News you may have missed #443

  • First budget cuts in a decade for UK spy agencies. Spending on Britain’s intelligence agencies is set to fall by 7%, for the first time in more than a decade. This is be expected to force MI5, MI6 and GCHQ to cap staff numbers, merge some of their operations, and scrap plans to modernize some of their buildings. Looks like even more British spies will be moving to Australia.
  • South Koreans arrested for trying to defect to North. Three South Koreans, including a medical doctor, are being investigated after allegedly trying to defect to North Korea from China. It is extremely unusual for South Koreans or other nationals to attempt to defect to the North.
  • Plame calls Fair Game movie ‘accurate portrayal’. CIA agent Valerie Plame has said the movie Fair Game, based on her book, is a “really good, accurate portrayal of what we went through, both personally and in the political maelstrom that we live through”. The Bush administration was accused of blowing Plame’s cover as retaliation after her diplomat husband openly challenged the reasoning behind the Iraq War.

News you may have missed #351

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News you may have missed #0271 (analysis edition)

  • Analysis: The Women of the CIA. Former CIA agent Valerie Wilson says the recent massacre of CIA agents in Khost, Afghanistan, shows that it is “time to recognize that women play a vital role in ensuring our national security and that they are very much on the frontlines, taking all the same risks but recognized and credited much less than their male counterparts” at the CIA.
  • Analysis: Google and the democratization of espionage. Roland Dobbins, a solutions architect with the Asia Pacific division of Arbor Networks, explains why the recent Google-China hacking affair is a perfect example of how the botnet has enabled what he calls “the democratization of espionage”.

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Blackwater CEO admits he was CIA agent

Erik Prince

Erik Prince

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The founder and CEO of private security company Blackwater has revealed he worked as a CIA spy and carried out a number of secret missions before being fired by the Obama administration. Erik Prince, who heads Blackwater Worldwide, recently renamed Xe, gave a rare interview to Vanity Fair magazine, in which he revealed that his relationship with the CIA was not only that of an operations contractor, but also that of an asset, that is, a spy. Prince’s revelation will not surprise seasoned intelligence observers; as I commented last August, it had become increasingly difficult to distinguish any operational demarcations between the CIA and the company formerly known as Blackwater. However, the mercenary company’s leading role in controversial CIA plans to assassinate high-level foreign officials was seen as a step too far by the new CIA leadership of Leon Panetta. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0161

  • No new clues in released Cheney FBI interview. Early in October, a US federal judge ordered the FBI to release the transcript of an interview with former US vice-president Dick Cheney, conducted during an investigation into who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame. There were rumors that the classified transcript pointed to George W. Bush as the source of the incriminating leak. But the released interview transcript contains nothing of the kind.
  • Sir Hollis not a Soviet agent, says MI5 historian. “Sir Roger Hollis was not merely not a Soviet agent, he was one of the people who would least likely to have been a Soviet agent in the whole of MI5″, according to Professor Christopher Andrew, author of the recently published In Defense of the Realm. Dr. Andrew’s comments were in response to the book Spycatcher, by former MI5 officer Peter Wright, which alleges that Sir Hollis, former head of MI5, had been a KGB agent.
  • New report says nuclear expert’s death was not suicide. A new autopsy into the death of British nuclear scientist Timothy Hampton has concluded that “he did not die by his own hands”, as previously suggested. The post-mortem examiner said Hampton “was carried to the 17th floor from his workplace on the sixth floor” of a United Nations building in Vienna, Austria, “and thrown to his death”.

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FBI ordered to release Cheney records in Valerie Plame probe

Valerie Plame

Valerie Plame

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A US federal judge has ordered the FBI to release the transcript of an interview with former US vice-president Dick Cheney, conducted during an investigation into who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Plame sought compensation after she was publicly named as a secret CIA operative. Along with her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, she has fought a legal campaign, arguing that several Bush administration officials, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, and even President George W. Bush himself, were behind the leak of her CIA role. Cheney had a lengthy interview with prosecutors pursuing the leak case, but the transcripts of the exchange have so far remained secret on national security grounds. But US district Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said yesterday that there is no justification to withhold the entire interview since the FBI investigation has now concluded. Read more of this post

Obama administration opposes release of Cheney records in Valerie Plame case

Valerie Plame

Valerie Plame

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Obama administration officials are pressuring a US judge to stop the release of former US Vice President Dick Cheney’s records in the case of ex-CIA agent Valerie Plame. Plame sought compensation after she was publicly named as a secret CIA operative. Along with her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, she has fought a legal campaign, arguing that several Bush administration officials, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, and even President George W. Bush himself, were behind the leak of her CIA role. Cheney had a lengthy interview with prosecutors pursuing the leak case, but the transcripts of the exchange have so far remained secret, on national security grounds. Read more of this post

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.