News you may have missed #681

Vladimir NesteretsBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Mossad ‘bolsters activity in Tunisia’. The Mossad has bolstered its activity in several Tunisian cities since the start of the revolt that ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali last January, Tunisian magazine Al-Musawar has reported. According to the magazine, the Israeli intelligence agency has been working with its US-based counterpart, the CIA, to revive its spy network in post-revolution Tunisia.
►►US ‘used quake’ to send Special Forces into Pakistan. The US Pentagon used the Kashmir earthquake of 2005 to send operatives from the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) into Pakistan, reveals a new book by D.B Grady and Marc Ambinder, entitled The Command: Deep Inside the President’s Secret Army. The authors claim that dozens of CIA operatives and contractors entered Pakistan using valid US passports and posing as construction and aid workers, thus avoiding the requisite background checks from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency.
►►Russian officer convicted of spying for CIA. A Russian military court last week convicted Lt. Col. Vladimir Nesterets of providing the CIA with secret information on Russia’s new intercontinental ballistic missiles and sentenced him to 13 years in prison. The officer pleaded guilty to passing on that classified information in exchange for money, said the Federal Security Service, the main agency that replaced the Soviet-era KGB. Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency quoted the officer’s wife, Irina, as saying she could not understand the guilty plea because her husband had told her he did nothing wrong and had not betrayed his country.

News you may have missed #522 (European Union edition)

Analysis: Arab revolutions cause blind spot for US spies

Christopher Dickey

Dickey

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
An unusually blunt piece published in Newsweek magazine describes the Arab democratic revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and elsewhere as serious detriments to US intelligence collection in the Muslim world. Written by Newsweek’s Middle East Regional Editor Christopher Dickey, the lengthy article argues that the ongoing political changes in several Arab countries make US counterterrorism professionals long for the days “when thuggish tyrants, however ugly, were at least predictable”. It even quotes an unnamed senior intelligence officer who denounces the celebration of democracy in the Arab world as “just bullshit”, and sees “disaster […] lurking” in the region. The reason for such vehement reaction is plain: US intelligence professionals are witnessing an elaborate network of informants across the Arab world, which they painstakingly built and cultivated since the late 1960s, crumble before their very eyes. These informants, who had senior government positions in secularist Arab dictatorships, “are either gone or going”, says Christopher Boucek, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Read more of this post

Suspicion mounts as US unlocks Moussa Koussa’s foreign assets

Moussa Koussa

Moussa Koussa

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Eyebrows were raised in intelligence circles on Monday, after the United States lifted its freeze of foreign assets belonging to Libya’s former intelligence chief, who defected to London last week. Libya’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Moussa Koussa, who headed the country’s intelligence agency from 1994 to 2009, managed to escape to the UK from Tunisia on a Swiss-registered private airplane. He is currently reported to be in an MI6 safe house in England, allegedly being interrogated about his inside knowledge of the regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi. But Koussa is also thought to be the mastermind behind the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed nearly 300 people. The 57-year-old defector is also believed to have facilitated Libya’s funding of the Provisional Irish Republican Army and to have authorized the assassination of several Libyan dissidents living in Britain. In light of that, the news that Washington lifted its sanctions on Koussa’s sizeable fortune abroad is worth noting. It is also interesting to note that Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, is reportedly pressuring European Union member-states to follow the US’ example in also unfreezing Koussa’s foreign assets. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #475 (Arab revolution edition)

  • Obama ‘disappointed’ with US intelligence on Tunisia. US President Barack Obama sent word to National Intelligence Director James Clapper that he was “disappointed with the intelligence community” over its failure to predict that the outbreak of demonstrations would lead to the ouster of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunis.
  • An Intelligence Failure in Egypt? The US intelligence community is like the offensive line of the government. They protect the quarterback all day long, and no one notices until they give up a sack. Which raises the question: was US President Barack Obama blindsided by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt?
  • Did US intelligence fail in North Africa? “One former official said US president Barack Obama recently urged the CIA to put as much effort into analysis of the situation in North Africa as into covert operations, including those targeting al-Qaida”.

Egypt intelligence highlights Congress-CIA tensions

Egypt uprising

Egypt uprising

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A US Congressional hearing over a career CIA official’s promotion turned into a heated exchange on Thursday, as Congress members accused America’s intelligence community of failing to provide forewarning of the political instability in Egypt. Speaking before the US Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, Stephanie O’Sullivan, former Director of the CIA Directorate of Science and Technology, was faced with an unexpected barrage of questions concerning the Agency’s alleged failure to provide US policy planners with accurate warning of the Egyptian popular uprising. Shortly after the start of the hearing, which was intended to deliberate O’Sullivan’s nomination for the position of Deputy Director of the Office of Director of National Intelligence, attention turned to Egypt, with members of the Committee pressuring the CIA executive to explain why the US intelligence community had failed to issue ample warnings on Egypt. O’Sullivan responded repeatedly that the CIA and other US intelligence services had provided warnings to Obama Administration officials in November and December of 2010, about extreme political volatility in North Africa. Read more of this post

Tunisian security officials arrested, killed, amid counter-coup fears

Ali Seriati

Ali Seriati

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Several key figures in Tunisia’s crumbling security apparatus have being either apprehended or killed, amid fears that they were planning a countercoup against the country’s new unity government. Most notable among the arrestees is General Ali Seriati, longtime director of deposed Tunisian dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s Presidential Security Force. Seriati was arrested on Sunday, reportedly “by citizens as he tried to cross into Libya”. Reports from Tunis suggest that Ben Ali’s Interior Minister, Rafik Belham Kacem, who commanded the country’s’ domestic intelligence apparatus, has also been detained. Meanwhile, the BBC reports that Imed Trabelsi, a politically powerful nephew of the former dictator’s wife, was lynched to death late on Saturday. Seriati and Kacem’s arrests are seen as attempts by the new government to prevent a widely feared coup plot, organized by the remnants of Ben Ali’s security apparatus, aimed at returning him to power. Initial stages of the coup materialized on Saturday, when several gunmen riding in unmarked cars launched a wave of armed attacks against opposition targets in capital Tunis and elsewhere. Political observers in the country appeared to immediately connect the attacks with General Seriati’s Presidential Security Force, said to include some of the former president’s staunchest supporters. Read more of this post