US spy agency to help human rights groups monitor North Korea

NGAThe National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), one of America’s most secretive spy organizations, will work with a number of human-rights groups to monitor human rights in North Korea, according to a senior NGA official. Formed in 1996 as the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, the NGA operates under the supervision of the US Department of Defense. It is tasked with supporting US national security by collecting, analyzing and distributing geospatial intelligence. It also performs a combat-support mission for the Pentagon. The agency collects most of its data from satellites, surveillance aircraft and unmanned surveillance drones. Headquartered in a vast 2.3 million square foot building in Washington, the NGA is known for its secretive nature and rarely makes headlines.

Recently, however, NGA data expert Chris Rasmussen told Foreign Policy that the agency is finalizing an innovative agreement to work with human rights groups on North Korea. Rasmussen, a longtime military analyst, said that the NGA would provide the groups with access to raw imagery collected through airborne reconnaissance, and would share with them analyses by its experts. The groups would also be able to use a digital imagery application developed by NGA for use by its analysts. The human rights groups specialize on human rights in North Korea and have in the past used commercial satellite imagery data to help locate mass execution sites and mass graves in the secretive Asian country. They have also been able to locate concentration camps and have evaluated the impact of natural disasters in North Korea. Now the NGA will share its intelligence collection arsenal with these groups, in an attempt to shed further light on the state of human rights in North Korea.

Rasmussen said he could not yet reveal the names of the human rights groups that the NGA is preparing to work with, nor give details about the precise topics that the collaboration would focus on, because the official agreements are still being formalized. However, he said that no US intelligence agency had ever worked so closely with human rights organizations. “This kind of collaboration has never been done before with an intelligence agency”, said Rasmussen. He added that the NGA is hoping to use this collaboration as an incubator to “expand to other areas” with human rights groups and think tanks.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 05 March 2018 | Permalink


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Aviv KochaviBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►Australian spy agency in rent dispute. The Australian government insists there is no dispute over the lease of the new, state-of-the-art headquarters of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, which cost nearly A$589 to build. But according to a number of government sources, the property has become the subject of a standoff between the ASIO and Australia’s Department of Finance and Deregulation. The Canberra Times reports that the Finance Department has told ASIO it will have to hand over more money than anticipated because of a blowout to building costs and timing. But the ASIO is refusing to pay more than initially agreed.
►►US unveils spy model of bin Laden compound. The United States intelligence community has unveiled a scale model of the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden spent the last few years of his life in hiding. The model was built by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGIA) and used by military and intelligence leaders to plan the daring night raid on May 2, 2011, that killed the al Qaeda founder. Its scale is an exact 1:84; every tree, bush, wall, animal pen, trash can and physical structure in the model existed at one time at the original compound in Abbottabad.
►►Israel military intelligence head in secret US visit. Israeli military intelligence chief Aviv Kochavi made a “secret visit” to Washington earlier this month to discuss the upcoming talks between world powers and Iran. An Israeli security official confirmed the visit, which was reported in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, but could not provide further details. Meanwhile, three senior IDF intelligence officers resigned recently, following what they called “questionable” appointments to key positions. The three colonels held some of the most senior and classified positions in the Israeli military intelligence community.

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Betty SappBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►Lebanese national wanted for spying for Israel. A Lebanese military court has issued an arrest warrant for a Lebanese national suspected of spying for Israel. The judge in the case accused the suspect, whose name is yet to be released, of being in touch with Israel and passing on information about Ron Arad, an Israeli Air Force weapon systems officer who went missing in 1986.
►►Article sheds light on UK Home Office’s ex-spy official. An article in The Sunday London Times examines the role of Charles Farr, a former MI6 officer, who is considered as “the heart” of the British Home Office’s security policy. Farr, who joined MI6 some time in the 1980s, and served in South Africa and Jordan among other places, directs the Office’s Security and Counter-Terrorism unit. He is now in charge of the Home Office’s Communications Capabilities Development Programme, an attempt to augment online government surveillance. One former official, who had a showdown with Farr over policy, tells The Times: “He’s almost messianic. He’s like he’s on a mission to protect the nation. When you disagree with him he gets very emotional. He’s one of these guys who goes white and shakes when he loses his temper”.
►►First woman tapped to lead US spy satellite agency. For the first time in its storied history, the secretive builder and operator of America’s spy satellites, the National Reconnaissance Office, will be run by a woman. Betty Sapp, currently principal deputy director at the spysat agency, will move up one slot and replace NRO Director Bruce Carlson, who many credit with turning around the agency’s problem-plagued acquisition system. While Sapp is the first woman to lead the NRO, she is the second woman to lead one of the major intelligence agencies. Letitia “Tish” Long, director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, gets to claim the honor of first woman to break that glass ceiling.

Analysis: Cloud computing causes ‘cosmic shift’ in US spy community

Cloud computing

Cloud computing

While many are focusing on recent reports of arrests of CIA operatives in Lebanon and Iran, American intelligence planners have other things on their minds: the latest buzzword is ‘cloud’; specifically, ‘cloud computing’. The term means storing information and software on a network, which can then be shared on demand by users of interconnected electronic devices. The US intelligence community’s interest in this form of data organizing has been known for quite some time. But according to specialist publication Federal Computer Week, cloud computing is rapidly becoming a reality, as one after the other, US intelligence agencies are “moving their classified, sensitive information off their own servers and into the cloud”. Such a change “might have sounded crazy five years ago”, says FCW, and the fact that it is happening marks nothing less than a “cosmic shift” for American intelligence. The migration unto the cloud was spearheaded two years ago by the National Security Agency; the NSA was later joined by the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the super-secretive National Reconnaissance Office. Soon the CIA wanted in: in 2009, Jill Tummler Singer, the CIA’s deputy Chief Intelligence Officer, told ComputerWorld that the CIA was becoming one of the US government’s strongest advocates for cloud computing, even though “the term really didn’t hit our vocabulary until a year ago”. Not everyone is super-excited about the cloud. Last year, Brian Snow, the NSA’s former Technical Director, said at a conference that he didn’t trust cloud services, mostly because of the existence of countless unpatched software vulnerabilities. But the move is heavily supported by two of America’s most senior intelligence officials: Keith Alexander, commander of US Cyber Command and director of NSA —America’s largest intelligence agency— and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Read more of this post

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Shakil Afridi

Shakil Afridi

►►Ex-worker sues US spy agency for anti-Islamic bias. Mahmoud Hegab, a former employee of the super-secretive US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, says he lost his security clearance because his wife attended an Islamic school and worked for a Muslim charity, Alexandria-based Islamic Relief USA.
►►Russia says China still spies the old-fashioned way. Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), issued a rare statement last week, claiming it had arrested Tong Shengyong, a Chinese citizen who, posing as a translator for official delegations, was working under the direction of the Chinese government in an attempt to buy state secrets from Russians about Russia’s S-300 missile system. It now says that the Tong case shows that China continues to employ an old standby in the tradecraft playbook: outright bribery.
►►Pakistan panel says doctor who aided CIA should face charges. Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi, who ran a vaccination program for the CIA to help track down Osama bin Laden, should be put on trial for high treason, a Paksitani government commission said Thursday.

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  • Nokia and Siemens deny helping Iranian spying. Isa Saharkhiz, a one-time reporter for the Islamic Republic News Agency, is suing Nokia Siemens Networks in US federal court, claiming the companies facilitated his capture and torture at the hands of the Iranian government. The European-based consortium denies the allegations.
  • New Aussie spy agency HQ ‘on time and on budget’. The new ASIO $606 million  (USD $540 million) headquarters in Parkes, Canberra, is progressing on time and on budget, with completion scheduled for mid-2012. Meanwhile, the 270 construction workers on site have been vetted for security clearance, must pass security checkpoints each day, and have signed papers not to discuss anything that happens on site.
  • US Pentagon spends big on outsourced spy imagery. The production and maintenance of US spy satellites used to be in government hands, but now this critical aspect of national security is routinely outsourced. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the Department of Defense’s operator of military spy satellites, recently awarded $7.3 billion in contracts for its EnhancedView commercial imagery program.

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