Embassy cables show US spied on UK Foreign Office

Ivan Lewis

Ivan Lewis

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The latest release of US embassy cables from whistleblower website WikiLeaks shows that the US Department of State ordered its diplomats to actively report on the personal lives of British Foreign Office officials. On several instances, American diplomats in London appear to have reported on the personal life of Ivan Lewis, a Labour Party politician who served as Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs during the closing days of Gordon Brown’s government. It seems that the reports on Lewis were compiled at the request of the State Department in Washington, which issued calls for specific background information on Lewis’ personal life. In response to the request, a memorandum was sent from the US embassy in London on August 12, 2009, suggesting that Lewis was “possibly prone to depression” and that he was described by one of his colleagues as “a bully”. The cable also indicated that Lewis had apologized “in 2007 to a female in his office who accused him of sexual harassment”, and suggested that the incident had been purposely leaked to the British media by Downing Street a few months later, after Lewis publicly joined the internal Labour Party revolt against Brown. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #470

  • Blackwater still working for US despite denials. Reports that Blackwater is out of the US government’s private-security game appear to have been greatly exaggerated. A consigliore to the company’s new owners has said the firm still holds security contracts with the US State Department, and intends to seek more.
  • CIA gets spooky with new radio commercials. The CIA’s National Clandestine Service is continuing its recruitment drive with new radio commercials, complete with a spooky soundtrack of sawing violins and rising timpani –and something about “no one will ever know what you do”.
  • Iranian shah’s son found dead in Boston. Alireza Pahlavi, the youngest son of the late shah of Iran, has been found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Boston’s South End. In June 2001, Alireza’s sister Leila was found dead in a London hotel room from an overdose of barbiturates. The late siblings’ father was overthrown in the 1979 Islamic revolution. He died in Egypt in 1980.

US denies Ivory Coast coup claim

Emile Guirieoulou

Emile Guirieoulou

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The United States has emphatically rejected assertions by officials in the Ivory Coast that it is plotting to overthrow the government of the West African country. For weeks now, Washington has been echoing calls by the United Nations, the African Union and the European Union for Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo to stand down, after losing in the November 28 national elections. But Gbagbo’s government, which controls most of the military, rejects the alleged election victory of his political rival Alassane Ouattara, and refuses to hand over power. On December 29, the Ivory Coast’s Minister of the Interior, Emile Guirieoulou, told a press conference that the United States had dispatched at least ten German “mercenaries” to its embassy in Abidjan, as part of a multinational Western plot to overthrow Laurent Gbagbo. He told journalists that the German mercenaries were onboard a US-operated flight from Algiers to Bouake, Ivory Coast’s second-largest city. Read more of this post

Scandinavians launch probes into US spying activities

Scandinavia

Scandinavia

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Norway, Sweden and Denmark have launched official investigations into media reports that accuse US embassies in Scandinavian countries of operating illegal intelligence gathering networks. The issue first emerged last Wednesday, when a report by Norway’s TV2 channel alleged that the US embassy in Oslo maintained a network of around 20 local former police and intelligence officers, who were conducting “illegal systematic surveillance of Norwegian citizens”. According to TV2, the surveillance network was tasked with collecting visual and physical intelligence on individuals “thought to pose a threat to American interests”. The US Department of State responded to the allegations by arguing that the US embassy had “fully informed” the Norwegian authorities of the surveillance activities. But Norwegian investigations expressed fears that the intelligence collection, which dates back to 2000, may constitute a violation of Norwegian diplomatic legislation, and have launched an investigation into the affair. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #446

  • American pleads guilty to spying for China. Glenn D. Shriver acknowledged on Friday that he accepted $70,000 from Chinese spies as he attempted to secure jobs with the CIA and US Foreign Service that would have allowed him to expose US government secrets. He apparently spent two years going through the CIA hiring process and reached the final security screenings. But US intelligence sources say Shriver was discovered very early in the hiring process.
  • Obama widens CIA operations in Pakistan. The US is pushing to expand secret CIA operations in Pakistan. But Islamabad is so far rebuffing US requests to allow additional CIA officers and special operations military trainers to enter the country.
  • US spy balloons blew towards Iran. The latest WikiLeaks revelations show that on two occasions in 2006 American JLens spy balloons broke from their moorings in Iraq and drifted toward the Iranian airspace. No information on the balloons’ fate is reported in the war logs. Did Iran get hold of them?

Iran factory blast coincides with reported bomb attack on Ahmadinejad

Ahmadinejad

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Official Iranian denials of an alleged bomb attack on the life of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday have been followed by reports of a simultaneous attack on a state-of-the-art Iranian petrochemicals complex. Specifically, on August 4, Reuters news agency cited an Iranian “presidential office source” in reporting a strong blast “500 meters from Ahmadinejad’s motorcade”. The blast, which Reuters attributed to either a hand grenade or a homemade explosive device, occurred as the Iranian President was being transported from the regional airport of Hamadan, in western Iran, to the city’s sports complex, where he was scheduled to deliver a speech. Reuters’ unnamed source said the President escaped unhurt, but subsequent reports indicated that several other passengers on the motorcade were injured. Interestingly, President Ahmadinejad’s office initially appeared to confirm the assassination attempt, but soon afterwards official state news agency IRNA attributed the blast on “an excited young man from Hamadan [who] exploded a firecracker in order to express his happiness”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #408

  • Russian military spy supervised Czech prisons. Robert Rakhardzho, a Russian spy whose relationship with a Czech female Army major prompted the resignation of three senior Czech military officials, worked as a psychologist at the Czech Prison Service headquarters until last September. Rakhardzho is now hiding in Russia.
  • US undercover feds able to easily obtain fraudulent passports. Gregory Kutz, an investigator for the US Government Accountability Office, testified last week to a Senate panel about how his team of undercover Federal agents was able to get the State Department to issue five of the seven e-Passports it requested using fraudulent information. The government apparently failed to detect such basic red flags as a fake driver’s license.
  • Russia widens powers of KGB successor agency. Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has signed a law widening (again) the powers of the Federal Security Service, the KGB’s main successor agency. The new law allows the FSB to issue warnings to people suspected of preparing to commit “crimes against Russia’s security”. Perpetrators face fines or up to 15 days detention.

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Documents detail history of previously unknown US spy agency

John V. Grombach

J.V. Grombach

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A collection of tens of thousands of documents discovered in a barn in a small Virginia town, have brought to light the history and operations of a previously unknown US spy agency that competed for prominence with the CIA during the early stages of the Cold War. The secrecy-obsessed agency was known at various times as the Secret Intelligence Branch, the Special Service Branch, the Special Service Section, or the Coverage and Indoctrination Branch; but insiders referred to it simply as “the Lake” or “the Pond”. It was created in late 1942 by the then newly established US Department of Defense, whose officials did not approve of the civilian character of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), forerunner of the CIA. In its 13-year existence, the Pond operated on a semi-autonomous base under the Departments of Defense and State, but maintained a poor relationship with the CIA, which it considered too “integrated with British and French Intelligence and infiltrated by Communists and Russians”. This information is contained in the files, which were stored in several safes and filing cabinets by the organization’s secretive leader, US Army Colonel John V. Grombach, who died in 1982. Read more of this post

US agencies still lack basic language skills, says new report

GAO report

GAO report

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A major US government audit into the performance of national security departments and agencies has once again criticized the substantial absence of skilled foreign-language speakers. According to the Government Accountability Office’s latest assessment (.pdf) of the US Department of Defense and the Department of State, not only has the availability of foreign language fluency not improved, but has actually deteriorated during the past few years. The situation is especially desperate in the State Department, says the report, where the percentage of “generalists and specialists in language-designated positions” who fail to meet essential language criteria increased from 29 percent in 2005 to 31 percent last year. Read more of this post

US Army intel analyst arrested over Wikileaks probe

Bradley Manning

Bradley Manning

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Speaking last Thursday at the annual Personal Democracy Conference in New York, Daniel Ellsberg said he was amazed that the US National Security Agency “can’t crack” Wikileaks. The former Pentagon employee, who in 1971 leaked the Pentagon Papers, was referring to the activist website that anonymously publishes secret governmental and corporate documents from around the world. But Ellsberg may have been talking too soon. On Sunday, Wired magazine’s Threat Level blog revealed that a US Army intelligence analyst had been detained for allegedly giving Wikileaks secret video footage and “hundreds of thousands of classified State Department records”. Specialist Bradley Manning, 22, was reportedly detained two weeks ago by the US Army’s Criminal Investigation Division while stationed in Forward Operating Base Hammer, near Baghdad, Iraq. Read more of this post

Israel abducts American survivor of USS Liberty bombing onboard Gaza flotilla

USS Liberty

USS Liberty

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Among nine US citizens abducted in international waters by Israeli troops on Monday was a survivor of the attack on the USS Liberty, an American intelligence ship that was napalm-bombed by the Israeli Air Force in 1967. US Navy veteran Joe Miduras, of Corpus Christi, Texas, was among the nearly 700 civilians from 40 different countries, who were illegally abducted by the Israeli Defense Forces following a bloody raid on the Gaza  Freedom Flotilla on May 31. The 67-year old veteran was a soldier onboard the Liberty, an unarmed US National Security Agency communications surveillance vessel, when it was napalm-bombed in international waters by Israeli jets during the fourth day of the 1967 Six-Day War. Although the ship did not sink, Israeli jets machine-gunned the Liberty lifeboats carrying American servicemen, ultimately killing 34 and seriously injuring over 150 US crew members. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #364 (Gaza flotilla edition I)

  • Israel abducts nine American citizens on Gaza flotilla. As many as nine Americans may have been aboard the Gaza relief flotilla attacked in international waters by the Israeli Navy, and are now being held by Israeli authorities, a US State Department official has said. It is said that among them is former US Ambassador Edward Peck. The White House has so far refrained from issuing a statement on the abducted US citizens.
  • US blocks Security Council criticism of Israeli raid. Israel faced heavy criticism in an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council on Monday, in response to its deadly attack on the aid flotilla trying to breach the Gaza blockade, but attempts to issue a formal statement stalled after the United States rejected the strong condemnation.
  • Australian citizen shot in Israeli raid. Bilateral relations between Israel and Australia, which are already at a low point, are set to worsen after an Australian citizen was shot during the deadly attack by the Israeli Defense Forces on the Gaza relief flotilla on Monday. Australia recently expelled

the Israeli Mossad representative in Canberra, after confirming that the Israeli spy agency had illegally forged at least four Australian passports.

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Analysis: Experts question legality of CIA drone strikes

Predator drone

Predator drone

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A number of prominent American legal scholars have voiced concerns about the legality of the targeted killings by the CIA of suspected Taliban leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Speaking last week before the National Security and Foreign Affairs subcommittee of the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, some of the experts warned that the killings may constitute war crimes. Among them was Loyola Law School Professor David Glazier, who reminded subcommittee members that the CIA remotely navigated drone pilots are not legally considered combatants, and thus employing them to carry out armed attacks “fall[s] outside the scope of permissible conduct”. He also warned that “under the legal theories adopted by our government in prosecuting Guantánamo detainees, these CIA officers as well as any higher-level government officials who have authorized or directed their attacks are committing war crimes”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #318

  • US State Dept. lawyer defends CIA drone attacks. State Department legal adviser Harold Koh has told a conference that “the considered view of this administration” is that the controversial CIA-operated drone attacks inside Pakistan “comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war”.
  • How the CIA let Anwar al-Aulaqi escape to Yemen. Last year, the Yemeni government asked the CIA to help collect intelligence on US-born al-Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Aulaqi. But the CIA refused, and so did US Special Forces officials, who had been asked by the Yemenis to help them pursue Aulaqi. Just months later, US Army Major Malik Nidal Hasan, who was in contact with al-Aulaqi, killed 13 US soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas.
  • More on alleged Israeli spy caught in Algeria. Algerian authorities insist that a man (identified only as “Alberto”), who was captured after entering Algeria using a forged Spanish passport, is a Mossad agent. There are also rumors that the US embassy in Algiers has been involved in the case, and that it was for this reason that FBI deputy director John Pistole traveled to Algeria last week.

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News you may have missed #304

  • Interesting history of former German embassy building in DC. When the State Department took the building over in 1945, officials found $3 million in American currency that was reportedly designated for espionage payments.
  • Number of Dubai killing suspects at 27. Another person has been added to the list of suspects in the January killing of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, bringing the number of identified suspects to 27. Some say the number will exceed 30 before too long.
  • Robert Baer on Dubai assassination. Stepped-up surveillance technology may be tipping the scales in the cat-and-mouse game between spies and their targets. Former CIA operative Robert Baer on the Mossad’s recent Dubai hit and the current state of spycraft.

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