We must spy because of Turks, ISIS, says outgoing Cyprus spy chief

CyprusThe head of the main intelligence agency of the island state of Cyprus has resigned after an invoice leaked online showed that the agency made several purchases of controversial surveillance software. Andreas Pentaras, who has led the Cyprus Intelligence Service (KYP) since 2013, resigned on Saturday, less than a week after an unidentified group of hackers posted the controversial invoice online. The document, leaked to British broadsheet The Guardian and posted on Cypriot news site Sigmalive, shows that the KYP made numerous purchases of communications surveillance software from an Italian manufacturer with a markedly poor standing among civil-liberties advocates. The company, Hacking Team Ltd, is believed to have sold powerful surveillance software to governments that have documented records of civil-rights violations, including Nigeria, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan.

According to technical experts in Cyprus, the software purchased by KYP can intercept data exchanged via cellular phones and other wireless devices. It can also spy on all communications devices connected to the Internet using malware that is undetectable by commonly used antivirus software. Moreover, software supplied by Hacking Team cannot be removed from a compromised cellular device unless it is reset at the factory. Pentaras also came under pressure to resign because the interception of communications is currently outlawed by the Cypriot Constitution. In 2011, the Cypriot parliament amended the Constitution to allow communications interception in extreme circumstances, but the legal interpretation of the amendment has yet to be officially outlined and approved. Technically, therefore, the interception of communications by the KYP remains illegal.

In an official statement issued on Friday, Pentaras said the surveillance software was purchased because of “the need and importance of maintaining a reliable operational intelligence service due to the circumstances caused by the occupation and due to the asymmetric threats caused by the instability in our region”. He was referring to the presence of up to 45,000 Turkish troops in the northern part of the island, which Turkey invaded in 1974 in response to a military coup organized by a group of far-right colonels who ruled Greece at the time. Pentaras was also referring to the arrest last month of a suspected Lebanese Hezbollah operative, who was captured in the Cypriot city of Larnaca while in possession of 67 thousand packages of ammonium nitrate. In September of last year, Pentaras said it was possible that Sunni nationalists in occupied north Cyprus were assisting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

According to Cypriot media, the country’s President, Nicos Anastasiades, accepted Pentaras’ resignation, saying he did so “in order to protect the commendable accomplishments of the KYP in recent years”. Late on Saturday, another Cypriot senior official, Public Health Minister Filippos Patsalis, surrendered from his post. Sources from Nicosia said that Patsalis’ resignation was not related to the KYP controversy.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 13 July 2015 | Permalink: https://intelnews.org/2015/07/13/01-1733/

Greek-Cypriot spies behind largest document theft in UN history, report claims

Alexander Downer

Alexander Downer

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Agents of the Greek-Cypriot government were behind the largest document theft in the history of the United Nations, according to reports in the Cypriot and Turkish press. In 2009, Greek-Cypriot newspaper Fileleftheros published extracts of what the paper claimed was a treasure trove of 6,500 UN documents containing sensitive information on the organization’s negotiations with Turkish-Cypriot leaders. The negotiations concerned ongoing talks over a possible reunification of the island, which has been divided for decades between the Greek-majority southern part, and the predominantly Turkish northern part. According to the newspaper’s New York correspondent, the documents were leaked by a source inside the UN. But Cypriot and Turkish media now claim that an internal UN report has concluded that the documents were stolen by Greek-Cypriot intelligence agents, who subsequently leaked some of it to the Greek-Cypriot press. The operation was reportedly headed by a Cyprus Intelligence Service (CIS) agent who befriended Sonja Bachmann, senior aide to Alexander Downer, former Australian Foreign Minister, senior advisor to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Mon, and the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Cyprus negotiations. Read more of this post

Wanted Russian spy ring member skips bail in Cyprus

Achilleos Hotel

Achilleos Hotel

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Police in the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus have issued an arrest warrant for a member of an alleged Russian spy ring in the United States, who had been released on bail following his capture on Tuesday. The FBI says that Christopher R. Metsos, who holds Canadian citizenship, was the financial go-between in the 11-member Russian spy ring, which was busted in a series of coordinated raids across several US states on Saturday. On June 25, Interpol issued an international arrest warrant for Metsos, who escaped arrest in the US because he was in Cyprus, where he had arrived on June 17. He was arrested at the island’s Larnaca International Airport on Tuesday, while trying to board a flight for Budapest, Hungary. Remarkably, however, Metsos was soon released on bail, awaiting an extradition request from Washington. Predictably, on Wednesday, he failed to report to Larnaca police, as stipulated in his bail release court order. Read more of this post

Mysterious clandestine group behind Turkish wiretap case

Tuncay Güney

Tuncay Güney

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Early last January, two concealed audio surveillance devices were found at the Ankara headquarters of Turkey’s Republican People’s Party (CHP). Officials and supporters of the center-left party, which is currently Turkey’s main opposition political force, were shocked by the discovery, and an investigation was launched to uncover the culprits. In a surprising move, Turkish police raided late last week the home of a prominent union official, and discovered documents that are said to directly link the CHP wiretaps with Ergenekon, a shadowy ultranationalist network with strong links to the Turkish armed forces. Read more of this post