French president calls crisis meeting to discuss US spy revelations

France Hollande ObamaThe president of France has convened an emergency meeting of the country’s highest national security forum in response to revelations that the United States spied on three French presidents. The Conseil de la Défense is to convene in Paris on Wednesday to discuss the emergence of documents that appear to implicate the US National Security Agency (NSA) in spying on Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy, who ruled France from 1995 to 2012. The documents further indicate that the NSA may have also targeted the personal communications of Francois Hollande, France’s current head of state.

The files were published on Tuesday by the international whistleblower website WikiLeaks. They consist of what WikiLeaks described as “top secret intelligence reports and technical documents”, which detail NSA spying operations against the French presidency, as well as espionage directed at several French government ministers and at France’s ambassador to the US. WikiLeaks would not indicate whether it acquired the documents from American defector Edward Snowden, who is currently living in Russia. But it said that “French readers can expect more timely and important revelations in the near future”.

The material –termed “Espionnage Élysée” by WikiLeaks– features a list of “selectors”, which includes French government telephone numbers targeted for interception. One of the numbers is identified as belonging to the president of France. The document collection also includes a handful of intelligence briefs, which are presumably based on intercepted communications from the telephone lines listed among the “selectors”. They detail the thoughts and diplomatic maneuvers by French presidents and other senior officials on subjects such as the Greek economic crisis, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and the United Nations.

French newspaper Liberation, which partnered with WikiLeaks to release the NSA material, said on Tuesday that the revelation should not surprise anyone in the post-Snowden era, but that it was still likely to cause a significant rift in French-American relations. In 2014, Germany expelled the station chief of the Central Intelligence Agency in Berlin –essentially the highest-ranking American intelligence officer in the country– over revelations that the US spied on the personal communications of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Liberation contacted the NSA but was told by its spokesman, Ned Price, that the Agency was “not going to comment on specific intelligence allegations”. A spokesman from the Élysée Palace told the paper that an official statement would be issued following the Conseil de la Défense meeting on Wednesday.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 24 June 2015 | Permalink: https://intelnews.org/2015/06/24/01-1721/

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Bugging device found in Ecuador’s UK embassy where Assange lives

Ricardo PatinoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The government of Ecuador has announced the discovery of a “hidden listening device” inside its embassy in London, United Kingdom, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has taken refuge. Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Integration, Ricardo Patino, said the device was discovered during a security sweep on June 14, in preparation for his official visit there. Speaking during a press conference on Wednesday in Ecuadorean capital Quito, Patino told journalists that the microphone was discovered inside the office of Ambassador Ana Alban, Ecuador’s envoy to the UK. Patino arrived in London two days later and met with Assange, as well as with Britain’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, William Hague, to discuss Assange’s case. The WikiLeaks founder has been hosted inside the Ecuadorean embassy for over a year, resisting extradition to Sweden, where his is facing charges of rape and sexual assault. Assange denies the charges are valid and maintains that the Swedish government is intent on extraditing him to the United States, where he is likely to face more charges over Cablegate. This is the term commonly used to describe the unauthorized release in 2010 by WikiLeaks of thousands of classified cables sent to the US State Department by American diplomatic missions around the world. Patino told journalists on Wednesday that he “regretted to have to inform” them about the discovery, which he characterized as “another instance of declining ethics in the international relations between governments”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #837

Alexander LitvinenkoBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Russian ex-spy ‘would testify’ in Litvinenko inquiry. The 2006 murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko has never been solved and remains the subject of conflicting narratives and still-deepening intrigue over who may have killed him and why. Now a key witness, a US-based former Russian spy who worked with Litvinenko in the months leading up to his death, says he is willing to give evidence at a public inquiry. British police considered him such a vital witness that they visited the US three times to persuade him to give evidence at the inquest.
►►Assange reveals GCHQ messages discussing extradition. Authorities at GCHQ, Britain’s eavesdropping agency, face embarrassing revelations about internal correspondence in which WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is discussed, apparently including speculation that he is being framed by Swedish authorities seeking his extradition on rape allegations. The records were revealed by Assange himself in a Sunday night interview with Spanish television. A message from September 2012, apparently says: “They are trying to arrest him on suspicion of XYZ. It is definitely a fit-up. Their timings are too convenient right after Cablegate“.
►►North Korean defector accused of spying by his sister. Earlier this year, Yoo Woo-sung, one of the most prominent North Korean defectors living in South Korea, was arrested on charges of espionage. Now court documents have shown that Yoo was arrested after testimony from his sister, who said he had been sent on a mission by North Korea’s secret police to infiltrate the defector community and pass back information about the people he met. The Washington Post reports that defectors from the North are increasingly facing the brunt of this suspicion.
►►Iran hangs two men for spying for Israel and US. Mohammad Heydari was found guilty of passing intelligence on “security issues and national secrets” to Israeli Mossad agents in exchange for cash. Kourosh Ahmadi was convicted of providing intelligence to the CIA, Tehran’s prosecutor’s office said. It is not clear when Heydari and Ahmadi were arrested or where they were tried. Their execution was handed down by Tehran’s Revolutionary Court and confirmed by the Supreme Court, Iran’s Fars news agency reported.

News you may have missed #785 (interview edition)

Stella RimingtonBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Interview with first-ever NSA Compliance Director. John DeLong, the first-ever compliance director at the US National Security Agency, has given an interview to NextGov. In it, he says that “we’re nothing if we lose the confidence of the American people”. He is referring to frequent allegations, by whistleblowers and others, that the Agency is increasingly spying on Americans’ communications. As Compliance Director, DeLong is responsible for ensuring that the NSA abides by US law, which forbids it from intercepting electronic messages exchanged between US citizens or persons.
►►Ex-MI5 boss offers comment on WikiLeaks. Former MI5 Director-General Dame Stella Rimington has criticized “the indiscriminate pouring out into the public domain of streams of leaked documents by Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks organization”. But she also said that the US government should have taken better steps to prevent WikiLeaks from acquiring the information in the first place. Speaking at an international archiving conference in Brisbane, Australia, Dame Stella said that while the WikiLeaks saga could prompt the US government to come up with better databases, it would more likely encourage it to be even more secretive. This, she added, “must be absolutely the opposite effect of what WikiLeaks was seeking”.
►►Interview with NSA whistleblower. Filmmaker Laura Poitras interviews William Binney, a 32-year veteran of the US National Security Agency, who helped set up STELLAR WIND, the NSA’s top-secret domestic spying program, which was put in place after 9/11. The program was so controversial that it nearly caused top Justice Department officials to resign in protest in 2004. Binney, who resigned over STELLAR WIND in 2001, and began speaking out publicly in the last year, explains how the program he created for foreign intelligence gathering was turned inward on America.

Interview with NSA whistleblower

News you may have missed #688

U-2 surveillance aircraftBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►Analysis: StratFor email leaks offer frightening view of government intelligence. As promised in December, WikiLeaks has begun to release a stash of emails related to the modus operandi of the private intelligence sector, using Texas-based StratFor as a case study. The CIA has long used private intelligence firms for ‘black ops’, allowing for plausible deniability in the event that an operation goes pear-shaped and public accountability threatens. But these emails suggest that there’s now far more to the incompetence of America’s intelligence services than meets the eye.
►►US still using U-2 to spy on North Korea. For more than 35 years, the U-2 has been one of Washington’s most reliable windows into military movements inside North Korea. Unlike satellites, U-2s can be redirected at short notice to loiter over target areas. Last month, the US Air Force postponed at least until 2020 any plans to replace them with costlier, unmanned Global Hawks. Now, as the world watches for signs of instability during North Korea’s transition to a new leadership, the U-2 operations are as important ―or more so― than ever.
►►Thin line separates cyberspies from cybercriminals. New research appears to raise questions over the conventional wisdom that pure nation-state cyberspies rarely dabble in traditional financial cybercrime. Dell SecureWorks Wednesday shared details of a complex study it conducted of two families of espionage malware that have infected government ministry computers in Vietnam, Brunei, Myanmar, Europe, and at an embassy in China.

News you may have missed #686

Folkert Arie van KoutrikBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►WikiLeaks to publish 5 million StratFor emails. In its latest high-profile data dump, WikiLeaks is to reveal five million internal and external emails from StratFor today. In a press release late Sunday, Wikileaks said the emails “show StratFor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods”, and reveal “how StratFor has recruited a global network of informants who are paid via Swiss banks accounts and pre-paid credit cards. Stratfor has a mix of covert and overt informants, which includes government employees, embassy staff and journalists around the world”.
►►Analysis: Blurred line between espionage and truth under Obama. “There is plenty of authorized leaking going on, but this particular boat leaks from the top. Leaks from the decks below, especially ones that might embarrass the administration, have been dealt with very differently […]. And it’s worth pointing out that the administration’s emphasis on secrecy comes and goes depending on the news. Reporters were immediately and endlessly briefed on the “secret” operation that successfully found and killed Osama bin Laden. And the drone program in Pakistan and Afghanistan comes to light in a very organized and systematic way every time there is a successful mission”.
►►Nazis had spy in MI5 but failed to use him. Dutchman Folkert Arie van Koutrik was the first German agent to ever infiltrate MI5 when he was employed by them in 1940, just a month before Anthony Blunt, who was later exposed as a Soviet spy. Koutrik had already worked for Abwehr, the German secret service, before the war as a double agent with MI6 in Europe and exposed some of the UK’s top agents. But, incredibly, after he moved to the UK and joined MI5 all contact appears to have broken off.

WikiLeaks document to expose Swedish Foreign Minister as US spy

Carl BildtBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
International whistleblower website WikiLeaks says it intends to publish a classified document that allegedly exposes Sweden’s current Foreign Minister as a spy for the United States. According to Swedish newspaper Expressen, which says it has seen the document in question, Carl Bildt, Sweden’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, is shown to have operated as an informant for the United States since the mid-1970s. The revelation, which is allegedly included in a classified diplomatic cable sent from the American embassy in Stockholm to the US Department of State, is likely to cause a major political crisis in Sweden and end the career of Carl Bildt, a popular politician who served as Sweden’s Prime Minister between 1991 and 1994. In an article published on Wednesday, Expressen cites an anonymous WikiLeaks source that claims Bildt “cooperated with the American government in a manner that is in direct violation of Swedish law”. The paper also states that, according to the incriminating document, Bildt was initially recruited by US intelligence through Republican political strategist Karl Rove, who is known to have been “an old personal friend” of the Swedish politician. According to the Expressen report, WikiLeaks has decided to publicize the leaked diplomatic cable as a warning against the Swedish government, which is said to be considering extraditing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States. Read more of this post