News you may have missed #369

  • UN official criticizes US over drone attacks. The use of targeted killings by the CIA, with weapons like drone aircraft, poses a growing challenge to the international rule of law, according to Philip Alston, United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings.
  • Russian spies less active during Obama administration. The Czech Republic’s Military Intelligence Service said in its annual report on Tuesday that Russian agents have reduced their activities in the country since US President Barack Obama abandoned Bush-era plans for missile defense systems in Eastern Europe.
  • Analysis: A look back at US intelligence reform. The 2004 US Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act was supposed to “address institutional obstacles that had complicated the intelligence community’s struggle to adapt to new technologies and a changing national security environment”. But five years later, many of those original obstacles remain in place.

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News you may have missed #0125

  • US officials deny deal with Russia on missile shield. Officials from the US Department of Defense have denied persistent rumors that Washington’s decision to scrap the controversial missile defense shield was part of a secret deal with Moscow. They also continue to insist that “[t]his is not about Russia. It never has been about Russia”, according to US defense undersecretary Michele Flournoy.
  • US DHS is hiring cyber experts. The Obama Administration has approved a request by the US Department of Homeland Security to hire of up to 1,000 cyber experts over the next three years. The recruits will include “cyber analysts, developers and engineers”. One hopes the move will also patch the countless holes in the Department’s cyber defense posture, which were revealed last month in an internal report, to little media attention.
  • MI6 is also hiring. Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service –also known as MI6– is hiring and has uploaded a snap test (called “selection tool”) on its website to test whether those interested have what it takes to be a spy. The test, which evaluates how well potential candidates can lie, is located here.

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News you may have missed #0123

  • Get ready for body cavity airport searches! Security officials are concerned over a tactic newly employed by al Qaeda, whereby suicide bombers store explosives inside their bodies to avoid detection.
  • Did the US do a deal with Russia on Iran? Two weeks ago, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev hinted that Russia could back tougher sanctions against Iran’s nuclear energy program. Does this signify a deal with Washington, namely US scrapping its missile shield program if Moscow would back efforts to impose tougher sanctions against Iran?
  • Lebanese mayor accused of spying for Israel. Lebanese authorities say Ziad Homsi, mayor of the city of Saadnayel, was recruited by Israeli intelligence in Beijing, China. Lebanon’s immense counterintelligence operation is widening by the hour.

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News you may have missed #0113

  • US intelligence caused change in missile shield plans, says Gates. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the Obama administration’s decision to abandon the previous administration’s plans for a land-based missile defense system in Eastern Europe came about because of a change of the alleged threat posed by Iran in US intelligence reports. But he also said that the Bush administration plans will not be scrapped. The land-based missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic will be replaced by missile interceptors aboard US naval ships.
  • Canada preparing big balloon (?) to spy on Taliban. The Canadian armed forces are testing a large white balloon equipped with an on-board spy camera, which will be used in Afghanistan to detect improvised explosive devices. Depending on the exact camera used, the system could have a surveillance range of five to twenty kilometers.
  • Portugal’s secret services deny spying on president. Portugal’s SIS secret service agency was forced to issue a rare public statement last week, denying having spied on the country’s president, Anibal Cavaco Silva, of the Social Democratic Party, just 10 days before a closely-fought parliamentary election. Silva is Portugal’s first right-wing head of state since the end of the dictatorship in April 1974.

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News you may have missed #0110

  • So, was it pirates or Israeli spies that intercepted a ship carrying Russian missiles? Several observers are beginning to think that Israeli intelligence intercepted or was otherwise involved in the interception of the Arctic Sea, a Russian ship that reportedly carried Russian missiles destined for either Iran or Hezbollah.
  • Trial of accused Palestinian spy begins in Israel. Rawi Sultani is accused of having informed Hezbollah of his membership in the same fitness club as the head of Israel’s military forces, Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi, in the town of Kfar Saba, as well methods of access into the club. Sultani says that the whole case is nonsense and that he doesn’t even know what Ashkenazi looks like.
  • Czech spies see Russians behind antiwar group’s actions. The Czech Security Information Service (BIS) is monitoring a billboard agency, which has given free advertising space to an antiwar group opposing the country’s participation in US missile defense shield plans. The US announced on Thursday that it plans to abandon the plans. Newspaper Aktuálně reported that BIS suspects Russian involvement. People in the Czech Republic are incapable of opposing US missile shield plans without Russian prompting, it appears.

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News you may have missed #0085

  • How the ACLU got the CIA agents’ photos. As intelNews reported earlier this week, the ACLU has been trying to identify CIA agents who participated in torture of detainees, by taking surreptitious pictures outside the operatives’ homes. It is worth noting that uncovering the identities of CIA officers is legal, so long as it is based on publicly available records.
  • Russian espionage case is bigger than initially thought, say Czech officials. Intelligence authorities in the Czech Republic say the two Russian agents who were recently expelled from the country last week were not primarily interested in the US missile defense shield.
  • US spy community builds Wikipedia-style database. Intellipedia, the intelligence community’s version of Wikipedia has grown markedly since its formal launch in 2006. It now averages more than 15,000 edits per day and is home to 900,000 pages and 100,000 user accounts.

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Czechs, Russians expel diplomats in escalating spy row

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The Russian Foreign Ministry ordered two Czech diplomats out of Russia on Tuesday, one day after the Czech Republic expelled two members of staff of the Russian embassy in Prague. On August 17, Czech websites reported the expulsion of Russia’s deputy military attaché in Prague, and another Russian embassy official, who was told not to return to the Czech Republic from his vacation. The move came after the Czech Military Intelligence Service (VZ) allegedly verified that the two diplomats are paid employees of the Russian secret services. According to one report, VZ was able to establish that the two Russian embassy officials “tried to develop close ties with people from the Czech Defense Ministry and [had] shown a particular interest in the planned construction of a US radar base on Czech soil”, a reference to Washington’s missile defense shield plans for Eastern Europe. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0039

  • Russians suspect sabotage behind ICBM test failure. The FSB is investigating the reasons behind the test failure earlier this month of a Russian Navy Bulava-30 (SS-NX-30) sea-based intercontinental ballistic missile, which disintegrated 28 seconds after launch. The Russian Navy developed the ICBM specifically to avoid future US ballistic missile defenses.
  • CIA kept bin Laden son’s death secret for months. US officials think that Saad bin Laden was killed in a Predator drone strike earlier this year in Pakistan, but CIA has tried to keep the news secret, allegedly in an attempt to confuse al-Qaeda. You may recall that some time ago intelNews reported that some in US intelligence believed Saad had been given government protection in Iran.
  • US DNI sees signs of North Korean succession. The Open Source Center of the US Directorate of National Intelligence adds its voice to widespread speculation that Kim Jong il may be preparing to hand power to his third son, Kim Jong Un.

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NATO spy convicted by Estonian court

Herman Simm

Herman Simm

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Herman Simm, the Estonian spy who handed classified NATO material to Russia, has been convicted to 12.5 years’ imprisonment and ordered to pay $1.6 million for damages he caused while spying for the Russians. Simm, a high-level official at the Estonian defense ministry, who once headed the country’s National Security Authority, was arrested last November along with his wife and charged with spying for Russia for over 10 years. At the time of his arrest, Simm’s spying activities were described by Western counterintelligence officials as perhaps “the most serious case of espionage against NATO since the end of the Cold War”. Read more of this post

Estonian sleeper agent may have been double spy, say Germans

Herman Simm

Herman Simm

Last month, Estonian counterintelligence agents arrested Herman Simm, a high-level official at the Estonian defense ministry, on charges that he spied on behalf of Russian intelligence for nearly 30 years. At the time, Western counterintelligence officials said Simm, who was in charge of handling all of Estonia’s “classified and top secret material on NATO”, was at the center of “the most serious case of espionage against NATO since the end of the Cold War”. But the complexity of this espionage affair has now increased, with German weekly magazine Der Spiegel reporting that Simm was also a paid informant of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence service. Read more of this post

Russian Sleeper Agent Caught Spying on NATO

For the past year many in the know have been suspecting that the sophisticated Russian diplomatic maneuvers on the US missile defense shield are built on inside information on the project. Now a number of reports have emerged in the British press, pointing to a busting of what is probably an extensive network of Russian-handled spies in Estonia. Herman Simm, a high-level official at the Estonian defense ministry, has been arrested along with his wife on charges that he spied on behalf of Russian intelligence for over 10 years. Estonian and Western counterintelligence are still after his handler, who is known as “the Spaniard” because of his cover as a Spanish entrepreneur. Simm, who is described as a “sleeper” agent, was probably at the center of what can be said to be “the most serious case of espionage against NATO since the end of the Cold War”. This is not only because he was “responsible for handling all his country’s classified and top secret material on NATO”, but also because he was in charge of Estonia’s relatively advanced national cyber defense systems, as well as “for many years in charge of issuing security clearance[s]”. Perhaps more importantly, he is said to have been privy to crucial NATO information pertaining to the US missile shield project. No wonder an anonymous German official has described this latest Russian penetration of NATO as a “catastrophe”. This is not the first spy story to emerge out of Estonia since the end of the Cold War. Insiders will remember a story from ten years ago of a high-ranking Estonian police officer who defected to Britain on the run from FSB agents who were blackmailing him for recruitment purposes. [IA]

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