THE NEW TARGETS FBI Stings Zero In on ISIS Sympathizers. Few Have Terrorist Links.

Trial and TerrorTrial and Terror
Part 3
The U.S. government has prosecuted almost 800 people for terrorism since the 9/11 attacks. Most of them never committed an act of violence.

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BOSTON POLICE CAPT. Robert Ciccolo was one of the first responders to the Boston Marathon bombings. When his 23-year-old son, Alexander, who had converted to Islam and given himself the name Ali Al Amriki, began telling his father he was “not afraid to die for the cause,” Ciccolo became alarmed. Alexander had a history of mental illness, and his interest in Islam had become an obsession. In October 2014, Ciccolo contacted the FBI about his son.

The federal agents could have monitored Alexander, or perhaps confronted him. Instead, as the bureau does in most such cases, agents launched an investigation. They found Alexander’s Facebook page, listed under his nom de guerre. There was a photograph of a young man in a wooded area wearing a head covering and holding a machete. “Another day in the forest strengthening myself,” the caption read. Another photo on his Facebook page appeared to show a dead American soldier. “Thank you Islamic State!” read the caption.

As part of a sting, an FBI informant contacted Alexander and offered to provide him with guns for an attack. After Alexander collected the weapons on July 4, 2015, FBI agents arrested him and charged him with terrorism-related offenses. As he was being processed at a detention center, he stabbed a nurse with a pen, causing a minor injury. His case made national news, and FBI Director James Comey told reporters that Alexander Ciccolo’s was among several plots related to the Fourth of July holiday that were foiled by counterterrorism agents. “I do believe that our work disrupted efforts to kill people, likely in connection with July 4,” Comey told reporters during a July 7, 2015, briefing.

Alexander Ciccolo is among 63 men and women who have been arrested in FBI stings targeting ISIS sympathizers, according to an analysis of federal terrorism prosecutions by The Intercept.

Demonstrating the evolving threat of terrorism in the United States, alleged ISIS sympathizers are now the primary targets of FBI stings, upstaging Al Qaeda, the Shabab, and all other terrorist groups. The first ISIS case in the United States culminated in an arrest in March 2014, and the number quickly grew. Fifty-eight people were charged in 2015 for alleged ISIS affiliations. In 2016, 32 FBI cases involved ISIS sympathizers, compared to just one each that year involving Al Qaeda and Shabab sympathizers.

But as with earlier FBI stings that primarily targeted Al Qaeda sympathizers, most of the targets of the bureau’s ISIS stings are aspirational, not operational.

In the majority of ISIS stings, targets were not in direct contact with ISIS representatives and did not have weapons of their own, government evidence showed. Instead, these targets were inspired by online propaganda to join ISIS and either made arrangements on their own to travel to Syria or were aided by FBI informants or undercover agents in their attempts join ISIS or plot attacks inside the United States.

BOSTON, MA – JUNE 24: Boston cab drivers rallied this morning before attending a hearing, chaired by Capt. Robert Ciccolo, seen here, with Boston Police Hackney Division at Roxbury Community College regarding a proposed fare increase. (Photo by George Rizer/The Boston Globe via Getty Images) Capt. Robert Ciccolo chairing a hearing at Roxbury Community College. Photo: George Rizer/The Boston Globe/Getty Images
After Alexander was arrested, FBI agents read him his Miranda rights. He then sat for an interview with FBI agents Paul Ambrogio and Julia Cowley.
Dressed in a black T-shirt and jeans, he refused to talk about the guns, but he defended ISIS as a just organization, even as he demonstrated his ignorance about the group. The FBI recorded the interview.

“ISIS claimed responsibility, right, for a lot of beheadings?” Ambrogio asked. “There’s someone who names himself Jihadi John and he beheads people, right? He does it in an online way so that people can see it. So what’s your feeling about that? They represent themselves as ISIS; they’re ISIS. What’s your feeling?”

“The people that you see being executed are criminals,” Alexander answered. “They’re criminals. They’re the lowest of the low.”

According to his family, Alexander, a high school dropout, had battled off and on with alcohol addiction. He was also admitted to a psychiatric institution when he was a teenager.

As a child, he went back and forth between the homes of his father, a stern cop who did not respond to requests for comment for this story, and his mother, something of a free spirit. Alexander followed in his mother’s footsteps.

“I raised him Catholic; he was baptized Catholic,” said Shelley MacInnes, his mother. “He stayed with his Catholic beliefs for quite a long time. I would say he is a very religious person and very spiritual, but as he got older, I think he started searching.”

Alexander Ciccolo first gravitated toward Buddhism and spent time at the Grafton Peace Pagoda in Petersburgh, New York. In 2012, he and other members of the Peace Pagoda walked around Lake Ontario to raise awareness of the dangers of nuclear power. A photograph from the time shows him wearing a green V-neck T-shirt and holding a handwritten sign that reads: “Peace walk for no more Fukushima.”

Shortly after, he returned to Massachusetts and announced that he would become a Muslim. “One day we were out having dinner, and he went to the bathroom,” MacInnes recalled. “He ran into an imam. … He was so excited. ‘Mom, you’re aren’t going to believe what just happened.’”

Alexander became fixated on Islam and ISIS, and he would talk often with his parents about his newfound beliefs. “He’s always been an investigator, never takes anything at face value,” MacInnes said. “As far as ISIS goes, my personal opinion is that he was investigating the validity of that organization, rather than taking the media’s answer for it.”

Following its sting playbook, the FBI introduced to Alexander an informant posing as an ISIS sympathizer. The informant and Alexander met for the first time in person on June 24, 2015. The young man told the informant that he wanted to travel to another state and use pressure cooker bombs to attack two bars and a police station. Over the course of a week, his plan changed from bombing bars and a police station to attacking a university. He boasted that he knew how to use sniper rifles and had grown up with guns. “I know what I’m doing,” he said.

But Alexander didn’t have any weapons, aside from a couple of machetes. His only would-be bomb components were a pressure cooker purchased from Wal-Mart and some half-made Molotov cocktails.

That’s where the FBI stepped in again. The undercover informant provided Alexander with two assault rifles and two handguns. As soon as Alexander took possession of the guns, FBI agents arrested him, charging him with attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization and attempting to use weapons of mass destruction. He was also charged with being a felon in possession of firearms, owing to an earlier state conviction of driving under the influence.

BRIGHTON — Buddhist nun Jun Yasuda, left, Lauren Carlbon and Alex Ciccolo on their recent peace walk through Brighton. Ms. Yasuda and her fellow walkers are traveling 600 km around Lake Ontario to spread awareness about the dangers of nuclear energy and weapons. July 26, 2012. Alexander Ciccolo, right, along with Buddhist nun Jun Yasuda and Lauren Carlbon, on a peace walk through Brighton, Mass., July 26, 2012. Photo: Dave Fraser/Metroland Media/The Independent
WHETHER OUT OF mental illness, immaturity, or naiveté, Alexander Ciccolo professed support for ISIS, but it’s unclear whether he would have posed a threat had the FBI informant not encouraged him and provided him with weapons. In this way, Ciccolo’s case is prototypical of ISIS stings.

In these cases, the FBI provides encouragement and capacity to otherwise hapless individuals.

For example, in a similar case in April 2016, the FBI arrested a South Florida man who allegedly plotted to bomb a Jewish community center. An FBI informant gave James Medina, a homeless man with a history of making baseless threats of violence, the opportunity. It was in fact the FBI informant who first came up with the idea of crediting their attack to ISIS. Farther north, in upstate New York, Emanuel L. Lutchman, another homeless man, told an FBI informant that he had received directions from an overseas ISIS member and was planning an attack, using a machete and knives, on a New Year’s Eve celebration in Rochester. The FBI’s informant provided the $40 Lutchman needed to purchase the machete and knives.

In other ISIS stings, the FBI has encouraged and helped to facilitate the international travel of would-be ISIS recruits. An example is the case of Jason Michael Ludke, a Milwaukee man who made contact with an FBI undercover employee through social media. The FBI undercover employee, pretending to be affiliated with ISIS, encouraged Ludke and his friend Yosvany Padilla-Conde to join the terrorist group. The pair drove from Wisconsin to Texas, where they were arrested. According to Padilla-Conde’s statements after the arrest, they were under the impression that the FBI undercover employee was going to assist them in crossing the border into Mexico and then traveling to Iraq or Yemen. Ludke and Padilla-Conde are facing charges of material support for terrorists.

The analysis of terrorism prosecutions by The Intercept shows that federal judges have wrestled with appropriate punishments for those convicted of ISIS-related terrorism offenses.

Some defendants who were arrested before they had an opportunity to travel to Syria have received relatively lenient sentences. Mohammed Hamzah Khan, of Bolingbrook, Illinois, was arrested as he attempted to board a flight to Turkey at O’Hare International Airport. He received about three years in prison. Shannon Maureen Conley, who lived in Colorado, received about four years after she was arrested at the airport in Denver, on her way to Turkey.

At the same time, defendants whose support for ISIS consisted of online activity, such as distributing propaganda on social media, have received comparable sentences to, and in some cases more prison time than, defendants who tried to join ISIS on the battlefield. Heather Elizabeth Coffman, of Glen Allen, Virginia, used several social media accounts to communicate with FBI informants posing as ISIS agents. She was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison. Ali Shukri Amin, who also lived in Virginia, admitted that he operated a pro-ISIS Twitter account and blog and provided instructions to ISIS supporters on how to use Bitcoin to avoid currency transfer restrictions. He was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison.

But the most significant prison sentences await those who, like Alexander Ciccolo, moved forward with terrorist plots in the United States, even if it was the FBI making them possible. Christopher Cornell, of Cincinnati, Ohio, plotted with an FBI informant to travel to Washington, D.C., and attack the U.S. Capitol. He was arrested as he was leaving a gun store. After pleading guilty to terrorism-related charges, Cornell was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Lutchman, who was involved in the purported plans to attack a New Year’s Eve celebration in upstate New York, pleaded guilty to material support and received a 20-year prison sentence.

It’s still too early to establish conclusive trends about the sentencing of ISIS defendants in U.S. District Courts. Of the 110 ISIS defendants charged, only 45 have been sentenced.

Yet the arrests of ISIS sympathizers continue at a steady clip, even when the targets of stings have proven themselves to be incompetent ISIS recruits.

An example is Mohamed Rafik Naji, of New York, who attempted five times to travel to ISIS territory but never made it. That’s when an FBI informant, posing as an ISIS affiliate, contacted him through Facebook.

The informant told him that ISIS needed someone to attack Times Square with a garbage truck. “I was saying if there is a truck, I mean a garbage truck, and one drives it there to Times Square and crushes them,” Naji told the informant, repeating the idea. Naji was indicted in November 2016 on a charge of material support for terrorists, the 93rd person to be charged in federal court in an ISIS-related case.

Alexander Ciccolo is now undergoing psychological evaluation; his trial is pending. MacInnes, Ciccolo’s mother, believes he was an impressionable young man manipulated by the FBI and set up with weapons that he never could have obtained on his own. “I don’t think he even knew what his plan was,” MacInnes said.

Trevor Aaronson
April 20 2017, 7:15 p.m.

Find this story at 20 April 2017

Copyright https://theintercept.com/

THE BANNED The Government’s Own Data Shows Country of Origin Is a Poor Predictor of Terrorist Threat

Trial and Terror
Part 4
The U.S. government has prosecuted almost 800 people for terrorism since the 9/11 attacks. Most of them never committed an act of violence.

WHILE THE TRUMP administration has struggled to provide evidence to support the need for a travel ban targeting Muslims, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been working since at least 2015 to limit Muslim immigration.

In November 2015, in a letter co-signed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, then-Alabama Sen. Sessions accused the Obama administration of refusing to provide immigration information about defendants who had been charged in U.S. District Court with international terrorism-related offenses.

“It is quite telling that this administration — which seems to have unlimited resources to circumvent our immigration laws and further its executive amnesties — cannot find the time or resources to provide timely answers to these simple questions,” Sessions and Cruz wrote.

So the two senators took matters into their own hands. Using a list of 580 terrorism-related defendants provided by the Justice Department, Sessions assigned the staff of the Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, which he chaired at the time, to research the country of origin and immigration status of each defendant. The committee staff found that of the 580 terrorism defendants they researched, 375 were born outside the United States. To Sessions and Cruz, this validated their view that terrorism was a largely foreign threat.

In another letter to the Obama administration in June 2016, Sessions and Cruz wrote that the information “makes clear that the United States lacks the ability to properly screen individuals prior to their arrival to the United States. It further makes clear that our nation has a serious assimilation problem.”

The Sessions data, which included country of origin and immigration data for some, but not all, of the defendants, was among the sources used by The Intercept to build a database of international terrorism prosecutions since the 9/11 attacks. (The Intercept intends to keep the database up to date and expand the fields regularly; at present, staff members are researching, among other data, the country of origin for approximately 350 international terrorism-related defendants not found by the subcommittee staff.)

A review of the Sessions data, however, suggests that neither country of origin nor immigration status is a clear indicator of heightened national security concern.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN NUMBER OF PEOPLE
United States 73
Pakistan 61
Lebanon 27
Somalia 21
Colombia 20
Yemen 20
Iraq 19
Egypt 17
Jordan 16
Afghanistan 10
Palestine 9
Saudi Arabia 9
India 8
Gaza 7
Syria 7
Morocco 6
West Bank 6
Indonesia 5
Kuwait 5
Canada 4
El Salvador 4
Iran 4
Turkey 4
United Kingdom 4
Albania 3
Bangladesh 3
Guyana 3
Mali 3
Sri Lanka 3
Sudan 3
Tunisia 3
Algeria 2
Bosnia 2
Eritrea 2
Ethiopia 2
France 2
Haiti 2
Kazakhstan 2
Kosovo 2
Libya 2
Nigeria 2
Senegal 2
Singapore 2
South Africa 2
Tanzania 2
Venezuela 2
Angola 1
Australia 1
Brazil 1
Cambodia 1
Chile 1
Denmark 1
Djibouti 1
Dominican Republic 1
Germany 1
Greece 1
Guatemala 1
Israel 1
Ivory Coast 1
Kuwait – Citizen of Jordan 1
Lebanon – Canada 1
Malaysia 1
Mexico 1
Nicaragua 1
Pakistan – Canada 1
Panama 1
Paraguay 1
Peru 1
Philippines 1
Qatar 1
Russia 1
South Korea 1
Trinidad & Tobago 1
United Kingdom – India 1
Uzbekistan 1
Vietnam 1
Yugoslavia 1
In June 2016, the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest chaired by Jeff Sessions released data on 580 terrorism defendants, including country of origin for 448, as part of his campaign to limit Muslim immigration. The data shows that national birthplace is a poor predictor of terrorist threat.

While at first blush the Sessions data may seem to suggest disproportionate numbers of terrorism defendants from countries affected by the travel ban, or by immigrants who came to the United States as refugees, the data is incomplete — country of origin is not known for 132 defendants, or 23 percent — and inherently biased by prosecutorial targeting. Following the 9/11 attacks, with the FBI increasing its number of informants in Muslim communities due to a presidential mandate, Muslims became the primary focus of terrorism investigations and, by extension, prosecutions for charges related to international terrorism. Many of these prosecutions were not for serious offenses such as material support or weapons of mass destruction, but instead for nonviolent crimes such as immigration violations or lying to FBI agents.

In addition, the U.S. government segregates terrorism prosecutions into two types — domestic and international. The Sessions data includes only prosecutions related to international terrorism and leaves out all prosecutions of domestic terrorists, who are in most cases born in the United States.

Of the 580 defendants in the list, Sessions’s committee staff found the country of birth for 448 based on open-source research. Of those, U.S.-born American citizens represented the single largest group, with 73 defendants. The second largest group, consisting of 61 defendants, was from Pakistan, which is not affected by the travel ban.

The numbers fall precipitously from there. The third-largest group, consisting of 21 defendants, was from Somalia, which is included in the travel ban. The other countries included in Trump’s travel ban were Iran (four), Libya (two), Sudan (three), Syria (seven), and Yemen (20). Iraq, which was in the first version of the travel ban but not the second, had 19 terrorism defendants in Sessions’s data.

For comparison, 20 of the terrorism defendants in the Sessions data were born in Colombia, the same number of defendants who were born in Yemen. If the travel ban were indeed about restricting travel from terror-prone nations, as the Trump administration has claimed, the Sessions data would in theory provide a compelling case for adding Colombia, a Catholic-majority nation, to the ban list.

The Trump administration’s travel ban, which was established by executive order and affected seven Muslim-majority nations in its first iteration and six in its second, also temporarily blocks refugees from entering the country. Of the 448 defendants for whom Sessions’s committee staffers could find information, 24 entered the United States as refugees. According to the Sessions data, not a single refugee from Syria has been charged with terrorism-related offenses in the United States. Trump’s first travel ban blocked Syrian refugees indefinitely. The current travel ban places a temporary halt on the entry of all refugees.

Neither version of Trump’s travel ban is in effect, following multiple successful court challenges arguing that the executive orders discriminate against Muslims. The Trump administration has filed notice to appeal at least one ruling that halted the second version of the travel ban.

Trevor Aaronson
April 20 2017, 7:15 p.m.

Find this story at 20 April 2017

Copyright https://theintercept.com/

Mossad Reportedly Turned French Spies Into Double Agents After Joint Syria Op

Le Monde reveals how Israeli espionage agency allegedly exploited a successful chemical weapons operation to get French counterparts to become sources; former head of French counterintelligence agency being questioned as suspect in case.

PARIS – An internal report written by French intelligence, parts of which were published in the daily newspaper Le Monde on Sunday, reveal efforts by the Mossad to develop relationships with French spies, “to the point of crossing the line of turning them into double agents.”
The audit report recommends investigating Bernard Squarcini, the head of the General Directorate for Internal Security until 2012, on suspicion of maintaining unauthorized and unreported ties with the Mossad’s Paris bureau chief at the time (identified in the report only by his initials, D.K.).

The background to all this was a joint operation launched by the Mossad and French counterintelligence agency in 2010 to collect intelligence about Syrian President Bashar Assad’s chemical warfare plans. The operation, code-named Ratafia, aimed to recruit a senior Syrian engineer, who was meant to come to France to do additional training in chemistry and also to help recruit other engineers.
The Mossad and French agents would hold work meetings using assumed names, as is customary. The French agents, who belonged to three different counterintelligence units, were responsible for the operation in Paris, while the Mossad agents were responsible for the plot that would enable the Syrian target to leave the country for studies and to recruit others in the French capital.
Police officers guard the General Directorate for Internal Security headquarters in Levallois Perret, outside Paris, 2015.
Police officers guard the General Directorate for Internal Security headquarters in Levallois Perret, outside Paris, 2015.Christophe Ena / AP
But according to the report, the Israelis exploited the operation to persuade an unknown number of French agents to also serve as intelligence sources for Israel.
One of the French agents under surveillance was seen going up to the apartment of the Mossad’s Paris chief for dinner one Friday night. Later, he reported to his superiors that he was going to Dubai on vacation, when in fact he flew with his family to Israel, where he spent time with Mossad agents without permission and without reporting the meetings afterward.
In addition, according to the report, suspicious sums of money were deposited in the bank accounts of those French agents who were involved in the Ratafia operation.
The internal report calls for further investigation to understand what damage was done to the French intelligence service.
Le Monde also published details about the Ratafia operation. The paper claimed that the Mossad succeeded in recruiting the Syrian engineer and extracted information from him about Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal.
The French daily said the operation enabled Israel to prove that the scientific cooperation between the European Union and Syria was being used to boost Assad’s chemical weapons program, which led to the cancellation of the agreement with the Syrians in 2011.
According to Le Monde, the Mossad’s interest in building relations with French spies was exposed because a different French espionage agency, responsible for information security, was keeping the agents under surveillance and photographed them with Mossad agents.
The paper said that all the Mossad agents involved were identified by their real names. The French filed a formal complaint, and two Israeli diplomats in the Israeli Embassy in Paris left their posts and returned to Israel. The Mossad chief, D.K., also returned to Israel following the French complaint.
According to the report, the two Mossad agents suspected of contacts with the French have left the service and are now private businessmen in Tel Aviv. But during 2016, the report noted, they made contact with Squarcini (the counterintelligence head they’d worked with) in Paris.
Squarcini, who is now being questioned as a suspect in the case, told investigators he met the two “totally by chance.”
A short time before the suspicions came to light, Squarcini himself launched an internal inquiry into whether the Mossad was trying to recruit French agents as sources. However, the agents he put under surveillance did not include those involved in the Ratafia operation, even though Squarcini was fully aware of the close ties that had developed between his people and the Mossad operatives, the report said.
An investigating judge appointed by the French filed an official request with Israel to question the two ex-Mossad agents who made contact with Squarcini in 2016. It isn’t clear if he received a response.
The judge is seeking to build on the internal investigative report and broaden the investigation into whether the Mossad infiltrated French intelligence under Squarcini.

Dov Alfon Mar 27, 2017 5:40 PM

Find this story at 27 March 2017

Copyright http://www.haaretz.com/

Associés dans l’opération « Ratafia », les espions français et israéliens se sont-ils espionnés entre eux ?

Le Mossad aurait tenté d’infiltrer le service de contre-espionnage
français dans le cadre de l’opération visant à lutter contre le
programme d’armes chimiques syrien, à partir de 2010.

Dans le monde de l’espionnage, si des services décident d’unir leurs
efforts, cela n’en fait pas pour autant des amis. Rien ne les empêchera
de s’espionner. Jamais. La preuve lors d’une opération qui a réuni, à
partir de 2010, la sécurité intérieure française et le service secret
israélien du Mossad pour lutter contre le programme d’armes chimiques
développé par le régime syrien de Bachar Al-Assad.

L’enquête de sécurité interne diligentée par la Direction centrale du
renseignement intérieur (DCRI, devenue Direction générale de la sécurité
intérieure en 2014) sur la tentative du Mossad d’infiltrer, à cette
occasion, le service de contre-espionnage français illustre ces
pratiques. Lorsque l’opération ayant pour nom de code « Ratafia »
débute, en 2010, c’est encore l’union sacrée pour prendre au piège un
Syrien qui doit effectuer des séjours en France. Il s’agit de l’amener à
livrer des secrets sur le programme d’armes chimiques syrien auquel il
appartient.

Lorsque le Mossad obtient le soutien de plusieurs groupes de la DCRI et
d’agents de la DGSE, tous ses membres agissent sous de faux noms et une
dizaine d’entre eux sont des clandestins à l’exception de D.K., chef de
poste du Mossad à Paris. Selon les accusations de la DCRI, auxquelles Le
Monde a eu accès, le Mossad aurait profité du contact quotidien avec ces
agents français lors des séjours de la cible syrienne pour nouer des
liens jugés suspects.

L’un des agents français a ainsi été vu fêtant le shabbat avec le chef
de poste du Mossad à Paris, il est également parti faire du tir à Dubaï
puis a rejoint, en famille, ses camarades du Mossad à Jérusalem. Une
proximité revenant, selon la DCRI, à franchir la ligne jaune. Des
soupçons portent également sur le versement de sommes d’argent en
espèces et l’existence de cadeaux contraire aux règles internes.
Résultat, plusieurs agents français intégrés dans l’équipe conjointe
avec le Mossad se verront retirer leur habilitation secret défense et
seront mutés dans des services subalternes.

L’enquête interne de la DGSI se garde cependant de rappeler qu’un autre
groupe de la DCRI, chargé de contre-espionnage, s’est arrangé pour
prendre en photo, à leur insu, les agents du Mossad qui travaillaient
avec les Français. Un audit sera, enfin, déclenché sur l’utilisation des
fonds de l’opération « Ratafia » après la découverte de demandes de
remboursement de frais douteux.

Compromission

Cette enquête interne a été évoquée dans le cadre d’une information
judiciaire visant Bernard Squarcini, chef de la sécurité intérieure de
2007 à 2012. Soupçonné d’avoir pu utiliser les moyens d’écoutes de son
service à des fins personnelles, il s’est défendu en indiquant que le
bref placement sur écoute d’un fonctionnaire qui lui est reproché était
destiné à vérifier s’il n’avait pas été, à son tour, « touché » par ce
service étranger. Ce qui se révéla infondé. « Le service de sécurité de
la DCRI m’a informé qu’une entreprise de matériel côtoyait de très près
des personnels ex-RG affectés aux missions de surveillance
opérationnelle et qu’il s’agissait d’une tentative du Mossad ou de gens
considérés comme très proches d’infiltrer le service », a ajouté M.
Squarcini. S’il a évoqué la compromission de policiers de son service,
il n’a, en revanche, pas dit un mot sur l’opération « Ratafia » menée
avec le Mossad.

La DCRI fit part de ses griefs à la hiérarchie du Mossad à Tel-Aviv.
Deux membres de l’ambassade d’Israël à Paris furent priés de quitter la
France, dont D. K. Ils ont quitté le Mossad et se sont reconvertis dans
le privé. M. Squarcini a affirmé qu’il avait, par hasard, rencontré, en
2016, ces deux hommes venus en France pour affaires.

Fin décembre, les juges d’instruction ont émis, à l’attention de
l’Inspection générale de la police nationale (IGPN), deux commissions
rogatoires pour en savoir plus sur cette affaire. La première sur
l’enquête de contre-espionnage visant le Mossad et les relations
existant entre ce service et la DGSI, la seconde demande aux policiers
d’entendre les deux anciens du Mossad qu’aurait rencontrés M. Squarcini.

LE MONDE | 25.03.2017 à 11h26
Par Jacques Follorou

Find this story at 25 March 2017
Copyright http://www.lemonde.fr/

NYPD officers accessed Black Lives Matter activists’ texts, documents show

Exclusive: Documents obtained by the Guardian reveal details of how police posed as protesters amid unrest following the death of Eric Garner
People protest after a grand jury decided not to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo in the Eric Garner case.

Undercover officers in the New York police department infiltrated small groups of Black Lives Matter activists and gained access to their text messages, according to newly released NYPD documents obtained by the Guardian.

The records, produced in response to a freedom of information lawsuit led by New York law firm Stecklow & Thompson, provide the most detailed picture yet of the sweeping scope of NYPD surveillance during mass protests over the death of Eric Garner in 2014 and 2015. Lawyers said the new documents raised questions about NYPD compliance with city rules.

The documents, mostly emails between undercover officers and other NYPD officials, follow other disclosures that the NYPD regularly filmed Black Lives Matter activists and sent undercover personnel to protests. The NYPD has not responded to the Guardian’s request for comment or interview.

Emails show that undercover officers were able to pose as protesters even within small groups, giving them extensive access to details about protesters’ whereabouts and plans. In one email, an official notes that an undercover officer is embedded within a group of seven protesters on their way to Grand Central Station. This intimate access appears to have helped police pass as trusted organizers and extract information about demonstrations. In other emails, officers share the locations of individual protesters at particular times. The NYPD emails also include pictures of organizers’ group text exchanges with information about protests, suggesting that undercover officials were either trusted enough to be allowed to take photos of activists’ phones or were themselves members of a private planning group text.

protesters text message
Police obtained access to protesters’ text messages, the documents show. Photograph: NYPD/Screenshot/Scribd
“That text loop was definitely just for organizers, I don’t know how that got out,” said Elsa Waithe, a Black Lives Matter organizer. “Someone had to have told someone how to get on it, probably trusting someone they had seen a few times in good faith. We clearly compromised ourselves.”

Keegan Stephan, a regular attendee of the Grand Central protests in 2014 and 2015, said information about protesters’ whereabouts was limited to a small group of core organizers at that time. “I feel like the undercover was somebody who was or is very much a part of the group, and has access to information we only give to people we trust,” said Stephan, who has been assisting attorneys with a lawsuit to obtain the documents on behalf of plaintiff James Logue, a protester. “If you’re walking to Grand Central with a handful of people for an action, that’s much more than just showing up to a public demonstration – that sounds like a level of friendship.”

Joseph Giacalone, a retired NYPD detective sergeant and professor at John Jay College, agreed that it would not be easy for an undercover officer to join a small group of protesters and hear their plans. “It would be pretty amazing that they would be able to get into the core group in such a short window of time,” said Giacalone. “This could have been going on a while before for these people to get so close to the inner circle.”

The NYPD documents also included a handful of pictures and one short video taken at Grand Central Station demonstrations. Most are pictures of crowds milling about or taking part in demonstrations. In one picture of a small group of activists, the NYPD identifies an individual in a brown jacket as the “main protester”. These images of protesters are reminiscent of those taken by undercover transit police, who were also deployed to Black Lives Matter protests in Grand Central Station in 2015.

nypd documents
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An individual is identified as the ‘main protester’. Photograph: NYPD/Screenshot/Scribd
Giacalone said this type of leadership identification was standard police practice at protests. “If you take out the biggest mouth, everybody just withers away, so you concentrate on the ones you believe are your organizers,” he said. “Once you identify that person, you can run computer checks on them to see if they have a warrant out or any summons failures, then you can drag them in before they go out to speak or rile up the crowd, as long as you have reasonable cause to do so.”

Attorneys say the documents raise legal questions about whether the NYPD was acting in compliance with the department’s intelligence-gathering rules, known as the Handschu Guidelines. The guidelines, which are based on an ongoing decades-old class-action lawsuit, hold that the NYPD can begin formally investigating first amendment activity “when facts or circumstances reasonably indicate that an unlawful act has been, is being, or will be committed” and if the police surveillance plan has been authorized by a committee known as the Handschu Authority. (That committee was exclusively staffed by NYPD officials at the time.) However, according to the guidelines, before launching a formal investigation, the NYPD can also conduct investigative work such as “checking of leads” and “preliminary inquiries” with even lower standards of suspicion.

Michael Price, counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, said it was difficult to know whether NYPD’s undercover surveillance operations crossed the line, as the documents did not make clear what, if any, stage of investigation the police were in at the time of the operations. But he said the department’s retention of pictures and video raised questions, since police are not allowed to retain information about public events unless it relates to unlawful activity.

“So my question would be: what was the unlawful activity that police had reason to suspect here?” said Price. “It doesn’t appear that there was any criminal behavior they were talking about in the emails. Most references are to protesters being peaceful, so I would be very concerned if they were hinging their whole investigation on civil disobedience, such as unpermitted protests or blocking of pedestrians.”

Throughout the emails, the NYPD’s undercover sources provide little indication of any unlawful activity, frequently characterizing demonstrators as peaceful and orderly with only one mention of a single arrest.

“The documents uniformly show no crime occurring, but NYPD had undercovers inside the protests for months on end as if they were al-Qaida,” said David Thompson, an attorney of Stecklow & Thompson, who helped sue for the records.

Giacalone argued that police could have easily come up with a legal justification to initiate surveillance, especially if such operations occurred after the shooting of two NYPD officers in December of 2014 (all dates in the NYPD’s email communications were redacted). But he noted that such investigative activities would be harder to justify if officers were not directly observing signs of unlawful activity.

“If they’re not talking about any crimes being committed, they’re going to have a difficult time defending this. It may end up in another one of these lawsuits,” said Giacalone. “Some may say this is good police work, fine, but good police work or not, we have rules against this kind of thing in New York.”

Attorneys have already filed a petition charging that the NYPD may have failed to produce all of its surveillance records. But for some protesters, the damage has already been done.

“In the first couple of months, we had a lot of people in and out of the group, some because they didn’t fit our style but others because of the whispers that they were undercovers,” recalled Waithe. “Whether it was real or perceived, that was the most debilitating part for me, the whispers … It’s really hard to organize when you can’t trust each other.”

George Joseph in New York
Tuesday 4 April 2017 11.00 BST Last modified on Tuesday 4 April 2017 22.00 BST
Find this story at 4 April 2017

© 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Met police accused of using hackers to access protesters’ emails

Exclusive: Watchdog investigates claim that secretive unit worked with Indian police to obtain campaigners’ passwords

An anonymous letter claimed the Scotland Yard unit accessed activists’ email accounts for ‘a number of years’.

The police watchdog is investigating allegations that a secretive Scotland Yard unit used hackers to illegally access the private emails of hundreds of political campaigners and journalists.

The allegations were made by an anonymous individual who says the unit worked with Indian police, who in turn used hackers to illegally obtain the passwords of the email accounts of the campaigners, and some reporters and press photographers.

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The person, who says he or she previously worked for the intelligence unit that monitors the activities of political campaigners, detailed their concerns in a letter to the Green party peer Jenny Jones. The peer passed on the allegations to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which is investigating.

Hacked passwords were passed to the Metropolitan police unit, according to the writer of the letter, which then regularly checked the emails of the campaigners and the media to gather information. The letter to Jones listed the passwords of environmental campaigners, four of whom were from Greenpeace. Several confirmed they matched the ones they had used to open their emails.

The letter said: “For a number of years the unit had been illegally accessing the email accounts of activists. This has largely been accomplished because of the contact that one of the officers had developed with counterparts in India who in turn were using hackers to obtain email passwords.”

Jones said: “There is more than enough to justify a full-scale criminal investigation into the activities of these police officers and referral to a public inquiry. I have urged the Independent Police Complaints Commission to act quickly to secure further evidence and to find out how many people were victims of this nasty practice.”

The letter also alleges that emails of reporters and photographers, including two working for the Guardian, were monitored. A spokesperson for the Guardian said: “Allegations that the Metropolitan police has accessed the email accounts of Guardian journalists are extremely concerning and we expect a full and thorough investigation into these claims.”

The IPCC has for several months been investigating claims that the national domestic extremism and disorder intelligence unit shredded a large number of documents over a number of days in May 2014.

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Last month the IPCC said it had uncovered evidence suggesting the documents had been destroyed despite a specific instruction that files should be preserved to be examined by a judge-led public inquiry into the undercover policing of political groups.

The letter claimed that the shredding “has been happening for some time and on a far greater scale than the IPCC seems to be aware of”. The author added that “the main reason for destroying these documents is that they reveal that [police] officers were engaged in illegal activities to obtain intelligence on protest groups”.

The letter to Jones lists 10 individuals, alongside specific passwords that they used to access their email accounts. Lawyers at Bindmans, who are representing Jones, contacted six on the list and, after outlining the allegations, asked them to volunteer their passwords.

Five of them gave the identical password that had been identified in the letter. The sixth gave a password that was almost the same. The remaining four on the list have yet to be approached or cannot be traced.

Colin Newman has for two decades volunteered to help organise mainly local Greenpeace protests which he says were publicised to the media. He used the password specified in the letter for his private email account between the late 1990s and last year.

Newman said he felt “angry and violated, especially for the recipients”. He added: “I am open about my actions as I make a stand and am personally responsible for those, but it is not fair and just that others are scrutinised.

“I am no threat. There is no justification for snooping in private accounts unless you have a reason to do so, and you have the authority to do that.”

He said he had been cautioned by the police once, for trespassing on the railway during a protest against coal about two years ago.

Another on the list was Cat Dorey who has worked for Greenpeace, both as an employee and a volunteer, since 2001. She said all the protests she had been involved in were non-violent.

The password specified in the letter sent to Jones had been used for emails that contained private information about her family and friends.

She said: “Even though Greenpeace UK staff, volunteers, and activists were always warned to assume someone was listening to our phone conversations or reading our emails, it still came as a shock to find out I was being watched by the police. It’s creepy to think of strangers reading my personal emails.”

In 2005, she was part of a group of Greenpeace protesters who were sentenced to 80 hours of community service after installing solar panels on the home of the then deputy prime minister, John Prescott, in a climate change demonstration.

According to the letter, the “most sensitive side of the work was monitoring the email accounts of radical journalists who reported on activist protests (as well as sympathetic photographers) including at least two employed by the Guardian newspaper”. None were named.

Investigators working for the IPCC have met Jones twice with her lawyer, Jules Carey, and have asked to interview the peer. An IPCC spokesperson said: “After requesting and receiving a referral by the Metropolitan police service, we have begun an independent investigation related to anonymous allegations concerning the accessing of personal data. We are still assessing the scope of the investigation and so we are not able to comment further.”

The letter’s writer said he or she had spoken out about the “serious abuse of power” because “over the years, the unit had evolved into an organisation that had little respect for the law, no regard for personal privacy, encouraged highly immoral activity and, I believe, is a disgrace”.

In recent years, the unit has monitored thousands of political activists, drawing on information gathered by undercover officers and informants as well as from open sources such as websites. Police chiefs say they need to keep track of a wide pool of activists to identify the small number who commit serious crime to promote their cause.

But the unit has come in for criticism after it was revealed to be compiling files on law-abiding campaigners, including John Catt, a 91-year-old pensioner with no criminal record as well as senior members of the Green party including the MP Caroline Lucas.

The Metropolitan police said the IPCC had made it “aware of anonymous allegations concerning the accessing of personal data, and requested the matters were referred to them by the MPS. This was done. The MPS is now aware that the IPCC are carrying out an independent investigation.”

Rob Evans
Tuesday 21 March 2017 16.35 GMT Last modified on Wednesday 22 March 2017 00.50 GMT

Find this story at 22 March 2017

© 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

The letter I received about alleged police hacking shows how at risk we all are

The whistleblower lists damning claims of spying on innocent individuals by a secretive Scotland Yard unit. It’s now vital that we hold the police to account
‘When the police act with impunity all of our private lives are put at risk’

As the only Green party peer I receive a lot of post to my office in the House of Lords. Rarely, though, do I open letters like the one that has been revealed. The anonymous writer alleged that there was a secretive unit within Scotland Yard that has used hackers to illegally access the emails of campaigners and journalists. It included a list of 10 people and the passwords to their email accounts.

As soon as I read the first sentence of the letter, I knew the content would be astonishing – and when some aspects of the letter were corroborated by lawyers and those on the list – I was convinced that we owed it to this brave whistleblower to hold the police to account.

The list of allegations is lengthy. It includes illegal hacking of emails, using an Indian-based operation to do the dirty work, shredding documents and using sex as a tool of infiltration. And these revelations matter to all of us. None of us knows whether the police organised for our emails to be hacked, but all of us know the wide range of personal information that our emails contain. It might be medical conditions, family arguments, love lives or a whole range of drug- or alcohol-related misdemeanours.

When the police act with impunity, all of our private lives are put at risk. Whether you’re involved in a local campaign against library closures, a concerned citizen worried about air pollution or someone working for a charity – who’s to say that officers won’t be spying on the emails you send? The police put me on the domestic extremism database during the decade when I was on the Metropolitan Police Authority signing off their budgets and working closely with officers on the ground to fight crimes such as road crime and illegal trafficking. If someone in my position – no criminal record and on semi-friendly terms with the Met commissioner – can end up on the database, then you can too.

The truth is that without the bravery and professionalism of two serving police officers who have blown the whistle on state snooping I would know nothing about my files, and those of other campaigners, being shredded by the Domestic Extremism Unit. We would have had no suspicion that those files had been shredded to cover up the illegal hacking of personal and work e-mails by the police.

Please don’t fall for the old establishment lie that the problem is a few rotten apples. This alleged criminality is the result of a deliberate government policy of using the police and security services to suppress dissent and protest in order to protect company profits and the status quo. Such an approach inevitably leads to police officers overstepping the mark as they feel emboldened by those at the top levels of government and an immunity from prosecution provided by senior officers keen to please the people who decide their budgets.

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The police don’t always act as neutral agents of the law. We know that the Thatcher government’s determination to break the miners’ strike led to the Orgreave confrontation in 1984. There are still allegations about the links between the police and those running blacklisting databases that led to hundreds of construction workers being condemned to unemployment and poverty.

And don’t mistake this for a partisan attack on Conservative politicians. Theresa May has forced through the draconian Investigatory Powers Act, but the Labour party too has been timid at best in opposing this snoopers’ charter. Indeed it was the Blair government that left a legacy of draconian public order laws, and which broadly defined the anti-terrorism legislation upon which an edifice of modern surveillance powers has been constructed.

Many are unaware that joining an anti-fracking group, or going on a demonstration, could get you labelled a domestic extremist, photographed, questioned and followed for months or even years – without ever having been convicted of a crime.

It’s only by speaking out against these intrusions that we are able to challenge this rotten culture of impunity. After all, it was David Cameron who gave us the Hillsborough inquiry and Theresa May who set up the Pitchford inquiry into undercover officers. Politicians don’t always do things for good reasons, but they do respond to public pressure.

Change is possible, but in the meantime, we should be doing everything we can to make it hard for the police to spy on us. Use encryption, two-step email security and other precautions suggested by organisations such as Liberty. Don’t stop saying what you think, or working to make the world a better place, but do assume that the police will be working to protect the companies, banks or energy companies that you want to challenge.

It isn’t how things should be, but the evidence shows that is the way things are.

A campaign to get the police out of the lives of environmentalists and social justice campaigners is a good start, but it will fail unless it reaches out – starting by working with those in the Muslim community intimidated by Prevent.

Above all, we must convince the middle ground of society that everyone will be safer if the security services focused on what we all want them to do – stopping terrorists and serious criminals. This is not unreasonable, and the starting point is a change to the legislation so that it narrows the definition of terrorism to exclude the nonviolent, noisy and rebellious

Wednesday 22 March 2017 15.23 GMT Last modified on Wednesday 22 March 2017 17.29 GMT
Jenny Jones
Find this story at 22 March 2017

© 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Police Scotland confirms secret G8 file on notorious undercover police unit

POLICE Scotland has confirmed that a secret file was created on the activities of a disgraced undercover unit at the G8 summit at Gleneagles.

The “intelligence briefings” on the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, whose officers had sex with the protestors they spied on, will now be examined by a watchdog as part of its covert policing probe. Police Scotland said they would not comment on the contents of the file.

Two Met-based units – the Special Demonstration Squad and the NPOIU – were set up to keep tabs on so-called subversives and domestic extremists.

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A key strategy was to embed undercover officers in campaign groups, which included anti-racism organisations, and report back to handlers.

However, some of the tactics deployed by officers in the units, such as using the identities of dead babies and deceiving women into long-term sexual relationships before vanishing, have since been exposed.

The Pitchford Inquiry, set up by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary, is examining undercover policing going back decades.

Although the judicial-led investigation does not apply to Scotland, NPOIU activity took place north of the border in the run up to the G8 summit in Scotland in 2005.

Mark “Stone” was a driver for campaigners at the G8, but was unmasked as undercover officer Mark Kennedy.

He later said in an interview: “My superior officer told me on more than one occasion, particularly during the G8 protests in Scotland in 2005, that information I was providing was going directly to Tony Blair’s desk.”

Ahead of the G8, the then Scottish Executive issued a Ministerial Certificate blocking the release of information connected with the summit. The blackout applied to all Scottish public authorities, including police forces, health bodies and the Government.

However, it can be revealed that the SNP Government quietly revoked the certificate in 2010, a decision that could result in information on the summit being released.

After being asked by this newspaper for the titles of all files produced by on the G8 in 2005, Police Scotland confirmed the names of 1168 files.

Forty-four were created by the former Fife Constabulary, whose patch included the Gleneagles hotel, while 1124 files were produced by Lothian and Borders police.

Many of the files are on routine policing matters, but one document is described as “intelligence briefings” on the “National Public Order Intelligence Unit”.

Other files include “stop the war coalition – regulatory board” and “indymedia”, which was a left-wing website at the time.

There was also correspondence with the security services on the “Senior Leadership Development Programme”, a funding request for a “special branch operation” in May 2005 and over a dozen files on the peaceful Make Poverty History march.

After the UK Government refused to extend the Pitchford Inquiry to Scotland, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland launched its own review of undercover policing.

A spokesperson for HMICS said: “As outlined in our terms of reference HMICS will examine the scale and extent of undercover police operations in Scotland conducted by the SDS and the NPOIU. As part of our scrutiny, we will review the authorisations for undercover deployments during the G8 Summit in Scotland in July 2005. HMICS are currently engaged in this process with the full cooperation of Police Scotland. With specific regard to the intelligence file, HMICS will ?examine this file for any information that may inform our review process.”

Donal O’Driscoll, a core participant in the Pitchford Inquiry who was spied on in Scotland, said: “We have long argued that the both the SDS and the NPOIU were active in Scotland, particularly around the 2005 G8. The existence of this file strengthens our case that there needs to be a full inquiry into the activities of spy cops in Scotland – and renders the exclusion of Scotland from the Pitchford Inquiry even more inexplicable.

“We continue to have no confidence in the HMICS review. Nevertheless, I’d expect them to at least make the effort to examine this and related briefings as part of the bare minimum they need to do. Not least because it is now beyond dispute there were multiple undercover police from the NPOIU and foreign police forces present at the G8 protests. However, only a full public inquiry can get to the truth as to what the police and the state had planned and co-ordinated when they interfered in legitimate democratic protest.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Police Scotland does not routinely comment on covert policing or intelligence. We will not offer any comment on the contents of any specific files. Any inquiries relating to the NPOIU should be directed to the Met Police. Police Scotland will also fully and openly co-operate with the review of undercover policing to be carried out by HMICS.”

/ Paul Hutcheon, Investigations Editor / @paulhutcheon

Find this story at 25 March 2017
© Copyright 2017 Herald & Times Group

2 Lebanese, 2 Nepalese and 1 Palestinian Held for Spying for Israel

The General Directorate of General Security announced Wednesday that it has arrested two Lebanese men, two Nepalese women and a Palestinian man on charges of “spying for Israeli embassies abroad.”

“During interrogation, the detainees confessed to the charges, admitting that they had called phone numbers belonging to the Israeli enemy’s embassies in Turkey, Jordan, Britain and Nepal with the aim of spying and passing on information,” a General Security statement said.

The investigations revealed that the two aforementioned Nepalese women were actively recruiting Nepalese domestic workers in Lebanon with the aim of spying for Israel.

“They gave them the phone number of the Israeli embassy in Nepal so that they pass on information about their employers to the Mossad Israeli intelligence agency,” the statement added.

“Following interrogation, they were referred to the relevant judicial authorities on charges of collaborating with the Israeli enemy and efforts are underway to arrest the rest of the culprits,” General Security said.

by Naharnet Newsdesk 25 January 2017, 16:04

Find this story at 25 January 2017

Naharnet © 2017

Did Hizballah Beat the CIA at Its Own Techno-Surveillance Game? (2011)

The CIA found itself in some rough waters in the Middle East last week. On Thursday, an influential member of Iran’s parliament announced that the Islamic republic had arrested 12 “CIA agents” who had allegedly been targeting Iran’s military and its nuclear program. The lawmaker didn’t give the nationality of the agents, but the presumption is that they were Iranians recruited to spy for the CIA. The agency hasn’t yet commented, but from what I’ve heard it was a serious compromise, one which the CIA is still trying to get to the bottom of.

Even more curious was the flap in Lebanon. In June, Hizballah’s secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah announced that the movement had arrested two of its own members as CIA spies. But it wasn’t until last week that the story got traction in Washington. The CIA confirmed that operations in Beirut had been compromised but declined to offer details. As in the case of the alleged Iranian debacle, it’s no doubt still doing a “damage assessment” — a process that can take years. Even then, it will be difficult to determine exactly what happened.

From what I’ve been able to piece together, Hizballah aggressively went after the CIA in Lebanon using telephone “link analysis.” That’s a form of electronic intelligence gathering that uses software capable of combing through trillions of gigabytes of phone-call data in search of anomalies — prepaid cell phones calling each other, series of brief calls, analysis of a cell-phone company’s GPS tracking. Geeks who do this for a living understand how it works, and I’ll take their word for it.

But it’s not the technology that’s remarkable, as much as the idea that it’s being employed by Hizballah, a militant Islamic organization better known for acts of terror than for electronic counterespionage. That’s another reminder that Hizballah has effectively supplanted the Lebanese state, taking over police and security functions that in other countries are the exclusively the domain of sovereign authority. Indeed, since Nasrallah’s announcement of catching the CIA agents, no Lebanese authority has questioned why Hizballah, rather than Lebanese intelligence, would be responsible for catching alleged spies for foreign powers in Lebanon. Nobody bothers to ask what would be a pointless question; everyone knows that when it comes to military and security functions, Hizballah might as well be the state.

(Watch a video of Hizballah’s theme park.)
Since I served in Beirut during the ’80s, I’ve been struck by the slow but inexorable shift of sovereign power to Hizballah. Not only does the movement have the largest military, with nearly 50,000 rockets pointed at Israel; it has de facto control over Lebanon’s spies, both military and civilian. It green-lights senior appointments. Hizballah also is wired into all the databases, keeping track of who enters the country, who leaves, where they stay, whom they see and call. It’s capable of monitoring every server in the country. It can even tap into broadband communications like Skype. And, of course, it doesn’t bother with such legal niceties as warrants. If foreigners are going to be caught spy in Lebanon, it will be Hizballah that catches them.

I have a feeling last week’s events bodes ill for U.S. intelligence because it suggests that anyone capable from organized crime to terrorist groups can greatly enhance their counterintelligence capability by simply buying off-the-shelf equipment and the know-how to use it. Like a lot of people, I thought it would be easy coasting at the end of the Cold War after the KGB was defanged. Instead, globalization and the rapid spread of sophisticated technologies have opened an espionage Pandora’s box.

By Robert Baer Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011
Find this story at 30 November 2011

© 2016 Time Inc.

Exclusive: CIA Spies Caught, Fear Execution in Middle East (2011)

In a significant failure for the United States in the Mideast, more than a dozen spies working for the CIA in Iran and Lebanon have been caught and the U.S. government fears they will be or have been executed, according to four current and former U.S. officials with connections to the intelligence community.

The spies were paid informants recruited by the CIA for two distinct espionage rings targeting Iran and the Beirut-based Hezbollah organization, considered by the U.S. to be a terror group backed by Iran.

“Espionage is a risky business,” a U.S. official briefed on the developments told ABC News, confirming the loss of the unspecified number of spies over the last six months.

“Many risks lead to wins, but some result in occasional setbacks,” the official said.

Robert Baer, a former senior CIA officer who worked against Hezbollah while stationed in Beirut in the 1980’s, said Hezbollah typically executes individuals suspected of or caught spying.

“If they were genuine spies, spying against Hezbollah, I don’t think we’ll ever see them again,” he said. “These guys are very, very vicious and unforgiving.”

Other current and former officials said the discovery of the two U.S. spy rings occurred separately, but amounted to a setback of significant proportions in efforts to track the activities of the Iranian nuclear program and the intentions of Hezbollah against Israel.

“Remember, this group was responsible for killing more Americans than any other terrorist group before 9/11,” said a U.S. official. Attacks on the U.S. embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 killed more than 300 people, including almost 260 Americans.

The U.S. official, speaking for the record but without attribution, gave grudging credit to the efforts of Iran and Hezbollah to detect and expose U.S. and Israeli espionage.

“Collecting sensitive information on adversaries who are aggressively trying to uncover spies in their midst will always be fraught with risk,” said the U.S. official briefed on the spy ring bust.

But others inside the American intelligence community say sloppy “tradecraft” — the method of covert operations — by the CIA is also to blame for the disruption of the vital spy networks.

In Beirut, two Hezbollah double agents pretended to go to work for the CIA. Hezbollah then learned of the restaurant where multiple CIA officers were meeting with several agents, according to the four current and former officials briefed on the case. The CIA used the codeword “PIZZA” when discussing where to meet with the agents, according to U.S. officials. Two former officials describe the location as a Beirut Pizza Hut. A current US official denied that CIA officers met their agents at Pizza Hut.

From there, Hezbollah’s internal security arm identified at least a dozen informants, and the identities of several CIA case officers.

Hezbollah then began to “roll up” much of the CIA’s network against the terror group, the officials said.

One former senior intelligence official told ABC News that CIA officers ignored warnings that the operation could be compromised by using the same location for meetings with multiple assets.

“We were lazy and the CIA is now flying blind against Hezbollah,” the former official said.

CIA Spies Caught in Iran

At about the same time that Hezbollah was identifying the CIA network in Lebanon, Iranian intelligence agents discovered a secret internet communication method used by CIA-paid assets in Iran.

The CIA has yet to determine precisely how many of its assets were compromised in Iran, but the number could be in the dozens, according to one current and one former U.S. intelligence official.

The exposure of the two spy networks was first announced in widely ignored televised statements by Iranian and Hezbollah leaders. U.S. officials tell ABC News that much of what was broadcast was, in fact, true.

Hezbollah’s leader, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, announced in June of this year that two high-ranking members of Hezbollah had been exposed as CIA spies, leading U.S. officials to conclude that the entire network inside Hezbollah had been compromised.

In Iran, intelligence minister Heidar Moslehi announced in May that more than 30 U.S. and Israeli spies had been discovered and an Iranian television program, which acts as a front for Iran’s government, showed images of internet sites used by the U.S. for secret communication with the spies.

U.S. officials said the Iranian television program showed pictures of people who were not U.S. assets, but the program’s video of the websites used by the CIA was accurate.

Some former U.S. intelligence officials say the developments are the result of a lack of professionalism in the U.S. intelligence community.

“We’ve lost the tradition of espionage,” said one former official who still consults for the U.S. intelligence community. “Officers take short cuts and no one is held accountable,” he said.

But at the CIA, officials say such risks come with the territory.

“Hezbollah is an extremely complicated enemy,” said a U.S. official. “It’s a determined terrorist group, a powerful political player, a mighty military and an accomplished intelligence operation, formidable and ruthless. No one underestimates its capabilities.”

“If you lose an asset, one source, that’s normally a setback in espionage,” said Robert Baer, who was considered an expert on Hezbollah.

“But when you lose your entire station, either in Tehran or Beirut, that’s a catastrophe, that just shouldn’t be. And the only way that ever happens is when you’re mishandling sources.”

By MATTHEW COLEBRIAN ROSS Nov. 21, 2011

Find this story at 21 November 2011

COpyright http://abcnews.go.com/

Lebanon better able to catch alleged Israeli spies (2010)

A strengthening Lebanese government is helping the militant group Hezbollah bust alleged spy cells, sometimes using tools and tradecraft acquired from Western nations.

Reporting from Beirut — The chief of Lebanon’s domestic security forces had a warning for the Hezbollah commander: “You’ve been infiltrated.”

With that, Achraf Rifi, head of the U.S.-backed Internal Security Forces, handed over evidence showing that two trusted, mid-ranking Hezbollah commanders were working as informants for Israeli military intelligence, said a high-ranking Lebanese security official with knowledge of the April 2009 meeting.

Wafiq Safa, the security chief for the powerful Shiite Muslim militia and political organization, was silent.

“They were shocked,” said the security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak on the subject.

Things moved quickly after that. The Hezbollah commander called Rifi the next day to assure him that the militant group would “take care of” the alleged infiltrators, who were never heard from again, the security official said.

A monthlong war between Hezbollah and Israel ended four years ago, and Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon ended a decade ago. But a clandestine intelligence war between the Jewish state and the Iranian-backed militant group continues unabated, officials and security experts say.

Now, a strengthening Lebanese government is helping Hezbollah bust alleged spy cells, sometimes using tools and tradecraft acquired from Western nations eager to build up Lebanon’s security forces as a counterweight to the Shiite group, which since a 2008 power-sharing agreement has been a member of the governing coalition.

Although security officials here say they’re using newfound tools to ferret out spies watching Hezbollah, just like they would against anyone attempting to infiltrate the country, Western observers express concern.

“There are deep Israeli worries that anything the West gives the Lebanese armed forces and the Internal Security Forces could be used against them,” said Mara Karlin, a former Lebanon specialist at the U.S. Defense Department, now a researcher at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

The United States and its Western allies play a delicate balancing game in Lebanon. Since 2006, Washington has given nearly $500 million in military aid to Lebanese security forces and has allocated $100 million for 2011, making Lebanon the second-largest recipient of American military aid per capita after Israel.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow met officials in Lebanon on Monday, emphasizing that continuing U.S. aid and training would allow the army to “prevent militias and other nongovernment organizations” from undermining the government.

The use of sophisticated equipment in the foiling of alleged Israeli spies may be the first concrete illustration of the U.S. dilemma. According to Lebanese officials, Israeli analysts and a Western diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity, Lebanon has redirected for use against Israel signal-detection equipment donated by France and intended to fight Islamic militants.

“The technology used with Fatah Islam was used to detect Israeli spies and collaborators in Lebanon,” said retired Col. Kamal Awar, a U.S.-trained former member of the Lebanese Special Forces who now publishes Defense 21, an Arabic-language military journal. “They discovered they were talking with the Israeli guy on the other side of the border.”

The U.S. military has also contributed to the Lebanese security forces’ communications abilities. Israeli analyst Ronen Bergman, author of “The Secret War with Iran,” who is writing a book about the history of his country’s intelligence efforts, said the U.S. gave Lebanon’s army sophisticated electronic equipment that allowed it to identify and trace even encrypted communications.

But there is no evidence that the training and equipment have been used to foil the intelligence operations of Israel, a major American ally.

Israel and Lebanon have long claimed counterintelligence coups and thwarted alleged traitors.

In 2008, Israel charged Sgt. Maj. Lovai Balut of Military Intelligence Unit 504 of passing on information to Hezbollah, according to the Jerusalem Post. In June, the Israeli army arrested a soldier and several civilians accused of spying for Hezbollah and smuggling drugs into the Jewish state.

But over the last two years, Lebanon’s security forces may have conducted one of the most extraordinary counterintelligence sweeps in the annals of espionage. Dozens of alleged spies have been arrested in Lebanon on suspicion of sending information to Israel on the whereabouts and movements of Hezbollah and other enemies of the Jewish state.

The broad range of suspects suggests a widespread effort by Israeli security forces to infiltrate Hezbollah, which Israel views as a severe threat to its national security.

They include a city official of a small town in Hezbollah’s Bekaa Valley stronghold. Ziad Homsy, allegedly recruited at a conference in the Far East, is serving a temporary sentence of hard labor pending a final verdict.

“Homsy had fought against the Israeli occupation,” said a Lebanese army officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the topic. “It was not easy to recruit him. But he needed the money. He would never drive a Kia. It was either a Mercedes or an SUV or stay at home.”

There is the case of Lebanese army reserve Brig. Gen. Adib Alam, arrested in 2009 on charges of spying for Israel, who was reportedly convinced that it would help counter Syria, which he despised for its dominant role in recent Lebanese history.

One convicted spy, Marwan Faqih, was a car dealer who allegedly sold Hezbollah bigwigs SUVs equipped with tracking devices that allowed Israel to follow their movements. Hezbollah has denied that its members bought cars from him.

This summer, Lebanese security forces arrested two people working for the country’s state-owned Alfa cellphone company who allegedly allowed Israel to breach the communications network, a matter that has roiled the Lebanese Cabinet and prompted the government to announce that it would seek redress against Israel at the U.N. Security Council.

Three Lebanese nationals, one of whom was found guilty of providing Israel with sensitive information during its 2006 war with Hezbollah, have been sentenced to death for spying activities.

The motives vary, security officials said. Some of those apprehended have political gripes against Hezbollah.

“There are some political reasons, there are some psychological reasons,” the high-ranking security official said. “But mostly it’s money and sex.”

According to Lebanese security officials and intelligence experts, the alleged spies used sophisticated electronic devices to communicate with their handlers via coded messages. In May 2009, the intelligence branch of the ISF paraded some of the devices before an eager press corps. They included laptop computers, satellite phones, a tracking device hidden in the lid of a water cooler and a wooden chest installed with an apparatus for transmitting and receiving messages.

“If only part of this story is true, it means [Hezbollah] has been sharing its every step and move with a silent partner,” said Gad Shimron, a former Mossad officer and author of the book “Mossad Exodus.”

Over the last several years, Lebanon has doubled the number of officers working in counterintelligence. Security officials believed that their efforts are bearing fruit by dismantling a robust Israeli spy infrastructure they say has been in place in the country for decades.

“They were strong and we were weaker,” the Lebanese security official said. “The Israelis thought they had the technological edge that put them ahead of the Arabs by 30 years. But we showed them we’re catching up.”

But some analysts speculate that Lebanese security forces are giving themselves too much credit, and that Hezbollah, Iran and Syria may have contributed to the country’s apparent counterintelligence successes.

“Anecdotal data suggests Hezbollah is providing intelligence to ISF and LAF,” the Lebanese military, said Aram Nerguizian, a resident scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

Some of the successes involved blind luck. The alleged activities of Faqih, the SUV dealer, unraveled when a Hezbollah member took his car to a mechanic over a minor electrical problem.

“The electrician started testing here and there,” the Lebanese army officer said. “He found a wire leading to a strange device. He told the owner.”

Hezbollah detained Faqih soon afterward.

July 31, 2010|By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times

Find this story at 31 July 2010
Copyright 2017 Los Angeles Times

German spy inquiry could demand access to British intelligence secrets

Exclusive: Chairman warns German parliamentary inquiry into spying known as NSA Committee could force Angela Merkel’s government to disclose files on joint intelligence operations with UK

German spy inquiry could demand access to British intelligence secrets
The German inquiry was set up last year in the wake of Edward Snowden’s disclosure that the US spied on Mrs Merkel’s mobile phone Photo: Reuters

A German parliamentary inquiry into spying is demanding access to classified information on British intelligence, its chairman has said.
Prof Patrick Sensburg told the Telegraph his committee of MPs could go to court to force Angela Merkel’s government to disclose files on joint intelligence operations with Britain.
He also called for a new Europe-wide agreement to limit powers on data surveillance.
Britain has reportedly threatened to end intelligence cooperation with Germany if the files on joint operations are opened to the inquiry.
“In the end, we can go to our highest court and ask them to decide. We have a right as a parliamentary inquiry to get information from our government,” Prof Sensburg said.
“But I hope it won’t come to that point because that’s not a good situation for our partners.
“There’s no agreement with the British yet. There are a lot of documents we want to see that we’re looking for their agreement on.”
• Head of German inquiry into spying claims his own phone may have been hacked
• Britain ‘threatens to stop sharing intelligence’ with Germany
The warning presents the latest security threat to British intelligence, after officials warned that Russia and China had cracked the encryptions on secret files leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, forcing MI6 to withdraw compromised agents from operations in dangerous countries around the world.

Former U.S. defence contractor Edward Snowden (Reuters)
The German inquiry was set up last year in the wake of Edward Snowden’s disclosure that the US spied on Mrs Merkel’s mobile phone.
German prosecutors on Friday closed a criminal investigation into that case, citing lack of evidence.
But the parliamentary inquiry continues, and has taken on a wider remit, to investigate spying in general.
Prof Sensburg said the German government was in discussions with Britain to find an acceptable way of sharing the information with the inquiry.
His committee is facing a similar stand-off with the US over requests for files on joint operations with American agencies.
“I never expected a lorry full of lever arch files from the British Embassy to arrive outside my office,” Prof Sensburg said.
“Of course, we’re dealing with an issue that concerns intelligence. I understand that a lot of the information is top secret.
“It comes to a question of the branches of government: does it include parliament? We have a duty as MPs to monitor our government.”
The issue has underlined how decisions made in a committee room in Berlin can have a serious impact on British intelligence operations.
Prof Sensburg declined to comment on reports the British government sent a letter to Mrs Merkel’s office earlier this year threatening to end all intelligence cooperation if the files were shown to the inquiry.
Angela Merkel with her mobile phone
“I can’t talk to the British government as chairman of the committee,” he said, adding that he was relying on the German government to fnd a solution acceptable to Britain.
Mrs Merkel’s government is proposing solving a similar impasse with the US by appointing a special commissioner to read the classified files, according to reports.
The commissioner would then report back to the MPs.
The Americans have reportedly already frozen intelligence cooperation with German soldiers in Iraq over the inquiry, and declined to respond to requests for help locating a German hostage in Afghanistan.
The British and American concerns are believed to centre on a series of leaks of classified information suspected to have come from the inquiry.
Mrs Merkel’s office wrote to its members last year threatening them with prosecution if there were further leaks.
But Mr Sensburg denied his committee was the source of the leaks.
“None of those documents had stamps on them from the inquiry,” he said. “They could have been leaked from abroad, or by our own government. One has even been proved to be a fake.”
Initially set up in the wake of disclosures that the US National Security Agency spied on Mrs Merkel, the inquiry is known in Germany as the “NSA Committee”.
But it has found itself at the centre of an ever-widening spy scandal after allegations emerged that Germany’s own BND intelligence service spied on French government officials and other European targets – at the NSA’s request.
“I think these days we should rename it the BND Committee,” Prof Sensburg joked.
The dispute with the US is over the inquiry’s request to see a list of the phone numbers and email addresses the NSA asked the BND to monitor.
European countries including Austria and Belgium have opened their own investigations in the wake of allegations.
“I think it’s time for all of us in Europe, including the UK, to find a common policy on limits for data surveillance,” Prof Sensburg said.
Currently, different national intelligence agencies all have their own rules on what they’re allowed to spy on.
The BND filters out German results but not those from friendly European countries.
“It’s no good if Germany agrees to filters out European results, but other countries don’t,” Prof Sensburg said.
A member of Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrats, Prof Sensburg has often had to act as a moderating voice on the committee against the shriller demands of opposition members.
He is quick to distance himself from criticism of the UK after reports there was a listening post on the British Embassy in Berlin, for instance.
“I don’t know why the UK and the US were singled out for that, and not Russia or China,” he said.
Opposition inquiry members have already taken the German government to court once, to try to force it to allow Mr Snowden to come to Germany and testify in person.
The court rejected that bid, ruling that the government couldn’t give Mr Snowden immunity from extradition to the US.
“I think what Edward Snowden did is he gave this issue a face,” Prof Sensburg said.
“Without Snowden it would have been an issue for experts and freaks, not the wider public.”

By Justin Huggler, Berlin10:17AM BST 18 Jun 2015

Find this story at 18 june 2015

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2017

Blair government’s rendition policy led to rift between UK spy agencies MI5 chief’s complaint over MI6 role in ‘war on terror’ abductions caused prolonged breakdown in relations

British involvement in controversial and clandestine rendition operations provoked an unprecedented row between the UK’s domestic and foreign intelligence services, MI5 and MI6, at the height of the “war on terror”, the Guardian can reveal.

The head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, was so incensed when she discovered the role played by MI6 in abductions that led to suspected extremists being tortured, she threw out a number of her sister agency’s staff and banned them from working at MI5’s headquarters, Thames House.

According to Whitehall sources, she also wrote to the then prime minister, Tony Blair, to complain about the conduct of MI6 officers, saying their actions had threatened Britain’s intelligence gathering and may have compromised the security and safety of MI5 officers and their informants.

The letter caused a serious and prolonged breakdown of trust between Britain’s domestic and foreign spy agencies provoked by the Blair government’s support for rendition.

The letter was discovered by investigators examining whether British intelligence officers should face criminal charges over the rendition of an exiled Libyan opposition leader, Abdul Hakim Belhaj.

A critic of Muammar Gaddafi, the former Libyan dictator, Belhaj was seized in Bangkok in March, 2004 in a joint UK-US operation, and handed over to the CIA. He alleges the CIA tortured him and injected him with “truth serum” before flying him and his family to Tripoli to be interrogated.

Abdul Hakim Belhaj, centre, speaks during a press conference in Tripoli in 2012.
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Abdul Hakim Belhaj, centre, speaks during a press conference in Tripoli in 2012. Photograph: Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images
According to documents found in Tripoli, five days before he was secretly flown to the Libyan capital, MI6 gave Gaddafi’s intelligence agency the French and Moroccan aliases used by Belhaj.

MI6 also provided the Libyans with the intelligence that allowed the CIA to kidnap him and take him to Tripoli.

Belhaj told the Guardian that British intelligence officers were among the first to interrogate him in Tripoli. He said he was “very surprised that the British got involved in what was a very painful period in my life”.

“I wasn’t allowed a bath for three years and I didn’t see the sun for one year,” he told the Guardian. “They hung me from the wall and kept me in an isolation cell. I was regularly tortured.”

The secret role played by MI6 was revealed after the fall of Gaddafi, when documents were found in ransacked offices of his intelligence chief, Moussa Koussa.

One, dated 18 March 2004 was a note from Sir Mark Allen, then head of counter-terrorism at MI6, to Moussa Koussa. It said: “I congratulate you on the safe arrival of Abu Abd Allah Sadiq [Abdul-Hakim Belhaj]. This was the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over the years. I am so glad. I was grateful to you for helping the officer we sent out last week.”

Allen added: “[Belhaj’s] information on the situation in this country is of urgent importance to us. Amusingly, we got a request from the Americans to channel requests for information from [Belhaj] through the Americans. I have no intention of doing any such thing. The intelligence on [Belhaj] was British. I know I did not pay for the air cargo [Belhaj]. But I feel I have the right to deal with you direct on this and am very grateful for the help you are giving us.”

Scotland Yard has concluded its investigation into the alleged involvement of intelligence officers and officials in Libyan rendition operations and an announcement about whether or not to prosecute is imminent.

Whitehall sources have told the Guardian that police and prosecutors have been reviewing the issue for months. They say investigators have been frustrated by the way potentially key witnesses have said they were unable to recall who had authorised British involvement in the rendition programme, who else knew about it, and who knew the precise details of the Belhaj abduction.

“This is an extremely difficult area for police and prosecutors,” said one source. “The problem is, the CPS cannot bring a charge against a government policy.”

The letter to Blair sent by Manningham-Buller, who was director general of MI5 from 2002 to 2007, reflected deep divisions within Britain’s intelligence agencies over the methods being used to gather information after the 9/11 attacks on the US.

Though MI5 has been criticised about some of the tactics used, the letter suggests Britain’s security service had serious misgivings about rendition operations and the torture of suspects.

The Guardian has been told the MI5 chief was “shocked and appalled” by the treatment of Belhaj and vented her anger at MI6, which was then run by Sir Richard Dearlove.

“When EMB [Manningham-Buller] found out what had gone on in Libya, she was evidently furious. I have never seen a letter quite like it. There was a serious rift between MI5 and MI6 at the time.”

She has since said the aim of engaging with Gaddafi to persuade him to abandon his chemical and nuclear weapons programme was not “wrong in principle”.

However, she added: “There are clearly questions to be answered about the various relationships that developed afterwards and whether the UK supped with a sufficiently long spoon.”

The police files with the CPS are understood to describe how Belhaj, his pregnant wife, Fatima Bouchar, and children, and Sami al-Saadi and his family were abducted from the far east to Gaddafi’s interrogation and torture cells in Tripoli in 2004.

The British government paid £2.2m to settle a damages claim brought by al-Saadi and his family. Belhaj has refused to settle unless he receives an apology.

Jack Straw, who as foreign secretary was responsible for MI6, and Allen have always denied wrongdoing.

UK government ‘seeking to avoid responsibility’ for renditions
Read more
In December 2005, when the first evidence emerged that Britain was colluding in CIA rendition operations, Straw told MPs: “There is simply no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition full stop.”

When the Libyan renditions came to light, Straw said: “No foreign secretary can know all the details of what its intelligence agencies are doing at any one time.”

He has been interviewed by the police but only as a potential witness. Government officials, insisting on anonymity, said MI6 was following “ministerially authorised government policy”.

Blair said he did not have “any recollection at all” of the Belhaj rendition.

The Blair and Straw denials appeared to be contradicted by Dearlove.

He has said: “It was a political decision, having very significantly disarmed Libya, for the government to cooperate with Libya on Islamist terrorism. The whole relationship was one of serious calculation about where the overall balance of our national interests stood.”

Neither MI5 nor MI6, nor Manningham-Buller, wanted to make any public comment. Whitehall sources insist the relationship between MI5 and MI6 has now been repaired after a difficult period.

Belhaj is demanding an apology and an acceptance of British guilt. He has taken his case to the supreme court, which has yet to hand down a judgment.

Last year, the court was confronted with the prospect of Straw and British intelligence officers deploying the “foreign act of state doctrine” – that is to say, the courts here cannot rule on the case since agents from foreign countries, notably the US and Libya, were involved, and they are granted immunity.

Section 7 of the 1994 Intelligence Services Act, sometimes described as the “James Bond clause”, protects MI6 officers from prosecution for actions anywhere in the world that would otherwise be illegal. They would be protected as long as their actions were authorised in writing by the secretary of state.

However, lawyers for Belhaj say many cases involving deportation or asylum seekers, for example, relate to actions of foreign states and that, in any case, torture overrides all legal loopholes.

An inquiry under Sir Peter Gibson, a retired senior judge, into earlier rendition programmes in which British intelligence was involved, was abandoned because of the new and dramatic evidence about Belhaj’s abduction.

After insisting that the issues were so serious that it needed a judge-led inquiry rather than one carried out by the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, David Cameron reversed his position. After the Gibson inquiry was dropped, he said the issues should be taken up by the committee after all.

Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general and now chair of the committee, said shortly after he was appointed last October: “Our longer-term priority is the substantial inquiry into the role of the UK government and security and intelligence agencies in relation to detainee treatment and rendition, where there are still unanswered questions.”

The Gibson inquiry published a damning interim report before it folded. It concluded that the British government and its intelligence agencies had been involved in rendition operations, in which detainees were kidnapped and flown around the globe, and had interrogated detainees who they knew were being mistreated.

It said MI6 officers were informed they were under no obligation to report breaches of the Geneva conventions; intelligence officers appear to have taken advantage of the abuse of detainees; and Straw, as foreign secretary, had suggested that the law might be amended to allow suspects to be rendered to the UK.

It raised 27 questions they said would need to be answered if the full truth about the way in which Britain waged its “war on terror” was to be established.

The questions include:

• Did UK intelligence officers turn a blind eye to “specific, inappropriate techniques or threats” used by others and use this to their advantage in interrogations?

• If so, was there “a deliberate or agreed policy” between UK officers and overseas intelligence officers?

• Did the government and its agencies become “inappropriately involved in some renditions”?

• Was there a willingness, “at least at some levels within the agencies, to condone, encourage or take advantage of a rendition operation”?

Nick Hopkins and Richard Norton-Taylor
Tuesday 31 May 2016 17.56 BST Last modified on Wednesday 1 June 2016 17.20 BST

Find this story at 31 May 2016

© 2016 Guardian News and Media Limited

UK spy agencies have collected bulk personal data since 1990s, files show Agencies privately concede that ‘intrusive’ practices can invade privacy and that data is gathered on people ‘unlikely to be of interest’

Britain’s intelligence agencies have been secretly collecting bulk personal data since the late 1990s and privately admit they have gathered information on people who are “unlikely to be of intelligence or security interest”.

Disclosure of internal MI5, MI6 and GCHQ documents reveals the agencies’ growing reliance on amassing data as a prime source of intelligence even as they concede that such “intrusive” practices can invade the privacy of individuals.

A cache of more than 100 memorandums, forms and policy papers, obtained by Privacy International during a legal challenge over the lawfulness of surveillance, demonstrates that collection of bulk data has been going on for longer than previously disclosed while public knowledge of the process was suppressed for more than 15 years.

The files show that GCHQ, the government’s electronic eavesdropping centre based in Cheltenham, was collecting and developing bulk data sets as early as 1998 under powers granted by section 94 of the 1984 Telecommunications Act.

The documents offer a unique insight into the way MI5, MI6, and GCHQ go about collecting and storing bulk data on individuals, as well as authorising discovery of journalists’ sources.

Bulk personal data includes information extracted from passports, travel records, financial data, telephone calls, emails and many other open or covert sources. Often they are “fused” together to help pinpoint suspects.

The frequency of warnings to intelligence agency staff about the dangers of trespassing on private records is at odds with ministers’ repeated public reassurances that only terrorists and serious criminals are having their personal details compromised.

For example, a newsletter circulated in September 2011 by the Secret Intelligence Agency (SIS), better known as MI6, cautioned against staff misuse. “We’ve seen a few instances recently of individuals crossing the line with their database use … looking up addresses in order to send birthday cards, checking passport details to organise personal travel, checking details of family members for personal convenience,” it says.

“Another area of concern is the use of the database as a ‘convenient way’ to check the personal details of colleagues when filling out service forms on their behalf. Please remember that every search has the potential to invade the privacy of individuals, including individuals who are not the main subject of your search, so please make sure you always have a business need to conduct that search and that the search is proportionate to the level of intrusion involved.” Better where possible to use “less intrusive” means, it adds.

Theresa May unveils UK surveillance measures in wake of Snowden claims
Read more
There has been disciplinary action. Between 2014 and 2016, two MI5 and three MI6 officers were disciplined for mishandling bulk personal data. Last year, it was reported that a member of GCHQ’s staff had been sacked for making unauthorised searches.

The papers show that data handling errors remain a problem. Government lawyers have admitted in responses to Privacy International that between 1 June 2014 and 9 February this year, “47 instances of non-compliance either with the MI5 closed section 94 handling arrangements or internal guidance or the communications data code of practice were detected.” Four errors involved “necessity and proportionality” issues; 43 related to mistransposed digits, material that did not relate to the subject of investigation or duplicated requests.

Another MI5 file notes that datasets “contain personal data about individuals, the majority of whom are unlikely to be of intelligence or security interest”.

The documents have been disclosed before a trial due later this summer at the investigatory powers tribunal, which hears complaints about state-authorised surveillance and the intelligence agencies. IPT sessions hear secret evidence behind closed doors.

Release of these internal records follows admissions by David Cameron and by parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC) last year in the wake of revelations by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The most recent documents refer to a “more onerous authorisation process” after the prime minister’s avowal of the “use of bulk personal data”. They provide fresh detail of what is happening in the intelligence agencies.

Web and phone companies are required to retain data for official access for 12 months, but the intelligence agency documents make clear that acquired bulk data sets can be held far longer.

An MI5 memorandum says retention of “low intrusion” material needs to be reviewed only every two years. Some key words are missing from the memo, but it adds: “In MI5, a maximum retention period [redaction] is applied to [bulk personal data]. This can be increased in exceptional circumstances via a policy waiver. This waiver must be authorised by a senior MI5 official and agreed by the BPDRP [bulk data retention review panel] but shall be subject to a detailed review.”

Bulk personal data is exchanged with “foreign agencies”, presumably mainly those from other countries in the UK’s traditional “Five Eyes” alliance – the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

European court to consider legality of UK surveillance laws
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The documents do not specify every type of information exploited but give examples and broad categories: population data and passports, travel records, financial data and communications information. “Some of this data is publicly available, some of it is purchased and some of it is acquired covertly in accordance with SIS statutory functions,” according to an MI6 note.

Monetary information is held. “The fact that [MI5] holds bulk financial, albeit anonymised data is assessed to be a high corporate risk since there is no public expectation that the service will hold or have access to this data in bulk. Were it to become widely known that the service held this data, the media response would most likely be unfavourable and probably inaccurate.

“In some cases, it may be necessary for the relevant team to approach the data provider to examine whether any unnecessary/extraneous parts of the dataset can be removed prior to acquisition. Such extraneous data might include large numbers of minors, details of earnings or medical information.”
Death provides no escape. “Policy and processes in relation to bulk personal data is the same for both the living and the dead,” a combined agencies memo records.

Each intelligence service has its own database, it appears from the documents. For MI5, storage of bulk data is at their London HQ, Thames House. “In order to ensure the security and integrity of the datasets that the service relies upon for its enhanced analytical capabilities and to reassure data providers that their data will be handled securely, it is essential that the necessary physical controls are in place to mitigate unauthorised access to, or loss of, this information during transportation to and subsequent storage in Thames House.”

The justification for assembling such sophisticated databases, according to an MI5 document, is that it speeds up the process of detecting suspects. “By integrating bulk data [redaction] with information about individual subjects of interest from other sources of intelligence (liaison relationships, agent reporting, intercept, eavesdropping, surveillance) and from ‘fusing’ different data-sets in order to identify common links, we can better understand target networks, locations and behaviours, enabling a greater depth and breadth of target coverage.

“The fragmentary nature of many intelligence leads and the magnitude of the threat all mean that there is currently no effective method of resolving identities in a timely fashion without using bulk data.”

The standard MI5 form for acquisition of bulk data requires agency staff to a tick box if it holds sensitive personal data such as “biometric, financial, medical, racial or ethnic origin, religious, journalistic, political, legal, sexual or criminal activity” and membership of a trade union. MI5 officers also need to explain why acquisition is “necessary and proportionate”.

The documents show how alert the agencies are to their legal obligations. They refer to the agencies’ “ethics team”, the need for “proportionality” and “necessity”. One note stresses that GCHQ employees’ conditions of employment state that “unauthorised entry to computer records may constitute gross misconduct”.

But the papers also reveal how much latitude the law – notably Ripa, the Telecommunications Act, and the Data Protection Act – in practice gives them.

Investigatory powers bill: the key points
Read more
The documents include for the first time certificates under section 28 of the Data Protection Act – signed by David Blunkett and Jack Straw in 2001 when they were home and foreign secretary respectively – which provided secrecy about authorised bulk data interceptions under section 94 of the Telecommunications Act. The existence of such directions were not disclosed until last year.

The quantity of information the agencies have been forced to release suggests their long-established position of “neither confirming nor denying” any operational details may be crumbling at the edges.

In parliamentary debate over the investigatory powers bill, the government has argued that the security services only conduct targeted searches of data under legal warrants in pursuit of terrorist or criminal activity and that bulk interception is necessary as a first step in that process.

Millie Graham Wood, a legal officer at Privacy International, said: “The information revealed by this disclosure shows the staggering extent to which the intelligence agencies hoover up our data.

“This highly sensitive information about us is vulnerable to attack from hackers, foreign governments and criminals. The agencies have been doing this for 15 years in secret and are now quietly trying to put these powers on the statute book for the first time in the investigatory powers bill, which is currently being debated in parliament. These documents reveal a lack of openness and transparency with the public about these staggering powers and a failure to subject them to effective parliamentary scrutiny.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “Bulk powers have been essential to the security and intelligence agencies over the last decade and will be increasingly important in the future.

“The acquisition and use of bulk provides vital and unique intelligence that the security and intelligence agencies cannot obtain by any other means. The security and intelligence agencies use the same techniques that modern businesses increasingly rely on to analyse data in order to overcome the most significant national security challenges.”

Owen Bowcott and Richard Norton-Taylor
Thursday 21 April 2016 00.01 BST Last modified on Saturday 7 May 2016 15.01 BST
Find this story at 21 April 2016

© 2016 Guardian News and Media Limited

‘Jihadi John’ case raises questions about UK counter-terrorism strategy (2015)

Emails released by CAGE revealed how MI5 repeatedly tried to recruit Mohammed Emwazi as an informant and put him on a terror watchlist to stop him leaving Britain

The identifying of “Jihadi John”, a masked militant who has beheaded and tortured hostages held by the Islamic State in Syria, as 26-year-old British national, Mohammed Emwazi, has ignited a debate about the young recruit’s life, identity and path to Islamist militancy.

Observers have pointed to Emwazi’s privileged upbringing – Emwazi came from a “well-to-do family,” growing up in West London and graduating from college with a degree in computer programming, according to the Washington Post – as proof that poverty did not fuel his radicalism.

Jihadi John is middle class & educated, demonstrates again that radicalisation is not necessarily driven by poverty or social deprivation.

— Shiraz Maher (@ShirazMaher) February 26, 2015
Less attention has been paid to the alleged interactions between Emwazi and the British security services and how, if at all, these may have impacted on the young militant.

Emails exchanged between Emwazi and Asim Qureshi, director of CAGE, a group which primarily lobbies on behalf of detainees held on terrorism charges, suggest that, before he travelled to Syria in 2012, Emwazi had several encounters with British authorities.

In Amsterdam in 2009 an officer from MI5, Britain’s domestic security agency, tried to recruit Emwazi after accusing him and two others of trying to reach Somalia, where the militant group al-Shabab is based, according to emails he sent to Qureshi.

“Listen Mohammed: You’ve got the whole world in front of you; you’re 21 years old; you just finished Uni – why don’t you work for us?” Emwazi recalled an MI5 officer asking him in Amsterdam’s airport in a June 2010 email he sent to Qureshi.

CAGE has been accused of sympathising with some of the foreign fighters it is regularly in contact with.

Qureshi, a graduate of the London School of Economics, has taken part in rallies by Islamist groups in the UK who call for “jihad” in Chechyna and Iraq.

He told Middle East Eye he had met with Emwazi in the fall of 2009 shortly after he returned to the UK to discuss what had happened.

“Mohammed was angry about the way he had been treated, he felt they (MI5) had bullied and disrespected him,” Qureshi said.

In 2010 counterterrorism officials in Britain detained Emwazi again – fingerprinting him and searching his belongings – and later preventing him from travelling to Kuwait, his birthplace, where he had landed a job working for a computer company.

“I had a job waiting for me and marriage to get started,” Emwazi wrote in a June 2010 e-mail to Qureshi. But now “I feel like a prisoner, only not in a cage, in London. A person imprisoned & controlled by security service men, stopping me from living my new life in my birthplace & country, Kuwait.”

Qureshi said he last heard from Emwazi in January 2012.

“Mohammed was harassed repeatedly by MI5 from the summer of 2010 until 2013. He told me he was once strangled by an officer at Heathrow airport during interrogation,” said Qureshi.

Qureshi said that Emwazi, who has been described by those who knew him as “polite with a penchant for wearing stylish clothes while adhering to the tenets of his Islamic faith,” had used “every means possible” to try and change his personal situation.

“Suffocating domestic policies aimed at turning a person into an informant but which prevent a person from fulfilling their basic life needs would have left a lasting impression on Emwazi,” said Qureshi.

“When are we going to finally learn that when we treat people as if they’re outsiders they will look for belonging elsewhere?”

We have an entire system of injustice that allows peoples lives to be ruined. Security services create suspect communities #MohammedEmwazi

— CAGE (@UK_CAGE) February 26, 2015
Analysts have dismissed CAGE’s assertion that the security services had a role in Emwazi’s radicalisation.

“I think it’s a bit rich that Jihadi John has decided to go to Syria and participate in this conflict because of some interaction with the security services,” Shiraz Maher, a senior fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, told the Telegraph. “As if he (Jihadi John) is resolved of all responsibility, as if he is not a salient individual capable of making his own decisions.”

Haras Rafiq, managing director of the anti-radicalisation think-tank the Quilliam Foundation, called the claim that Britain was in anyway to blame “rubbish.”

“It’s not the British or Kuwaitis fault. It is his fault and the people who radicalised him. Jihadi John is a cold-hearted killer,” he said.

Moazzam Begg, a British-Pakistani citizen and former Guantanamo Bay detainee, said that British security forces were not to blame but that their increasingly intrusive strategies had contributed to a “climate of fear and alienation” amongst Muslims in Britain.

“It’s not an excuse, it’s part of an explanation why this man must have felt greatly alienated,” said Begg.

“Scores and scores have been harassed, stopped whenever they travel, approached by security services … There are people who feel they are stuck, they have nowhere to turn to, it’s crucial we get this point across, some of us have had our lives completely destroyed.”

Begg said the British government was still refusing to engage with the idea that British policies, foreign and domestic, might be influencing potential jihadists.

“When people get alienated, they feel unwelcome and afraid … I feel that way all the time, I’ve been arrested, I’ve had my house turned upside down, I’ve been prosecuted and made to feel like I don’t belong here. If I was to leave tomorrow for Syria would it be right to say that the security services drove me away?”

Thursday 26 February 2015 22:48 UTC
Last update: Tuesday 3 March 2015 22:30 UTC

Find this story at 26 February 2015

© Middle East Eye 2014

Revealed: How torture was used to foil al-Qaeda 2010 plot to bomb two airliners 17 minutes before explosion (2015)

Exclusive: Information from terror suspects about 2010 plot was used in a ‘Jack Bauer real-time operation’

The former head of MI6 has revealed that torture “does produce intelligence”

The former head of MI6 has said torturing suspected terrorists produces “useful information”, as The Independent on Sunday reveals that “real-time” intelligence understood to have been obtained by torture in Saudi Arabia helped to thwart a terrorist bombing on British soil.

In his first interview since stepping down from Secret Intelligence Service in January, Sir John Sawers told the BBC yesterday that torture “does produce intelligence” and security services “set aside the use of torture… because it is against the values” of British society, not because it doesn’t work in the short term. Sir John defended the security services against accusations they had played a role in the radicalising of British Muslims, including Mohammed Emwazi, who it is claimed is the extremist responsible for the murder of hostages in Syria.

The IoS can reveal details of a dramatic “Jack Bauer real-time operation” to foil an al-Qaeda plot to bring down two airliners in 2010. According to a well-place intelligence source, the discovery of a printer cartridge bomb on a UPS cargo aircraft at East Midlands airport was possible only because two British government officials in Saudi Arabia were in “immediate communication” with a team reportedly using torture to interrogate an al-Qaeda operative as part of “ticking bomb scenario” operation.

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Sir John Sawers has advised increasing defence spending to counter the security threat posed by Russian aggression (AFP/Getty)
The terror plot was to use cartridge bombs to bring down two aircraft over the eastern United States. However, British authorities intercepted the first device at the cargo airport hub after what they described as a “tip-off” from Saudi Arabia. A second device was intercepted aboard a freight plane in Dubai; both aircraft had started their trips in Yemen.

The IoS understands there was a frantic search prompted by “two or three” calls to Saudi Arabia after the tip-off, with security services battling to find the device. French security sources revealed the device was within 17 minutes of detonating when bomb disposal teams disarmed it.

One intelligence source said: “The people in London went back on the phone two or three times to where the interrogation was taking place in Riyadh to find out specifically where the bomb was hidden. There were two Britons there, in immediate communication with where the interrogation was taking place, and as soon as anything happened, they were in touch with the UK. It was all done in real time.”

There is growing frustration on the part of some UK security officials at Britain’s lack of candour about aspects of intelligence work. “There is a lack of understanding in that most people, if they knew about a ticking bomb scenario, would say torture was defensible, yet we insist on saying ‘we never do it’. Yet we are very happy beneficiaries of it,” one official said.

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The human rights group Cage said the use of torture by MI5 and MI6 allegedly played a role in radicalising young British Muslims, including Michael Adebolajo, convicted of murdering soldier Lee Rigby in London in 2013. In the interview, Sir John said blaming the security services for radicalisation was “specious” and offered a vigorous defence of the methods used by MI5 and MI6. He said torture had been used for “thousands of years in order to extract useful information”.

He said: “The whole problem about torture and maltreatment is sadly is that it does produce intelligence. And that’s why in a civilised society like ours we have to set aside certain methods, even though they might be effective in the short term. In the longer term they are very counterproductive; they are undermining the values of our society.”

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of campaign group Liberty, said: “That is a low ebb, even for a senior spook in this country. After 9/11, I could have predicted internment without charge or trial. I could predict more invasions of privacy and blanket surveillance, but the one thing I could never have predicted is in 2015 we would be having to talk about torture in the UK.”

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Floral tributes to Fusilier Lee Rigby at the spot where he was killed (Getty)
According to a source close to the East Midlands bomb operation, the British officials “would have made sure they were not actually in the room” where the torture was allegedly taking place, but there was “no way” the intelligence that thwarted the bombing “wasn’t procured under duress”. “It is a fair inference to say he was being tortured. He wasn’t volunteering the information, that’s for sure,” the source said. “Of course we use intelligence from torture. We take it from wherever we can get it, but we are never, ever going to say ‘we don’t want that’. Or ask too many questions about where it has come from. It is the difference between intelligence and evidence.”

Earlier this month, in what aides confirmed as a reference to the plot, Prime Minister David Cameron alluded to a “piece of information” from Saudi Arabia that “saved potentially hundreds of lives”.

While in office Sir John described torture as “illegal and abhorrent”, but in 2010 said the security services faced “real, constant operational dilemmas” to avoid using information which has been gathered by torture. Two year later, he admitted British agents went “close to the line” when questioning alleged terrorists.

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Shami Chakrabarti is shocked that in 2015 “we would be having to talk about torture in the UK.” (Teri Pengilley)
However, senior Tories said the case raised serious issues. Dominic Grieve, the Conservative former attorney general, said: “History shows us that torture can work but that it also often results in completely misleading information. It’s utterly unlawful, totally repugnant, and contrary to our national practices.”

Andrew Tyrie MP, chair of the Parliamentary all-party group on rendition, said: “Allegations of British complicity in rendition, torture and kidnap just keep coming. The case for an independent judge-led inquiry into them has been overwhelming for years.”

There are growing calls backing Mr Tyrie’s long-held argument that the next chair of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) be elected by MPs and not the Prime Minister.

Social media and terrorist threats

Facebook, Twitter and other technology firms have been savaged by a former spy chief for refusing to “fulfil their responsibilities” by protecting people from terrorists.

Sir John Sawers, the former head of MI6, told Radio 4’s Today programme that the leaks by Edward Snowden had “driven a wedge” between the security services and social media companies which had hampered counter-terrorism efforts.

His comments were echoed by the shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, who said social media firms “can’t just stand back and ignore” evidence of their users engaging in extremist activity.

Sir John said: “Before the Snowden leaks took place, there was a good working relationship between technology companies and the intelligence agencies that kept us all safe. That has now gone down to the absolute legal minimum.

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Edward Snowden’s revelations sparked outrage about the scope of government snooping (AP)
We cannot just leave the security of society to the intelligence agencies. Technology companies have to find a way whereby they can fulfil their responsibilities and play their part.

“They need to have mechanisms whereby they can identify this dangerous activity, and they are sitting on a mine of data which they use extensively for commercial purposes, but which they are not allowing to be used for purposes of public good like national security.”

Ms Cooper told The IoS: “At the moment, some of the online social media organisations will do more around child abuse than on counter-terror or terrorist threats. I don’t think people can just stand back and ignore it.”

Jamie Merrill, James Hanning, Mark Leftly, Nick Clark @Jamie_Merrill Sunday 1 March 2015

Find this story at 1 March 2015

Copyright http://www.independent.co.uk/

The “Torture Works” Story (2015)

After Adam Goldman exposed the identity of Jihadi John, ISIL’s executioner, as Mohammed Emwazi, it set off an interesting response in Britain.

CagePrisoners — the advocacy organization for detainees — revealed details of how MI5 had tried to recruit Emwazi and, when he refused, had repeatedly harassed him and his family and prevented him from working a job in Kuwait (where he was born).

While that certainly doesn’t excuse beheadings, it does raise questions about how the intelligence services track those it has identified as potential recruits and/or threats.

And seemingly in response to those questions, the former head of MI6 has come forward to say that torture has worked in a ticking time bomb scenario — that of the toner cartridge plot in 2010.

In his first interview since stepping down from Secret Intelligence Service in January, Sir John Sawers

…defended the security services against accusations they had played a role in the radicalising of British Muslims, including Mohammed Emwazi, who it is claimed is the extremist responsible for the murder of hostages in Syria.

The IoS can reveal details of a dramatic “Jack Bauer real-time operation” to foil an al-Qaeda plot to bring down two airliners in 2010. According to a well-place intelligence source, the discovery of a printer cartridge bomb on a UPS cargo aircraft at East Midlands airport was possible only because two British government officials in Saudi Arabia were in “immediate communication” with a team reportedly using torture to interrogate an al-Qaeda operative as part of “ticking bomb scenario” operation.

The terror plot was to use cartridge bombs to bring down two aircraft over the eastern United States. However, British authorities intercepted the first device at the cargo airport hub after what they described as a “tip-off” from Saudi Arabia. A second device was intercepted aboard a freight plane in Dubai; both aircraft had started their trips in Yemen.

The IoS understands there was a frantic search prompted by “two or three” calls to Saudi Arabia after the tip-off, with security services battling to find the device. French security sources revealed the device was within 17 minutes of detonating when bomb disposal teams disarmed it.

One intelligence source said: “The people in London went back on the phone two or three times to where the interrogation was taking place in Riyadh to find out specifically where the bomb was hidden. There were two Britons there, in immediate communication with where the interrogation was taking place, and as soon as anything happened, they were in touch with the UK. It was all done in real time.”

At the time, multiple sources on the Saudi peninsula revealed that authorities learned of this plot — and therefore learned about the bombs — from an apparent double agent(and former Gitmo detainee), Jabir al-Fayfi, who had left AQAP and alerted the Saudis to the plot. If so, it would mean what was learned from torture (if this account can be trusted) was the precise location of the explosives in planes that boxes that had already been isolated.

that may mean this “success” prevented nothing more than an explosion in a controlled situation, because it had already been tipped by a double agent who presumably didn’t need to be tortured to share the information he had been sent in to obtain.

The toner cartridge story significantly resembles the UndieBomb 2.0 plot, which was not only tipped by a double agent, but propagated by it …in that case, the double agent came not via Gitmo and Saudi “deradicalization,” but via MI5, via a recruitment effort very like what MI5 used with Emwazi.

Indeed, it is not unreasonable to imagine that Emwazi knew that double agent

the treatment of a range of people implicated in Yemeni and/or Somali networks (MI5 accused Emwazi of wanting to travel to the latter) derives from the growing awareness among networks who have tried to be recruited who else might have been recruited.

Which might be one reason to tie all this in with “successful torture” — partly a distraction, partly an attempt to defer attention from a network that is growing out of control

2015-03-01 / N/A / www.emptywheel.net

Find this story at 1 March 2015

© 2016 INFOSOURCES

British authorities foiled ink cartridge plot to bring down two planes ‘after tip-off obtained from torture’ (2015)

British authorities intercepted bomb at East Midlands airport after ‘tip off’
Plastic explosives discovered on cargo planes travelling to the US
Intelligence from Saudi Arabia ‘came after torture of al-Qaeda operative’
Ex-spy chief says torture ‘does produce useful information’

Information obtained using torture was used to help foil an al-Qaeda plot to bring down two planes, it has been claimed.

British authorities intercepted a bomb at East Midlands Airport after being ‘tipped off’ by Saudi Arabian security forces, reportedly following the interrogation by torture of an al-Qaeda operative.

The claim comes as former MI5 head Sir John Sawers said torture does produce ‘useful information’ and can be ‘effective in the short term.’

Intelligence obtained via torture was reportedly used in a ‘Jack Bauer real-time operation’ to foil an al-Qaeda plot to bring down two planes and intercept a bomb at East Midlands Airport (pictured)
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Intelligence obtained via torture was reportedly used in a ‘Jack Bauer real-time operation’ to foil an al-Qaeda plot to bring down two planes and intercept a bomb at East Midlands Airport (pictured)

A major security alert was launched after plastic explosives concealed inside inkjet printer cartridges were discovered on two cargo planes travelling from Yemen to the US in October 2010. Pictured is the package found at East Midlands Airport
A major security alert was launched after plastic explosives concealed inside inkjet printer cartridges were discovered on two cargo planes travelling from Yemen to the US in October 2010. Pictured is the package found at East Midlands Airport

A major security alert was launched after plastic explosives concealed inside inkjet printer cartridges were discovered on two cargo planes travelling from Yemen to the US in October 2010.

It is believed the bombs were designed to go off mid-air and bring the huge planes down over the US.

After what was described as a ‘tip-off’ from Saudi Arabian security forces, the planes were stopped at East Midlands Airport in Leicestershire and the United Arab Emirates and the bombs uncovered.

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A group called Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) later took responsibility for the plot.

Now it has been claimed the discovery at East Midlands Airport was only possible because British officials in Saudi Arabia were in communication with a team believed to have been using torture on a member of terror group al-Qaeda.

‘The people in London went back on the phone two or three times to where the interrogation was taking place in Riyadh to find out specifically where the bomb was hidden. There were two Britons there, in immediate communication with where the interrogation was taking place, and as soon as it happened, they were in touch with the UK. It was all done in real time,’ an intelligence source told Jamie Merrill, James Hanning, Mark Leftly and Nick Clark at The Independent On Sunday.

A major security alert was launched after plastic explosives concealed inside inkjet printer cartridges were discovered on two cargo planes travelling from Yemen to the US in October 2010. Pictured is a packaged being launched onto a police helicopter at East Midlands Airport
A major security alert was launched after plastic explosives concealed inside inkjet printer cartridges were discovered on two cargo planes travelling from Yemen to the US in October 2010. Pictured is a packaged being launched onto a police helicopter at East Midlands Airport

It is claimed the discovery at East Midlands Airport was only possible because British officials in Saudi Arabia were in communication with a team believed to have been using torture on a member of al-Qaeda
It is claimed the discovery at East Midlands Airport was only possible because British officials in Saudi Arabia were in communication with a team believed to have been using torture on a member of al-Qaeda

A source close to the operation said there was ‘no way’ that the information which led to the plot being exposed ‘wasn’t procured under duress’, but that the British officials would have ensured they were not present.

He added: ‘Of course we use intelligence from torture. We take it from wherever we can get it, but we are never, ever going to say “we don’t want that”. Or ask too many questions about where it has come from. It is the difference between intelligence and evidence.’

Last month, following the death of King Abdullah, Prime Minister David Cameron defended Britain’s ties with Saudi Arabia – despite the country’s record on human rights.

He also said that a piece of counter-terrorism intelligence supplied by the Arab state had ‘saved potentially hundreds of lives’ in the UK, which aides have confirmed was a reference to the bomb plot.

He added: ‘Now, you can be Prime Minister and say exactly what you think about every regime in the world and make great headlines, and give great speeches.

Former MI5 head Sir John Sawers said yesterday that torture does produce ‘useful information’ and can be ‘effective in the short term’
Former MI5 head Sir John Sawers said yesterday that torture does produce ‘useful information’ and can be ‘effective in the short term’

‘But I think my first job is to try and keep this country safe from terrorism and if that means you have to build strong relationships sometimes with regimes you don’t always agree with, that I think is part of the job and that is the way I do it. And that is the best way I can explain it.’

Former spy chief Sir John, who was head of MI6 from 2009 to 2014, yesterday hit back at claims that security services played a role in the radicalisation of British jihadist Mohammed Emwazi.

Asim Qureshi, research director of Cage, claims Emwazi, who was nicknamed Jihadi John, was interrogated by MI5 and subjected to security agency harassment before becoming a militant.

But Sir John said arguments that harassment drove Emwazi to join IS were ‘very specious’.

‘The idea that somehow being spoken to by a member of MI5 is a radicalising act, I think this is very false and very transparent,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Sir John also told presenter Mishal Husain: ‘Torture had been used for “thousands of years in order to extract useful information.

‘If you decide in 2015 that it doesn’t work at all then that would be to misunderstand the problem.’

He added: ‘The whole problem about torture and maltreatment is sadly is that it does produce intelligence. And that’s why in a civilised society like ours we have to set aside certain methods, even though they might be effective in the short term. In the longer term they are very counterproductive; they are undermining the values of our society.’

By LUCY CROSSLEY FOR MAILONLINE
PUBLISHED: 14:28 GMT, 1 March 2015 | UPDATED: 14:32 GMT, 2 March 2015

Find this story at 1 March 2015

© Associated Newspapers Ltd

Cooperation between British spies and Gaddafi’s Libya revealed in official papers (2015)

Links between MI5 and Gaddafi’s intelligence during Tony Blair’s government more extensive than previously thought, according to documents

Britain’s intelligence agencies engaged in a series of previously unknown joint operations with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s government and used the information extracted from rendition victims as evidence during partially secret court proceedings in London, according to an analysis of official documents recovered in Tripoli since the Libyan revolution.

The exhaustive study of the papers from the Libyan government archives shows the links between MI5, MI6 and Gaddafi’s security agencies were far more extensive than previously thought and involved a number of joint operations in which Libyan dissidents were unlawfully detained and allegedly tortured.

At one point, Libyan intelligence agents were invited to operate on British soil, where they worked alongside MI5 and allegedly intimidated a number of Gaddafi opponents who had been granted asylum in the UK.

Previously, MI6 was known to have assisted the dictatorship with the kidnap of two Libyan opposition leaders, who were flown to Tripoli along with their families – including a six-year-old girl and a pregnant woman – in 2004.

However, the research suggests that the fruits of a series of joint clandestine operations also underpinned a significant number of court hearings in London between 2002 and 2007, during which the last Labour government unsuccessfully sought to deport Gaddafi’s opponents on the basis of information extracted from people who had been “rendered” to his jails.

Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.
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UK intelligence agencies sent more 1,600 questions to be put to the two opposition leaders.
In addition, the documents show that four men were subjected to control orders in the UK – a form of curfew – on the basis of information extracted from victims of rendition who had been handed over to the Gaddafi regime.

The papers recovered from the dictatorship’s archives include secret correspondence from MI6, MI5 reports on Libyans living in the UK, a British intelligence assessment marked “UK/Libya Eyes Only – Secret” and official Libyan minutes of meetings between the two countries’ intelligence agencies.

They show that:

• UK intelligence agencies sent more than 1,600 questions to be put to the two opposition leaders, Sami al-Saadi and Abdul Hakim Belhaj, despite having reason to suspect they were being tortured.

• British government lawyers allegedly drew upon the answers to those questions when seeking the deportation of Libyans living in the UK

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• Five men were subjected to control orders in the UK, allegedly on the basis of information extracted from two rendition victims.

• Gaddafi’s agents recorded MI5 as warning in September 2006 that the two countries’ agencies should take steps to ensure that their joint operations would never be “discovered by lawyers or human rights organisations and the media”.

In fact, papers that detail the joint UK-Libyan rendition operations were discovered by the New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch in September 2011, at the height of the Libyan revolution, in an abandoned government office building in Tripoli.

Since then, hundreds more documents have been discovered in government files in Tripoli. A team of London-based lawyers has assembled them into an archive that is forming the basis of a claim for damages on behalf of 12 men who were allegedly kidnapped, tortured, subject to control orders or tricked into travelling to Libya where they were detained and mistreated.

An attempt by government lawyers to have that claim struck out was rejected by the high court in London on Thursday , with the judge, Mr Justice Irwin, ruling that the allegations “are of real potential public concern” and should be heard and dealt with by the courts.

The litigation follows earlier proceedings brought on behalf of the two families who were kidnapped in the far east and flown to Tripoli. One claim was settled when the government paid £2.23m in compensation to al-Saadi and his family; the second is ongoing, despite attempts by government lawyers to have it thrown out of court, with Belhaj suing not only the British government, but also Sir Mark Allen, former head of counter-terrorism at MI6, and Jack Straw, who was foreign secretary at the time of his kidnap.

Abdel Hakim Belhaj is suing the British government.
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Abdel Hakim Belhaj is suing the British government.
Belhaj has offered to settle for just £3, providing he and his wife also receive an unreserved apology. This is highly unlikely to happen, however, as the two rendition operations are also the subject of a three-year Scotland Yard investigation code-named Operation Lydd. Straw has been questioned by detectives: his spokesman says he was interviewed “as a witness”.

Last month, detectives passed a final file to the Crown Prosecution Service. No charges are imminent, however. The CPS said: “The police investigation has lasted almost three years and has produced a large amount of material. These are complex allegations that will require careful consideration, but we will aim to complete our decision-making as soon as is practicably possible.”

The volte-face in UK-Libyan relations was always going to be contentious: the Gaddafi regime had not only helped to arm the IRA, bombed Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie with the loss of 270 lives in 1988, and harboured the man who murdered a London policewoman, Yvonne Fletcher, four years earlier; it had been responsible for the bombing of a French airliner and a Berlin nightclub, and for several decades had been sending assassins around the world to murder its opponents.

The Tripoli archives show that the rapprochement, which began with the restoration of diplomatic ties in 1999, gathered pace within weeks of the al-Qaida attacks of 9/11. Sir Richard Dearlove, who was head of MI6 at the time, has said that these links were always authorised by government ministers.

The week after the attacks, British intelligence officers met with Moussa Koussa, the head of Libyan intelligence, who offered to provide intelligence from Islamists held in the regime’s jails.

Two months later, British intelligence officers held a three-day conference with their Libyan counterparts at a hotel at a European airport. German and Austrian intelligence officers also attended.

According to the Libyan minutes, the British explained that they could not arrest anyone in the UK – only the police could do that – and that there could be difficulty in obtaining authorisation for Gaddafi’s intelligence officers to operate in the UK. They also added that impending changes to UK law would give them “more leeway” in the near future.

Other documents released under the Freedom of Information Act detail the way in which diplomatic contacts between London and Tripoli developed, with a British trade minister, Mike O’Brien, visiting Tripoli in August 2002, the same month that the dictator’s son, Saif, was admitted as a post-graduate student at the London School of Economics. Blair and Gaddafi spoke by telephone for the first time, chatting for 30 minutes, and in December 2003 the dictator announced publicly that he was abandoning his programme for the development of weapons of mass destruction.

With the war in Iraq going badly, London and Washington were able to suggest that an invasion that had been justified by a need to dismantle a WMD programme that was subsequently found not to exist had at least resulted in another country’s weapons programme being dismantled.

Three months later, in March 2004, the new relationship was sealed by a meeting between Gaddafi and Blair, during which the British prime minister announced that the two countries had found common cause in the fight against terrorism, and the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell announced that it had signed a £110m deal for gas exploration rights off the Libyan coast.

However, the Tripoli archive shows that beneath the surface of the new alliance, the Blair government was encouraging ever-closer co-operation between the UK’s intelligence agencies and the intelligence agencies of a dictatorship which had been widely condemned for committing the most serious human rights abuses; MI5 and MI6, and the CIA, would begin to work hand-in-glove with the Libyan External Security Organisation.

Eliza Manningham-Buller, who was head of MI5 during most of the period that the UK’s intelligence agencies were working closely with the Libyan dictatorship, has defended the decision to open talks with Gaddafi on the grounds that it helped to deter him from pursuing his WMD programme. However, when delivering the 2011 Reith Lecture, she added: “There are questions to be answered about the various relationships that developed afterwards and whether the UK supped with a sufficiently long spoon.”

The archive clearly shows that Gaddafi hoped that this intelligence co-operation would result in British assistance in his attempts to round up and imprison Libyans who were living in exile in the UK, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Mali. All of these men were members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an Islamist organisation that had attempted to assassinate him three times since its foundation in the early 90s. A largely spent force since the late 90s, many of the members of the LIFG had been living peacefully in the UK for more than a decade, having arrived as refugees. Some had been granted British citizenship. Koussa’s agency asked British intelligence to investigate 79 of these men, whom they described as “Libyan heretics”.

Two weeks before Blair’s visit to Libya, Belhaj and his four-and-a-half-months pregnant wife, Fatima Bouchar, were kidnapped in Thailand and flown to Tripoli. Bouchar says she was taped, head to foot, to a stretcher, for the 17-hour flight.

In a follow-up letter to Koussa, Allen claimed credit for the rendition of Belhaj – referring to him as Abu Abd Allah Sadiq, the name by which he is better known in the jihadi world – saying that although “I did not pay for the air cargo”, the intelligence that led to the couple’s capture was British.

Three days after Blair’s visit, al-Saadi was rendered from Hong Kong to Tripoli, along with his wife and four children, the youngest a girl aged six.

Libya’s foreign minister Moussa Koussa was head of Libyan intelligence.
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Libya’s foreign minister Moussa Koussa was head of Libyan intelligence.
Both men say that while being held at Tajoura prison outside Tripoli they were beaten, whipped, subjected to electric shocks, deprived of sleep and threatened.

Belhaj says he was twice interrogated at Tajoura by British intelligence officers. After gesturing that the session was being recorded, Belhaj says he made a number of gestures to show that he was being beaten and suspended by his arms. One of the British officers, a man, is said to have given a thumbs-up signal, while the second, a woman, is said to have nodded.

Belhaj alleges that following one of these encounters he agreed to sign a statement about his associates in the UK after being threatened with a form of torture called the Honda, which involved being locked in a box-like structure whose ceiling and walls could be shrunk, provoking extreme claustrophobia and fear as well as discomfort.

According to the claim being brought against the British government, the attempt to track down other leading members of the LIFG resulted in the intelligence agencies of Libya and the UK throwing their net still wider.

In late 2005, a British citizen of Somali origin and a Libyan living in Ireland were arrested in Saudi Arabia and allegedly tortured while being questioned by Saudi intelligence officers about associates who were members of the LIFG. The men say they were shackled and beaten. The British citizen says he was also interrogated by two British men who declined to identify themselves and who appeared uninterested in his complaints of mistreatment.

Many of the questions put to the two men concerned the whereabouts of Othman Saleh Khalifa, a long-standing member of the LIFG. Khalifa was detained in Mali a few months later and rendered to Libya. The Tripoli archive shows that summaries of his interrogations were sent to British intelligence, and that both MI5 and MI6 submitted questions that they wished to be put to him. A memorandum from MI6 to Koussa’s deputy, Sadegh Krema, was accompanied by questions “which you kindly agreed to pass to your interview team”.

Khalifa says that he was beaten during interrogations for around six months during the second half of 2006 and that he did not see daylight.

The Tripoli archive shows that during the same week that Khalifa was being rendered to Libya, MI5 and MI6 officers met Libyan intelligence officers in Tripoli and informed them that they were to be invited to the UK to conduct joint intelligence operations. The Libyan minutes of the meeting say that MI5 informed them that “London and Manchester are the two hottest spots” for LIFG activity in the country. The aim was to recruit informants within the Libyan community in the UK.

The Libyan minutes of the meeting also say that the British told them: “With your co-operation we should be able to target specific individuals.” The Libyans, meanwhile, said that potential recruits could be “intimidated” through threats to arrest relatives in Libya.

The following August, senior MI5 and MI6 officers and two Libyan intelligence officers met at MI5’s headquarters in London. According to the Libyan minutes, MI5 warned the Libyans that individuals could complain to the police if they believed they were being harassed by MI5, and could also expose the British-Libyan joint operations to the media.

The minutes also state that the British suggested that Libyan intelligence officers should approach potential recruits in the UK, and that if they refused to cooperate, arrangements could be made for the targets to be arrested under anti-terrorism legislation, accused of associating with those same Libyan intelligence officers, and threatened with deportation.

Sami al-Saadi has been paid £2.23m in compensation.
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Sami al-Saadi has been paid £2.23m in compensation.
One of the targets was a 32-year-old Libyan, associated with the LIFG, who had lived in the UK for 10 years and had been a British citizen for six years. The Libyan intelligence officers repeatedly telephoned him, claiming to be consular officials, and he eventually agreed to meet them at the Landmark hotel in Marylebone, London, on 2 September 2006. According to the Libyan notes of this meeting, the British insisted that two MI5 officers, one calling herself Caroline, should be present, so that the target should know that he was the subject of a joint UK-Libyan approach.

The target was told that he was to be given time to think about the approach. In Libya, meanwhile, the target’s brothers, sisters and mother say they were each detained in turn and told that they should persuade him to return to the country.

The Libyan intelligence officers also visited Manchester, calling at the home of another man targeted for recruitment. According to their notes, MI5 warned them not to enter the house but to persuade him to go with them to a public place where they could be photographed together. As he was not at home, the Libyan spies went instead to a mosque in the Didsbury district, where they told the imam that they were importing and exporting books.

On 5 September, shortly before the two Libyan intelligence officers returned home, they had another meeting with their British counterparts. Their notes show that the British warned that steps should be taken jointly to “avoid being trapped in any sort of legal problem [and] to avoid also that those joint plans be discovered by lawyers or human rights organisations and the media”. The Libyans assured MI5 and MI6: “We have effectively reassured them that we will stick by the joint plan to avoid any blame if the operation fails.”

The target says he was approached by “Caroline” and a second MI5 officer on a number of other occasions, but declined to travel to Libya and still lives in west London.

Six Libyan men, the widow of a seventh, and five British citizens of Libyan and Somali origin are bringing a number of claims, which include allegations of false imprisonment, blackmail, misfeasance in public office and conspiracy to assault.

The case is being brought against MI5 and MI6 as well as the Home Office and Foreign Office. Government departments declined to comment on the grounds that the litigation is ongoing.

When making their unsuccessful bid to have the case struck out, government lawyers admitted no liability. They argued that the five claimants who were subjected to control orders were properly considered to pose a threat to the UK’s national security, and denied that the government relied on information from prisoners held in Libya in making that assessment. They also argued that the LIFG had been a threat to the UK. They are expected to appeal Thursday’s high court decision.

Allen has declined to comment on the rendition operations, while Straw says: “At all times I was scrupulous in seeking to carry out my duties in accordance with the law, and I hope to be able to say more about this at an appropriate stage in the future.”

Thursday 22 January 2015 14.24 GMT Last modified on Saturday 7 May 2016 11.17 BST

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