Norway probes intercept equipment found near PM’s home

Parliament of NorwayBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Authorities in Norway are probing a possible espionage operation by a foreign intelligence agency, following the discovery of several electronic surveillance devices located near government buildings in downtown Oslo. The presence of the devices was revealed on December 12 in a leading article by Norwegian daily newspaper Aftenposten, which published the findings of what it said was a two-month technical investigation into the matter. The paper said its reporters teamed up with two leading companies specializing technical surveillance countermeasures. According to the article, investigators came up with a network of surveillance devices disguised to look like cell phone base stations, known as transceivers. But the devices were actually International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) catchers, essentially fake cell phone towers that are often used clandestinely to intercept telephone traffic among users, as well as their movements. Aftenposten said that the devices, whose unauthorized use is illegal in Norway, had been placed outside the official residence and office of the prime minister, outside the houses of parliament, as well as near major banks and corporate headquarters. IMSI catchers cannot access the content of cellular communications, as most providers encrypt them nowadays; but they can record the telephone numbers of users, as well as pen-register data —namely who calls whom, when, for how long, etc. Additionally, if those behind the surveillance knew the telephone numbers of targeted subscribers, they could keep track of their physical movements through their phone’s GPS system, and identify who they contact on their cellular devices. The newspaper said the surveillance devices were almost certainly installed to monitor the activities of senior Norwegian government officials, as well as perhaps senior executives of companies headquartered in the Norwegian capital. On Monday, Norway’s National Security Authority (NSM) said it thought Aftenposten’s claims were probably correct. NSM Director Kjetil Nilsen said the main question was now who was behind the installations. Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) spokeswoman Siv Alsen told reporters on Monday that “the possibility that this is coming from foreign state agencies” could not be dismissed. She added that the PST would now proceed to probe whether the surveillance network was the work of foreign spies or organized criminal networks. Norway, a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is traditionally seen as an ally of the United States and has seen its relations with Russia and China strained in recent years.

Norway, Sudan, expel diplomats over spying allegations

PST headquarters in OsloBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Norway and Sudan have announced tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions over allegations of espionage. On Tuesday, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that a Sudanese diplomat stationed in the Norwegian capital Oslo would be expelled. The diplomat, whose name and position at the Sudanese embassy were not disclosed, allegedly engaged in “activities incompatible with his status under the protection of the Vienna Convention” —standard diplomatic lingo for espionage. The Reuters news agency reported that the diplomat was expelled after Norway’s main counterintelligence intelligence agency, the Police Security Service (PST), arrested and charged a 38-year-old Sudanese immigrant with espionage. The unnamed man, who was arrested in Trondheim, said he had been instructed by Sudanese embassy personnel to spy on the activities of the Sudanese expatriate community in Norway. He had previously been observed by the PST having a meeting with the same Sudanese diplomat who was subsequently expelled from Norway. Both men were arrested on Tuesday. While the unnamed diplomat has been expelled, the 38-year-old immigrant remains imprisoned in Oslo on espionage charges. According to a statement from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tuesday’s arrests marked the first case of ‘immigration intelligence’-related charges in the Scandinavian country since the 1970s. Early on Wednesday, the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it was expelling a Norwegian diplomat in response to Oslo’s move on the previous day. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #672

Janne KristiansenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Russian military intelligence to ‘change tactics’. Russian military intelligence is adjusting its work methods in response to the “worsening international situation”, Igor Sergun, the head of GRU —the country’s largest espionage agency— has told President Dmitry Medvedev. Currently, the GRU’s main focus is on “hot spots where terrorist and extremist groups are acting, regions with crisis situations, and also the sources and possible routes of illegal proliferation of nuclear materials and the components of weapons of mass destruction”, Sergun told Medvedev.
►►Norway spy chief quits in secrecy gaffe. Norway’s head of intelligence Janne Kristiansen has handed in her resignation because she said too much during a parliamentary hearing. According to a transcript, Ms Kristiansen, who until now headed the country’s Police Security Service (PST), told the hearing that Norway had agents working in Pakistan. According to reports Pakistan has asked the government of Norway to explain Kristiansen’s remarks.
►►Review of Australia’s spy community released. Public findings of the first independent review of Australia’s intelligence community in eight years were released on January 25. The 2011 Independent Review of the Intelligence Community acknowledges and justifies the Australian spy agencies’ unprecedented growth since September 11, which saw some agencies increasing their funding almost 500 per cent in a decade. Meanwhile, David Irvine, Director of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, said in a rare public talk that future Australian spies would be recruited “from within our newly arrived migrant communities”.

News you may have missed #555

IARPA logo

IARPA logo

►►US spy agencies want to use photos to trace people. In announcement for its new Finder research program, IARPA, the US intelligence community’s research arm, says that it is looking for ways to “geolocate images” by extracting data and metadata from the images themselves and using this to make guesses about where they were taken.
►►Norway to reassess domestic intelligence gathering. Norway’s main domestic intelligence agency, the Police Security Service (PST), is facing questions over whether its focus on Islamic radicalism caused it to miss a rising threat from far-right extremists, such as Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people on July 22. But PST Director Janne Kristiansen says it would have been hard to stop Breivik even if more attention had been focused on far-right groups.
►►CIA pulls second station chief from Pakistan. For the second time in seven months, the CIA is replacing its station chief in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, citing “medical reasons” for the move. Last time this happened, Read more of this post