US government wants to use secret witnesses in CIA leak trial

James Risen

James Risen

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Prosecutors in the case of an ex-CIA officer accused of disclosing classified information to a journalist have asked the court for permission to introduce evidence in secret and to use privacy screens to shield the identities of witnesses. Jeffrey Sterling, who worked for the CIA’s Iran Task Force,  faces 10 felony counts and up to 120 years in prison for sharing information about the CIA’s operations in Iran. Court documents do not name the recipient of Sterling’s information, but it is common knowledge that Sterling spoke to James Risen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for The New York Times. In chapter 9 of his 2006 book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, Risen details a botched operation by the Iran Task Force, which tried to pass to the Iranians a series of faulty nuclear bomb design documents. To do this, the CIA apparently recruited a Russian former nuclear scientist, who had defected to the United States. The unnamed scientist was told to travel to Vienna, Austria, in early 2000, and offer to sell the documents to the Iranians. But the documents contained a deliberate technical flaw, which, Risen alleges, the Russian CIA operative thought was so obvious that it could make him look untrustworthy in the eyes of the Iranians, thus endangering the entire mission. The Russian scientist ended up letting the Iranians know about the flaw, reveals Risen. He further alleges that the CIA operation may have actually helped the Iranian nuclear weapons program, as Iranian scientists would have been able to “extract valuable information from the blueprints while ignoring the flaws”. Read more of this post

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Russia, US, in largest spy swap since World War II

Igor Sutyagin

Igor Sutyagin

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The Russian and American governments have agreed to conduct one of history’s largest spy exchanges, as ten Russian agents captured in the US last month have been swapped for four Russian citizens imprisoned by Moscow for spying for the US and Britain. The ten Russians arrested by the FBI in June were non-official-cover (NOC) operatives, otherwise known as ‘illegals’, a term used to identify deep-cover intelligence operatives not associated with a country’s diplomatic representation. According to reports, they were all instructed by the SVR, Russia’s equivalent of MI6, which is responsible for all foreign intelligence operations abroad, to plead guilty to “acting as unregistered foreign agents” a charge not equivalent to espionage in either seriousness or repercussions. They were then legally forbidden from ever returning to the United States and summarily expelled. They were taken from the courtroom directly to the airport, where they boarded a plane to Vienna, Austria. In return, Russian government sources have confirmed that four Russian citizens, arrested in recent years for spying on behalf of the US or Britain, will be released from prison and delivered to US authorities. Read more of this post

Austrian probe finds Chechen president behind Vienna killing

Ramzan Kadyrov

Ramzan Kadyrov

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A report by Austrian government officials has found that the Moscow-appointed President of Chechnya ordered the 2009 assassination in Vienna of a Chechen dissident, who had been given political asylum by Austrian authorities. In 2009, Umar Israilov, who was once a bodyguard of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, alleged in Vienna and in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg that Kadyrov had “personally participated in the torture of detainees”. But on January 13, 2009, Israilov was shot dead by two men in broad daylight outside a grocery store located less than two miles from Vienna’s historic city center. Now the Vienna Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism has said in a detailed report that Israilov’s murder was a political assassination ordered personally by Chechen President Kadyrov, who is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Read more of this post

Author gets subpoenaed to reveal CIA sources

James Risen

James Risen

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The US government has issued a subpoena against a journalist who authored a book on the CIA’s operations during the years of the Bush administration. The move has surprised many, because the book in question, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, by New York Times journalist James Risen, has been out since 2006. The subpoena, which Risen received last Monday, requests him to testify before a grand jury about his confidential sources for chapter 9 of his book (pages 193-218), entitled “A Rogue Operation”, in which he describes in relative detail an attempt by the CIA to sabotage the Iranian nuclear weapons program. In the chapter, Risen writes of a thwarted CIA operation to pass to the Iranians a series of faulty nuclear bomb design documents. To do this, the Agency apparently recruited a Russian former nuclear scientist, who had defected to the United States. The unnamed scientist was told to travel to Vienna, Austria, in early 2000, and offer to sell the documents to the Iranians. Read more of this post

North Korean defector emerges in Austria after 15 years

Kim Jong Ryul

Kim Jong Ryul

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A defector, who was once a member of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s political protection team, has suddenly emerged in Austria, 15 years after faking his own death. Kim Jong Ryul is an East German-trained engineer who returned to North Korea in 1970 to work for Kim Il Sung, whose government tasked him with translating nuclear documents and making secret trips to the West. However, on October 18, 1994, while on a government-sponsored trip to Bratislava, Slovakia, he disappeared without trace. The North Korean government presumed he had been killed. But Kim had actually entered Austria, where he lived for 15 years as a defector. On Thursday, he gave a press conference in Vienna to promote a book about his life, written by journalists Ingrid Steiner-Gashi and Dardan Gashi, who based it on over 80 hours of interviews with Kim. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0220

  • More on sudden death of Jordan’s ex-spy chief. The Washington Post‘s David Ignatius is one of a handful of US columnists who are paying attention to the sudden death in Vienna, Austria, of Saad Kheir, 56, former director of Jordan’s General Intelligence Department.
  • Deposed Thai leader back in Cambodia, as accused spy is pardoned. Cambodian authorities have decided to free Siwarak Chothipong, whom they accused last month of spying on the flight itinerary of visiting former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Meanwhile, Thaksin is back in Cambodia, a sign that the country will continue to back pro-Thaksin political forces in Thailand.

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Silence over sudden death of Jordan’s ex-spy chief in Vienna

Imperial Hotel, Vienna

Imperial Hotel

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
There is widespread silence in Jordan about the sudden death of the country’s former intelligence chief, at his luxury Vienna hotel room, on Wednesday. The country’s tightly controlled press barely mentioned the news of the death of Field Marshal Said Bashir Saad Kheir, 56, whose body was reportedly discovered in bed by a maid in Vienna’s Imperial Hotel. Austrian police representatives have ruled out foul play in Kheir’s death, which they attributed to heart failure. But there is conflicting information about the purpose of the former spy chief’s visit to the Austrian capital, which is considered the world’s largest espionage hub, with the highest density of foreign intelligence agents on Earth. Read more of this post