US fired Moscow embassy employee who may have spied for Russia

US embassy in RussiaA female Russian national who worked for the United States Secret Service in Moscow was quietly dismissed in 2017, amidst concerns that she was spying for Russia. British newspaper The Guardian, which broke the story last week, did not name the Russian woman. But it said that she had worked at the US Embassy in Moscow “for more than a decade”, most recently for the Secret Service –a federal law enforcement agency that operates within the Department of Homeland Security. The Secret Service has several missions, the most important of which is to ensure the physical safety of America’s senior political leadership.

Throughout her Secret Service career, the Russian woman is thought to have had access to the agency’s email system and intranet network, said The Guardian, citing “an intelligence source”. She could also potentially have had access to “highly confidential material”, said the paper, including the daily schedules of America’s past and current presidents and vice presidents, as well as their family members’ schedules.

The unnamed Russian national first came under suspicion in 2016, said The Guardian, during a routine security review conducted by two counterintelligence staff members at one of the Department of State’s Regional Security Offices (RSO). These reviews usually take place every five years and scan the background and activities of employees at American embassies abroad. The review showed that the unnamed Russian national was holding regular meetings with officers of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia’s domestic intelligence service. In January of 2017, the Department of State reportedly shared its findings with the Secret Service. But the latter waited until several months later to fire the Russian woman, having decided to do so quietly, said The Guardian.

According to the paper, instead of launching a major investigation into the State Department’s findings, the Secret Service simply dismissed the woman by revoking her security clearance. The paper said that the Russian national’s dismissal took place shortly before the US embassy in Moscow was forced to remove or fire over 750 employees as part of Russia’s retaliation against economic sanctions imposed on it by Washington. That coincidence helped the Secret Service “contain any potential embarrassment” arising from claims of espionage, said The Guardian. The paper contacted the Secret Service and was told that “all Foreign Service nationals” working for the agency “are managed accordingly to ensure that […US] government interests are protected at all times”. Their duties, therefore, are “limited to translation, interpretation, cultural guidance, liaison and administrative support. This is of particular emphasis in Russia”, said a Secret Service spokesman, who refused to discuss specific cases.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 07 August 2018 | Research credit: S.F. | Permalink

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IRA source in high-profile counterfeit money case claims his life is in danger

SupernoteA former senior member of the Official Irish Republican Army in the United Kingdom claims that he was abandoned by British and American spy agencies after he testified in a high-profile counterfeiting case. The case involves members of the Official IRA, including its alleged former chief of staff, who is wanted in the United States in connection with the so-called supernote counterfeit money investigation. The supernote, also known as superdollar or superbill, is a fake 100-dollar bill believed to be one of the highest-quality counterfeit banknotes ever detected. The US government believes that a nation-state is behind the production of the supernote, with North Korea being the primary suspect.

In 2000, in cooperation with the US Secret Service, British intelligence conducted a large-scale undercover operation codenamed MALI. According to the BBC’s investigative news program Panorama, the operation focused on Seán Garland, the former chief of staff of the Official IRA and former president of its political wing, the Workers’ Party of Ireland. The Official IRA and the Provisional IRA were the two main splinter groups of the “old” IRA, which parted ways in 1969 due to ideological and tactical differences. In 1972, the Official IRA declared a unilateral ceasefire and eventually morphed in to a leftwing political party calling itself the Workers’ Party of Ireland. Operation MALI allegedly found that the Workers’ Party former president, Seán Garland, traveled to Russia and visited the embassy of North Korea in Moscow. He is said to have picked up a package containing supernotes, which he then secretly smuggled into Ireland and from there to England, in exchange for money. Garland was arrested in 2005 in Belfast, UK, but managed to flee to Ireland when he was released on medical leave. He was arrested again in 2009 and released on bail. In 2011, his extradition request to the US was rejected by an Irish court on a technicality, but he remains wanted by Washington. Ireland is also considering whether there are legal grounds to prosecute Garland in Dublin. He and his supporters deny the charges against him and claim that they are politically motivated.

Last week, however, the man believed to be behind the tip-off that led to Garland’s arrest, said his life was in danger. The man, who uses the pseudonym “Michael O’Brien”, was a member of the Official IRA in the 1970s. But he says that after 1996 he worked as an undercover informant for Britain’s Security Service (MI5) and the Anti-Terrorist Branch of the British Police. He claims that it was he who first alerted British authorities about the involvement of members of the Workers’ Party of Ireland in the distribution of supernotes from Russia to Europe. He is also believed to have testified behind closed doors at a US court hearing involving Garland and other alleged conspirators in the counterfeit money case. However, O’Brien told The Sunday Times last week that his cover was blown in January of this year. Since then, he has allegedly been the subject of death threats and had to abandon his home in Belfast as a result. He also claims that the US Secret Service and British police have failed to provide him with protection. O’Brien told The Times that he chose to speak to the media in order to protect himself from possible assassination by Irish republicans.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 04 July 2016 | Permalink

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