists who campaign against large multinationals. Additionally, some of DARK BASIN’s thousands of targets appear to be people involved in high-stakes divorce proceedings. Perhaps more alarmingly, among DARK BASIN’s targets are journalists around the world, who seem to have been targeted systematically in efforts to reveal their sources of information.

Azari has pleaded not guilty. But the fact that he his lawyer has now communicated his client’s desire to seek a plea deal with US government prosecutors may be a major game-changer in this case, which may have global ramifications. The Reuters news agency, which reported the latest developments on this case this week, said it reached out to the US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, but spokesmen there declined to provide any information on Azari’s case.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 02 July 2021 | Permalink

UAE cyber-hacking program spied on Michelle Obama’s emails, book claims

Michelle ObamaMICHELLE OBAMA HAD SOME of her personal emails intercepted by a group of American cyber-spies who were working for the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to a new book. The book, This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends, is written by Nicole Perlroth, who covers cybersecurity-related topics for The New York Times. It tackles what the author describes as the global “cyber-weapons arms race” and its impact on international security.

Among the topics discussed in the book is Project RAVEN, a highly intrusive cyber-espionage effort by the government of the UAE. The project was allegedly aimed at neutralizing domestic and international targets, which the UAE monarchy saw as threats to its survival. According to the Reuters news agency, which revealed the existence of Project RAVEN in 2019, its targets included foreign governments, officials of international bodies, as well as suspected terrorists and human rights activists.

As the dispute between the UAE and Qatar deepened, Project RAVEN increasingly targeted the island oil kingdom. In one notable instance, UAE cyber-spies hacked into the email accounts of officials at the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) in an unsuccessful effort to sabotage Qatar’s bid to host the 2022 football World Cup. According to Reuters, the cyber-spies sought to unearth damaging and potentially embarrassing private information about Qatari officials, and leak them in order to damage Qatar’s candidacy for the high-profile sporting competition. According to the news agency, several American former employees of the National Security Agency were involved in Project RAVEN.

Now Perlroth’s book claims that Project RAVEN’s cyber-spies acquired a series of emails exchanged between Moza bint Nasser, wife of Qatar’s then-ruling Emir, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and Michelle Obama, when she held the position of America’s First Lady. The emails, which were intercepted in 2015, contained the US first lady’s personal thoughts, information on her security detail, and the travel details of her planned visit to Doha later that year. According to Perlroth, the inclusion of Obama’s emails into Project RAVEN’s targets caused at least one American involved in the effort, a former NSA analyst, to quit and leave the UAE. The Emirati monarchy has not commented on allegations about Project RAVEN.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 08 February 2021 | Permalink

Cyprus issues international arrest warrants for three Israelis wanted for spying

WiSpear surveillance vanThe government of Cyprus has issued international arrest warrants for three Israeli citizens, who are wanted in connection with a private security company that allegedly carried out espionage operations on the Mediterranean island. The warrants were sparked by what has become known in Cyprus as the “spy van case”.

It began on November 16, 2019, when Cypriot police arrested two local men and a woman who were registered as employees of a company called WiSpear. The firm was reportedly registered in Cyprus in 2013 and began offering services relating to communications interception and surveillance in 2017. Its owner is Tal Dilian, an Israeli former intelligence officer. WiSpear provides services to customers in Africa, the Gulf and Southeast Asia, but not to the government of Cyprus, or to Israel.

The company became widely known on the island following a promotional interview given by Dilian to Forbes, during which he allowed a film crew to tour a surveillance van (pictured) belonging to WiSpear. Dilian told the Forbes reporters that the van —a remodeled ambulance— had been fitted with over $9 million worth of surveillance equipment and could intercept Internet-based applications and telephone messages. The report became viral in Cyprus and prompted calls for an investigation into WiSpear.

On Thursday, the Cypriot government issued international arrest warrants for three Israeli citizens, including Dilian and Shahak Avni, a prominent member of Cyprus’ Jewish community. All are believed to be in Israel, and it is doubtful that they will ever be extradited to Cyprus. The Israeli government has not commented on the case. WiSpear said on December 26 that it was “cooperating fully with Cypriot law enforcement”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 7 January 2020 | Permalink

New report details growing presence of Russian private security firms in Africa

Central African Republic RussiaA new report by the American news network CNN has shed new light into the little-researched subject of Russian-owned private military and security operations in Africa. CNN said the report took a month to complete. It claims that a Russian tycoon by the name of Yevgeny Prigozhin has been instrumental in the growth of Russian private security operations in the continent. Prigozhin is one of the closest confidantes of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The United States accuses him of helping fund the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company based in Saint Petersburg, which allegedly participated in the Kremlin’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election. CNN claims that Prigozhin is also connected with PMC Wagner, a Russian security contractor with presence on the ground in Syria and eastern Ukraine. Western officials allege that firms like Wagner could not operate without permission from the Kremlin.

According to the CNN report Prigozhin turned to African countries like Sudan, Libya and the Central African Republic in order to make up for his financial losses in Syria and Ukraine. He allegedly has a role in many of Russia’s 20 military agreements with African states where he provides security and weapons training on behalf of Moscow. In return, his group of companies, headed by a firm called Concord, receives exploration permits and the rights to exploit precious metals found throughout Africa, according to CNN. The network sent correspondents to the Central African Republic where they found that a radio station and a major military training base are run by a group of 250 Russian contractors. None of them will say who pays them, according to CNN, and at least one of them claims to be a “security adviser” for Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadéra. Most of the Russians operate out of Palais de Berengo, a dilapidated presidential palace located 30 miles south of the capital Bangui, which used to belong to the country’s late dictator Jean-Bedel Bokassa. At a nearby mining site there are now hundreds of locals who work for the Russians, said CNN.

The CNN report also notes that last year three Russian journalists, Kirill Radchenko, Alexander Rastorguyev and Orkhan Dzhemal, were ambushed and executed near Sibut in the central region of the country, allegedly “by men wearing turbans and speaking Arabic after refusing to surrender their vehicle and equipment”. They were in the Central African Republic to research the presence of Russian private security firms. Their trip was funded by the Center for Investigation, a London-based foundation owned by the Russian exiled billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky. No one has been arrested or charged for the killings of the three Russian journalists. Central African Republic authorities told CNN that “investigations were continuing” into the matter.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 14 August 2019 | Permalink

Outgoing CIA director acknowledges US killed ‘couple of hundred’ Russians in Syria

Mike PompeoThe outgoing director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Mike Pompeo, appeared on Thursday to confirm reports from last February that United States troops killed more than 200 Russian soldiers in Syria. According to sources from the US Pentagon, the armed confrontation took place on February 7, when a 500-strong Syrian government force crossed the Euphrates River and entered Kurdish-controlled territory in Syria’s northeastern Deir al-Zour region. US-supported Kurdish forces in the area, which include embedded American troops, responded with artillery fire, while US military aircraft also launched strikes on the Syrian government forces. The latter withdrew across the Euphrates after suffering heavy losses. The US side estimated at the time that over 100 attackers had been left dead, with another 200-300 injured. The toll later rose to several hundred dead.

At a press conference held soon after the armed clash, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis refused to discuss the matter, which he referred to as “perplexing”. Bloomberg said at the time that American officials were “in talks” with Russian counterparts “in search of an explanation for what happened”. On Thursday, however, Pompeo appeared to acknowledge that US troops killed hundreds of Russians in Deir al-Zour. The outgoing CIA director was speaking before a committee of the US Senate, during a hearing pertaining to his nomination to serve as the next US secretary of state. He was making the point that the administration of US President Donald Trump had maintained a hardline policy on Russia. After referring to the recent expulsions of 60 Russian diplomats from the US, Pompeo said: “in Syria, now, a handful of weeks ago the Russians met their match. A couple of hundred Russians were killed”.

Pompeo’s comments were seen by the media as an acknowledgement by a senior US government official of the incident in Deir al-Zour, which has remained shrouded in mystery since it happened. Later in his speech, Pompeo said that the Kremlin had “not yet gotten the full message about US determination to block aggression from Moscow. We need to continue to work at that”, he said.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 13 April 2018 | Permalink

Conflicting reports of Russian fighters killed by US forces in Syria

Kurdish SDF There are conflicting reports of Russian and Ukrainian fighters having been killed by American forces in northeastern Syria, with some sources claiming that up to 200 Russians and Ukrainians, most of them private contractors working for the Syrian government, were left dead in clashes last week. If such reports are accurate, they could point to the most lethal American-Russian confrontation since the end of World War II.

According to the United States Department of Defense, the armed confrontation took place on February 7. On that day, a 500-strong Syrian government force crossed the Euphrates River and entered Kurdish-controlled territory in northeastern Syria. A Pentagon spokesman, Colonel Thomas F. Veale, told reporters last week that the pro-government forces crossed the Euphrates near the town of Khursham, in Syria’s Deir al-Zour region. The town is firmly held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish armed faction that is supported by the US. Veale said that the Syrian government forces advanced in a “battalion-sized formation supported by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars”. The SDF force in the area, which includes embedded American troops, responded with artillery fire, while US military aircraft also launched strikes on the government forces. The latter withdrew across the Euphrates after suffering heavy losses. The US side estimates that over 100 attackers were left dead, with another 200-300 injured. There were allegedly no SDF fatalities during the clash.

On February 8, CBS News cited an unnamed US Pentagon official, who claimed that Russians were among the dead in Deir al-Zour. The BBC said that “at least two Russians” were killed in the attack, while The New York Times raised the toll to “perhaps dozens”. But US news network Bloomberg claimed that over 200 Russians and pro-Russian Ukrainian mercenaries were among the dead. Citing anonymously “three Russians [and] one US official […] familiar with the matter”, the network said that most of the fatalities were Russian and Ukrainian private contractors who were fighting in Syria in support of the government of President Bashar al-Assad. These reports mark the first known instance of Russian citizens killed by American forces in Syria. If the Bloomberg account is accurate, the Deir al-Zour clash could be the most extensive armed confrontation between Americans and Russians since the end of World War II.

Bloomberg said that it spoke by phone to one Russian military contractor who said that “dozens of his wounded men” were still receiving treatment at military hospitals in Russia. On February 8, the Syrian government accused Washington of carrying out a “brutal massacre” in Deir al-Zour, but said nothing about foreign fighters. A statement by the Russian Ministry of Defense said that 25 Syrian troops were hurt in the attack, but denied that Russian soldiers had participated in the February 7 clashes. Speaking on behalf of the Kremlin, Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow only tracked casualty data about its official military forces stationed in Syria. He added that no Russian forces were stationed in Deir al-Zour. At a press conference last week, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis refused to discuss the matter, which he referred to as “perplexing”. Bloomberg said that American officials were “in talks” with Russian counterparts “in search of an explanation for what happened”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 14 February 2018 | Research credit: N.L. | Permalink

British spy agency speeds up hiring process to compete with private firms

GCHQThe Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), one of Britain’s most powerful intelligence agencies, says it plans to accelerate its vetting process because it is losing top recruits to the private sector. Founded in 1919 and headquartered in Cheltenham, England, the GCHQ is tasked with communications interception. It also provides information assurance to both civilian and military components of the British state. It primarily hires people with technical expertise in communications hardware and software. But in the past fiscal year, the agency fell notably short of its recruitment target, according to a new government report published this week.

The information is included in the annual report of the Intelligence and Security Committee of the British Parliament. According to the document, GCHQ’s recruitment shortfall during the past fiscal year exceeded 22 percent, as the agency hired 500 new staff, 140 short of its initial goal of 640. Because of its mission, the agency must have the “ability to recruit and retain cyber specialists”, says the report. However, GCHQ officials told the parliamentary committee that they “struggle to attract and retain a suitable and sufficient cadre of in-house technical specialists”. The latter are lured away by large hi-tech companies, for two reasons: first, because the salaries are higher; and second, because the hiring process is faster. Due to its security requirements, GCHQ has a lengthy vetting process for all potential employees, which sometimes takes more than a year. In recent times, the process has suffered backlogs, a phenomenon that has negatively impacted on the agency’s ability to recruit top talent.

In response to its recruitment shortfall, GCHQ told the parliamentary committee that it plans to speed up its vetting process by addressing its “lack of security vetting capacity”. In July of 2016, the agency had 51 vetting officers in its ranks. It hopes to raise this number to 110 by the summer of 2018, according to the parliamentary report. This will allow it to clear hiring backlogs by December of next year and thus be able to bettercompete with hi-tech firms in the private sector. Other British intelligence agencies have faced recruitment challenges in recent years. In 2010, the then Director-General of MI5, Jonathan Evans, told the British Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee that “some [MI5] staff perhaps aren’t quite the ones that we will want for the future”. He added that the lack of even basic computer skills among MI5’s aging officer ranks have sparked the introduction of a program of “both voluntary and compulsory redundancies”. And in 2016, MI6 said that it would increase its staff size by 40 percent by 2020, reflecting a renewed emphasis in foreign intelligence collection using human sources, which is the primary task of the agency.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 28 December 2017 | Permalink

CIA whistleblower complains of seven-year inaction by Agency’s inspector general

CIAA contractor for the United States Central Intelligence Agency has complained in an interview that no action has been taken in the seven years since he revealed a “billion-dollar fraud” and “catastrophic intelligence failure” within the Agency’s ranks. John Reidy argues that his case illustrates the unreasonable delay that impedes investigations by whistleblowers like him inside the CIA. Individuals like him, he argues, are forced to seek justice through leaks to the media, something which could be avoided if the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General addressed concerns more promptly.

Reidy, 46, from Worcester in the US state of Massachusetts, joined the CIA in 2003, after graduating with a law degree from the University of San Francisco. But he left the agency soon after joining, initially to work for a security contractor before setting up his own company, Form III Defense Solutions. He continued to work with the CIA by subcontracting his services, focusing on Iran. Reidy’s company developed an intelligence study guide for Iran and advised the CIA on the use of human intelligence (known as HUMINT) in the Islamic Republic.

In 2010, Reidy submitted two complaints to the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General, the Agency’s internal watchdog that is tasked with investigating whistleblower allegations. The first issue related to what Reidy describes as large-scale “fraud between elements within the CIA and contractors”. The second issue involved a “massive [and] catastrophic” intelligence failure “due to a bungled foreign operation”. When he filed his concerns with the OIG, Reidy was hoping that attention would be given to his claims right away. However, seven years later, his case is still “gathering dust” at a CIA office, he says. When he realized that no progress had taken place in several years, a frustrated Reidy forwarded his case —which includes copies of 80 emails and nearly 60 other documents— to Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary. He also reached out to the McClatchy news service with his concerns.

The secrecy rules that apply to those who work for the US Intelligence Community prevent Reidy from disclosing details of the alleged fraud and intelligence failure, or from specifying the country in which these incidents took place —though it seems from his intelligence résumé  that they probably involve Iran. But in an interview with McClatchy news service, the intelligence contractor voiced grave concerns about the internal investigation process in the CIA. “I played by the rules [and] they are broken”, he said. “The public has to realize that whistleblowers [like me] can follow all the rules and nothing gets done”, added Reidy. He went on to warn that if the CIA does not improve its internal investigation system, leaks to the media “may grow worse”.

McClatchy contacted the CIA about Reidy’s concerns and was told by a spokesperson, Heather Fritz Horniak, that, “as a general matter, [the CIA does] not comment on ongoing litigation”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 14 July 2017 | Permalink

US Pentagon hires private intelligence contractor for Syria operations

PentagonThe United States Department of Defense has released details of an agreement with a private intelligence contractor, which experts believe involves the provision of services to American Special Forces working clandestinely inside Syria. The announcement, made on the Pentagon’s website, is believed to be the first public admission of the use of a private intelligence contractor by the US government in Syria. In the brief press release, the DoD identifies the contractor as Six3 Intelligence Solutions, a McLean, Virginia-headquartered company that specializes in intelligence, biometrics and security.

Six3 Intelligence Solutions is a subsidiary of CACI International Inc., one of the largest defense, security and intelligence contractors in the US. According to The Daily Beast, CACI purchased Six3 Intelligence Solutions in 2013 for $820 million, in what a CACI media statement said was “the biggest deal” in the company’s 50-year history. Public records indicate that Six3 Intelligence Solutions is already fulfilling a $30 million contract with the Pentagon, involving the provision of nondescript “intelligence services” to American troops stationed in Afghanistan. The latest contract, worth $9.5 million, was announced on July 27. It is a no-bid contract, otherwise known as a ‘sole source contract’, which means that the government believes that only one company can provide the services required. Thus, the process by which a no-bid contract is awarded is non-competitive.

The Pentagon’s July 27 announcement states that, under the contract, work by Six3 Intelligence Solutions personnel “will be performed in Germany, Italy, and Syria”. There is no mention of the precise nature of the work, though it is generally assumed that it will support the operations of US Special Forces troops that are currently stationed in Syria. American troops have been active in Syria for at least a year. Nearly 300 US Special Forces members are believed to be presently operational in the war-torn country, working with officers of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Daily Beast said it contacted CACI and the DoD about the recently announced contract, but received no responses.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 15 August 2016 | Permalink

Romania arrests four Israelis on espionage charges

DIICOT RomaniaDIICOT RomaniaA Romanian agency tasked with security and counterterrorism has announced the arrest of four Israeli citizens on charges of hacking the email accounts of Romanian government officials. The arrests were announced on Thursday by Daniel Horodniceanu, chief of Romania’s Directorate for the Investigation of Organized Crime and Terrorism, known as DIICOT). In a press statement, Horodniceanu said the Israeli citizens are all employees of Black Cube, an Israeli security firm that is known for hiring former members of Israel’s intelligence and and special forces agencies. Among the company’s most high-profile board members was Meir Dagan, the former director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, who died in March after a long illness.

Reports in the Romanian press have named two of the four Israeli citizens as Avi Yanus and Dan Zorella, both former members of the Israeli intelligence community, who are believed to be the founders of Black Cube. Two other Israelis, David Geclowicz and Ron Weiner, are accused of having hacked three email accounts belonging to a high-profile Romanian government agency tasked with anti-corruption efforts. Romanian media claim that the primary target of the Black Cube employees was Laura Codruta Kovesi, director of Romania’s National Anticorruption Directorate. Referred to as DNA, the agency was created in 2003 with the aim of combating serious organized crime and corruption in Romanian politics. The latter is seen by many in Romania as endemic and harmful to the country’s efforts to integrate fully into the European Union.

According to DIICOT, the arrests of the four Israelis were “preventive” and were prompted by an initial complaint filed against them by a former public prosecutor, Ion Lascu, who is Kovesi’s father. When approached by Israeli media, Black Cube confirmed that four of its employees had been arrested in Romania. However, it said its employees were careful to follow Romanian law and dismissed the espionage allegations against them as “unfounded and untrue”. In a statement, the company said it was recently hired to work on a project to collect intelligence on large-scale corruption in Romanian politics. The statement added that Black Cube employees were arrested “after having made significant discoveries” relating to the aforementioned project.

Late on Thursday, Romanian investigators said they were still trying to find out who hired Black Cube to work in Romania.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 07 April 2016 | Permalink

Afghanistan arrests British citizens with 30 unregistered AK-47s

AK-47sBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Afghan authorities have announced the arrest of two British citizens who were found carrying 30 unregistered weapons without proper documentation. The two Britons, who have been identified as Julian Steele and James Davis, were stopped by Afghan police on Tuesday, January 3, at a checkpoint in the eastern suburbs of Afghan capital Kabul. The city’s police chief, Ayub Salangi, told the BBC that the two were arrested along with their Afghan interpreter and a local driver, after authorities discovered two metal boxes containing 30 AK-47s hidden under a blanket in their car. Moreover, most of the weapons had their serial numbers erased, and Steele and Davis were unable to produce registration documentation for the guns when asked to do so. When pressured, they told Afghan police that they worked for GardaWorld, an international security-consulting firm based in Montreal, Canada, with offices in the United States, Britain and the United Arab Emirates. GardaWorld, which is known to be currently active in Iraq, Pakistan, Haiti and Yemen, is thought to employ approximately 330 ‘bodyguards’ in Afghanistan, including around 30 foreign citizens. Strangely, however, GardaWorld, like every other private security firm operating in Afghanistan, is required by law to acquire all of its weapons from Afghanistan’s Ministry of the Interior. Furthermore, private security companies active in Afghanistan are not allowed to handle weapons without serial numbers, which is usually considered evidence of a black market connection. Read more of this post

Westerners arrested for “spying” in Congo had Kenyan links

Joshua French

Joshua French

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The bizarre case of two Norwegian citizens arrested in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) last May on spying charges is getting ever more complex. Tjostolv Moland, 28, and Joshua French, 27 (photo), were arrested in Kisangani, DRC, after their Congolese driver was found murdered with a bullet wound in his head. Prosecutors also accuse the two Norwegians of trying to kill a murder witness on orders of the Norwegian government, which has denied any connection with the two prisoners. Now, according to an investigation by Norway’s TV2 channel, Moland and French are said to have had a formal contract with the government of Kenya to train a 120-member elite security unit responsible for protecting VIPs in the country. Read more of this post

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