News you may have missed #688

U-2 surveillance aircraftBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►Analysis: StratFor email leaks offer frightening view of government intelligence. As promised in December, WikiLeaks has begun to release a stash of emails related to the modus operandi of the private intelligence sector, using Texas-based StratFor as a case study. The CIA has long used private intelligence firms for ‘black ops’, allowing for plausible deniability in the event that an operation goes pear-shaped and public accountability threatens. But these emails suggest that there’s now far more to the incompetence of America’s intelligence services than meets the eye.
►►US still using U-2 to spy on North Korea. For more than 35 years, the U-2 has been one of Washington’s most reliable windows into military movements inside North Korea. Unlike satellites, U-2s can be redirected at short notice to loiter over target areas. Last month, the US Air Force postponed at least until 2020 any plans to replace them with costlier, unmanned Global Hawks. Now, as the world watches for signs of instability during North Korea’s transition to a new leadership, the U-2 operations are as important ―or more so― than ever.
►►Thin line separates cyberspies from cybercriminals. New research appears to raise questions over the conventional wisdom that pure nation-state cyberspies rarely dabble in traditional financial cybercrime. Dell SecureWorks Wednesday shared details of a complex study it conducted of two families of espionage malware that have infected government ministry computers in Vietnam, Brunei, Myanmar, Europe, and at an embassy in China.

News you may have missed #686

Folkert Arie van KoutrikBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►WikiLeaks to publish 5 million StratFor emails. In its latest high-profile data dump, WikiLeaks is to reveal five million internal and external emails from StratFor today. In a press release late Sunday, Wikileaks said the emails “show StratFor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods”, and reveal “how StratFor has recruited a global network of informants who are paid via Swiss banks accounts and pre-paid credit cards. Stratfor has a mix of covert and overt informants, which includes government employees, embassy staff and journalists around the world”.
►►Analysis: Blurred line between espionage and truth under Obama. “There is plenty of authorized leaking going on, but this particular boat leaks from the top. Leaks from the decks below, especially ones that might embarrass the administration, have been dealt with very differently […]. And it’s worth pointing out that the administration’s emphasis on secrecy comes and goes depending on the news. Reporters were immediately and endlessly briefed on the “secret” operation that successfully found and killed Osama bin Laden. And the drone program in Pakistan and Afghanistan comes to light in a very organized and systematic way every time there is a successful mission”.
►►Nazis had spy in MI5 but failed to use him. Dutchman Folkert Arie van Koutrik was the first German agent to ever infiltrate MI5 when he was employed by them in 1940, just a month before Anthony Blunt, who was later exposed as a Soviet spy. Koutrik had already worked for Abwehr, the German secret service, before the war as a double agent with MI6 in Europe and exposed some of the UK’s top agents. But, incredibly, after he moved to the UK and joined MI5 all contact appears to have broken off.

News you may have missed #662: UK edition

Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson with Adolf HitlerBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Hacked StratFor info exposes thousands of intel officials. Customer user data obtained from StratFor by Anonymous last month includes the private details of 221 British military officials and 242 NATO staff. Civil servants working at the heart of the UK government —including several in the Cabinet Office as well as advisers to the Joint Intelligence Organisation, which acts as the British Prime Minister’s eyes and ears on sensitive information— have also been exposed.
►►Book claims MI5 tapped phones of King Edward. According to a new biography of Tommy Robertson, who pioneered Britain’s wartime counterintelligence operations, MI5 agents tapped the phones of King Edward VIII and his brother the Duke of York, at the height of the ‘abdication crisis’. Edward VIII was infatuated with –and, in 1936, gave up his throne to marry– American divorcee and socialite Wallis Simpson, who was suspected by many in the British government of having Nazi sympathies.
►►UK spy watchdog wants to stop court disclosure of state secrets. The parliamentary watchdog for Britain’s spies, the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), is lobbying the government to introduce sweeping curbs that could prevent UK courts from examining intelligence material. The committee claims that its proposed new powers would ensure that intelligence obtained from foreign agencies, such as the CIA, is never publicly disclosed. This proposal clearly goes back the case of Binyam Mohamed; he was detained in Pakistan, where he was questioned by MI5, and eventually ended up in Guantánamo Bay, where he says he was tortured. In late 2009, British courts clashed with David Miliband, the then foreign secretary, over the publication of a summary of US intelligence material relating to Mohamed.

News you may have missed #654

Aleksandr ShlyakhturovBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Anonymous hacks intel analysis firm StratFor. The loose-knit hacking movement Anonymous claimed Sunday via Twitter that it had stolen thousands of credit card numbers and other personal information belonging to clients of intelligence analysis firm Stratfor. The company had apparently failed to encrypt its customers’ credit card account information. The hackers announced their intention to use the credit cards for charitable donations.
►►CIA Inspector General clears assistance with NYPD. Back in August, The CIA denied allegations by the Associated Press that it helped the New York Police Department conduct covert surveillance on New York Muslims. The agency said the report “mischaracterized the nature and scope” of the CIA’s support for the NYPD. Now a report by the office of the CIA Inspector General, the CIA’s internal watchdog, has concluded that there was “no evidence that any part of the agency’s support to the NYPD constituted ‘domestic spying’”. The Associated Press notes that it is not clear if this report opens the door for other municipal police departments nationwide to work closely with the CIA in the war on terrorism.
►►Russia replaces head of military spy agency. After denying initial rumors, Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Monday that “Major General Igor Sergun has been appointed head of the GRU [Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate] through a Kremlin decree”. Sergun replaces Aleksandr Shlyakhturov, who had spearheaded a shake-up of the service since his appointment in 2009. The state RIA Novosti news agency quoted a ministry spokesman suggesting that Shlyakhturov had reached retirement age. No other reason was given for the move. Incidentally, if you are wondering how spies are faring in Dmitri Medvedev’s and Vladimir Putin’s administration, read this enlightening analysis by Mark Galeotti, Professor of Global Affairs at New York University.