Philippines summons US ambassador to protest negative intelligence report

Sung KimThe United States ambassador to the Philippines has been summoned by Manila in response to the publication of an American intelligence report that described President Rodrigo Duterte as a threat to democracy. The report, published on February 13, represents a joint assessment of worldwide challenges to the interests of the United States. It is compiled annually by all 16 member agencies that make up the US Intelligence Community. This year’s report focused on the administration of President Duterte, who has led a self-styled “war on drugs, corruption and crime” in the Philippines since he assumed office in June 2016.

By the government’s own account, Duterte’s war has left more than 4,000 people dead in the past 18 months. But some human rights groups estimate the number of deaths at 11,000 or even higher. The US intelligence report notes that Duterte declared martial law in the Philippines’ southern region of Mindanao, which is expected to remain in place for most of 2018. It expresses concerns about rumors that the government may continue to impose martial law indefinitely and that it may extend it nationwide. It also expresses concern about Duterte’s prior statements that he intends to turn his government into a “revolutionary regime”.

At a press conference in Manila, President Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque said that the US ambassador to the Philippines capital, Sung Kim, met with Salvador Medialdea on Tuesday. Medialdea is the president’s executive secretary, who is the highest-ranking official in Duterte’s office. According to Roque, Medialdea told the US ambassador that the Philippine embassy in Washington was prepared to “give US intelligence accurate information about the reality” of the political situation in the Philippines. He also informed Ambassador Kim that the Philippines president had respect for the rule of law. A statement issued by the US embassy in Manila said that Ambassador Kim informed Medialdea about “the nature of the […] report, which is based on widely available information”.

The meeting ended with the two officials reaffirming “the strength of the broad and deep bilateral relationship” between Washington and Manila. They also said that the US would continue to cooperate with the Philippines on political, economic and security issues. However, tensions between the two countries have been high all week. On Thursday, President Duterte accused the Central Intelligence Agency of funding Rappler.com, a very popular news and information website based in the Philippines and Indonesia, which he said was engaged in a systematic effort to undermine his administration.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 27 February 2018 | Permalink

US intelligence assessment describes Philippines leader as threat to democracy

Trump and DuterteA wide-ranging assessment by the United States Intelligence Community views the President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, as a major threat to democracy and human rights in Southeast Asia. The report, published on February 13, represents a joint assessment of worldwide challenges to the interests of the United States. It is compiled annually by all 16 member agencies that make up the US Intelligence Community. This year’s report warns that democratic governance and human rights would continue to be “fragile” in 2018, because of the autocratic governing style of several national administrations. Many Southeast Asian governments were also corrupt and displayed nepotistic tendencies, says the report. It singles out the government of Myanmar, which has been widely criticized for its inhuman treatment of the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority. It also mentions the autocratic government of Thailand, which recently changed the country’s constitution, giving increased legislative powers to the country’s armed forces.

But much of the criticism in the report focuses on the administration of President Duterte, who has led a self-styled “war on drugs, corruption and crime” in the Philippines since he assumed office in June 2016. His critics in the Philippines and abroad have voiced strong objections to his aggressive tactics, which, by the government’s own account, have left more than 4,000 people dead in the past 18 months. Some human rights groups estimate the number of deaths at 11,000 or even higher. The US intelligence report notes that Duterte declared martial law in the Philippines’ southern region of Mindanao, which is expected to remain in place for most of 2018. It expresses concerns about rumors that the government may continue to impose martial law indefinitely and that it may extend it nationwide. It also expresses concern about Duterte’s prior statements that he intends to turn his government into a “revolutionary regime”.

On Tuesday, opposition lawmakers in the Philippines expressed concern about the US intelligence report and advised the Duterte administration to take its contents into consideration. But government representatives in Manila dismissed the US assessment as “myopic” and “speculative at best”. They insisted that the Philippines president “adheres to the rule of law” and would “remain loyal to the constitution” of the country. In November of last year, US President Donald Trump met Duterte during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Danang, Vietnam. Earlier in the year, the two men spoke on the phone. During that conversation, the American leader reportedly praised his Philippine counterpart for doing an “unbelievable job” in combating the drug trade in his country. Duterte is expected to visit the White House later this year.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 22 February 2018 | Permalink

News you may have missed #564 (China/Taiwan edition)

China & Taiwan

China & Taiwan

►►Taiwan opposition party alleges Chinese hacking. Taiwan’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) says it has been the target of a Chinese hacking campaign that since March has made daily incursions into its computers, complicating its preparations for presidential elections in January. A DPP spokesman said the hackers had downloaded the party’s research reports, schedules and meeting notes, but hadn’t stolen any sensitive information.
►►Taiwanese businessman sentenced for spying for China. Taiwan’s High Court has sentenced 35-year-old Lai Kun-chieh to 18 months in prison for spying for China. Taiwan’s Defense Ministry says Lai was recruited by Chinese intelligence agents while working in China. But apparently a Taiwanese military officer approached by Lai and asked to share classified information, reported the incident to the authorities.
►►Taiwanese ex-spy arrested in China. There are reports in Southeast Asian news outlets of an arrest in China of a retired Taiwanese intelligence official, who was allegedly vacationing in the country. The former spy, who is identified simply as “Wu” in Chinese-language media, was arrested four months ago, soon after he arrived in China “as a tourist”. It is worth noting that, in 2010, the Deputy Director of Taiwan’s National Security Bureau Secret Service Center, Chang Kan-ping, warned retired intelligence officers to avoid visiting China, “because of the risk of arrest or interrogation there”.

News you may have missed #548 (China edition)

NIS HQ

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►China detains Korean spy officers. It emerged last week that Chinese authorities have kept in detention for nearly a year two South Korean NIS intelligence officers, who were caught collecting information about North Korea on Chinese soil. It appears that the Chinese did share the information with the North Koreans, because usually the North Korean news agency would have announced this when the officers were first arrested. Of course, NIS denied the Chinese report. ►►US intelligence on China declassified. George Washington University’s National Security Archive has published a series of declassified US intelligence reports on China, spanning the period from 1955 until 2010. In one report authored in 2005, US intelligence analysts speculate that Beijing might be trying to develop a capability to incapacitate Taiwan through high-power microwave and electromagnetic radiation, so as not to trigger a nuclear retaliation from the US. ►►IMF investigators see China behind computer hacking. Back in June, intelNews reported on a massive and sophisticated cyberattack on the computer systems of the International Monetary Fund, which experts claimed was “linked to a foreign government”. Read more of this post

Analysis: How the CIA bedded down in Burma

Burma

Burma

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
It is a story that was largely ignored when it surfaced last year: since 1994, US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officer Richard A. Horn had been claiming that CIA agents illegally wiretapped his conversations while he was stationed in Burma. It appears that, at the time, the US diplomatic representation in Burma and the CIA station in Rangoon were at loggerheads with the DEA. The latter, represented by special agent Horn, had a policy of publicly commending the Burmese government for its significant efforts to end the vastly lucrative illegal drug trade in the country. But the diplomatic leadership at the US embassy in Rangoon, supported by the CIA, felt that their inroads with the Burmese military junta, which has controlled the country since 1990, were being obstructed by the DEA. Read more of this post

US threatened Indonesia with war during 1999 East Timor crisis

William Cohen

William Cohen

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Clinton Administration threatened to go to war with Indonesia in 1999, if Jakarta resisted an Australian-led plan to grant independence to what was then Indonesia’s province of East Timor. The revelations were made by former American and Australian military officials quoted in a new book titled The March of Patriots: The Struggle for Modern Australia. According to Pentagon official James Schear and Dr. Ashton Calvert, the late Director of the Australian Foreign Affairs Department, US Secretary of Defense William Cohen met with Indonesia’s President Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie and Defense Minister General Wiranto, and told them that Washington would retaliate militarily if Jakarta contested the planned deployment of an Australian-led UN force in East Timor. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0090

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News you may have missed #0078

  • Indian police claims busting of Pakistani spy ring. Punjab Police claims to have arrested a member of a spy ring allegedly handled by Pakistani intelligence (ISI). The arrestee was reportedly trying to leave India for Pakistan at the time of his arrest.
  • Iraq intelligence chief retired before major blasts. Mohammed al-Shehwani, the head of the Iraqi National Intelligence Service, went into retirement days before huge bombings in Baghdad killed almost 100 people in the deadliest day of violence this year.
  • Backlash over plan to spy on Indonesian mosques. Indonesian religious leaders are warning that the Indonesian National Police’s plan to monitor religious sermons during Ramadan will offend and anger Muslims, and be viewed as a repeat of tactics employed during the hated Suharto regime.

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News you may have missed #0075

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Sri Lankan forces score massive intelligence victory against LTTE

Prabhakaran

Prabhakaran

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Not only does the Sri Lankan government appear to be scoring a massive tactical victory in its 25-year military confrontation with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), it is also well on its way to smashing the LTTE’s intelligence infrastructure. Nearly the entire LTTE leadership, including the organization’s revered founder, Vellupillai Prabhakaran, has been physically exterminated during the government’s ongoing military offensive. What is more, Sri Lankan intelligence agents, in collaboration with INTERPOL, managed to arrest last week LTTE’s new leader, Selvarajah Pathmanathan, also known as “KP”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0055

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Documents reveal CIA meddling in Japanese elections

Taketora Ogata

Taketora Ogata

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Researchers from three Japanese universities have unearthed US documents that detail CIA activities to monitor and influence Japanese politics in the early 1950s. Dubbed “The Ogata File”, the five-volume, 1,000-page document collection, which was declassified in 2005, relays CIA efforts to assist the electoral campaigns of Japanese conservative politician Taketora Ogata. Ogata led the Japan Liberal Party in the early 1950s and in 1955 was instrumental in merging his party along with other conservative groups into the Liberal Democratic Party, which has ruled Japan for most of the post-war period. Read more of this post

Japanese intelligence history discussed in new books

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In comparison to their Asian counterparts, Western intelligence organizations are oases of transparency and openness. In such Asian countries as Japan, governments have yet to recognize the existence –let alone operations– of their espionage agencies. This attitude is slowly changing in Japan, however, through a new trend of published books authored by former intelligence operatives. An article in Japan’s second-largest newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, available here in English, discusses this new trend, as well as some of the new information provided in several new memoirs by Japanese ex-intelligence professionals. One interesting aspect of postwar Japanese intelligence, revealed in such books, is its overwhelming concentration on Japan’s communist neighbors. Another is the substantial degree to which US intelligence agencies were involved in the day-to-day running of Japanese intelligence operations. Read more of this post

Analysis: Ulterior Motives In Panetta’s Philippines Visit

Panetta & Arroyo

Panetta, Arroyo

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Few heads outside Southeast Asia were turned last Sunday by CIA director Leon Panetta’s brief visit to the Philippines. Panetta arrived in Manila early Sunday morning and left at 10 p.m. on the same day. But he managed to squeeze in meetings with Philippines President Gloria Arroyo, as well as her most senior cabinet executives, such as Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. Panetta’s meeting with the President was brief, reportedly lasting around 30 minutes, but its significance was enormous for Washington’s continuing military and intelligence presence in the region. To understand the level of that commitment, one must consider the rare telephone call that US President Barack Obama recently placed to his Philippine counterpart. Read article →

Analysis: Strange Case of Philippine Spy in US Gets Stranger

Aquino

Aquino

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A Philippine former intelligence officer, who was arrested in New York for passing classified US documents to his Philippine contacts, has had his sentence reduced by a US court. Michael Ray Aquino was apprehended in 2005 and charged with collaborating with an FBI intelligence analyst who spied on the US. Aquino’s recent history is complicated. For several years, he worked for the (now defunct) Philippines National Police Intelligence Group (NPIG), where he quickly rose to the post of Deputy Director, under the Presidency of Joseph Estrada. In 2001, however, when Estrada was ousted from the Presidency amidst extensive corruption allegations, Aquino was one of several military and intelligence officials who were removed by the new government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Soon afterwards, Aquino was among several suspects charged with the politically motivated murder of Salvador “Bubby” Dacer, a well-known public relations manager who had helped oust Estrada. The ousted intelligence officer escaped justice by fleeing with his family to the US, in 2001. Read article →