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Topic: Intel Matters (Read 48531 times)
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #100 on:
December 31, 2009, 07:22:26 PM »
Back at 9/10.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #101 on:
January 01, 2010, 05:30:12 AM »
It is a mind-set problem. Get some fresh from the battle zone special forces intel trained types checking thru that stuff, and you will see a change. Send these office weenies to a couple of the more dangerous field offices, or the combat zone for a tour. Then they will learn the sense of what to be watching for.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #102 on:
January 01, 2010, 09:21:32 AM »
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #103 on:
January 01, 2010, 11:06:43 AM »
Absolutely! You do not learn how to "do" intelligence by sitting behind a desk and analyzing things you know nothing about.
***Look at a man in the midst of doubt and danger, and you will determine in his hour of adversity what he really is***
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #104 on:
January 04, 2010, 11:41:31 AM »
NBC News is reporting that a Jordanian doctor who was trained and sent to Afghanistan to infiltrate al Qaida was a double agent and was responsible for the attack that killed seven CIA operatives last week in Afghanistan.
Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi had been arrested by the Jordanians in 2008 for being linked to al-Qaida. While in custody al-Balawi agreed to help the U.S. by joining up with al Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan and make contact with al Qaida's Ayman al Zawahiri, which he did. Last week he claimed he had urgent information about Zawahiri and requested a meeting with the CIA team stationed in Khost and when he arrived blew himself up.
Well, at least our enemy knows there's a war going on.
Last Edit: January 04, 2010, 11:46:53 AM by prentice crawford
WSJ: AQ's double agent
Reply #105 on:
January 08, 2010, 12:29:44 PM »
By REUEL MARC GERECHT
The recent death in Afghanistan of seven American counterterrorist officers, one Jordanian intelligence operative, and one exploding al Qaeda double agent ought to give us cause to reflect on the real capabilities of the Central Intelligence Agency and al Qaeda.
The report card isn't good. America's systemic intelligence problems were partially on display in the bombing at the CIA's Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost province. Worse, al Qaeda showed skill that had been lacking in many of its operations. In response, President Barack Obama will likely be obliged to adopt counterterrorist methods that could make his administration as tough as his predecessor's.
Professionally, one has to admire the skill of suicide bomber Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi's handlers. This operation could well have been months—if not longer—in the making, and neither the Jordanian intelligence service (GID), which supplied the double agent to the CIA, nor Langley apparently had any serious suspicion that al-Balawi still had the soul and will of a jihadist.
That is an impressive feat. The Hashemite monarchy imprisons lots of Islamic militants, and the GID has the responsibility to interrogate them. The dead Jordanian official, Sharif Ali bin Zeid, reportedly a member of the royal family, may not have been a down-and-dirty case officer with considerable hands-on contact with militants, but al-Balawi surely passed through some kind of intensive screening process with the GID. Yet the GID and the CIA got played, and al Qaeda has revealed that it is capable of running sophisticated clandestine operations with sustained deception.
.Indeed, al Qaeda did to us exactly what we intended to do to them: use a mole for a lethal strike against high-value targets. In the case of al-Balawi, it appears the target was Ayman al Zawahiri, Osama bin Ladin's top deputy. During the Cold War, the CIA completely dropped its guard in the pursuit of much-desired Cuban and East German agents. The result? Most of our assets were plants given to us by Cuban and East German intelligence. With al-Balawi supposedly providing "good" information about al Zawahiri and al Qaeda's terrorist planning, a salivating CIA and the GID proved inattentive to counterintelligence concerns.
Whereas al Qaeda is showing increasing proficiency, the same cannot be said for the CIA. Competent case officers can get duped by a good double. And the GID, whose skill has been exaggerated in fiction and film and by Hashemite-stroked American case officers, isn't a global service. Take it far from its tribal society, where it operates with admirable efficiency, and it is nothing to write home about.
The CIA uses the GID so often not because the Jordanians are brilliant but because the Americans are so often, at best, mediocre. The GID's large cadre of English-speaking officers makes liaison work easy with Langley, which has never been blessed with a large number of Arabic-speaking officers, particularly within the senior ranks.
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.Language issues aside, the now-deceased chief of Base Chapman should have kept most of her personnel away from al-Balawi, and should never have allowed seven officers to get that close to him at one time. Traditional operational compartmentation clearly broke down.
It is also highly likely that all of the CIA officers at Chapman—and especially the chief of base, who was a mother of three—were on short-term assignments. According to active-duty CIA officers, the vast majority of Langley's officers are on temporary-duty assignments in Afghanistan, which usually means they depart in under one year. (The same is true for the State Department.) Many CIA officers are married with children and they do not care for long tours of duty in unpleasant spots—the type of service that would give officers a chance of gaining some country expertise, if not linguistic accomplishment.
Moreover, security concerns usually trap these officers into a limited range of contacts. Truth be told, even the most elemental CIA activity—meeting recruited agents or "developmentals" outside of well-guarded compounds—often cannot be done without contractor-supplied security. Without Blackwater, now renamed Xe, which handles security for Langley in Afghanistan, CIA case officers would likely be paralyzed.
The officers at Chapman were probably young. This isn't necessarily bad. As a general rule, younger case officers do better intelligence-collection work than older colleagues, whose zeal for Third World field work declines precipitously as their knowledge and expertise in CIA bureaucratic politics increases. But experience does breed cynicism, which doesn't appear to have been in abundance at the CIA base.
All of this reinforces the common U.S. military criticism of the Agency in Afghanistan and Iraq: It does not often supply the hard tactical and intimate personal and tribal portraits that military officers need to do their work. Army officers are generally among the natives vastly more than their CIA counterparts.
What does this all mean for President Obama? He did not come into office pledging to reform the CIA, only restrain it from aggressively interrogating al Qaeda terrorists. There is near zero chance that the president will attempt to improve the Agency operationally in the field. His counterterrorist adviser, John Brennan, is as institutional a case officer as Langley has ever produced. If Attorney General Eric Holder is so unwise as to bring any charges against a CIA officer for the rough interrogation of an al Qaeda detainee during the Bush administration, the president will likely find himself deluged with damaging CIA-authored leaks. Mr. Obama would be a fool to confront the CIA on two fronts.
But the president is likely to compensate for systemic weakness in American intelligence in substantial, effective ways. Mr. Obama has been much more aggressive than President George W. Bush was in the use of drone attacks and risky paramilitary operations. One can easily envision him expanding such attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. Visa issuances, airport security, and perhaps even FBI surveillance of American Muslim militants are likely to become much tougher under Mr. Obama than under Mr. Bush. President Obama will, no doubt, continue to say empirically bizarre things about Guantanamo's imprisonment system creating jihadists, but his administration will now likely find another location to jail militants indefinitely. Too many of President Bush's released detainees have returned to terrorism.
National Security Adviser James Jones has already described the 21st century as the liaison century, where intelligence and security services cooperate energetically. The CIA has often compensated for its internal weaknesses through liaising with foreigners. President Bush and then Central Intelligence Director George Tenet kicked these relationships into hyper-drive after 9/11; President Obama is likely to kick them even further. Mr. Obama may have foreclosed the possibility of the CIA again aggressively questioning jihadists, but he's kept the door wide open for the rendition of terrorists to countries like Jordan, where the GID does not abide by the Marquess of Queensbury rules in its interrogations.
The deadly attack in Fort Hood, Texas, by Maj. Malik Hassan in November, the close call in the air above Detroit on Christmas Day, and now the double-agent suicide bombing in Khost have shocked America's counterterrorist system. Mr. Obama surely knows that one large-scale terrorist strike inside the U.S. could effectively end his presidency. He may at some level still believe that his let's-just-all-be-friends speech in Cairo last June made a big dent in the hatred that many faithful Muslims have for the U.S., but his practices on the ground are likely to be a lot less touchy-feely. This is all for the good. These three jihadist incidents ought to tell us that America's war with Islamic militancy is far—far—from being over.
Mr. Gerecht, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #106 on:
January 09, 2010, 10:10:06 PM »
Could the CIA have achieved what al-Qaeda did?
The audacious al-Qaeda attack in Khost, Afghanistan and the failures to detect the Detroit bomb plot are indications of a broken CIA, writes Toby Harnden in Washington
WSJ: BStephens: Can Intelligence by intelligent?
Reply #107 on:
January 11, 2010, 07:07:42 PM »
'Intelligence," Daniel Patrick Moynihan once observed, "is not to be confused with intelligence." To read two recent analyses of U.S. intelligence failures is to be reminded of the truth of that statement, albeit in very different ways.
Exhibit A is last week's unclassified White House memo on the attempted bombing of Flight 253 over the skies of Detroit. Though billed by National Security Adviser Jim Jones as a bombshell in its own right, the memo reads more like the bureaucratic equivalent of the old doctor joke about the operation succeeding and the patient dying. The counterterrorism system, it tells us, works extremely well and the people who staff it are top-notch. No doubt. It just happens that in this one case, this same terrific system failed comprehensively at the most elementary levels.
For contrast—and intellectual relief—turn to an unsparing new report on the U.S. military's intelligence operations in Afghanistan. "Eight years into the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. intelligence community is only marginally relevant to the overall strategy," it begins. "U.S. intelligence officers and analysts can do little but shrug in response to high level decision-makers seeking the knowledge, analysis, and information they need to wage successful counterinsurgency."
View Full Image
Afghan security forces stand next to a vehicle destroyed in a roadside bomb on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2010.
.That's not happy talk, particularly given that it comes from the man who now runs the Army's intelligence efforts in the country, Major General Michael T. Flynn. But Gen. Flynn, along with co-authors Paul Batchelor of the Defense Intelligence Agency and Marine Captain (and former Journal reporter) Matt Pottinger, are just getting warmed up. Current intel products, they write, "tell ground units little they do not already know." The intelligence community is "strangely oblivious of how little its analytical products, as they now exist, actually influence commanders." There is little by way of personal accountability: "Except in rare cases, ineffective intel officers are allowed to stick around."
All this is told in prose that is crisp, engaging and almost miraculously free of bureaucratic gobbledygook. The report illuminates the distinction between the kind of intel needed for anti-insurgency—information about the bad guys—as opposed to that needed for counterinsurgency: That is, the kind that tells you something about the people you are fighting for (and who you eventually want to get to do the fighting for you), and what they actually need and want.
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.Case study in point: As recently as last June, the Nawa district in Afghanistan's embattled Helmand Province was largely under the Taliban's control. "American and British troops could not venture a kilometer from their base without confronting machine gun and rocket fire from insurgents. Local farmers, wary of reprisals by the Taliban, refused to make eye contact with foreign soldiers, much less speak with them or offer valuable battlefield and other demographic information."
But that began to change in July with the arrival of 800 Marines, who fanned out through the district with the goal of discovering its so-called anchor points: "local personalities and local grievances that, if skillfully exploited, could drive a wedge between insurgents and the greater population."
In Nawa, the anchor point turned out to be the resentment of local elders to the Taliban's usurpation of their traditional authority. As in Anbar province in Iraq, winning the trust of those elders turned out to be more important for Nawa's rapid transformation into a relatively thriving, peaceful place than simply killing Talibs.
This is the sort of story that we'd all like to see replicated throughout Afghanistan. Yet the success in Nawa was never communicated through official channels, and became known mainly through the media. When it comes to bureaucracies, including the military's, information always seeks a cubby hole. That's also where it tends to stay.
The report's solution, in part, is the creation of new information centers that can synthesize intelligence as it works its way from the bottom up. But the more important recommendation concerns the type of officer who would staff these centers: "Analysts must absorb information with the thoroughness of historians, organize it with the skill of librarians, and disseminate it with the zeal of a journalist," the authors write. "Sufficient knowledge will not come from slides with little more text than a comic strip."
Uh oh: A military analyst without his PowerPoint? Terrifying as the thought may be to many of its current practitioners, the true art of intelligence requires, well, intelligence. That is a function neither of technology nor of "systems," which begin as efforts to supplement and enhance the work of intelligence and typically wind up as substitutes for it. It is, instead, a matter of experience, intellect, initiative and judgment, nurtured within institutions that welcome gadflies in their midst.
It remains to be seen whether the report's ideas will be put fully into practice, or whether the administration will fight the war long enough for them to make a difference. But there's no doubting that the Pentagon got lucky when Gen. Flynn, Capt. Pottinger and Mr. Batchelor managed to find one another and allowed them to have their say. Judging from recent performances, you've got to wonder how often that happens at other institutions of state that too often mistake intelligence for intelligence.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #108 on:
January 12, 2010, 04:28:18 AM »
In other words the intelligence community is lacking, and desperately needs, some serious tinfoil hat conspiracy theory gadflys.
Who know how to look for the weak points in a "situational structure" and therfore where to break in. It sounds like the marines in the article merely used a variant of the inkblot strategy that was getting used, and working, in Vietnam until politics and body count started driving things.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #109 on:
January 12, 2010, 10:11:19 AM »
According to widespread rumors in the United States, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence had a hand in the Dec. 30, 2009, attack in Khost, Afghanistan, which killed several CIA agents. While luck played a definite role in the attack, the skill in preparing the double agent who detonated the suicide bomb used in the attack has lead some to see a state role. Such a role is unlikely, however, as Pakistan has little to gain by enraging the United States. Even so, the rumors alone will harm U.S.-Pakistani relations, perhaps giving the Taliban some breathing room.
Speculation is rife in the United States about the possible role played by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, Pakistan’s foreign intelligence service, in the Dec. 30, 2009, suicide attack on Forward Operating Base Chapman in eastern Afghanistan that killed multiple CIA agents. Much of this discussion traces back to a report citing unnamed U.S. and Afghan government sources as saying a chemical analysis of explosive residue suggesting the use of military-grade equipment points to ISI involvement in the incident.
This is a faulty basis to establish an ISI link, as the Pakistani Taliban have used military-grade explosives in numerous attacks against the Pakistani security establishment since late 2006. Still, rumors alone of ISI involvement will suffice to harm U.S.-Pakistani relations, which will serve the jihadists’ ends quite nicely.
To a large extent, chance aided the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in carrying out the attack. Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi’s arrival gave the group the opportunity to carry out an attack at a heavily fortified facility belonging to the world’s most powerful intelligence organization. That said, the preparation of the double agent for the attack showed definite skill. While it has shown a great degree of skill in pulling off attacks against major army, intelligence and other security installations in Pakistan, the TTP previously has not been seen as being capable of handling a foreign double agent for a complex operation outside Pakistan.
In this incident, the TTP managed to conceal al-Balawi’s true activities while in Pakistan. Admittedly, keeping close track of al-Balawi in Pakistan would have been a challenge to the CIA due to the agency’s fairly weak humint capabilities there, and because his jihadist hosts would have been extremely cautious about using communications devices that would show up on sigint monitoring. And while remaining below the radar while in jihadist country in the Pakistani northwest is one thing, circumventing all CIA countermeasures is quite another — and is something previously thought beyond the TTP’s known capabilities. Such sophistication rises to the level of the skills held by a national-level intelligence organization with tremendous resources and experience at this kind of tradecraft.
However, even this does not mean the ISI was involved in the attack.
The ISI falls under the control of the Pakistani army and the government, and the Pakistani state has no interest in carrying out actions against the United States, as this could seriously threaten Pakistani national interests. Also, it is clear that the ISI is at war with the TTP. For its part, the main Pakistani Taliban rebel group has specifically declared war on the ISI, leveling three key ISI facilities in the last eight months. It is therefore most unlikely this could have been an officially sanctioned Pakistani operation.
The possibility that jihadist sympathizers in the lower ranks of the Pakistani intelligence complex may have offered their services to the TTP cannot be ruled out, however. Given its history of dealing with Islamist nonstate proxies, the Pakistani intelligence apparatus is penetrated by the jihadists, which partially explains the ability of the TTP to mount a ferocious insurgency against the state.
Even though there is no clear smoking gun pointing at the ISI, rumors of its involvement alone will harm the already-fragile U.S.-Pakistani relationship. Concerns similar to those in the aftermath of the November 2008 Mumbai attack — that the situation in Pakistan has reached a point where the state no longer has control over its own security apparatus and now represents an intolerable threat to U.S. national security — will emerge again.
While the situation in Islamabad might not be dire, a U.S.-Pakistani and Indian-Pakistani breakdown is exactly what that the jihadists want so they can survive the U.S. and Pakistani offensives they currently face.
Stratfor: The Khost Attack and the Intel War Challenge
Reply #110 on:
January 13, 2010, 08:08:41 AM »
The Khost Attack and the Intelligence War Challenge
January 11, 2010
By George Friedman and Scott Stewart
As Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi exited the vehicle that brought him onto Forward Operating Base (FOB) Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan, on Dec. 30, 2009, security guards noticed he was behaving strangely. They moved toward al-Balawi and screamed demands that he take his hand out of his pocket, but instead of complying with the officers’ commands, al-Balawi detonated the suicide device he was wearing. The explosion killed al-Balawi, three security contractors, four CIA officers and the Jordanian General Intelligence Department (GID) officer who was al-Balawi’s handler. The vehicle shielded several other CIA officers at the scene from the blast. The CIA officers killed included the chief of the base at Khost and an analyst from headquarters who reportedly was the agency’s foremost expert on al Qaeda. The agency’s second-ranking officer in Afghanistan was allegedly among the officers who survived.
Al-Balawi was a Jordanian doctor from Zarqa (the hometown of deceased al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi). Under the alias Abu Dujanah al-Khurasani, he served as an administrator for Al-Hesbah, a popular Internet discussion forum for jihadists. Jordanian officers arrested him in 2007 because of his involvement with radical online forums, which is illegal in Jordan. The GID subsequently approached al-Balawi while he was in a Jordanian prison and recruited him to work as an intelligence asset.
Al-Balawi was sent to Pakistan less than a year ago as part of a joint GID/CIA mission. Under the cover of going to school to receive advanced medical training, al-Balawi established himself in Pakistan and began to reach out to jihadists in the region. Under his al-Khurasani pseudonym, al-Balawai announced in September 2009 in an interview on a jihadist Internet forum that he had officially joined the Afghan Taliban.
A Lucky Break for the TTP
It is unclear if al-Balawi was ever truly repentant. Perhaps he cooperated with the GID at first, but had a change of heart sometime after arriving in Pakistan. Either way, at some point al-Balawi approached the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the main Pakistani Taliban group, and offered to work with it against the CIA and GID. Al-Balawi confirmed this in a video statement recorded with TTP leader Hakeemullah Mehsud and released Jan. 9. This is significant because it means that al-Balawi’s appearance was a lucky break for the TTP, and not part of some larger, intentional intelligence operation orchestrated by the TTP or another jihadist entity like al Qaeda.
The TTP’s luck held when a group of 13 people gathered to meet al-Balawi upon his arrival at FOB Chapman. This allowed him to detonate his suicide device amid the crowd and create maximum carnage before he was able to be searched for weapons.
In the world of espionage, source meetings are almost always a dangerous activity for both the intelligence officer and the source. There are fears the source could be surveilled and followed to the meeting site, or that the meeting could be raided by host country authorities and the parties arrested. In the case of a terrorist source, the meeting site could be attacked and those involved in the meeting killed. Because of this, the CIA and other intelligence agencies exercise great care while conducting source meetings. Normally they will not bring the source into a CIA station or base. Instead, they will conduct the meeting at a secure, low-profile offsite location.
Operating in the wilds of Afghanistan is far different from operating out of an embassy in Vienna or Moscow, however. Khost province is Taliban territory, and it offers no refuge from the watching eyes and gunmen of the Taliban and their jihadist allies. Indeed, the province has few places safe enough even for a CIA base. And this is why the CIA base in Khost is located on a military base, FOB Chapman, named for the first American killed in Afghanistan following the U.S. invasion. Normally, an outer ring of Afghan security around the base searches persons entering FOB Chapman, who the U.S. military then searches again at the outer perimeter of the U.S. portion of the base. Al-Balawi, a high-value CIA asset, was allowed to skip these external layers of security to avoid exposing his identity to Afghan troops and U.S. military personnel. Instead, the team of Xe (the company formerly known as Blackwater) security contractors were to search al-Balawi as he arrived at the CIA’s facility.
A Failure to Follow Security Procedures
Had proper security procedures been followed, the attack should only have killed the security contractors, the vehicle driver and perhaps the Jordanian GID officer. But proper security measures were not followed, and several CIA officers rushed out to greet the unscreened Jordanian source. Reports indicate that the source had alerted his Jordanian handler that he had intelligence pertaining to the location of al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri. (There are also reports that al-Balawi had given his handlers highly accurate battle damage assessments on drone strikes in Pakistan, indicating that he had access to high-level jihadist sources.) The prospect of finally receiving such crucial and long-sought information likely explains the presence of the high-profile visitors from CIA headquarters in Langley and the station in Kabul — and their exuberance over receiving such coveted intelligence probably explains their eager rush to meet the source before he had been properly screened.
The attack, the most deadly against CIA personnel since the 1983 Beirut bombing, was clearly avoidable, or at least mitigable. But human intelligence is a risky business, and collecting human intelligence against jihadist groups can be flat-out deadly. The CIA officers in Khost the day of the bombing had grown complacent, and violated a number of security procedures. The attack thus serves as a stark reminder to the rest of the clandestine service of the dangers they face and of the need to adhere to time-tested security procedures.
A better process might have prevented some of the deaths, but it would not have solved the fundamental problem: The CIA had an asset who turned out to be a double agent. When he turned is less important than that he was turned into — assuming he had not always been — a double agent. His mission was to gain the confidence of the CIA as to his bona fides, and then create an event in which large numbers of CIA agents were present, especially the top al Qaeda analyst at the CIA. He knew that high-value targets would be present because he had set the stage for the meeting by dangling vital information before the agency. He went to the meeting to carry out his true mission, which was to deliver a blow against the CIA. He succeeded.
The Obama Strategy’s Weakness
In discussing the core weakness in the Afghan strategy U.S. President Barack Obama has chosen, we identified the basic problem as the intelligence war. We argued that establishing an effective Afghan army would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, because the Americans and their NATO allies lacked knowledge and sophistication in distinguishing friend from foe among those being recruited into the army. This problem is compounded by the fact that there are very few written documents in a country like Afghanistan that could corroborate identities. The Taliban would seed the Afghan army with its own operatives and supporters, potentially exposing the army’s operations to al Qaeda.
This case takes the problem a step further. The United States relied on Jordanian intelligence to turn a jihadist operative into a double agent. They were dependent on the Jordanian handler’s skills at debriefing, vetting and testing the now-double agent. It is now reasonable to assume the agent allowed himself to be doubled in an attempt to gain the trust of the handler. The Jordanians offered the source to the Americans, who obviously grabbed him, and the source passed all the tests to which he was undoubtedly subjected. Yet in the end, his contacts with the Taliban were not designed to provide intelligence to the Americans. The intelligence provided to the Americans was designed to win their trust and set up the suicide bombing. It is therefore difficult to avoid the conclusion that al-Balawi was playing the GID all along and that his willingness to reject his jihadist beliefs was simply an opportunistic strategy for surviving and striking.
Even though encountering al-Balawi was a stroke of luck for the TTP, the group’s exploitation of this lucky break was a very sophisticated operation. The TTP had to provide valuable intelligence to allow al-Balawi to build his credibility. It had to create the clustering of CIA agents by promising extraordinarily valuable intelligence. It then had to provide al-Balawi with an effective suicide device needed for the strike. And it had to do this without being detected by the CIA. Al-Balawi had a credible cover for meeting TTP agents; that was his job. But what al-Balawi told his handlers about his meetings with the TTP, and where he went between meetings, clearly did not indicate to the handlers that he was providing fabricated information or posed a threat.
In handling a double agent, it is necessary to track every step he takes. He cannot be trusted because of his history; the suspicion that he is still loyal to his original cause must always be assumed. Therefore, the most valuable moments in evaluating a double agent are provided by intense scrutiny of his patterns and conduct away from his handlers and new friends. Obviously, if this scrutiny was applied, al-Balawi and his TTP handlers were still able to confuse their observers. If it was not applied, then the CIA was setting itself up for disappointment. Again, such scrutiny is far more difficult to conduct in the Pakistani badlands, where resources to surveil a source are very scarce. In such a case, the intuition and judgment of the agent’s handler are critical, and al-Balawi was obviously able to fool his Jordanian handler.
Given his enthusiastic welcome at FOB Chapman, it would seem al-Balawi was regarded not only as extremely valuable but also as extremely reliable. Whatever process might have been used at the meeting, the central problem was that he was regarded as a highly trusted source when he shouldn’t have been. Whether this happened because the CIA relied entirely on the Jordanian GID for evaluation or because American interrogators and counterintelligence specialists did not have the skills needed to pick up the cues can’t be known. What is known is that the TTP ran circles around the CIA in converting al-Balawi to its uses.
The United States cannot hope to reach any satisfactory solution in Afghanistan unless it can win the intelligence war. But the damage done to the CIA in this attack cannot be underestimated. At least one of the agency’s top analysts on al Qaeda was killed. In an intelligence war, this is the equivalent of sinking an aircraft carrier in a naval war. The United States can’t afford this kind of loss. There will now be endless reviews, shifts in personnel and re-evaluations. In the meantime, the Taliban in both Pakistan and Afghanistan will be attempting to exploit the opportunity presented by this disruption.
Casualties happen in war, and casualties are not an argument against war. However, when the center of gravity in a war is intelligence, and an episode like this occurs, the ability to prevail becomes a serious question. We have argued that in any insurgency, the insurgents have a built-in advantage. It is their country and their culture, and they are indistinguishable from everyone else. Keeping them from infiltrating is difficult.
This was a different matter. Al-Balawi was Jordanian; his penetration of the CIA was less like the product of an insurgency than an operation carried out by a national intelligence service. And this is the most troubling aspect of this incident for the United States. The operation was by all accounts a masterful piece of tradecraft beyond the known abilities of a group like the TTP. Even though al-Balawi’s appearance was a lucky break for the TTP, not the result of an intentional, long-term operation, the execution of the operation that arose as a result of that lucky break was skillfully done — and it was good enough to deliver a body blow to the CIA. The Pakistani Taliban would thus appear far more skilled than we would have thought, which is the most important takeaway from this incident, and something to ponder.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #111 on:
January 13, 2010, 08:51:57 AM »
In other words, the ISI, or a jihadist element within.
WaPo: CIA got dangled
Reply #112 on:
January 16, 2010, 12:31:12 PM »
While we were dangling, al-Qa'ida was roping:
In Afghanistan attack, CIA fell victim to series of miscalculations about informant
By Peter Finn and Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, January 16, 2010; A01
AMMAN, JORDAN -- He was an ambitious young doctor from a large family who had a foreign wife and two children -- details that officers of Jordan's intelligence service viewed as exploitable vulnerabilities, not biography.
Early last year, the General Intelligence Department picked up Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi after his pseudonymous postings on extremist Web sites had become increasingly strident. During three days of questioning, GID officers threatened to have Balawi jailed and end his medical career, and they hinted they could cause problems for his family, according to a former U.S. official and a Jordanian official, both of whom have knowledge of Balawi's detention.
Balawi was told that if he traveled to Pakistan and infiltrated radical groups there, his slate would be wiped clean and his family left alone, said the former U.S. official, whose more detailed account of the GID's handling of Balawi was generally corroborated by the Jordanian official, as well as by two former Jordanian intelligence officers.
Balawi agreed, and as the relationship developed, GID officers began to think that he was indeed willing to work against al-Qaeda.
This belief was the first in a series of miscalculations that culminated Dec. 30 when Balawi stepped out of a car at a CIA facility in Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan. CIA officers allowed Balawi, who was wearing a vest packed with explosives and metal, to enter the base without a search. Then he detonated his load, killing seven CIA officers and contractors, a Jordanian intelligence officer and a driver.
Jordanian and U.S. officials have since concluded that Balawi was a committed extremist whose beliefs had deep intellectual and religious roots and who had never intended to cooperate with them. In hindsight, they said, the excitement generated by his ability to produce verifiable intelligence should have been tempered by the recognition that his penetration of al-Qaeda's top echelon was too rapid to be true.
Senior CIA and GID officials were so beguiled by the prospect of a strike against al-Qaeda's inner sanctum that they discounted concerns raised by case officers in both services that Balawi might be a fraud, according to the former U.S. official and the Jordanian government official, who has an intelligence background.
The Americans took over the management of Balawi from the Jordanians sometime in the second half of 2009, dictating how and when the informant would meet his handlers, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officers. Agency field officers faced unusual pressures from top CIA and administration officials in Washington keyed up by Balawi's promise to deliver al-Qaeda's deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current and former officers said.
But a U.S. intelligence official, speaking on the customary condition of anonymity, rejected assertions that the CIA had abandoned caution. "No one -- not in Washington, not in the field -- let excitement or anticipation run the show," the official said. The GID's approach was more subtle than simple blackmail, the official added. "Persuasion works better than coercion, and that's something the Jordanians understand completely," the official said. "The caricatures of clumsy, heavy-handed approaches just don't fit."
'A Salafi jihadi since birth'
Balawi, 32, trained as a physician at Istanbul University in Turkey and worked at a clinic in a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan. He was married to a Turkish journalist, who has written admiringly of al-Qaeda's leader in a book titled "Osama bin Laden: Che Guevara of the East."
In the past four years, using the pseudonym Abu Dujana al-Khorasani, Balawi wrote on extremist Web sites and gained renown. He trumpeted calls for martyrdom.
"My words will drink of my blood," he wrote, one of a number of statements suggesting an ambition to move beyond rhetoric.
"If you read his articles, you understand he is a Salafi jihadi since birth," said Hasan Hanieh, an author and former Islamic radical, referring to a purist strain of Islam known as Salafism. "They go to the core of his beliefs. Over years, I could see this type of person moderate, but such a person does not become an agent. Never."
The Jordanian official with an intelligence background, who has studied Balawi's writings since the attack, reached the same conclusion.
"If you read him in Arabic, there is a texture and a spirit that says he is a true believer," the official said. "I would have tested this man 20 times to believe him once."
After his arrest and interrogation last January, family members said, Balawi appeared sullen and preoccupied. He stopped using the computer -- to which he had seemed so tied.
"He came out a changed person," his father said in an interview. "They should have left him alone. They should not have played with his mind." He said his son would never have moved beyond rhetoric had he not been forced to leave Jordan.
Balawi left Jordan soon after his release, telling his family that he wanted to pursue further medical studies in Pakistan.
He began to produce credible and compelling information about extremists, and the GID turned over the operation's management and the resulting intelligence to the CIA while allowing its officer, Capt. Sharif Ali bin Zeid, to remain as a conduit to Balawi, officials said.
As the information continued to flow, the agency was able to exploit it for operations in Pakistan, officials said. Belief in Balawi grew.
"First, the guy had extremist credentials, including proven access to senior figures," the U.S. intelligence official said. "Second, you had a sound liaison service that believed they'd turned him and that had been working with him since. And third, the asset supplied intelligence that was independently verified. You don't ignore those kinds of things, but you don't trust the guy, either."
In September, six months after Balawi's arrival in Pakistan, U.S. and international intelligence officials described what they said was their growing success in penetrating al-Qaeda's senior ranks, which allowed improved targeting of insurgent locations in Pakistan.
"Human sources have begun to produce results," said Richard Barrett, head of the United Nations' al-Qaeda and Taliban monitoring group and the former chief of Britain's overseas counterterrorism operations. At the time, a senior Obama administration official with firsthand knowledge of the U.S. operations attributed the killings of more than a dozen senior al-Qaeda officials to the CIA's increasing ability "to locate and identify individuals."
Asked last week whether his reference to greater intelligence penetration included reports from Balawi, the official said he was "not referring to any one individual," but he declined to clarify whether he knew about Balawi's reports. "Maybe. Maybe not," he said.
Balawi appears to have been what in espionage terms is called a "dangle" held out by al-Qaeda.
"This is a very well-thought-out al-Qaeda operation," said a former senior U.S. intelligence officer. "Every dangle operation is a judgment call. It has to be significant enough so that the Jordanians and, in this case, the CIA knows it's real. . . . That's always the key in running a dangle operation: How much do you give to establish bona fides without giving up the family jewels?"
Indeed, tactical successes made possible by Balawi's information appear in retrospect to have been sacrifices by al-Qaeda to get closer to its ultimate target: the CIA.
"They would give up a lot to get at the CIA," said a former Jordanian intelligence officer.
After the attack, the Pakistani Taliban released a video of Balawi accompanied by its leader, but officials suspect al-Qaeda directed the bombing.
Case officers' qualms
Both American and Jordanian case officers raised questions last year about the speed with which Balawi appeared to have inserted himself into a position where he could obtain such intelligence, according to the former U.S. official familiar with Balawi's detention.
Al-Qaeda is deeply suspicious of new volunteers, and especially so of Jordanians because of repeated attempts by GID to penetrate the organization, according to former Jordanian intelligence officials. There are no Jordanians in bin Laden's inner circle, and some who have risen to prominence, such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the slain leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, were given assignments far from the leadership.
Al-Qaeda security and intelligence officers rigorously vet new arrivals and subject them to a host of tests before they reach "even the third circle around the leadership," as a former Jordanian intelligence official put it.
"Their first instinct is to suspect," this former official said. "They check and double-check his background. They watch him eat and sleep and pray, for signs. They analyze everything. That's how they have survived since 9/11. And after all that, if they believe him, he won't get near the inner circle."
Balawi, however, appeared to have done just that, offering information on Zawahiri. The Jordanian provided "irrefutable proof," including "photograph-type evidence," that he had been in the presence of al-Qaeda's leaders, according to a senior intelligence official. Some Jordanian and U.S. officials now question whether such an encounter ever occurred. But they say that if it did, it was an elaborate piece of staging by Balawi's true handler.
"It was briefed to the White House and to Centcom," a U.S. official said, referring to U.S. Central Command. "This was a high profile. The Bush and Obama White Houses had vowed to kill him [bin Laden]. What a political victory it would be."
The U.S. intelligence official said the case was handled methodically: "This case didn't grow up overnight. None of them do. It developed step by step. And, at some point, especially if you're going to send somebody against one of the toughest targets in the world, you have to meet them face to face."
After several years of internal purges in which senior officers were pushed out, the GID had lost some of its "wisdom and caution," according to a Jordanian government official. A new leadership, installed slightly more than a year ago, relished the prospect of participating in such an extraordinary coup.
"There was desperation to get the fruit," the official said.
A former senior Jordanian intelligence official said he rues any possibility of mistrust between the two intelligence agencies in the wake of the Afghanistan bombing, asserting that the CIA-GID partnership has "saved hundreds of lives, including American lives" over the years.
"This relationship is in the interests of the United States," he said.
Warrick reported from Washington. Staff writers Karen DeYoung and Ellen Nakashima in Washington and special correspondent Ranya Kadri in Amman contributed to this report.
Former NSA/CIA Director Says BHO Wrong on Intel
Reply #113 on:
January 31, 2010, 06:34:31 PM »
Obama admnistration takes several wrong paths in dealing with terrorism
By Michael V. Hayden
Sunday, January 31, 2010; A21
In the war on terrorism, this country faces an enemy whose theory of warfare ends the hard-won distinction in modern thought between combatant and noncombatant. In doing that for which we have created government -- ensuring life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- how can we be adequately aggressive to ensure the first value, without unduly threatening the other two? This is hard. And people don't have to be lazy or stupid to get it wrong.
We got it wrong in Detroit on Christmas Day. We allowed an enemy combatant the protections of our Constitution before we had adequately interrogated him. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is not "an isolated extremist." He is the tip of the spear of a complex al-Qaeda plot to kill Americans in our homeland.
In the 50 minutes the FBI had to question him, agents reportedly got actionable intelligence. Good. But were there any experts on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in the room (other than Abdulmutallab)? Was there anyone intimately familiar with any National Security Agency raw traffic to, from or about the captured terrorist? Did they have a list or photos of suspected recruits?
When questioning its detainees, the CIA routinely turns the information provided over to its experts for verification and recommendations for follow-up. The responses of these experts -- "Press him more on this, he knows the details" or "First time we've heard that" -- helps set up more detailed questioning.
None of that happened in Detroit. In fact, we ensured that it wouldn't. After the first session, the FBI Mirandized Abdulmutallab and -- to preserve a potential prosecution -- sent in a "clean team" of agents who could have no knowledge of what Abdulmutallab had provided before he was given his constitutional warnings. As has been widely reported, Abdulmutallab then exercised his right to remain silent.
In retrospect, the inadvisability of this approach seems self-evident. Perhaps it didn't appear that way on Dec. 25 because we have, over the past year, become acclimated to certain patterns of thought.
Two days after his inauguration, President Obama issued an executive order that limited all interrogations by the U.S. government to the techniques authorized in the Army Field Manual. The CIA had not seen the final draft of the order, let alone been allowed to comment, before it was issued. I thought that odd since the order was less a legal document -- there was no claim that the manual exhausted the universe of lawful techniques -- than a policy one: These particular lawful techniques would be all that the country would need, at least for now.
A similar drama unfolded in April over the release of Justice Department memos that had authorized the CIA interrogation program. CIA Director Leon Panetta and several of his predecessors opposed public release of the memos in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit on the only legitimate grounds for such a stand: that the documents were legitimately still classified and their release would gravely harm national security. On this policy -- not legal -- question, the president sided with his attorney general rather than his CIA chief.
In August, seemingly again in contradiction to the president's policy of not looking backward and over the objections of the CIA, Justice pushed to release the CIA inspector general's report on the interrogation program. Then Justice decided to reopen investigations of CIA officers that had been concluded by career prosecutors years ago, even though Panetta and seven of his predecessors said that doing so would be unfair, unwarranted and harmful to the agency's current mission.
In November, Justice announced that it intended to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and several others in civilian courts for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The White House made clear that this was a Justice Department decision, which is odd because the decision was not legally compelled (other detainees are to be tried by military commissions) and the reasons given for making it (military trials could serve as a recruitment tool for al-Qaeda, harm relations with allies, etc.) were not legal but political.
Even tough government organizations, such as those in the intelligence community, figure out pretty quickly what their political masters think is not acceptable behavior. The executive order that confined interrogations to the Army Field Manual also launched a task force to investigate whether those techniques were sufficient for national needs. Few observers believed that the group would recommend changes, and to date, no techniques have been added to the manual.
Intelligence officers need to know that someone has their back. After the Justice memos were released in April, CIA officers began to ask whether the people doing things that were currently authorized would be dragged through this kind of public knothole in five years. No one could guarantee that they would not.
Some may celebrate that the current Justice Department's perspective on the war on terrorism has become markedly more dominant in the past year. We should probably understand the implications of that before we break out the champagne. That apparently no one recommended on Christmas Day that Abdulmutallab be handled, at least for a time, as an enemy combatant should be concerning. That our director of national intelligence, Denny Blair, bravely said as much during congressional testimony this month is cause for hope.
Actually, Blair suggested that the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG), announced by the administration in August, should have been called in. A government spokesman later pointed out that the group does not yet exist.
There's a final oddity. In August, the government unveiled the HIG for questioning al-Qaeda and announced that the FBI would begin questioning CIA officers about the alleged abuses in the 2004 inspector general's report. They are apparently still getting organized for the al-Qaeda interrogations. But the interrogations of CIA personnel are well underway.
The writer was director of the CIA from 2006 to 2009.
Hayden: Thiessen's book a must-read
Reply #114 on:
February 15, 2010, 09:01:10 PM »
Former CIA Director Hayden: Thiessen’s ‘Courting Disaster’ a must-read
By Michael Hayden 02/15/10 at 12:00 am
Marc Thiessen begins his new book, “Courting Disaster,” with something of a disclaimer: For reasons of security and classification, he says, he should not have been able to write it. He’s right. He shouldn’t have been able to write it. But I’m glad he did.
Thiessen jumps into the once murky (and once highly classified) world of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program with zeal and energy. And he puts fresh light on a story that up until now seems to have been taken to the darkest corner of the room at every opportunity.
I opposed the release of the Office of Legal Council memos on the CIA interrogation program last April. I opposed the release of additional memos and the report of the CIA inspector general on the interrogation program last August. But whatever their release did to reveal American secrets to our enemies, it did inject something into the public debate on this program that had been sorely missing—facts.
Thiessen has taken these documents, as well as his own extensive interviews and research, and created for the first time a public account of a program previously hidden from public view. Prior to this, some opponents of the program could create whatever image they wanted to create to support the argument of the moment. And those who were in government at the time were near powerless to correct the record. No longer.
There will still be those who remain adamantly opposed to the interrogation effort, but now they must be opposed to the program as it was, not as they imagined or feared or—dare I say, for some—expected it to be.
Thiessen lays out the facts without much varnish. Here are the techniques, here’s what was learned, here’s why it was thought lawful. And make no mistake, he lays out the facts with a point of view. He stops just a little short of being argumentative, but this is meant to be persuasive as well as expository prose.
He doesn’t use much varnish in his treatment of opponents, either. While not quite condemning them outright, he does take a variety of players to task. He chronicles, for example, the current attorney general’s journey from counter-terrorism hawk in 2002 (“They are not prisoners of war…they are not, in fact, people entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention.”) to this in 2008 (“Our government…denied the writ of habeas corpus to hundreds of accused enemy combatants and authorized the use of procedures that violate both international law and the United States Constitution….We owe the American people a reckoning.”) Thiessen is also not particularly kind to civil liberties lobbies who have seemed to push their agendas without regard for any security consequences and he saves a special brand of disdain for the pro bono work of law firms who seem bent on discovering new “rights” for enemy combatants.
And the book’s subtitle—How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack—should suggest that Thiessen does not think even the president immune from criticism.
As someone who lived and worked them from the inside, I can tell you that these are tough issues and honest men can and do differ on them. Thiessen has been giving as good as he is getting in the numerous interviews he has been giving since the book came out. And I admire his range, from the Catholic Eternal Word Network to Christiane Amanpour on CNN. That people are willing to consider his message is borne out by the book’s popularity to date, No. 9 on the New York Times best-seller list and No. 6 for The Washington Post as of this writing.
Thiessen’s instincts for the broader audience seem to be on the mark. Acceptance and even support of the interrogation regime is higher among the general populace that it is among some political elites and that support has seemed to grow as more details of the program have become public.
All of this is good. These issues need to be joined and we need the wisdom of an informed public to help us.
But there’s something even better about this book. In the overheated rhetoric of today’s Washington, we have lost sight of the fact that this program was carried out by real people, acting out of duty, not enthusiasm.
In preparing President Bush’s September 2006 speech on the interrogation program, Thiessen got a chance to meet real CIA interrogators. These decent people told him candidly what they had done, why, how they felt about it and how they felt about the fellow human beings they interrogated. Thiessen recounts how one of the interrogators that I sent down to talk to him was dubbed Emir Harry (not his real name) by KSM.
Thiessen’s book has put a human face on Emir Harry and his associates. That’s a good thing. These people deserve better than to be stalked by the ACLU’s John Adams project or to be subject to a re-investigation of their past activities. For doing what they were asked to do, these quiet professionals are bearing the nation’s burdens still today and Thiessen has given them their due. And that alone would make “Courting Disaster” worth a read.
Michael Hayden is a retired U.S. Air Force four-star general and former director of the National Security Agency and director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #115 on:
February 22, 2010, 05:41:14 PM »
"Our man formerly in Iraq" forwarded the following to me:
The below excerpt came from a Washington Post article the other day.
This basically mirrors my experience in obtaining info for my Colombia and Iraq missions. That the best info I came across came was from the foreign news bureau correspondents of Washington Post, New York Times, and NPR:
Military launches Afghanistan intelligence-gathering mission
By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, February 20, 2010; A12
KABUL -- On their first day of class in Afghanistan, the new U.S. intelligence analysts were given a homework assignment.
First read a six-page classified military intelligence report about the situation in Spin Boldak, a key border town and smuggling route in southern Afghanistan. Then read a 7,500-word article in Harper's magazine, also about Spin Boldak and the exploits of its powerful Afghan border police commander.
The conclusion they were expected to draw: The important information would be found in the magazine story. The scores of spies and analysts producing reams of secret documents were not cutting it.
"They need help," Capt. Matt Pottinger, a military intelligence officer, told the class. "And that's what you're going to be doing."
The class that began Friday in plywood hut B-8 on a military base in Kabul marked a first step in what U.S. commanders envision as a major transformation in how intelligence is gathered and used in the war against the Taliban.
Last month, Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the top U.S. military intelligence officer in Afghanistan, published a scathing critique of the quality of information at his disposal. Instead of understanding the nuances of local politics, economics, religion and culture that drive the insurgency, he said, the multibillion-dollar industry devoted nearly all its effort to digging up dirt on insurgent groups.
"Eight years into the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. intelligence community is only marginally relevant to the overall strategy," he wrote in a paper co-authored by Pottinger and another official and published by the Center for a New American Security.
Son of Hamas founder worked for Israelis for more than a decade
Reply #116 on:
February 24, 2010, 08:24:14 AM »
Son of Hamas founder spied for Israel for more than a decade
James Hider in Jerusalem
Mosab Hassan Yousef, a 32-year-old convert to Christianity, now lives in California
The son of one of Hamas’s founding members was a spy in the service of Israel for more than a decade, helping prevent dozens of Islamist suicide bombers from finding their targets, it emerged today.
Codenamed the Green Prince by Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of Hamas co-founder Sheikh Hassan Yousef, supplied key intelligence on an almost daily basis from 1996 onwards and tracked down suicide bombers and their handlers from his father’s organization, the daily Haaretz said.
Information he supplied led to the arrests of some of the most wanted men by Israeli forces, including Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah leader often tipped as a potential president who was convicted of masterminding terrorist attacks, and one of Hamas’ top bomb-makers Abdullah Barghouti, who is no relation of the jailed Fatah chief.
Mr Yousef, a 32-year-old convert to Christianity who now lives in California, has revealed the intrigues of his years as a spy in a new book called Son of Hamas, much to the concern of Shin Bet, whose operations will be revealed in detail. While the revelations may give a boost to Israel’s intelligence service, whose external counterpart Mossad is still grappling with the diplomatic fall-out of last month’s Hamas assassination in Dubai, there will be concern that the account may give too many insights into the murky world of espionage.
However, Mr Yousef’s work will be far more damaging to Hamas, whose brutality he denounced. Dubai police have suggested that Mahmoud al-Mabhuh, the top Hamas militant found dead in a hotel room in the emirate on January 20, may have been betrayed by an insider from the Islamist movement itself.
And Mr Yousef had harsh words for the movement that his father helped form, and which now rules the Gaza Strip after a bloody takeover in summer 2007. “Hamas cannot make peace with the Israelis,” he told the daily. “That is against what their God tells them. It is impossible to make peace with infidels, only a cease-fire, and no one knows that better than I. The Hamas leadership is responsible for the killing of Palestinians, not Israelis."
Mr Yousef’s former Israeli handler, identified only as Captain Loai, praised the resolve of his agent, whose codename derived from the colour of Islam – and Hamas’ – banner and from his exalted position within an organization that regularly kills those suspected of collaborating with the Jewish state.
"So many people owe him their life and don't even know it," he said. "The amazing thing is that none of his actions were done for money. He did things he believed in. He wanted to save lives. His grasp of intelligence matters was just as good as ours — the ideas, the insights. One insight of his was worth 1,000 hours of thought by top experts."
Mr Yousef, whose father is still in an Israeli jail cell, from where he was elected as an MP in 2006, went as far as tracking down would-be kamikazes himself in the streets of the West bank during the Second Intifada which erupted a decade ago and left thousands of Palestinians and Israelis dead. On one occasion he followed a bomber from Manara Square in the centre of Ramallah, just north of Jerusalem.
“We didn't know his name or what he looked like — only that he was in his 20s and would be wearing a red shirt," said the former handler. "We sent the Green Prince to the square and with his acute sense, he located the target within minutes. He saw who picked him up, followed the car and made it possible for us to arrest the suicide bomber and the man who was supposed to give him the belt. So another attack was thwarted, though no one knows about it. No one opens Champagne bottles or bursts into song and dance. This was an almost daily thing for the Prince. He displayed courage, had sharp antennae and an ability to cope with danger."
Mr Yousef, who converted from Islam to Christianity a decade ago – in itself, a dangerous act – was arrested by the Israelis in 1996 and within a year had been recruited by Shin Bet, then released to begin working as an informant.
Speaking by telephone from California, Mr Yousef told Haaretz he worried that the Israeli Government might release some of the prisoners he helped put behind bars in exchange for Gilad Schalit, a young Israeli soldier abducted by Hamas from the Gaza border more than three years ago.
“I wish I were in Gaza now," he said. "I would put on an army uniform and join Israel's special forces in order to liberate Gilad Schalit. If I were there, I could help. We wasted so many years with investigations and arrests to capture the very terrorists that they now want to release in return for Schalit. That must not be done."
Reply #117 on:
February 26, 2010, 02:53:38 PM »
Infiltration: What a tangled web Islamist appointees weave. When his pro-terrorist quotes surfaced, a new White House envoy dismissed them as someone else's. A recording says otherwise.
Now Rashad Hussain, President Obama's pick as special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, has changed his story. He admits he did indeed call the indictment of a now-convicted terrorist a "travesty of justice."
Politico.com has provided the quotes from a recording of the 2004 event attended by Hussain to the White House for review. In it, Hussain defended confessed terrorist Sami Al-Arian, suggesting the government had railroaded him. A Florida professor, Al-Arian was running a U.S. beachhead for Palestinian terrorists. In a plea deal, he copped to a reduced charge of conspiracy to provide material support to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a federally designated terror group. In a speech at a Cleveland mosque, Al-Arian once thundered: "Let's damn America, let's damn Israel, let's damn their allies until death."
When the controversy first broke, the White House deferred to the spin of Hussain and the Mideast outfit that scrubbed the offending statements from its Web site. Turns out the Washington Report for Middle East Affairs, a Saudi-tied, anti-Israel journal that sells Intifada trinkets, deleted his remarks after receiving a phone call from Hussain. WRMEA once employed Al-Arian's daughter as a staffer. Thanks to the recording, there's now no denying what Hussain said. After this deception, Obama should change his pick for envoy, who would join the OIC, a 57-government Islamic bloc, the largest voting bloc in the U.N.
The OIC is waging an international campaign against "Islamophobia," calling it the real "terrorism." The bloc's assault on free speech includes pressuring the West into passing laws criminalizing criticism of Islam, including motives of jihadists like Al-Arian.
It's plain that Hussain, who also has bashed the Patriot Act and other key anti-terror tools, cannot be trusted to represent U.S. interests vis-a-vis the OIC.
What's more, there are reports linking him to the radical Muslim Brotherhood, of which Al-Arian is a senior member. The Brotherhood has hatched a secret plot to infiltrate the U.S. government and "destroy" it "from within," and has erected an impressive infrastructure supporting terrorism inside America.
In a raid of Al-Arian's home, federal agents seized a document in Arabic revealing a Brotherhood plan for "spying" on U.S. agencies.
"Members of the group should be able to infiltrate the sensitive intelligence agencies or the embassies in order to collect information and build close relationships with the people in charge in these establishments," the paper advises Brotherhood leaders in America.
So far with this White House, the bad guys are finding it shockingly easy to put their agents in place.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #118 on:
April 13, 2010, 12:21:33 PM »
Power Line Blog
CIA spies and Dartmouth deans
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April 9, 2010 Posted by Scott at 5:24 AM
Ishmael Jones is the pseudonymous former Central Intelligence Agency case officer who focused on human sources with access to intelligence on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. His assignments included more than 15 years of continuous overseas service under deep cover. He is the author of The Human Factor: Inside the CIA's Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture, published by Encounter Books and just out in paperback.
We invited Mr. Jones to write something for us on a theme related to his book. He has followed up with the following post on a subject close to our heart:
A challenge to free societies today is the growth in size, power, and cost of highly paid, non-producing administrators and bureaucrats. These Soviet-style nomenklatura classes can stifle the fundamental missions of organizations. As a former CIA officer involved in intelligence reform, much of the work I do is aimed at the systemic control of bureaucracy.
In the CIA, bureaucracy weakens intelligence collection and makes Americans vulnerable to attack. At a college such as Dartmouth, which Power Line editors have followed closely, bureaucracy must be carefully monitored or it will hinder undergraduate education.
Study of the CIA's clandestine service is helpful in the analysis of other organizations because its use of secrecy, essential for conducting espionage operations, also allows it to avoid accountability. It is a Petri dish that shows how bureaucracy can grow if unimpeded.
Bureaucracy perverts human nature. The CIA is filled with brave, talented, patriotic, and energetic people, but the system does not encourage clandestine work. Clandestine work is hard and lonely, and it takes place in dingy hotel rooms in dysfunctional countries, far from family. Any CIA officer who goes to hunt bin Laden, for example, will be living in tough and dangerous conditions for long periods of time. Absence from CIA headquarters means the officer will not develop the connections, friendships and administrative skills necessary for advancement. Any CIA officer who goes to hunt bin Laden will return years later, unknown and unpromoteable. Espionage has come to be regarded as low-level work, meant for newly trained employees or the naive. It's much better to become a headquarters manager, with regular hours, low stress, plenty of time with the family, and stronger promotion possibilities.
At an educational institution like Dartmouth, which like many universities has seen a dramatic increase in administrative staff, an administrative job can be attractive. If a dean is considered more important than an educator, there will be strong pressure to create more positions for deans and to become a dean oneself. Undergraduate education means hard work. Undergraduates can be exasperating and rebellious. At the end of each term they might write unpleasant evaluations of professors which can be read by everyone on campus. It's much better to seek power, rank, and closer access to Dartmouth 's president and board by becoming an administrator.
I once attended a meeting at CIA headquarters with a group of bureaucrats and was astonished to see that an admired friend and colleague had joined their ranks. He'd once done brave work in tracking nuclear proliferators in Africa . We laughed about his transition to bureaucrat, and he apologized for his sloth, but pointed out that his new path led to promotion, more money, and the chance to make big bucks some day through CIA contracts. He'd found a job for his wife as an administrator as well, and she sat in a nearby office. The CIA finds it easier to live a bureaucratic lifestyle within the United States - no getting arrested by foreign intelligence services, no hassles, clean drinking water. More than 90% of CIA employees now live and work entirely within the United States , which is in violation of the CIA's charter. The number of effective CIA officers operating overseas under deep cover is almost insignificant.
Professional relationships don't need much of the administrative support that bureaucracy thrives upon. Good intelligence can usually be sent directly to the person who needs it - the President, military commanders, law enforcement - without much supervision. Bureaucrats just slow it down. Intelligence on the "Underwear Bomber" was available at the US embassy in Nigeria in November 2009, thanks to the bomber's father, but the information could not be pushed through the masses of supervisors during the five weeks before the bomber boarded the plane.
Professional educators, like CIA officers, require little supervision and should not be burdened with excessive deans and other administrative personnel. Dartmouth professors such as John Rassias, renowned for his decades of close interaction with students, need little supervision. More importantly, such educators should not be removed from their fundamental work to become administrators themselves.
The real dollar cost of bureaucrats is much greater than their salaries and benefits alone, because bureaucrats strive to look busy and to rise within the establishment, to control more funds and people. So they invent programs. A CIA contractor may take home $300k and his or her spouse another $300, with benefits at perhaps another $50k. We can still bear this burden. What we cannot bear are the $100 million programs these people create in order to advance themselves. Programs crowd out real espionage, which doesn't cost much. Good operations need only the cost of hotel rooms, airline tickets, and payments to sources.
If highly paid employees at a college are not involved in education, then what are they doing? I suspect many are doing the same things that CIA managers do in Washington , DC: attending meetings, drawing up budgets, jockeying for position and influence, solidifying their political power, and doing whatever it takes to look busy.
Bureaucracy's effect on human nature is fascinating. Its growth into a living creature within the CIA provides important lessons and warnings for the design and leadership of other institutions.
Mr. Jones has set up a site for his book here. He writes that all book profits go to veterans' charities.
Dismantling of Russian Operation
Reply #119 on:
July 01, 2010, 08:24:33 AM »
The Dismantling of a Suspected Russian Intelligence Operation
July 1, 2010
By Fred Burton and Ben West
The U.S. Department of Justice announced June 28 that an FBI counterintelligence investigation had resulted in the arrest on June 27 of 10 individuals suspected of acting as undeclared agents of a foreign country, in this case, Russia. Eight of the individuals were also accused of money laundering. On June 28, five of the defendants appeared before a federal magistrate in U.S. District Court in Manhattan while three others went before a federal magistrate in Alexandria, Va., and two more went before a U.S. magistrate in Boston. An 11th person named in the criminal complaint was arrested in Cyprus on June 29, posted bail and is currently at large.
The number of arrested suspects in this case makes this counterintelligence investigation one of the biggest in U.S. history. According to the criminal complaint, the FBI had been investigating some of these people for as long as 10 years, recording conversations in their homes, intercepting radio and electronic messages and conducting surveillance on them in and out of the United States. The case suggests that the classic tactics of intelligence gathering and counterintelligence are still being used by Russia and the United States.
Cast of Characters
(click here to enlarge image)
The following are the 11 individuals detained in the investigation, along with summaries of their alleged activities listed in the criminal complaint:
Claimed to originally be from Canada.
Acted as an intermediary between the Russian mission to the United Nations in New York and suspects Richard Murphy, Cynthia Murphy, Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills.
Traveled to and from Canada.
Met with Richard Murphy at least four times between February 2001 and April 2005 at a restaurant in New York.
Was first surveilled in 2001 in meetings with other suspects.
Left the United States on June 17 and was detained in Cyprus on June 29, but appears to have skipped bail.
Richard and Cynthia Murphy
Claimed to be married and to be U.S. citizens.
First surveilled by the FBI in 2001 during meetings with Mestos.
Also met with the third secretary in the Russian mission to the United Nations.
Communicated electronically with Moscow.
Richard Murphy’s safe-deposit box was searched in 2006 and agents found a birth certificate claiming he was born in Philadelphia; city officials claim there is no such birth certificate on record.
Engaged in electronic communications with Moscow.
Traveled to Moscow via Italy in February 2010.
Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley
Claimed to be married and to be natives of Canada who are naturalized U.S. citizens.
FBI searched a safe-deposit box listed under their names in January 2001.
FBI discovered that Donald Heathfield’s identity had been taken from a deceased child by the same name in Canada and found old photos of Foley taken with Soviet film.
Engaged in electronic communications with Moscow.
Tracey Foley traveled to Moscow via Paris in March 2010.
Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills
Claimed to be married and to be a U.S. citizen (Zottoli) and a Canadian citizen (Mills).
First surveilled in June 2004 during a meeting with Richard Murphy.
Engaged in electronic communications with Moscow.
Juan Lazaro and Vicky Pelaez
Claimed to be married and to be a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Peru (Pelaez) and a Peruvian citizen born in Uruguay (Lazaro).
First surveilled at a meeting in a public park in an unidentified South American country in January 2000.
Evidence against Vicky Pelaez was the first gathered on the 11 suspected operatives.
Lazaro appeared to communicate with a diplomat at the Russian Embassy in an unidentified South American country.
Engaged in electronic communications with Moscow.
First surveillance mentioned was in Manhattan in January 2010.
Communicated with a declared diplomat in the Russian mission to the United Nations on Wednesdays.
Knowingly accepted a fraudulent passport from an undercover FBI agent whom she believed to be a Russian diplomatic officer June 26, but turned it in to the police the next day shortly before her arrest.
First surveillance mentioned in the criminal complaint was in June 2010 in Washington.
Revealed to an undercover officer that he had received training and instruction from “the center” (a common term for the Moscow headquarters of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, or SVR).
Accepted a payment of $5,000 and followed orders given by an undercover FBI agent posing as a Russian diplomatic officer to deliver the money to a drop site in Washington.
According to the FBI, some of the alleged “undeclared agents” moved to the United States in the 1990s, while others (such as Anna Chapman) did not arrive until 2009. The FBI says nine of the suspects were provided with fake identities and even fake childhood photos and cover stories (part of what would be called a “legend”) in order to establish themselves in the United State under “deep cover.” Chapman and Semenko used their own Russian identities (Chapman is divorced and may have taken her surname from her former husband). The true nationalities of the other suspects are unknown, but several passages in the criminal complaint indicate that most of them were originally from Russia. The Russian SVR allegedly provided the suspects with bank accounts, homes, cars and regular payments in order to facilitate “long-term service” inside the United States, where, according to the criminal complaint, the individuals were supposed to “search [for] and develop ties in policymaking circles” in the United States.
The FBI criminal complaint provides evidence that two of the deep-cover couples (Heathfield/Foley and Lazaro/Palaez) and the two short-term cover agents (Semenko and Chapman) were operating without knowledge of each other or in connection with the other two couples and Metsos, who did interact. This suggests that they would not have formed one network, as is being reported, but perhaps discrete networks. The criminal complaint provides evidence indicating that most of the operatives were being run out of the SVR residence at the U.N. mission.
It is unclear exactly how successful the 11 accused individuals were in finding and developing those ties in policymaking circles. The criminal complaint accuses the individuals of sending everything from information on the gold market from a financier in New York (a contact that Moscow apparently found helpful, since it reportedly encouraged further contact with the source) to seeking out potential college graduates headed for jobs at the CIA. The criminal complaint outlines one recorded conversation in which Lazaro told Pelaez that his handlers were not pleased with his reports because he wasn’t attributing them properly. Pelaez then advised Lazaro to “put down any politician” (to whom the information could be attributed) in order to appease the handlers, indicating that the alleged operatives did not always practice scrupulous tradecraft in their work. Improperly identifying sources in the field ultimately diminishes the value of the information, since it cannot be adequately assessed without knowing where it came from. If these kinds of shortcuts were normally taken by Pelaez, Lazaro and others, then it would reduce their value to the SVR and the harm that they may have done to the United States. The suspects were allegedly instructed by their handlers in the United States and Russia to not pursue high-level government jobs, since their legends were not strong enough to withstand a significant background investigation. But they allegedly were encouraged to make contact with high-level government officials, in order to have a finger on the pulse of policymaking in Washington.
The criminal complaint alleges that the suspects used traditional tradecraft of the clandestine services to communicate with each other and send reports to their handlers. The suspects allegedly transmitted messages to Moscow containing their reports encrypted in “radiograms” (short-burst radio transmissions that appear as Morse code) or written in invisible ink, and met in third countries for payments and briefings. They are also said to have used “brush passes” (the quick and discreet exchange of materials between one person and another) and “flash meets” (seemingly innocuous, brief encounters) to transfer information, equipment and money. The criminal complaint also gives examples of operatives using coded phrases with each other and with their operators to confirm each other’s identities.
In addition to the traditional tradecraft described in the criminal complaint, there are also new operational twists. The suspects allegedly used e-mail to set up electronic dead drops to transmit encrypted intelligence reports to Moscow, and several operatives were said to have used steganography (embedding information in seemingly innocuous images) to encrypt messages. Chapman and Semenko allegedly employed private wireless networks hosted by a laptop programmed to communicate only with a specific laptop. The FBI claims to have identified networks (and may have intercepted the messages transmitted) that had been temporarily set up when a suspect was in proximity to a known Russian diplomat. These electronic meetings occurred frequently, according to the FBI, and allowed operatives and their operators to communicate covertly without actually being seen together.
Operations are said to have been run largely out of Russia’s U.N. mission in New York, meaning that when face-to-face meetings were required, declared diplomats from the U.N. mission could do the job. According to the criminal complaint, Russian diplomats handed off cash to Christopher Metsos on at least two occasions, and he allegedly distributed it to various other operatives (which provided the grounds for the charge of money laundering). The actual information gathered from the field appears to have gone directly to Russia, according to the complaint.
It is important to note that the accused individuals were not charged with espionage; the charge of acting as an undeclared agent of a foreign state is less serious. The criminal complaint never alleges that any of the 11 individuals received or transmitted classified information. This doesn’t mean that the suspects weren’t committing espionage. (Investigators will certainly learn more about their activities during interrogation and trial preparation.) According to the criminal complaint, their original guidance from Moscow was to establish deep cover. This means that they would have been tasked with positioning themselves over time in order gain access to valuable information (it is important to point out that “valuable” is not synonymous with “classified”) through their established occupations or social lives. This allows agents to gain access to what they want without running unnecessary security risks.
Any intelligence operation must balance operational security with the need to gather intelligence. Too much security and the operative is unable to do anything; but if intelligence gathering is too aggressive, the handlers risk losing an intelligence asset. If these people were operating in deep cover, the SVR probably invested quite a bit of time and money training and cultivating them, likely well before they arrived in the United States. According to information in the criminal complaint, the suspects were actively meeting with potential sources, sending reports back to Moscow and interacting with declared Russian diplomats in the United States, all the while running the risk of being caught. But they also took security measures, according to the complaint. There is no evidence that they attempted to reach out to people who would have fallen outside their natural professional and social circles, which could have raised suspicions. In many ways, these individuals appear to have acted more like recruiters, seeking out people with access to valuable information, rather than agents trying to gain access to that information themselves. However, all we know now is based on what was released in the criminal complaint. An investigation that lasted this long surely has an abundance of evidence (much of it likely classified) that wasn’t included in the complaint.
According to authorities, the suspected operatives were under heavy surveillance by U.S. counterintelligence agents for 10 years. Working out of Boston, New York and Washington, the FBI employed its Special Surveillance Group to track suspects in person; place video and audio recorders in their homes and at meeting places to record communications; search their homes and safe-deposit boxes; intercept e-mail and electronic communications; and deploy undercover agents to entrap the suspects.
Counterintelligence operations don’t just materialize out of thin air. There has to be a tip or a clue that puts investigators on the trail of a suspected undeclared foreign agent. As suggested by interviews with the suspects’ neighbors, none of them displayed unusual behavior that would have tipped the neighbors off. All apparently had deep (but not airtight) legends going back decades that allayed suspicion. The criminal complaint did not suggest how the U.S. government came to suspect these people of reporting back to the SVR in Russia, although we did notice that the beginning of the investigation coincides with the time that a high-level SVR agent stationed at Russia’s U.N. mission in New York began passing information to the FBI. Sergei Tretyakov (who told his story in the book by Pete Earley called “Comrade J,” an abbreviation of his SVR codename, “Comrade Jean”), passed information to the FBI from the U.N. mission from 1997 to 2000, just before he defected to the United States in October 2000. According to the criminal complaint, seven of the 11 suspects were connected to Russia’s U.N. mission, though evidence of those links did not begin to emerge until 2004 (and some as late as 2010). The timing of Tretyakov’s cooperation with the U.S. government and the timing of the beginning of this investigation resulting in the arrest of the 11 suspects this week suggests that Tretyakov may have been the original source who tipped off the U.S. government. So far, the evidence is circumstantial — the timing and the location match up — but Tretyakov, as the SVR operative at Russia’s U.N. mission, certainly would have been in a position to know about operations involving most of the people arrested June 27.
Nothing in the complaint indicates why, after more than 10 years of investigation, the FBI decided to arrest the 11 suspects June 27. It is not unusual for investigations to be drawn out for years, since much information on tradecraft and intent can be obtained by watching foreign intelligence agencies operate without knowing they are being watched. Extended surveillance can also reveal additional contacts and build a stronger case. As long as the suspects aren’t posing an immediate risk to national security (and judging by the criminal complaint, these 11 suspects were not), there is little reason for the authorities to show their hand and conclude a fruitful counterintelligence operation.
It has been suggested that some of the suspects were a flight risk, so agents arrested all of them in order to prevent them from escaping the United States. Metsos left the United States on June 17 and was arrested in Cyprus on June 29, however, his whereabouts are currently unknown, as he has not reported back to Cypriot authorities after posting bail. A number of the suspects left and came back to the United States numerous times, and investigators appear not to have been concerned about these past comings and goings. It isn’t clear why they would have been concerned about someone leaving at this point.
The timing of the arrests so soon after U.S. President Barack Obama’s June 25 meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev also raises questions about political motivations. Medvedev was in Washington to talk with Obama in an attempt to improve relations between the two countries on the day the FBI officially filed the criminal complaint. The revelation of a network of undeclared foreign agents operating in the United States would ordinarily have a negative effect on relations between the United States and the foreign country in question. In this case, though, officials from both countries made public statements saying they hoped the arrests would not damage ties, and neither side appears to be trying to leverage the incident. Indeed, if there were political motivations behind the timing of the arrests, they remain a mystery.
Whatever the motivations, now that the FBI has these suspects in custody it will be able to interrogate them and probably gather even more information on the operation. The charges for now don’t include espionage, but the FBI could very well be withholding this charge in order to provide an incentive for the suspects to plea bargain. We expect considerably more information on this unprecedented case to come out in the following weeks and months, revealing much about Russian clandestine operations and their targets in the United States.
retired CIA Russian expert says
Reply #120 on:
July 11, 2010, 09:56:02 AM »
Spy swap was a mistakeBy Gene Coyle, Special to CNNJuly 11, 2010 9:40 a.m. EDT
Ex-CIA Russian expert says the quick spy swap will be seen as sign of U.S. weakness
He says it sends the message that there's no risk for Russia to spy on the U.S.
Coyle: U.S. is right to try to maintain good relations with Moscow
Alleged spies should have spent more time behind bars, he says
Editor's note: Gene Coyle is a retired, Russian-speaking, 30-year veteran of the CIA, who specialized for most of his career on Russian affairs. He is a recipient of the CIA's Intelligence Medal of Merit. He is now an adjunct professor at Indiana University and the author of two spy novels.
(CNN) -- The Obama administration's rush to sweep the recent Russian spy scandal off the table as quickly as possible with this swap is a bad move on several counts.
It is understandable and correct that President Barack Obama values the overall U.S.-Russian relationship above the question of whether a few Russian spies spend years in jail.
The "reset" campaign was an excellent idea; too bad no one in our Department of State knew how to correctly spell the word in Russian when Secretary Hillary Clinton presented the "button" to the Russian Foreign Minister. However, there is a line between seeking a mutually beneficial relationship and delusional pandering.
The history of U.S.-Russian relations shows that dealing respectfully but firmly is what works best. Most importantly, Moscow only agrees to anything that it perceives to be at least 50 percent in its self-interest, not because we've been nice guys. The only thing releasing all of these deep-cover Russian intelligence officers within a matter of days is going to teach Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, an old KGB officer, is that Obama is a pushover -- overly focused on making sure not to offend Russia.
Aside from sending the wrong political message, the quick swap also tells the leadership of the Russian government and the SVR, its intelligence service, that there is really no downside to being caught carrying out espionage in America.
Any intelligence service in the world, including Russia's, when deciding whether to carry out a particular espionage operation looks at the "risk factor." What will be the blow back if this becomes known?
Running "illegals" -- that is, Russians posing as citizens from a third country and who have no overt connection to the Russian embassy or consulates in America -- would usually be considered a high-risk operation by Moscow because those Russian citizens don't have diplomatic immunity if caught. It's bad press and it's bad for morale within the SVR if one, much less 11, of your deep cover officers get caught and are facing decades in prison. But Obama has now just told the SVR, "Hey, there is no penalty for spying in America. If we catch you, we'll just let you go so as not to damage 'big picture' relations."
We did show Russia certain appropriate courtesies in these arrests, which would have indicated we didn't want to harm our political relationship with Russia.
We waited until Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had made his visit to America. We waited until after the G20 meetings in Canada. We haven't even publicly named or expelled the Russian diplomats who were apparently observed being involved in the communications with these illegals. (Hopefully, the Department of State has at least told the Russian ambassador that certain of his diplomats should quietly leave America.) And speaking of morale, what message does this send to the hundreds of FBI special agents who spent thousands of hours working these cases?
According to various press accounts, the number of Russian intelligence officers in America and Western Europe has already returned to Cold War levels. Obama has now told the Russians, there isn't even a problem if we catch you. Try anything you want.
Normally, when any intelligence service has a major flap as this was, it would order an immediate stand down of other operations in that country for perhaps several months while it tried to figure out what had gone wrong. By immediately sending these SVR officers back to Moscow, they will be available to assist in that investigation.
Not knowing what all they were involved in -- it was certainly more than "penetrating the local PTA" -- I don't necessarily advocate having kept these people in prison for decades, but a year or two in prison before offering a swap would have sent a strong message to Putin and the SVR. And if the press accounts are accurate, getting four people out of Russian jails in return for these 10 doesn't seem like much of a bargain either. (An 11th suspect detained in Cyprus remains on the loose after being released on bail.)
Obama is no doubt an intelligent fellow, but he certainly didn't get very good advice from his intelligence community or Russian experts about how to handle this spy caper.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Gene Coyle.
Stratfor: Russian Spies and Strategic Intel
Reply #121 on:
July 13, 2010, 10:17:26 AM »
Russian Spies and Strategic Intelligence
July 13, 2010
By George Friedman
The United States has captured a group of Russian spies and exchanged them for four individuals held by the Russians on espionage charges. The way the media has reported on the issue falls into three groups:
That the Cold War is back,
That, given that the Cold War is over, the point of such outmoded intelligence operations is questionable,
And that the Russian spy ring was spending its time aimlessly nosing around in think tanks and open meetings in an archaic and incompetent effort.
It is said that the world is global and interdependent. This makes it vital for a given nation to know three things about all of the nations with which it interacts.
First, it needs to know what other nations are capable of doing. Whether militarily, economically or politically, knowing what other nations are capable of narrows down those nations’ possible actions, eliminating fantasies and rhetoric from the spectrum of possible moves. Second, the nation needs to know what other nations intend to do. This is important in the short run, especially when intentions and capabilities match up. And third, the nation needs to know what will happen in other nations that those nations’ governments didn’t anticipate.
The more powerful a nation is, the more important it is to understand what it is doing. The United States is the most powerful country in the world. It therefore follows that it is one of the prime focuses of every country in the world. Knowing what the United States will do, and shifting policy based on that, can save countries from difficulties and even disaster. This need is not confined, of course, to the United States. Each country in the world has a list of nations that it is interdependent with, and it keeps an eye on those nations. These can be enemies, friends or just acquaintances. It is impossible for nations not to keep their eyes on other nations, corporations not to keep their eyes on other corporations and individuals not to keep their eyes on other people. How they do so varies; that they do so is a permanent part of the human condition. The shock at learning that the Russians really do want to know what is going on in the United States is, to say the least, overdone.
Russian Tradecraft Examined
Let’s consider whether the Russian spies were amateurish. During the 1920s and 1930s, the Soviets developed a unique model of espionage. They would certainly recruit government officials or steal documents. What they excelled at, however, was placing undetectable operatives in key positions. Soviet talent scouts would range around left-wing meetings to discover potential recruits. These would be young people with impeccable backgrounds and only limited contact with the left. They would be recruited based on ideology, and less often via money, sex or blackmail. They would never again be in contact with communists or fellow travelers. They would apply for jobs in their countries’ intelligence services, foreign or defense ministries, and so on. Given their family and academic backgrounds, they would be hired. They would then be left in place for 20 or 30 years while they rose in the ranks — and, on occasion, aided with bits of information from the Soviet side to move their careers ahead.
The Soviets understood that a recruited employee might be a double agent. But stealing information on an ad hoc basis was also risky, as the provenance of such material was always murky. Recruiting people who were not yet agents, creating psychological and material bonds over long years of management and allowing them to mature into senior intelligence or ministry officials allowed ample time for testing loyalty and positioning. The Soviets not only got more reliable information this way but also the ability to influence the other country’s decision-making. Recruiting a young man in the 1930s, having him work with the OSS and later the CIA, and having him rise to the top levels of the CIA — had that ever happened — would thus give the Soviets information and control.
These operations took decades, and Soviet handlers would spend their entire careers managing one career. There were four phases:
Identifying likely candidates,
Evaluating and recruiting them,
Placing them and managing their rise in the organization,
And exploiting them.
The longer the third phase took, the more effective the fourth phase would be.
It is difficult to know what the Russian team was up to in the United States from news reports, but there are two things we know about the Russians: They are not stupid, and they are extremely patient. If we were to guess — and we are guessing — this was a team of talent scouts. They were not going to meetings at the think tanks because they were interested in listening to the papers; rather, they were searching for recruits. These were people between the ages of 22 and 30, doing internships or entry level jobs, with family and academic backgrounds that would make employment in classified areas of the U.S. government easy — and who in 20 to 30 years would provide intelligence and control to Moscow.
In our view, the media may have conflated two of Moscow’s missions.
Twin Goals and the Espionage Challenge
One of the Russian operatives, Don Heathfield, once approached a STRATFOR employee in a series of five meetings. There appeared to be no goal of recruitment; rather, the Russian operative tried to get the STRATFOR employee to try out software he said his company had developed. We suspect that had this been done, our servers would be outputting to Moscow. We did not know at the time who he was. (We have since reported the incident to the FBI, but these folks were everywhere, and we were one among many.)
Thus, the group apparently included a man using software sales as cover — or as we suspect, as a way to intrude on computers. As discussed, the group also included talent scouts. We would guess that Anna Chapman was brought in as part of the recruitment phase of talent scouting. No one at STRATFOR ever had a chance to meet her, having apparently failed the first screening.
Each of the phases of the operatives’ tasks required a tremendous amount of time, patience and, above all, cover. The operatives had to blend in (in this case, they didn’t do so well enough). Russians have always had a tremendous advantage over Americans in this regard. A Russian long-term deployment took you to the United States, for example. Were the Americans to try the same thing, they would have to convince people to spend years learning Russian to near-native perfection and then to spend 20-30 years of their lives in Russia. Some would be willing to do so, but not nearly as many as there are Russians prepared to spend that amount of time in the United States or Western Europe.
The United States can thus recruit sources (and sometimes it gets genuine ones). It can buy documents. But the extremely patient, long-term deployments are very difficult for it. It doesn’t fit with U.S. career patterns or family expectations.
The United States has substituted technical intelligence for this process. Thus, the most important U.S. intelligence-collection agency is not the CIA; it is the National Security Agency (NSA). The NSA focuses on intercepting communications, penetrating computer networks, encryption and the like. (We will assume that they are successful at this.) So whereas the Russians seek to control the career of a recruit through retirement, the NSA seeks access to everything that is recorded electronically. The goal here is understanding capabilities and intentions. To the extent that the target is unaware of the NSA’s capabilities, the NSA does well. In many ways, this provides better and faster intelligence than the placement of agents, except that this does not provide influence.
The Intelligence Assumption
In the end, both the U.S. and Russian models — indeed most intelligence models — are built on the core assumption that the more senior the individual, the more knowledge he and his staff have. To put it more starkly, it assumes that what senior (and other) individuals say, write or even think reveals the most important things about the country in question. Thus, controlling a senior government official or listening to his phone conversations or e-mails makes one privy to the actions that country will take — thus allowing one to tell the future.
Let’s consider two cases: Iran in 1979 and the Soviet Union from 1989 to 1991. The fall of the Shah of Iran and the collapse of the Soviet empire were events of towering importance for the United States. Assume that the United States knew everything the shah’s senior officials and their staffs knew, wrote, or said in the period leading up to the Iranian Revolution. Or assume that the shah’s prime minister or a member of the Soviet Union’s Politburo was a long-term mole.
Either of those scenarios would not have made any difference to how events played out. This is because, in the end, the respective senior leadership didn’t know how events were going to play out. Partly this is because they were in denial, but mostly this is because they didn’t have the facts and they didn’t interpret the facts they did have properly. At these critical turning points in history, the most thorough penetration using either American or Russian techniques would have failed to provide warning of the change ahead. This is because the basic premise of the intelligence operation was wrong. The people being spied on and penetrated simply didn’t understand their own capabilities — i.e., the reality on the ground in their respective countries — and therefore their intentions about what to do were irrelevant and actually misleading.
In saying this, we must be very cautious, since obviously there are many instances in which targets of intelligence agencies do have valuable information and their decisions do actually represent what will happen. But if we regard anticipating systemic changes as one of the most important categories of intelligence, then these are cases where the targets of intelligence may well know the least and know it last. The Japanese knew they were going to hit Pearl Harbor, and having intelligence on that fact was enormously important. But that the British would collapse at Singapore was a fact not known to the British, so there would have been no way to obtain that information in advance from the British.
We started with three classes of intelligence: capabilities, intentions and what will actually happen. The first is an objective measure that can sometimes be seen directly but more frequently is obtained through data held by someone in the target country. The most important issue is not what this data says but how accurate it is. Intentions, by contrast, represent the subjective plans of decision makers. History is filled with intentions that were never implemented, or that, when implemented, had wildly different outcomes than the decision maker expected. From our point of view, the most important aspect of this category is the potential for unintended consequences. For example, George W. Bush did not intend to get bogged down in a guerrilla war in Iraq. What he intended and what happened were two different things because his view of American and Iraqi capabilities were not tied to reality.
American and Russian intelligence is source-based. There is value in sources, but they need to be taken with many grains of salt, not because they necessarily lie but because the highest placed source may simply be wrong — and at times, an entire government can be wrong. If the purpose of intelligence is to predict what will happen, and it is source-based, then that assumes that the sources know what is going on and how it will play out. But often they don’t.
Russian and American intelligence agencies are both source-obsessed. On the surface, this is reasonable and essential. But it assumes something about sources that is frequently true, but not always — and in fact is only true with great infrequency on the most important issues. From our point of view, the purpose of intelligence is obvious: It is to collect as much information as possible, and surely from the most highly placed sources. But in the end, the most important question to ask is whether the most highly placed source has any clue as to what is going to happen.
Knowledge of what is being thought is essential. But gaming out how the objective and impersonal forces will interact and play out it is the most important thing of all. The focus on sources allows the universe of intelligence to be populated by the thoughts of the target. Sometimes that is of enormous value. But sometimes the most highly placed source has no idea what is about to happen. Sometimes it is necessary to listen to the tape of Gorbachev or Bush planning the future and recognize that what they think will happen and what is about to happen are very different things.
The events of the past few weeks show intelligence doing the necessary work of recruiting and rescuing agents. The measure of all of this activity is not whether one has penetrated the other side, but in the end, whether your intelligence organization knew what was going to happen and told you regardless of what well-placed sources believed. Sometimes sources are indispensable. Sometimes they are misleading. And sometimes they are the way an intelligence organization justifies being wrong.
POTH: Scientist heads home
Reply #122 on:
July 14, 2010, 10:37:57 AM »
Scientist Heads Home, Iran Says
By DAVID E. SANGER and WILLIAM YONG
Published: July 14, 2010
WASHINGTON — An Iranian nuclear scientist who American officials say defected to the United States last year, provided information about Iran’s nuclear weapons program and then developed second thoughts, was flying home on Wednesday, less than two days after walking into the Iranian Interests Section of the Pakistani Embassy here and saying he wanted a ticket back to Tehran.
The scientist, Shahram Amiri, “has left the United States for the Iranian capital, Tehran,” Press TV, the state-run satellite broadcaster, reported. A few hours later, state television said he was flying via Doha, Qatar, and would arrived in Tehran on Thursday.
The bizarre episode was the latest in a tale that has featured a mysterious disappearance from a hotel room in Saudi Arabia, rumors of a trove of new intelligence about Iran’s nuclear facilities and a series of contradictory YouTube videos. It immediately set off a renewed propaganda war between Iran and the United States.
Iranian officials have said for months that Mr. Amiri, 32, was kidnapped in the spring of 2009, taken to the United States and imprisoned and tortured. Iranian media outlets quoted Mr. Amiri on Tuesday as saying that the United States had wanted to quietly return him to Iran and “cover up the kidnapping.”
American intelligence officials have scoffed at such accounts.
On Wednesday, Press TV said, “Analysts say U.S. intelligence officials decided to release Amiri after they failed to advance their propaganda campaign against Iran’s nuclear program via fabricating interviews with the Iranian national.”
State television showed footage of Mr. Amiri in what it said was an interview at the Iranian Interests Section of the Pakistan Embassy on Tuesday. He said had been under “psychological pressure” in the United States and had been offered financial incentives to tell American news outlets that he had come to America voluntarily to hand over a set of documents that were shown to him on a laptop. He had not agreed to do so, he said.
In the first official acknowledgment of Mr. Amiri’s presence in the United States, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that he had arrived in the country “of his own free will” and could leave whenever he wished — an indication, she said, that he was hardly a prisoner of the United States government.
But clearly the latest chapter in the saga of Mr. Amiri, a specialist in radiation detection, was an embarrassment to American intelligence agencies and offered a peephole view of what is informally called the “brain drain” program to lure Iranian scientists and engineers out of their country.
Mr. Amiri was described as an important confirming source about the Iranian nuclear program, but he was considered too junior and too removed from the program’s central leadership to have deep knowledge. According to an American intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Mr. Amiri used his expertise in radiation detection to monitor employee safety at many of Iran’s atomic plants and facilities.
The strange saga of Mr. Amiri began when he vanished during a religious pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia 13 months ago. Almost immediately, it was clear that he was in the hands of Western intelligence agencies, and American officials now say that he was spirited quickly to the United States.
Shortly after Mr. Amiri disappeared, the Iranian government protested that he had been kidnapped by the United States, and it asked the United Nations secretary general to arrange for his return.
It is unclear when Mr. Amiri’s debriefings by American intelligence officials ended. But at some point he was placed in the national resettlement program, a sort of witness-protection program run by the C.I.A. for defectors, and starting in the spring his nervousness about the fate of his wife and child grew markedly.
A former senior American intelligence official said he believed that the Iranians had threatened Mr. Amiri’s family, and a current American official said that “the Iranians are not above using relatives to try to influence people.” Whatever the reason, one evening, looking haggard and unshaven, Mr. Amiri made a video, apparently on his laptop computer.
It showed a young man speaking in Persian through a computer phone hookup and saying that he had been kidnapped in a joint operation involving the C.I.A. and the Saudi intelligence service in Medina, Saudi Arabia, on June 3, 2009. State television offered a similar version on Wednesday, quoting Mr. Amiri as saying he had been offered a ride in a car by some Persian-speaking men in a car while he was on his way to a mosque in Medina.
The man who appeared in the earlier video also said he had been taken to a house and injected with something, and that when he awoke, he was on a plane heading to the United States.
He said he was recording the video on April 5 in Tucson.
Page 2 of 2)
But hours later, another video appeared on YouTube, apparently made after the first one, with professional help. Appearing in a well-lighted room that appeared to be a library, with the added touch of a globe and a chessboard, Mr. Amiri looked well groomed. He identified himself as a student in a Ph.D. program and said he was eager to complete his studies and return to his family.
He insisted that he was free and safe, and he demanded an end to what he called false videos about himself, saying he had no interest in politics or experience in any nuclear weapons programs. He then made a third video, similar to the first.
On Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton left it unclear why Mr. Amiri made his dramatic appearance at a storefront offshoot of the Pakistani Embassy on Monday evening, seeking refuge, a passport and a plane ticket.
Mrs. Clinton, answering reporters’ questions at a news conference at the State Department with Iraq’s foreign minister, said Mr. Amiri had been scheduled to leave for Iran a day earlier but “was unable to make all of the necessary arrangements” to travel through other countries. “He’s free to go,” she said. “He was free to come. Those decisions are his alone to make.”
It is unclear what awaits Mr. Amiri in Iran, whether a hero’s welcome or an interrogation by Iranian authorities. Iranian state television said on Wednesday that he would be met by members of his family when he arrives in Tehran on Thursday.
Mr. Amiri had worked at Malek Ashtar University in Iran, which is linked to the powerful Revolutionary Guards, and the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an opposition group based in France, reported in April that Mr. Amiri worked at the “Mojdeh” site, which they described as an atomic nerve center disguised as an academic complex.
Mr. Amiri is also believed to have once worked at Lavizan, a military research base outside Tehran that was razed in 2003 and 2004 as atomic inspectors in Vienna raised questions about its possession of highly enriched uranium.
Mrs. Clinton, in insisting that Mr. Amiri could leave, called for the release of three American hikers who were arrested and charged with entering Iranian territory in July 2009. But, unlike it did in the Russian prisoner swap last week, the United States made no effort to try to negotiate a trade, officials said.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #123 on:
July 15, 2010, 05:34:44 AM »
I would not sell Amiri any life insurance............ I hope the Intel guys do their homework, this could be a serious effort at various sorts of disinformation. Given the typical bureaucratic NIH syndromes, even if a light bulb of comprehension lights up as to what is really going on, it will probably get missed.
Heck the goal could have simply been to muddy the political/ diplomatic discussion as leverage for more controversy/psychobabble?
Stratfor: Passport Fraud
Reply #124 on:
July 15, 2010, 09:27:04 AM »
Who knows? Certainly nothing we are getting on this is likely to be true
In another vein, here's this:
The Shifting Landscape of Passport Fraud
July 15, 2010
By Scott Stewart
The recent case involving the arrest and deportation of the Russian intelligence network in the United States has once again raised the subject of document fraud in general and passport fraud in particular. The FBI’s investigation into the group of Russian operatives discovered that several of the suspects had assumed fraudulent identities and had obtained genuine passports (and other identity documents) in their assumed names. One of the suspects assumed the identity of a Canadian by the name of Christopher Robert Mestos, who died in childhood. The suspect was arrested in Cyprus but fled after posting bail; his true identity remains unknown. Three other members of the group also assumed Canadian identities, with Andrey Bezrukov posing as Donald Heathfield, Elena Vavilova as Tracey Foley and Natalia Pereverzeva as Patricia Mills.
Passport fraud is a topic that surfaces with some frequency in relation to espionage cases. (The Israelis used passport fraud during the January 2010 operation to assassinate Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas militant commander.) Passport fraud is also frequently committed by individuals involved in crimes such as narcotics smuggling and arms trafficking, as well as by militants involved in terrorist plots. Because of the frequency with which passport fraud is used in these types of activities — and due to the importance that curtailing passport fraud can have in combating espionage, terrorism and crime — we thought it a topic worth discussing this week in greater detail.
Passports and Investigations
While the use of passports goes back centuries, the idea of a travel document that can be used to absolutely verify the identity of a traveler is a relatively new concept. Passports containing the photos of the bearer have only been widely used and mandated for international travel for about a century now, and in the United States, it was not until 1918 that Congress enacted laws mandating the use of U.S. passports for Americans returning from overseas and home country passports with visas for foreigners wishing to visit the United States. Passport fraud followed closely on the heels of these regulations. Following the American entry into World War I, special agents from the State Department’s Bureau of Secret Intelligence became very involved in hunting down German and Austrian intelligence officers who were then using forged documents to operate inside the United States.
In the decades after World War I, the Bureau of Secret Intelligence’s successor organization, the Office of the Chief Special Agent, became very involved in investigating Nazi and Communist agents who committed passport fraud to operate inside the United States. As the Office of the Chief Special Agent evolved into the State Department’s Office of Security and then finally the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), special agents from the organization continued to investigate passport and visa fraud. In addition to foreign intelligence officers, they have also investigated terrorists, fugitives and other criminals who have committed passport fraud. Since the State Department is the agency that issues U.S. passports and visas, it is also the primary agency charged with ensuring the integrity of those documents. Therefore, in much the same manner that U.S. Secret Service agents are charged with investigating counterfeit currency (and ensuring the integrity of currency for the Treasury Department), DS agents are charged with investigating passport fraud.
DS agents are not the only ones who investigate passport fraud, however. As the FBI matured organizationally and became the primary domestic counterintelligence agency, the bureau also began to work passport fraud investigations involving foreign intelligence officers. Soviet and other Communist “illegals” — intelligence officers operating without official cover — frequently assumed the identities of deceased infants, and because of this, the FBI developed a particular interest in passport fraud investigations involving infant death identity (IDI) cases. However, passport fraud is only one of the many criminal violations that the FBI investigates, and most FBI agents will not investigate a passport fraud case during their career.
As the agency primarily responsible for border and immigration enforcement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) also investigates identity-document fraud, including passport fraud, although many of the cases ICE agents work involve foreign passports. ICE also has a forensic document laboratory that is the best in the world when it comes to the technical investigation of fraudulent identity documents.
Another U.S. government agency that watches passport fraud with a great deal of interest is the CIA. Not only does it have an operational interest in the topic — the agency wants to be able to use fraud for its own purposes — but it is also very interested in being able to verify the true identities of walk-ins and other potential sources. Because of this, the CIA needs to have the ability to spot fraudulent documents. During the 1980s, the CIA produced an excellent series of unclassified guides on the terrorist use of passport and visa fraud called the “Redbook.” The Redbook was discontinued in 1992, just as the jihadist threat to the United States was beginning to emerge.
As in any area where there are overlapping jurisdictions and investigations, there is sometimes tension and bureaucratic jealously between the various agencies involved in investigating passport fraud. The level of tension is frequently lower in scenarios where the agencies work together (as on joint terrorism task forces) and where the agents and agencies have become accustomed to working together. In the forensic realm, the ICE laboratory generally has an excellent relationship with the State Department, the FBI (and the document section of the FBI laboratory) and the CIA’s document laboratory.
Types of Passport Fraud
There are several different types of passport fraud. The first is the intentional issuing of a genuine passport in a false identity by a government. Real passports are often issued in false identities to provide cover for intelligence officers, but this can also be done for other reasons. For example, in late 1990, during Operation Desert Shield, the Iraqi government provided a large group of Iraqi intelligence officers with Iraqi passports in false identities so that these officials could travel abroad and conduct terrorist attacks against U.S. interests. These Iraqi teams were dispatched all over the world and were provided direction (as well as weapons and IED components) by Iraqi intelligence officers stationed in embassies abroad. The explosives and firearms were sent around the world via diplomatic pouches (which are exempt from search). Following failed terrorist attacks in Manila and Jakarta in January 1991, DS agents investigating the case discovered that the Iraqi operatives were traveling on sequentially numbered Iraqi passports. This discovery allowed a worldwide alert to go out and governments in several different regions of the world were able to arrest or deport scores of Iraqi agents.
A second type of fraud involving genuine passports is where the government is not knowingly involved in the issuance of the passport for the fraudulent identity. In such cases, an applicant uses fraudulent identification documents to apply for a passport. The group of documents needed to obtain a passport — called “breeder” documents — normally includes a birth certificate, a Social Security card and a driver’s license. A set of fraudulent breeder documents can be counterfeit, genuine but altered (this can be done by changing the name or date of birth) or genuine documents obtained by fraud.
This is where the IDI cases come in. In these cases, someone applies for a replacement birth certificate of a deceased infant or child of their approximate age and then uses the birth certificate to obtain a Social Security card and driver’s license. The person applying for the replacement birth certificate usually claims their original birth certificate was lost or stolen.
Due to changes in procedure and technology, however, it has become more difficult in recent years to obtain a copy of the birth certificate of an infant or child who died in the United States. Birth-certificate registries are now tied electronically to death registries in every state, and if someone attempts to get the birth certificate of a dead person, it is quickly noticed and an investigation launched. Also, Social Security numbers are now issued at birth, so it is very difficult for a 25- or 30-year-old person to apply for a new Social Security number. Because of these factors, IDI cases have declined significantly in the United States.
Breeder documents are generally easier to counterfeit or obtain by fraud than a passport. However, as identity documents become more cross-referenced in databases, it is becoming more difficult to obtain a passport using a counterfeit birth certificate and Social Security number. Because of this, it has become more common for a person to buy a set of genuine breeder documents from a drug user or criminal looking for some quick cash. It is also possible to buy a genuine birth certificate and Social Security card from a corrupt official. While such documents are genuine, and can carry the applicant’s true or chosen name, such genuine documents are much more expensive than the other options. Of course, passport office employees can also be bribed to issue a genuine passport with fraudulent breeder documents, though there is a remote risk that such fraud will be caught in an audit.
At the present time, it is far easier and cheaper to obtain a genuine foreign passport by fraud than it is a U.S. passport, but corruption and plain old mistakes still allow a small number of fraudulent U.S. passports to get into the system. There are still some countries where a genuine passport in any identity can be obtained for just a few hundred dollars. Generally, it is more difficult to get passports from more developed nations (such as those that participate in the U.S. visa waiver program) than it is from less developed nations, where corruption is more prevalent. Still, corruption is a worldwide problem when it comes to passports and other identity documents.
Stolen blank passports have also been used over the years. For example, after Operation Desert Storm, an Iraqi passport office in Basra was sacked and thousands of blank Iraqi passports were stolen and then sold on the black market. One of those blanks was bought by a Pakistani jihadist operative named Abdul Basit, who had the blank passport filled out with his photograph and the name of a fictitious Iraqi citizen named Ramzi Yousef. After he entered the United States, Basit organized the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The problem with stolen blanks is that they are usually reported fairly quickly and their numbers are entered into international databases. Furthermore, like a counterfeit passport, a stolen blank passport will not correspond to information entered into passport databases, and it is therefore difficult to travel using one. In the case of Basit, he used a British passport altered to include his photo to leave Pakistan but then used the Iraqi passport to make an asylum claim once he arrived in the United States.
This highlights another category of genuine passports used in passport fraud, those that are real but have been altered, usually by replacing the photo appearing on the passport. Passport fraud investigators refer to this as a photo-subbed passport. In the 1970s, it was fairly easy to photo-sub passports from most countries, but in the past couple of decades, many countries have taken great efforts to make this process more difficult. The use of high-tech laminates and now, in current U.S. passports, RFID chips that contain a photo that must match the one appearing on the passport make it far harder to photo-sub passports today. Of course, efforts to increase passport security haven’t always worked as planned. In 1993, the State Department began issuing a new high-tech passport with a green cover that was supposed to be impossible to photo-sub. Within a few months of the first issuance of the passports, document vendors discovered that the laminate on the green passports could be easily removed by placing a block of dry ice on the passport, changing the photo and then pressing the laminate back down with an iron. Due to the ease of photo-subbing these passports, their value on the black market skyrocketed, and the “fraud proof” green passports had to be taken out of circulation after less than a year.
Finally, we have counterfeit passports, which are passports created from scratch by a document vendor. Like counterfeit currency, there is a vast range of quality when it comes to counterfeit passports, and as a rule of thumb, you get what you pay for. On the streets of places like Bangkok, Hong Kong or New York, one can buy counterfeit passports from a wide array of countries. There is, however, a vast difference between the passport one can purchase for $100 and the one that can be purchased for $10,000. Also, like currency, some passport counterfeiters will even attempt to use elements of genuine passports, like the optically “dead” paper with little or no fluorescence used for the pages and the holographic laminates used on the photo pages. However, like photo-subbed passports, it is far more difficult to create a functional counterfeit passport today than it was several years ago. Not only does the passport have to be of high quality, but the number needs to correspond to the database of legitimately issued passports. Therefore, most counterfeit passports are useful for traveling in the third world but would not withstand the scrutiny of authorities in the developed world.
In spite of these problems, there is still a market for counterfeit and photo-subbed passports. While they may not be useful for traveling to a country like the United States or France, they can be used to travel from a place like Pakistan or China to a gateway country in the Western Hemisphere like Venezuela or a gateway country in Europe like Albania. Because of this, American and European passports still fetch a decent price on the black market and are frequently stolen from or sold by Westerners. Citizens of Western countries who travel to terrorist training camps are also frequently encouraged to “donate” their passports and other documents to the group that trains them. There are also many reports that Mossad makes use of the passports of foreign Jews who move to Israel and give their passports to the intelligence agency. Stolen or deliberately lost passports not only can be altered or cloned but also can be used for travel by people who physically resemble the original bearer, although once they are reported stolen or lost and entered into lookout databases, their utility declines.
A Shifting Focus
The difficulty in obtaining functional travel documents has affected the way criminal and terrorist organizations operate. With increasing scrutiny of travel documents, groups like al Qaeda have found it progressively more difficult to travel to the West. This is one of the factors that has led to their increasing use of operatives who have the ability to travel to where the planned attack is to be conducted, rather than sending a more professional terrorist operative to conduct the attack.
This difficulty in counterfeiting passports has even affected intelligence agencies, which are the best passport counterfeiters in the world. This is why we see intelligence agencies like Mossad having to clone passports — that is, create a counterfeit passport that bears the same name and number of a legitimate passport — or even resort to other types of fraud to obtain genuine passports for operatives. It has become difficult to fabricate a usable passport using a fictitious name. Mossad operatives have gotten in trouble for attempting to fraudulently obtain genuine passports in places like New Zealand. And Mossad is certainly not the only intelligence service experiencing this difficulty in obtaining documents for its operatives.
Because of these difficulties, intelligence agencies and militant and criminal organizations have begun to place increasing importance on recruiting assets involved in the issuance of identity documents. At an embassy, a consular officer is viewed as almost as important a person to recruit as a code clerk. A corrupt consular officer can make a great deal of money selling documents. But the threat can extend far from an overseas embassy. If an organization like the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (or the Sinaloa cartel) can recruit an employee at the New Jersey Office of Vital Statistics, they can arrange to have their agent occasionally issue a genuine birth certificate (camouflaged in a large stack of legitimately issued documents) in a fraudulent identity for their use. Likewise, if they can recruit a clerk at the Social Security office in Jersey City, they can get that agent to occasionally issue a Social Security number and card that corresponds to the birth certificate. These primary documents can then be used to obtain a driver’s license (the key identity document for living in the United States) and eventually a passport for international travel.
Of course, recruiting an agent who works inside an agency is not the only way to obtain identification documents. Several years ago, a cleaning company owned by a group of Nigerians placed a low bid on the contract to provide cleaning services to Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices in Florida. Shortly after the company began providing services to the DMV, the agency suffered a rash of thefts across the state that included not only blank driver’s licenses and laminates but an entire machine that took the photos and processed the blank licenses.
The advent of cross-referencing databases, machine-readable passports routinely checked against such databases, radio frequency identification technology and procedures intended to prevent fraud have helped curtail many types of passport fraud. That said, passports are still required to travel for nefarious purposes, and these security measures have caused resourceful criminals, terrorists and intelligence agencies to shift their focus from technical methods of fraud toward exploiting humans in the process. In many places, the effort made to vet and monitor employees issuing documents is far less extensive than the effort made to physically protect documents from counterfeiting. The end result is that humans have become the weakest link in the equation.
Reply #125 on:
October 24, 2010, 11:41:44 AM »
LONDON — Julian Assange moves like a hunted man. In a noisy Ethiopian restaurant in London’s rundown Paddington district, he pitches his voice barely above a whisper to foil the Western intelligence agencies he fears.
He demands that his dwindling number of loyalists use expensive encrypted cellphones and swaps his own as other men change shirts. He checks into hotels under false names, dyes his hair, sleeps on sofas and floors, and uses cash instead of credit cards, often borrowed from friends.
“By being determined to be on this path, and not to compromise, I’ve wound up in an extraordinary situation,” Mr. Assange said over lunch last Sunday, when he arrived sporting a woolen beanie and a wispy stubble and trailing a youthful entourage that included a filmmaker assigned to document any unpleasant surprises.
In his remarkable journey to notoriety, Mr. Assange, founder of the WikiLeaks whistle-blowers’ Web site, sees the next few weeks as his most hazardous. Now he is making his most brazen disclosure yet: 391,832 secret documents on the Iraqi war. He held a news conference in London on Saturday, saying that the release “constituted the most comprehensive and detailed account of any war ever to have entered the public record.”
Twelve weeks ago, he posted on his organization’s Web site some 77,000 classified Pentagon documents on the Afghan conflict.
Much has changed since 2006, when Mr. Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, used years of computer hacking and what friends call a near genius I.Q. to establish WikiLeaks, redefining whistle-blowing by gathering secrets in bulk, storing them beyond the reach of governments and others determined to retrieve them, then releasing them instantly, and globally.
Now it is not just governments that denounce him: some of his own comrades are abandoning him for what they see as erratic and imperious behavior, and a nearly delusional grandeur unmatched by an awareness that the digital secrets he reveals can have a price in flesh and blood.
Several WikiLeaks colleagues say he alone decided to release the Afghan documents without removing the names of Afghan intelligence sources for NATO troops. “We were very, very upset with that, and with the way he spoke about it afterwards,” said Birgitta Jonsdottir, a core WikiLeaks volunteer and a member of Iceland’s Parliament. “If he could just focus on the important things he does, it would be better.”
He is also being investigated in connection with accusations of rape and molestation involving two Swedish women. Mr. Assange has denied the allegations, saying the relations were consensual. But prosecutors in Sweden have yet to formally approve charges or dismiss the case eight weeks after the complaints against Mr. Assange were filed, damaging his quest for a secure base for himself and WikiLeaks. Though he characterizes the claims as “a smear campaign,” the scandal has compounded the pressures of his cloaked life.
“When it comes to the point where you occasionally look forward to being in prison on the basis that you might be able to spend a day reading a book, the realization dawns that perhaps the situation has become a little more stressful than you would like,” he said over the London lunch.
Mr. Assange has come a long way from an unsettled childhood in Australia as a self-acknowledged social misfit who narrowly avoided prison after being convicted on 25 charges of computer hacking in 1995. History is punctuated by spies, defectors and others who revealed the most inflammatory secrets of their age. Mr. Assange has become that figure for the Internet era, with as yet unreckoned consequences for himself and for the keepers of the world’s secrets.
“I’ve been waiting 40 years for someone to disclose information on a scale that might really make a difference,” said Daniel Ellsberg, who exposed a 1,000-page secret study of the Vietnam War in 1971 that became known as the Pentagon Papers.
Mr. Ellsberg said he saw kindred spirits in Mr. Assange and Pfc. Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old former Army intelligence operative under detention in Quantico, Va., suspected of leaking the Iraq and Afghan documents.
“They were willing to go to prison for life, or be executed, to put out this information,” Mr. Ellsberg said.
Underlying Mr. Assange’s anxieties is deep uncertainty about what the United States and its allies may do next. Pentagon and Justice department officials have said they are weighing his actions under the 1917 Espionage Act. They have demanded that Mr. Assange “return” all government documents in his possession, undertake not to publish any new ones and not “solicit” further American materials.
Mr. Assange has responded by going on the run, but has found no refuge. Amid the Afghan documents controversy, he flew to Sweden, seeking a residence permit and protection under that country’s broad press freedoms. His initial welcome was euphoric.
“They called me the James Bond of journalism,” he recalled wryly. “It got me a lot of fans, and some of them ended up causing me a bit of trouble.”
Within days, his liaisons with two Swedish women led to an arrest warrant on charges of rape and molestation. Karin Rosander, a spokesperson for the prosecutor, said last week that the police were continuing to investigate.
In late September, he left Stockholm for Berlin. A bag he checked on the almost empty flight disappeared, with three encrypted laptops. It has not resurfaced; Mr. Assange suspects it was intercepted. From Germany, he traveled to London, wary at being detained on arrival. Under British law, his Australian passport entitles him to remain for six months. Iceland, another country with generous press freedoms and a strong WikiLeaks following, has also lost its appeal, with Mr. Assange concluding that its government, like Britain’s, is too easily influenced by Washington. In his native Australia, ministers have signaled their willingness to cooperate with the United States if it opens a prosecution. Mr. Assange said a senior Australian official told him, “You play outside the rules, and you will be dealt with outside the rules.”
He faces attack from within, too.
After the Sweden scandal, strains within WikiLeaks reached a breaking point, with some of Mr. Assange’s closest collaborators publicly defecting. The New York Times spoke with dozens of people who have worked with and supported him in Iceland, Sweden, Germany, Britain and the United States. What emerged was a picture of the founder of WikiLeaks as its prime innovator and charismatic force but as someone whose growing celebrity has been matched by an increasingly dictatorial, eccentric and capricious style.
Effectively, as Mr. Assange pursues his fugitive’s life, his leadership is enforced over the Internet. Even remotely, his style is imperious. In an online exchange with one volunteer, a transcript of which was obtained by The Times, he warned that WikiLeaks would disintegrate without him. “We’ve been in a Unity or Death situation for a few months now,” he said.
When Herbert Snorrason, a 25-year-old political activist in Iceland, questioned Mr. Assange’s judgment over a number of issues in an online exchange last month, Mr. Assange was uncompromising. “I don’t like your tone,” he said, according to a transcript. “If it continues, you’re out.”
Mr. Assange cast himself as indispensable. “I am the heart and soul of this organization, its founder, philosopher, spokesperson, original coder, organizer, financier, and all the rest,” he said. “If you have a problem with me,” he told Mr. Snorrason, using an expletive, he should quit.
In an interview about the exchange, Mr. Snorrason’s conclusion was stark. “He is not in his right mind,” he said. In London, Mr. Assange was dismissive of all those who have criticized him. “These are not consequential people,” he said.
“About a dozen” disillusioned volunteers have left recently, said Smari McCarthy, an Icelandic volunteer who has distanced himself in the recent turmoil. In late summer, Mr. Assange suspended Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a German who had been the WikiLeaks spokesman under the pseudonym Daniel Schmitt, accusing him of unspecified “bad behavior.” Many more activists, Mr. McCarthy said, are likely to follow.
Mr. Assange denied that any important volunteers had quit, apart from Mr. Domscheit-Berg. But further defections could paralyze an organization that Mr. Assange says has 40 core volunteers and about 800 mostly unpaid followers to maintain a diffuse web of computer servers and to secure the system against attack — to guard against the kind of infiltration that WikiLeaks itself has used to generate its revelations.
Mr. Assange’s detractors also accuse him of pursuing a vendetta against the United States. In London, Mr. Assange said America was an increasingly militarized society and a threat to democracy. Moreover, he said, “we have been attacked by the United States, so we are forced into a position where we must defend ourselves.”
Even among those challenging Mr. Assange’s leadership style, there is recognition that the intricate computer and financial architecture WikiLeaks uses to shield it against its enemies has depended on its founder. “He’s very unique and extremely capable,” said Ms. Jonsdottir, the Icelandic lawmaker.
A Rash of Scoops
Before posting the documents on Afghanistan and Iraq, WikiLeaks enjoyed a string of coups.
Supporters were thrilled when the organization posted documents on the Guantánamo Bay detention operation, the contents of Sarah Palin’s personal Yahoo email account, reports of extrajudicial killings in Kenya and East Timor, the membership rolls of the neo-Nazi British National Party and a combat video showing American Apache helicopters in Baghdad in 2007 gunning down at least 12 people, including two Reuters journalists.
But now, WikiLeaks has been met with new doubts. Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders have joined the Pentagon in criticizing the organization for risking people’s lives by publishing war logs identifying Afghans working for the Americans or acting as informers.
A Taliban spokesman in Afghanistan using the pseudonym Zabiullah Mujahid said in a telephone interview that the Taliban had formed a nine-member “commission” after the Afghan documents were posted “to find about people who are spying.” He said the Taliban had a “wanted” list of 1,800 Afghans and was comparing that with names WikiLeaks provided.
“After the process is completed, our Taliban court will decide about such people,” he said.
Mr. Assange defended posting unredacted documents, saying he balanced his decision “with the knowledge of the tremendous good and prevention of harm that is caused” by putting the information into the public domain. “There are no easy choices on the table for this organization,” he said.
But if Mr. Assange is sustained by his sense of mission, faith is fading among his fellow conspirators. His mood was caught vividly in an exchange on Sept. 20 with another senior WikiLeaks figure. In an encrypted online chat, a transcript of which was passed to The Times, Mr. Assange was dismissive of his colleagues. He described them as “a confederacy of fools,” and asked his interlocutor, “Am I dealing with a complete retard?”
In London, Mr. Assange was angered when asked about the rifts. He responded testily to questions about WikiLeaks’s opaque finances, Private Manning’s fate and WikiLeaks’s apparent lack of accountability to anybody but himself, calling the questions “cretinous,” “facile” and reminiscent of “kindergarten.”
Mr. Assange has been equivocal about Private Manning, talking in late summer as though the soldier was unavoidable collateral damage, much like the Afghans named as informers in the secret Pentagon documents.
But in London, he took a more sympathetic view, describing Private Manning as a “political prisoner” facing a jail term of up to 52 years, without confirming that he was the source of the disclosed war logs. “We have a duty to assist Mr. Manning and other people who are facing legal and other consequences,” he said.
Mr. Assange’s own fate seems as imperiled as Private Manning’s. Last Monday, the Swedish Migration Board said Mr. Assange’s bid for a residence permit had been rejected. His British visa will expire early next year. When he left the London restaurant at twilight, heading into the shadows, he declined to say where he was going. The man who has put some of the world’s most powerful institutions on his watch list was, once more, on the move.
Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington, and Dexter Filkins from Kabul, Afghanistan.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #126 on:
October 24, 2010, 11:54:50 AM »
Note how the media ignores the WMDs found in Iraq and the debunking of the Lancet study in the WikiLeak document drop. Assange is a melodramatic douche. If the CIA or the UK's intel entities wanted him, they'd have him.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #127 on:
October 24, 2010, 12:03:04 PM »
I’m not sure it’s what WikiLeaks intended, but its latest leaks reveal that the infamous Lancet paper which claimed the US-led liberation of Iraq cost the lives of 655,000 Iraqis in fact exaggerated the death toll by at least 600 per cent:
The reports detail 109,032 deaths in Iraq (over six years). These include 66,081 “civilians,” 23,984 “enemy” insurgents, 15,196 “host nation” (Iraqi government forces), and 3,771 “friendly” (coalition) forces. Some 60 percent of the total is civilian deaths.
And that’s leaving aside the argument about who actually killed the Iraqis, and whether more would have died under Saddam. Note also that this death toll is less than the number of people murdered in South Africa over the same period, and that even allowing for population differences, Iraq’s death toll is now lower.
Settle back and see if that’s how the ABC and Fairfax report these latest leaks.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #128 on:
October 24, 2010, 12:06:08 PM »
The wages of Wikileaks: Understanding the Iraq war casualties
By TigerHawk at 10/24/2010 11:07:00 AM
Glenn Reynolds notes that the early revelations from the "Wikileaks" exposure of classified Iraq war documents do not actually reflect well on the political left. In particular, the documents reveal that The Lancet's two infamous studies on casualties in Iraq, curiously released in October 2004 and October 2006, respectively, grossly overstated the death toll from that war. This should not surprise us, insofar as the second such study (which claimed 600,000 war-related deaths in Iraq through the summer of 2006, or almost six times the 109,000 deaths through 2009 revealed by Wikileaks) was funded and promoted by George Soros, a fact that was ignored in virtually all of the press coverage back when it mattered. Thus Wikileaks has torpedoed a "fact" to which the "reality-based community" ascribed totemic significance. Sadly, even now the respectable mainstream media neglects to make the point. Probably because George Soros was behind the original propaganda which the media dutifully transcribed. If that were widely understood it might not reflect well on the profession of journalism.
Now, you might say that whether there were 100,000 excess deaths in Iraq or 600,000, it hardly matters insofar as both numbers are huge. Well, maybe not.
And that’s leaving aside the argument about who actually killed the Iraqis, and whether more would have died under Saddam. Note also that this death toll is less than the number of people murdered in South Africa over the same period, and that even allowing for population differences, Iraq’s death toll is now lower.
The first really objective history of the Iraq war will have to wait until somebody who did not live through the propaganda around that war is old enough to write it. When that book is written, its main conclusion will turn on the path of Iraq and the greater Middle East in the years following the war, a story that has not yet unfolded. The discussion of the human costs of the war will be particularly interesting, however, because it will judge the competing claims of those who oppose the war -- that American and Coalition soldiers fought a dirty war that inflicted an unacceptably large number of civilian casualties -- and those who support it -- that civilian casualties were almost unbelievably low given the ferocity and duration of the counterinsurgency and in any case lower than the deaths attributable to Ba'athist rule over a similar number of years.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #129 on:
October 24, 2010, 01:24:46 PM »
Wikileaks documents show WMDs found in Iraq
posted at 1:30 pm on October 24, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
In this case, the surprise isn’t the data but the source. Wikileaks’ new release from purloined files of the Department of Defense may help remind people that, contrary to popular opinion and media memes, the US did find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and in significant quantities. While the invasion of Iraq didn’t find huge stockpiles of new WMDs, it did uncover stockpiles that the UN had demanded destroyed as a condition of the 1991 truce that Saddam Hussein abrogated for twelve years (via Instapundit):
An initial glance at the WikiLeaks war logs doesn’t reveal evidence of some massive WMD program by the Saddam Hussein regime — the Bush administration’s most (in)famous rationale for invading Iraq. But chemical weapons, especially, did not vanish from the Iraqi battlefield. Remnants of Saddam’s toxic arsenal, largely destroyed after the Gulf War, remained. Jihadists, insurgents and foreign (possibly Iranian) agitators turned to these stockpiles during the Iraq conflict — and may have brewed up their own deadly agents.
In August 2004, for instance, American forces surreptitiously purchased what they believed to be containers of liquid sulfur mustard, a toxic “blister agent” used as a chemical weapon since World War I. The troops tested the liquid, and “reported two positive results for blister.” The chemical was then “triple-sealed and transported to a secure site” outside their base. …
Nearly three years later, American troops were still finding WMD in the region. An armored Buffalo vehicle unearthed a cache of artillery shells “that was covered by sacks and leaves under an Iraqi Community Watch checkpoint. “The 155mm rounds are filled with an unknown liquid, and several of which are leaking a black tar-like substance.” Initial tests were inconclusive. But later, “the rounds tested positive for mustard.”
Some of these discoveries have been known for years. To the extent that the media covered these at all, these finds were generally treated as long-forgotten leftovers that somehow never got addressed by the Iraqi military in twelve years of UN inspections. That, however, disregards completely the kind of totalitarian state that Hussein had imposed on Iraq, up to the minute that circumstances forced him into his spider hole in 2003. Had Saddam Hussein wanted those weapons destroyed, no lower-ranking military officer would have dared defy him by keeping them hidden. It would have taken dozens of officers to conspire to move and hide those weapons, as well as a like number of enlisted men, any and all of whom could have been a spy for the Hussein clique.
That would have had to have happened a number of times, not just once, organically arising in the ranks. And why create a vast conspiracy of defiance to save the weapons that Saddam Hussein liked the most while Hussein himself complied with the UN? Why not a conspiracy to just remove Hussein and his sons and let the military run the country instead? Obviously, Hussein wanted to keep enough WMDs to use as terror weapons, not against the US, but against Iran in the event of an invasion from the east.
This isn’t exactly vindication of one of the arguments the Bush administration gave for invading Iraq, which was that Hussein had already begun stockpiling new WMDs and was working on nuclear weapons, but it is another vindication of the primary reason for restarting the war: Hussein and Iraq had violated the truce and refused to comply even after 17 UN resolutions demanding compliance. Hussein never had any intention of abiding by the truce, for whatever motivations one wants to assign to him. After the invasion, the US proved (through an armed-version of Wikileaks in Iraq’s diplomatic files) that the UN had allowed Hussein to grab billions in personal wealth by perverting the embargo in the Oil-for-Food Program, which would have given Hussein the means to fuel another WMD program as soon as the West withdrew from Iraq, and to restart Hussein’s dreams of pan-Arab dominance through military adventurism. In the end, there were no good options.
Reply #130 on:
October 28, 2010, 10:24:16 AM »
October 28, 2010
WIKILEAKS AND THE CULTURE OF CLASSIFICATION
By Scott Stewart
On Friday, Oct. 22, the organization known as WikiLeaks published a cache of 391,832
classified documents on its website. The documents are mostly field reports filed by
U.S. military forces in Iraq from January 2004 to December 2009 (the months of May
2004 and March 2009 are missing). The bulk of the documents (379,565, or about 97
percent) were classified at the secret level, with 204 classified at the lower
confidential level. The remaining 12,062 documents were either unclassified or bore
This large batch of documents is believed to have been released by Pfc. Bradley
Manning, who was arrested in May 2010 by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations
Command and charged with transferring thousands of classified documents onto his
personal computer and then transmitting them to an unauthorized person. Manning is
also alleged to have been the source of the classified information released by
WikiLeaks pertaining to the war in Afghanistan in July 2010.
WikiLeaks released the Iraq war documents, as it did the Afghanistan war documents,
to a number of news outlets for analysis several weeks in advance of their formal
public release. These news organizations included The New York Times, Der Spiegel,
The Guardian and Al Jazeera, each of which released special reports to coincide with
the formal release of the documents Oct. 22.
Due to its investigation of Manning, the U.S. government also had a pretty good idea
of what the material was before it was released and had formed a special task force
to review it for sensitive and potentially damaging information prior to the
release. The Pentagon has denounced the release of the information, which it
considers a crime. It has also demanded the return of its stolen property and warned
that the documents place Iraqis at risk of retaliation and also the lives of U.S.
troops from terrorist groups that are mining the documents for operational
information they can use in planning their attacks.
When one takes a careful look at the classified documents released by WikiLeaks, it
becomes quickly apparent that they contain very few true secrets. Indeed, the main
points being emphasized by Al Jazeera and the other media outlets after all the
intense research they conducted before the public release of the documents seem to
highlight a number of issues that had been well-known and well-chronicled for years.
For example, the press has widely reported that the Iraqi government was torturing
its own people; many civilians were killed during the six years the documents
covered; sectarian death squads were operating inside Iraq; and the Iranian
government was funding Shiite militias. None of this is news. But, when one steps
back from the documents themselves and looks at the larger picture, there are some
interesting issues that have been raised by the release of these documents and the
reaction to their release.
The documents released in this WikiLeaks cache were taken from the U.S. government's
Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet), a network used to distribute
classified but not particularly sensitive information. SIPRNet is authorized only
for the transmission of information classified at the secret level and below. It
cannot be used for information classified top secret or more closely guarded
intelligence that is classified at the secret level. The regulations by which
information is classified by the U.S. government are outlined in Executive Order
13526. Under this order, secret is the second-highest level of classification and
applies to information that, if released, would be reasonably expected to cause
serious damage to U.S. national security.
Due to the nature of SIPRNet, most of the information that was downloaded from it
and sent to WikiLeaks consisted of raw field reports from U.S. troops in Iraq. These
reports discussed things units encountered, such as IED attacks, ambushes, the
bodies of murdered civilians, friendly-fire incidents, traffic accidents, etc. For
the most part, the reports contained raw information and not vetted, processed
intelligence. The documents also did not contain information that was the result of
intelligence-collection operations, and therefore did not reveal sensitive
intelligence sources and methods. Although the WikiLeaks material is often compared
to the 1971 release of the Pentagon Papers, there really is very little similarity.
The Pentagon Papers consisted of a top secret-level study completed for the U.S.
secretary of defense and not raw, low-level battlefield reports.
To provide a sense of the material involved in the WikiLeaks release, we will
examine two typical reports. The first, classified at the secret level, is from an
American military police (MP) company reporting that Iraqi police on Oct. 28, 2006,
found the body of a person whose name was redacted in a village who had been
executed. In the other report, also classified at the secret level, we see that on
Jan. 1, 2004, Iraqi police called an American MP unit in Baghdad to report that an
improvised explosive device (IED) had detonated and that there was another
suspicious object found at the scene. The MP unit responded, confirmed the presence
of the suspicious object and then called an explosive ordnance disposal unit, which
came to the site and destroyed the second IED. Now, while it may have been justified
to classify such reports at the secret level at the time they were written to
protect information pertaining to military operations, clearly, the release of these
two reports in October 2010 has not caused any serious damage to U.S. national
Another factor to consider when reading raw information from the field is that,
while they offer a degree of granular detail that cannot be found in higher-level
intelligence analysis, they can often be misleading or otherwise erroneous. As
anyone who has ever interviewed a witness can tell you, in a stressful situation
people often miss or misinterpret important factual details. That's just how most
people are wired. This situation can be compounded when a witness is placed in a
completely alien culture. This is not to say that all these reports are flawed, but
just to note that raw information must often be double-checked and vetted before it
can be used to create a reliable estimate of the situation on the battlefield.
Clearly, the readers of these reports released by WikiLeaks now do not have the
ability to conduct that type of follow-up.
Few True Secrets
By saying there are very few true secrets in the cache of documents released by
WikiLeaks, we mean things that would cause serious damage to national security. And
no, we are not about to point out the things that we believe could be truly
damaging. However, it is important to understand up front that something that causes
embarrassment and discomfort to a particular administration or agency does not
necessarily damage national security.
As to the charges that the documents are being mined by militant groups for
information that can be used in attacks against U.S. troops deployed overseas, this
is undoubtedly true. It would be foolish for the Taliban, the Islamic State of Iraq
(ISI) and other militant groups not to read the documents and attempt to benefit
from them. However, there are very few things noted in these reports pertaining to
the tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) used by U.S. forces that could not be
learned by simply observing combat operations -- and the Taliban and ISI have been
carefully studying U.S. TTP every hour of every day for many years now. These
documents are far less valuable than years of careful, direct observation and
regular first-hand interaction.
Frankly, combatants who have been intensely watching U.S. and coalition forces and
engaging them in combat for the better part of a decade are not very likely to learn
much from dated American after-action reports. The insurgents and sectarian groups
in Iraq own the human terrain; they know who U.S. troops are meeting with, when they
meet them and where. There is very little that this level of reporting is going to
reveal to them that they could not already have learned via observation. Remember,
these reports do not deal with highly classified human-intelligence or
This is not to say that the alleged actions of Manning are somehow justified. From
the statements released in connection with the case by the government, Manning knew
the information he was downloading was classified and needed to be protected. He
also appeared to know that his actions were illegal and could get him in trouble. He
deserves to face the legal consequences of his actions.
This is also not a justification for the actions of WikiLeaks and the media outlets
that are exploiting and profiting from the release of this information. What we are
saying is that the hype surrounding the release is just that. There were a lot of
classified documents released, but very few of them contained information that would
truly shed new light on the actions of U.S. troops in Iraq or their allies or damage
U.S. national security. While the amount of information released in this case was
huge, it was far less damaging than the information released by convicted spies such
as Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames -- information that crippled sensitive
intelligence operations and resulted in the execution or imprisonment of extremely
valuable human intelligence sources.
Culture of Classification
Perhaps one of the most interesting facets of the WikiLeaks case is that it
highlights the culture of classification that is so pervasive inside the U.S.
government. Only 204 of the 391,832 documents were classified at the confidential
level, while 379,565 of them were classified at the secret level. This demonstrates
the propensity of the U.S. government culture to classify documents at the highest
possible classification rather than at the lowest level really required to protect
that information. In this culture, higher is better.
Furthermore, while much of this material may have been somewhat sensitive at the
time it was reported, most of that sensitivity has been lost over time, and many of
the documents, like the two reports referenced above, no longer need to be
classified. Executive Order 13526 provides the ability for classifying agencies to
set dates for materials to be declassified. Indeed, according to the executive
order, a date for declassification is supposed to be set every time a document is
classified. But, in practice, such declassification provisions are rarely used and
most people just expect the documents to remain classified for the entire authorized
period, which is 10 years in most cases and 25 years when dealing with sensitive
topics such as intelligence sources and methods or nuclear weapons. In the culture
of classification, longer is also seen as better.
This culture tends to create so much classified material that stays classified for
so long that it becomes very difficult for government employees and security
managers to determine what is really sensitive and what truly needs to be protected.
There is certainly a lot of very sensitive information that needs to be carefully
guarded, but not everything is a secret. This culture also tends to reinforce the
belief among government employees that knowledge is power and that one can become
powerful by having access to information and denying that access to others. And this
belief can often contribute to the bureaucratic jealously that results in the
failure to share intelligence -- a practice that was criticized so heavily in the
9/11 Commission Report.
It has been very interesting to watch the reaction to the WikiLeaks case by those
who are a part of the culture of classification. Some U.S. government agencies, such
as the FBI, have bridled under the post-9/11 mandates to share their information
more widely and have been trying to scale back the practice. As anyone who has dealt
with the FBI can attest, they tend to be a semi-permeable membrane when it comes to
the flow of information. For the bureau, intelligence flows only one way -- in. The
FBI is certainly not alone. There are many organizations that are very hesitant to
share information with other government agencies, even when those agencies have a
legitimate need to know. The WikiLeaks cases have provided such people a
justification to continue to stovepipe information.
In addition to the glaring personnel security issues regarding Manning's access to
classified information systems, these cases are in large part the result of a
classified information system overloaded with vast quantities of information that
simply does not need to be protected at the secret level. And, ironically,
overloading the system in such a way actually weakens the information-protection
process by making it difficult to determine which information truly needs to be
protected. Instead of seeking to weed out the over-classified material and
concentrate on protecting the truly sensitive information, the culture of
classification reacts by using the WikiLeaks cases as justification for continuing
to classify information at the highest possible levels and for sharing the
intelligence it generates with fewer people. The ultimate irony is that the
WikiLeaks cases will help strengthen and perpetuate the broken system that helped
lead to the disclosures in the first place.
This report may be forwarded or republished on your website with attribution to
Copyright 2010 STRATFOR.
POTH: Saudi Arabia comes through
Reply #131 on:
October 31, 2010, 09:23:11 AM »
Very interesting piece here from POTH.
I would like to mention that one of the reasons proffered for the Iraq War was to put an end to the dynamic where our troops were in SA to defend it from Saddam Hussein (which was THE proximate cause for the formation of AQ) and the Saudis would play both ends against the middle by buying off AQ to go after us instead of the House of Saud. This line of thinking said that once our troops were out of SA, as they now essentially are, that the Saudis would be in a position where it would be in their self-interest to get tough with AQ. This appears to have been the case; the news in the following piece is one of a line of such Saudi assists.
BEIRUT, Lebanon — As new facts emerge about the terrorist plot to send explosives from Yemen to the United States by courier, one remarkable strand has stood out: the plot would likely not have been discovered if not for a tip by Saudi intelligence officials.
U.S. Sees Complexity of Bombs as Link to Qaeda Group (October 31, 2010) For many in the West, Saudi Arabia remains better known as a source of terrorism than as a partner in defeating it. It is the birthplace of Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Yet Western intelligence officials say the Saudis’ own experience with jihadists has helped them develop powerful surveillance tools and a broad network of informers that has become increasingly important in the global battle against terrorism.
This month, Saudi intelligence warned of a possible terrorist attack in France by Al Qaeda’s branch in the Arabian Peninsula. The Saudis have brought similar intelligence reports about imminent threats to at least two other European countries in the past few years, and have played an important role in identifying terrorists in Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia and Kuwait, according to Saudi and Western intelligence officials.
“This latest role is one in a series of Saudi intelligence contributions,” said Thomas Hegghammer, a research fellow at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment. “They can be helpful because so much is going on in their backyard, and because they have a limitless budget to develop their abilities.”
The Saudis have stepped up their intelligence-gathering efforts in Yemen since last year, when Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula came close to assassinating Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, who runs the Saudi counterterrorism program. A suicide bomber posing as a reformed jihadist detonated a bomb hidden inside his body, cutting himself to shreds but only lightly injuring the prince.
The Qaeda group’s main goal is to topple the Saudi monarchy, which they consider illegitimate and a slave to the West.
Prince bin Nayef, whose tip to the United States led to the discovery of the two bombs on Thursday, is held in high esteem by Western intelligence agencies, and works closely with them. He appears to be building a network of informers across Yemen, and some terrorism analysts say they believe the tip may well have come from one of his spies, possibly even from inside Al Qaeda.
“The Saudis have really stepped up their efforts in Yemen, and I’m under the impression that they’ve infiltrated Al Qaeda, so that they can warn the Americans, the French, the British and others about plots before they happen,” said Theodore Karasik, an analyst at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai.
Saudi officials do not comment on delicate intelligence matters. But the Saudi role in a shadowy intelligence war in Yemen’s hinterlands has emerged in accounts from observers in Yemen and from Al Qaeda itself, which has often publicized its struggles to outwit Prince bin Nayef’s informers.
Last year, Al Qaeda’s regional branch killed a Yemeni security official named Bassam Sulayman Tarbush and issued a video of Mr. Tarbush describing the Saudi informer network in Marib Province, a haven for Qaeda members east of Sana, the Yemeni capital. More recently, Al Qaeda released a video detailing its success in misleading Saudi informers during the assassination attempt against Prince bin Nayef.
Saudi Arabia’s counterterrorism program differs from its Western counterparts in striking ways. It includes a familiar “hard” element of commando teams that kill terrorists, along with vastly expanded surveillance. The streets of major Saudi cities are continuously watched by cameras, and most Internet traffic goes through a central point that facilitates monitoring.
But the program also has a softer side aimed at re-educating jihadists and weaving them back into Saudi society. The government runs a rehabilitation program for terrorists, including art therapy and efforts to find jobs and wives for the former convicts. The program suffered an embarrassment last year when two of its graduates, who had also been in Guantánamo, fled the country and became leading figures in Al Qaeda’s Arabian branch.
But Saudi officials defend their overall record, noting that the program now has 349 graduates, of whom fewer than 20 have returned to terrorism.
The Saudis’ growing expertise in counterterrorism has been the fruit of painful experience. Between 2003 and 2005, home-grown jihadists waged a brutal campaign of bombings in the kingdom, leaving scores of Saudis and foreigners dead and forcing the nation to wake up to a reality it had long refused to acknowledge. The puritanical strain of Islam fostered by the state, sometimes called Wahhabism, was breeding extremists who were willing to kill even Muslims for their cause.
Saudi officials acknowledge that they still have a long way to go; the powerful religious establishment remains deeply conservative, and public schools continue to teach xenophobic and anti-Semitic material. But public opinion, once relatively supportive of figures like Mr. bin Laden, has shifted decisively since Al Qaeda began killing Muslims on Saudi soil.
And when the Saudi Interior Ministry released its list of the top 85 wanted militants last year, all of them were said to be outside the kingdom, including some in Yemen. Saudi Arabia’s problem, in other words, has become the world’s problem.
Reply #132 on:
November 30, 2010, 03:12:35 PM »
This piece faces questions that must be asked.
Whether it addresses the matter of the law of unintended consequences is another matter.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #133 on:
November 30, 2010, 07:26:49 PM »
If Julian Assange was named Haj al-Jihad and wikileaks were alqaedaleaks, would there be any question what to do? There are laws that cover espionage and the unauthorized release of classified material.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #134 on:
November 30, 2010, 10:54:11 PM »
Yes, there are-- and IIRC the Pentagon Papers decision of the Supreme Court says that those that publish cannot be punished-- only those that violated their duty by giving them the secret material can be prosecuted. So, question presented: What is to be done with Assange?
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #135 on:
November 30, 2010, 11:51:24 PM »
Washington lawyer Bob Bittman expressed surprise the Justice Department has not already charged Assange under the Espionage Act and with theft of government property over his earlier release of classified documents about U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bittman said it was widely believed those disclosures harmed U.S. national security, in particular U.S. intelligence sources and methods, meeting the requirement in several sections of the act that there be either intent or reason to believe disclosure could injure the United States.
"These are not easy questions," said Washington lawyer Stephen Ryan, a former assistant U.S. attorney and former Senate Government Affairs Committee general counsel. Ryan said it would be legally respectable to argue Assange is a journalist protected by the First Amendment and never had a duty to protect U.S. secrets.
But Ryan added,
"The flip side is whether he could be charged with aiding and abetting or conspiracy with an individual who did have a duty to protect those secrets."
On the question of conspiracy there's a legal difference between being a passive recipient of leaked material and being a prime mover egging on a prospective leaker, legal experts say.
Much could depend on what the investigation uncovers.
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is being held in a maximum-security military brig at Quantico, Va., charged with leaking video of a 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed a Reuters news photographer and his driver. WikiLeaks posted the video on its website in April.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #136 on:
December 01, 2010, 08:57:19 AM »
OK, so conspiracy can be the basis, but what then of things that we WANT revealed? Governments often lie and coverup, and that includes ours. Is stamping everything "secret" and prosecuting whistle blowers and their publishers the solution for The State in covering up?
Last Edit: December 01, 2010, 10:59:22 AM by Crafty_Dog
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #137 on:
December 01, 2010, 10:39:04 AM »
US law protects whistleblowers, if they follow the proper procedures, which includes not releasing classified materials to those not cleared for it.
Reply #138 on:
December 01, 2010, 03:00:17 PM »
My apologies, I confess I have not enough time to read every thing you post
Here's the WSJ's take on all this:
"Regarding the latest WikiLeaks dump of U.S. secrets ... [it] does less immediate harm than the previous leaks did to the lives of Afghans and Iraqis who have cooperated with us on the battlefield, but it certainly will damage U.S. foreign policy. In most cases, of course, the leaks merely pull back the curtain on disputes and the character of global leaders that are already widely known. That the Turkish government of the AK Party is an unreliable ally, or is chock full of Islamists, will not surprise anyone who's been paying attention. The private rage of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak against Iraqi democracy is also no shocker; a modern Pharaoh doesn't like the voter precedent. Yet in some cases the damage will be real because effective policy often requires secrecy about detail. Foreign officials will only speak candidly to U.S. emissaries if they believe their words won't be splashed all over the world's front pages. ... One lesson is that it is much harder to keep secrets in the Internet age, so our government is going to have to learn to keep fewer secrets and confine them to fewer people. It is amazing to discover that so many thousands of cables might have been accessible by Private First Class Bradley Manning, who is suspected of being the main source for the Wikileaks documents. The bureaucratic excuse is that the government was trying to encourage more cross-agency cooperation post-9/11, but why does an Army private need access to the details of a conversation between Yemen's dictator and General David Petraeus? ... If [Julian Assange] were exposing Chinese or Russian secrets, he would already have died at the hands of some unknown assailant. As a foreigner (Australian citizen) engaged in hostile acts against the U.S., Mr. Assange is certainly not protected from U.S. reprisal under the laws of war. ... For all of his self-justification as an agent of 'pure' transparency, Mr. Assange is not serving the interest of free societies. His mass, indiscriminate exposure of anything labeled secret that he can lay his hands on is a hostile act against a democracy that is fighting a war against forces bent on killing innocents. Surely, the U.S. government can do more to stop him than send a stiff letter." --The Wall Street Journal
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #139 on:
December 01, 2010, 04:50:10 PM »
My nutshell explanation of the applicable laws for whistleblowers who wish to blow the whistle on things that are classified. I note that I am not a lawyer, and there are very few that practice this very esoteric law, though those that do usually have the security clearances required to represent whistleblowers in any legal proceedings. The key thing is the whistleblower cannot disclose classified information to anyone not cleared to hear it. As an example, the CIA has an IG's office that should have personnel that are cleared to take a complaint from a CIA employee alleging waste, fraud, abuse or criminal conduct. The FBI, would have Agents with a clearance to take a criminal complaint and investigate it. I'm sure the congressional oversight committees have the clearances to hear from whistleblowers from within the Nat'l Security structure.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #140 on:
December 01, 2010, 05:55:50 PM »
OK, that helps clarify things. So, what do we do when our government is doing something secret/illegal/etc and doesn't want we the people to know about it?
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #141 on:
December 01, 2010, 06:04:14 PM »
Well, if we don't know about it, then we don't do anything about it. It's happened before and I'm sure it will happen again. One thing I'm pretty sure of is that most things eventually come to the surface. The US had a bad reputation for keeping secrets long before wikileaks, and I'm sure you're aware of how many things were leaked to the press during our last president's time in office, despite their classified nature.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #142 on:
December 01, 2010, 08:06:58 PM »
Yes, the difference being that intuitively it seems like something needs to be done about this SOB. How do we go about that yet retain the ability to find out about nefarious deeds of our government?
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #143 on:
December 01, 2010, 08:17:18 PM »
**I would argue that the CIA has become too legalized and risk adverse to do much of what it's supposed to do.**
The National Security Agency flagged the intercepted electronic communication from Iran as an urgent message. The next day, its contents were on the desk of White House National Security Adviser Anthony Lake.
The Iranian message said the CIA, using the White House National Security Council as cover, was planning to assassinate Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The plot, it said, was being hatched by a CIA officer working in northern Iraq under the code name Robert Pope.
The top-secret report detailed a message snatched from the air by NSA's worldwide network of electronic eavesdropping stations after it was sent from the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security in Tehran to a foreign station.
A furious Mr. Lake assumed the information was accurate, and that the CIA was moving against Saddam on its own. He called President Clinton and said he needed to see him right away. Inside the Oval Office, the national security adviser waved the NSA report at the president and shouted: "How can I run foreign policy with the CIA running rogue coups?"
Mr. Clinton advised Mr. Lake to ask the FBI to start an investigation. Mr. Lake telephoned FBI Director Louis Freeh, who obediently pursued the request.
It was March 1, 1995. Several weeks later the CIA recalled clandestine service officer Robert Baer, one of its few Arabic-speaking case officers, to agency headquarters in Langley Mr. Baer was pulled home from a covert operation in northern Iraq backing opponents of Saddam, an operation that the CIA hoped would lead to a coup in Baghdad.
His supervisor, Fred Turco, informed Mr. Baer that two FBI agents were waiting to talk to him. "We're conducting an investigation of you for suspicion of attempting to assassinate Saddam Hussein," one agent told the astonished CIA officer.
The Bob Baer case illustrates how the Central Intelligence Agency is no longer "central" or an "intelligence" agency, but very much an agency of government in the worst sense of the term - where preservation of its budget takes precedence over its performance.
What matters to the well-informed, highly trained Mr. Baer after September 11 is not how he became a whipping boy for Anthony Lake. What matters is how a vindictive CIA bureaucracy later ignored intelligence on Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorists that Mr. Baer urgently supplied after leaving the agency and writing a book about it.
The FBI investigation of Mr. Baer was not frivolous. Assassination of foreign officials is prohibited by a presidential executive order dating to the 1970s. Every CIA officer sent to the field must sign a statement confirming that he understands the prohibition.
But the Clinton Justice Department decided to investigate Mr. Baer, then a 19-year CIA veteran, for more than violating an executive order. He faced prosecution under a federal murder-for-hire statute.
The intercepted message turned out to be false information from the Iranians. The fact that a U.S. national security adviser trusted the Iranian government over the CIA, however, showed the low regard for that service held by Mr. Clinton and top advisers.
Mr. Baer explained to the FBI that he was not "Robert Pope," and that the Iranian assertion of an assassination attempt against Saddam was a lie. But it would take until April 1996, more than a year later, before the Justice Department would issue a "declination" letter stating that it would not prosecute one of the CIA's best field officers. Mr. Baer was cleared only after agreeing to take a lie-detector test.
The CIA did not come to the defense of its agent, an FBI official said. In fact, it was the FBI that warned Justice Department lawyers that the Baer investigation could be devastating for morale. But a CIA less concerned with results than political correctness had come to accept such probes as routine.
"Look, Bob, you've been overseas for almost 20 years," CIA lawyer Rob Davis told Mr. Baer. "Washington really has changed a lot. These kinds of investigations go on all the time now."
Lawyers, not spies
The CIA had years to penetrate the inner circle of bin Laden's al Qaeda network before the attacks of September 11. It had years to try to work successfully with other Middle Eastern intelligence services that managed to get fairly close. But the CIA failed.
And today's CIA sends scores of new officers into the field under the same failed, risk-avoiding policies that left the spy agency blind to and ignorant of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Case officers, those who are supposed to conduct espionage operations, routinely file embassy-based reports to Washington instead of working the streets and befriending terrorists (or at least their friends and supporters).
"All this pads reporting volume and builds careers," one intelligence professional in the U.S. government says. "And yet we will have no new assets, we will not have penetrated the hard targets and we will not know more about anything central to our national interest. But the political people - most of them anyway - will not understand this, or want to understand it."
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #144 on:
December 01, 2010, 08:25:44 PM »
The US is a very open society compared with most. During the cold war, the soviets literally shipped tons of documents ordered from the US Gov't printing office back to Russia every year for analysis. In the USSR, even the most minor thing was a state secret. We have no internal borders and very little in the way of laws restricting infomation that could be useful to our enemies, with the execption of that which is classified by law.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #145 on:
December 02, 2010, 04:31:06 AM »
I read Baer's book several years ago and remember the passage about being ready to go on the coup. Truly a moment of tragedy in that so much more tragedy could have been averted. That said, a fair case can be made that the CIA has created a lot of problems with some of its unleashed forays.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #146 on:
December 02, 2010, 09:54:40 AM »
Hindsight is always 20/20. Any foreign policy decision made has the potential for unintended consequences. Isolationism and non-intevention also has consequences.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #147 on:
December 02, 2010, 12:44:53 PM »
Yes, but who gets to make the decisions matters quite a bit.
Reply #148 on:
December 06, 2010, 12:14:55 PM »
Whatever else WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has accomplished, he's ended the era of innocent optimism about the Web. As wiki innovator Larry Sanger put it in a message to WikiLeaks, "Speaking as Wikipedia's co-founder, I consider you enemies of the U.S.—not just the government, but the people."
The irony is that WikiLeaks' use of technology to post confidential U.S. government documents will certainly result in a less free flow of information. The outrage is that this is Mr. Assange's express intention.
This batch includes 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables, the kind of confidential assessments diplomats have written since the era of wax seals. These include Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah urging the U.S. to end Iran's nuclear ambitions—to "cut the head off the snake." This alignment with the Israeli-U.S. position is not for public consumption in the Arab world, which is why leaks will curtail honest discussions.
Leaks will also restrict information flows within the U.S. A major cause of the 9/11 intelligence failures was that agencies were barred from sharing information. Since then, intelligence data have been shared more widely. The Obama administration now plans to tighten information flows, which could limit leaks but would be a step back to the pre-9/11 period.
Mr. Assange is misunderstood in the media and among digirati as an advocate of transparency. Instead, this battening down of the information hatches by the U.S. is precisely his goal. The reason he launched WikiLeaks is not that he's a whistleblower—there's no wrongdoing inherent in diplomatic cables—but because he hopes to hobble the U.S., which according to his underreported philosophy can best be done if officials lose access to a free flow of information.
In 2006, Mr. Assange wrote a pair of essays, "State and Terrorist Conspiracies" and "Conspiracy as Governance." He sees the U.S. as an authoritarian conspiracy. "To radically shift regime behavior we must think clearly and boldly for if we have learned anything, it is that regimes do not want to be changed," he writes. "Conspiracies take information about the world in which they operate," he writes, and "pass it around the conspirators and then act on the result."
His central plan is that leaks will restrict the flow of information among officials—"conspirators" in his view—making government less effective. Or, as Mr. Assange puts it, "We can marginalize a conspiracy's ability to act by decreasing total conspiratorial power until it is no longer able to understand, and hence respond effectively to its environment. . . . An authoritarian conspiracy that cannot think efficiently cannot act to preserve itself."
Berkeley blogger Aaron Bady last week posted a useful translation of these essays. He explains Mr. Assange's view this way: "While an organization structured by direct and open lines of communication will be much more vulnerable to outside penetration, the more opaque it becomes to itself (as a defense against the outside gaze), the less able it will be to 'think' as a system, to communicate with itself." Mr. Assange's idea is that with enough leaks, "the security state will then try to shrink its computational network in response, thereby making itself dumber and slower and smaller."
Or as Mr. Assange told Time magazine last week, "It is not our goal to achieve a more transparent society; it's our goal to achieve a more just society." If leaks cause U.S. officials to "lock down internally and to balkanize," they will "cease to be as efficient as they were."
This worldview has precedent. Ted Kaczynski, another math-obsessed anarchist, sent bombs through the mail for almost 20 years, killing three people and injuring 23. He offered to stop in 1995 if media outlets published his Unabomber Manifesto. The 35,000-word essay, "Industrial Society and Its Future," objected to the "industrial-technological system" that causes people "to behave in ways that are increasingly remote from the natural pattern of human behavior." He's serving a life sentence for murder.
Mr. Assange doesn't mail bombs, but his actions have life-threatening consequences. Consider the case of a 75-year-old dentist in Los Angeles, Hossein Vahedi. According to one of the confidential cables released by WikiLeaks, Dr. Vahedi, a U.S. citizen, returned to Iran in 2008 to visit his parents' graves. Authorities confiscated his passport because his sons worked as concert promoters for Persian pop singers in the U.S. who had criticized the theocracy.
The cable reported that Dr. Vahedi decided to escape by horseback over the mountains of western Iran and into Turkey. He trained by hiking the hills above Tehran. He took extra heart medication. But when he fell off his horse, he was injured and nearly froze. When he made it to Turkey, the U.S. Embassy intervened to stop him being sent back to Iran.
"This is very bad for my family," Dr. Vahedi told the New York Daily News on being told about the leak of the cable naming him and describing his exploits. Tehran has a new excuse to target his relatives in Iran. "How could this be printed?"
Excellent question. It's hard being collateral damage in the world of WikiLeaks.
Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) on Assange
Reply #149 on:
December 07, 2010, 10:24:44 AM »
By DIANNE FEINSTEIN
When WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange released his latest document trove—more than 250,000 secret State Department cables—he intentionally harmed the U.S. government. The release of these documents damages our national interests and puts innocent lives at risk. He should be vigorously prosecuted for espionage.
The law Mr. Assange continues to violate is the Espionage Act of 1917. That law makes it a felony for an unauthorized person to possess or transmit "information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation."
The Espionage Act also makes it a felony to fail to return such materials to the U.S. government. Importantly, the courts have held that "information relating to the national defense" applies to both classified and unclassified material. Each violation is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
No doubt aware of this law, and despite firm warnings, Mr. Assange went ahead and released the cables on Nov. 28.
In a letter sent to Mr. Assange and his lawyer on Nov. 27, State Department Legal Adviser Harold Hongju Koh warned in strong terms that the documents had been obtained "in violation of U.S. law and without regard for the grave consequences of this action."
Mr. Koh's letter said that publication of the documents in Mr. Assange's possession would, at minimum:
• "Place at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals—from journalists to human rights activists and bloggers to soldiers to individuals providing information to further peace and security;
• "Place at risk on-going military operations, including operations to stop terrorists, traffickers in human beings and illicit arms, violent criminal enterprises and other actors that threaten global security; and,
• "Place at risk on-going cooperation between countries—partners, allies and common stakeholders—to confront common challenges from terrorism to pandemic diseases to nuclear proliferation that threaten global stability."
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That WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is breaking the law is clear.
.None of this stopped Mr. Assange. That he is breaking the law and must be stopped from doing more harm is clear. I also believe a prosecution would be successful.
In an October analysis of earlier WikiLeaks disclosures, the Congressional Research Service reported that "it seems that there is ample statutory authority for prosecuting individuals who elicit or disseminate the types of documents at issue, as long as the intent element can be satisfied and potential damage to national security can be demonstrated."
Both elements exist in this case. The "damage to national security" is beyond question. As for intent, Mr. Assange's own words paint a damning picture.
In June, the New Yorker reported that Mr. Assange has asserted that a "social movement" set on revealing secrets could "bring down many administrations that rely on concealing reality—including the U.S. administration." The same piece revealed Mr. Assange's stunning disregard for the grave harm his actions could bring to innocent people, which he dismisses as "collateral damage."
Mr. Assange claims to be a journalist and would no doubt rely on the First Amendment to defend his actions. But he is no journalist: He is an agitator intent on damaging our government, whose policies he happens to disagree with, regardless of who gets hurt.
U.K. Police Seek Assange Interview
.As for the First Amendment, the Supreme Court has held that its protections of free speech and freedom of the press are not a green light to abandon the protection of our vital national interests. Just as the First Amendment is not a license to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater, it is also not a license to jeopardize national security.
This latest WikiLeaks release demonstrates Mr. Assange's willingness to disseminate plans, comments, discussions and other communications that compromise our country. And let there be no doubt about the depth of the harm. Consider the sobering assessment, delivered in an email to employees of U.S. intelligence agencies late last month, by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper: "The actions taken by WikiLeaks are not only deplorable, irresponsible, and reprehensible—they could have major impacts on our national security. The disclosure of classified documents puts at risk our troops, law enforcement, diplomats, and especially the American people."
Mrs. Feinstein, a Democrat, is a U.S. senator from California and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
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