Did North Korean leader’s brother meet with a US spy before he was assassinated?

Kim Jong-nam murderThe exiled half-brother of North Korea’s leader, who was assassinated in Malaysia in February, is thought to have met with a man believed to be an American intelligence officer shortly before he was killed, according to reports. Kim Jong-nam the grandson of North Korea’s founder Kim Il-Sung, died after two women approached him at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport and splashed his face with liquid poison on February 13 of this year. Kim was about to board a flight to Macau, where he had been living in self-exile with his family since 2007. His relations with his brother, North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, and the regime in Pyongyang, were adversarial, and some suggest that he had survived at least one assassination attempt in the past.

According to Malaysian investigators, who have been probing Kim’s murder, the estranged half-brother of the North Korean dictator arrived in Kuala Lumpur from Macau on February 6, a week before he was killed there. Two days later, on February 8, he traveled to Langkawi, a resort island in the Andaman Sea, located 20 miles from Malaysia’s mainland coast, near the Thai border. According to the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, a day after his arrival at Langkawi, Kim met with a man believed by Malaysian authorities to be in the employment of American intelligence. The man, who has not been named, is reportedly middle-aged, Korean-American with United States citizenship, and lives in Bangkok. The Osaka-based paper said that Malaysian police have accessed footage from the Langkawi hotel’s security cameras, which show Kim and the American man enter a hotel suite and staying there for nearly two hours before departing.

The newspaper further claims that Malaysian counterintelligence has been tracking the American man each time he has entered Malaysia from Thailand for quite some time, believing him to be a case officer. It is also thought that Kim had met the same man in Malaysia “several times in the past”, said Asahi Shimbun. The paper further states that Malaysian investigators believe the meeting between Kim and the American man was the reason behind North Korea’s decision to kill him. The American man reportedly left Malaysia on February 13, the same day Kim was assassinated in Kuala Lumpur.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 26 May 2017 | Permalink

ISIS members attempting to target Russians in Thailand, FSB warns

ThailandRussian intelligence officials have warned authorities in Thailand that the Islamic State is planning to strike at Russian targets in the Southeast Asian country. Thai authorities received the warning in a memorandum dated November 27, 2015, which came from the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). The document, marked ‘urgent’, warned of a series of coordinated attacks against Russian-related businesses and facilities in several cities across Thailand. Several Thai news sites, as well as CNN in the United States, said they had seen the memo. It was allegedly forwarded last week from the Royal Thai Police Special Branch division to police units across the country. It warned that the FSB had identified at least 10 Syrian citizens, all members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), who had entered Thailand between October 15 and October 31.

According to the FSB memorandum, the ISIS operatives had entered Thailand in three separate groups, arriving to the country from different international destinations. The largest of the groups, consisting of 4 members, is believed to have traveled to the coastal city of Pattaya (pictured), in eastern Thailand. Two more operatives went to Phuket Island in the Andaman Sea, while two other Syrians traveled to capital Bangkok. The two remaining members of the group went “to an unknown location”, said the FSB memorandum. After receiving the FSB memorandum, the Royal Thai Police issued a warning that ISIS may be trying to harm “Russians and Russia’s alliance with Thailand”. They also called for heightened security around tourist spots frequented by Russian tourists.

Phuket and Pattaya are busy resort destinations for Russian tourists, nearly 2 million of whom visit Thailand each year, many of them in December. The Russian Federation maintains consulates in both cities, in addition to the Russian embassy in Bangkok. When asked by reporters on Friday about the FSB memo, Royal Thai Police officials said they had not been able to locate the alleged ISIS members, but added that security had been increased across the country. General Thawip Netniyom, who heads the country’s National Security Council, said no “unusual movement” had been detected, and insisted that “everything is safe” in the country.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 07 December 2015 | Permalink

Analysis: The Politics Behind the Thailand Coup Explained

Thai troops in the streets of BangkokBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS* | intelNews.org
In the early hours of Thursday, the Thai government of acting caretaker Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan, which had been appointed on May 7 of this year, was dissolved. Executive rule is now in the hands of the Peace and Order-Maintaining Command (POMC), led by Army General Prayuth Chan-ocha and composed of the commanders-in-chief of the Royal Air Force, Navy and Police. The 2007 Constitution has been suspended and the leaders of all political factions have been arrested. The POMC has taken over all broadcasting facilities in the country and has warned social media hosts that they are not allowed to publish content that is “misleading” to the public, “escalates political conflict” or “opposes the mandate of the POMC”. Thai military officials continue to deny that this is a coup, but the actions of the POMC reflect textbook tactics of juntas, down to the suspension of regular broadcasts and their replacement with patriotic songs and military marches.

None of this is surprising, given Thailand’s turbulent political history. Since 1932, when the country became a constitutional monarchy, there have been nearly 30 military-led mutinies, rebellions, and armed insurrections in the country, including 18 attempted coups, 12 of them successful. The most recent coup prior to last Thursday’s was in 2006, when the armed forces toppled the legally elected government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was accused of abusing his power and disrespecting the country’s monarchy. In January of this year, political forecaster Jay Ulfelder, who served for a decade as research director of the United States government’s Political Instability Task Force, predicted that Thailand was close to a military coup. He published a mathematical model analyzing the likelihood of a military coup materializing in most of the world’s countries in 2014. Notably, Thailand was the only non-African nation among the ten candidates that topped Ulfelder’s list.

Read more of this post

Israeli-Iranian ‘dirty war’ nearing point of no return

Bomb blast in New DelhiBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The ongoing intelligence war between Israel and Iran appears to be reaching unprecedented levels following the exposure earlier this week of a simultaneous bombing campaign against Israeli targets in Europe and Asia. The wife of Israel’s Defense Attaché in New Delhi, India, was among four people injured on Monday, after a magnetic bomb attached to her car exploded just 500 yards from the gates of the Israeli embassy. Three thousand miles away, in Tbilisi, Georgia, a sharp-eyed employee of the Israeli embassy there discovered a bomb attached to a diplomatic car; the device was eventually diffused by Georgian counterterrorist authorities. A few hours later, the government of Thailand announced that two Iranian nationals had been detained following an explosion at a rented house in the capital Bangkok, which critically injured one of the arrestees. A second man was reportedly arrested in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport while he was trying to board a flight to Malaysia. At least two other men, also Iranian nationals, remain at large, though Thai officials suspect they have already fled to Iran. (Update: Thai authorities have confirmed the bombers’ targets were Israeli diplomats). Speaking anonymously to Bloomberg news agency, US intelligence officials said that operations directed at Israeli targets were also “disrupted” in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, as well as in Bulgaria. Observers have also noted that the attack that injured the wife of the Israeli diplomat was carried out in one of Israel’s strongest allies in Asia, thus delivering a two-fold message to both Tel Aviv and New Delhi. India’s Home Affairs Minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, told journalists yesterday that the attack in the Indian capital was conducted by a “well trained” motorcyclist, who attached “a magnetic device” to the car before speeding away. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #597

Abdel Hakim Belhaj

Abdel Belhaj

►►Inside the CIA’s secret Thai prison. The United States Central Intelligence Agency appears to have used Bangkok’s former Don Muang International Airport as a secret prison to torture Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who is now the commander of rebel Libyan military forces in Tripoli. If true, Belhaj’s allegations are the first public descriptions of a CIA black site in Thailand. Bangkok-based journalist Richard S Ehrlich investigates.
►►How is the US government using security contractors? “Mark Lowenthal, who was a high-ranking CIA official before joining the contractor work force, told the [US House Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee] that during his time as assistant director of Central Intelligence for Analysis and Production, half of his staff was made up of contractors”.
►►Leaked cables show Australia nuclear power push. In 2008, John Carlson, head of the Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation Office, which acts as the country’s nuclear safeguard authority, advised the then prime minister Kevin Rudd that no scheme to limit carbon emissions would succeed without the building of civilian nuclear power stations, according to leaked US diplomatic cables. When contacted by the media, Carlson refused to confirm or deny the accuracy of the revelations.

News you may have missed #588

Thomas Hammarberg

Hammarberg

►►Thai court convicts three of spying. A Thai court on Tuesday jailed three men, a Cambodian, a Vietnamese and a local, for two years each for espionage. The trio were arrested in June in Kantharalak District, near the disputed border with Cambodia, amid a territorial row between Thailand and its neighbor. Police said that the three were carrying maps with military facilities marked on them.
►►Council of Europe wants truth on CIA black sites. Thomas Hammarberg, the human rights commissioner for the Council of Europe, urged countries that have hosted secret CIA prisons to come clean Monday, as the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches. Well, that would be…let’s see…pretty much all of them.
►►Doctor who helped CIA find bin Laden barred from leaving Pakistan. Before bin Laden’s death in May, Shakil Afridi helped the CIA set up a fake vaccination programm in Abbottabad, in the hope of obtaining DNA samples from the house where the al-Qaida chief was suspected of living. But now he has been detained by Pakistani security and cannot go abroad without permission.

News you may have missed #584

Nicky Hager

Nicky Hager

►►Billing dispute reveals details of secret CIA flights. On August 12, 2003, a conracted Gulfstream IV aircraft carrying six passengers took off from Dulles International Airport for Bangkok. When it returned four days later, it carried Indonesian terrorist Riduan Isamuddin, who had been captured in Thailand and would spend the next three years in various secret CIA prisons. The Gulfstream IV’s itinerary, as well as the $339,228 price tag for the journey, are among the details of shadowy CIA flights that have emerged in a New York courthouse, in a billing dispute between contractors. Incidentally, even the airplanes’ owners didn’t always know that the CIA was using them.
►►French admit secret service spied on reporter. French interior minister Claude Guéant has admitted that the secret service spied on investigative reporter Gérard Davet, from the newspaper Le Monde, in order to trace the source of a leak about the so-called “Bettencourt party funding scandal“, which has been a source of embarrassment for President Nicolas Sarkozy’s party.
►►NZ let Israeli spies go free in return for passports. Another revelation from Nicky Hager’s book Other People’s Wars (see previous intelNews coverage here). The investigative reporter claims that New Zealand’s Security Intelligence Service released captured Mossad spies Eli Cara and Uriel Zoshe Kelman, in return for Read more of this post

Russia may swap convicted spy for ‘merchant of death’ held in US

Viktor Bout

Viktor Bout

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Moscow and Washington may swap a Russian former defense official, convicted for spying for the United States, with notorious Russian weapons dealer Viktor Bout, who is being held in a US prison. Andrei Klychev, 49, who worked at Rosatom Russia’s Nuclear Energy State Corporation, was arrested last year on espionage charges. Last week, he was given an 18-year sentence in a closed-door trial, for spying on behalf of the United States. But Russia’s Interfax news agency reported on Wednesday that Russia is actively considering swapping Klychev with Viktor Bout, history’s most notorious weapons smuggler, whose shady activities inspired the 2005 motion picture Lord of War. Bout, who was born in 1967 in Dushanbe, Soviet Tajikistan, served in the GRU (Soviet military intelligence) until the dissolution of the USSR, at which point he began supplying weapons to groups ranging from Congolese rebels and Angolan paramilitaries to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. In March of 2008, Bout was arrested by the Royal Thai Police, after a tip by US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officers. The latter had managed to lure Bout to Thailand by pretending to be Colombian FARC arms procurers. Read more of this post

‘Lord of War’ weapons smuggler enjoys Russian protection

Viktor Bout

Viktor Bout

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The case of notorious arms smuggler Viktor Bout is well known. Born in Dushanbe, Soviet Tajikistan, in 1967, Bout served in the GRU (Soviet military intelligence) until the collapse of the USSR, at which point he began supplying weapons to shady groups, ranging from Congolese rebels and Angolan paramilitaries to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. In March of 2008, Bout, known as ‘Lord of War’, was finally arrested by the Royal Thai Police, after a tip by US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officers. The latter had managed to lure Bout to Thailand by pretending to be Colombian FARC arms procurers. Recently, Washington scored a second victory by convincing Thai authorities to extradite Bout to the United States on terrorism charges. Presumably, Bout will be tried as an arms smuggler acting on his own accord. But is this right? Read more of this post

Iran monarchists, foreign spies, behind suspicious news reports

Mohammad Reza Madhi

M.R. Madhi

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
There is no question that the domestic security situation in Iran is critical, and that we may soon witness crucial political shifts in the Islamic Republic. At the same time, however, observers should be cognizant of what Politico’s Laura Rozen calls “a notable uptick […] in very fishy stories” forecasting the immediate end of the Islamic government by supposed radical Western-aligned forces. IntelNews has detected several such stories in recent days, such as this unconfirmed December 31 report in Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, which stated that the Iranian government was moving “[h]undreds of military forces and tens of armored vehicles towards Tehran”, something which never actually occurred. Two days earlier, a report in Dutch government-owned Radio Netherlands had suggested that members of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, including Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Khamenei, were preparing to abandon the country and seek political asylum in Russia. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0230

  • Ukrainians claim netting ‘spies among diplomats’. In the last 6 months of 2009, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has “exposed 7 spies among diplomats”, according to its director, Valentyn Nalyvajchenko. He apparently cited “a case of a Russian spy who was charged with obtaining defense industry secrets for a Chinese special service”. If anyone out there has information on this case, please contact us.
  • France launches new spy satellite. France has launched a military spy satellite, Helios 2B, part of a boost in spending on independent surveillance. The satellite can reportedly tell whether a truck convoy is moving or halted and whether a nuclear reactor is operational or not.
  • Seized N. Korean weapons destined for Middle East: US spy chief. An illicit North Korean arms shipment seized in Thailand last week was destined for the Middle East, US director of national intelligence Dennis Blair, has claimed. Blair’s comment, which was meant to tout improved cooperation among America’s 16 intelligence agencies, was the first official confirmation of the US role in the case.

Bookmark and Share

News you may have missed #0220

  • More on sudden death of Jordan’s ex-spy chief. The Washington Post‘s David Ignatius is one of a handful of US columnists who are paying attention to the sudden death in Vienna, Austria, of Saad Kheir, 56, former director of Jordan’s General Intelligence Department.
  • Deposed Thai leader back in Cambodia, as accused spy is pardoned. Cambodian authorities have decided to free Siwarak Chothipong, whom they accused last month of spying on the flight itinerary of visiting former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Meanwhile, Thaksin is back in Cambodia, a sign that the country will continue to back pro-Thaksin political forces in Thailand.

Bookmark and Share

News you may have missed #0213

Bookmark and Share

News you may have missed #0187

  • Cambodia arrests Thai for spying on exile leader. Cambodian authorities said the man, Siwarak Chothipong, who works for the Cambodia Air Traffic Service, spied on the flight itinerary of visiting former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been living in exile since a 2006 military coup in Thailand. The Thai government has rejected the charge.
  • CIA’s Panetta to visit India, Pakistan. CIA director Leon Panetta will visit Pakistan and India for three days, starting on November 20. IntelNews will be keeping an eye on his visit.
  • Former Monaco spymaster says prince invokes immunity. More on the saga of former FBI counterintelligence agent Robert Eringer, who until recently was spymaster to prince Albert II of Monaco, and is now suing him for €360,000 ($542,000) in alleged unpaid income. Eringer’s lawyers have accused Albert of invoking head-of-state immunity, “an absolute defense used by dictators around the world to avoid accountability in US courts”.

Bookmark and Share

Israel reveals long-awaited Levinson spy case details

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
As part of a move by Israeli intelligence agencies to adhere to elementary provisions of Israel’s declassification laws, Shin Bet has for the first time published details about the Shimon Levinson spy case. Levinson was a senior agent in Shin Bet (domestic intelligence) and the Mossad (external intelligence), who in 1991 was jailed for 12 years for spying on Israel on behalf of the Soviet KGB. Levinson’s career culminated with his appointment as head of the Mossad station in Ethiopia. This happened shortly before he voluntarily retired in1978, in frustration over an awaited promotion that failed to materialize. According to Shin Bet, it was Levinson’s business failures and financial instability, not ideology, that led him to contact the KGB and “offer his services to the Soviet Union” shortly after his retirement. Eventually the Soviets flew Levinson to the USSR, where he was trained in Soviet espionage techniques before being sent back to Israel. Read more of this post