Al Jazeera director resigns amidst ‘US intelligence links’ row

Wadah Khanfar

Wadah Khanfar

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The senior executive of the Middle East’s most recognizable news television network has resigned following revelations that he met with American intelligence officials and complied with their requests to alter the content of news reports. A brief news report  posted today on the Al Jazeera website said that Wadah Khanfar, the news network’s Palestinian-born director, had announced his resignation, eight years after assuming the station’s leadership. In a public statement, Khanfar, whose brother is a Hamas activist in the Gaza Strip, said that Al Jazeera “stands as a mature organization” and that he is “confident that [the station] will continue to maintain its trailblazing path”. But he did not mention the incident that might have led to his resignation: namely the recent revelation that he was in constant contact with US intelligence officials during much of his executive career, and that he agreed to alter the content of some Al Jazeera news reports at their request. According to American diplomatic cables leaked by whistleblower website WikiLeaks, Khanfar came in contact with officials from the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA, the Pentagon’s premier spy organization) through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar —the Gulf country that owns and operates Al Jazeera. The leaked cables mention that the Palestinian-born executive attended several meetings with DIA personnel in Doha, Qatar, and even agreed to “remove” news content when requested to do so. In one instance, he reportedly directed his editorial staff to remove strong images of injured Iraqi children lying on hospital beds and of a woman with extensive facial injuries. Read more of this post

Ex-Bush official advised Gaddafi until early August, documents show

Libya

Libya

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Intelligence documents found at the headquarters of Libya’s abandoned spy agency appear to show that the regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi enjoyed the support of an American diplomat who served in the Bush administration. Al Jazeera reports that David Welch, who was Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs in the US Department of State between 2005 and 2008, met on August 2 with Gaddafi officials in the Four Seasons Hotel in Cairo, Egypt. According to a Libyan intelligence memo from the meeting, Welch, who now works for Bechtel Corporation, gave the Gaddafi officials tips on how “to win the propaganda war” against the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC). He also instructed them to undermine Libya’s rebel movement by relying on several “confidence-building measures”, including controlled intelligence leaks aimed at manipulating the news output of Arab and Western media. The documents also reveal that Gaddafi maintained spies at the highest echelons of the rebel council, and that at least one of these spies offered to assassinate rebel leaders by “poisoning their food and water”. However, despite maintaining an ample amount of informants inside the NTC, the Gaddafi regime found it difficult to collect reliable and actionable intelligence during the civil war. Characteristically, many of the names of NTC’s central figures are misspelled in intelligence field reports, and one intelligence analyst complained recently that “the majority of those currently working for the intelligence administration are ill-prepared to carry out intelligence duties”. Despite these shortcomings, however, Gaddafi’s spies inside the NTC appear to have managed to intercept a large number of telephone messages and confidential emails between the NTC and foreign diplomats. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #558

Amrullah Saleh

Amrullah Saleh

►► US government says Iran aids al-Qaeda. The US Treasury Department has accused the Iranian authorities of aiding al-Qaeda, saying Tehran had entered into financial agreements with six people believed to be al-Qaeda operatives in Iran, Kuwait, Qatar and Pakistan. According to Treasury officials, one of the six “is believed to have recently ascended to the No. 2 position in Al Qaeda, reporting directly to the organization’s new leader, Ayman al-Zawahri”.
►►Interview with Afghan spy chief. CNN has an exclusive interview with Amrullah Saleh, the –usually media-shy– former head of Afghanistan’s National Directorate for Security. The interview is essentially one long attack on Pakistan, which Saleh blames for destabilizing Afghanistan, hiding and sheltering al-Qaeda members, and providing funding and arms to the Taliban.
►►Sudan’s spy chief secretly visited France in June. The director of Sudan’s National Security and Intelligence Services (NISS), Mohamed Atta al-Moula Abbas, secretly traveled to Paris last June. He held talks there with Read more of this post

News you may have missed #526

  • Russia convicts colonel of exposing US spy ring. Colonel Alexander Poteyev has received a (relatively lenient) 25-year sentence for exposing a Russian ‘sleeper cell’ network in the United States. The sentence was delivered in absentia, as Poteyev is believed to have defected to the US, where he probably lives under an assumed identity. As he was fleeing Russia in June 2010, he texted his wife: “try to take this calmly: I am leaving not for a short time but forever. I am starting a new life. I shall try to help the children”. Here is the most detailed recent account the Poteyev’s case in English.
  • Libyan defector holed up in luxury hotel. Moussa Koussa, Libya’s former intelligence chief and foreign minister, faced calls last night to return to Britain for prosecution after he was tracked down to a penthouse suite at the Four Seasons Hotel in Doha, the capital of Qatar, where he has been living under the protection of the Qatari security services.
  • New NZ SIGINT spy agency boss named. The government of New Zealand has appointed Simon Murdoch as the acting chief executive and director of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) intelligence agency.

Russian intelligence suspected in Chechen commander’s assassination in Turkey

Another Chechen former commander has been assassinated abroad and the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) is once again suspected of having carried out the assassination. This time it was Islam Dzhanibekov (Canibekof, in Turkish), who had lived in Istanbul, Turkey, since 2002. Dzhanibekov, who was killed on December 9, was reportedly shot from a close range with a single action 7.62 MSP pistol. This type of weapon has been traditionally favored by the KGB and its successor agencies since the early 1970s, mainly due to its small size and relatively silent operation. Read more of this post