News you may have missed #663

X-37B spaceplaneBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Indian spy agency seeks more wiretap powers. As intelNews reported in December, India’s primary intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) was granted unfettered access to intercept electronic communications inside India. According to reports from India, the country’s Department of Telecommunications has now asked Interpol to help it gain access to encrypted electronic communications exchanged over Skype, BlackBerry telephones, etc. But doesn’t the Indian government already have access to BlackBerry communications?
►►US spaceplane spying on China. America’s classified X-37B spaceplane is probably spying on China, according to a report in Spaceflight magazine. The unpiloted vehicle was launched into orbit by the US Air Force in March last year and has yet to return to Earth. The Pentagon has steadfastly refused to discuss its mission but amateur space trackers have noted how its path around the globe is nearly identical to China’s spacelab, Tiangong-1.
►►Mossad seeks Chinese speakers. Do you speak Chinese? If so, Israel’s Mossad needs you. Recently, the spy agency put up a job posting on its website for a strategic researcher. The ad notes that preference will be given to Chinese, Arabic and Persian speakers. Experience in intelligence work is also a plus. Notably, China maintains close relations with Iran and with Arab states, possibly prompting the Mossad to seek Chinese speakers for its current and future intelligence work.

US considered covert mission to recover drone captured by Iran

Iran

Iran

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
What a difference two days can make! On Monday we speculated that Iran may have captured intact a United States Air Force RQ-170 Sentinel surveillance drone. At that time, most American officials questioned or flatly denied Iran’s capture claims. It now appears almost certain that Iran is indeed in possession of the aircraft; what is more, it seems increasingly likely that the captured drone was conducting a Central Intelligence Agency reconnaissance mission when it crashed in the desert along the country’s 1,000 km-long border with Afghanistan. The significance of the drone’s capture by Iranian authorities can be discerned from the fact that US officials are said to have considered last weekend several options for retrieving it from Iranian territory. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, the US Department of Defense, in association with the CIA, discussed at least three separate plans for recovering or destroying the aircraft wreckage. One of the options discussed involved sending an airborne team of US covert operatives into northeast Iran to locate the crashed drone, disassemble it, and carry its top-secret mechanical and electronic components back to a US base in Afghanistan. The US also considered deploying Special Forces stationed in Afghanistan, or tasking US intelligence assets inside Iran, with locating and blowing up the crashed drone. A third option involved destroying the downed aircraft with a remote airstrike from Afghanistan. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #642

Predator drone

Predator drone

►►Australia concerned China using civilian satellites to spy. Concerns that China may use civilian satellite tracking stations to monitor Australian military operations have been dismissed by the Swedish Space Corporation. The company owns and operates two satellite tracking stations 400 km north of the West Australian capital, Perth. One was used by the China Satellite Launch Company last month in China’s first space docking operation.
►►Did Iran capture US stealth drone intact? For the second time this year, the Iranian government is claiming it forced down a stealthy US Air Force spy drone. Only this time, it says it bagged the RQ-170 “with little damage” by jamming its control signal —a potentially worrying development for American forces heavily reliant on remote-controlled aircraft. A US official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters that “there is absolutely no indication up to this point that Iranians shot down this drone”.
►►Canadian Mounties spied on native protest groups. Canada’s federal government created a vast surveillance network in early 2007 to monitor protests by First Nations, including those that would attract national attention or target “critical infrastructure” like highways, railways and pipelines, according to RCMP documents. The RCMP intelligence unit reported weekly to approximately 450 recipients in law enforcement, government, and unnamed “industry partners” in the energy and private sector. The news follows revelations last month of the RCMP’s largest-ever domestic intelligence operation, aimed against G8 and G20 protesters.

News you may have missed #556

David Irvine

David Irvine

►►Australian computer networks spied ‘massively’. Cyberespionage is being used against Australia on a “massive scale” and some foreign spies are using Australian government networks to penetrate the cyberdefenses of allies such as the United States. This according to the Director of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) David Irvine. Speaking at a business forum, Mr. Irvine said that “it seems the more rocks we turn over in cyberspace, the more [cyberespionage] we find”.
►►US to give Iraq wiretapping system. The US will give the government of Iraq a wiretapping system that will allow it to monitor and store voice calls, data transmissions and text messages from up to 5,000 devices simultaneously. The system is to be installed with the acquiescence of the three current cellular communications providers in Iraq, according to the US Air Force. A similar system was set up by a US contractor three years ago in Afghanistan.
►►Judge says NSA whistleblower faced ‘tyrannical’ US government. This blog has kept an eye on the case of Thoma Drake, a former US National Security Agency employee  who was taken to court for leaking secrets about the agency to a journalist. But the judge in his case, Richard D. Bennett, refused Read more of this post

News you may have missed #483

  • Ex-CIA chief criticizes ‘too much cybersecurity secrecy’. In an article published in the new issue of the US Air Force’s Strategic Studies Quarterly, former CIA and NSA Director, General Michael “I-want-to-shut-down-the-Internet” Hayden, argues that the US government classifies too much information on cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
  • Renault arrests security chief over spy hoax. Dominique Gevrey, a ex-military intelligence agent, who is French car maker Renault’s chief of security, has been arrested in Paris, just before boarding a flight to Guinea in West Africa. He is accused of concocting the spying allegations which shook the French car giant –-and the entire motoring world-– last January. Meanwhile, Renault has apologized to the three senior executives who were fired after being accused of selling secrets about the company’s electric car strategy to “foreign interests”.
  • Analysis: Gadhafi’s spies keep watch in Libyan rebel capital. “Pro-Gaddafi spies are blamed for assassinations, grenade attacks, and sending rebels threatening text messages. Rebels believe that Gaddafi’s forces are all around them. They lurk outside the Benghazi courthouse that serves as the Capitol for the liberated east, sometimes armed with cameras. They sit in vans outside hotels that house journalists and aid workers, and silently watch who comes and goes”.

US denies smuggling spy equipment into Argentina [updated]

Argentina

Argentina

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States has denied charges by Argentine officials that it tried to smuggle espionage equipment into the South American country under the pretext of transporting training supplies for Argentine Federal Police. The charges were leveled on Thursday, after Argentine customs officials conducted what the US Department of State called an “unusual and unannounced” inspection of a US Air Force C-17 cargo plane that landed in the country. According to the Argentine government, the inspection turned up communications interception equipment, “powerful GPS” hardware, as well as “technological elements containing codes labeled secret”, among other items. The material, which had apparently not been listed in the plane’s manifest, was confiscated, while the C-17, along with its American passengers, most of whom were members of the US Special Forces, flew back to the US. Authorities in Argentina are now accusing the US Pentagon and the Department of State of trying to smuggle in the equipment without declaring it to customs officials, as is prescribed under international air cargo transportation laws. Read more of this post

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