News you may have missed #853

NSA's Utah Data CenterBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Meltdowns hobble NSA data center. Electrical surges at the National Security Agency’s massive data center in Utah have delayed the opening of the facility for a year as well as destroying hundreds of thousands of dollars in kit, the Wall Street Journal reports. Ten “meltdowns” in the past 13 months have repeatedly delayed the Herculean effort to get the spy agency’s colossal snooping facility up and running, according to project documents reviewed by the newspaper.
►►Uganda expels Sudan diplomat accused of spying. Sudanese diplomat Jad-el-Seed Mohammed Elhag has been expelled from Uganda on suspicion of espionage, Ugandan foreign ministry officials said Tuesday. “The reasons why he was expelled was that the activities he was involved in were beyond the norms and requirements of his tenure”, Uganda Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Tayebwa Katureebe said. “These are issues of diplomacy and of two countries, which are not addressed normally in the press, but basically the main reason was espionage”, he said, declining to go into detail.
►►FBI accused of using no-fly list to recruit informants. A lawsuit in New York alleges that the FBI is violating the law by putting Muslim-Americans on the no-fly list not because of a “reasonable suspicion” of terrorist associations, but as a form of blackmail to coerce them into becoming informants at mosques and in their communities. Is this the beginning of the end for the US federal government’s no-fly list? According to the complaint, New York resident Muhammad Tanvir landed on the no-fly list after refusing an FBI request to work as an informant in his predominantly Muslim community.

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‘Massive expansion’ in US covert operations in Africa

US military base in DjiboutiBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States administration of President Barack Obama is implementing a near-unprecedented expansion of covert operations by American military forces throughout Africa, aimed at a host of armed groups deemed extremist by Washington. A lead article published yesterday in The Washington Post quotes over a dozen unnamed American and African officials, as well as military contractors, who refer to the US military-led effort as Project CREEKSAND. It allegedly involves secret operations in several African countries, conducted out of a large network of small air bases located in strategic locations around the continent. According to The Post, most of the airplanes used in Project CREEKSAND are small, unarmed, disguised to look like private aircraft, and bear no military markings or government insignia. In reality, however, they carry sophisticated electronic equipment designed to collect signals intelligence, while some are used to transport US Special Forces troops during capture or kill missions. The paper quotes an unnamed “former senior US commander […] involved in setting up the [air bases] network”, who alleges that the US government has built about a dozen such bases throughout Africa since 2007. These secret air bases are located in countries such as Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, and Seychelles. Most of the US personnel involved in Project CREEKSAND consists of Special Operations forces tasked with “training foreign security forces [and] performing aid missions”. However, The Post alleges that there are also small teams of US operatives who are “dedicated to tracking and killing suspected terrorists”. Read more of this post

US Special Forces now fighting the LRA in four African countries

Lord's Resistance ArmyBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
American troops fighting one of Africa’s most notorious rebel groups are now officially stationed across four African countries, a move that highlights the expansion of Washington’s military presence in the continent. Last October, the administration of US President Barack Obama announced the deployment of 100 US Special Forces members to Uganda, to fight an insurgency group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Founded in the 1980s, the LRA is widely considered the world’s most brutal Christian terrorist group. Its leader, Joseph Kony, who is wanted along with four of his commanders by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, is seen as a prophet by his followers. Washington had initially said that the Special Forces members would act as “advisors” to the Ugandan government, which has sustained the majority of the LRA’s attacks over the years. But Rear Admiral Brian L. Losey, the US Special Operations’ senior commander for Africa, said on Wednesday that, in addition to Uganda, American forces are currently stationed in military bases in Nzara, South Sudan, Obo, Central African Republic, and Dungu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Speaking to Western reporters on the telephone, Rear Admiral Losey said that counterinsurgency activity directed at the LRA “will increase in frequency” during the spring and summer, and hinted that the Christian rebel group would soon be forced to go on the defensive. It is important to note that this official acknowledgement does not mark the beginning of Washington’s military involvement in activities against the LRA. In 2009, The New York Times revealed that the US Department of Defense assisted in the planning of a major offensive against the LRA. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #632 (Israel edition)

Ari Ben-Menashe

Ari Ben-Menashe

►►What are Mossad ex-chief’s business ties to Uganda? Former director of operations in the Israeli spy agency Mossad, Rafi Eitan, is now a private businessman. Yet he helped organize Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s recent visit to Israel. He is said to have been trying to establish business operations in Uganda and to set up a cattle ranch in the country.
►►Israel FM meets Mossad chief in bid to end row. Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman met on Sunday with Mossad chief Tamir Pardo, in a bid to end the crisis between the two men, which culminated last week, when Lieberman ordered the foreign ministry to boycott the Mossad, to stop sharing information and to refrain from inviting Mossad officials to discussions and meetings.
►►Canada’s spy watchdog’s in shady deal with Israeli businessman. Arthur Porter, the federally appointed chairman of Canada’s Security and Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), wired $200,000 in personal funds to Ari Ben-Menashe. A former Israeli government employee, Ben-Menashe was charged in the United States with illegally attempting to sell military planes to Iran. He said that he acted on orders from Israel. He then wrote a memoir called Profits of War, filled with accounts of international espionage and conspiracies he says he either participated in or was privy to.

Even more underreported WikiLeaks revelations

WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
It appears increasingly likely that Sweden will extradite Julian Assange to the United States, where the WikiLeaks founder will face espionage charges. But the WikiLeaks revelations keep coming, although not all of them receive the worldwide media attention that they deserve. Take for instance the disclosure that at least three senior Australian Labour Party (ALP) politicians have operated as “protected sources” (diplomatic parlance for secret informants), providing regular updates on internal ALP politics to US embassy operatives in Canberra. According to internal US diplomatic cables released on Thursday, ALP politicians Bob McMullan, Michael Danby and Mark Arbib, who currently serves as the Australian federal government’s Minister for Sport, regularly held secret meetings with US embassy officials after 2004.  All three deny accusations that they acted as spies for the US. Another underreported WikiLeaks revelation concerns a 2008 proposal by the Saudi government to create an US- and NATO-backed Arab military force to invade Lebanon, seeking to obliterate Shiite paramilitary group Hezbollah, which controls large sections of the country. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #413

  • Complex politics behind Ugandan spy chief’s removal. The recent sacking of Dr Amos Mukumbi from heading Uganda‘s Internal Security Organisation (ISO) was the handiwork of politics, intrigue and suspicion within the country’s intelligence community and between politicians. It was also related to ongoing turf wars between the ISO and its sister agency, the External Security Organisation.
  • Experts still evaluating WikiLeaks impact. Some analysts believe that the US intelligence establishment will call for an increased clampdown on secrecy in the wake of the WikiLeaks Afghan War Diary files release. But the data dump has also spurred those arguing that the US government needs to reduce the amount of information it classifies as secret, much of which may be unnecessary.
  • Radio program investigates the Mossad. BBC Radio has aired a relatively well-produced primer on Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. The BBC’s Security Correspondent Gordon Corera interviews former Mossad Director Efraim Halevy and former Mossad operative Rafi Eitan, among others.

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Norwegians sentenced to death for “spying” in Congo

Joshua French

Joshua French

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Two Norwegian citizens were sentenced to death yesterday by a Congolese military court for arms smuggling, murder, attempted murder and spying for the Norwegian government. The two have been identified as Tjostolv Moland, 28, and Joshua French, 27 (photo).  Both were arrested in May in Kisangani, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), after their Congolese driver was found murdered with a bullet wound in his head. Prosecutors also accuse the two Norwegians of trying to kill a murder witness. Immediately upon their arrest, Moland and French were treated as Norwegian government agents, because they carried Norwegian military identification. Read more of this post