Who leaked Iranian nuclear document that turned out to be a hoax?

The leaked documentBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
On November 27, the Associated Press published an alleged Iranian document which it said proved Iran was working on a nuclear bomb. The news agency said the disclosure was the latest in a series of similar leaks to the media by “officials from a country critical of Iran’s atomic program”. However, the authenticity of the document, which contained a diagram calculating the explosive force of a nuclear weapon, is now heavily disputed. An analysis of the leaked document in the latest issue of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists concluded that it was either massively erroneous or a hoax designed by amateurs. The Bulletin, a specialist publication founded by physicists involved in the Manhattan Project, said the document was “unlikely to have been made by research scientists working at a national level”. The obvious question is who leaked the disputed document and why? An article in British newspaper The Guardian cites unnamed “Western officials” who claim that the diagram, along with several previous disclosures of a similar nature, was leaked by Israel “in an attempt to raise international pressure on Tehran”. If this is so, the leak appears to have seriously backfired and may have compromised the credibility of an ongoing investigation into the Iranian nuclear program by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This is because the leaked document was part of an intelligence file on Iran’s nuclear program, compiled by the IAEA, which formed the factual basis for a new set of penalties and sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States and the European Union in November of 2011. The question that some United Nations officials are now asking is, if the leaked document is indeed a hoax, how could the IAEA guarantee the authenticity of the remaining documents on its file on Iran? Read more of this post

Western spy agencies ‘sharing intelligence’ with Syrian rebels

Robert MoodBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A British newspaper has cited defense sources claiming that British and American intelligence agencies are passing vital information to Syrian rebels fighting to overthrow the country’s government. British tabloid The Daily Star quoted “a British defense source” who said that most of the raw intelligence on Syria is picked up by sophisticated British and American satellites monitoring Syrian communications. Once gathered and assessed by intelligence analysts in Washington and London, the information is passed on to operatives of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and Britain’s MI6, who are allegedly operating on the ground in Syria. They in turn communicate actionable intelligence to rebel leaders in Syria, who are fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. According to the British tabloid, information passed on to rebel leaders includes detailed satellite imagery of Syrian pro-government troop movements around the country, as well as the contents of intercepted communications between senior Syrian military commanders and their subordinates in the field. The Star quotes one unnamed British government source who claims that the satellites are so sophisticated that they allow British and American eavesdroppers to identify the individuals whose voices are heard in the intercepted communications, with the aid of advanced voice recognition systems. The intelligence has reportedly enabled rebel commanders to evacuate locations targeted by government forces, and may also have allowed the rebels to organize successful counterstrikes in response to offensives conducted by troops loyal to Damascus. Washington-based publication The Hill contacted the CIA and the White House but their spokespersons refused to comment on what they called “an ongoing intelligence operation” in Syria. A spokesman from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office would only tell The Star that “all actions remain on the table”.   Read more of this post

News you may have missed #744

Navi PillayBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Source says Mikhailov ‘will not be exchanged’ with US. There are rumors going around that the US might consider exchanging Russian arms merchant Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year sentence in a New York prison, for one or more CIA spies currently being held in Russian prisons. Russian news agency RIA Novosti has cited a “high ranking official in the Russian security services”, who suggests that Bout “might be exchanged”, but not with Valery Mikhailov, a Russian former counterintelligence officer, who was sentenced this week to 18 years in prison for allegedly spying for the CIA.
►►CIA preparing to pull back from Iraq. The US Central Intelligence Agency is preparing to cut its presence in Iraq to less than half of wartime levels, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cites “US officials familiar with the planning”. Under the plans being considered, says the paper, the CIA’s presence in Iraq would be reduced to 40% of wartime levels, when Baghdad was the largest CIA station in the world with more than 700 agency personnel. Interestingly, the plan would also reduce the US intelligence presence in the region as neighboring Syria appears to be verging on civil war.
►►Senior UN official blasts US drone strikes. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has said US drone attacks in Pakistan “raise serious questions about compliance with international law, in particular the principle of distinction and proportionality”. She also voiced concerns that the strikes were being conducted “beyond effective and transparent mechanisms of civilian or military control”. IntelNews provided this opinion on the matter, in 2009.

News you may have missed #687

Hans BlixBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Analysis: Is Obama abusing the US Espionage Act? Prosecutors may still attempt to indict WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act, though their case will likely depend on exactly how he received his information. But, WikiLeaks aside, the Obama administration has made increasing use of the act to clamp down on whistleblowers.
►►Ex-head admits IAEA does work with spies (shock, horror). The International Atomic Energy Agency, which acts as the nuclear watchdog of the United Nations has been closely cooperating with the world’s spy agencies, including on Iran and Syria, for years, according to its former director. Hans Blix told RT that the IAEA’s cooperation with the world’s intelligences started following the Iraqi crisis of the 1990s. “Of course, intelligence can always try to fool everybody”, he said. “Half of the information may be true, half of it may be disinformation, and therefore they have to examine it critically”.
►►Afghanistan arrests diplomat on spying charges. Afghanistan’s State Intelligence Agency (KHAD) on Monday said that a senior foreign ministry diplomat and three other government officials had been arrested over charges of spying for Iran and Pakistan. The men were detained “on charges of spying for neighboring regions” and “the arrests were made with concrete evidence”, KHAD’s spokesman, Lutfullah Mashal, said. An unnamed source in the same agency also claimed that the deputy head of KHAD’s Asia desk and two government employees had been arrested in a similar incident in the eastern Afghan province Nangarhar a month before.

News you may have missed #618

Abdullah al-Senoussi

Al-Senussi

►►US Congressman urges expulsion of ‘Iranian spies’ at the UN. New York Congressman Peter King says the US should kick out Iranian officials at the UN in New York and in Washington because many of them are spies. Speaking at a hearing Wednesday, the Democrat said such a move would send a clear signal after the recent alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington.
►►Colombia’s intelligence chief denies knowledge of illegal wiretapping. Felipe Muñoz, the director of Colombia’s intelligence agency DAS has denied knowledge of illegal interception of unionists’ emails and phone calls by DAS employees, following the announcement that the Inspector General’s Office will be investigating these allegations. According to the allegations, Muñoz and other leading DAS officials were aware of the illegal interception.
►►Gaddafi intelligence chief now in Niger. Moammar Gadhafi’s intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi (pictured), who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, has slipped into the desert nation of Niger and is hiding in the expanse of dunes at the Niger-Algeria border, a Niger presidential adviser said last week. Meanwhile, Gaddafi’s former spy chief, Moussa Koussa, has denied claims made in a BBC documentary that he tortured prisoners.

News you may have missed #608 (analysis edition)

Anwar al-Aulaki

Anwar al-Aulaqi

►►Spying on the United Nations. “Here is one of the well-known but seldom spoken truths about the United Nations: The international organization, which was founded in the name of peace and security, is also a hotbed of spying and clandestine operations, where someone might very well be listening to your conversations and monitoring your emails —-or perhaps reading your speeches in advance […]. The CIA is prohibited from domestic intelligence-gathering but, since the United Nations is considered foreign soil, it is authorized to run covert actions there”.
►►Secret panel can put Americans on ‘kill list’. American militants like Anwar al-Aulaqi, who was killed by a CIA drone strike in Yemen late last month, are placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior US government officials, which then informs the President of its decisions, according to officials. There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel, which is a subset of the White House’s National Security Council.
►►Blowback from CIA’s bin Laden vaccination ruse gets worse. If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: the fake vaccination program that the CIA set up before the Osama bin Laden raid really went awry. Not only did this plan not work –no bin Laden family DNA was obtained– but it also hobbled polio immunization drives and forced Save the Children to evacuate staffers from Pakistan out of fear of a backlash.

Was plane carrying UN Secretary General shot down in 1961?

Dag Hammarskjöld

Hammarskjöld

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
On September 17, 1961, a Douglas DC-6 transport aircraft carrying United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld crashed in the British-administered territory of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). The crash killed everyone onboard, except one passenger, who died hours later. Three successive investigations into the crash, conducted by the Rhodesian Board of Investigation, the Rhodesian Commission of Inquiry, and the United Nations Commission of Investigation, viewed “pilot error” as the most likely cause of the tragedy. Göran Björkdahl, a Swedish aid worker with Sweden’s International Development Cooperation Agency, who is stationed in Burkina Faso, has spent three years researching Hammarskjöld’s death. He has produced a report with his findings, in which he cites interviews with several witnesses of the crash, who are still living. He says that, according to the evidence he has amassed, he has “no doubt” Dag Hammarskjöld’s plane was “shot down by an unidentified second plane”. In an article published in British quality broadsheet The Guardian, Björkdahl also claims that the only survivor of the downed DC-6, American sergeant Harold Julian, who was a member of the UN Secretary General’s security detail, was abandoned to die of his injuries at a makeshift hospital in Ndola, Northern Rhodesia. Björkdahl’s claim is based on his interview with colonial medical practitioner Mark Lowenthal, who tried to treat Julian in the hours following the airplane’s crash. Moreover, Björkdahl alleges that British colonial authorities in Northern Rhodesia were eager to cover up the details of the incident, and went out of their way to intimidate local villagers who witnessed the crash, and to downplay witness testimony suggesting that the Douglas DC-6 may have been shot down. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #561

Francis Gary Powers

Francis G. Powers

►►US to phase out U-2 spy plane after 50 years. After more than 50 years gathering intelligence 13 miles above the ground, the United States’ U-2 spy planes will be phased out and replaced by unmanned drones by 2015, according to reports this past week. The classified U-2 program came to light in 1960, when a Soviet surface-to-air missile brought down a U-2 flown by CIA pilot Gary Powers, who parachuted to safety but was soon captured.
►►Security company unearths ‘massive’ cyberespionage operation. A widespread cyberespionage campaign stole government secrets, sensitive corporate documents, and other intellectual property for five years from more than 70 public and private organizations in 14 countries. This is according to Dmitri Alperovitch, vice president of threat research at the cyber-security firm McAfee, who uncovered the alleged plot. The operation, dubbed SHADY RAT, targeted the United Nations and the United States, among other national and international entities.
►►South Korea expands spy ring investigation. South Korean authorities have expanded the controversial investigation into the alleged Wangjaesan spy ring, to include Read more of this post

UN official confirms Israel abducted Palestinian engineer from Ukraine

Dirar Abu Sissi

Dirar Abu Sissi

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A UN official has confirmed that a Palestinian engineer, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances in Ukraine on February 19, is currently in Israeli custody. According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior, Dirar Abu Sissi, 42, who was born in Jordan, but has lived in the Gaza strip for over a decade, had gone to Ukraine to apply for citizenship in the Eastern European country. His Ukrainian wife, Veronika, said Sissi disappeared in the early morning hours of February 19, shortly after boarding a train from Kharkiv to capital Kiev, in order to reunite with this brother, a Dutch national, whom he had not seen since 1997. His disappearance has puzzled Ukrainian police investigators. But on Thursday, Maksim Butkevych, representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Ukraine, told the Associated Press that Sissi was kidnapped by Israeli operatives and is currently in prison in Israel. Butkevych did not openly name the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, but said that the Palestinian engineer was abducted by “Israeli security forces”, possibly with the assistance of Ukrainian intelligence officers. Read more of this post

Cold War KGB agent Judith Coplon dies in Manhattan

Judith Coplon

Judith Coplon

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Judith Coplon, an American Justice Department analyst who spied for the Soviet Union, and whose 1949 espionage trial became an international sensation, died last weekend in New York. When she was arrested by the FBI at age 27, Coplon worked as an analyst for the Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration Section, and was privy to counterintelligence reports issued daily by the Bureau. A few years prior to her March 1949 arrest, Coplon had begun an affair with Valentin A. Gubitchev, a married Soviet NKGB (forerunner of the KGB) officer stationed at the United Nations headquarters in New York. It is believed that Gubitchev recruited her and acted as her handler, meeting her regularly at various New York locations in order to obtain from her copies of Justice Department documents. In 1948, her role as an NKGB agent code-named ‘Sima’, was revealed through the National Security Agency’s VENONA project, which decoded wartime Soviet diplomatic cables that had been intercepted by US intelligence. Read more of this post

Some underreported WikiLeaks revelations

WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
There is little point in recapping here the bulk of disclosures contained in the ongoing WikiLeaks revelations. The news sphere is jam-packed with them —and perhaps this is the real story in the WikiLeaks revelations, namely the fact that espionage and intelligence issues have near-monopolized the global news cycle for the first time since the post-Watergate Congressional investigations of the 1970s. But it is worth pointing out a handful of news stories on the WikiLeaks revelations that have arguably not received the media coverage that they deserve. Undoubtedly the most underreported disclosure concerns a 2007 meeting between US officials and Meir Dagan, the then Director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency. During the meeting, Dagan apparently “presented US with five-step program to perform a coup in Iran“.  But there are other underreported disclosures. Take for instance the revelation that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally authorized US diplomats to engage in all-out and indiscriminate spying on senior United Nations officials. Although there is nothing here that will surprise seasoned intelligence observers, the breadth of intelligence collection that US diplomats are instructed to engage in (which includes collecting credit card numbers and biometric data of UN officials) is astonishing and certainly unprecedented. Moreover, it should be noted that many senior UN officials are in fact American, which leads to the intriguing question of whether US diplomats are routinely required to engage in intelligence collection against American UN officials. Read more of this post

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

News you may have missed #392

  • Soviet spy stood ready to poison DC’s water, says Ex-KGB general. A Soviet deep-cover agent, who was in the United States from around 1963 to 1965, had orders to poison Washington DC’s water and to sabotage its power supply if war with the United States became imminent, according to Oleg Kalugin, former chief of KGB operations in North America.
  • Two interesting interviews. George Kenney, of Electric Politics, has aired two interesting interviews, one with Dr. Thomas Fingar, former US Deputy Director of National Intelligence, touching on a variety of issues, and one with Philip Alston, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, who comments on the CIA drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • Lawyers who won NSA spy case want $2.63 million. Eight lawyers, who managed to prove that Saudi charity al-Haramain was illegally wiretapped by the US National Security Agency (see here for previous intelNews coverage), are demanding millions of dollars in damages from the US government.

Bookmark and Share

Retired US colonel charged with smuggling weapons to Somalia

Somalia

Somalia

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A retired US Air Force colonel, who was charged with weapons smuggling during the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s, has been indicted again, this time for trying to smuggle automatic weapons into Somalia. US federal authorities accuse Joseph O’Toole, now 79, of conspiring with Israeli citizen Chanoch Miller, formerly an aeronautics engineer with Israeli defense firm Radom Aviation, to transport nearly 2,000  AK-47s from Bosnia to Banderal, Somalia. The smuggling operation, which employed forged end-user certificates issued in Chad, violated US weapons export control regulations, which are in compliance with a United Nations weapons embargo to war-ravaged Somalia. This is the second time O’Toole has been indicted with conspiring to smuggle weapons. In 1989, he was charged of working with fellow-American Richard St. Francis and Israeli alleged ex-Mossad operative Ari Ben-Menashe, to sell several US C-130 cargo airplanes to the Iranian government. Read more of this post

Analysis: What we know about the Russian spy ring case

SVR seal

SVR seal

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
If you are frustrated with the increasingly idiotic and sex-obsessed media coverage of the Russian spy ring recently busted by the FBI, you are not alone. Less than a week since news of the arrests in the US of ten alleged deep-cover agents of Russia’s SVR intelligence agency emerged, sensationalist media hacks have left no stone unturned. Thankfully, Stratfor Global Intelligence has produced an excellent early summary of this developing story, complete with a useful diagram of the known members of the SVR spy ring. The summary correctly points out some of the critical issues in the espionage case, including the fact that the 11 suspects appeared to be primarily run out of the SVR residence at the Russian mission to the United Nations in New York, and not out of the Russian Embassy in Washington DC. Read more of this post