ISIS now has the ability to issue official-looking Syrian passports

Syrian passportThe Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is now able to produce authentic-looking Syrian passports using machines that are typically available only to governments, according to an American intelligence report. The report was accessed by the New York-based station ABC News, which said it was issued by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the investigative wing of the United States Department of Homeland Security. According to ABC News, the 17-page report was issued in early December to law enforcement departments across the US. It warns that ISIS is most likely able to print government-quality travel documents using Syrian passport templates.

According HSI, the militant group was first able to access passport-issuing technology when it conquered Raqqa, the Syrian city that today serves as the capital of the so-called Islamic State. The city has a passport office with at least one passport-issuing machine, said the report. A few months later, ISIS came in possession of a second passport-issuing machine when it captured the eastern Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor. The HSI report states that the city’s passport office, which contained “boxes of blank passports” and at least one passport-printing machine, came into the hands of ISIS militants undamaged. Currently, the whereabouts of the Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor passport machines “remain fluid”, says the report, pointing out that both machines are believed to be portable.

The intelligence report goes on to state “with moderate confidence” that ISIS has issued authentic-looking Syrian passports to individuals, and that some of them may have traveled to Europe and the US. Further on, the report says that Syria is virtually awash with fake documents; it cites an unnamed source who says that high-quality fake Syrian passports can be purchased in the black market in Syria for less than $400, and that some government employees will backdate passport stamps in exchange for a fee. IntelNews readers will recall that two of the suicide bombers who attacked Paris in November were carrying fake Syrian passports.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 14 December 2015 | Permalink

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News you may have missed #889

Malcolm RifkindBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►US agency warns of domestic right-wing terror threat. A new intelligence assessment, circulated by the US Department of Homeland Security this month, focuses on the domestic terror threat from right-wing so-called “sovereign citizen” extremists and comes as the Obama administration holds a White House conference to focus efforts to fight violent extremism. Some federal and local law enforcement groups view the domestic terror threat from sovereign citizen groups as equal to —and in some cases greater than—the threat from foreign Islamic terror groups, such as ISIS, that garner more public attention.​
►►Chair of UK parliament’s spy watchdog resigns over corruption scandal. Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a British parliamentarian who chaired the Intelligence and Security Committee, has announced that he will stand down, after a video emerged showing him discussing with what he thought were representatives of a Chinese company, who asked him to help them buy influence in the British parliament. Rifkind offered to get them access to British officials in exchange for money. The people he was talking to, however, turned out to be journalists for The Daily Telegraph and Channel 4 News who recorded the conversations.
►►The case of the sleepy CIA spy. Although a federal judge ruled in favor of the CIA last week in a discrimination suit brought by an employee who claimed he was harassed out of his job because of his narcolepsy and race, the African-American man is back in court with another complaint. On December 4, “Jacob Abilt”, the pseudonym for the CIA technical operations officer who sued the CIA, filed a second, until now unreported suit, complaining that he was unjustly denied a temporary duty assignment to a war zone due to a combination of his race and narcolepsy.

Are militant groups interested in weaponizing Ebola?

Ebola suffererBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Does the Ebola epidemic present militant groups, such as the Islamic State or al-Qaeda, with the opportunity to weaponize viruses and direct them against Western targets? Earlier this month, United States Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson dismissed in strong terms the possibility that Ebola would be used by Islamic State militants to attack American targets. Speaking to the Association of the United States Army, Johnson acknowledged that the Islamic State is a “very, very dangerous terrorist organization”, but added that his Department had seen “no specific credible evidence that [the Islamic State] is attempting to use any sort of disease or virus to attack” the US. A few days earlier, however, Forbes magazine had quoted Al Shimkus, Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College, as saying that the Ebola outbreak presented Islamist groups with the opportunity to use a low-tech bioterrorist weapon “to attempt to wreak strategic global infection”. Shimkus added that a group like the Islamic State wouldn’t even have to weaponize the virus’ it could “simply use human carriers to intentionally infect themselves in West Africa, then disseminate the deadly virus via the world’s air transportation system”, he said. On Wednesday, a senior Spanish official told a parliamentary committee in Madrid that the government of Spain was “taking seriously” discussions in Internet forums linked to the Islamic State about using biological weapons against the West. Francisco Martínez, who is Spain’s State Secretary for Security, told the Committee of the Interior in the Spanish Congress that online commentators connected to the Islamic State have been discussing the possibility of using Ebola as a weapon against America and its Western allies. He told Committee members that the discussions had been taking place on Internet forums as recently as mid-September. He also cited “a series of tweets” from last July, in which another Islamist group, Ansar al-Islam, with roots in Iraqi Kurdistan, proposed using “deadly chemical products from laboratories” as means of launching attacks against the West. Martínez did not provide further details on the allegations.

Are Israeli arms merchants selling weapons to Iran?

F-4 aircraftBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A leaked report by American and Greek investigators suggests that an intercepted shipment of military hardware intended for Iran probably originated in Israel. Greek broadsheet Kathimerini said on Sunday it had in its possession a copy of the classified report, which describes the interception of a large shipment of spare parts for military use. The parts are believed to have been intended for use by the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF). The shipment allegedly contained spare parts for F-4 Phantom aircraft, which were originally built in the United States in the 1960s for use by the US Navy. The Islamic Republic still maintains a sizable fleet of F-4s, which Iran bought from the US in the 1970s, when the two countries were close allies. But a US-imposed embargo on Iran, which has been in effect since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, has prevented Tehran from easily acquiring spare parts for its aging fleet of F-4s. The Kathimerini report said that the intercepted shipment had been detected following a joint operation by the Greek Financial Crimes Squad and the US Department of Homeland Security. According to the paper, the secret operation began was underway in late 2012 and concluded in April of 2013. But the most shocking part of the report is that the illegal shipment appears to have originated from Binyamina-Giv’at Ada, a small Israeli town located 30 miles south of Haifa. Investigators said the illicit transfer had been facilitated via a Greek firm registered in the Athens district of Votanikos, called “Tassos Karras SA”, which appears to be a front company. Is it possible that Israeli arms merchants are supplying military spare parts to Iran? The Israeli government has refused comment on the case. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #689: NSA edition

Michael HaydenBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►Ex-NSA Director calls Stuxnet a ‘good idea’. General Michael Hayden, once head of the NSA and CIA, who was no longer in office when the Stuxnet attack on Iran occurred, but who would have been around when the computer virus was created, denies knowing who was behind it. He calls Stuxnet “a good idea”. But he also admits “this was a big idea, too. The rest of the world is looking at this and saying, ‘clearly, someone has legitimated this kind of activity as acceptable'”.
►►NSA develops secure Android phones. The US National Security Agency has developed and published details of an encrypted VoIP communications system using commercial off-the-shelf components and an Android operating system. A hundred US government employees participated in a pilot of Motorola hardware running hardened VoIP called ‘Project FISHBOWL’, NSA Information Assurance Directorate technical director Margaret Salter told the RSA Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. “The beauty of our strategy is that we looked at all of the components, and took stuff out of the operating system we didn’t need”, said Salter. “This makes the attack surface very small”.
►►Senior US Defense official says DHS should lead cybersecurity. In the midst of an ongoing turf battle over how big a role the National Security Agency should play in securing America’s critical infrastructure, Eric Rosenbach, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Cyber Policy in the Department of Defense, said on Wednesday that the NSA should take a backseat to the Department of Homeland Security in this regard. “Obviously, there are amazing resources at NSA, a lot of magic that goes on there”, he said. “But it’s almost certainly not the right approach for the United States of America to have a foreign intelligence focus on domestic networks, doing something that throughout history has been a domestic function”.

News you may have missed #670: Analysis edition

Michael ChertoffBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Some argue US DHS should change intelligence mission. A decade after Congress created the Department of Homeland Security, the Aspen Homeland Security Group, which is co-chaired by former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff (pictured), says it is time for the agency to shift its focus from foreign threats to working with local governments and the private sector. Aspen pushes for even more intelligence outsourcing —no surprises there.
►►Not-so-covert Iran war buys West time but raises tension. “Ten out of 10. They hit the target and nobody got caught”, former US intelligence officer Robert Ayers told Reuters of the January 11 killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan. “What makes these things so impressive is they gather a lot of information and do their ‘on the ground’ homework, which can take months”. Sidney Alford, a British explosives expert, says the hit was technically “professional. It worked and it worked very well”.
►►Inside Mossad’s war on Tehran. “In the five attacks on nuclear scientists, the hit squad has used a motorbike every time. The motorcyclist is ubiquitous in the capital’s traffic jams, often wearing a surgical mask for protection against the heavy pollution and able to move close to the target between the lines of stationary cars without attracting attention”.

News you may have missed #565 (United States edition)

DHS seal

DHS seal

►►Secret watch-list proposal causes US privacy groups protests. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is planning to duplicate the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database to expand an extensive database called Watchlist Service. The proposed database will include names, birthdays, photos and biometrics of targeted individuals. But the DHS has proposed to exempt the database from Privacy Act provisions, which means that a person can never know if they are on it.
►►US blacklists Syrian banks over WMD ties. The Obama administration unveiled punitive measures on Wednesday against two Syrian financial institutions for their alleged ties to nuclear proliferation in Syria and North Korea. The government-run Commercial Bank of Syria and a subsidiary, the Syrian-Lebanese Commercial Bank, are now prohibited from engaging in transactions with US individuals and from accessing any assets under US control. The US Department of the Treasury alleges that the banks have carried out transactions on behalf of the Scientific Studies and Research Center in Syria and the Tanchon Commercial Bank in North Korea, both of which the US blacklisted several years ago for supporting “WMD proliferation activities”.
►►FBI revises surveillance exam after cheating revelations. About a year ago, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed that hundreds of its agents were caught having cheated on an examination about new surveillance guidelines (known as Read more of this post