News you may have missed #732 (interview edition)

Thomas DrakeBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Interview with H. Keith Melton. A well written interview with H. Keith Melton, one of the world’s best-known intelligence historians, who describes himself as “a historical consultant within the US intelligence community”. Melton has been a guest lecturer at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and the Joint Military Intelligence College. He also says he is “an ongoing adviser to other US intelligence agencies”.
►►Interview with editor of Eye Spy magazine. An extensive interview with Mark Birdsall, editor of the only independent publication dedicated to espionage and intelligence. He shares the story behind the magazine, his take on the current state of espionage and security, and on global security issues. Among other things, Birdsall says that some claim Eye Spy is “a government organ, [while] others an attempt to glean information that should not be published”. He also states that “it has taken a decade of hard work for the title to get recognition in some intelligence circles”.
►►Interview with NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake. Drake began his NSA career as a contractor in 1991, and formally joined the Agency in 2001, working until 2008 in the Agency’s Signals Intelligence and Engineering directorates. The US government took Drake to court, accusing him of leaking secrets about the NSA to a journalist. But the judge in his case, Richard D. Bennett, refused to sentence him to prison, recognizing that his genuine intention in leaking the secrets was to expose mismanagement at the NSA.

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News you may have missed #702

James BamfordBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►NSA chief denies domestic spying allegations. In a rare break from the NSA’s tradition of listening but not speaking, National Security Agency chief General Keith Alexander was grilled last week on the topic of eavesdropping on Americans in front of a House subcommittee. The questioning from Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Georgia) was prompted by Wired magazine’s cover story earlier this month on the NSA’s growing reach and capabilities. But author James Bamford (photo) and NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake insist that the NSA is quietly building America’s the largest spy center in Utah, as part of a secret domestic surveillance program codenamed STELLAR WIND.
►►NY police says it monitored Iran operatives taking photos. Speaking before the US House Homeland Security Committee, Michael Silber, director of New York Police Department Intelligence Analysis, said New York City Police have observed Iranian operatives photographing key transportation sites at least six times since September 11, 2001. He gave an example of six men on an East River sightseeing cruise in 2005, who paired off with maps and cell phones while taking photographs and videos of the bridges over the river. The NYPD determined each was on the payroll of Iranian government, one employed at Iran’s mission to the United Nations.
►►Major Canadian Cold War era mole hunt operation revealed. Newly released archival records show that even the cream of Canada’s foreign service was not immune from scrutiny in a top secret RCMP investigation known as Operation FEATHER BED. The probe, which stretched from the late 1950s into the 1970s, saw RCMP security branch investigators pore over the backgrounds of possible Communist sympathizers in the public service and political sphere —including a future Mountie spy chief. There is no evidence the highly confidential investigation ever identified a Soviet agent.

News you may have missed #691

Thomas DrakeBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►NSA whistleblower says Obama worse than Bush. Thomas Drake, the whistleblower whom the administration of US President Barack Obama tried and failed to prosecute for leaking information about waste, fraud and abuse at the National Security Agency, now works at an Apple store in Maryland. In an interview with Salon, Drake says the Obama administration is “expanding the secrecy regime far beyond what Bush ever intended”.
►►Australian spies reportedly buying computer bugs. The Australian government is buying computer security weaknesses found by hackers before they are sold on the black market, as part of its defense strategy, according to an Australian security consultant who wishes to remain anonymous. He says while the government won’t admit it, buying vulnerabilities is an obvious part of “gathering intelligence”.
►►Refugees in Finland face spying threats. Foreign governments and groups are carrying out more spying on refugees and dissidents living in Finland, according to SUPO, the country’s security intelligence service. SUPO issued a report last week contending that while the Scandinavian country isn’t seeing an increased threat of terrorist acts on its soil, it still faces several terror-related challenges. One of them is “regular” surveillance activity by foreign intelligence services operating within Finland, whose aim is spy on their home countries’ dissidents and develop links with other refugees and expatriates.

News you may have missed #556

David Irvine

David Irvine

►►Australian computer networks spied ‘massively’. Cyberespionage is being used against Australia on a “massive scale” and some foreign spies are using Australian government networks to penetrate the cyberdefenses of allies such as the United States. This according to the Director of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) David Irvine. Speaking at a business forum, Mr. Irvine said that “it seems the more rocks we turn over in cyberspace, the more [cyberespionage] we find”.
►►US to give Iraq wiretapping system. The US will give the government of Iraq a wiretapping system that will allow it to monitor and store voice calls, data transmissions and text messages from up to 5,000 devices simultaneously. The system is to be installed with the acquiescence of the three current cellular communications providers in Iraq, according to the US Air Force. A similar system was set up by a US contractor three years ago in Afghanistan.
►►Judge says NSA whistleblower faced ‘tyrannical’ US government. This blog has kept an eye on the case of Thoma Drake, a former US National Security Agency employee  who was taken to court for leaking secrets about the agency to a journalist. But the judge in his case, Richard D. Bennett, refused Read more of this post

News you may have missed #546

Thomas Drake

Thomas Drake

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Whistleblower says NSA mismanagement continues. Former US National Security Agency employee Thomas Drake was recently sentenced to a year’s probation for leaking secrets about the agency to a journalist. The presiding judge did not sentence him to prison, recognizing that his genuine intention was to expose mismanagement. Soon after his sentencing, Drake told The Washington Times that mismanagement continues at the NSA, which he compared to “the Enron of the intelligence world”. He also told the paper that NSA’s accounts were “unauditable”, like those of most of the other agencies operating under the Pentagon. ►►Taliban claim phones hacked by NATO. The Afghan Taliban have accused NATO and the CIA of hacking pro-Taliban websites, as well as personal email accounts and cell phones belonging to Taliban leaders, in order to send out a false message saying that their leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had died. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the Reuters news agency that the hacking was “the work of American intelligence” and that the Taliban would “take revenge on the telephone network providers”. ►►Rumsfeld memo says ‘US can’t keep a secret’. “The United States Government is incapable of keeping a secret”. This was opined in a November 2, 2005 memo authored by Donald Rumsfeld. The memo by the then-Defense Secretary continues: Read more of this post

News you may have missed #540

Jim Judd

Jim Judd

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►► Bulgaria bars ex-spies from holding diplomatic posts. Bulgaria’s conservative-majority parliament has voted to bar individuals who once worked for the country’s communist-era secret service from holding top diplomatic jobs. The aim of the legislation is what Eastern European countries call ‘lustration’, namely the process of cleansing of their security and intelligence agencies from Soviet-era operatives. The practical problem with that, of course, is that, in doing so, Eastern European intelligence services do away with some of their best-trained operatives. Moreover, there is nothing to suggest that Bulgaria’s post-communist spy agencies are significantly more law-abiding than their communist-era predecessors. Regular IntelNews readers might remember our coverage of Operation GALERIA as a case in point. ►► Ex-spymaster says Canada is too concerned about torture. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s (CSIS) struggle to isolate itself from complicity in torture by US and British spy agencies has reached the “point where we were probably alienating foreign partners” by not sharing intelligence. This is the opinion of Jim Judd, former Director of CSIS. He also argued that “strident anti-torture interpretations” would affect “everything and anything CSIS did, with respect to foreign intelligence agencies”. Judd, a career spy who retired in 2009, is considered something of a hawk, and probably rightly so. ►► NSA whistleblower requests reduced sentence (update: No jail time for Drake, judge releases him saying he has been through “four years of hell”). Thomas Drake was a senior official with the US National Security Agency. Read more of this post

NSA whistleblower prosecutions continue under Obama

Thomas Drake

Thomas Drake

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Legal observers were surprised late last week when a grand jury in Baltimore indicted a former senior official of the US National Security Agency (NSA) for leaking classified information to a local newspaper reporter. The indictment, which was publicized last Thursday, accuses Thomas A. Drake of exchanging hundreds of email messages with a reporter, in which he exposed aspects of the NSA’s alleged mismanagement and operational deficiencies. Court documents do not identify the reporter, or the news outlet for which she worked. But most observers have identified her as Siobhan Gorman, who now works for The Wall Street Journal. Between 2006 and 2007, while working for The Baltimore Sun, Gorman authored a series of articles on the NSA, exposing, among other things, severe mismanagement of outsourced signals collection programs, as well as the Agency’s trouble in securing enough electrical supply for its computational requirements. Read more of this post