Archive for March, 2013

Israel to push U.S. for Pollard’s release as Obama visit nears

March 21, 2013

Jonathan Pollard
As United States President Barack Obama is preparing to visit Israel this week, several public figures are joining the Israeli government in lobbying for the release of a convicted spy, who betrayed American secrets to Israel in the 1980s. The pressure campaign reportedly includes a symbolic hunger strike and a public petition in favor of clemency, which contains nearly 200,000 signatures. Jonathan Jay Pollard was a US Navy intelligence analyst who spied for Israel in exchange for money from 1984 until his arrest in 1986. Many in US counterintelligence consider him one of the most damaging double spies in American history. But he is widely viewed as a hero in Israel, where many conservative Israelis, as well as pro-Israel Americans, are actively pressuring the US administration of President Barack Obama to release him. In 1998, after many years of official denials, Israel publicly admitted that Pollard had operated as an Israeli agent in the United States. Pollard, who acquired Israeli citizenship in 1995, has so far served 28 years of a life sentence in a US prison. The New York Times reports that many Israelis see Obama’s visit to Israel on Wednesday —the first in his presidency— as “the perfect opportunity” to pressure the US President for clemency for Pollard. In addition to a high-profile hunger strike in Tel Aviv, several notable Israeli citizens have signed an extended petition urging Pollard’s release. They include Israeli President Shimon Peres, as well as several retired generals and Nobel Prize-winning academics. Notable American signatories include former Assistant Secretary for Defense Lawrence Korb, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency James Woolsey, as well as former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger. The Times quotes Israeli former cabinet minister Amnon Rubinstein, who tells the paper that “enough is enough”, and adds that “it is not humane to keep [Pollard] in jail any longer”. There are similar comments in the article by Sallai Meridor, Israel’s Ambassador to the US from 2006 to 2009, who argues that “28 years is [sic] more than enough”. Supporters of Pollard see him as a Jewish patriot who risked his freedom to spy on the United States for Israel and argue that his sentence is “unprecedented among Americans convicted of spying for an ally”. But in 2011, Lydia Jechorek, Pollard’s FBI interrogator, cautioned against viewing Pollard as a patriot and revealed that he also spied on the US for South Africa and tried to spy for Australia, before working as an agent for Israel. In an interview aired on Israeli television last week, Obama said he had “no plans for releasing Jonathan Pollard immediately” (emphasis added).

Saudi Arabia arrests 18 on espionage charges

March 21, 2013

Saudi Arabia
Authorities in Saudi Arabia announced the arrest yesterday of 18 people accused of conducting “espionage activities for the benefit of a foreign country”. Speaking on Saudi state television, Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki said the men were arrested on suspicion of being members of an extensive “spy network working for a foreign entity”, which he refused to name. He added that the arrestees had been “gathering information about installations and vital areas” in Saudi Arabia, and were “providing intelligence agencies of that state with it”. He told reporters that the arrests were made five days ago, after Saudi security agencies received information of a foreign-instigated spy ring operating in the oil-rich kingdom. The alleged members of the ring were reportedly arrested during several coordinated raids in four different regions of the country, which included locations in Mecca, Medina, and capital Riyadh. Sixteen of those arrested are said to be Saudi citizens, while one is reportedly Lebanese and one is Iranian. It is worth noting that many of the suspected spy ring members were arrested in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, which is home to much of the country’s Shiite Muslim minority. In association with the two foreign detainees, this detail may point to a possible Iranian connection to the alleged spy affair. Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have been essentially non-existent ever since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, when the Shiite-dominated Iranian government accused the Saudis of being puppets of the United States and called for the overthrow of the Saudi royal family. The souring of bilateral relations between the two countries has caused a domestic rift in Saudi Arabia between the country’s Sunni-dominated regime and the Shiite minority, whose members happen to be concentrated in some of the kingdom’s most oil-rich provinces. Many in Saudi Arabia tend to view the country’s two million Shiites (out of a total population of 28 million) as surreptitious agents of Iran. It is also worth noting that, on Tuesday, human rights activists in Saudi Arabia told journalists that Saudi security forces had arrested several Shiites in raids across the kingdom, including two prominent Shiite clerics. It is not known at this point whether the arrests are connected with the alleged espionage ring raids announced yesterday.

Alleged coup attempt against North Korean leader in Pyongyang

March 15, 2013

Kim Jong-un surrounded by generals
A prolonged exchange of gunfire that took place in the North Korean capital last November was part of a failed military coup against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, according to intelligence sources. On Wednesday, South Korean daily JoongAng Ilbo quoted an anonymous intelligence source in Seoul, who said the coup was linked to an ongoing power struggle unfolding inside the North Korean armed forces. The unnamed source told the paper that Seoul had confirmed the accuracy of rumors of an “armed skirmish” that took place at a central location in downtown Pyongyang in mid-November of 2012. The exchange of gunfire, which stunned residents of the eerily ordered city, was allegedly an effort to assassinate Kim, but failed after the assailants were rounded up and arrested by troops loyal to the country’s leadership. The culprits appear to be members of the Reconnaissance Bureau of the General Staff Department, which operates as the primary intelligence-collection agency of North Korea’s Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces. In early November of last year, the Reconnaissance Bureau was restructured to accommodate two newly amalgamated intelligence agencies, the Intelligence Department of the Workers’ Party of Korea and a combat-intelligence unit of the People’s Armed Forces. A number of North Korean generals, who were previously leading these amalgamated agencies, were demoted to reflect their new posts under the Reconnaissance Bureau. Among them was Kim Yong-chol, who saw his rank change overnight from a four-star general to that of a two-star lieutenant general. According to JoongAng Ilbo, the demotion prompted Kim and a number of disgruntled military intelligence officers in his inner circle to issue a challenge for control of the reorganized Reconnaissance Bureau. The power-struggle allegedly got out of hand and resulted in an all-out gun battle in the streets of the North Korean capital. Interestingly, in the past few months, Kim —a notorious foreign-policy hardliner, who is often quoted in the media urging war against the South— appears to have been reinstated to his previous four-star general status. JoongAng Ilbo says that he was even seen in February attending a musical performance in Pyongyang, sitting right next to leader Kim Jong-un. The paper adds that South Korean intelligence agencies are still trying to identify the identities of the individuals involved in last November’s alleged coup.

Israel wiretapped PLO head office in Tunisia: report

March 14, 2013

Yasser Arafat in Tunis in 1993
Israeli intelligence was able to intercept the conversations of senior Palestinian leaders in Tunisia in the months leading to the 1993 Oslo Accords, according to an article published Monday by a leading Israeli newspaper. Veteran security correspondent Ronen Bergman wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth  that sophisticated listening devices were planted in the office of Mahmoud Abbas. Today, Abbas, known also as Abu Mazen, is the President of the Palestinian National Authority, based in the occupied West Bank. But in 1993 he was Deputy Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), serving under its founder and Chairman, Yasser Arafat. At that time, the PLO was headquartered in Tunisian capital Tunis, where it had relocated in 1982 after it was driven out of Lebanon during Israel’s invasion. Bergman said that the operation, codenamed GOLDEN FLEECE, was authorized by Shabtai Shavit, who was at the time Director of the Mossad, Israel’s primary covert-action agency. The operation, considered one of the Mossad’s most important and secret at the time, was carried out by a Palestinian agent who had been recruited by Israeli intelligence. The agent, described by Bergman as a “man within the PLO leadership”, was allegedly affiliated with Fatah, a Palestinian political party that has traditionally formed the largest faction within the PLO. The agent allegedly managed to plant at least two eavesdropping devices at the personal office of the PLO’s Vice Chairman, one in his office chair and one inside one of the desk lamps in the room. Bergman says that, on the day the devices became operational, Shavit held an emergency meeting to inform the Mossad’s senior commanders about their existence. The operation was allegedly carried out three months prior to the September 1993 Oslo Accords, a United States-led effort to address the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian dispute, which culminated in the first-ever face-to-face high-level meeting between the government of Israel and the PLO. The article claims that the listening devices “were worth their weight in gold” in terms of the intelligence they generated for the Mossad, not only relating to the Oslo Accords, but also to the interpersonal relationships between senior PLO executives, including Arafat and Abbas. However, Bergman says that less than a month after the listening devices became operational, they were discovered under unclear circumstances. Their discovery led to the eventual exposure and arrest of the agent who planted them. He was arrested and exchanged with Palestinian prisoners after “concerted and heavy Israeli pressure”, claims Bergman. The paper said it will publish a detailed account of Operation GOLDEN FLEECE on Friday, March 15.

As many Russian spies in UK today as in Cold War: Soviet defector

March 14, 2013

Oleg Gordievsky
The Soviet KGB’s former station chief in London, who defected to the United Kingdom in the 1980s, has alleged that Russia operates as many spies in Britain today as it did during the Cold War. Oleg Gordievsky, 74, a fluent speaker of Russian, German, Swedish, Danish, and English, entered the Soviet KGB in 1963. He eventually joined the organization’s Second Directorate, which was responsible for coordinating the activities of Soviet ‘illegals’, that is, intelligence officers operating abroad without official diplomatic cover. Gordievsky’s faith in the Soviet system was irreparably damaged in 1968, when Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia. In 1974, while stationed in Copenhagen, Denmark, he made contact with British intelligence and began his career as a double agent for the UK. In 1985, when he was the KGB’s station chief at the Soviet embassy in London, he was summoned back to Moscow by an increasingly suspicious KGB. He was aggressively interrogated but managed to make contact with British intelligence and was eventually smuggled out of Russia via Finland, riding in the trunk of a British diplomatic vehicle. In 2007, Gordievsky was awarded the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (CMG) by the Queen “for services to the security of the UK”. Russia, however, considers Gordievsky a traitor and the government of Vladimir Putin refuses to rescind a death sentence given to him in absentia by a Soviet court. In an interview with The Guardian newspaper this week, Gordievsky said London is currently home to 37 officers of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), one of the successor agencies to the KGB. Hinting at sources inside British intelligence, the Soviet defector said that the Russian embassy in London housed another 14 officers of Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), Russia’s primary military intelligence organization. He added that the number of accredited intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover did not include members of an extensive network of informers, who are periodically employed by Russian government operatives. Gordievsky told The Guardian that, in addition to traditional political intelligence on the UK, Russian spies are after “sensitive commercial information”, and are also tasked with monitoring the activities of the Russian expatriate community in the UK, which includes several former oligarchs and critics of the Kremlin.

10 tips to protect your privacy on Facebook

March 13, 2013

How to protect your personal information, status or pictures on Facebook?
At a time when the 26 million Facebook users are worried about being the victim to the bug that may reveal their personnal messages, here’s a short guide to properly protect your privacy on the social network.

Filter you personal information upon registration

  • Upon registration, Facebook is picky and demands a lot of accurate data. As a reminder, however, only the name, email address, date of birth and gender are required.
  • Subsequently, the social network will require more information – employment, education, place of residence, relationship status, religion, political opinion, etc.. – but all these are optional to use the social platform. However, if the user decides to enter these informations, it is possible to restrict their visibility
  • On your “About” page, for each category select “edit”, then right-click on the logo. Then choose whether to make the information “public”, accessible only to “friends” or “Private”, thus restricting their visibility to a particualr group of “friends”.

Monitor the published status

When updating your status, it is important to verify who can access these information and who can’t. Click on the logo at the bottom of sharing dialog box, and select whether to make the message “Public” or “Private”. Note that, you can modify the privacy settings of status that have been already published.

Monitor your “Likes”

  • Introduced in early 2009, the “Like” button is one of the real successes of Facebook. However, with time, the “interests” stacks up and say a lot about you. *Through your profile page, you can view all of your “I like”.
  • To hide your interest to some people, simply select “edit” then for each category to select the sharing type.

Monitor your photos

  • For each photo published, it is possible to choose its visibility. When publishing, you must click on the logo below to share box and choose to “public” or “Private”.
  • For photos already published, open the image and click “edit” and select the sharing type. The parameters of all the photos in the same album can be changed in one click.
  • If one of your friends identifies you on a photo, it is not possible to delete it. However, you can withdraw identification by clicking on “options” after opening the image. Incidentally, it is possible to report contacts in case of “harassment” oe “scam”…etc.
  • These tips equally apply to the videos.

Monitor your friends

It is possible to choose who shall have access access to your friends list. On the page listing your “friends”, select “edit” then next to “who can see your friends list” set the sharing type.

Monitor comments from your friends

Your friends like to talk about you on Facebook? You can limit the damage. In the “Privacy Settings”, choose “Change settings” and choose who can post on your wall and who can see the publications.

Monitor your friends lists

To facilitates the use sharing settings, it is possible to create “friend lists”.

  • Optionally, you can use predefined lists available on Facebook (close friends, acquaintances, family …etc) or create your own lists (via the “create a list” button).

Monitor friend requests

  • You can become (almost) invisible on Facebook. Go to the “Privacy Settings” > “Applications and Websites”.
  • Click on the Edit button next to “Public Search” and choose your settings.

Monitor geolocation features

Facebook allows mobile users to geotag their messages and photos.

  • These informations are pinned on a world map, accessible from the profile page.
  • If you don’t want to be geotagged when making a post /updating a status, make sure that pin icon next to it does not show your position.

Monitor third-party applications

Some Facebook applications won’t hesitate to publish constantly updates of your status.

  • In the “Privacy Settings”, go to “applications and websites”.
  • A list of all third-party applications that have already been linked to your Facebook account shall be displayed.
  • From there you can edit the settings for your application individually.

Intelligence News YOU may have missed…..

March 12, 2013

Ben Zygier
►►Australian Mossad officer was facing 20 years in prison. Mossad operative Ben Zygier was facing 20 years in prison on “serious espionage” charges when he hanged himself in an Israeli prison, suggests a report published Wednesday by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The report is the first confirmation of the nature of Zygier’s indictment. Under Israeli criminal law, the only security-related crimes that carry a 20-year prison sentence fall under the heading of “serious espionage”.
►►MS-13 smuggles missile launchers and teams up with Zetas. Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, became El Salvador’s deadliest gang through force of numbers and the power of the handgun. Now if they weren’t deadly enough, the gang is transitioning into adopting heavier weapons while teaming up with Mexico’s Zetas. But according to a recent report, the gang is moving “away from a dependence on handguns via the acquisition of automatic rifles such as AK-47s, along with grenades, rocket propelled grenade launchers, and Light Anti-Tank Weapons”, or LAWs.
►►Secretive US anti-smuggling program marks one-year anniversary. A nascent and somewhat secretive US government anti-smuggling program is marking its first anniversary this week. It is called E2C2, shorthand for Export Enforcement Coordination Center, and 18 law enforcement and intelligence agencies use it to find links between their targets and other investigations. The E2C2 was created by presidential order in 2010, but the collaboration has evolved slowly. According to a Government Accountability Office report, the E2C2 opened nine months late, in part because of “some difficultly” between agencies over how the center would operate.

Syrian government accuses Israel of planting spy devices

March 12, 2013

Alleged spy device found in Syria
News media affiliated with the government of Syria accused Israel on Thursday of planting a number of spy devices disguised as rocks, which were found located near “sensitive sites” in the country. The government-owned Syrian Arab News Agency, which published photographs of the alleged spy devices, said they were discovered “in the past few days” at an unspecified region on Syria’s Mediterranean coast. Later on the same day, video footage of the devices was aired on Syrian state television. The video footage and photographs show what appear to be large-sized faux rocks. Nestled in their hollow interior are cameras, microphones, transmission devices, as well as large batteries. Syrian media reports said that the transmission gear enabled the devices to broadcast audio and video signals in real time. The camouflaged contraptions closely resemble a number of “mystery devices” found on mountain ranges around the Lebanese capital Beirut in 2010 and 2011. The electronic devices found in Lebanon were hidden under two fake boulders and consisted of surveillance cameras, electronic transmitters, as well as satellite signal reception systems. One of the devices was even connected to a third fake boulder containing long-lasting batteries, which powered the surveillance system. The devices, which were discovered by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, displayed manufacturing labels bearing writing in Hebrew and in English, which included the name of a company called “Beam Systems Israel Ltd”. Syrian media expressed certainty that the camouflaged devices belonged to the Israeli intelligence services and accused Israel of meddling in the internal affairs of Syria in support of the rebel forces fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But Yigal Palmor, spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, told the Reuters news agency that Israel “will not be dragged into the Syrian civil war” and refused to comment on the specific allegations concerning the alleged spy devices. A spokeswoman for the Israel Defense Forces told Reuters that the Israeli military was “checking the reports” from Syria, but refused to comment further on the matter.

Spy claims against diplomat cast shadow over Anglo-Russian relations

March 12, 2013

Denis Keefe
Widespread allegations of espionage against Britain’s deputy ambassador to Russia threaten to derail the ongoing diplomatic rapprochement between Russia and the United Kingdom, according to a leading British newspaper. Painstaking efforts to rebuild Anglo-Russian relations, which crumbled after the 2006 assassination of Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko in London, are scheduled to culminate later this week, when senior Russian cabinet officials will be visiting London for a “strategic dialogue” with their British counterparts. But British newspaper The Sunday Telegraph reports that Whitehall is increasingly annoyed by persistent attacks in the Russian media against Denis Keefe, the UK’s deputy ambassador to Moscow. Keefe, a career diplomat with over 30 years in the Foreign Office, much of it during the Cold War, is a Cambridge University graduate who speaks six languages, including fluent Russian. Prior to arriving in Moscow, he served as British ambassador to Georgia, where he was stationed during the 2008 Russia-Georgia war. Almost as soon as he arrived in Russia, Keefe found himself at the center of persistent allegations in the Russian media that he is “an undercover spy, with his diplomatic position serving as a smokescreen”. Several Russian news reports have indirectly accused him of contacting dissident groups inside Russia in an effort to undermine the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Telegraph, which published for the first time an account of the Russian media claims in the West, said that Russian reporters appear to hound Keefe every time he makes a public appearance in the country. In one recent instance, two journalists asked him whether he was “a spy for MI6”, Britain’s primary external intelligence agency, insisting that he give a “straightforward answer to this question”. Keefe reportedly responded that this was “not a serious question” and had “nothing to do” with him. A few days later, a television channel in Siberia, NTN-4, said that the British diplomat was an MI6 officer and questioned whether the Russian government should allow him free movement around the country. Speaking to The Telegraph, anonymous British diplomatic sources dismissed the allegations against Keefe as “ridiculous” and claimed that they were based on a “widely discredited” list of MI6 operatives posted online in 2005. They added that the allegations against the diplomat appeared “calculated to undermine him” and at the same time subvert efforts to improve Britain’s relations with Russia. Neither MI6 nor the Russian embassy in London responded to invitations to comment on the story.

British journalists worked for MI6 during the Cold War: investigation

March 7, 2013

George Blake
Numerous notable journalists working for some of Britain’s most prestigious publications routinely collaborated with British intelligence during the Cold War, according to a BBC investigation. In 1968, Soviet newspaper Izvestia published the contents of an alleged British government memorandum entitled “Liaison Between the BBC and SIS”. SIS, which stands for Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6, is Britain’s foremost external intelligence agency. The paper, which was the official organ of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, claimed that the foreign correspondents of most leading British newspapers secretly collaborated with the British intelligence community. It also alleged that the BBC’s world radio service had agreed with MI6 to broadcast preselected sentences or songs at prearranged times. These signals were used by British intelligence officers to demonstrate to foreign recruits in the Eastern Bloc that they were operating on behalf of the UK. At the time, the BBC virulently rejected the Izvestia’s claims, calling them “black propaganda” aimed at distracting world opinion from the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops, which had taken place some months earlier. But an investigation aired this week by the BBC Radio 4’s investigative Document program suggests that the memo published by the Soviet newspaper was probably genuine. The program says it discovered a memorandum in the BBC’s archives, which laments the embarrassment caused to MI6 by the Soviet claims. The memorandum, dated April 24, 1969, describes MI6 as “our friends”. The BBC program, which is available to listen to here, discusses the Soviets’ claims that several notable British journalists were MI6 agents. They include Edward Crankshaw and David Astor of The Observer, Lord Hartwell and Roy Pawley of The Daily Telegraph, Lord Arran of The Daily Mail, Henry Brandon of The Sunday Times, and even Mark Arnold-Foster of the left-leaning Guardian newspaper. Leading veteran security and intelligence correspondent Phillip Knightley told Document that he would not be surprised if Izvestia’s claims turned out to be true. Another expert, Stephen Dorril, who has authored extensively on the history of MI6, told the program that he believed the memorandum was probably given to the Soviets by George Blake, an MI6 officer who spied for the USSR. Blake was later convicted to 42 years in prison, but managed to escape to Moscow in 1966, where he still lives today.