Senior US intelligence official tells Congress not to ‘micromanage’ spy efforts

James ClapperThe United States’ senior intelligence officer has told Congress that new legislation requiring spy agencies to act against alleged Russian covert operations constitutes “micromanagement” of the American Intelligence Community. The Intelligence Authorization bill, which includes a number of intelligence-related requirements and provisions, is debated and enacted each year by Congress. This year’s legislation has already been approved by the intelligence committees of the Senate and House of Representatives. Last week it was enacted by the House, while the Senate is preparing to debate it this week.

The legislation currently under debate includes instructions to the US Intelligence Community to set up an interagency committee to formulate responses to perceived Russian covert operations around the world. The term ‘covert operations’ refers to actions by intelligence agencies designed to influence foreign political, military or economic affairs or events. The topic received media attention during the 2016 US presidential election, when Washington repeatedly accused Moscow of trying to shape its outcome. This year’s Intelligence Authorization bill requires every US intelligence agency to appoint a representative to serve on a joint panel that will address alleged Russian covert operations in the US, Europe and elsewhere in the world.

But in September of this year, the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, America’s most senior intelligence official, authored a letter to Congress arguing that the requirement for an interagency panel to look into Russian covert operations should be scrapped. According to the Reuters news agency, which said last week that it saw a copy of the letter, Clapper argues that his letter echoes the unanimous view of the US Intelligence Community. He goes on to claim that the requirement to set up a special committee with an operational focus exceeds Congress’ role of overseer of the Intelligence Community and enters the realm of prescribing intelligence tasks. That, says Clapper in his letter, amounts to “micromanagement” of the Intelligence Community by Congress. Furthermore, he argues, the Intelligence Community has already taken steps to address Russian covert operations, thus the suggested panel would “duplicate current work” on the issue. Finally, Clapper’s letter suggests that the required panel would “hinder cooperation” with some of America’s overseas allies, though the Reuters report did not explain the precise justification for that claim.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 05 December 2016 | Permalink

Egypt intelligence highlights Congress-CIA tensions

Egypt uprising

Egypt uprising

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A US Congressional hearing over a career CIA official’s promotion turned into a heated exchange on Thursday, as Congress members accused America’s intelligence community of failing to provide forewarning of the political instability in Egypt. Speaking before the US Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, Stephanie O’Sullivan, former Director of the CIA Directorate of Science and Technology, was faced with an unexpected barrage of questions concerning the Agency’s alleged failure to provide US policy planners with accurate warning of the Egyptian popular uprising. Shortly after the start of the hearing, which was intended to deliberate O’Sullivan’s nomination for the position of Deputy Director of the Office of Director of National Intelligence, attention turned to Egypt, with members of the Committee pressuring the CIA executive to explain why the US intelligence community had failed to issue ample warnings on Egypt. O’Sullivan responded repeatedly that the CIA and other US intelligence services had provided warnings to Obama Administration officials in November and December of 2010, about extreme political volatility in North Africa. Read more of this post

Analysis: An Economic Security Role for European Spy Agencies?

Economic espionage

Economic spying

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Last February, Spain’s intelligence service began investigating alleged suspicious efforts by foreign financial speculators to destabilize the Spanish economy. According to newspaper El País, the Spanish government asked the country’s Centro Nacional de Inteligencia (CNI) to probe links between speculative moves in world financial markets and a series of damaging editorials “in the Anglo-Saxon media”. There are indications that the National Intelligence Service of Greece (EYP) is following in the CNI’s footsteps. In February, when Athens and Brussels began to realize the magnitude of the financial crisis threatening the European common currency, several news outlets suggested that the EYP was cooperating with Spanish, Irish and Portuguese intelligence services in investigating a series of coordinated speculative attacks on money markets, most of which allegedly originated from London and Washington. Read more of this post

US report sheds light on mysterious Chinese front company

Lev Leviev

Lev Leviev

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A new report by a US Congressional commission sheds light on a mysterious Chinese corporate group, which intelligence observers have long-suspected to be a front company for Chinese spy agencies. Named after the street address of its headquarters, the Hong Kong-registered 88 Queensway Group is noted for its dynamic investments around the world, particularly in Africa, where the Chinese government has been extremely active in recent years. But new information (.pdf) compiled by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission of the US Congress, alleges that the 88 Queensway Group “falsely represents itself as a private business when it actually is [an arm of the] Chinese intelligence community [and] public security apparatus”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0224

  • Parts 6 and 7 of CIA defector’s writings now available. Former FBI counterintelligence agent Robert Eringer has published the sixth and seventh installments (chapters 2 and 3 of “The Spy’s Cookbook”) of the writings of Edward Lee Howard, a CIA officer who defected to the USSR in 1985 (see here for previous intelNews coverage). In part six, Howard writes about the methodology of visiting (among other places) the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, DC. In part seven, he advises that the only time a double agent’s handlers should call the agent’s home is to tell him or her to “get out and leave the country!”.
  • Congressional vote on US PATRIOT Act delayed. The US House of Representatives tabled on Wednesday legislation to reform US domestic surveillance law. The Senate is likewise expected to delay the matter. The delays will automatically extend provisions of the PATRIOT Act that would otherwise expire at year’s end.

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News you may have missed #0203

  • N. Koreans arrested for revealing Kim Jong-Il’s whereabouts. A number of North Koreans have been arrested and could face execution for leaking to a South Korean Internet newspaper information on the movements of Kim Jong-Il’s February 24 trip to the city of Hoeryong.
  • Authority to spy on Americans unclear as PATRIOT Act expires. Controversial provisions in the Act, which grant US the government far-reaching domestic surveillance and seizure powers, are due to expire on December 31. These provisions will have to be discussed in Congress, “but only when the Senate isn’t backlogged by health care” according to insiders.

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Russia claims discovery of secret US-Georgia armaments channel

The PAC-3

The PAC-3

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Several Russian newspapers carried lead articles yesterday, describing the alleged discovery of a secret Washington-led project of supplying the Republic of Georgia with $100 million-worth of US weapons supplies. The articles cited “anonymous Russian intelligence sources” in claiming that the US is in the process of secretly providing Georgia with, among other things, a Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) advanced surface-to-air guided missile air defense system. If true, the allegations could raise eyebrows in Congress, as the PAC-3 cannot legally be exported by the US government without explicit Congressional authorization. But Russian media report that, according to secret documents acquired by Russian military intelligence, the US government plans to circumvent Congressional scrutiny by delivering the weapons to Georgia through a private exporter, Barrington Alliance Inc., headquartered in Chicago, of which little is known. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0159

  • US Congress wants to change locks in document safes. Some Congress members have revived “a decade-old debate” on replacing security locks on government safes for storing classified documents with new electromechanical locking mechanisms. According to one independent security consultant, existing mechanical locks in classified document safes “can be penetrated surreptitiously within 20 minutes”, and older barlock containers still in use “can be penetrated within seconds”.
  • A US spy in wartime Ireland. The interesting story of Major Martin S. Quigley, one of three US spies sent by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS, CIA’s forerunner) to Ireland, on a mission to find out whether the country’s government, which was officially neutral in the War, was actually siding with Nazi Germany.

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CIA misled, lied to Congress several times since 2001, say lawmakers

Jan Schakowsky

Jan Schakowsky

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The two Democrats chairing the US House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence have accused the CIA of misleading Congress on at least five instances during the last eight years. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Representatives Jan Schakowsky (CA, photo) and Anna Eshoo (IL.) said an investigation by the Committee had uncovered several examples “where the committee actually has been lied to” by the CIA. The two chairwomen described the investigation findings as “symptom[s] of a larger disease” involving the routine practice of “incomplete and often misleading intelligence briefings”. However, commenting on Schakowsky and Eshoo’s allegations, Robert Litt, the senior attorney in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the conduct of all 16 US intelligence agencies, said Congress was not adequately briefed on “a small number of intelligence activities”, but “has since been brought up to date”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0150

  • Israel’s inside intelligence. If only Israeli security services were as open as the CIA and other US spy agencies, lament Israelis.
  • Nozette and nuclear rocketry. Here are some of the reasons why the case of scientist Stewart D. Nozette, who was arrested and charged earlier this week under the US Espionage Act, is distressing on several levels.
  • Perle calls DoD spying whistleblower “a nutcase”. Richard Perle, chairperson of the US Defense Advisory Board under the Bush administration, has called Sibel Edmonds “a nutcase; certifiable”. Last August, Edmonds, a former FBI translator, alleged that Turkish spies had bugged, blackmailed and bribed US politicians, her FBI unit, the State Department, the Pentagon and Congress.

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News you may have missed #0147

  • Major purge in Gambian intelligence services. The Gambian government gave no official reasons for the dismissal of 27 officers from the country’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA). But local media said the dismissals were aimed to end bitter internal turf wars that have affected NIA’s performance.
  • US Congress bars release of more torture photos. US House and Senate members have approved legislation that would permit the Pentagon to withhold photographs if it determines that their disclosure “would endanger citizens of the US, members of the US Armed Forces, or employees of the US government deployed outside the US”. The ACLU said that “the suppression of these photos will ultimately be far more damaging to our national security than their disclosure would be”.
  • Russia jails alleged Georgian spy. A Russian military court has jailed Russian Army sergeant Jemal Nakaidze for nine years, for passing secrets to Georgia during a war between the two countries last year. See here for more on the recent tug-of-war between Russia and Georgia.

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Senator says Obama employs Bush tactics on spy secrecy

Russ Feingold

Russ Feingold

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A Democratic senator has alleged that the Obama Administration is copying the Bush Administration’s tactics by “stonewalling and road blocking” Congress on intelligence issues. Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), the only Senator to vote against the USA PATRIOT Act during its first vote, said during a nomination hearing on Tuesday that he suspects the White House is still withholding information from Congressional intelligence panel members. Feingold voiced the allegation during the nomination hearing in Congress of David Gompert, incoming deputy director of national intelligence, who will serve under director of national intelligence Dennis C. Blair. In recent months, Senator Feingold has emerged as one of the most vocal Democratic critics of the Obama administration’s policies on intelligence and security. Read more of this post

US State Dept. third highest official was espionage suspect, says ex-FBI agent

Marc Grossman

Marc Grossman

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Marc Grossman, Under Secretary of State during the Bush Administration, was suspect in a lengthy counterespionage probe by the FBI, according to a former senior Bureau agent. John M. Cole, an 18-year FBI veteran who worked for the Counterintelligence Division of the Bureau’s National Security Branch, said the investigation into Grossman centered on activities by Turkish and Israeli intelligence in the United States. Cole was speaking to former CIA agent Philip Giraldi, currently of The American Conservative magazine, a paleoconservative publication, which was one of a handful of US media outlets that gave column space to recent revelations of Turkish intelligence activities by FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds. Edmonds, a translator for the FBI, spent seven years trying to get a US court to hear her allegations that Turkish intelligence agents penetrated her unit, the State Department, the Pentagon and Congress. Read more of this post

Comment: Blackwater’s role in CIA ops runs deep

Blackwater/Xe HQ

Blackwater/Xe

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
North Carolina-based military and intelligence contractor Xe had a major role in the CIA’s rumored post-9/11 assassination program and is active today in the Agency’s Predator drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The New York Times and The Washington Post cited “government officials and current and former [Xe] employees” in revealing that the CIA worked briefly with Xe –formerly known as Blackwater– in the context of a top-secret program to locate and murder senior al-Qaeda leaders. According to The Washington Post, Blackwater’s role in the operation was far from consultative, and included “operational responsibility for targeting terrorist commanders [and awards worth] millions of dollars for training and weaponry”.  The New York Times alleges that Blackwater’s central role in the operation was “a major reason” in CIA director Leon Panetta’s decision last June to inform Congress about the program, which CIA had kept hidden from Congressional oversight for seven years. Read more of this post

Ex-FBI translator alleges Turkish intelligence activities in US

Sibel Edmonds

Sibel Edmonds

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A former FBI translator has alleged that agents acting at the behest of the Turkish government have bugged, blackmailed and bribed US politicians. Sibel Edmonds has spent seven years trying to get a US court to hear her allegations that Turkish intelligence agents penetrated her unit, the State Department, the Pentagon and Congress. On August 8, she gave a public testimony at the Washington headquarters of the National Whistleblowers Association, in an attempt to keep her case alive in the public eye. Among other allegations, she said that Turkish intelligence agents bugged the apartment of a female member of Congress and then blackmailed her, threatening to expose her extra-marital affair. Read more of this post

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