Colombian spy chief resigns over fake dossier that linked militants to Venezuela

Comando Conjunto de InteligenciaColombia’s military spy chief has resigned, after the Colombian president was found to have misused intelligence at a United Nations speech to blame Venezuela for allegedly aiding paramilitary groups. For many years, authorities in Bogotá have accused Venezuela of aiding armed groups such as the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). These groups have been engaged in a decades-long guerrilla war against the Colombian state. In 2017, the largest of these groups, the FARC, laid down its weapons and signed a peace treaty with the Colombian government. But the ELN has refused to follow suit, while a number of hardline FARC leaders recently announced that they would be resuming their armed struggle against the Colombian authorities.

In recent months, the rise of Venezuela’s Western-supported opposition leader Juan Guaidó has further-fueled tensions between Colombia and Venezuela. Bogotá has come out in support of Guaidó, while many anti-government Venezuelans, some of them armed, have sought refuge in Colombia. Colombia rejects Venezuela’s claims that it is giving shelter to terrorists and argues instead that it is providing humanitarian aid to Venezuelan refugees. In turn, it accuses Caracas of sheltering ELN and FARC guerrillas, a claim that the Venezuelan government strongly denies.

Last week, during the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Colombian President Iván Duque unveiled a dossier of evidence that purportedly proved beyond doubt Venezuela’s collusion with Colombian paramilitaries. Duque told the United Nations gathering that the collusion was supervised by no other than the President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro. But within hours of Duque’s speech, reporters who scrutinized the dossier found that much of the photographic evidence in it had been downloaded from the Internet. Moreover, the photographs were not taken in Venezuela, as Duque claimed in his speech, but in Colombia.

The revelations have dominated the news headlines in Colombia and Venezuela in the past week, with the Colombian government engaging in damage control. On Monday, General Oswaldo Peña, Colombia’s military intelligence chief, resigned over the fake dossier. General Peña directed the Comando Conjunto de Inteligencia (Joint Intelligene Command) of the Colombian Armed Forces, which was seen as the primary spy agency behind the information contained in the dossier. In his resignation letter, General Peña wrote that “as a general of the [Colombian] Republic” he was fully aware that he needed to take responsibility for his activities and the activities of his subordinates. President Duque has not commented on the general’s resignation.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 03 October 2019 | Permalink

Head of CIA’s Korean mission center to resign, say sources

Andrew KimA senior North Korea expert in the United States Central Intelligence Agency, who has been instrumental in the ongoing negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang, has tendered his resignation, according to sources. The official was identified last may by US media as Andrew Kim, a former South Korean citizen who moved to the US with his parents when he was 13 years old. According to sources, Kim joined the CIA after graduating from college and rose through the Agency’s ranks to serve its stations in Moscow, Beijing and Bangkok. His most recent overseas post was reportedly in Seoul, where he served as the CIA’s station chief —the most senior American intelligence official in the country.

Following his return to the US from Seoul, Kim reportedly retired, but returned last year to head the CIA’s new Korea Mission Center (KMC). The purpose of the specialized unit is to analyze Pyongyang’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs, which the administration of US President Donald Trump considers as matters of priority for the White House. It was as head of the KMC that Kim reportedly met Mike Pompeo once he became Director of the CIA in January 2017. The two men worked closely together and it is believed that Kim’s role was instrumental in organizing the negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang that led to last summer’s historic high-level meeting between President Trump and Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un. According to American and South Korean media, Kim accompanied the then-CIA director on his secret trip to North Korea. He also accompanied Pompeo on his trips to North Korea once the Kansas Republican became Secretary of State.

The Yonhap News Agency said on Tuesday that Kim initially intended to leave his CIA post in the summer, but was persuaded by Secretary Pompeo to continue. However, he has now tendered his resignation, which will take effect on December 20. Citing “multiple sources”, including “a senior official at South Korea’s National Intelligence Service”, the Seoul-based news agency said that Kim plans to take up an academic post at Stanford University, adding that he intends to continue serving as an adviser to the secretary of state. Prior media reports have stated that “Kim is widely viewed as a hawk on North Korea”, so there are suspicions that his departure from the CIA stems from his disagreement with the policy of negotiation signaled by President Trump. However, the CIA has not commented on the Yonhap report. The South Korean agency said that the CIA is already reviewing candidates to succeed Kim.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 28 November 2018 | Permalink

Political rift widens in Afghanistan as head of spy service resigns

Rahmatullah NabilThe bleak landscape of Afghan national politics became even bleaker on Thursday, after the sudden resignation of the country’s spy chief, allegedly due to “disagreements” with the government in Kabul. Rahmatullah Nabil led Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) from 2010 to 2012 before returning to the post in 2013, while his predecessor, Asadullah Khalid, recovered from injuries suffered from an unsuccessful assassination attempt against him by the Taliban. But on Thursday afternoon, Nabil posted a resignation letter on Facebook, saying that “a lack of agreement on some policy matters” made it impossible for him to continue to lead the NDS.

Nabil’s resignation could not have taken place at a more symbolic moment: it was announced just as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was returning home from a trip to neighboring Pakistan. The Afghan leader had attended part of the Heart of Asia regional conference, which was held in Pakistani capital Islamabad. But it is common knowledge that President Ghani’s visit was aimed at reinforcing the rapprochement between Kabul and Islamabad, as peace talks with the Taliban are about to restart. Critics of the Pakistani government accuse it of sponsoring the Taliban insurgency and believe that Islamabad’s consent is necessary for peace to prevail in Afghanistan. The Afghan government had entered negotiations with the leadership of the Taliban, but they ended abruptly in July, after it was revealed that Mullah Omar, the longtime leader of the Afghan Taliban, had been killed. Since that time, Taliban forces have taken the northern city of Kunduz, near the Afghan-Tajik border, while at the same time launching surprise raids against other cities, including Kandahar.

However, the NDS under Nabil’s leadership has staunchly opposed attempts by President Ghani to negotiate with the Taliban through the Pakistanis. In the past, Nabil had accused Islamabad of interfering in the domestic affairs of Afghanistan, while at the same time dismissing efforts by the Afghan government to reach out to Pakistan as “ill-fated”. Last week, Nabil accused President Ghani of surrendering Afghanistan’s “5,000-year history [to] Pakistan’s 60-year history”. But the President appeared conciliatory when speaking to reporters on Thursday. He praised Nabil for having done “a lot to improve information technology within NDS” and dismissed accusations that the service had been politicized. Nabil’s resignation would inevitably change the internal structure of the NDS, but such personnel changes were “common occurrences”, said President Ghani.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 11 December 2015 | Permalink

News you may have missed #892 (legislative update)

Jens MadsenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Canadian lawmakers vote to expand spy powers. Legislation that would dramatically expand the powers of Canada’s spy agency has cleared a key hurdle. The House of Commons on Wednesday approved the Anti-Terror Act, which was spurred by last year’s attack on parliament. The act would give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s (CSIS) the ability to operate overseas and make preventative arrests. It also makes it easier for police to arrest and detain individuals without charge. Dominated by the Conservative party, the Senate is expected to approve the act before June.
►►Danish spy chief resigns over Islamist attacks. The head of Denmark’s Police Intelligence Service (PET), Jens Madsen, quit just hours before a report was due to be released into February’s fatal shootings in Copenhagen by an Islamist. Omar El-Hussein killed two people at a free speech debate and a synagogue before being shot dead by police. “It’s no secret that it is a very demanding position,” said Madsen, without giving a reason for his resignation. Justice Minister Mette Frederiksen declined to say whether the move was linked to criticisms of the police response to the attack.
►►OSCE urges France to reconsider controversial spying bill. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe urged French lawmakers to reconsider provisions of a proposed law that would expand government surveillance, a measure that was backed by French parliamentarians on Tuesday, despite criticism from rights groups. “If enforced, these practices will impact the right of journalists to protect the confidentiality of sources and their overall work”, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic said Wednesday. “If confidentiality of sources is not safeguarded within a trusted communications environment, the right of journalists to seek and obtain information of public interest would be seriously endangered”, he added

In surprise move, Turkey’s spy chief cancels plans to run for office

Hakan FidanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The director of the all-powerful Turkish intelligence service, who resigned his post last month in order to run for parliament, has surprised observers by announcing his return to his previous duties saying he had a change of heart. Hakan Fidan has been in charge of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) since 2010, when he was personally appointed to the position by then Prime Minister and current President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Following his appointment, he personally supervised operations against political enemies of Erdoğan, who is widely seen as his mentor and close political ally. Early last February, Fidan, a mysterious figure who rarely speaks to the media, announced his resignation as director of MİT in order to run for parliament in June. His move was immediately hailed by the Justice and Development Party, which represents Erdoğan, as well as Turkey’s current Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu.

On Monday, however, Fidan surprised political observers by stating that he had decided not to enter politics after all, and was returning to the post of MİT director, effective immediately. The Turkish strongman’s change of heart appears to have come despite a public approval of his earlier decision to resign his MİT post, from Prime Minister Davutoğlu. Some observers claim that the surprise U-turn may reflect a widening split within the Justice and Development Party, between the prime minister and President Erdoğan, who first appointed Fidan to MİT’s helm back in 2010. Commenting on Fidan’s resignation last month, Erdoğan had signaled displeasure with the move, saying that Fidan “should have stayed [at MİT] instead of leaving without permission”. There are rumors in Ankara that Fidan’s U-turn came after considerable pressure from the pro-Erdoğan faction in the Justice and Development Party. The latter did not approve of Fidan’s resignation from MİT, believing that the spy chief is more needed in helping strike a peace treaty with Turkey’s disaffected Kurdish population. However, Davutoğlu’s people in the party believed that Fidan could add to the political prestige of their electoral campaign.

Does Fidan’s sudden return to MİT signal a widening tactical fragmentation within the Justice and Development Party? Davutoğlu told reporters on Monday that rumors of a division had been invented by the media, and that he and Erdoğan continue to “always consult” each other. Meanwhile the media-shy MİT chief declined to speak publicly about his decision, and instead issued a brief statement that said he had come to the conclusion that it was “necessary” to resume his previous post.

Luxembourg government resigns following spy scandal

Jean-Claude JunckerBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The prime minister of Luxembourg announced his intent to resign on Thursday, after a parliamentary investigation revealed scores of illegal operations conducted by the country’s intelligence service. Jean-Claude Juncker, a longtime member of Luxembourg’s Christian Social People’s Party, is Europe’s longest-serving elected leader, having been in power constantly since 1995. But on Wednesday, the astute center-right politician, who is also President of the Eurogroup —the eurozone’s finance ministers’ group— announced on Wednesday that he would step down, following seven hours of heated debate in the Luxembourg parliament. Juncker announced his intention to resign after the junior partner of his governing coalition, the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party, which is the country’s second-largest, said it could no longer lend its support to the government. The reason is a parliamentary inquiry, which found that the country’s State Intelligence Service (SREL) has been engaging in serious criminal activity. The investigation was launched last year, after a local newspaper alleged that SREL’s Director, Marco Mille, had employed a surreptitious recording device disguised as a watch to record a private conversation with Prime Minister Junkcer. The parliamentary inquiry, which was released last week, found that SREL has been carrying out countless illegal wiretaps around the country and that it maintains detailed secret files on over 13,000 citizens and residents of Luxembourg. The report also alleges that SREL had set up a front company in order to facilitate the transfer of $10 million from a corrupt Russian businessman to a Spanish intelligence operative, as a personal favor to the Russian. The report did not confirm allegations, made in the country’s press, that the Grand Duke of Luxembourg has been a trusted informant of MI6, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service. Read more of this post

Opinion: When Did Obama Know About CIA Director’s Affair?

David Petraeus and Paula BroadwellBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The standard reaction to last week’s resignation of Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus, following the revelation of his extramarital affair, has been stunned silence. Not so much because of the affair itself —what is one more affair in the slippery world of Washington politics?— but because it involved the eminent figure of Petraeus. Former aides to the retired General have been confiding to journalists that “never in a million years” would they have thought that the high-achieving CIA Director would have risked his career and reputation in such a reckless fashion. Many thought that the relationship between him and his biographer, Paula Broadwell, had grown suspiciously close in recent years; but Petraeus had a general way of seeming beyond reproach.

It is worth pointing out that much of this unfolding story is so far based on hearsay, as opposed to concrete, verifiable information. It is suggested that Petraeus’ extramarital tryst was accidentally discovered by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who were looking into a seemingly unrelated case. Some news outlets, mostly in the UK, suggest that a female employee of the US military’s Joint Special Operations Command contacted the FBI after receiving threatening messages from Broadwell, warning her to “stay away from [her] man” —allegedly Petraeus. While investigating the Gmail account from which the threatening messages were allegedly sent, the FBI allegedly discovered “thousands” of messages exchanged between the CIA Director and Broadwell, some of which were sexually explicit. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #810 (Petraeus resignation edition)

David PetraeusBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
►►How did Petraeus’ affair come to light? CIA Director David Petraeus resigned after a probe into whether someone else was using his email. The probe eventually led to the discovery that he was having an extramarital affair, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cites “several people briefed on the matter”. An FBI inquiry into the use of Petraeus’s Gmail account led agents to believe the woman or someone close to her had sought access to his email. An extramarital affair has significant implications for an official in a highly sensitive post, such as that held by Petraeus, because it can open an official to blackmail.
►►Who did Petraeus have an affair with? The woman with whom General David Petraeus was having an affair is Paula Broadwell, a West Point graduate and the author of a recent hagiographic book about him, entitled All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, co-written with Vernon Loeb. Slate‘s Fred Kaplan reports that “it had long been rumored that something was going on between Petraeus and Broadwell. When she was embedded with him in Afghanistan, they went on frequent 5-mile runs together. But Petraeus went on 5-mile runs with many reporters, and few people who knew him took the rumors seriously”.
►►Who is leading the CIA now? With General David Petraeus stepping down as director of the CIA, following reports of an extra-marital affair, the agency’s current deputy director will take over as director on an interim basis. His name is Michael Morell, and he was a senior CIA aide in the White House to President George W. Bush. Morell had served as deputy director since May 2010, after holding a number of senior roles, including director for the agency’s analytical arm, which helps feed intelligence into the President’s Daily Brief. He also worked as an aide to former CIA Director George Tenet.

Canadian reporter says Chinese news agency asked him to spy

Mark BourrieBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A longtime Canadian journalist says he resigned his post at China’s state-run news agency after he was asked to use his press-pass privileges to spy on a prominent Tibetan separatist leader. Mark Bourrie, an Ottawa-based reporter and author of several books, told The Canadian Press news agency that he was first approached by Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua in 2009. The veteran journalist was allegedly told by Xinhua officials that the agency planned to expand its news coverage of Canada and wished to compete with other international news services active in North America. Bourrie said that, upon joining Xinhua, he began to cover “routine political subjects”; gradually, however, his superiors started making “some unusual requests”. In one characteristic case, he was asked to report on the identities and contact information of political activists who had participated in legal protests against the visit to Canada of Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2010. Bourrie says he rebuffed such requests, because they did not seem to him to have journalistic value. In April of this year, Xinhua’s bureau chief in Ottawa, Dacheng Zhang, allegedly asked Bourrie to attend a keynote speech by the 14th Dalai Lama at the Sixth World Parliamentarians’ Convention on Tibet, which was held at the Ottawa Conference Center. Based in India, the Dalai Lama is the most prominent international figure of the movement for the independence of the Tibet Autonomous Region, which has been ruled by the People’s Republic of China since 1951. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #734

Aviv KochaviBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Australian spy agency in rent dispute. The Australian government insists there is no dispute over the lease of the new, state-of-the-art headquarters of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, which cost nearly A$589 to build. But according to a number of government sources, the property has become the subject of a standoff between the ASIO and Australia’s Department of Finance and Deregulation. The Canberra Times reports that the Finance Department has told ASIO it will have to hand over more money than anticipated because of a blowout to building costs and timing. But the ASIO is refusing to pay more than initially agreed.
►►US unveils spy model of bin Laden compound. The United States intelligence community has unveiled a scale model of the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden spent the last few years of his life in hiding. The model was built by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGIA) and used by military and intelligence leaders to plan the daring night raid on May 2, 2011, that killed the al Qaeda founder. Its scale is an exact 1:84; every tree, bush, wall, animal pen, trash can and physical structure in the model existed at one time at the original compound in Abbottabad.
►►Israel military intelligence head in secret US visit. Israeli military intelligence chief Aviv Kochavi made a “secret visit” to Washington earlier this month to discuss the upcoming talks between world powers and Iran. An Israeli security official confirmed the visit, which was reported in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, but could not provide further details. Meanwhile, three senior IDF intelligence officers resigned recently, following what they called “questionable” appointments to key positions. The three colonels held some of the most senior and classified positions in the Israeli military intelligence community.

News you may have missed #673

John KiriakouBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Canada arrest shows spy times have changed in Russia. There are aspects of the spy case of Canadian Sub-Lt. Jeffery Delisle that differ substantially from spy cases dating back to Cold War espionage waged by the now-defunct Soviet system. As a sign of changing times, the Russian media has acknowledged Delisle was allegedly spying for them —something that would never be admitted in Soviet times when the KGB and GRU were in ascendency.
►►US court upholds S. Korean ex-spy’s asylum ruling. Kim Ki-sam, who left South Korea’s state spy agency in 2000, applied for asylum in the US in 2003, saying he would face persecution and prosecution if he was forced to return to South Korea because he had revealed information about secret operations to help then-President Kim Dae-jung win the Nobel Peace Prize. A US court has now upheld a 2008 ruling to grant him political asylum.
►►Kiriakou’s wife resigns from CIA. Heather Kiriakou, who has served as a top analyst at the Agency, resigned Tuesday amid accounts that she had been pressured to step down after her husband —John Kiriakou, a former agency employee— was charged with leaking classified information to the press. Two sources in direct contact with the Kiriakous told The Washington Post that Heather had submitted her resignation under pressure from superiors at the CIA.

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”.

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

News you may have missed #500

Analysis: Russian-Czech spy scandals show new direction in Russian espionage

ÚZSI seal

ÚZSI seal

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Last July saw the resignations of three Czech Generals, including the head of the president’s military office and the country’s representative to NATO, following revelations that one of their senior staffers had a relationship with a Russian spy.  Intelligence observers have become accustomed to frequent reports of Russian-Czech spy scandals in recent years. But, according to reports from Prague, recent Russian intelligence activity in the Czech Republic may indicate a change of direction by Moscow. Some say that Russia’s new espionage doctrine focuses less on military intelligence in the post-US-missile-shield strategic environment, and more on political and economic espionage. To be sure, Russia’s intelligence presence in the Czech capital remains substantial: Czech counterintelligence sources estimate that at least 60 –that is, one in three– Russian diplomats in Prague are engaged in intelligence-related activities. But the intensity of Russian espionage in Prague is not unique. Read more of this post