News you may have missed #0036

  • Hungary’s security head resigns in wake of spying scandal. Sandor Laborc has resigned as head of Hungary’s National Security Office (NBH) after NBH agents were caught spying on politicians.
  • Austria to try Kazakh spy for kidnap attempt. Austrian officials say they will put a suspected Kazakh spy, identified only “Ildar A.”, on trial for attempting to kidnap from Austria former Kazakh National Security Committee (KNB) chief Alnur Musaev last September. See previous intelNews reporting on the ongoing Austrian-Kazakh intelligence imbroglio.
  • Obama’s unwilling cyber czars. Barack Obama is expected to soon appoint a national cybersecurity adviser. But Andy Greenberg argues that the appointee’s name may not be as important as the names of those who have “politely declined” the role.

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News you may have missed #0018

  • Retired Romanian football star now admits being a spy. Earlier this week, Gheorghe Popescu, whose international career included playing for British teams, denied reports that he was an informer for Romania’s Securitate, the secret service of communist Romania. But on Thursday morning, the former Tottenham Hotspurs defender admitted that he did inform on teammates and other colleagues while playing for Universitatea Craiova. 
  • Grand jury hears from top CIA officers on destruction of tapes. A federal courtroom in Virginia has become the latest frontline in the Justice Department’s effort to uncover who at the CIA ordered in November of 2005 the incineration of 92 videotapes containing footage of torture applied on several “war on terrorism” detainees. Apparently, the tapes were kept for a long time in a safe at the CIA station in Thailand, where the interrogations took place. 
  • NSA to help defend civilian agency networks. The Obama administration is said to have decided to proceed with a Bush-era plan to use National Security Agency assistance in screening government computer traffic on private-sector networks. The decision, which had been rumored since last spring, was one of the reasons behind the March 2009 resignation of Rod Beckstrom, who headed the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cyber Security Center.

News you may have missed #0008

  • Moderate Virginia Republican is Obama’s leading cybersecurity czar. Time magazine identifies Tom Davis as a leading candidate for the newly created position, citing “sources familiar with the White House’s deliberations on the subject”. Davis served in the House of Representatives for seven terms before retiring last fall. But Ryan Singel, of Wired, points out that Davis is “no friend of privacy”. While in the House of Representatives, “Davis voted repeatedly to expand the government’s internet wiretapping powers, and helped author the now-troubled national identification law known as REAL ID”, reminds Singel.
  • New Zealand spooks spied on high school students. Last February, intelNews reported on revelations that the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) has been keeping a file on an elected Green Party parliament Member, Keith Locke, since he was 11 years old. New information shows that NZSIS has been monitoring two other Green parliamentarians, Sue Bradford and Catherine Delahunty, since they were in high school. Moreover, their files remained active until 1999 and 2002, respectively. 
  • US Supreme Court refuses Plame CIA case. The Court declined to take up the case of Valerie Plame, a former CIA agent, who sought compensation after she was publicly revealed to be a secret operative. Plame and her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, wanted to sue several Bush administration officials, including former vice president Dick Cheney, over the 2003 revelation. 
  • US Homeland Security said to kill domestic spy satellite plan. A senior Homeland Security official has said that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has decided to kill a controversial Bush administration plan to use satellites for domestic surveillance in the US. The plan first surfaced in 2007, but it has been delayed due to concerns by privacy and civil liberties advocates that it would intrude on the lives of Americans. 
  • US National Security Advisor to visit India. Jim Jones will visit New Delhi at the request of President Obama, in order “to further deepen and strengthen our key bilateral partnership with India” says the White House. He will also be visiting Pakistan and Afghanistan. 
  • Researcher unearths declassified documents on NSA’s history. The documents, obtained by Matthew M. Aid for his new book, The Secret Sentry, confirm that prior to the launch of the first spy satellites into orbit by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in the early 1960s, the Signals Intelligence collected by the National Security Agency and its predecessor organizations was virtually the only viable means of gathering intelligence information about what was going on inside the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, North Vietnam, and other communist nations.  However, the NSA and its foreign partners could collect bits and pieces of huge numbers of low-level, unencoded, plaintext messages.

Comment: Post-9/11 Intelligence Turf Wars Continue

Rod Beckstrom

Rod Beckstrom

By IAN ALLEN* | intelNews.org |
The stern assurances given to Americans after 9/11, that destructive turf wars between US intelligence agencies would stop, appear to be evaporating. Earlier this week, Rod Beckstrom, who headed the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) at the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), announced his resignation amidst a bitter row between the DHS and the National Security Agency (NSA) over the oversight of American cybersecurity. In a letter (.pdf) addressed to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, and carbon-copied to nearly every senior US intelligence and defense official, Beckstrom blasted the lack of “appropriate support [for NCSC] during the last administration”, as well as having to wrestle with “various roadblocks engineered within [DHS] by the Office of Management and Budget”. Most of all, Beckstrom, an industry entrepreneur who remained in his NCSC post for less than a year, accused the NSA of subverting NCSC’s cybersecurity role by trying to “subjugate” and “control” NCSC. 

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