British government phones were hacked with Pegasus spy software, group claims

NSO GroupTELEPHONE SYSTEMS BELONGING TO the British government were compromised by the Pegasus surveillance software, according to a Canadian research group. The allegation was made on Monday in an investigative report by The New Yorker, which focuses on NSO Group Technologies, an Israeli digital surveillance company based near Tel Aviv. The company is behind the development of Pegasus, which is arguably the most powerful telecommunications surveillance software available in the private sector.

As intelNews and others have previously reported, Pegasus is able to install itself on targeted telephones without requiring their users to click a link or download an application. Upon installation, the software provides the spying party with near-complete control of a targeted telephone. This includes the ability to browse through the device’s contents, such as photographs and videos, record conversations, as well as activate the telephone’s built-in microphone and camera at any time, without its user’s consent or knowledge.

According to The New Yorker, the information about the use of Pegasus software against British government telephone networks was disclosed by the Citizen Lab, a research unit of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, which focuses on information technology, international security and human rights. The research unit said it notified the British government in 2020 and 2021 that a number of its telephone networks had been infected with the Pegasus software. The compromised networks were allegedly being used by officials in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as well as in 10 Downing Street, which houses the office of the prime minister.

The article claims that the compromise originated from users in the United Arab Emirates, as well as users in India, Cyprus and Jordan. This does not necessarily mean that malicious actors from these countries penetrated the British government’s telephone systems. These could be spies of third countries operating abroad; alternatively, there could be a link to unsuspecting British diplomats, whose government-issue cell phones were compromised by Pegasus in foreign countries. The Citizen Lab said it could not be sure about what kind of data may have been compromised as a result of the penetration.

NSO Group Technologies was among two Israeli firms that the US Department of Commerce placed on a sanctions list in November of 2021. According to a statement issued by the US government, the two firms engaged “in activities that [were] contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 19 April 2022 | Permalink

British military warns 50% of Russia’s entire ground force has now encircled Ukraine

UK Ministry of DefenceIN A VIDEO MESSAGE described by observers as “extraordinary”, the British Ministry of Defence has warned that at least half of the Russian military’s ground combat units have now encircled much of Ukraine. The report describes this as “the largest gathering of Russian troops” anywhere in the world since 1991—the year when the Soviet Union collapsed.

The video, titled “intelligence update”, was posted on Thursday on the social media application Twitter by the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence. It appears to be an example of what some observers are viewing as a “new front of information war” between Western and Russian intelligence agencies. As intelNews reported last week, American intelligence agencies have been instructed by the White House to release raw intelligence directly to the public about Russia’s intentions on Ukraine. This new method of public intelligence reporting has been described as “highly unusual” and even “unprecedented”.

British newspaper The Guardian called the two-minute video by the Ministry of Defence “extraordinary” in its candor and its attempt to communicate directly with the public. It includes visuals, such as satellite imagery, as well as graphics that show possible routes that Russian forces could take to invade Ukraine. The video warns that the scale of the Russian military presence along the Ukrainian border with Russia and Belarus is “far beyond that needed for a large-scale training exercise”. It concludes that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could take place “within days”.

The paper observes that Western spy agencies appear to be trying to use their intelligence information to “shape the narrative” about the crisis in Ukraine, before Moscow is able to use its formidable disinformation capabilities to set the agenda.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 21 February 2022 | Permalink

British state uses rare ‘breach of confidence’ clause to stop spy’s media exposure

High CourtTHE BRITISH GOVERNMENT IS citing a rarely used “breach of confidence” clause in an effort to stop the country’s public broadcaster from revealing the identity of a British intelligence officer working abroad. According to reports, this is the first time the “breach of confidence” clause has been cited by British government lawyers since the so-called Spycatcher affair of 1987. The term refers to the memoir authored by Peter Wright, senior intelligence officer for the Security Service (MI5), which the government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher tried to stop from being published.

As intelNews reported on January 24, British newspaper The Telegraph revealed that Britain’s attorney general was seeking an injunction against the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The purpose of the injunction was to stop the BBC from airing a story that would  “allegedly identify […] a spy working overseas”. No information has emerged about the details of the case. On Wednesday, however, a High Court of Justice judge in London heard from lawyers representing the two sides in the dispute. According to The Telegraph, a lawyer representing the government argued before Justice (Martin) Chamberlain that the BBC’s attempt to air the news story involved “matters of national security and breach of confidence”.

Lawyers for the BBC, however, asked the judge to oppose the injunction sought by the attorney general, and asked for future hearings on the case to take place in public, rather than behind closed doors. They also censured the efforts by the government’s lawyers, describing them as “a departure from the open justice principle”. Justice Chamberlain concluded the hearing by saying that he was personally committed to the case being heard in public to the maximum extent possible. He also warned the government’s lawyers that he would not order to the case to be moved behind closed doors unless “secrecy is compellingly justified” by the constraints of national security. An interim hearing has been scheduled for March 1 and 2 in London.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 27 January 2022 | Permalink

British government seeks injunction against BBC report that could reveal spy’s identity

BBCTHE BRITISH GOVERNMENT IS seeking to stop the nation’s public broadcaster from airing a story that would allegedly reveal the identity of a British intelligence officer working abroad. The news emerged on Friday, when London-based newspaper The Telegraph said the British government had taken the unusual step of seeking an injunction against the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), in order to prevent it from “allegedly identifying a spy working overseas”.

Since then, the BBC and British government officials have refused to disclose even vague information about the program in question, or the precise nature of the injunction. However, the BBC did confirm on Saturday that the government had “issued proceedings against the BBC with a view to obtaining an injunction”. The purpose of the injunction, said the BBC, was to “prevent publication of a proposed BBC news story”.

When asked to provide information about the broad theme of the story, BBC representatives said they were “unable to comment further at this stage”. They did, however, stress that the broadcaster would not have been insistent on publishing the information, unless it felt it was “overwhelmingly in the public interest to do so” and unless it was “fully in line” with the BBC’s own editorial values and standards.

Meanwhile, the office of the United Kingdom’s attorney-general, Suella Braverman, has also confirmed that “an application” had been made against the BBC. A spokesperson added that it would be “inappropriate to comment further while proceedings are ongoing”. A court hearing is expected to take place on Thursday behind closed doors at the High Court in London. It is likely that a High Court judge could issue a ruling on the same day.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 24 January 2022 | Permalink

Declassified documents show extent of Libyan support for Provisional IRA

Muammar GaddafiDOCUMENTS RELEASED LAST WEEK by the National Archives of Ireland show the extraordinary support given by the government of Libya to Irish republican separatists in Britain during the 1970s and 1980s. The previously classified documents were released last Tuesday by Ireland’s National Archives, which is the country’s official repository of state records. According to reports, the documents were released to the public in accordance with Ireland’s National Archives Act, which enables the declassification of certain state records 30 years after their production.

The documents contain details about the covert support given by the Libyan government of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi (pictured) to the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA). The PIRA was a separatist militant organization that operated in British-ruled Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland for over 30 years, beginning in 1969. According to reports, the information in the documents came directly from the Libyan government in 1992, as part of a broader effort by the Libyans to mend relations with London following the Lockerbie bombing of 1988.

The documents outline the amount of armaments that the Libyans gave to the PIRA in several covert shipments from 1973 until late 1987. Collectively, the shipments consisted of 1,450 Kalashnikov automatic rifles, 66 machine guns, 180 semi-automatic pistols, 26 rocket-propelled-grenade launchers, 10 surface-to-air missiles, 765 grenades, nearly 6,000kg of Semtex explosive, over a thousand detonators, nearly 1.5 million rounds of ammunition, as well as several flame-throwers. The secret arms shipments came to an end in October 1987, when French military intelligence was able to intercept large quantities of weapons and war materiel that had been hidden aboard the ship MV Eksund by its Irish crew.

But the Libyans continued to secretly fund the PIRA, according to the documents released last week. By 1992, when the information contained in the documents was provided to the British by the Libyan government, Tripoli had given the PIRA “over $12.6 million in cash, the equivalent of roughly $45 million in today’s money”. British intelligence quickly shared this information with the Irish government, which is how these documents ended up in the National Archives of Ireland. The documents also include a list of PIRA volunteers who traveled to Libya and were trained in guerrilla warfare and sabotage. However, the names appear to be fake, and were probably used by the PIRA members “to disguise their travel to Libya”, according to reports.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 03 January 2022 | Permalink

US, British spy agencies preparing Ukraine to withstand Russian invasion – reports

Ukraine Russia borderBRITISH, AMERICAN AND OTHER Western intelligence agencies are quietly preparing Ukrainian military and security experts to withstand a possible Russian attack, according to a number of media reports. The New York Times reported on Monday that cyberwarfare units from the United States and the United Kingdom have been dispatched to Ukraine. Their mission is believed to be helping the former Soviet republic in confronting possible large-scale cyberattacks from Moscow.

According to The Times, Ukraine has been undergoing a widespread series of cyberattacks from Russia almost without stop during the past several years. The attacks have consisted of multiple sabotage and espionage campaigns, which have targeted nearly every Ukrainian government agency, as well as the country’s energy infrastructure. These attacks have historically been low in number and intensity. This has changed in recent months, however, according to American officials.

Some observers are concerned that a series of large-scale cyberattacks may precede a military invasion by the nearly 200,000 Russian troops that are currently present along the Russian-Ukrainian border. Were they to materialize, these cyberattacks will probably attempt to sabotage core functions of Ukraine’s economy and government, including the banking and air-traffic systems. Moscow’s broader goal, according to The Times, would be to subvert the ability of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government to govern Ukraine. This, in turn, could lead to its fall and replacement by a pro-Russian administration. If a pro-Russian government is threatened by a pro-Western revolt —something that Ukraine has seen in the past— it could potentially request military assistance from Moscow, which would provide a political pretext for an invasion.

Meanwhile, British newspaper The Daily Mirror said on Monday that American intelligence agencies have “secretly agreed to arm and train Ukrainian troops on how to fight a guerrilla war against Russian forces if they invade”. The paper said that meetings to discuss these plans have been taking place between officials from the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency. The goal of such an effort, the report claims, would be to mirror the American help given to Afghan fighters by the CIA during the Soviet-Afghan war of the 1980s.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 21 December 2021 | Permalink

British foreign secretary admits errors in intelligence assessments of Afghanistan

Dominic RaabTHE CONSENSUS VIEW OF British intelligence in the weeks leading to the fall of Kabul to the Taliban was that the Afghan government would be challenged, but that the rebels were unlikely to take over the country in 2021. This was revealed on Wednesday in the House of Commons by Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab. Speaking at an emergency meeting of the House of Commons’ Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Raab fielded criticism that he had reacted slowly to the crisis in Afghanistan.

The foreign secretary told his critics that his department’s decisions had relied on assessments by the Joint Intelligence Committee, an interagency body that coordinates Britain’s intelligence agencies in issuing reports about pressing security matters. He told Parliament that the assessments he had been given pointed out that the pro-Western government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani would be threatened by the Taliban following the withdrawal of Western troops. But they concluded that the government would remain in control of Kabul through 2021, said Raab.

The rapid fall of the Afghan capital to the Taliban caught the British intelligence establishment —and, consequently, the government as a whole— by surprise, said Raab, adding that the sheer “scale and speed of the fall of Kabul” was unexpected. The foreign secretary blamed “optimism bias” for the reports, but added that similar optimistic views were “widely shared” across the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. All parties involved would have to learn lessons from Afghanistan about the accuracy of intelligence reports, Raab concluded.

But the foreign secretary was less clear about why his office did not heed the warnings of the principal risk assessment of his own department, which was issued on July 22, approximately a month before the fall of Kabul. The assessment warned starkly that the return of the Taliban to power could be rapid, as “peace talks are stalled and [United States and] NATO withdrawal is resulting in Taliban advances”. This, said the assessment, could lead to the “fall of cities, collapse of security forces, [and] Taliban return to power”. The document also discussed the possibility that the British “embassy may need to close if security deteriorates” in the Afghan capital.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 3 September 2021 | Permalink

UK names Russian intelligence operatives who allegedly poisoned Alexei Navalny

Alexei Navalny

THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT HAS announced sanctions against seven Russian intelligence operatives who, according to London, participated in the poisoning of the Russian blogger and political activist Alexei Navalny. Navalny, 45, remains in prison after being arrested last year by Russian authorities, who accused him of violating his parole. His arrest occurred as soon as he arrived in Russia from Germany. He had gone there to receive emergency treatment after he was allegedly poisoned during a domestic Russian flight that originated from Siberia.

While in Germany, Navalny was in a comatose condition for over three weeks, and then spent a further 32 days recovering in hospital. Medical examiners concluded that he was most likely poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent. Many Western biomedical experts believe that Navalny, a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was poisoned with a so-called Novichok substance —a technical term that describes a category of nerve agents developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Novichok agents are typically designed to asphyxiate their host by paralyzing the muscles they come in contact with.

On Friday —the day that marked the first anniversary of Navalny’s alleged poisoning— the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office announced that it would impose sanctions against seven Russian citizens. They were named as: Ivan Osipov, Alexei Sedov, Vladimir Panyaev, Kirill Vasilyev, Vladimir Bogdanov, Alexey Alexandrov and Stanislav Makshakov. All are believed to be employees of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), which operates as the country’s primary counterterrorism and counterintelligence agency.

British authorities released a statement to explain their decision to impose the sanctions against the seven Russians. The statement notes that the seven alleged FSB officers were identified using “phone and travel records”. These suggest that they were “involved in the use of a chemical weapon in the attempted assassination of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny during his August 2020 visit to Siberia”, the statement said. In an accompanying statement, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, urged Moscow “to declare its full stock of Novichok nerve agents”. The Russian government has dismissed all allegations that it tried to kill Navalny.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 23 August 2021 | Permalink

Alleged spy at British embassy in Berlin aroused suspicion by not using bank account

British embassy BerlinAn employee of the British embassy in Berlin, who was arrested last week on suspicion of spying for Russia, drew the attention of the authorities after he stopped using his bank account, according to reports. The man, who was arrested on August 10 by Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), has been identified in German media as David Smith, 57. His arrest is believed to have come as a result of a joint investigation by British and German authorities.

Smith is a longtime resident of Potsdam, a city located southeast of Berlin, and was married for 20 years to a woman from Ukraine, who is believed to have Russian heritage. According to some reports, however, his wife has not been living with him for some time. It has also been reported that Smith had been working for the British embassy in Berlin “for three or four years” in the period leading up to his arrest last week. It is also believed that he had previously served in the Royal Air Force and the Germany Guard Service (GGS). The latter is a joint British-German civilian volunteer force with roots in the Cold War, which provides security support to British Forces stationed in Germany.

Last week, several German news outlets said that Smith first aroused suspicions among British and German counterintelligence experts, after they noticed that he had not made use of his debit or credit cards for several months. His sudden lack of withdrawals from his bank accounts caused them to think that may have secured a cash-based source of income —possibly from a foreign intelligence agency. Citing anonymous intelligence officials, German media report that Smith passed on “low-grade information” to his Russian handlers, including lists of names of visitors to the British embassy. He was arrested, however, after British and German authorities allegedly feared that he was preparing to give Moscow more sensitive information in his possession.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 16 August 2021 | Permalink

Ex-Spanish King’s former mistress claims intelligence service spied on her

Juan Carlos ITHE EX-MISTRESS OF SPAIN’S former king has sued him in a British court, claiming that he deployed agents from Spain’s intelligence service in a “campaign of unlawful covert and over surveillance” against her. Juan Carlos I, 83, was king of Spain from 1975 until his abdication from the throne in 2014. He now lives in self-imposed exile in the United Arab Emirates, having left Spain in August. His departure came amidst a barrage of media reports revealing his involvement in a host of financial scandals, which are still being investigated by Spain’s authorities.

In 2012, it became known that the king had a six-year love affair with German-born Danish business consultant Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, 57, who is based in Britain. Since the end of the affair, in 2009, it is alleged that Carlos has been trying to retrieve nearly £60 million ($84 million), which he reportedly gifted to Wittgenstein when they were lovers. According to some media reports, Wittgenstein claims that the funds were given to her by the then-monarch “as an expression of his love” for her.

Late last year, Wittgenstein filed a lawsuit in Britain, in which she accuses her former lover of a campaign of harassment against her. She also claims that he employed agents of the Spanish National Intelligence Agency (Centro Nacional de Inteligencia , or CNI) to spy on her. The lawsuit, made public on Wednesday, alleges that, starting in 2012, current or former CNI agents were deployed by the ex-king to keep Wittgenstein “under physical surveillance”. Wittgenstein’s lawyers claim that she was followed throughout Europe, and that her personal cellphones and computers were hacked by the CNI, or by private investigators. They also claim that a team of spies broke into her estate in Britain, and installed surveillance equipment through a “perfectly drilled hole” in her bedroom window.

The business consultant is now asking for a large sum —believed to be in the tens of millions of euros— to be paid to her as compensation for alleged damages caused to her reputation. She is also asking for a restraining order against Carlos, the CNI, and anyone working for the ex-king. The former monarch denies the charges.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 30 July 2021 | Permalink

Two decades after 9/11, West must refocus on threats by state actors, MI5 chief says

MI5 HQ Thames HouseNearly 20 years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, it is time for Western intelligence agencies to refocus on stopping covert operations by foreign state actors, according to the director of Britain’s domestic intelligence agency. General Ken McCallum is a 20-year career officer in the Security Service (MI5), Britain’s counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence agency. He assumed the position of director in April of 2020, amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

In a rare public speech on Wednesday, General McCallum said it made sense why, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Western spy services dedicated unprecedented attention and resources to countering terrorist threats. Efforts during these two decades have concentrated on preventing attacks by religious extremists, both domestically and abroad. General McCallum went on to say that, in light of the ongoing instability in Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere, religious extremism will continue to require both attention and resources by Western spy agencies.

But he added that, even though counter-terrorism remains MI5’s primary task, the agency recognizes the need to “refocus attention” to threats from state actors. The attention given in the past two decades to non-state groups has allowed countries like Russia, China and Iran to develop “a growing assertiveness” in the areas of covert operations, said General McCallum. As a result, their activities in the fields of espionage, sabotage, and even assassinations, have become “increasingly daring” and threatening.

Spies working for foreign countries have killed targets, stolen sensitive technology, and tried to recruit public figures and other key individuals through blackmail. They have also attacked telecommunications infrastructure and have perfected a host of methods for launching cyber-attacks on both the public and private sectors, with potentially catastrophic consequences, he said.

The MI5 chief illustrated his statements by revealing that British counterintelligence officers have “disrupted hostile power activity” on British soil, which could otherwise have resulted in the killing of a targeted individual. He said that this operation took place after the attempted assassination of former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England, in the spring of 2018, but provided no further details.

General McCallum’s statement came as prosecutors in the United States charged four Iranian intelligence officers with participating in a plot to kidnap Masih Alinejad, an Iranian-American New York-based journalist and human-rights activist, who is known for her critical stance of the government in Tehran.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 14 July 2021 | Permalink

Sensitive UK defense documents found in bus stop by member of the public

UK Ministry of DefenceSensitive documents belonging to the British Ministry of Defense were found by a member of the public behind a bus stop last week, in what the BBC described as “a major embarrassment” for the British government. The documents number 50 pages; most are marked “official sensitive”, which is a low level of classification, but it means they are still subject to security requirements.

The BBC said it was contacted by “a member of the public, who wishes to remain anonymous”, after he or she found the documents dumped behind a bus stop in the southeastern county of Kent, which borders greater London,. The papers were reportedly in a deteriorated state, as they had been exposed to the elements -including rain- for several days.

According to the BBC, the sensitive documents most likely originated in the office of a senior Ministry of Defense official. They include printouts of email exchanges, as well as a number of PowerPoint slides concerning several timely topics. Among them is a presentation about HMS Defender, a Type 45 Destroyer belonging to the Royal Navy. It is followed by a presentation on the tense maritime incident that took place between Britain and Russia off the coast of Crimea last week.

Another document concerns the defense priorities of the administration of United States President Joe Biden, especially as they relate to the Indo-Pacific region and China. Several emails concern the future of the British military presence in Afghanistan, following the pending withdrawal of US forces from there in September. Yet another set of documents addresses British defense contracts that may irk some of the former European Union member state’s European allies.

The British Defense Ministry said last week it was investigating the details of “an incident” in which sensitive papers were “recovered by a member of the public”. It added that one of its employees, who had been entrusted with the documents, had reported them missing in the days prior to their recovery.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 28 June 2021 | Permalink

British SIGINT agency vows to integrate artificial intelligence into its operations

GCHQBRITAIN’S GOVERNMENT COMMUNICATIONS HEADQUARTERS, one of the world’s most advanced signals intelligence agencies, has published a position paper that vows to embrace artificial intelligence in its operations. For over 100 years, GCHQ, as it is known, has been in charge of spying on global communications on behalf of the British state, while protecting the government’s own communications systems from foreign espionage. In a report published on Thursday, the agency says it intends to use artificial intelligence (AI) to detect and analyze complex threats, and to fend against AI-enabled security challenges posed by Britain’s adversaries.

The report, entitled “Pioneering a New National Security: The Ethics of AI”, includes a foreword by GCHQ Director, Jeremy Fleming. Fleming was a career officer of the Security Service (MI5) until he became head of GCHQ in 2017. In his introductory note he argues that “technology and data” are engrained in the structure of GCHQ, and that AI has “the potential […] to transform [the agency’s] future operations”. The report acknowledges that GCHQ has been using AI for some time for functions including intelligence collection and automated translation. But the ability of AI to distinguish patterns in large sets of data in seconds, which would normally take humans months or years to detect, offers a transformational potential that should not be overlooked, it posits.

Security-related applications of AI are endless, says the report. They include measures against online child exploitation —for instance by detecting the methods used by child sex abusers to conceal their identities across multiple online platforms. Another potentially revolutionary application would be mapping global drug- or human-trafficking networks, by analyzing up-to-the-minute financial transactions and money-laundering activities around the world. Illicit activities that take place in the so-called “dark web” could also be mapped and monitored by AI systems, according to the report.

The report also states that GCHQ will seek ways to promote AI-related research and development in the United Kingdom. Its goal will be to establish bridges with industry by funding start-up ventures in AI, it states. Lastly, GCHQ will seek to formulate an ethical code of practice in AI, which will include best-practice guidelines, and will purposely recruit a diverse personnel of engineers, computer and data scientists. Future reports will tackle emerging technologies such as computational science and synthetic biology, among many others, the GCHQ report concludes.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 26 February 2021 | Permalink

MI6 starts recruiting naturalized British citizens after change in rules

MI6BRITAIN’S MAIN EXTERNAL INTELLIGENCE agency has begun hiring foreign-born British citizens for the first time in decades, reportedly in an effort to augment the skillsets of its personnel and diversify its workforce. For much of its history, the Secret Intelligence Service, known informally as MI6, required potential recruits to have been born in the United Kingdom to British-born parents. This excluded British-born children of immigrants to the United Kingdom.

In 2018, however, MI6 shelved the requirement that both parents of employment candidates had to be British-born. Since then, children of immigrants to the United Kingdom could apply for employment, so long as they had been born on British soil and held a British passport. This rule has now been shelved too. From now on, naturalized British citizens will be considered for work at MI6. The only stipulation is that one of their parents must be (or have been, if deceased) a British citizen, or have “substantial ties” to the United Kingdom.

The spy agency states that dual or multiple citizens who are hired to work at MI6 may be required to formally renounce their non-British citizenship(s), “depending on the type of role that they are offered”. reported to a government source cited in the London-based Times newspaper, the change in recruitment practices is aimed at creating a workforce “with a diversification of thought, not people who all think in similar ways”. The change in recruitment rules comes on the heels of a decision last year to lower the minimum age requirement for employment at MI6 from 21 to 18 years.

In a related development, several British newspapers reported last month that the spy agency had begun to recruit for the first time “part-time consultants” with valuable skills or contacts overseas. In several job advertisements that appeared online or in print publications, MI6 said it is seeking candidates with “diverse skill sets and life experiences for part-time and consulting roles”. The advertisements also note that MI6 is looking for “highly desirable individuals” with “expertise in their chosen field”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 10 February 2021 | Permalink

Britain quietly expelled three Chinese spies posing as journalists, report claims

CGTN ChinaTHREE CHINESE NON-OFFICIAL cover intelligence officers, who were working in London under journalistic cover, were expelled from Britain in the past year, according to a new report. The claim was made on Thursday by The Telegraph newspaper, which cited an anonymous “government source”. The report alleges that the three expelled Chinese journalists were in fact employees of China’s Ministry of State Security.

The paper said that the three Chinese citizens were working as journalists for three different Chinese press agencies and media outlets. However, Britain’s counterintelligence agency, the Security Service (known also as MI5), allegedly uncovered the true identities of the spies, according to The Telegraph. They were then reportedly ordered by the British government to leave the country. The report did not provide details about when precisely the three Chinese citizens were expelled, saying only that the expulsions occurred at different times during the past year.

In a separate development, the British government yesterday rescinded the broadcast license of China’s television station, China Global Television Network (CGTN). The move followed an investigation by the Office of Communications (known as Ofcom), an independent government authority that regulates Britain’s broadcasting, postal and telecommunications industries. The decision marks a major setback for CGTN, which employs hundreds of reporters and considers London as one of its three major worldwide bases.

In a statement explaining its decision, Ofcom said that its investigators had concluded that CGTN was not editorially independent from the Chinese Communist Party. This meant, according to Ofcom, that the Chinese broadcaster was effectively an arm of the Chinese state. British law does not permit media entities that are controlled by governments to hold broadcasting licenses. It is believed that CGTN will now try to receive a license to broadcast by another European country.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 05 February 2021 | Permalink

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