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Topic: Intel Matters (Read 104916 times)
October 31, 2006, 12:27:26 PM »
Terrorists Strain for a New Audience With an English-Language Study of U.S. Intelligence
By Jeff Stein, CQ National Security Editor
The holy warriors? intelligence shop may need a shake-up, by the looks of a new analysis of White House responses to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, circulating among password-protected jihad Web sites.
?Myth of Delusion: Exposing the U.S. Intelligence? (sic), authored by a rising star in the al Qaeda hierarchy, relies on openly available materials ? congressional and other official investigations of intelligence failures related to the 9/11 attacks and the war in Iraq, along with media exposes and scholarly studies ? for its wide-ranging book-length report on the operations of American spy agencies.
But when it comes to analyzing the Bush administration?s emergency responses to the al Qaeda hijackings on 9/11, it reads like an Oliver Stone script.
In the analysis of Mohammed al-Hakaymah, an obscure Egyptian radical until he won plaudits from al Qaeda for leading a revolt against the main Islamic movement there last August, President Bush was forced to scurry about the country on Air Force One for fear of assassination by a hazy cabal of Texas oil interests and renegade U.S. military leaders.
If that weren?t enough conspiracy theory, Hakaymah also portrays the president as a captive of ? pay attention now ? right-wing activists and think tanks, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon?s Washington Times newspaper and the South Korean intelligence service.
All of which, along with factual errors on the history and operations of the CIA, the NSA, the FBI and the reorganization of U.S. intelligence as a result of the 9/11 attacks, has prompted some observers to dismiss Hakaymah?s study as ?drivel,? as former CIA officer Robert Baer put it in an e-mail to me last week (although he volunteered he had only read ?parts of it?).
But other experts on al Qaeda and Islamic fundamentalism say the English-language study marks a breakthrough in the jihadists? efforts to understand the missions and operations of the sprawling U.S. intelligence community.
?I would suggest that those behind this are working directly to influence English speakers [and] present themselves to a broader audience of potential terrorism actors,? says Marvin Hutchens, a former marine who runs the threatswatch.com blog that circulated the study here.
?I think it?s a pretty big deal,? says John Rollins, a former counterterrorism operative who was Tom Ridge?s chief of staff for intelligence at the Department of Homeland Security.
?It shows an intense focus on the capabilities and tactics of the U.S. intelligence community,? says Rollins, now a terrorism expert at the Congressional Research Service. ?[It?s] a concerted effort to understand what our capabilities are.?
?There is no question about the authenticity of the book and the author,? says Rita Katz, director of the SITE Institute, an authoritative source on terrorist developments.
And if there was ever a holy warrior who wanted to be an al Qaeda goodfella, it?s Hakaymah. But until he?s a made man, says Evan Kohlmann, a scholar on Islam and consultant to U.S. agencies, analysts should ?be careful? about attributing the book to al Qaeda.
?This document,? agrees Rollins, ?is not reflective of corporate al Qaeda and what they know about the U.S. intelligence community. . .I wouldn?t take this as a bible of their assessment of U.S. intelligence.? But ?it shows a desire and intention to understand the U.S. intelligence community.?
Katz says the study has immense value as ?propaganda . . . because he is explaining that al Qaeda was able to conduct 9/11 in spite of the tightened security and the enormous intelligence budget the U.S. has.?
The message, she says: ?Jihadists should not be intimidated by the American/British security measures,? particularly restive Muslim youth who might be sitting on the fence about joining the ranks of suicide bombers.
They are the prized assets in al Qaeda?s new field of battle. And judging by the swelling ranks of holy warriors from London to Iraq, the bad guys are a lot better at getting out their message, as nasty as it is, than we are.
Where?s Karl Rove when we need him?
Some intelligence veterans are particularly disturbed by the book?s matter-of-fact explanations of how the CIA operates abroad, such as its use of State Department cover in U.S. embassies and the methods it employs to spot potential spies among foreign officials and groups ? including disaffected jihadists.
With a level of detail that could have been copied from a CIA training manual, the book explains the common techniques the agency uses to recruit and manage spies by manipulating their emotions and weaknesses. It also offers an overview of the CIA?s espionage curriculum.
It wrongly places the CIA?s training facility in West Virginia in one passage, but gets it right in another ? demonstrating not that Hakaymah lacks a grasp of his topic, but rather that he could use a good copy editor.
Hekaymah also covers the FBI?s dramatic expansion abroad since 9/11 and its alliances with local security services, particularly in Egypt, which he explores in fine detail.
The origins and operations of the NSA come in for scrutiny, too, based on published sources in the United States and Europe. It locates some of the NSA?s ground stations and its array of techniques for eavesdropping on the world?s telephone lines, computers and cell phones, but it does not discuss The New York Times? revelations of the NSA?s warrantless wiretapping program, a sign that the book was written more than a year ago.
Its discussion of cell phone chip technology, gained from open sources here, amounts to instructions on how to minimize the chance of being tracked.
Hakaymah also lays out details on the efforts of the CIA to undermine the regime in Iran.
All of which raises a dilemma for Congress, not to mention the media: Can it meet its constitutional obligation to ride herd on the government, including U.S. intelligence, without giving material support to the enemy?
Bush administration officials have already delivered their verdict, coming close to calling the media (and putative congressional leakers) traitors.
Retired U.S. Army Col. Rich Reynolds, who spent most of his career in Middle East intelligence assignments, calls the previously published information recycled by Hakaymah ?useful to terrorists.?
?Anything that helps them identify intelligence personnel and those that they recruit is detrimental to the intelligence collection effort. We have very few [spies] assets in contact with terrorists and it is not useful to have people trying to figure them out and eliminate them.
?The same goes with [NSA] communications [intercepts],? Reynolds said. ?As the press and others publish our efforts to monitor terror communications in all their forms, we see the bad guys moving away from the most easily exploited forms.?
It ?would certainly bolster the administration?s position that there should be less public information about intelligence community efforts,? says Rollins.
?However, at the most senior levels of government one walks a very fine line between suppressing intelligence for the sake of national security and concealing information from the Congress and the general public for purposes of political expediency.?
One solution, of course, is to kill the messenger ? literally.
No, not U.S. reporters or leaky members of Congress. But Hakatmah is fair game.
His book ?was published on the AlMaqreze.com Web site, which is run by Hani el-Sebai, an Islamist living in London,? explains Laura Mansfield, who has worked for U.S. government agencies in the Middle East and translated several jihad tomes.
While el-Sebai ?has not made a public declaration of alignment with Al Qaeda,? she told me, ?the U.S. Treasury, the United Nations and Interpol have recognized his connections to Al Qaeda.?
Hakaymah, the experts say, also wrote last summer?s jihad literary hit, ?How to Fight Alone,? an instructional guide for the single holy warrior.
So let?s give him a chance at it, since he wants to be a star: Our intelligence against his.
Jeff Stein can be reached via
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #1 on:
November 27, 2006, 06:42:58 PM »
U.K.: The Puzzling Polonium-210 Attack
Former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, who died of radiation poisoning in a London hospital Nov. 23, was exposed to high levels of the polonium-210 isotope, according to British health authorities. Although radiation has been discussed in the past as a possible assassination weapon, very few, if any, incidents of its successful use have occurred -- until now. British authorities, who already are dealing with thousands of active terrorism investigations, must now confront the fact that someone in London has acquired polonium-210, and knows how to use it to kill.
Litvinenko was admitted to a London hospital Nov. 17, 16 days after falling ill following a meeting with an Italian academic at a London sushi restaurant. Medical personnel first suspected Litvinenko had been dosed with thallium, an element in rat poison, because he showed a classic symptom of thallium poisoning: hair loss. Scotland Yard then began investigating the incident as a deliberate act. Later, however, the British Health Protection Agency said tests had revealed high levels of polonium-210 in Litvinenko?s system.
Polonium, also known as radium F, was discovered in 1897 by Marie Curie and her husband, Pierre. It is an alpha emitter, meaning that although it is highly radioactive, it cannot penetrate human skin or a sheet of paper. Although the element is common in nature (it is found in such things as dirt and tobacco), it does not naturally occur in lethal concentrations. Only about 100 micrograms of the polonium-210 isotope can be found in one metric ton of dirt, for example. Once concentrated, however, it is lethal. Polonium-210 emits 5,000 times more alpha particles than radium, and an amount the size of the period at the end of this sentence would contain about 3,400 times the lethal dose. A dose like that which killed Litvinenko would probably have been manufactured at a nuclear facility.
Although polonium-210 can be made into crystallized or powdered form and then disseminated via a spray, that method would have endangered the attacker as well. More likely, Litvinenko ingested the polonium-210 either through food or drink. The radiation killed Litvinenko?s cells, eventually causing his organs to shut down.
According to a 2002 database produced by Stanford University?s Institute for International Studies, approximately 88 pounds of radioactive material, including weapons-usable uranium and plutonium, were removed without authorization from nuclear facilities in the former Soviet Union, although most of that material has been recovered. The International Atomic Energy Agency listed 827 confirmed incidents involving the trafficking of radioactive material reported by participating member states from January 1993 to December 2005. Of these, 224 incidents involved nuclear materials, 516 involved other radioactive materials (mainly radioactive sources), 26 involved both nuclear and other radioactive materials, 50 involved radioactively contaminated materials and 11 involved other materials. Sixteen of the nuclear material incidents involved highly enriched uranium or plutonium.
Polonium-210 is difficult to detect unless it is being specifically sought, thereby making the substance easy to smuggle. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is working on methods to detect the substance in water samples, but current methods are time-consuming and require an experienced analyst.
Litvinenko, an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin?s government, accused Putin of personally ordering his assassination in the weeks following the poisoning. Russian dissidents in London also hold the Russian government responsible for the attack. A source in the London Metropolitan Police Counterterrorism Command cited by the United Kingdom's Daily Mirror suggested the polonium-210 could have been smuggled into the United Kingdom in a diplomatic pouch from a ?former Soviet Union embassy.? This method, which would have nearly eliminated the risk of the material?s discovery while in transit, reportedly was used to smuggle in the materials used to poison Bulgarian dissident poet Georgi Markov in London in 1978. Russian authorities have dismissed charges of Moscow?s involvement in the Litvinenko attack as "silly."
Litvinenko?s death, regardless of who is behind it, has raised the stakes for British security and counterterrorism officials. Scotland Yard has had more active terrorism investigations in 2006 than at any other time in its history, and must now attempt to track down the source of this attack. Meanwhile, if this was a covert operation by Russian intelligence, London's sizable Russian dissident community has reason to be quite concerned indeed.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #2 on:
November 28, 2006, 12:32:52 AM »
**One of the USGs biggest pre-9/11 blunders that the FBI/US Army/CIA would rather the general public not know about is below.**
Ali Abdel Saoud Mohamed The Spy of Many Names
In the years leading to the 9/11 attacks, no single agent of al Qaeda was more successful in compromising the U.S. intelligence community than a former Egyptian army captain turned CIA operative, Special Forces advisor, and FBI informant named Ali Mohamed. Spying first for the Central Intelligence Agency and later the FBI, Mohamed even succeeded in penetrating the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg?while simultaneously training the cell that blew up the World Trade Center in 1993. He went on to train Osama bin Laden?s personal bodyguard, and photographed the U.S. embassy in Kenya taking the surveillance pictures bin Laden himself used to target the suicide truck bomb that killed 224 and injured thousands in 1998.
Mohamed accomplished all that fully nine years after the FBI first photographed the cell he trained using automatic weapons at a firing range on Long Island. He lived the quiet life of a Silicon Valley computer executive while slipping off to Afghanistan and the Sudan to train some of al Qaeda?s most lethal terrorists in bomb-making and assassination tradecraft. He was so trusted by bin Laden that Ali was given the job of moving the Saudi ?Emir? from Afghanistan to Khartoum in 1991 and then back to Jalalabad in 1996?much of that time maintaining his status as an FBI informant who worked his Bureau control agent like a mole.
Mohamed twice played host to al Qaeda?s second-in-command, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, who traveled to the U.S. in the 1990s to raise money for the Jihad. He used his Army vacation to hunt down elite Soviet Spetsnaz commandos in Afghanistan, and later toyed with gullible special agents in New York and San Francisco while he learned the inner workings of the FBI?s al Qaeda playbook.
In the annals of espionage, few men have moved in an out of the deep black world between the hunters and the hunted with as much audacity as Ali Mohamed?known to his al Qaeda brothers as Ali Amiriki, or ?Ali the American.? A deep-penetration al Qaeda sleeper, he succeeded as a triple agent, gaining access to the most sensitive intelligence in the U.S. counter-terrorism arsenal.
Next to Ramzi Yousef, the bomb maker who plotted both attacks on The Twin Towers, Mohamed remains the greatest enigma in the war on terror. Brazenly slipping past watch lists, he moved in and out of the U.S. with impunity for years, marrying an American woman, becoming a naturalized citizen, seeking top secret security clearance from a Silicon Valley defense contractor and working for the FBI while servicing the top echelons of al Qaeda.
The story of Ali Mohamed holds the key to the full truth about how bin Laden planned, financed, and executed the 9/11 attacks. He?s also a living witness to how the best and the brightest in the U.S. intelligence community were repeatedly outflanked for two decades, from the death of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981 through the attacks of September 11, 2001.
My conclusion in Cover Up was that the FBI had buried key al Qaeda intelligence to avoid a scandal over tainted Mafia evidence. But as unbelievable as that story seemed, the investigation took on even stranger twists and turns when Ali Mohamed came into focus. For example, almost from the moment the Bureau ?opened? him as an informant back in 1992, Ali?s main control agent on the West Coast became embroiled in a grisly triple murder case that distracted him from fully appreciating Mohamed?s lethal dedication to stealing America?s secrets for the jihad. Patrick Fitzgerald himself called Ali ?the most dangerous man I ever met,? and soon, as I began to fill in the blanks on him, I encountered evidence more astonishing than any fiction I had ever written. Continued in Chapter One of Triple Cross.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #3 on:
November 28, 2006, 12:36:07 AM »
al Qaeda?s master spy... TRIPLE CROSS is the third book in my investigative trilogy on the FBI and the road to Sept. 11th. Why spend five years on the probe? Because 9/11 has become a cold case...
...the untold story The biggest mass murder in U.S. history remains unsolved, and five years after the attacks that killed 2,973 Americans in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, few in official Washington or New York seem determined to ?clear? it. The only federal case associated directly with the attacks?that of Zacarias Moussaoui?ended in a plea bargain, and in the the penalty phase, one of the FBI?s own agents accused the Bureau of ?criminal negligence.?
Just a week before the fifth anniversary of 9/11 President Bush, pledged that he would seek authority to try terror suspects in ?military tribunals.? But many of those same ?high value? detainees ? including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged 9/11 ?mastermind? ? have been held in secret CIA prisons and subjected to torture for years without giving up any substantive intelligence on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. Now any effort to try them in U.S. courts would take a significant change in constitutional due process guarantees ? an outcome that this strict constructionist Supreme Court is unlikely to approve. So the case stays cold as the war on terror heats up.
As recently as August 2006, al Qaeda resurrected a fiendish plan to smuggle liquid-based explosive bombs aboard a series of transatlantic flights?mimicking the notorious Bojinka plot designed in 1994 by Ramzi Yousef, the true 9/11 mastermind. Probative evidence derived from Yousef in 1996 was covered up on President Clinton?s watch when multiple opportunities to eliminate Osama bin Laden were squandered. Meanwhile, al Qaeda?s post 9/11 bombings in Bali, Madrid, Istanbul, London, Casablanca and Riyadh, along with its deadly involvement in the ongoing Iraqi insurgency, are stark testimony to the terror network?s lethal resilience.
With each new audio recording or video fatwa Bin Laden and his second in command, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri seem to get bolder. Yet the Bush administration recently closed the bin Laden unit at CIA and astonishingly, to this day, the Saudi billionaire has never even been charged for the 9/11 attacks.
The final report of the 9/11 Commission, the last official body to investigate the 9/11 attacks, has proven vastly incomplete. Although the idea of a plot using planes-as-missiles had its genesis with Yousef in Manila during the fall of 1994, the Commission elected to focus its investigation from 1998 forward, leaving out major elements of the story. Their report reduced to a footnote, details of the three major war games being conducted on 9/11, including an exercise by the Northeast Air Defense Sector of NORAD that initially confused officials charged with protecting New York. Worse, it ignored a remarkable account cited earlier by the Commission?s own chairman, Thomas Kean, that F-16s from his home state of New Jersey were moments away from Lower Manhattan but never called by NORAD to interdict the Twin Towers attack.
Now, more than five years after ?Black Tuesday,? a number of crucial questions remain unanswered. Could the attacks have been prevented? If so, who in our government should be blamed for the failure? Most importantly, have our intelligence agencies undergone sufficient reform to prevent future assaults on America by al Qaeda?
Since 9/11 I have devoted virtually every working moment to an investigation designed to answer those questions. For me like most Americans that day started out uneventfully. On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was on the west coast. I got up early to write and turned on CNN.
Then, as I watched the South Tower go down, a cold dull pain formed at the base of my spine. My son Christopher?s high school, was located just a few blocks away from Ground Zero. After several agonizing hours fighting my way through jammed phone circuits, word came from a relative out-of-state that Chris was safe. After he was released with his classmates, he walked more than ninety blocks uptown to join his mother and sisters in safety.
But the next morning, I learned that Ronnie Bucca, a fire marshal I?d met years before, wasn?t so lucky. I had called the FDNY headquarters at Brooklyn?s Metrotech complex, hoping for word about another friend of mine, chief fire marshal Lou Garcia. As it turned out, Garcia had escaped, if narrowly: He had rushed to Ground Zero as soon as he saw smoke licking from the North Tower, and almost died when the South Tower collapsed. I had known Louie for years. In fact, he?d introduced me to Ronnie Bucca back in 1997.
One of the house marshals answered the phone when I called.
?Lou?s okay,? he said. ?But we lost Ronnie.?
?Ronnie Bucca?? I said in disbelief. Ronnie wasn?t just an arson investigator. He was a member of an Army Reserve intelligence unit with Top Secret clearance and he?d been predicting, for years, that terrorists would return to hit the Towers again.
?He?s still missing,? said the house marshal. ?Our guys are down at the pile right now searching.?
The loss of Ronnie Bucca turned out to be one of the cruelest ironies of all the bitter stories from September 11. I?d met Ronnie in September of 1997 when I?d attended a fund raiser for the FDNY?s burn fund at the Fire Museum in Soho. I?d just written First Degree Burn, a novel about a fictional New York City fire marshal and was signing some copies when Ronnie walked up to the table and handed me one.
He cocked his head, smiled and said, ?I?m expecting something really clever now. After all, you?re a writer.?
I hesitated for a moment, then inside on the cover page I wrote: ?This is fiction. You?re the real thing.?
I had no idea at the time what an understatement that was.
THE PAUL REVERE OF THE WAR ON TERROR
In the months that followed, I was astonished by the contours of Bucca?s story. He was a former Green Beret paratrooper who worked Rescue One, the oldest heavy rescue company in the world. In 1986 he had survived a four-story fall from a burning tenement on the Upper West Side, while trying to rescue a lieutenant trapped above the fire floor. Bucca emerged from the fall with a broken back, wrists, and legs. Back then he could have retired on a three-quarter, tax-free pension, the Holy Grail for members of service in New York City. But Ronnie vowed to go back, not just to the fire department but to Rescue One, the ?special forces? of the FDNY. And within a year he did just that? earning legendary status in a company of legendary men.
Henceforth, Ronnie was known to his ?brothers? in ladder and engine companies throughout the city as ?The Flying Firefighter.?
By 1992, tired of pulling bodies out of buildings where the fires were intentionally set,Ronnie Bucca had become a marshal with the FDNY?s Bureau of Fire Investigation. On the night of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, he promised one of his buddies from Rescue One who?d been injured in the blast that he?d find out who did it.
The Feds would later learn that the device had been planted beneath the Twin Towers by Ramzi Yousef, an engineer trained in Wales who grew up in Kuwait with an abiding hatred of Israel. In the early days after the bombing, however, Yousef remained a phantom, known only by the code name ?Rashed.? He fled New York for Pakistan the night of the blast and was the object of a worldwide manhunt, but the FBI seemed stymied. Bucca wanted in on the investigation, but the Bureau excluded FDNY arson investigators from the official probe.
So Ronnie Bucca, who was in an army reserve intelligence detachment, got himself assigned to the Defense Intelligence Analysis Center (DIAC) at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington. There, as he began to examine the intel, he learned that the FBI actually had an informant inside the bombing cell months before the blast, but after a falling-out with a Bureau ASAC, he?d withdrawn. Yousef was then sent to New York by al Qaeda. His 1,500?pound, urea-nitrate-fuel oil bomb, driven to the Towers in a yellow Ryder truck, killed six and injured one thousand.
Working back-to-back tours so that he could go to the New York Public Library and educate himself on the history of Islamic terror, Bucca made a shocking discovery: an accountant who appeared to be an al Qaeda mole working inside the FDNY. The man, an Egyptian American and an intimate of the radical cleric Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, had obtained the blueprints of the WTC from the FDNY back in 1992?a year before the Trade Center bombing. Ronnie even found videotape of the man on the arm of the Sheikh, who was the spiritual mufti behind Yousef?s cell. But the FBI?s New York Office ignored his evidence.
Now, days after the greatest mass murder in American history, I learned from Chief Garcia that one of the New York dead was this heroic fire marshal who had warned everybody it was coming.
One night in the late 1990s, while standing outside a bar on First Avenue Ronnie had actually pointed to the Towers and and referenced King Richard the Lionhearted. This was payback, he said. Osama bin Laden had been referring to the West collectively as the ?Crusaders.? The way Ronnie saw it, this modern terror war was just the latest round in a thousand-year grudge match.
He reminded his fellow firefighters?who wear the Maltese Cross on their uniforms?that the worldwide symbol of firefighting had derived from the Knights of Malta. They had organized the first fire brigades in the eleventh century as they stormed the battlements of Saladin and the other Islamic princes.
Outside the bar, looking down First Avenue at the Towers that night, Ronnie said, ?We took their castles and now they?re gonna come back and take ours.?
When word came that they?d found Ronnie?s remains, I thought back to what he?d said and began asking the same questions millions of Americans were then asking: How could his happen? How could the best and brightest in U.S. intelligence ignore year after year of warnings? How did they get caught so off guard? Or did they?
BACK TO INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM
Now, after more than a decade writing fiction, I was back developing sources inside and outside of the Bureau, pouring over the 40,000-plus pages of trial transcripts from the al Qaeda cases in the Southern District of New York and cashing in markers from my days as a trial preparation assistant in the Manhattan D.A.?s office when I was at Fordham Law School. The hunt took me from Ground Zero to the teeming slums of Manila in search of al Qaeda turncoats who might talk. I was the first print reporter to do an extensive interview with Col. Rodolfo B. Mendoza, the chief interrogator of Ramzi Yousef?s partner Abdul Hakim Murad, a pilot trained in four U.S. flight schools. It was Murad who first revealed that Yousef and his uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed had sent up to ten jihadis to aviation schools back then in the winter of 1995.
Out of that work came 1000 Years for Revenge. That book presented documentary evidence that Yousef, the original WTC bomber, was also the architect of 9/11. After Yousef?s conviction in 1997, responsibility for the plot had merely been shifted to his uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, whom the Feds called KSM. I also proved, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the FBI could have stopped Yousef in 1992 before his first date with the Trade Center.
From Iraq, Dan Rather reported two stories on the book on consecutive nights for The CBS Evening News in September 2003. They can be viewed on the News Videos page of this site.
1000 Years answered many questions but there were significant questions that remained unanswered:
1) Why did the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department ignore probative evidence from Col. Mendoza and the Philippines National Police in 1995 that the Yousef-KSM cell had set in motion this planes-as-missiles plot?
2) Yousef had been brought to ground in Islamabad in 1995 via a tip to the Rewards for Justice program, He?d been arrested after a worldwide search in which his want poster was plastered on tens of thousands of matchbook covers air dropped throughout the Middle East. Yet the Justice Department and the Bureau had kept secret the identity of KSM?not even mentioning him in the press?until 1998, when the planes-as-missles plot was well underway. Again, why?
?TESTIFYING? BEFORE THE 9/11 COMMISSION
After reading 1000 Years for Revenge, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean, suggested that I share my findings with his staff. As it turned out, however, the commission elected to take my ?testimony? in secret, in a windowless conference room at 26 Federal Plaza on March 15, 2004. In fact, the man who interviewed me, Dietrich Snell, was the former prosecutor of Ramzi Yousef, whose very office had failed to act on the evidence from the Philippines National Police that Yousef was tied to the planes operation.
As I saw it, Dietrich Snell should have been a witness before the 9/11 Commission, subpoenaed to testify under oath in open session. Instead he was hired as its senior counsel, and given the job of determining ?the origin of the plot??the most important question facing the 9/11 Commission. After all, f they couldn?t tell when the plot commenced, they couldn?t rightfully hold U.S. intelligence agencies responsible for not stopping it. But it soon became clear that the commissioners, and investigators like Snell, had little interest in assessing blame. Almost half of the commission?s staff was made up of alumni from the very agencies that failed to stop the attacks. In short, the foxes had been hired to guard the chicken coop.
In the end, Snell relegated the evidence I submitted from the Philippines National Police to a footnote in the 9/11 Commission?s final report. Worse, he flushed remarkable documentary evidence that al Qaeda may have been involved in the crash of TWA Flight 800 in 1996. A cache of memos from the Bureau?s own files strongly suggested a bomb had been planted aboard the Paris-bound flight in order to secure a mistrial for Yousef in the first of two federal prosecutions. The forensic investigator who had shared the documents with me had also presented them to the Commission, but there wasn?t a word about that 1996 al Qaeda-related evidence from Ramzi Yousef in their final report.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #4 on:
November 28, 2006, 12:36:56 AM »
**Continued from above.**
OPERATION ABLE DANGER
What I didn?t know at the time was that, in late 1999 and early 2000, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the head of the U.S. Army?s Special Operations Command (SOCOM) had authorized a data mining operation called Able Danger, in which vast amounts of classified and open-source intelligence on al Qaeda was being processed using powerful ?search bots? that surfed the Web around the clock. Within months, the Able Danger analysts had amassed 2.5 terabytes of data, equal to 12 percent of all the printed pages in the Library of Congress.
By early 2000, working out of Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and the Defense Intelligence Analysis Center -- the very center where Ronnie Bucca had served -- the Able Danger investigators had found key links to four of the 9/11 hijackers. They also found direct ties between bin Laden and the New York cell of Ramzi Yousef and Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman. This dovetailed with my findings that the two attacks on the World Trade Center were perpetrated by the same core group of al Qaeda operatives. The Abel Danger data miners later found a major al Qaeda presence in the port city of Aden, Yemen.
The active pursuit of that intelligence in the early fall of 2000 could have prevented the attack on the U.S.S. Cole in October, and tipped Bureau agents to the 9/11 plot more than a year before the attacks. For reasons as yet undetermined, though, the vast cache of data-mined intelligence was ordered destroyed in April 2000. Worse, when two decorated Able Danger operatives, an army lieutenant colonel and a navy captain, sought to share this scandal with the 911 Commission, they were effectively spurned.
The senior counsel on the 9/11 Commission staff who rejected the Able Danger intel, and kept it out of the final report, was Dietrich Snell?the same ex-prosecutor who had buried my evidence that the two attacks on the Twin Towers were directly funded and controlled by bin Laden and al Qaeda.
A DIFFERENT FINDING
The 9/11 Commission Report, published in July 2004 and later nominated for a National Book Award, concluded that the original World Trade Center bombing cell was made up of a ?loosely based group of Sunni Islamists?; further, that the 9/11 plot had originated not with Ramzi Yousef in Manila in 1994, as I had demonstrated, but with Yousef?s uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who?according to Snell?s account?merely pitched the planes-as-missiles operation to Osama bin Laden in 1996. The evidence I?d obtained from the Philippines National Police demonstrated that the Yousef-KSM Manila cell was funded directly by bin Laden via his brother-in-law, but the Commission, with the backing of Snell and other ex-Feds, concluded that KSM wasn?t even a member of al Qaeda in 1996.
By mid-2004 I was getting closer to the truth. The 1996 FBI 302 memos I?d tried to share with the commission showed that the Bureau, and prosecutors from the Justice Department, had affirmatively covered up evidence of an active al Qaeda cell in New York City. The same intelligence revealed the existence of a bin Laden-sponsored plot to hijack U.S. airliners, designed to pressure the U.S. to free the blind Sheikh and Ramzi Yousef, who was locked up in the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Lower Manhattan. Similar threat reporting would show up in Presidential Daily Briefings in 1998 and 2001?a fact that later made headlines?but my findings revealed that the FBI had buried identical intelligence years before.
Why would America?s most elite law enforcement and investigative agencies suppress such critical intel?
Their motive could be traced to a most surprising quarter: organized crime. As a phone book-sized file of documentary evidence from prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York reveals FBI investigators and federal prosecutors were desperate to avoid a scandal over an alleged corrupt relationship between R. Lindley DeVecchio, a senior supervisory special agent in the Bureau?s New York Office, (NYO) and a notorious hit man named Gregory Scarpa Sr., whose two-year war of succession in the Colombo crime family had left twelve people dead, including two innocent bystanders.
Through a bizarre turn of events, the Yousef evidence came from the killer?s son, Greg Scarpa Jr., a junior wiseguy who happened to inhabit a jail cell adjacent to Yousef?s at the MCC. But rather than risk losing a series of sixty Mafia cases in the Eastern District built on tainted evidence from Scarpa Sr., the Feds decided to bury the intel.
One of the lead prosecutors who disconnected those dots, I learned, was Patrick Fitzgerald, then the head of Organized Crime and Terrorism in New York?s Southern District. Considered the Justice Department?s leading authority on bin Laden, Fitzgerald would go on to become U.S. Attorney in Chicago, and special prosecutor in he ongoing investigation of media leaks regarding former CIA operative Valerie Plame, which ultimately cleared White House aide Karl Rove, while indicting Lewis ?Scooter? Libby, top aide to Vice President Cheney.
AL QAEDA MEETS THE MOB
Much of this tangled tale was laid out in great detail in my second investigative book Cover Up, published in September of 2004. It documented an ends/means decision by senior FBI and Justice Department officials to suppress the DeVecchio scandal, preserve those mob cases, and brand the Yousef-Scarpa Jr. intelligence a ?hoax? and a ?scam.? Until the cover up, that intelligence?chronicled in dozens of FBI 302s and notes from Yousef?was considered so important to the Feds that they gave Scarpa Jr. a camera to photograph it and even set up a phony Mafia front company, the ?Roma Corporation,? allowing them to monitor Yousef?s outside calls.
By the fall of 1996, the Bureau?s internal affairs probe on DeVecchio was closed and Yousef was convicted along with Murad and a third conspirator. Dietrich Snell and Mike Garcia, the current U.S. Attorney for the SDNY, had won a decisive victory\and the Feds soon began to believe that they were winning the war against al Qaeda. But the burial of that evidence, which prevented other U.S. intelligence agencies from appreciating al Qaeda?s true breadth and depth, would have shocking repercussions.
As I looked back on the Justice Department?s counter-terrorism track record, I concluded that many of the dots left unconnected by the FBI and DOJ on the road to 9/11 appeared to have been the result of an intentional obscuring of the evidence.
Continuing to work sources and examine the reams of documentary evidence generated in the SDNY al Qaeda cases, I came to the conclusion that the FBI?s failure to prevent the African embassy bombings in 1998, the deadly assault on U.S.S. Cole in 2000, and the 9/11 attacks themselves, went beyond gross negligence. It seemed as if a number of FBI officials and federal prosecutors at the heart of the bin Laden hunt realized that they had been outgunned for years. So they had acted affirmatively to partition the intelligence.
I believe that their motive was to sanitize the record and thus prevent the public from understanding the full depth of the FBI/DOJ missteps in the years leading up to September 11. So ?walls? were intentionally built, and key intelligence was withheld from other agencies, including the CIA and DIA. In any other government enterprise, the consequences might have been more benign. but in the realm of national security that compartmentalization of intelligence proved fatal.
By the third anniversary of 9/11, the Scarpa-Yousef evidence had been published in Cover Up. Sixteen months later, DeVecchio would finally be arraigned on murder charges stemming, in part, from that investigation. But many unanswered questions remained. I wanted to know the names of the men and women in the shadows at Justice who had suppressed the evidence and hidden the truth behind al Qaeda all those years. I also wanted to learn why the Bush 43 Administration would act to obstruct an investigation into the destruction of the Able Danger intel, a scandal that took place during the Clinton years? It took me months of further digging before the depth of the government?s deception started to become clear.
ALI MOHAMED WAS THE KEY
In the years leading to the 9/11 attacks, no single agent of al Qaeda was more successful in compromising the U.S. intelligence community than a former Egyptian army captain turned CIA operative, Special Forces advisor, and FBI informant named Ali Mohamed. Spying first for the Central Intelligence Agency and later the FBI, Mohamed even succeeded in penetrating the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg?while simultaneously training the cell that blew up the World Trade Center in 1993. He went on to train Osama bin Laden?s personal bodyguard, and photographed the U.S. embassy in Kenya taking the surveillance pictures bin Laden himself used to target the suicide truck bomb that killed 224 and injured thousands there in 1998.
Mohamed accomplished all that fully nine years after the FBI first photographed the cell he trained using automatic weapons at a firing range on Long Island. He lived the quiet life of a Silicon Valley computer executive while slipping off to Afghanistan and the Sudan to train some of al Qaeda?s most lethal terrorists in bomb-making and assassination tradecraft. He was so trusted by bin Laden that Ali was given the job of moving the Saudi ?Emir? from Afghanistan to Khartoum in 1991?much of that time maintaining his status as an FBI informant who worked his Bureau control agent like a mole.
Mohamed twice played host to al Qaeda?s second-in-command, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, who traveled to the U.S. in the 1990s to raise money for the Jihad. He used his Army vacation to hunt down elite Soviet Spetsnaz commandos in Afghanistan, and later toyed with gullible special agents in New York and San Francisco while he learned the inner workings of the FBI?s al Qaeda playbook. In the annals of espionage, few men have moved in an out of the deep black world between the hunters and the hunted with as much audacity as Ali Mohamed?known to his al Qaeda brothers as Ali Amiriki, or ?Ali the American.? A deep-penetration al Qaeda sleeper, he succeeded as a triple agent, gaining access to the most sensitive intelligence in the U.S. counter-terrorism arsenal.
Next to Ramzi Yousef, the bomb maker who plotted both attacks on The Twin Towers, Mohamed remains the greatest enigma in the war on terror. Brazenly slipping past watch lists, he moved in and out of the U.S. with impunity for years, marrying an American woman, becoming a naturalized citizen, seeking top secret security clearance from a Silicon Valley defense contractor and working for the FBI while servicing the top echelons of al Qaeda.
The story of Ali Mohamed holds the key to the full truth about how bin Laden planned, financed, and executed the 9/11 attacks. He?s also a living witness to how the best and the brightest in the U.S. intelligence community were repeatedly outflanked for two decades, from the death of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981 through the attacks of September 11, 2001.
My conclusion in Cover Up was that the FBI had buried key al Qaeda intelligence to avoid a scandal over tainted Mafia evidence. But as unbelievable as that story seemed, the investigation took on even stranger twists and turns when Ali Mohamed came into focus. For example, almost from the moment the Bureau ?opened? him as an informant back in 1992, Ali?s main control agent on the West Coast became embroiled in a grisly triple murder case that distracted him from fully appreciating Mohamed?s lethal dedication to stealing America?s secrets for the jihad. Patrick Fitzgerald himself called Ali ?the most dangerous man I ever met,? and soon, as I began to fill in the blanks on him, I encountered evidence more astonishing than any fiction I had ever written.
WORKING THE ?MURDER BOOK?
For this phase of the investigation I decided to work the research the way cold case detectives work a homicide file, known in many squad rooms as ?the murder book.? To begin with, I reread more than twenty-five four-inch thick three-ring binders of research from my first two books. I then went back through the summaries I?d made of the forty thousand pages of trial testimony in the SDNY?s al Qaeda-related cases, including the first World Trade Center bombing trial in 1994; the Day of Terror trial of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and eleven others in 1995; the Bojinka trial of Ramzi Yousef and his Manila coconspirators in 1996; the second WTC trial?this one with Yousef as a defendant?in 1997; and the African embassy bombing trial, known formally as United States v. bin Laden, which began in February 2001, seven months before 9/11.
Then, as cold case detectives do, I read the ?book? out of order, examining whole files randomly in the hope that the exercise would provoke a new lead. I soon realized that there was still a major case still missing: the 1991 murder trial of El Sayyid Nosair, who had gunned down Rabbi Meier Kahane the night of November 5, 1990. Incredibly, despite a wealth of evidence pointing to an international terrorist conspiracy with al Qaeda at its core, that case had been tried as a ?lone gunman? shooting by the office of the New York County District Attorney. Examining that transcript, and the later coverage of the trial by The New York Times, led me to the discovery of a New Jersey check cashing store where Nosair had rented a mailbox in 1990. As unbelievable as it may seem, that precise location, doors away from the blind Sheikh?s New Jersey mosque, was where two of the 9/11 hijackers associated with AA #77 pilot Hani Hanjour, picked up their fake IDs in July 2001.
All the Bureau had to do was sit on that check cashing business and they would have been able
to penetrate the 9/11 plot.
The Nosair mailbox discovery was proof positive that in order to fully understand the 9/11 plot, any thorough investigation had to go back years before the time period covered by the 9/11 Commission. When I did that, and reread the ?murder book? on Yousef?s suicide-hijack plot, the eureka moment came when I realized that the key to the FBI failures?and to the subsequent cover-up of evidence that disconnected the dots?was Ali Mohamed. With further probing, I discovered that this man, known by fifteen aliases, was the enigma behind the destruction of the Able Danger intelligence as well.
Ali Mohamed could have been a one-man 9/11 Commission. He held the key to how the best and the brightest in the FBI and Department of Justice failed to stop bin Laden?s juggernaut. And yet the Feds had him buried, confined in witness protection somewhere near New York?the perfect al Qaeda spy who knew all the secrets. When I had finished reworking the ?murder book? on 9/11, I knew that if I could tell his story, I would get closer to the truth.
THE INVESTIGATORS WHO PAVED THE WAY
All investigative reporters stand on the shoulders of those who came before them, and the Ali Mohamed story is no exception. As I began to piece together the fragments of intelligence on his triple life, a series of seminal news pieces helped me form a grid. Among the first investigators to fully appreciate Mohamed?s deception was Steven Emerson, who examined him in American Jihad back in 2002. In the San Francisco Chronicle, Lance Williams and Erin McCormick did an outstanding series on Ali and his Silicon Valley cohort Khalid Dahab. Joseph Neff and John Sullivan did a pair of excellent investigative stories for the Raleigh News & Observer on Ali?s years at Fort Bragg. Additional pieces that helped form my initial blueprint came from Associated Press writers Tom Hays and Sharon Theimer, Peter Waldman, Gerald F. Seib and Jerry Markon in the Wall Street Journal, and Chicago Tribune reporters Andrew Martin and Michael J. Berens.
But by far the most comprehensive reporting on Mohamed was done by Benjamin Weiser, who covers the SDNY for the New York Times. His co-writer on several key pieces was Pulitzer Prize winner James Risen. To the degree I?ve been able to add to the body of knowledge on al Qaeda?s master spy, I remain indebted to all of them.
THE SPY OF MANY NAMES
TRIPLE CROSS represents the most thorough examination to date of one of the most secret espionage failures in American history: the story of Ali Abdel Saoud Mohamed, aka Ali Abul Saoud Mustafa, aka Ali Aboualacoud, aka Abu Omar, aka Haydara, aka Ahmed Bahaa Adam, aka Abu Mohammed ali Amriki, aka Ali Nasser Mohamed Taymour, aka Abu Osama, aka Bakhbola, aka Bili Bili. Diamond merchant, Army sergeant, leather dealer, suburban husband, special ops assassin, security guard, computer specialist, CIA asset, FBI informant?and the man who literally wrote al Qaeda?s book on terror?Ali Mohamed wore many faces, perhaps none as secretive as the one he presented to his American wife, Linda, who talked to me for the first time.
Because Ali Mohamed supplies the puzzle pieces that complete the story of FBI negligence on the road to 9/11 I will briefly cover some of the ground examined in 1000 Years for Revenge and Cover Up. It?s now clear that Ramzi Yousef was Osama bin Laden?s chief operational point man, followed after his capture by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. But over the years Ali Mohamed emerged as al Qaeda?s chief intelligence officer, and the man bin Laden trusted with his life. In bin Laden?s ingenious but diabolical plan to attack America, the roles of these two men meshed perfectly. The bomb maker and the spy, two lethal components in al Qaeda?s thirteen-year war against the ?Crusaders.? Which terrorist was more important? That is for the reader to decide. But as Sun Tzu wrote in the 6th century B.C., ?all war is deception,? and Ali Mohamed was one of the most capable deceivers this nation has ever embraced.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #5 on:
November 28, 2006, 12:42:15 AM »
Al Qaeda terrorist worked with FBI
Ex-Silicon Valley resident plotted embassy attacks
- Lance Williams and Erin McCormick, Chronicle Staff Writers
Sunday, November 4, 2001
A former U.S. Army sergeant who trained Osama bin Laden's bodyguards and helped plan the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya was a U.S. government informant during much of his terrorist career, according to sources familiar with his case.
Ali Mohamed, an Egyptian-born U.S. citizen and longtime Silicon Valley resident who pleaded guilty last year to terrorism charges, approached the Central Intelligence Agency more than 15 years ago and offered to inform on Middle Eastern terrorist groups, a U.S. government official said.
Later, according to the sources, Mohamed spent years as an FBI informant while concealing his own deep involvement in the al Qaeda terrorist band: training bin Laden's bodyguards and Islamic guerrillas in camps in Afghanistan and the Sudan; bringing Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is bin Laden's chief deputy, to the Bay Area on a covert fund-raising mission; and planning the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, in which more than 200 people died.
The story of Mohamed's dual roles as FBI informant and bin Laden terrorist - - and the freedom he had to operate unchecked in the United States -- illustrates the problems facing U.S. intelligence services as they attempt to penetrate the shadowy, close-knit world of al Qaeda, experts said.
Mohamed "clearly was a double agent," Larry C. Johnson, a former deputy director in the State Department's Office of Counter Terrorism and a onetime CIA employee, said in an interview.
Johnson said the CIA had found Mohamed unreliable and severed its relationship with him shortly after Mohamed approached the agency in 1984. Johnson faulted the FBI for later using Mohamed as an informant, saying the bureau should have recognized that the man was a high-ranking terrorist, deeply involved in plotting violence against the United States and its allies.
"It's possible that the FBI thought they had control of him and were trying to use him, but what's clear is that they did not have control," Johnson said. "The FBI assumed he was their source, but his loyalties lay elsewhere."
The affair was "a study in incompetence, in how not to run an agent," Johnson said.
FBI spokesman Joseph Valiquette declined to comment on Mohamed, as did a spokesman for Manhattan U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, whose office prosecuted the case of the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
A law enforcement source familiar with the case said the FBI had followed appropriate procedures in attempting to obtain crucial information from Mohamed, whom he conceded was "double-dealing" and difficult.
"When you operate assets and informants, they're holding the cards," this source said. "They can choose to be 100 percent honest or 10 percent honest. You don't have much control over them.
"Maybe (the informant) gives you a great kernel of information, and then you can't find him for eight weeks. Is that a management problem? Hindsight is 20/20."
Mohamed, 49, is a former Egyptian Army major, fluent in Arabic and English, who after his arrest became known as bin Laden's "California connection." Last year, when he pleaded guilty in the embassy bombing case, he told a federal judge that he first was drawn to terrorism in 1981, when he joined Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a fundamentalist group implicated in that year's assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
For almost as long as he was a terrorist, Mohamed also was in contact with U.S. intelligence, according to court records and sources.
In 1984, he quit the Egyptian Army to work as a counterterrorism security expert for EgyptAir. After that, he offered to become a CIA informant, said the U.S. government official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"The agency tried him out, but because he told other possible terrorists or people possibly associated with terrorist groups that he was working for the CIA, clearly he was not suitable," the official said.
The CIA cut off contact with Mohamed and put his name on a "watch list" aimed at blocking his entrance to the United States, according to the official.
Nevertheless, Mohamed got a visa one year later. He ultimately became a U.S.
citizen after marrying a Santa Clara woman. In 1986, he joined the U.S. Army as an enlisted man. He was posted to Fort Bragg, N.C., home of the elite Special Forces.
There he worked as a supply sergeant for a Green Beret unit, then as an instructor on Middle Eastern affairs in the John F. Kennedy special warfare school.
Mohamed's behavior and his background were so unusual that his commanding officer, Lt. Col. Robert Anderson, became convinced that he was both a "dangerous fanatic" and an operative of U.S. intelligence.
Anderson, now a businessman in North Carolina, said that on their first meeting in 1988, Mohamed told him, "Anwar Sadat was a traitor and he had to die."
Later that year, Anderson said, Mohamed announced that -- contrary to all Army regulations -- he intended to go on vacation to Afghanistan to join the Islamic guerrillas in their civil war against the Soviets. A month later, he returned, boasting that he had killed two Soviet soldiers and giving away as souvenirs what he claimed were their uniform belts.
Anderson said he wrote detailed reports aimed at getting Army intelligence to investigate Mohamed -- and have him court-martialed and deported -- but the reports were ignored.
"I think you or I would have a better chance of winning Powerball (a lottery), than an Egyptian major in the unit that assassinated Sadat would have getting a visa, getting to California . . . getting into the Army and getting assigned to a Special Forces unit," he said. "That just doesn't happen. "
It was equally unthinkable that an ordinary American GI would go unpunished after fighting in a foreign war, he said.
Anderson said all this convinced him that Mohamed was "sponsored" by a U.S. intelligence service. "I assumed the CIA," he said.
In 1989, Mohamed left the Army and returned to Santa Clara, where he worked as a security guard and at a home computer business.
Between then and his 1998 arrest, he said in court last year, Mohamed was deeply involved in bin Laden's al Qaeda. He spent months abroad, training bin Laden's fighters in camps in Afghanistan and Sudan. While in Africa, he scouted the U.S. Embassy in Kenya, target of the 1998 bombing. In this country,
he helped al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's top aide, enter the country with a fake passport and tour U.S. mosques, raising money later funneled to al Qaeda.
According to Steven Emerson, a terrorism expert and author who has written about the case, Mohamed by the early 1990s had also established himself as an FBI informant.
"He agreed to serve (the FBI) and provide information, but in fact he was working for the bad guys and insulating himself from scrutiny from other law enforcement agencies," Emerson said in an interview.
One particularly troubling aspect of the case, Emerson says, was that Mohamed's role as an FBI informant gave bin Laden important insights into U.S. efforts to penetrate al Qaeda.
The case shows "the sophistication of the bin Laden network, and how they were toying with us," he said.
Some information about the nature of Mohamed's contacts with the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies is contained in an FBI affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in New York at the time of his 1998 arrest. The document describes contacts between Mohamed and the FBI and Defense Department officials.
At times, Mohamed made alarming admissions about his links to the al Qaeda terrorists, seemingly without fear of being arrested. Mohamed willfully deceived the agents about his activities, according to the affidavit.
In 1993, the affidavit says, Mohamed was questioned by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police after a bin Laden aide was caught trying to enter the United States with Mohamed's driver's license and a false passport.
Mohamed acknowledged traveling to Vancouver to help the terrorist sneak into the United States and admitted working closely with bin Laden's group. Yet he was so unconcerned about being arrested that he told the Mounties he hoped the interview wouldn't hurt his chances of getting a job as an FBI interpreter.
(According to the affidavit, he had indeed applied for the FBI position but never got it.)
Later that year, Mohamed -- again seemingly without concern for consequences -- told the FBI that he had trained bin Laden followers in intelligence and anti-hijacking techniques in Afghanistan, the affidavit says.
In January 1995, Mohamed applied for a U.S. security clearance, in hopes of becoming a security guard with a Santa Clara defense contractor. His application failed to mention ever traveling to Pakistan or Afghanistan, trips he had told the FBI about earlier. In three interviews with Defense Department officials, who conducted a background check on him, he claimed he had never been a terrorist.
"I have never belonged to a terrorist organization, but I have been approached by organizations that could be called terrorist," he told the interviewers.
According to the affidavit, he told FBI agents in 1997 that he had trained bin Laden's bodyguards, saying he loved bin Laden and believed in him. Mohamed also said it was "obvious" that the United States was the enemy of Muslim people.
In August 1998, after the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed, he told the FBI that he knew who did it, but refused to provide the names.
Two weeks later, after lying to a U.S. grand jury investigating the embassy bombings, he was arrested. He pleaded guilty last year, but he has never been sentenced and is once again believed to be providing information to the government -- this time from a prison cell.
"There's a hell of a lot (U.S. officials) didn't know about Ali Mohamed," said Harvey Kushner, a terrorism expert and criminology professor at the University of Long Island. "He infiltrated our armed services and duped them."
Yet, Kushner said, such duplicitous interactions may be a necessary component of intelligence work.
"I hate to say it, but these relationships are something we should be involved in more of. That's the nasty (part) of covert operations. We're not dealing with people we can trust."
E-mail the reporters at
and lmwilliams@sfchronicle. com.
Page A - 1
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #6 on:
November 28, 2006, 01:36:13 AM »
Today's Reading Assignment
From A.J. Strata, on the seamy side of the Litvinenko file--the stuff you won't find in the MSM. Thanks to A.J.'s digging, we know that Mr. Litvinenko, the ex-KGB officer who was assassinated in London last week, had extensive ties to Chechen terrorists and a corrupt Russian oligarch with his own Chechen connection. In Vladimir Putin's world view, that was apparently sufficient reason to kill Litvinenko, with a lethal dose of polonium-210. Readers will note that the latest MSNBC article notes the presence of the oligarch and Chechen leaders in Britain (as reason for "strained relations between London and Moscow). But the MSNBC account fails to connect them to Mr. Litvinenko, who (in death) is becoming the poster boy for human rights and individual liberties.
Litvinenko's death is another reminder that things are rarely black-and-white in the spook world. Getting chummy with a corrupt oligarch and his Chechen friends made Litvinenko a threat to the Russians, his former KGB colleagues (now running the show in Moscow) certainly know how to deal with that sort of problem. Looks like the boys from Active Means Branch (Department T of the KGB's old First Chief Directorate) are still in business.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #7 on:
November 28, 2006, 01:39:33 AM »
**Links/article from the above article.**
Radioactive substance found in London
Two new sites probed; 3 people sent to clinic, but health risk said to be low
The Associated Press
Updated: 12:27 p.m. MT Nov 27, 2006
LONDON - Traces of radiation linked to the poisoning death of a former KGB agent turned up Monday at two more sites in London, and three people who showed symptoms of contamination were being tested for the deadly toxin. The government has ordered a formal inquest into the death.
Britain?s Home Secretary John Reid appealed for calm, saying the tests on the three people were only a precaution. High doses of polonium-210 ? a rare radioactive element usually manufactured in specialized nuclear facilities ? were found in the body of Alexander Litvinenko, the ex-spy turned Kremlin critic who died Thursday at a London hospital.
?The nature of this radiation is such that it does not travel over long distances, a few centimeters at most, and therefore there is no need for public alarm,? Reid said in a special address to the House of Commons.
Litvinenko, 43, died of heart failure Thursday after falling ill from what doctors said was polonium-210 poisoning. The substance is deadly if ingested or inhaled.
Six sites showed traces of radiation linked to the poisoning, including a bar in London?s Millennium Hotel, a branch of Itsu Sushi near Piccadilly Circus, Litvinenko?s house in North London and a section of the hospital where he was treated when he fell ill on Nov. 1. Two other sites ? an office block in London?s west end and an address in the posh neighborhood of Mayfair ? also showed traces of radiation, according to residents.
All the locations except Litvinenko?s home are in west London, separated by about a mile.
The sushi restaurant and part of the hospital have been closed for decontamination.
Low public health risk
Of hundreds of people who called a hot line over concerns they may be at risk, three exhibited symptoms that health officials thought should be examined, said Katherine Lewis, a spokeswoman for the Health Protection Agency. She refused to elaborate.
Derek Hill, an expert in radiological science at the University College London, said the public health risk was low.
Although an autopsy has not started yet because of concerns over radioactivity, an inquest into his death could begin as early as Thursday, according to Matt Cornish, a spokesman for Camden Council. The local government body oversees the North London Coroner?s Court. The opening is a legal formality, and such inquests are almost always adjourned immediately, sometimes for months.
Coroner?s inquests in Britain are meant to determine the cause of death but they sometimes cast blame.
British officials have avoided blaming Moscow for the Litvinenko?s death but emergency talks continued Monday and the issue threatened to overshadow negotiations over energy and Russia?s cooperation on Iran?s nuclear ambitions.
In the strongest comments leveled at Moscow since Litvinenko?s death, Cabinet minister Peter Hain on Sunday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of presiding over ?huge attacks on individual liberty and on democracy? and said that relations between London and Moscow were at a difficult stage.
Earlier 'murky murder'
Hain said Putin?s tenure had been clouded by incidents ?including an extremely murky murder of the senior Russian journalist? Anna Politkovskaya. Litvinenko had been investigating her murder.
The Kremlin has denied any involvement.
Reid, responding to opposition demands for an explanation of how the deadly polonium-210 came to be in Britain, said the radioactive element is strictly regulated and is used by about 130 sites in Britain. He did not elaborate.
?There has been no recent report of the loss or theft of a polonium-210 source in England or Wales,? Reid said.
Litvinenko told police he believed he was poisoned Nov. 1 while investigating the October slaying of Politkovskaya, another critic of Putin?s government. The ex-spy was moved to intensive care last week after his hair fell out, his throat became swollen and his immune and nervous systems suffered severe damage.
London?s Metropolitan Police said they were investigating it as a ?suspicious death? rather than murder. They have not ruled out the possibility that Litvinenko may have poisoned himself.
? 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Comment inserted by CD: Note that GM has several posts this morning on this thread, beginning with Reply #2, not just this one.
Last Edit: November 28, 2006, 08:58:15 AM by Crafty_Dog
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #8 on:
November 28, 2006, 02:57:07 PM »
Monday November 27, 2006
What is Russia's Real Game (Again-With Viktor Bout)
What is Russia?s real role in the efforts to combat terrorism? While the Bush administration seems to cling to the notion that Russia is an ally, there are several developments that point in the opposite direction.
The first, of course, is the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko, where the foul play of the Russian security apparatus, closely tied to Mr. Putin, is the prime suspect. The fact that the murder was committed in London and dismissed out of hand as unimportant by Mr. Putin show both a new boldness and the lack of any pretense of accountability by the Russians.
There is also the arming of Iran and help with the Iranian nuclear program, and the close intelligence ties to Hezbollah.
But there is another, barely noticed development in the United States that should be extremely worrisome. A small sporting goods store in rural Pennsylvania was just busted for selling telescopic rifle scopes, binoculars and optics, which need State Department export authorization, to a Russian company that did not have such a license.
As the my colleauge and co-author Stephen Braun write in the Los Angeles Times, the affidavit for carrying out the search states that the Russian company is ?Tactica Ltd., a Moscow firm that was described by investigators as ?a member of the ?Vympel Group,? which is a known identifier for an elite counter-terrorism unit that is controlled by the Russian Federal Security Service [formerly the KGB].??
So, we have Russian intelligence agents illegally buying restricted items in the United States. But it gets better.
A good chunk of the money for the purchases, according to federal officials, came from (hold on Bout fans) Rockman Ltd, a Bulgarian firm owned by Sergei Bout, who has often run Bout companies involved in weapons transactions. As one U.S official told the Times, ?Sergei and Viktor?s companies are all under the same umbrella.?
The rest of the money came from Haji Ibrahim, a Pakistani man wanted on federal charges of heroin trafficking. Nice bunch!
But the United States, despite the publicly-available affidavit, has said nothing about the case. It was unsealed just as Bush was preparing for his sit-down with Putin on his way to Southeast Asia.
Another factor: The Russian weapons used by Hezbollah in the July fighting with Israel were new and routed through Syria. Intelligence sources say Bout was spotted in Beirut during the fighting, shortly before the sophisticated armor-piercing Fagot and Kornet anti-tank missiles were discovered. Interesting coincidence. When the Israelis presented the Russians with overwhelming evidence of the armament, it was publicly dismissed, but a senior official in the Russian arms export enterprise was reportedly dismissed to placate the outside world.
Finally, there are Bout?s actions in the Horn of Africa where, again with official Russian support, his aircraft have been spotted delivering weapons to the Islamic Court militias in Somalia and arming the Islamist allies in Eritrea.
If Putin in our ally we sure don?t need any enemies.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #9 on:
December 03, 2006, 12:44:13 PM »
Today's NY Times:
When Matthew Burton arrived at the Defense Intelligence Agency in January 2003, he was excited about getting to his computer. Burton, who was then 22, had long been interested in international relations: he had studied Russian politics and interned at the U.S. consulate in Ukraine, helping to speed refugee applications of politically persecuted Ukrainians. But he was also a big high-tech geek fluent in Web-page engineering, and he spent hours every day chatting online with friends and updating his own blog. When he was hired by the D.I.A., he told me recently, his mind boggled at the futuristic, secret spy technology he would get to play with: search engines that can read minds, he figured. Desktop video conferencing with colleagues around the world. If the everyday Internet was so awesome, just imagine how much better the spy tools would be.
But when he got to his cubicle, his high-tech dreams collapsed. “The reality,” he later wrote ruefully, “was a colossal letdown.”
The spy agencies were saddled with technology that might have seemed cutting edge in 1995. When he went onto Intelink — the spy agencies’ secure internal computer network — the search engines were a pale shadow of Google, flooding him with thousands of useless results. If Burton wanted to find an expert to answer a question, the personnel directories were of no help. Worse, instant messaging with colleagues, his favorite way to hack out a problem, was impossible: every three-letter agency — from the Central Intelligence Agency to the National Security Agency to army commands — used different discussion groups and chat applications that couldn’t connect to one another. In a community of secret agents supposedly devoted to quickly amassing information, nobody had even a simple blog — that ubiquitous tool for broadly distributing your thoughts.
Something had gone horribly awry, Burton realized. Theoretically, the intelligence world ought to revolve around information sharing. If F.B.I. agents discover that Al Qaeda fund-raising is going on in Brooklyn, C.I.A. agents in Europe ought to be able to know that instantly. The Internet flourished under the credo that information wants to be free; the agencies, however, had created their online networks specifically to keep secrets safe, locked away so only a few could see them. This control over the flow of information, as the 9/11 Commission noted in its final report, was a crucial reason American intelligence agencies failed to prevent those attacks. All the clues were there — Al Qaeda associates studying aviation in Arizona, the flight student Zacarias Moussaoui arrested in Minnesota, surveillance of a Qaeda plotting session in Malaysia — but none of the agents knew about the existence of the other evidence. The report concluded that the agencies failed to “connect the dots.”
By way of contrast, every night when Burton went home, he was reminded of how good the everyday Internet had become at connecting dots. “Web 2.0” technologies that encourage people to share information — blogs, photo-posting sites like Flickr or the reader-generated encyclopedia Wikipedia — often made it easier to collaborate with others. When the Orange Revolution erupted in Ukraine in late 2004, Burton went to Technorati, a search engine that scours the “blogosphere,” to find the most authoritative blog postings on the subject. Within minutes, he had found sites with insightful commentary from American expatriates who were talking to locals in Kiev and on-the-fly debates among political analysts over what it meant. Because he and his fellow spies were stuck with outdated technology, they had no comparable way to cooperate — to find colleagues with common interests and brainstorm online.
Burton, who has since left the D.I.A., is not alone in his concern. Indeed, throughout the intelligence community, spies are beginning to wonder why their technology has fallen so far behind — and talk among themselves about how to catch up. Some of the country’s most senior intelligence thinkers have joined the discussion, and surprisingly, many of them believe the answer may lie in the interactive tools the world’s teenagers are using to pass around YouTube videos and bicker online about their favorite bands. Billions of dollars’ worth of ultrasecret data networks couldn’t help spies piece together the clues to the worst terrorist plot ever. So perhaps, they argue, it’ s time to try something radically different. Could blogs and wikis prevent the next 9/11?
The job of an analyst used to be much more stable — even sedate. In the ’70s and ’80s, during the cold war, an intelligence analyst would show up for work at the C.I.A.’s headquarters in Langley, Va., or at the National Security Agency compound in Fort Meade, Md., and face a mess of paper. All day long, tips, memos and reports from field agents would arrive: cables from a covert-ops spy in Moscow describing a secret Soviet meeting, or perhaps fresh pictures of a missile silo. An analyst’s job was to take these raw pieces of intelligence and find patterns in the noise. In a crisis, his superiors might need a quick explanation of current events to pass on to their agency heads or to Congress. But mostly he was expected to perform long-term “strategic analysis” — to detect entirely new threats that were still forming.
And during the cold war, threats formed slowly. The Soviet Union was a ponderous bureaucracy that moved at the glacial speed of the five-year plan. Analysts studied the emergence of new tanks and missiles, pieces of hardware that took years to develop. One year, an analyst might report that the keel for a Soviet nuclear submarine had been laid; a few years later, a follow-up report would describe the submarine’s completion; even more years later, a final report would detail the sea trials. Writing reports was thus a leisurely affair, taking weeks or months; thousands of copies were printed up and distributed via interoffice mail. If an analyst’s report impressed his superiors, they’d pass it on to their superiors, and they to theirs — until, if the analyst was very lucky, it landed eventually in the president’s inner circle. But this sort of career achievement was rare. Of the thousands of analyst reports produced each year, the majority sat quietly gathering dust on agency shelves, unread by anyone.
Published: December 3, 2006
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Analysts also did not worry about anything other than their corners of the world. Russia experts focused on Russia, Nicaragua ones on Nicaragua. Even after the cold war ended, the major spy agencies divided up the world: the F.B.I. analyzed domestic crime, the C.I.A. collected intelligence internationally and military spy agencies, like the National Security Agency and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, evaluated threats to the national defense. If an analyst requested information from another agency, that request traveled through elaborate formal channels. The walls between the agencies were partly a matter of law. The charters of the C.I.A. and the defense intelligence agencies prohibited them from spying on American citizens, under the logic that the intrusive tactics needed to investigate foreign threats would violate constitutional rights if applied at home. The F.B.I. even had an internal separation: agents investigating terrorist activity would not share information with those investigating crimes, worried that secrets gleaned from tailing Al Qaeda operatives might wind up publicly exposed in a criminal trial.
Then on Sept. 12, 2001, analysts showed up at their desks and faced a radically altered job. Islamist terrorists, as 9/11 proved, behaved utterly unlike the Soviet Union. They were rapid-moving, transnational and cellular. A corner-store burglar in L.A. might turn out to be a Qaeda sympathizer raising money for a plot being organized overseas. An imam in suburban Detroit could be recruiting local youths to send to the Sudan for paramilitary training. Al Qaeda operatives organized their plots in a hivelike fashion, with collaborators from Afghanistan to London using e-mail, instant messaging and Yahoo groups; rarely did a single mastermind run the show. To disrupt these new plots, some intelligence officials concluded, American agents and analysts would need to cooperate just as fluidly — trading tips quickly among agents and agencies. Following the usual chain of command could be fatal. “To fight a network like Al Qaeda, you need to behave like a network,” John Arquilla, the influential professor of defense at the Naval Postgraduate School, told me.
It was a fine vision. But analysts were saddled with technology that was designed in the cold war. They now at least had computers, and intelligence arrived as electronic messages instead of paper memos. But their computers still communicated almost exclusively with people inside their agencies. When the intelligence services were computerized in the ’90s, they had digitally replicated their cold-war divisions — each one building a multimillion-dollar system that allowed the agency to share information internally but not readily with anyone outside.
The computer systems were designed to be “air gapped.” The F.B.I. terminals were connected to one another — but not to the computers at any other agency, and vice versa. Messages written on the C.I.A.’s network (which they still quaintly called “cables”) were purely internal. To get a message to the F.B.I. required a special communication called a “telegraphic dissemination.” Each agency had databases to amass intelligence, but because of the air gap, other agencies could not easily search them. The divisions were partly because of turf battles and partly because of legal restrictions — but they were also technological. Mike Scheuer, an adviser to the C.I.A.’s bin Laden unit until 2004, told me he had been frustrated by the inability of the systems to interpenetrate. “About 80 percent of C.I.A.-F.B.I. difficulties came from the fact that we couldn’t communicate with one another,” he said. Scheuer told me he would often send a document electronically to the F.B.I., then call to make sure the agents got it. “And they’d say, ‘We can’t find it, can you fax it?’ And then we’d call, and they’d say, ‘Well, the system said it came in, but we still can’t find it — so could you courier it over?’ ” “
These systems have served us very well for five decades,” Dale Meyerrose told me when I spoke with him recently. But now, he said, they’re getting in the way. “The 16 intelligence organizations of the U.S. are without peer. They are the best in the world. The trick is, are they collectively the best?”
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Last year, Meyerrose, a retired Air Force major general, was named the chief information officer — the head computer guy, as it were — for the office of the director of national intelligence. Established by Congress in 2004, the D.N.I.’s office has a controversial mandate: it is supposed to report threats to the president and persuade the intelligence agencies to cooperate more closely. Both tasks were formerly the role of the C.I.A. director, but since the C.I.A. director had no budgetary power over the other agencies, they rarely heeded his calls to pass along their secrets. So the new elevated position of national-intelligence director was created; ever since, it has been filled by John Negroponte. Last December, Negroponte hired Meyerrose and gave him the daunting task of developing mechanisms to allow the various agencies’ aging and incompatible systems to swap data. Right away, Meyerrose ordered some sweeping changes. In the past, each agency chose its own outside contractor to build customized software — creating proprietary systems, each of which stored data in totally different file formats. From now on, Meyerrose said, each agency would have to build new systems using cheaper, off-the-shelf software so they all would be compatible. But bureaucratic obstacles were just a part of the problem Meyerrose faced. He was also up against something deeper in the DNA of the intelligence services. “We’ve had this ‘need to know’ culture for years,” Meyerrose said. “Well, we need to move to a ‘need to share’ philosophy.”
There was already one digital pipeline that joined the agencies (though it had its own limitations): Intelink, which connects most offices in each intelligence agency. It was created in 1994 after C.I.A. officials saw how the Web was rapidly transforming the way private-sector companies shared information. Intelink allows any agency to publish a Web page, or put a document or a database online, secure in the knowledge that while other agents and analysts can access it, the outside world cannot.
So why hasn’t Intelink given young analysts instant access to all secrets from every agency? Because each agency’s databases, and the messages flowing through their internal pipelines, are not automatically put onto Intelink. Agency supervisors must actively decide what data they will publish on the network — and their levels of openness vary. Some departments have created slick, professional sites packed full of daily alerts and searchable collections of their reports going back years. Others have put up little more than a “splash page” announcing they exist. Operational information — like details of a current covert action — is rarely posted, usually because supervisors fear that a leak could jeopardize a delicate mission.
Nonetheless, Intelink has grown to the point that it contains thousands of agency sites and several hundred databases. Analysts at the various agencies generate 50,000 official reports a year, many of which are posted to the network. The volume of material online is such that analysts now face a new problem: data overload. Even if they suspect good information might exist on Intelink, it is often impossible to find it. The system is poorly indexed, and its internal search tools perform like the pre-Google search engines of the ’90s.“
One of my daily searches is for words like ‘Afghanistan’ or ‘Taliban,’ ” I was told by one young military analyst who specializes in threats from weapons of mass destruction. (He requested anonymity because he isn’t authorized to speak to reporters.) “So I’m looking for reports from field agents saying stuff like, ‘I’m out here, and here’s what I saw,’ ” he continued. “But I get to my desk and I’ve got, like, thousands a day — mountains of information, and no way to organize it.”
Adding to the information glut, there’s an increasingly large amount of data to read outside of Intelink. Intelligence analysts are finding it more important to keep up with “open source” information — nonclassified material published in full public view, like newspapers, jihadist blogs and discussion boards in foreign countries. This adds ever more calories to the daily info diet. The W.M.D. analyst I spoke to regularly reads the blog of Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor known for omnivorous linking to, and acerbic analysis of, news from the Middle East. “He’s not someone spies would normally pay attention to, but now he’s out there — and he’s a subject-matter expert, right?” the analyst said.
Intelligence hoarding presented one set of problems, but pouring it into a common ocean, Meyerrose realized soon after moving into his office, is not the answer either. “Intelligence is about looking for needles in haystacks, and we can’t just keep putting more hay on the stack,” he said. What the agencies needed was a way to take the thousands of disparate, unorganized pieces of intel they generate every day and somehow divine which are the most important.
Intelligence heads wanted to try to find some new answers to this problem. So the C.I.A. set up a competition, later taken over by the D.N.I., called the Galileo Awards: any employee at any intelligence agency could submit an essay describing a new idea to improve information sharing, and the best ones would win a prize. The first essay selected was by Calvin Andrus, chief technology officer of the Center for Mission Innovation at the C.I.A. In his essay, “The Wiki and the Blog: Toward a Complex Adaptive Intelligence Community,” Andrus posed a deceptively simple question: How did the Internet become so useful in helping people find information?
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Andrus argued that the real power of the Internet comes from the boom in self-publishing: everyday people surging online to impart their thoughts and views. He was particularly intrigued by Wikipedia, the “reader-authored” encyclopedia, where anyone can edit an entry or create a new one without seeking permission from Wikipedia’s owners. This open-door policy, as Andrus noted, allows Wikipedia to cover new subjects quickly. The day of the London terrorist bombings, Andrus visited Wikipedia and noticed that barely minutes after the attacks, someone had posted a page describing them. Over the next hour, other contributors — some physically in London, with access to on-the-spot details — began adding more information and correcting inaccurate news reports. “You could just sit there and hit refresh, refresh, refresh, and get a sort of ticker-tape experience,” Andrus told me. What most impressed Andrus was Wikipedia’s self-governing nature. No central editor decreed what subjects would be covered. Individuals simply wrote pages on subjects that interested them — and then like-minded readers would add new facts or fix errors. Blogs, Andrus noted, had the same effect: they leveraged the wisdom of the crowd. When a blogger finds an interesting tidbit of news, he posts a link to it, along with a bit of commentary. Then other bloggers find that link and, if they agree it’s an interesting news item, post their own links pointing to it. This produces a cascade effect. Whatever the first blogger pointed toward can quickly amass so many links pointing in its direction that it rockets to worldwide notoriety in a matter of hours.
Spies, Andrus theorized, could take advantage of these rapid, self-organizing effects. If analysts and agents were encouraged to post personal blogs and wikis on Intelink — linking to their favorite analyst reports or the news bulletins they considered important — then mob intelligence would take over. In the traditional cold-war spy bureaucracy, an analyst’s report lived or died by the whims of the hierarchy. If he was in the right place on the totem pole, his report on Soviet missiles could be pushed up higher; if a supervisor chose to ignore it, the report essentially vanished. Blogs and wikis, in contrast, work democratically. Pieces of intel would receive attention merely because other analysts found them interesting. This grass-roots process, Andrus argued, suited the modern intelligence challenge of sifting through thousands of disparate clues: if a fact or observation struck a chord with enough analysts, it would snowball into popularity, no matter what their supervisors thought.
A profusion of spy blogs and wikis would have another, perhaps even more beneficial impact. It would drastically improve the search engines of Intelink. In a paper that won an honorable mention in the Galileo Awards, Matthew Burton — the young former D.I.A. analyst — made this case. He pointed out that the best Internet search engines, including Google, all use “link analysis” to measure the authority of documents. When you type the search “Afghanistan” into Google, it finds every page that includes that word. Then it ranks the pages in part by how many links point to the page — based on the idea that if many bloggers and sites have linked to a page, it must be more useful than others. To do its job well, Google relies on the links that millions of individuals post online every day.
This, Burton pointed out, is precisely the problem with Intelink. It has no links, no social information to help sort out which intel is significant and which isn’t. When an analyst’s report is posted online, it does not include links to other reports, even ones it cites. There’s no easy way for agents to link to a report or post a comment about it. Searching Intelink thus resembles searching the Internet before blogs and Google came along — a lot of disconnected information, hard to sort through. If spies were encouraged to blog on Intelink, Burton reasoned, their profuse linking could mend that situation. “
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Imagine having tools that could spot emerging patterns for you and guide you to documents that might be the missing pieces of evidence you’re looking for,” Burton wrote in his Galileo paper. “Analytical puzzles, like terror plots, are often too piecemeal for individual brains to put together. Having our documents aware of each other would be like hooking several brains up in a line, so that each one knows what the others know, making the puzzle much easier to solve.”
With Andrus and Burton’s vision in mind, you can almost imagine how 9/11 might have played out differently. In Phoenix, the F.B.I. agent Kenneth Williams might have blogged his memo noting that Al Qaeda members were engaging in flight-training activity. The agents observing a Qaeda planning conference in Malaysia could have mentioned the attendance of a Saudi named Khalid al-Midhar; another agent might have added that he held a multi-entry American visa. The F.B.I. agents who snared Zacarias Moussaoui in Minnesota might have written about their arrest of a flight student with violent tendencies. Other agents and analysts who were regular readers of these blogs would have found the material interesting, linked to it, pointed out connections or perhaps entered snippets of it into a wiki page discussing this new trend of young men from the Middle East enrolling in pilot training.
As those four original clues collected more links pointing toward them, they would have amassed more and more authority in the Intelink search engine. Any analysts doing searches for “Moussaoui” or “Al Qaeda” or even “flight training” would have found them. Indeed, the original agents would have been considerably more likely to learn of one another’s existence and perhaps to piece together the topography of the 9/11 plot. No one was able to prevent 9/11 because nobody connected the dots. But in a system like this, as Andrus’s theory goes, the dots are inexorably drawn together. “Once the intelligence community has a robust and mature wiki and blog knowledge-sharing Web space,” Andrus concluded in his essay, “the nature of intelligence will change forever.”
At first glance, the idea might seem slightly crazy. Outfit the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. with blogs and wikis? In the civilian world, after all, these online tools have not always amassed the most stellar reputations. There are many valuable blogs and wikis, of course, but they are vastly outnumbered by ones that exist to compile useless ephemera, celebrity gossip and flatly unverifiable assertions. Nonetheless, Andrus’s ideas struck a chord with many very senior members of the office of the director of national intelligence. This fall, I met with two of them: Thomas Fingar, the patrician head of analysis for the D.N.I., and Mike Wertheimer, his chief technology officer, whose badge clip sports a button that reads “geek.” If it is Meyerrose’s job to coax spy hardware to cooperate, it is Fingar’s job to do the same for analysts.
Fingar and Wertheimer are now testing whether a wiki could indeed help analysts do their job. In the fall of 2005, they joined forces with C.I.A. wiki experts to build a prototype of something called Intellipedia, a wiki that any intelligence employee with classified clearance could read and contribute to. To kick-start the content, C.I.A. analysts seeded it with hundreds of articles from nonclassified documents like the C.I.A. World Fact Book. In April, they sent out e-mail to other analysts inviting them to contribute, and sat back to see what happened.
By this fall, more than 3,600 members of the intelligence services had contributed a total of 28,000 pages. Chris Rasmussen, a 31-year-old “knowledge management” engineer at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, spends part of every day writing or editing pages. Rasmussen is part of the younger generation in the intelligence establishment that is completely comfortable online; he regularly logs into a sprawling, 50-person chat room with other Intellipedians, and he also blogs about his daily work for all other spies to read. He told me the usefulness of Intellipedia proved itself just a couple of months ago, when a small two-seater plane crashed into a Manhattan building. An analyst created a page within 20 minutes, and over the next two hours it was edited 80 times by employees of nine different spy agencies, as news trickled out. Together, they rapidly concluded the crash was not a terrorist act. “In the intelligence community, there are so many ‘Stay off the grass’ signs,” Rasmussen said. “But here, you’re free to do what you want, and it works.”
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By the late summer, Fingar decided the Intellipedia experiment was sufficiently successful that he would embark on an even more high-profile project: using Intellipedia to produce a “national intelligence estimate” for Nigeria. An N.I.E. is an authoritative snapshot of what the intelligence community thinks about a particular state — and a guide for foreign and military policy. Nigeria, Fingar said, is a complex country, with issues ranging from energy to Islamic radicalism to polio outbreaks to a coming election. Intellipedia’s Nigeria page will harness the smarts of the dozen or so analysts who specialize in the country. But it will also, Fingar hopes, attract contributions from other intelligence employees who have expertise Fingar isn’t yet aware of — an analyst who served in the Peace Corps in Nigeria, or a staff member who has recently traveled there. In the traditional method of producing an intelligence estimate, Fingar said, he would call every agency and ask to borrow their Africa expert for a week or two of meetings. “And they’d say: ‘Well, I only got one guy who can spell Nigeria, and he’s traveling. So you lose.’ ” In contrast, a wiki will “change the rules of who can play,” Fingar said, since far-flung analysts and agents around the world could contribute, day or night.
Yet Intellipedia also courts the many dangers of wikis — including the possibility of error. What’s to stop analysts from posting assertions that turn out to be false? Fingar admits this will undoubtedly happen. But if there are enough people looking at an entry, he says, there will always be someone to catch any grave mistakes. Rasmussen notes that though there is often strong disagreement and debate on Intellipedia, it has not yet succumbed to the sort of vandalism that often plagues Wikipedia pages, including the posting of outright lies. This is partly because, unlike with Wikipedia, Intellipedia contributors are not anonymous. Whatever an analyst writes on Intellipedia can be traced to him. “If you demonstrate you’ve got something to contribute, hey, the expectation is you’re a valued member,” Fingar said. “You demonstrate you’re an idiot, that becomes known, too.”
While the C.I.A. and Fingar’s office set up their wiki, Meyerrose’s office was dabbling in the other half of Andrus’s equation. In July, his staff decided to create a test blog to collect intelligence. It would focus on spotting and predicting possible avian-flu outbreaks and function as part of a larger portal on the subject to collect information from hundreds of sources around the world, inside and outside of the intelligence agencies. Avian flu, Meyerrose reasoned, is a national-security problem uniquely suited to an online-community effort, because information about the danger is found all over the world. An agent in Southeast Asia might be the first to hear news of dangerous farming practices; a medical expert in Chicago could write a crucial paper on transmission that was never noticed by analysts.
In August, one of Meyerrose’s assistants sat me down to show me a very brief glimpse of the results. In the months that it has been operational, the portal has amassed 38,000 “active” participants, though not everyone posts information. In one corner was the active-discussion area — the group blog where the participants could post their latest thoughts about avian flu and others could reply and debate. I noticed a posting, written by a university academic, on whether the H5N1 virus could actually be transmitted to humans, which had provoked a dozen comments. “See, these people would never have been talking before, and we certainly wouldn’t have heard about it if they did,” the assistant said. By September, the site had become so loaded with information and discussion that Rear Adm. Arthur Lawrence, a top official in the health department, told Meyerrose it had become the government’s most crucial resource on avian flu.
The blog seemed like an awfully modest thing to me. But Meyerrose insists that the future of spying will be revolutionized as much by these small-bore projects as by billion-dollar high-tech systems. Indeed, he says that overly ambitious projects often result in expensive disasters, the way the F.B.I.’s $170 million attempt to overhaul its case-handling software died in 2005 after the software became so complex that the F.B.I. despaired of ever fixing the bugs and shelved it. In contrast, the blog software took only a day or two to get running. “We need to think big, start small and scale fast,” Meyerrose said.
Moving quickly, in fact, is crucial to building up the sort of critical mass necessary to make blogs and wikis succeed. Back in 2003, a Department of Defense agency decided to train its analysts in the use of blog software, in hopes that they would begin posting about their work, read one another’s blogs and engage in productive conversations. But the agency’s officials trained only small groups of perhaps five analysts a month. After they finished their training, those analysts would go online, excited, and start their blogs. But they’d quickly realize no one else was reading their posts aside from the four other people they’d gone through the training with. They’d get bored and quit blogging, just as the next trainees came online.
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There was never a tipping point — “never a moment when two people who never knew each other could begin discussing something,” as Clay Shirky, a professor at New York University who was hired to consult on the project, explained to me. For the intelligence agencies to benefit from “social software,” he said, they need to persuade thousands of employees to begin blogging and creating wikis all at once. And that requires a cultural sea change: persuading analysts, who for years have survived by holding their cards tightly to their chests, to begin openly showing their hands online.
Is it possible to reconcile the needs of secrecy with such a radically open model for sharing? Certainly, there would be merit in a system that lets analysts quickly locate like-minded colleagues around the world to brainstorm new ideas about how the Iraqi insurgency will evolve. But the intelligence agencies also engage in covert operations that ferret out truly incendiary secrets: the locations of Iranian nuclear facilities, say, or the name of a Qaeda leader in Pakistan. Is this the sort of information that is safe to share widely in an online network?
Many in the intelligence agencies suspect not. Indeed, they often refuse to input sensitive intel into their own private, secure databases; they do not trust even their own colleagues, inside their own agencies, to keep their secrets safe. When the F.B.I. unveiled an automated case-support system in 1995, agents were supposed to begin entering all information from their continuing cases into it, so that other F.B.I. agents could benefit from the collected pool of tips. But many agents didn’t. They worried that a hard-won source might be accidentally exposed by an F.B.I. agent halfway across the country. Worse, what would happen if a hacker or criminal found access to the system?
These are legitimate concerns. After the F.B.I. agent Robert Hanssen was arrested for selling the identities of undercover agents to Russia, it turned out he had found their names by trawling through records on the case-support system. As a result, many F.B.I. agents opted to keep their records on paper instead of trusting the database — even, occasionally, storing files in shoeboxes shoved under their desks. “When you have a source, you go to extraordinary lengths to protect their identities,” I. C. Smith, a 25-year veteran of the bureau, told me. “So agents never trusted the system, and rightly so.”
Worse, data errors that allow information to leak can often go undetected. Five years ago, Zalmai Azmi — currently the chief information officer of the F.B.I. — was working at the Department of Justice on a data-sharing project with an intelligence agency. He requested data that the agency was supposed to have scrubbed clean of all classified info. Yet when it arrived, it contained secret information. What had gone wrong? The agency had passed it through filters that removed any document marked “secret” — but many documents were stamped “SECRET,” in uppercase, and the filter didn’t catch the difference. The next time Azmi requested documents, he found yet more secret documents inadvertently leaked. This time it was because the documents had “S E C R E T” typed with a space between each letter, and the filter wasn’t programmed to catch that either.
A spy blogosphere, even carefully secured against intruders, might be fundamentally incompatible with the goal of keeping secrets. And the converse is also true: blogs and wikis are unlikely to thrive in an environment where people are guarded about sharing information. Social software doesn’t work if people aren’t social.
Virtually all proponents of improved spy sharing are aware of this friction, and they have few answers. Meyerrose has already strained at boundaries that make other spies deeply uneasy. During the summer, he set up a completely open chat board on the Internet and invited anyone interested to participate in a two-week-long discussion of how to improve the spy agencies’ policies for acquiring new technology.
The chat room was unencrypted and unsecured, so anyone could drop in and read the postings or mouth off. That way, Meyerrose figured, he’d be more likely to get drop-ins by engineers from small, scrappy start-up software firms who might have brilliant ideas but no other way to get an audience with intelligence chiefs. The chat room provoked howls of outrage. “People were like, ‘Hold it, can’t the Chinese and North Koreans listen in?’ ” Meyerrose told me. “And, sure, they could. But we weren’t going to be discussing state secrets. And the benefits of openness outweigh the risks.”
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For something like Intellipedia, though, which trafficks in genuinely serious intelligence, hard decisions had to be made about what risks were acceptable. Fingar says that deeply sensitive intel would never be allowed onto Intellipedia — particularly if it was operational information about a mission, like a planned raid on a terrorist compound. Indeed, Meyerrose’s office is building three completely separate versions of Intellipedia for each of the three levels of secrecy: Top Secret, Secret and Unclassified. Each will be placed on a data network configured so that only people with the correct level of clearance can see them — and these networks are tightly controlled, so sensitive information typed into the Top Secret Intellipedia cannot accidentally leak into the Unclassified one.
But will this make the Intellipedia less useful? There are a few million government employees who could look at the relatively unsecret Intellipedia. In contrast, only a few thousand intelligence officials qualify for a Top Secret clearance, and thus will be allowed into the elite version. This presents a secrecy paradox. The Unclassified Intellipedia will have the biggest readership and thus will grow the most rapidly; but if it’s devoid of truly sensitive secrets, will it be of any use?
Fingar says yes, for an interesting reason: top-secret information is becoming less useful than it used to be. “The intelligence business was initially, if not inherently, about secrets — running risks and expending a lot of money to acquire secrets,” he said, with the idea that “if you limit how many people see it, it will be more secure, and you will be able to get more of it. But that’s now appropriate for a small and shrinking percentage of information.” The time is past for analysts to act like “monastic scholars in a cave someplace,” he added, laboring for weeks or months in isolation to produce a report.
Fingar says that more value can be generated by analysts sharing bits of “open source” information — the nonclassified material in the broad world, like foreign newspapers, newsletters and blogs. It used to be that on-the-ground spies were the only ones who knew what was going on in a foreign country. But now the average citizen sitting in her living room can peer into the debates, news and lives of people in Iran. “If you want to know what the terrorists’ long-term plans are, the best thing is to read their propaganda — the stuff out there on the Internet,” the W.M.D. analyst told me. “I mean, it’s not secret. They’re telling us.”
Fingar and Andrus and other intelligence thinkers do not play down the importance of covert ops or high-tech satellite surveillance in intercepting specific jihadist plots. But in a world that is awash in information, it is possible, they say, that the meaning of intelligence is shifting. Beat cops in Indiana might be as likely to uncover evidence of a terror plot as undercover C.I.A. agents in Pakistan. Fiery sermons printed on pamphlets in the U.K. might be the most valuable tool in figuring out who’s raising money for a possible future London bombing. The most valuable spy system is one that can quickly assemble disparate pieces that are already lying around — information gathered by doctors, aid workers, police officers or security guards at corporations.
The premise of spy-blogging is that a million connected amateurs will always be smarter than a few experts collected in an elite star chamber; that Wikipedia will always move more quickly than the Encyclopaedia Britannica; that the country’s thousand-odd political bloggers will always spot news trends more quickly than slow-moving journalists in the mainstream media. Yet one of the most successful new terrorism-busting spy organizations since 9/11 does in fact function like a star chamber. The National Counterterrorism Center was established by Congress in 2004 and charged with spotting the most important terrorism threats as they emerge. The counterterrorism center is made up of representatives from every intelligence agency — C.I.A., F.B.I., N.S.A. and others — who work together under one roof. Each analyst has access to details particular to his or her agency, and they simply share information face to face. The analysts check their personal networks for the most dire daily threats and bring them to the group. In three meetings a day, the officials assess all the intel that has risen to their attention — and they jointly decide what the nation’s most serious threats are. “We call it carbon-based integration,” said William Spalding, the center’s chief information officer.
(Page 9 of 10)
When I raised the idea of collaborative tools like blogs and wikis, Spalding and Russ Travers, one of the center’s deputy directors, were skeptical. The whole reason the center works, they said, is that experts have a top-down view that is essential to picking the important information out of the surrounding chatter. The grass roots, they’ve found, are good at collecting threats but not necessarily at analyzing them. If a lot of low-level analysts are pointing to the same inaccurate posting, that doesn’t make it any less wrong.“
The key is to have very smart people culling” the daily tips, Travers told me. In October, for example, nervous rumors that a football stadium in the United States would be subject to a nuclear attack flooded the National Counterterrorism Center; analysts there immediately suspected it was spurious. “The terrorist problem has the worst signal-to-noise ratio,” Travers said. Without the knowledge that comes from long experience, he added, a fledgling analyst or spy cannot know what is important or not. The counterterrorism center, he said, should decide which threats warrant attention. “That’s our job,” he said.
The Spying 2.0 vision has thus created a curious culture battle in intelligence circles. Many of the officials at the very top, like Fingar, Meyerrose and their colleagues at the office of the director of national intelligence, are intrigued by the potential of a freewheeling, smart-mobbing intelligence community. The newest, youngest analysts are in favor of it, too. The resistance comes from the “iron majors” — career officers who occupy the enormous middle bureaucracy of the spy agencies. They might find the idea of an empowered grass roots to be foolhardy; they might also worry that it threatens their turf.
And the critics might turn out to be right. As Clay Shirky of N.Y.U. points out, most wikis and blogs flop. A wiki might never reach a critical mass of contributors and remain anemic until eventually everyone drifts away; many bloggers never attract any attention and, discouraged, eventually stop posting. Wikipedia passed the critical-mass plateau a year ago, but it is a rarity. “The normal case for social software is failure,” Shirky said. And because Intellipedia is now a high-profile experiment with many skeptics, its failure could permanently doom these sorts of collaborative spy endeavors.
There is also the practical question of running a huge civil-service agency where you have to assess the performance of your staff. It might be difficult to measure contributions to a wiki; if a brilliant piece of analysis emerges from the mob, who gets credit for it? “A C.I.A. officer’s career is advanced by producing reports,” notes David Weinberger, a fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for the Internet and Society, who consulted briefly with the C.I.A. on its social software. “His ability is judged by those reports. And that gets in the way of developing knowledge socially, where it becomes very difficult to know who added or revised what.”
In addition, civil libertarians are alarmed by the idea of spies casually passing sensitive information around from one agency to another. “I don’t want the N.S.A. passing on information about innocent Americans to local cops in San Diego,” Weinberger said. “Those laws exist for good reasons.”
In many ways, the new generation of Web-savvy spies frames the same troubling questions as the Patriot Act, which sought to break down the barriers preventing military spy agencies from conducting operations inside the United States, on American citizens, and then sharing that information with domestic groups. On a sheerly practical level, it makes sense to get rid of all barriers: why not let the N.S.A. wiretap American conversations? Vice President Cheney has argued forcefully that these historical barriers between agencies hobble the American military and intelligence forces; the Patriot Act was designed in part to eliminate them. Terrorist groups like Al Qaeda heed no such boundaries, which is precisely why they can move so quickly and nimbly.
Page 10 of 10)
Then again, there’s a limit to how much the United States ought to emulate Al Qaeda’s modus operandi. “The problems the spies face are serious; I sympathize with that,” Shirky told me. “But they shouldn’t be wiping up every bit of information about every American citizen.” The Pentagon’s infamous Total Information Awareness program, which came to light in 2002, was intended to scoop up information on citizens from a variety of sources — commercial purchase databases, government records — and mine it for suggestive terrorism connections. But to many Americans, this sort of dot-connecting activity seemed like an outrageous violation of privacy, and soon after it was exposed, the program was killed. James X. Dempsey, director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, maintains that the laws on spying and privacy need new clarity. The historic morass of legislation, including the Patriot Act, has become too confusing, he says; both spies and the public are unsure what walls exist. While Dempsey agrees that agencies should probably be allowed to swap more information than they currently do, he says that revamped rules must also respect privacy — “otherwise, we’ll keep on producing programs that violate people’s sense of what’s right, and they’ll keep getting shut down.”
For all the complaints about hardware, the challenges are only in part about technology. They are also about political will and institutional culture — and whether the spy agencies can be persuaded to change. Some former intelligence officials have expressed skepticism about whether Meyerrose and Fingar and their national-intelligence colleagues have the clout and power to persuade the agencies to adopt this new paradigm. Though D.N.I. officials say they have direct procurement authority over technology for all the agencies, there’s no evidence yet that Meyerrose will be able to make a serious impact on the eight spy agencies in the Department of Defense, which has its own annual $38 billion intelligence budget — the lion’s share of all the money the government spends on spying. When I spoke to Wilson P. Dizard III, a writer with Government Computer News who has covered federal technology issues for two decades, he said, “You have all these little barons at N.S.A. and C.I.A. and whatever, and a lot of people think they’re not going to do what the D.N.I. says, if push comes to shove.”
Today’s spies exist in an age of constant information exchange, in which everyday citizens swap news, dial up satellite pictures of their houses and collaborate on distant Web sites with strangers. As John Arquilla told me, if the spies do not join the rest of the world, they risk growing to resemble the rigid, unchanging bureaucracy that they once confronted during the cold war. “Fifteen years ago we were fighting the Soviet Union,” he said. “Who knew it would be replicated today in the intelligence community?”
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #12 on:
December 08, 2006, 01:44:26 AM »
Reliability of this source is unknown.
Spy Death Tied To American Hiroshima?
By Paul L. Williams, Ph.D. and Lee Boyland
Source - Family Security Matters
The death of Alexander Litvinenko by radiological poisoning points to the possibility that the former Soviet spy may have been involved with Islamic terrorists in the preparation of tactical nuclear weapons for use in the jihad against the United States and its NATO allies.
Litvenenko, a former KGB agent, died in London on November 23 after ingesting a microscopic amount of polonium-210. In a deathbed statement, Litvinenko blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for the poisoning - - an accusation which the Kremlin has vehemently denied. The denial is fortified by the fact that polonium-210 is a very rare radiological substance that is man-made by bombarding Bismuth-209 with neutrons within a nuclear reactor.
It is expensive to produce and difficult to handle. When Russian officials resorted to nuclear poisoning in the past - - including the assassination of two Swiss intelligence officials who were engaged with Russia and South Africa in the nuclear black market - - they relied on such readily available radiological substances as cesium-137 in salt form. According to nuclear expert David Morgan, killing a spy or political dissident with a grain or two of polonium-210 is as ludicrous as shooting a rat with a howitzer.
Litvinenko, who was born an orthodox Christian, was a convert to Islam with close ties to the Chechen rebels. His last words consisted of his desire to be buried “according to Muslim tradition.”
In recent years, considerable attention has been paid to suitcase nukes that were developed by U.S. and Soviet forces during the Cold War. Reliable sources, including Hans Blix of the United Nation, have confirmed that bin Laden purchased several of these devises from the Chechen rebels in 1996. According to Sharif al-Masri and other al Qaeda operatives who have been taken into custody, several of these weapons have been forward deployed to the United States in preparation for al Qaeda’s next attack on American soil.
This brings us to the mysterious case of Litvinenko.
The neutron source or “triggers” of the suitcase nukes are composed of beryllium-9 and polonium-210. When these two elements are combined, the alpha particle is absorbed by the nucleus of the beryllium causing it to decay by emitting a neutron. Such “triggers” were a feature of early nuclear weapons in the U.S. and Soviet stockpiles.
Polonium-210 has a half-life of 138 days, necessitating the replacement of the triggers every six months. For this reason, the suitcase nukes are far from maintenance-free. In addition, the nuclear core of these devises emit a temperature in excess of one hundred degrees Fahrenheit - - further exposing the weapons to oxidation and rust. Small wonder that al Qaeda operatives including Adnan el-Shukrijumah, who are spearheading “the American Hiroshima” have received extensive training in nuclear technology.
Polonium-beryllium triggers are packaged in foil packs about the size of a package of sugar on a restaurant table. When the twin foil packages are crushed, the elements mix and the neutrons are emitted. A courier transporting nuclear triggers could have had a mishap causing the packages to rupture and a trail of contamination to occur.
Polonium-210 is a fine powder, easily aerosolized. Litvinenko could have inhaled the powder, or had a grain or two on his fingers when he ate the sushi.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #13 on:
December 08, 2006, 12:08:31 PM »
Paul L. Williams, Ph.D. regularly predicts nuclear terrorism events, which luckily have yet to happen. I'm not overly impressed with what i've read of his thus far.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #14 on:
December 11, 2006, 03:50:38 PM »
Monday, December 11, 2006
Incoming House intelligence chief botches easy intel quiz
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas, who incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped to head the Intelligence Committee when the Democrats take over in January, failed a quiz of basic questions about al Qaeda and Hezbollah, two of the key terrorist organizations the intelligence community has focused on since the September 11, 2001 attacks.
When asked by CQ National Security Editor Jeff Stein whether al Qaeda is one or the other of the two major branches of Islam -- Sunni or Shiite -- Reyes answered "they are probably both," then ventured "Predominantly -- probably Shiite."
That is wrong. Al Qaeda was founded by Osama bin Laden as a Sunni organization and views Shiites as heretics.
Reyes could also not answer questions put by Stein about Hezbollah, a Shiite group on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations that is based in Southern Lebanon.
Stein's column about Reyes' answers was published on CQ's Web site Friday evening.
In an interview with CNN, Stein said he was "amazed" by Reyes' lack of what he considers basic information about two of the major terrorists organizations.
"If you're the baseball commissioner and you don't know the difference between the Yankees and the Red Sox, you don't know baseball," Stein said. "You're not going to have the respect of the people you work with."
While Stein said Reyes is "not a stupid guy," his lack of knowledge said it could hamper Reyes' ability to provide effective oversight of the intelligence community, Stein believes.
"If you don't have the basics, how do you effectively question the administration?" he asked. "You don't know who is on first."
Stein said Reyes is not the only member of the House Intelligence Committee that he has interviewed that lacked what he considered basic knowledge about terrorist organizations.
"It kind of disgusts you, because these guys are supposed to be tending your knitting," Stein said. "Most people are rightfully appalled."
Pelosi picked Reyes over fellow Californian Rep. Jane Harman, who had been the Intelligence Committee's ranking member, and Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida, who had been impeached as a federal judge after being accused of taking a bribe.
Calls from CNN to Reyes' office asking for reaction to Stein's column have not been returned.
Full story from CQ
Taliban Rule Book
Reply #15 on:
December 11, 2006, 05:07:38 PM »
I post this here as I think Taliban goals and tactic towards them can be derived from this:
Mon 11 Dec 2006
No smoking - but killing teachers is fine, says new Taleban rulebook
TIM ALBONE IN KABUL
KILLING a teacher is no problem as long as they have received a warning and a solid beating, but taking a beardless boy into your private quarters or spending money without your commander's permission is likely to cause big trouble.
These are just three of the 30 rules the Taleban ruling council have insisted their fighters follow in Afghanistan.
The rules have been approved by "the highest leader of the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan", Taleban-speak for Mullah Omar, the one-eyed reclusive leader of the regime who has a £5 million bounty on his head.
The rules were agreed by the 33 members of the Taleban shura, or council, and were posted on the internet.
Rule No 19 states: "Mujahideen are not allowed to take young boys with no facial hair on to the battlefield or into their private quarters."
Young boys often bear the brunt of sexually frustrated fighters and commanders who, because of strict social rules and the fact they are on the frontlines, are unable to mix with women. One of the first things the Taleban movement did when it rose to power in the 90s was to punish commanders who kept boys for sexual pleasure.
One of the most terrifying rules is No 25 which says: "Anyone who works as a teacher for the current puppet regime must receive a warning. If he nevertheless refuses to give up his job, he must be beaten. If the teacher still continues to instruct contrary to the principles of Islam, the district commander or a group leader must kill him."
Increasingly, insurgents have been targeting schools. This year alone 198 have been burnt to the ground - an increase from 150 last year.
They have also been targeting and killing teachers. The most recent attack on Saturday in the eastern province of Kunar killed five people, including two female teachers, who were sisters. It is unclear if they were given a warning and a beating first.
According to Zuhur Afghan, a spokesman for the education ministry, the death of the woman brought the number of teachers killed by insurgents this year to 20.
Despite showing no mercy for foreigners, who are described as infidels, the rules show a concern for the fighters' health. Rule No 18 asks them to refrain from smoking cigarettes.
It is made clear that the rules are obligatory and "anyone who offends this code must be judged according to the laws of the Islamic Emirates".
Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a Taleban spokesman, confirmed the authenticity of the rules in an interview.
Ignore at your peril: the regulations in full
Every Mujahid must abide by the following rules:
• 1. A Taleban commander is permitted to extend an invitation to all Afghans who support infidels so that they may convert to Islam.
• 2. We guarantee to any man, who turns his back on infidels, personal security and the security of his possessions. But if he becomes involved in a dispute, or someone accuses him of something, he must submit to our judiciary.
• 3. Mujahideen who protect new Taleban recruits must inform their commander.
• 4. A convert to the Taleban, who does not behave loyally and becomes a traitor, forfeits our protection.
• 5. A Mujahid who kills a new Taleban recruit will be punished according to Islamic law.
• 6. If a Taleban fighter wants to move to another district he must get permission from his group leader.
• 7. A Mujahid who takes a foreign infidel as prisoner with the consent of a group leader may not exchange him for other prisoners or money.
• 8. A provincial, district or regional commander may not work for a non-governmental organisation or accept money from an NGO.
• 9. Taleban may not use Jihad equipment or property for personal ends.
• 10. Every Taleb is accountable to his superiors in matters of money spending and equipment usage.
• 11. Mujahideen may not sell equipment.
• 12. A group of Mujahideen may not take in Mujahideen from another group to increase their own power.
• 13. Weapons and equipment taken from infidels or their allies must be fairly distributed among the Mujahideen.
• 14. If someone who works with infidels wants to co-operate with Mujahideen, he should not be killed. If he is killed, his murderer must stand before an Islamic court.
• 15. A Mujahid or leader who torments an innocent person must be warned by his superiors. If he does not change he must be thrown out of the Taleban movement.
• 16. It is strictly forbidden to search houses or confiscate weapons without the permission of a district or provincial commander.
• 17. Mujahideen have no right to confiscate money or personal possessions of civilians.
• 18. Mujahideen should refrain from smoking cigarettes.
• 19. Mujahideen are not allowed to take young boys with no facial hair on to the battlefield or into their private quarters.
• 20. If members of the opposition or the civil government wish to be loyal to the Taleban, we may take their conditions into consideration.
• 21. Anyone with a bad reputation or who has killed civilians during the Jihad may not be accepted into the Taleban movement.
• 22. If a Mujahid is found guilty of a crime and his commander has barred him from the group, no other group may take him in.
• 23. If a Mujahid is faced with a problem that is not described in this book, his commander must find a solution in consultation with the group.
• 24. It is forbidden to work as a teacher under the current puppet regime, because this strengthens the system of the infidels. True Muslims should apply to study with a religiously trained teacher and study in a Mosque. Textbooks must come from the period of the Jihad or from the Taleban regime.
• 25. Anyone who works as a teacher for the current puppet regime must receive a warning. If he nevertheless refuses to give up his job, he must be beaten. If the teacher still continues to instruct contrary to the principles of Islam, the district commander or a group leader must kill him.
• 26. Those NGOs that come to the country under the rule of the infidels must be treated as the government is treated. We tolerate none of their activities, whether it be building of streets, bridges, clinics, schools, madrases [schools for Koran study] or other works. If a school fails to heed a warning to close, it must be burned. But all religious books must be secured beforehand.
• 27. [With alleged criminality] As long as a person has not been convicted of espionage and punished for it, no one may take up the issue on their own. Only the district commander is in charge. Witnesses who testify must be in good psychological condition, possess an untarnished religious reputation, and not have committed a major crime.
• 28. No lower-level commander may interfere with contention among the populace. If an argument cannot be resolved, the district or regional commander must handle the matter. The case should be discussed by religious experts or a council of elders. If they find no solution, the case must be referred to religious authorities.
• 29. Every Mujahid must post a watch, day and night.
• 30. The above 29 rules are obligatory. Anyone who offends this code must be judged according to the laws of the Islamic Emirates.
Signed by the highest leader of the Islamic Emirates of Afghan-istan.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #16 on:
December 12, 2006, 11:00:04 AM »
U.S. tries Google for intelligence on Iran
Internet search yields names cited in U.N. draft resolution
• Googling Iran intel?
Dec. 11: NBC Andrea Mitchell reports on the State Department using Google to find information on Iran's nuclear program.
By Dafna Linzer
Updated: 1:24 a.m. PT Dec 11, 2006
When the State Department recently asked the CIA for names of Iranians who could be sanctioned for their involvement in a clandestine nuclear weapons program, the agency refused, citing a large workload and a desire to protect its sources and tradecraft.
Frustrated, the State Department assigned a junior Foreign Service officer to find the names another way -- by using Google. Those with the most hits under search terms such as "Iran and nuclear," three officials said, became targets for international rebuke Friday when a sanctions resolution circulated at the United Nations.
Policymakers and intelligence officials have always struggled when it comes to deciding how and when to disclose secret information, such as names of Iranians with suspected ties to nuclear weapons. In some internal debates, policymakers win out and intelligence is made public to further political or diplomatic goals. In other cases, such as this one, the intelligence community successfully argues that protecting information outweighs the desires of some to share it with the world.
But that argument can also put the U.S. government in the awkward position of relying, in part, on an Internet search to select targets for international sanctions.
None of the 12 Iranians that the State Department eventually singled out for potential bans on international travel and business dealings is believed by the CIA to be directly connected to Iran's most suspicious nuclear activities.
"There is nothing that proves involvement in a clandestine weapons program, and there is very little out there at all that even connects people to a clandestine weapons program," said one official familiar with the intelligence on Iran. Like others interviewed for this story, the official insisted on anonymity when discussing the use of intelligence.
What little information there is has been guarded at CIA headquarters. The agency declined to discuss the case in detail, but a senior intelligence official said: "There were several factors that made it a complicated and time-consuming request, not the least of which were well-founded concerns" about revealing the way the CIA gathers intelligence on Iran.
That may be why the junior State Department officer, who has been with the nonproliferation bureau for only a few months, was put in front of a computer.
More than 100 names
An initial Internet search yielded over 100 names, including dozens of Iranian diplomats who have publicly defended their country's efforts as intended to produce energy, not bombs, the sources said. The list also included names of Iranians who have spoken with U.N. inspectors or have traveled to Vienna to attend International Atomic Energy Agency meetings about Iran.
It was submitted to the CIA for approval but the agency refused to look up such a large number of people, according to three government sources. Too time-consuming, the intelligence community said, for the CIA's Iran desk staff of 140 people. The list would need to be pared down. So the State Department cut the list in half and resubmitted the names.
In the end, the CIA approved a handful of individuals, though none is believed connected to Project 1-11 -- Iran's secret military effort to design a weapons system capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The names of Project 1-11 staff members have never been released by any government and doing so may have raised questions that the CIA was not willing or fully able to answer. But the agency had no qualms about approving names already publicly available on the Internet.
"Using a piece of intel on project 1-11, which we couldn't justify in open-source reporting, or with whatever the Russians had, would have put us in a difficult position," an intelligence official said. "Inevitably, someone would have asked, 'Why this guy?' and then we would have been back to the old problem of justifying intelligence."
A senior administration official acknowledged that the back-and-forth with the CIA had been difficult, especially given the administration's desire to isolate Iran and avoid a repeat of flawed intelligence that preceded the Iraq war.
"In this instance, we were the requesters and the CIA was the clearer," the official said. "It's the process we go through on a lot of these things. Both sides don't know a lot of reasons for why either side is requesting or denying things. Sources and methods became their stated rationale and that is what they do. But for policymaking, it can be quite frustrating."
Washington's credibility in the U.N. Security Council on weapons intelligence was sharply eroded by the collapse of prewar claims about Iraq. A senior intelligence official said the intelligence community is determined to avoid mistakes of the past when dealing with Iran and other issues. "Once you push intelligence out there, you can't take it back," the official said.
U.S., French and British officials came to agree that it was better to stay away from names that would have to be justified with sensitive information from intelligence programs, and instead put forward names of Iranians whose jobs were publicly connected to the country's nuclear energy and missile programs. European officials said their governments did not rely on Google searches but came up with nearly identical lists to the one U.S. officials offered.
"We do have concerns about Iranian activities that are overt, and uranium enrichment is a case in point," said a senior administration official who agreed to discuss the process on the condition of anonymity. "We are concerned about what it means for the program, but also because enrichment is in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution."
The U.S.-backed draft resolution, formally offered by Britain and France, would impose a travel ban and freeze the assets of 11 institutions and 12 individuals, including the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, the directors of Iran's chief nuclear energy facilities, and several people involved in the missile program. It would prohibit the sale of nuclear technologies to Iran and urges states to "prevent specialised teaching or training" of Iranian nationals in disciplines that could further Tehran's understanding of banned nuclear activities.
The text says the council will be prepared to lift the sanctions if Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA's director general, concludes within 60 days that Iran has suspended its enrichment and reprocessing of uranium and has halted efforts to produce a heavy-water nuclear energy reactor.
Uneasy about sanctions
Many Security Council members are uneasy about the sanctions. The Russians and the Chinese -- whose support is essential for the resolution to be approved -- have told the United States, Britain and France they will not support the travel-ban element of the resolution, according to three officials involved in the negotiations. Russia is building a light-water nuclear reactor in Iran and some people on the sanctions list are connected to the project.
"The Russians have already told us it would be demeaning for people to ask the Security Council for permission to travel to Russia to discuss an ongoing project," a European diplomat said yesterday.
U.S. and European officials said there is room for negotiation with Russia on the names and organizations, but they also said it is possible that by the time the Security Council approves the resolution, the entire list could be removed.
"The real scope of debate will be on the number of sanctions," one diplomat said. "Companies and individuals could go off the list or go on."
Staff writer Colum Lynch at the United Nations contributed to this report.
© 2006 The Washington Post
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #17 on:
February 09, 2007, 08:44:14 AM »
From today's NY Slimes:
y DAVID S. CLOUD and MARK MAZZETTI
Published: February 9, 2007
WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 — A Pentagon investigation into the handling of prewar intelligence has criticized civilian Pentagon officials for conducting their own intelligence analysis to find links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, but said the officials did not violate any laws or mislead Congress, according to Congressional officials who have read the report.
Skip to next paragraph
The Reach of War
Go to Complete Coverage » The long-awaited report by the Pentagon’s acting inspector general, Thomas F. Gimble, was sent to Congress on Thursday. It is the first major review to rebuke senior officials working for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for the way intelligence was used before the invasion of Iraq early in 2003.
Working under Douglas J. Feith, who at the time was under secretary of defense for policy, the group “developed, produced and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and Al Qaeda relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community, to senior decision-makers,” the report concluded. Excerpts were quoted by Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who has long been critical of Mr. Feith and other Pentagon officials.
The report, and the dueling over its conclusions, shows that bitter divisions over the handling of prewar intelligence remain even after many of the substantive questions have been laid to rest and the principal actors have left the government.
In a rebuttal to an earlier draft of Mr. Gimble’s report, Eric S. Edelman, the under secretary of defense, said the group’s activities were authorized by Mr. Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul D. Wolfowitz. They did not produce formal intelligence assessments, and they were properly shared, the rebuttal said.
In a statement issued Thursday, Mr. Feith, who left the Pentagon in 2005, made similar points. Mr. Rumsfeld did not respond to telephone messages seeking comment.
According to Congressional officials, Mr. Feith’s statement and the policy office’s rebuttal, the report concluded that none of the Pentagon’s activities were illegal and that they did not violate Defense Department directives.
But the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, said in a statement that because the inspector general considered the work of Mr. Feith’s group to be “intelligence activities,” the committee would investigate whether the Pentagon violated the National Security Act of 1947 by failing to notify Congress about the group’s work.
Senator Levin, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the report a “very strong condemnation” of the Pentagon’s activities.
“I think they sought this kind of intelligence. They made it clear they wanted any kind of possible connections, no matter how skimpy, and they got it,” he said.
Mr. Feith and other officials in his Pentagon office have been accused by critics of the administration of distorting intelligence data to justify the invasion of Iraq. When Democrats were in the minority in Congress, Mr. Levin conducted an inquiry and issued a report excoriating Mr. Feith and others at the Pentagon for their conduct.
The conclusions the Pentagon team reached in the year or so before the invasion of Iraq have been generally known for some time and were largely discredited by the Sept. 11 commission, which found “no evidence” that contacts between the Iraqi government and Al Qaeda “ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship.”
According to Mr. Levin, the inspector general’s report did not make any specific recommendations, and he said that interagency coordination “will significantly reduce the opportunity for the inappropriate conduct of intelligence activities outside of intelligence channels.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee, meanwhile, is completing work on its own investigation into the use of intelligence by policy makers in the months before the Iraq war. Under Republican leadership, it had delayed an examination of Mr. Feith’s activities pending the outcome of the inspector general’s report.
The Pentagon’s rebuttal vehemently rejected the report’s contention that there was “inappropriate” use of intelligence by Pentagon civilians and said the effort to identify links between Saddam Hussein’s government and Al Qaeda was done at the direction of Mr. Wolfowitz, who was deputy defense secretary at the time.
Describing the work as a “fresh, critical look” at intelligence agency conclusions about Al Qaeda and Iraq, the Pentagon rebuttal said, “It is somewhat difficult to understand how activities that admittedly were lawful and authorized (in this case by either the secretary of defense or the deputy secretary of defense) could nevertheless be characterized as ‘inappropriate.’ ”
The Feith operation dates to shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when the Pentagon established a small team of civilians to sift through existing intelligence with the aim of finding possible links between terror networks and governments. Bush administration officials contended that intelligence agencies were ignoring reports of collaboration between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
By the summer of 2002, the group, whose membership evolved over time, was aimed at identifying links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq.
The inspector general’s report criticizes a July 25, 2002, memo, written by an intelligence analyst detailed to Mr. Feith’s office, titled, “Iraq and al-Qaida: Making the Case.”
The memo said that, while “some analysts have argued” that Osama bin Laden would not cooperate with secular Arab entities like Iraq, “reporting indicates otherwise.”
The inspector general concluded that the memo constituted an “alternative intelligence assessment” from that given by the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies and that it led to a briefing on links between Al Qaeda and Iraq that was given to senior Bush administration officials in August 2002, according to excerpts of the draft inspector general report quoted by Mr. Edelman.
It is not clear whether the inspector general revised his report after receiving the rebuttal.
The draft inspector general report said Mr. Feith’s office should have followed intelligence agency guidelines for registering differing views, “in those rare instances where consensus could not be reached.”
In his statement Thursday, Mr. Feith said he was pleased that the inspector general had cleared him of violating laws or Defense Department policies, but he called it “wrong” and “bizarre” for the report to criticize civilian officials for scrutinizing intelligence agency conclusions and passing along their findings to senior officials.
Mr. Feith also said that the inspector general’s findings reflected “confusion about the way policy and intelligence officials relate to one another in the real world.”
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #18 on:
February 13, 2007, 12:42:51 AM »
February 12, 2007; Page A14
In a reasonable world, Douglas Feith would have received an apology late last week from Senator Carl Levin. But the obsessive Democrat won't let go of his story that the Bush Administration "politicized" pre-war Iraq intelligence no matter how many times the facts disprove it. Senator Ahab is now going even further and suggesting behavior standards that would make the U.S. intelligence bureaucracy less accountable to elected officials; this could get Americans killed.
The familiar accusation against Mr. Feith is that the former Undersecretary of Defense was responsible for all the government's intelligence failures on Iraq because his office had the temerity to review and critique intelligence on the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. His alleged pressure to find a strong link is said to have so influenced apparently weak-kneed CIA analysts that they made a false case for war. Senate Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller went so far as to accuse Mr. Feith of "running a private intelligence failure [sic], which is not lawful."
This preposterous narrative has already been debunked many times -- notably in a bipartisan report from the Senate Intelligence Committee itself. That 2004 report found that not only had CIA analysts not been pressured to change their views but that Mr. Feith's review had sometimes "actually improved the Central Intelligence Agency's products." A year later the Robb-Silberman commission also found no evidence that prewar intelligence had been politicized. And last week the Defense Department's Inspector General delivered to Congress a report that likewise exonerates Mr. Feith of doing anything unlawful and acknowledges that his actions were authorized by the Secretary or Deputy Secretary of Defense.
But instead of moving on to more important things, Mr. Levin is still chasing his great white whale. He's grabbed on to an odd bit of editorializing by the Inspector General that Mr. Feith "was inappropriately performing Intelligence Activities . . . that should be performed by the Intelligence Community."
"Inappropriately"? What on Earth does that mean? The charge is so vague that it has the air of a political sop that Acting Inspector General Thomas Gimble tossed to Mr. Levin to avoid being hauled in front of the Senate and accused of a cover-up. The myth persists that Inspectors General are King Solomons who are above politics, but in this case Mr. Gimble split the baby, and in a way that could harm U.S. security.
He and Mr. Levin are essentially saying that officials appointed by an elected President aren't allowed to question the "consensus" of the "intelligence community." Yet the work of Mr. Feith's office on al Qaeda had nothing to do with what everyone now concedes was the main intelligence failure on Iraq, which was the lack of WMD stockpiles. Former CIA Director George Tenet said it was a "slam dunk" that Saddam Hussein had such stockpiles, and it was this intelligence "consensus" that the Bush Administration relied on in making its main case for war. Any links between al Qaeda and Iraq is a separate issue that was barely mentioned in the run-up to war.
Make no mistake, the people "politicizing" intelligence here are Senators Levin and Rockefeller, whose smears against Mr. Feith will have a chilling effect on anyone who wants to question "consensus" judgments in the future. This is dangerous, because if recent experience has taught us anything it is that we need far more such questioning.
It was the intelligence community that underestimated Saddam's nuclear capabilities before the first Gulf War, only to overestimate them later. It was the CIA "consensus" that also vastly overestimated the strength of the Soviet economy even as Moscow was about to sue for peace. Before 9/11 it was also the intelligence consensus -- led by former CIA Near East chief analyst Paul Pillar -- that terrorism was a minor and manageable problem. Too bad Mr. Feith and his team weren't around to scrub those judgments.
We learned much of what we know about intelligence from the late, great Cold War strategists, Albert and Roberta Wohlstetter. And what they taught was that in the intelligence business almost nothing is certain. Albert Wohlstetter especially disliked "national intelligence estimates," which were always the product of lowest-common-denominator judgments -- or group-think. These judgments, in turn, often lead to public pronouncements that claim a degree of certainty that simply doesn't exist -- and then to charges of "politicizing" intelligence when those judgments turn out not to be true.
Messrs. Levin and Rockefeller may enjoy scoring partisan points. But their nasty obsession with Mr. Feith will have the effect of endorsing more group-think as the last, best word in intelligence -- and will lead to more Iraqs and more 9/11s.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #19 on:
February 15, 2007, 03:42:09 AM »
The Covert War and Elevated Risks
By Fred Burton
Amid a general atmosphere of saber rattling by the United States and Israel, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned Feb. 8 that any aggression against his country would be met with reciprocal strikes by Iranian forces inside and outside the country. Khamenei's remarks were merely the latest installment in a drama of rhetoric, arms acquisitions, military exercises and missile launches designed to demonstrate to the United States and Israel that any potential strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities would come at a very high price.
The United States and Israel also have used overt pressure tactics in the hopes of forcing Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions and to help end the chaos in Iraq. Khamenei referred to these efforts as the "enemies' psychological operations" and said they are "an indication of weakness and a state of paralysis." Speaking to an audience of Iranian air force members in Tehran, the ayatollah railed against international sanctions and threats, saying, "Fear and surrender to enemies is a method used by those nations and officials who have not comprehended the power of national resolve, but the Iranian nation, relying on its successful experiences of the last 27 years, will stand up to any enemy and threat."
Clearly, there is a lot of rhetoric flying around. But despite the threats and bluster, it is not at all clear that the United States has either the capacity or the will to launch an actual attack against Iran -- nor is it clear that Israel has the ability to attack Iran's nuclear infrastructure on its own. For its part, Iran -- in spite of its recent weapons purchases and highly publicized missile tests -- clearly is in no position to go toe-to-toe with the U.S. military.
With neither side willing or able to confront the other in the conventional military sense, both will be looking for alternative means of achieving its goals. For any nation-state, its intelligence services are an important weapon in the arsenal -- and it now appears that a covert intelligence war between the United States and Iran, first raised by Stratfor as a possibility in March 2006, is well under way. So far, the action in this intelligence war has been confined mainly to Iraq and Lebanon. However, recent events -- including the mysterious death in January of a top Iranian nuclear scientist, who was believed to have been a target of Mossad -- indicate that this quiet war is escalating, and soon could move to fronts beyond the Middle East.
The covert intelligence war between the United States and Iran now appears to be well under way. As it has evolved against the backdrop of the war in Iraq and Tehran's nuclear ambitions, it has exhibited many characteristics that were notable in the U.S.-Soviet Cold War. For example, irreconcilable geopolitical interests and conflicting ideologies prompted the present conflict. The United States appears to be following its tried-and-true Cold War doctrine of containment, and Iran has pursued the Cold War practice of equipping and training proxies to inflict pain on an adversary that is locked in a war -- following the examples set by the Soviet Union in Vietnam and the United States in the Afghan-Soviet conflict. Other similarities include the heavy use of disinformation, propaganda, agents of influence and covert action by both sides.
With its missile purchases, tests and nuclear program, Iran also has started an arms race of sorts in the region. This arms race, along with Iran's support for Hezbollah and controversial and provocative statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, inevitably has pulled Israel into the fray. Iran clearly regards Israel as a pressure point to be used against the Americans. The regime in Tehran also views rhetorical attacks against the Jewish state -- not to mention actual attacks waged by Iran's surrogate, Hezbollah -- as a way to curry favor or gain influence with the Muslim masses. This is, in effect, the same reason the Iraqis launched Scud missiles against Israel during the first Gulf War.
Israel is far from a passive victim of Iranian skullduggery, of course. It has been involved in these types of intelligence wars since the founding of the state -- and, if one counts the Jewish insurgent and terrorist attacks against British forces and Muslims in the 1930s and 1940s, even before. Out of geopolitical necessity, the Israelis cannot take the Iranian threats lightly; they are fully engaged in this current clandestine war.
Of course, Iran is not the first country in the region to have threatened Israel with harsh rhetoric while attempting to develop nuclear weapons. Iraq was in a similar position more than 20 years ago. Thus, beginning in 1980, Israel developed a program of assassinating and threatening scientists who were associated with Iraq's nuclear weapons program. This was followed by the bombing of Iraq's Osirak reactor in June 1981. As recently as the 1990 assassination of Canadian scientist and "supergun" creator Gerald Bull, Israel's clandestine hand appears to have been working to thwart Iraqi weapons programs.
A New Salvo?
There is reason to believe that Israel -- whose reputation for conventional military strength was dealt a considerable blow during last summer's conflict with Hezbollah -- now might be dusting off the strategy it successfully employed against Iraq. Specifically, Iranian news sources on Jan. 25 reported the death (a week previously) of Ardeshir Hassanpour, a high-level scientist who is believed to have played a key role in Iran's nuclear program. His death has not been officially explained, but Stratfor sources have indicated that Hassanpour was a target of Mossad. If he was indeed assassinated by agents of Israel, it would mean the Jewish state has raised the stakes in the covert war -- and reprisals could be coming down the pike.
However, the capabilities of Iran's intelligence services today are very different from those of 1980s Iraq. Though the Iraqi service was quite adept at operating domestically -- in torturing, murdering and instilling fear in its own population -- its efforts to strike U.S. targets in Asia and Africa in January 1991 (following the launch of Operation Desert Storm) demonstrated a much lower degree of tactical sophistication and aptitude in operations abroad. The Iraqi operatives blew themselves up, planted IEDs that did not detonate and made naive mistakes, such as dispatching operatives using consecutively numbered Iraqi passports. They were simply too clumsy to wage a nuanced and complex intelligence war.
Iran is a different story. Between the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), the special operations elements of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (also called the "Pasdaran" in Farsi) and Hezbollah, the Iranians have a well-developed clandestine infrastructure that has a history of effectively conducting assassinations and terrorist attacks abroad.
The Islamic Republic's covert capabilities were honed during the revolutionary struggle and became evident soon after the shah was toppled. The revolutionaries' first targets were Iranian monarchists in exile, who were trying to foment a counterrevolution in Iran. Later, after many of these opponents had been eliminated and the threat brought under control, MOIS shifted its focus to exiled dissidents and other opponents of the regime. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, influential leaders of these groups were targeted and killed in a sophisticated campaign that stretched from the Middle East to Europe to the suburbs of Washington.
Iranian agents and surrogates also engaged in overt attacks -- kidnappings, automatic weapons and grenade attacks in public places and bombings. Hezbollah in particular was quite active on this front; notable incidents included the abductions of CIA station chief William F. Buckley in 1984 and U.S. Marine Lt. Col. William R. Higgins in 1988 (both men died in captivity), as well as numerous hijackings and bombings.
Because Iran's conventional military forces -- though among the best in the region -- are clearly no match for those of the Americans or others, the sophisticated and highly disciplined intelligence service, and its ability to carry out covert campaigns, is a key component of national security. In the past, kidnappings and assassinations -- carried out with sufficient deniability -- have proved an effective way of eliminating enemies and leveraging the country's geopolitical position without incurring unacceptable risk.
Therefore, when Khamenei warned that attacking Iran would result in the attacker's interests around the world being targeted by Iranians, he was referring not only to Iran's conventional military strength but also to its well-developed clandestine capabilities.
Reciprocity is one of the defining characteristics of an intelligence operation. For example, if a U.S. case officer were to be discovered by the Russians and PNG'd (declared "persona non grata"), it would be quite normal to see the Americans quickly detain and expel a Russian intelligence officer, known as a "Rezident." Similarly, if the FBI perceived that a Rezident was getting too provocative in his countersurveillance routine and decided to break the Rezident's car tail light or slash his tires, the bureau's Russian counterpart, the FSB, usually would respond in kind with an American case officer in Moscow. This principle extends to assassinations: If you kill one of ours, we will kill one of yours.
The concepts of reciprocity and vengeance are also deeply ingrained in the cultures and religions of the Middle East. In a conflict between the Iranians and Israelis, these concepts would figure prominently in any covert strikes -- as they frequently did in the past. To illustrate:
February 1992: Israeli agents assassinated Hezbollah leader Abbas Musawi. A month later, immediately after the 30-day mourning period for Musawi ended, the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was bombed.
July 1994: Israel Defense Forces killed dozens of Hezbollah members in a strike at the group's Ein Dardara training camp. Hezbollah's response: the vehicle bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires and attacks, eight days later, against the Israeli Embassy and a Jewish charity in London.
March 1995: MOIS carried out a well-planned strike against U.S. consulate employees in Karachi, Pakistan, killing two and wounding a third. It is believed that MOIS staged the attack in response to the killing of an Iranian intelligence officer, for which Tehran blamed the United States.
In short, Khamenei's recent threats of reciprocal attacks, in light of history, should not be taken lightly.
With this in mind, it is to be expected that the Iranians would retaliate against the party they believe to be responsible for the assassination of Hassanpour. Precisely which assets would be used in retaliation is an important question. If Hezbollah were activated, for example, one might expect a strike along the lines of the Buenos Aires or London attacks. But if MOIS operatives carried out the strike, it would have a completely different feel. MOIS frequently has employed stealth and deception to get the assassins within close range of their targets -- close enough to kill them with pistols or knives, often in the targets' homes.
If past cycles are any indication, the Iranians would take somewhere between four and six weeks to launch a reprisal -- or, in other words, a strike could come as early as the last week of February. According to source reports, MOIS and Hezbollah have been conducting pre-operational surveillance over the past year or so to collect targeting data in many different locations, so it is likely that a target already has been identified. This activity -- which began before the summer Israel/Hezbollah conflict and continued after its conclusion -- is a strong indication that the Iranians have been thinking about "off-the-shelf plans" that could be executed later as needed to protect their interests. Once plans were prepared, however, it still would be necessary to move operatives into place, acquire weapons and fine-tune details before an actual strike was carried out. This last step would require additional surveillance, so countersurveillance efforts will be crucial, especially for Israeli and Jewish targets, over the next few weeks.
(click to enlarge)
As a rule, the activities of Iranian diplomats in Western countries are watched closely in an effort to determine who among them are likely to be MOIS officers. With international tensions with Iran at their current levels, the activities of these officers will be scrutinized closely in coming weeks. American and Israeli intelligence officers also will be watching the Iranians closely in developing countries -- working with intelligence and security services of friendly countries and on a unilateral basis in locations where the host government is less cooperative -- or less competent. Meanwhile, counterintelligence agents will be taking a keen interest in anyone who meets with suspected MOIS officers -- especially Lebanese or Iranian visitors from out of town. That is because the Iranians have shown a tendency to use "out-of-town talent" to carry out attacks in the past, such as the strikes in Buenos Aires. Monitoring such activity could help to pre-empt any plans for a retaliatory strike by Iran. The Iranians know this well -- it is not a new concept -- and therefore likely would plan any retaliatory actions to take place in a country where, from their perspective, there is less risk of being detected or caught after the fact.
History and Khamenei's statement last week support the possibility that a reprisal attack very well could take place far beyond the Middle East. Countries in Asia, the Americas or Europe -- where MOIS and Hezbollah have conducted operations in the past -- are possibilities to consider. The risks to Israeli or Jewish targets are highest in areas where the Iranians have a diplomatic presence to support the mission, and where the host country's intelligence service and law enforcement officials are corrupt or otherwise ineffective.
If a strike against an Israeli or Jewish target in such a location should transpire, it would differ from a jihadist attack in that there would be no claims of credit by Iran. The attack itself would send all the message required.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #20 on:
February 21, 2007, 07:26:25 PM »
A Real Outing
The Los Angeles Times boasts that it has identified three CIA pilots who are facing kidnapping charges in Germany over a 2003 counterterrorism operation there:
The names they used were all aliases, but The Times confirmed their real identities from government databases and visited their homes this month after a German court in January ordered the arrest of the three "ghost pilots" and 10 other alleged members of the CIA's special renditions unit on charges of kidnapping and causing serious bodily harm to Khaled Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, three years ago.
None of the pilots responded to repeated requests for comment left with family members and on their home telephones. The Times is not publishing their real names because they have been charged only under their aliases.
But it does offer plenty of details about them:
In real life, the chief pilot is 52, drives a Toyota Previa minivan and keeps a collection of model trains in a glass display case near a large bubbling aquarium in his living room. Federal aviation records show he is rated to fly seven kinds of aircraft as long as he wears his glasses. . . .
His copilot, who used the alias Fain, is a bearded man of 35 who lives with his father and two dogs in a separate subdivision. . . .
The third pilot, who used the alias Bird, is 46, drives a Ford Explorer and has a 17-foot aluminum fishing boat. Certified as a flight instructor, he keeps plastic models of his favorite planes mounted by the fireplace in his living room in a house that backs onto a private golf course here [in a town of 13,000 the Times identifies in its dateline].
Remember all the outrage when Robert Novak "outed" Valerie Plame, who apparently worked a desk job at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.? Here the L.A. Times is publishing extensive personal details on three men who have actually done dangerous work defending the country. Where's the outrage?
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #21 on:
February 26, 2007, 11:36:28 AM »
February 26, 2007 -- LAST week, American troops checking traffic from Iran detained Amar al-Hakim, a cleric and the son of the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) - the key Shia political organization we're counting on.
The bust was a mistake - although the soldiers followed their orders to the letter. Young Hakim's bodyguards got to kiss the dirt while the vehicles in the cleric's convoy were searched. The troops didn't know the mullah from a moonshine runner.
SCIRI certainly has some dark connections with Iran. The party's a dubious ally, at best. But jerking the boss' kid around was, in diplo-speak, "unhelpful." Even if Hakim Jr. was smuggling money, or worse.
I'd be shocked if he wasn't. It's the Middle East, folks. We're just betting we can handle the least poisonous local snakes.
As a former Military Intelligence officer, my first reaction to teaching Little Hakim the perp walk was: "Who's responsible for tracking this guy?"
A sound intel effort would monitor all of the male family members of Iraq's key leaders 24/7. How did Hakim Jr. slip off the reservation?
My second reaction was more indulgent. Even with a first-rate intel program, mistakes happen under combat conditions. No amount of training, information flow and technical support will ever achieve perfection.
The good news is that the Army's Military Intelligence branch has been learning fast in Iraq. Official and un-official reforms are underway, driven from below by the divisional, brigade and battalion-level "deuces" who've paid their combat-zone dues.
The Military Intelligence ancien regime badly needed a trip to the guillotine. The ethical corruption of MI branch over the last quarter-century was appalling. In peacetime, we wasted billions; in wartime, we wasted lives.
While a minority of us had argued since the mid-1980s that the human factor would be paramount in our future conflicts and that technology couldn't replace the human mind, the MI establishment just went on buying platinum-plated junk that never delivered a tenth of what the contractors and apostles of hi-tech promised.
Appropriate technologies can help us - but no database or collection system is a substitute for seasoned human judgment. The key task in intelligence is understanding the enemy. Machines do many things, but they still don't register flesh-and-blood relationships, self-sacrifice or fanaticism.
Forgetting that tech is supposed to support people, we wasted talented people supporting worthless technologies.
The cardinal example of this corrosive mentality was the purchase of a multibillion-dollar, Rube Goldberg contraption called the All Source Analysis System (ASAS). Under development for more than two decades, ASAS never worked. But a generation of senior MI leaders made rank pitching the system as the answer to every intelligence need.
ASAS was going to fuse the data from every classified intel source and give the commander instant, perfect answers. Early on - in 1984 - a self-assured technocrat in uniform told me that, within 10 years, human analysts would be irrelevant.
ASAS was disastrously flawed from the start, but impossible to kill once the funding got going. Not only were MI careers at stake, Congress preferred to buy gear built by home-district contractors, rather than "waste" money on soldiers. And those contractors ensured that key MI apparatchiks wouldn't flip burgers after they retired.
When ASAS consistently failed to work, the inevitable response from above was "Make it work!"
It never did, no matter how much money we squandered.
By the time ASAS deployed to Iraq, it was an obese behemoth requiring so much technical support to achieve minimal output that it became a liability, robbing our forces of human capital needed to deal with the real problems of insurgency, such as ethnic rivalries and religious hatred. To quote one disgusted officer, ASAS was, at best, "the world's most-expensive communications van."
ASAS was the monster that ate MI.
Now ASAS has been slain at last, the one good kill our enemies made. And a new generation of officers has earned its spurs. MI's combat veterans understand what intelligence must do, and they realize that satellites can't pierce the human soul. There's a powerful reform effort underway, from Iraq and Afghanistan back to the Army Intelligence Center and School.
Today's Military Intelligence personnel are a damned sight better than my inept, physically slovenly and intellectually lazy generation was.
On a recent visit to the Intel School at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., I found that the last ASAS nonsense had been swept away. Captains returning from Iraq and Afghanistan for the Advanced Course - a training staple - had no patience with yesteryear's bureaucratic approach to intel. They know that commanders need results, not just data dumps. The lives of our soldiers depend upon the quality of our intel.
There still isn't nearly enough money for language training (Congress would rather pay contractors, as usual), and there isn't sufficient classroom time to make up fully for the lost years. But it was reassuring to see commanders, students and faculty discarding the old faith in technology's divine powers and coming to grips with the rigors of real intel work.
Under wartime pressures, Military Intelligence is finally coming of age. We'll still get some things wrong. Now and then the wrong guy will be told to assume the position. Our struggle with Islamist terror is more than Andy and Barney keeping the peace in Mayberry. MI's maturation process will take years - and more wars. The profiteers and careerists will fight back. But the reformers have the upper hand at last.
That isn't just good news for our troops, but for our country.
Ralph Peters' latest book is "Never Quit The Fight."
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #22 on:
March 04, 2007, 08:18:57 AM »
Intelligence Specialist's Shooting Stirs Speculation
No Motive Known As Comments on Putin Are Debated
By Candace Rondeaux and Lori Aratani
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, March 4, 2007; C01
In some ways, the shooting of Paul Joyal last week in a quiet, middle-class enclave of Prince George's County would seem like nothing more than a random act of violence.
But for those who know the 53-year-old expert on Russian intelligence and former staff member of the U.S. Senate's intelligence committee, the shooting has raised suspicions that his background might be behind the incident.
Law enforcement sources have said it is unclear whether the gunmen were trying to rob Joyal. He was shot in the driveway of his home shortly after returning from a trip to the International Spy Museum in the District with a friend.
Two men shot Joyal about 7:35 p.m. Thursday, sources said. The shooting occurred four days after Joyal alleged in a television broadcast that the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin was involved in the fatal poisoning of a former KGB agent in London.
Prince George's police officers have released few details about the incident, and several calls requesting comment were not returned yesterday. Joyal remained hospitalized yesterday.
But an FBI official confirmed yesterday that the agency is looking into the shooting. Joseph Persichini Jr., the FBI's assistant director in charge of the Washington field office, said his office is assisting Prince George's and the Baltimore office of the FBI in the investigation.
"We're pursuing this as hard as possible. We're not at all sure of the motive," Persichini said.
Joyal, who has long been an outspoken critic of the Putin regime, appeared in a segment on "Dateline NBC" Feb. 25 about the Alexander Litvinenko case. Litvinenko's death in November from radiation poisoning has caused widespread speculation that Putin and the Russian government were involved, because Litvinenko, a former KGB agent, was looking into the killing of a Russian journalist. Putin and Kremlin officials have repeatedly denied involvement.
In the "Dateline" interview, Joyal pointedly accused the Putin regime of silencing its critics and poisoning Litvinenko with polonium-210, a rare radioactive substance.
"It's clear-cut. It has to be a state-run or a state-managed operation," Joyal said in the interview.
The circumstances of Joyal's shooting seem worthy of a spy novel.
"I would not rule out anything, but it's hard to believe that a few days [after the broadcast] that some guys would shoot him. It could be just a regular criminal assault," said longtime family friend and former business associate Oleg Kalugin.
Kalugin, a former KGB general and Putin's former boss in the agency, met with Joyal for drinks at a restaurant at the Spy Museum a few hours before the shooting. Kalugin, a member of the museum's board, said in a phone interview yesterday that Joyal seemed in good spirits before leaving for home.
Kalugin said he was shocked when he received a panicked phone call from Joyal's wife about an hour after the men had parted, saying that Joyal had been shot in front of his Adelphi area home.
"I could not believe my ears when she said he was shot. She said Paul drove up to the house, and as he opened the door and left [the car], there were two guys, and they shot him," Kalugin said.
A source close to Joyal, who requested anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said the unidentified assailants shot Joyal in the groin and escaped.
Joyal's wife, who is a nurse, was at home at the time and ran to assist her husband as he lay bleeding in the driveway, the sources said.
Joyal was taken to a hospital, where he was initially in critical condition. A source said yesterday that Joyal had improved and that doctors were "cautiously optimistic" that he will recover.
Yesterday, four cars were parked in the driveway at Joyal's brick ranch on Lackawanna Road. A boy who answered the door declined to speak to a reporter.
Neighbors and friends said Joyal, who is a member of the Prince George's law enforcement task force, is the father of three and coaches youth basketball.
Prince George's State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey, who befriended Joyal through his work in local law enforcement, said he did not know details about the investigation.
"He's a wonderful man with a strong commitment to the community," Ivey said.
Staff writers Sari Horwitz, Eric Rich and Meg Smith contributed to this report.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #23 on:
March 05, 2007, 12:09:49 AM »
involved in Iranian general's disappearance?
Former Iranian deputy defense minister vanished about a month ago on his way from Damascus to Turkey. Iranian officials say Mossad, CIA may have been involved in his disappearance Dudi Cohen Published: 03.04.07, 22:24 / Israel News
A senior Iranian general, Ali-Raza Asgari, went missing nearly a month ago in Istanbul and Iranian officials claim that Israel and the United States may have had a hand in his disappearance.
Several days ago, Iranian website Baztab, which is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, reported that during the 1980s Asgari held a senior position in the Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon , and that following his return to Iran he was appointed deputy defense minister.
No official source in Iran has commented on the report about the disappearance, but a top official told Baztab that "some of the claims in the report are unequivocally incorrect."
The general's disappearance was first reported at the end of February in the Saudi newspaper al-Watan. The paper said that at the beginning of February Asgari visited Damascus and later flew o Istanbul in Turkey, where he checked into a hotel.
"Several Turkish citizens reserved a room for Asgari at the Gilan Hotel in Istanbul and paid for it, but haven't heard from him since," the paper stated.
"In a meeting held by the Turkish security officials with an Iranian delegation, the possibility was raised that the Mossad and the CIA were involved in his disappearance," it added.
Security sources in Turkey told a local newspaper that so far, the searches for Asgari have yielded no results. According to a Turkish official, "The records do not show that a person under this name left Turkey, but given his sensitive job and the important information he possesses regarding the Iranian nuclear program, the possibility that he left Turkey using a fake passport and an alias is being examined." Former Iranian deputy defense minister vanished about a month ago on his way from Damascus to Turkey. Iranian officials say Mossad, CIA may have been involved in his disappearance Dudi Cohen Published: 03.04.07, 22:24 / Israel News
A senior Iranian general, Ali-Raza Asgari, went missing nearly a month ago in Istanbul and Iranian officials claim that Israel and the United States may have had a hand in his disappearance.
Several days ago, Iranian website Baztab, which is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, reported that during the 1980s Asgari held a senior position in the Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon , and that following his return to Iran he was appointed deputy defense minister.
No official source in Iran has commented on the report about the disappearance, but a top official told Baztab that "some of the claims in the report are unequivocally incorrect."
The general's disappearance was first reported at the end of February in the Saudi newspaper al-Watan. The paper said that at the beginning of February Asgari visited Damascus and later flew o Istanbul in Turkey, where he checked into a hotel.
"Several Turkish citizens reserved a room for Asgari at the Gilan Hotel in Istanbul and paid for it, but haven't heard from him since," the paper stated.
"In a meeting held by the Turkish security officials with an Iranian delegation, the possibility was raised that the Mossad and the CIA were involved in his disappearance," it added.
Security sources in Turkey told a local newspaper that so far, the searches for Asgari have yielded no results. According to a Turkish official, "The records do not show that a person under this name left Turkey, but given his sensitive job and the important information he possesses regarding the Iranian nuclear program, the possibility that he left Turkey using a fake passport and an alias is being examined."
This is the second Iranian high official to either have come up missing or dead in about the last months time. We can all only hope more will follow.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #24 on:
March 07, 2007, 02:33:24 PM »
Geopolitical Diary: Iranian Secrets on the Loose?
Ali Reza Askari, a former aide to the Iranian defense minister and a retired general with long service in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has been missing since Feb. 7. He reportedly was last seen in Istanbul. After his disappearance, Arab newspapers quickly fingered Mossad and the CIA for his assassination or kidnapping. Iranian officials made similar claims. On Tuesday, the independent Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat offered a different explanation: Askari had defected, turning himself over to U.S. agents in Turkey.
After visiting Damascus on official business, Askari reportedly flew to Istanbul on a personal trip. Menashe Amir, an Israeli analyst of Iranian affairs, has said that Askari's family left Iran ahead of him and met up with him in Istanbul. That his disappearance appears to have happened while he was traveling abroad with his family seems a remarkable coincidence. And Istanbul is a particularly convenient location for the U.S. intelligence community: Turkey's intelligence agencies are on good terms with their American counterparts, and U.S. military flights are quite common.
While Asharq Al-Awsat has occasionally been used by Riyadh for disinformation purposes -- and both the Saudis and the Israelis (and essentially everyone else discussing his disappearance) have cause to manipulate perceptions of Iran -- the fact remains that a covert war is raging, and has been. Mossad has likely taken out Ardeshir Hassanpour, a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist. In Iraq, the United States has raided an Iranian consulate and arrested Iranian citizens, including Mohsen Shirazi, a commander of the elite IRGC Quds Brigade.
One thing is clear: Askari is missing and Tehran is at least pretending to be worried. An Iranian delegation arrived in Istanbul last week to investigate, and has reportedly contacted Interpol. Some of the details of Askari's military career have been closely guarded by the Iranian government, but indications are that he has been heavily involved in strategic affairs as well as military purchases and production. Israeli sources claim that he was the commander of the IRGC in Lebanon in the late 1980s, where he served as a liaison with Hezbollah. He could even be privy to information on Tehran's nuclear program.
Iran appears to be operating on the assumption that Askari might have been compromised. While the true scope and pertinence of his knowledge is known only to Tehran (or was, prior to Feb. 7), the damage he could do to Iran is almost certainly significant. Reports that dozens of IRGC members working in cultural centers and embassies in the Arab world and Europe have been called back to Tehran, for fear that their identities will be disclosed, lend credence to the utility of the information Askari might offer. Some sources have characterized his possible defection as a "deathblow."
While a kidnapped Askari would be of deep concern, an Askari who defected willingly would be a nightmare for Tehran. And this situation could be even more dire than just Askari walking in out of the cold and asking for asylum. The U.S. intelligence community could already have been working him for months -- or years.
Brushing aside the loss of someone like Askari simply might not be possible for Tehran. A defense establishment that has gone out of its way to appear threatening and capable could be exposed as a fake. Or even if it truly is dangerous and capable, its best laid battle plans and contingencies might now be in the hands of the Pentagon. From Iranian lines of communication to Hezbollah, to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's evacuation plans in the event of a U.S. attack, the possible revelations are numerous and highly sensitive.
Of course, Askari could be a double agent and Iran's "concern" could be feigned. His high position would certainly suggest a strong loyalty to the clerical regime. But making a double agent out of someone with such a vast array of devastating information seems to place too much directly into the hands of the United States -- an awful gamble for Tehran.
Whatever the case, the stakes in the covert war have almost certainly been raised.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #25 on:
March 10, 2007, 08:06:52 AM »
March 9, 2007 -- 'A VERY big fish" - so Tehran sources de scribe former Deputy Defense Minister Ali-Reza Askari (sometimes called "Asghari" in the West), who disappeared in Istanbul on Sunday.
Askari's disappearance fits an emerging pattern. Since December, the United States and its allies appear to have moved onto the offensive against the Islamic Republic's networks of influence in the Middle East:
* Jordan has seized 17 Iranian agents, accused of trying to smuggle arms to Hamas, and deported them quietly after routine debriefing.
* A number of Islamic Republic agents have been identified and deported in Pakistan and Tunisia.
* At least six other Iranian agents have been picked up in Gaza, where they were helping Hamas set up armament factories.
* In the past three months, some 30 senior Iranian officials, including at least two generals of Revolutionary Guards, have been captured in Iraq.
All but five of the Islamic Republic agents seized in Iraq appear to have been released. One of those released was Hassan Abbasi, nicknamed "the Kissinger of Islam," who is believed to be President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's strategic advisor.
Among those still held by the Americans is one Muhammad Jaafari Sahraroudi, a senior Revolutionary Guard commander wanted by the Austrian police in connection with the murder of three Iranian Kurdish leaders in Vienna in 1989.
All this looks like a message to Tehran that its opponents may be moving on to the offensive in what looks like a revival of tactics used in the Cold War.
But let us return to the "big fish."
A retired two-star general of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, Askari had just led a military mission to Damascus, the Syrian capital. He was making a private "shopping stopover" in Turkey on his way back to Tehran.
The Iranian mission's task was to lay the foundations for a Syrian armament industry, licensed to manufacture Iranian-designed weapons. The 30 or so experts that had accompanied Askari remained in Syria to work out the technical details.
According to some reports, Askari had stopped over in Istanbul to meet with an unidentified Syrian arms dealer who lives in Paris.
Having at first denied reports of the general's disappearance, Tehran authorities eventually came out with a confirmation. The Islamic Republic's police chief, Gen. Ismail Ahmadi-Muqaddam, issued a statement Tuesday claiming that the missing general had been abducted by a Western intelligence service and taken to "a country in northern Europe."
Foreign Ministry sources in Tehran, however, said that Askari might have defected, possibly to the United States, where he has relatives. Some reports in the Iranian and Arab media suggest that the Israeli secret service Mossad and the CIA are behind Askari's disappearance.
Israel has denied involvement in the general's disappearance, but The London Daily Telegraph speculated on Monday that Askari could have been abducted by Israel to shed light on the whereabouts of Israel Air Force Lt.-Col. Ron Arad, missing since 1986, who might have been held at one point by Iran. Askari was involved in a deal to transfer Arad to Tehran after his capture by the Lebanese Hezbollah.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was quoted Monday as saying Iran was "taking necessary steps" to solve the case: "A director-general from the [foreign] ministry has traveled to Turkey . . . We have asked Turkey to investigate Askari's case."
According to Iranian sources, Askari, in his late 50s, joined the Islamic Revolutionary Guard (IRG) at its very start in 1979. He was an associate of Mostafa Chamran, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Iranian origin who returned to Iran when the mullahs seized power in 1979 and helped found the IRG. When Chamran was appointed defense minister two years later, Askari became one of his advisers.
Always in the shadows, Askari was in charge of a program to train foreign Islamist militants as part of Tehran's strategy of "exporting" the Khomeinist revolution.
In 1982-83, Askari (along with Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Mohatashami-Pour) founded the Lebanese branch of Hezbollah and helped set up its first military units. The two men supervised the 1983 suicide attacks on the U.S. Embassy and on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut - killing more than 300 Americans, including 241 Marines. Iranian sources say Askari was part of a triumvirate of Revolutionary Guard officers that controlled Hezbollah's armed units until the end of the '90s.
Askari led the 500-man Iranian military mission in Beirut from 1998 to 2000 before returning home to work for the Strategic Defense Procurement Committee. In that capacity, he often traveled abroad to negotiate arms deals.
Tehran sources claim that Askari was also involved in Iran's controversial nuclear program, which, although presented as a civilian project, is controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. They also say that last November he was appointed a member of the Strategic Defense Planning Commission set up by Ali Khamenei, the "Supreme Guide."
Indeed, Iran is rife with rumors about the case: Askari has been transferred to Romania, where he is being debriefed by the Americans; he had documents with him, mostly related to Iran's military purchases abroad; Israeli efforts to see him (in connection with his years of running Hezballah) have so far failed to meet with success . . .
Whether he defected or was abducted, Askari is a big catch with a mine of information about the activities of the Revolutionary Guard and its elite arm, the Quds Corps, which controls Arab and Turkish radical groups financed by Tehran. Last month, the United States accused the Quds Corps of supplying special projectiles to terrorists in Iraq to kill GIs.
Iranian-born journalist and author Amir Taheri is based in Europe.
Askari is a big catch, with a mine of information about the activities of the Revolutionary Guard.</B>
a different interpretation:
Date: 3/8/2007 6:53:43 PM
Subject: [ASA] Iranian General Reportedly Defects
Iranian General Reportedly Defects
Kenneth R. Timmerman
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
A former high-ranking Iranian government official, Brig. Gen. Alireza
Asghari, 63, has defected to the United States, Iranian exiles and
other sources told Newsmax today.
Asghari had access to highly-classified intelligence information and
"defected to the Americans with lots of secrets," respected Iranian
journalist Alireza Nourizadeh told Newsmax from London.
The disappearance of the former Revolutionary Guards General has
created a panic in Tehran.
Gen. Asghari left Iran on an officially-sanctioned trip to Damascus,
Syria, then went missing during a stop-over in Istanbul, Turkey on
February 7, according to statements by Iranian government officials
Nourizadeh believes he had been sent to Damascus to supervise an arms
deal between Iran and Syria that was signed last June during a trip
to Tehran by Syria's defense minister.
"It is possible that former deputy defense minister Asghari was
kidnapped by Western intelligence services because of his Defense
Ministry background," the head of Iran's national police, Gen. Ismail
Ahmadi-Moghaddam, said in Tehran yesterday.
But Newsmax has learned from Iranian sources that Gen. Asghari's
family also managed to leave Iran just before he went missing, and
that he sold his house in the Narmak area of Tehran in December.
Both are considered clear indications that he defected and had been
planning his departure for some time.
As a senior member of the general staff of the Revolutionary Guards
Corps, Gen. Asghari had access to highly-classified operational
information, as well as strategic planning documents, said Shahriar
Ahy, an Iranian political analyst based in Washington, D.C. "It will
take them months to know just what they've lost," Ahy told Newsmax
The damage control investigation could reach the very summit of the
Iranian government because of Gen. Asghari's long-standing personal
relationship to former Defense minister Admiral Ali Shakhani, Any
said. "The loss of Gen. Asghari will severely hamper the regime's
operations outside the country, because he will pull back the cloth
on what he knows," Ahy said. "Intelligence agents will be called
back, and operations will be put into deep freeze" as the regime
tries to figure out what secrets Asghari compromised.
Gen. Asghari is believed to have detailed knowledge of the
Revolutionary Guards Qods Force units operating in Iraq. He is also
believed to have come out with extensive information on Iran's
clandestine nuclear weapons program, which will make it harder for
Russia and China to come to Iran's defense at the ongoing 6-power
talks on Iran's nuclear program.
From 1989-1993, Gen. Asghari was stationed in Lebanon as Iran's
liaison to Hezbollah. Israeli press accounts have identified him as
the Iranian official who "knows the most" about what happened to
Israeli navigator Ron Arad, who was reportedly "sold" to Iran after
his plane was shot down over southern Lebanon in 1986.
The Iranian regime requires top official such as Gen. Asghari to
obtain an authorization before they can travel abroad. Gen. Asghari's
10-day trip to Syria was approved by the military judicial
authorities, sources inside Iran told Newsmax. Two days after he
arrived in Damascus, his family managed to leave Iran, the sources
said. The main impediment to defections by high-ranking Iranian
officials is fear that any family members left behind will be
arrested, tortured, and possibly killed.
The Persian-language website Baztab.com claims that Gen. Asghari's
name was on a CIA "hit list" of twenty former Revolutionary Guards
officers. Baztab is owned by former Revolutionary Guards commander
Gen. Mohsen Rezai, now a top aide to former president Ali Akbar
Hashemi-Rafsanjani. Alireza Nourizadeh, the Iranian journalist based
in London, tells Newsmax that Gen. Asghari planned his defection
carefully. "While he was in Damascus, he sent a fax or an email to
Tehran saying that one of his contacts, who was an arms dealer, was
in Turkey and wanted to meet him," he told Newsmax. "So they gave him
permission to go to Turkey, where he defected."
The Iranian military attaché in Istanbul had reserved a room for Gen.
Asghari at the Continental hotel, Nourizadeh said, but Asghari
complained that it was not safe. Instead, he booked three rooms at
the Gilan Hotel, in the Tacsim district which is popular among
Iranians. "After calling a relative in Tehran, he left the hotel at
6:30 PM and disappeared," he said.
During the 1990s, Gen. Asghari was in charge of short and medium-
range missile projects at the Defense Industries Organization. "He
ran the Nazeat, Fajr, and Zelzal missile programs," Nourizadeh said.
From 1996-1997, he worked on secret nuclear procurement projects, and
traveled frequently to Russia, China, North Korea, and Southeast Asia
buying equipment and parts.
Nourizadeh believes Gen. Asghari defected because he had incurred the
wrath of his superiors in the Defense ministry during a stint as the
Defense Ministry's Inspector General. "He discovered two gangs of
corrupt officials who had embezzled the government for $90 million
and $150 million," Nourizadeh said. "After he exposed them, he was
arrested. He was Mr. Clean."
Eventually, Gen. Asghari was rehabilitated and put to work on the
Iran-Syria arms deals signed last year, but he never forgave his
superiors for orchestrating his fall from power.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #26 on:
March 14, 2007, 07:36:21 PM »
The Asghari Case: Defection and Damage Control
March 14, 2007 19 52 GMT
By Fred Burton
Ali Reza Asghari, a former Iranian deputy defense minister and Pasdaran commander, went missing from Istanbul several weeks ago. After his disappearance -- which Turkish authorities say could have been as long ago as December but was not reported to them by Iran until early February -- Arab newspapers began to insinuate that Mossad and the CIA were responsible for having had him abducted or killed. These claims were echoed by Iranian officials. Last week, however, the Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat independent newspaper reported that Asghari had defected to the U.S. government while traveling in Turkey. This report was confirmed by the Washington Post, which quoted a senior U.S. intelligence official March 8 as saying Asghari was cooperating voluntarily -- and fully -- with Western intelligence agencies.
The United States and Iran have been locked in a covert "intelligence war" that has been raging for some time now. And, as in the Cold War, this war likely will involve the use of tactics ranging from assassinations and clandestine operations to propaganda, disinformation and the use of military proxies. Defectors and agents of influence also have been a feature of such wars in the past -- which brings us back to the Asghari case.
The significance of Asghari's disappearance stems entirely from his background. Not only did he serve as Iran's deputy defense minister under former President Mohammed Khatami, but he also is a retired general who was a commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the 1980s and 1990s. Therefore, the Iranians clearly have worried that he might be providing Western intelligence agencies with a wealth of information on the capabilities of the Iranian armed forces, and possibly helping to improve their understanding of the relationship between the IRGC (or "Pasdaran," in Farsi) and Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Iraqi Shiite groups such as the Mehdi Army and the Badr Brigade. Given his background, he also would be in a position to shed light on the Pasdaran's clandestine abilities abroad and perhaps identify other Iranian intelligence officers. In other words, Asghari could prove an important (and timely) catch for U.S. intelligence, especially if he had been working with the United States as an "agent in place" for a long period.
In an intelligence war -- or just at routine levels of good old-fashioned espionage -- the defection of a figure like Asghari can prove useful in more ways than one. To understand this case and its potential twists and turns a bit better, let's take a look at the definitions and specific stages of the intelligence process surrounding defections: vetting, extraction and debriefings.
To begin at the beginning, a "defector" is a person who abandons allegiance to one country in order to serve another. Like other intelligence sources, there are two basic types of defectors: those who are sought, or recruited, and those who volunteer.
Sources who are recruited are approached by intelligence agencies because they are in a certain position in government or society and have access to what is deemed important information. They are people who can provide the information to satisfy key intelligence requirements. While some sources might leave their native countries soon after being recruited, there have been many cases when it was found, after defection, that the person had worked as either an agent in place or an "agent of influence" -- someone who can help to shape government policy, public opinion or even military decisions -- for the recruiting country. Such agents can stay in place for years before "coming in from the cold," or physically defecting, to the recruiting country.
Well-positioned agents in place provide unique insight into the thinking, mindset and planning of the leadership of the government on which they have been spying. They provide crucial insight that cannot be gathered through technical means. In other words, you can use technology to take a picture of a man or listen to his telephone conversations, but those things might not provide you with information or even very good clues about his thoughts and plans. That kind of information comes only from human sources with the right access.
The second type of defector, the one who volunteers, is called a "walk-in" -- because, frequently, they literally do walk into the embassy or consulate of a foreign country and volunteer their services. Walk-ins are problematic because they often appear when they are least expected; therefore, intelligence-gathering operations involving walk-ins are often hectic affairs that must be quickly conceived and implemented. Furthermore, if the person who walks in is not careful, their very presence at a foreign embassy can out them to the host country's counterintelligence forces (which can be expected to be monitoring the embassy). That makes it difficult to retain a walk-in as an agent in place, and adds to the challenges of getting him out of the country when needed for an in-depth debriefing. However, it can be done: CIA officer Aldrich Ames was a walk-in to the Soviet Embassy in Washington but the KGB (and its successor, the FSB) managed to work him as an agent in place for nearly 10 years before he was detected and arrested.
A highly placed source like Ames is a dream come true for an intelligence officer -- and the worst nightmare for a counterintelligence service.
Vetting the source -- to affirm whether he or she is genuine -- is an important part of all espionage recruitment operations, and defectors are not excepted from this rule. Many walk-ins turn out to be "fabricators," "dangles" (people sent into the embassy in an order to identify the nondeclared intelligence officers stationed there) or "double agents" (those who appear to be defectors but who actually are used to spread disinformation and to determine how the opponent's intelligence service functions). While there is not much danger of a source who is targeted for recruitment being a fabricator, there is a danger of that person being a dangle, or a double agent. Vetting of both the source and the information provided by the source is essentially a continuous process; the defector will be closely monitored (and subjected to polygraph exams) throughout his period of employment.
Once a spy has been identified, recruited and initially vetted -- and found to be of value -- the intelligence service must determine the best way to use that person. As noted, the source might be left in place to collect additional information, or whisked out of the country for a debriefing. Either way, the source must eventually be extracted from the country in a clandestine fashion. This extraction process is sometimes called an "exfiltration" -- the opposite of an infiltration.
While some extractions can be dramatic, not all of them are Hollywood productions involving submarines and special operations forces. Because such operations are not only dangerous but also costly, they are carried out only under extreme circumstances. Most extractions are intended to be far more low-key: Quite often, the sneakiest way to commit an operational act is to do it in a mundane fashion, in plain sight. Therefore, it is far more common for defectors to leave their home countries under the ruse of taking a vacation or, as with Asghari, for business reasons. (That said, people are still occasionally smuggled out of embassy parking garages in the trunks of a cars.)
Time is an important consideration in extractions: Generally, the more time one has to plan and execute an extraction, the smoother and more low-key it will be. Location is also critical. Getting a person out of an open society is much easier than getting them out of a repressive society with strict travel regulations.
Once a defector gets to a third country for "vacation" or to "attend a conference," they can be picked up and spirited away. But again, time is a critical factor: If a person is watched closely by his government and cannot stray far from a security officer, or "minder," those planning the extraction will have significantly less time to operate than they otherwise would. Once the defector is in custody, he can be furnished with false documentation and secreted away in much the same way a subject is in an extraordinary rendition. In fact, much of the U.S. government's expertise in handling renditions was derived from its operations to extract defectors.
It is even easier if the third country is friendly to the extracting country. For instance, in the Asghari case, Turkey is known to cooperate with U.S. intelligence and the presence of (heavily trafficked) U.S. air bases in the country would make it quite simple to get a defector from a third country out of Turkey without being detected.
Debriefing a defector can be a lengthy process that often involves specialists from a number of government agencies. In the case of Asghari, the team likely would include members from the Defense Intelligence Agency and Special Operations Command (given Asghari's military background), and the FBI and State Department, since he might have historical information regarding Iranian-sponsored attacks by Hezbollah and other proxies, and perhaps even information pertaining to future attacks.
During the course of a debriefing, the defector would be given a complete medical and psychological exam. The psychological team often can provide important guidance on the defector's psyche and on the best approaches to use in debriefing that person -- and, just as important, subjects to raise and pitfalls to avoid.
Vetting is as important during the debriefing as in other stages of the process. This not only helps to determine if the defector is a double agent, but also can be useful in determining when the defector has run out of useful information. (At this stage, many sources will begin to fabricate information in an effort to make themselves appear to be of lasting value.) The defector likely will endure several polygraph examinations during this phase. The host country's reaction to the defection also will be factored in to the vetting equation, and other sources will be tasked to determine whether he was a double agent.
Once the defector has been completely debriefed, he probably will be resettled and employed by the government as a consultant -- someone authorities can turn to in the future with questions about personalities and events relevant to his background. He also might lead training classes and seminars to teach U.S. and allied personnel about the organization and operations of his former agency.
Of course, given the value of an asset like Asghari, the intelligence services of numerous U.S. allies undoubtedly are clamoring for information from him, and even seeking access in order to conduct their own debriefings.
With the United States and Iran already engaged in an intelligence war, the defection of a figure like Asghari doubtless has provided Washington with a windfall of information regarding the Iranian defense establishment and Pasdaran. However, the Iranian reaction to the defection also could provide an opportunity to gather even more intelligence -- especially if Washington had the time to pre-position additional surveillance assets.
This, by the way, is very likely the reason Iranian authorities did not report Asghari's disappearance to the Turkish government for several weeks. Regardless of whether the defector was thought to be already in enemy hands, Tehran would have wanted to keep its reaction as low-key as possible and information about Asghari's disappearance away from a "hostile" (meaning U.S.-allied) intelligence service until Iranian officials had a handle on the situation.
From the U.S. perspective, the immediate follow-on questions and responses would have followed a set pattern. For instance, Washington would be monitoring Iranian diplomatic and intelligence traffic carefully. How was Asghari's disappearance reported internally? Who did the Iranians contact in Istanbul and Ankara? Were messages sent out to other Iranian missions in Europe or in New York? Have diplomats received any sudden recall orders?
Physically, the United States would use surveillance teams against the Iranian diplomats in Turkey to determine such things as: Who went looking for Asghari? Who in the Turkish government did the Iranians meet with? Did they mobilize any Iranian businessmen or students to assist their search? Such things could provide valuable insight into the Iranian intelligence network in Turkey.
In the wake of the defection, the United States and others doubtless have been watching for other sudden and unexpected departures of personnel from Iranian diplomatic missions worldwide. Such departures could indicate that an officer is with the Pasdaran or another intelligence agency that the leadership in Tehran believes might have been compromised by Asghari.
The Iranians will have to do a thorough damage-control investigation to determine every secret to which Asghari had access. They most assuredly will downplay the significance of Washington's intelligence score by making public claims that Asghari was of minimal importance and had no access to current information. However, in the end, the most crucial question Tehran will need to answer is, "How long has Asghari been working for the Americans?"
If the answer is "a long time," the damage to Iran's national security could be enormous.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #27 on:
March 17, 2007, 08:35:46 AM »
A Real CIA Outing
By Andrew Walden
FrontPageMagazine.com | March 16, 2007
Just two days after former vice presidential aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby was convicted in the Valerie Plame CIA case, anti-American war activists attempted to expose the identity of a CIA “clandestine agent” at a University of Hawaii-Hilo event. Twenty-five students gathered at UH Hilo on Thursday March 8 for a briefing on career opportunities with the Central Intelligence Agency. Their right of free assembly was obstructed by ten protesters including faculty, an administrator, and local Democratic Party figures.
Complaining that they were unable to complete their mission, protest leader, convicted federal felon, and ex-con Jim Albertini, whose misnamed Malu-Aina Peace Center also leads weekly anti-American war protests at the Hilo Federal Building explained, “Global HOPE leader Justin Avery, was told he could not use his video camera. Malu Aina peace organization also intended to take still photos and video of the presentation.” Hawaii Tribune-Herald photographer William Ing was also present; all photographers were warned by campus center officials that they would be removed by campus security if they attempt to take photos.
According to Beau Butts, former President of the UH Hilo Student Association, “Avery was filming the inside of the room and who was there from the door. He continued filming, walked in and sat down in the very front with the camera pointed at the CIA gentleman. Only after the gentleman mandated no photos or film of any kind did Avery turn off his camera and put the lens cap on. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some footage of the agent but I couldn’t know for sure. Snickering and inappropriate muttering continued throughout the entire presentation and continued interjections and allusions of CIA conspiracies regarding 9/11 were brought up.”
The Global HOPE Club at UH Hilo has at various times suggested that “Israelis” carried out the 9/11 attacks. They have also suggested that the CIA carried them out and they showed twice the movie 9/11 in Plane Site, made by ultra-right-wing conspiracy nuts, which claims that the US Air Force carried out the 9/11 attacks. 9/11 in Plane Site was also shown in 2005 at SKEA by then-Hawaii Island Journal sales and marketing director Tammy Rouleau. Albertini is a regular contributor to Hawaii Island Journal. Avery has written several articles for Big Island Weekly.
According to the Hawaii County Democratic Party website, Albertini is the President of Precinct 3-9. Avery, listed as Democratic President of Precinct 3-6, was endorsed in his failed District 4 council campaign by the Hawaii County Sierra Club. The Sierra Club’s Legislative Director was involved in a high profile altercation with Avery’s opponent, Stacey Higa at a hospital fundraiser in Kona shortly before Election Day. The Sierra Club endorsed Avery over Wendell Kaehuaea, who outpolled Avery in 2006 and had been endorsed by the Sierra Club in 2004. Sierra-Club-endorsed candidates now control the Hawaii County Council.
Said Albertini, "If the CIA ‘spook’ doesn't want his photo taken then he shouldn't be giving a public recruiting lecture at a public university." Fortunately the Supreme Court has upheld the “Solomon Amendment,” which would cause complete loss of all federal funds to any school which does not allow military recruiters on campus. Leftist academics often lose interest in “sacred principles” when their paycheck is on the line. UHH Student Services Vice-Chancellor Keith Miser helpfully pointed out to the Star Bulletin March 10 that the university occasionally imposes bans on photography of individuals or of events such as performances.
Avery came to the event in a suit and with fake blood on his hands apparently trying to portray the CIA but looking more like a blood-stained Soviet Commissar. He and Albertini were joined by faculty members Noelie Rodriguez and Tim Freeman and International Student Services Director, Ruth Robinson and an unidentified activist who shed his civilian disguise to show his true appearance as the grim reaper waving large stacks of counterfeit money. Rodriguez is the spouse of Hawaii County Planning Director Chris Yuen.
Said Butts in a letter to Robinson, the protesters’ “behavior shows a lack of faith in student’s abilities to discern for themselves what is right and wrong and what they may or may not look into as a viable potential career opportunity.”
Norm Stahl, a retired Marine and director of the UHH Career Center explained, “the group …came into the room and interfered with our students right to get career information free of distraction.” Students interested in CIA careers were forced to move into Stahl’s office so they could have a discussion without disruption.
It is not clear whether any of the activists actually obtained photos of the CIA agent, who is identified in the Star Bulletin as, “Joe Dorsey, from the CIA West Coast Recruitment Office in Fountain Valley, Calif.” Dorsey was described as a “clandestine agent” by university officials. The anti-American activists are claiming that the identification of the agent gives them the right to expose his face. Apparently they have not noticed that all CIA representatives have conspicuously inconspicuous names like “Joe Dorsey.” Unlike Avery, who adopted a misspelled fake Hawaiian name for his failed council campaign, CIA agents are required to be able to both spell and pronounce their names.
What type of punishment is available for those who actually expose a clandestine agent of the CIA? Federal Law is clear on this issue; USC 50-421 section C reads:
Whoever, in the course of a pattern of activities intended to identify and expose covert agents and with reason to believe that such activities would impair or impede the foreign intelligence activities of the United States, discloses any information that identifies an individual as a covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such individual and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such individual’s classified intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
Albertini should be familiar with this: he spent one year in a federal penitentiary after diving into Hilo Bay in a failed 1984 effort to prevent a US Navy ship from docking.
Left-wing website Daily Kos’ diarist “KStreetProjector” has a different idea about punishment, explaining February 15: “The act of outing Valerie Wilson nee Plame was an act of Treason….Those involved should be hung. They have violated their oath, attacked our nation, violated their duty and are, to any sane reading: Domestic Enemies.”
Of course Plame was not a clandestine operative but a desk-bound CIA analyst and Democrat political operative whose covert career had been ended long before. The CIA believed her identity had been exposed in the 90s by Soviet spy Aldrich Ames. Richard Armitage, a Colin Powell ally and opponent of President Bush’s Iraq strategy, identified her in 2003 to columnist Robert Novak after her husband Joe Wilson started his media campaign to spread the lie that Saddam Hussein had not been attempting to acquire uranium in Niger, Africa.
If “KStreetProjector” were not just a political hack, logically what punishment would he and all the other leftists who have been howling about the Plame case for the last three-and-a-half years deem appropriate for their allies’ own attempt to “out” a real clandestine operative?
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #28 on:
March 19, 2007, 10:06:31 AM »
Richard Posner is a very bright and thoughtful man and anything he writes deserves serious consideration.
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Time to Rethink the FBI
By RICHARD A. POSNER
March 19, 2007; Page A13
The FBI came under heavy criticism last week when it was reported that the agency had failed properly to supervise the issuance of national security letters, a form of administrative subpoena used in terrorist investigations. The bureau, it turns out, was unable even to determine how many such subpoenas it has issued.
Just weeks earlier, it was discovered that the FBI had been misreporting the statistics that it uses to track its intelligence activities. The bureau attributed that lapse to its continued struggle -- five and a half years after the 9/11 attacks -- to master modern information technology. The FBI also inflates its counterterrorist statistics by defining terrorism to include the acts of obnoxious but minor political criminals, such as white supremacists, animal-rights extremists and makers of idle (but frightening) phone threats.
Is it the case that the FBI is "incapable of effective counterterrorism," as an editorial in this newspaper wondered? Does the country need "to debate again whether domestic antiterror functions should be taken from the FBI and given to a new agency modeled after Britain's MI5"?
The answer to both questions is yes.
It is more than a decade since the then director of the FBI, Louis Freeh, tried to make the bureau take the terrorist threat to the United States seriously. He failed. His successor, the current director, Robert Mueller, has tried harder than Mr. Freeh, and has made some progress, but not enough. The cause lies deep in the bureau's organizational culture. The FBI is a detective bureau. Its business is not to prevent crime but to catch criminals. The Justice Department, of which the FBI is a part, knows only one way of dealing with terrorism, and that is prosecution. (Mr. Mueller is a former prosecutor.)
For prosecutors and detectives, success is measured by arrests, convictions and sentences. That is fine when the object is merely to keep the crime rate within tolerable limits. But the object of counterterrorism is prevention. Terrorist attacks are too calamitous for the punishment of the terrorists who survive the attack to be an adequate substitute for prevention.
Detecting terrorist plots in advance so that they can be thwarted is the business of intelligence agencies. The FBI is not an intelligence agency, and has a truncated conception of intelligence: gathering information that can be used to obtain a conviction. A crime is committed, having a definite time and place and usually witnesses and often physical evidence and even suspects. This enables a criminal investigation to be tightly focused. Prevention, in contrast, requires casting a very wide investigative net, chasing down ambiguous clues, and assembling tiny bits of information (hence the importance of information technology, which plays a limited role in criminal investigations).
The bureau lacks the tradition, the skills, the patience, the incentive structures, the recruitment criteria, the training methods, the languages, the cultural sensitivities and the career paths that national-security intelligence requires. All the bureau's intelligence operations officers undergo the full special-agent training. That training emphasizes firearms skills, arrest techniques and self-defense, and the legal rules governing criminal investigations. None of these proficiencies are germane to national-security intelligence. What could be more perverse than to train new employees for one kind of work and assign them to another for which they have not been trained?
Every major nation (and many minor ones), except the United States, concluded long ago that domestic intelligence should be separated from its counterpart to the FBI. Britain's MI5 is merely the best-known example. These nations realize that if you bury a domestic intelligence service in an agency devoted to criminal law enforcement, you end up with "intelligence-led policing," which means orienting intelligence collection and analysis not to preventing terrorist attacks but to assisting in law enforcement.
MI5 and its counterparts in other nations are not law-enforcement agencies and do not have arrest powers. Their single-minded focus is on discovering plots against the nation. Knowing that arrest and prosecution should be postponed until a terrorist network has been fully traced and its methods, affiliates, financiers, suppliers and camp followers identified, they do not make the mistake that the FBI made last year in arresting seven Muslims in Miami on suspicion of plotting to blow up buildings there, along with the Sears Tower in Chicago.
The bureau had been able to plant an informant in the group. Yet as soon as it had enough evidence to prove a criminal conspiracy, it pounced. Because the group had no money or backers (except the FBI's informant!) and no skills or experience, and had been penetrated, it was not an imminent threat, so there was no urgency about arresting its members. The group had wanted to get in touch with foreign terrorists but had been unable to do so.
The informant might have helped them do so -- might even have helped them become part of a serious terrorist network, enabling the bureau to ascertain the network's scope and membership, methods and tradecraft, even goals and specific plans. The opportunity to exploit the penetration in this fashion was lost by the arrests -- about which the Attorney General boasted to an extent that, given the ineptness of the defendants, evoked ridicule.
A senior Justice Department official said: "We can't afford to wait . . . [The suspects in Miami] were of significant concern, and we're not going to allow them to run into somebody who has the means to carry out what they were talking about."
That is the wrong attitude. Finding a "somebody who has the means" to carry out a terrorist attack is more important than prosecuting plotters who pose no immediate threat to the nation's security. The undiscovered "somebody" is the real threat. Small fry are easily caught, but upon their arrest any big shots who might be linked to them scatter. The arrests and prosecutions serve mainly to alert terrorists to the bureau's methods and targets, as well as to bolster its arrest statistics and provide fodder for its public affairs office.
Experts on terrorism, noting the fortunately thwarted terrorist plots of British and Canadian citizens (thwarted in major part through the efforts of the British and Canadian domestic-intelligence services), warn of the homegrown terrorist threat against the U.S. Against that threat, most of our security apparatus is helpless. When a foreign terrorist wants to strike us here, our security forces have three bites at the apple: seize him abroad, seize him at the border, and if all else fails, seize him inside the U.S. In the case of U.S. citizen terrorists, there is only the one bite; and the FBI does not have the right set of teeth.
Improving domestic intelligence is not a partisan issue. The critics of the FBI's performance include former members (among them the co-chairmen) of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission; the advocates of creating a separate agency include Democratic Congressman Rahm Emmanuel.
Civil libertarians worry about abuses of domestic intelligence. But an agency that had no powers of arrest or prosecution, and that conceived its primary role to be to prevent the alienation of Americans who have religious or family ties to nations that harbor terrorists, rather than to run up arrest statistics, would be less likely than the FBI to engage in the promiscuous issuance of administrative subpoenas.
In 2004, Congress created the post of Director of National Intelligence, hoping to plug the gaps in our multi-agency intelligence system. The biggest gap is domestic intelligence, yet the FBI director and his staff have largely ignored it. They have no background in domestic intelligence. No senior official is assigned full time to it. So turf wars between the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have been allowed to rage, and the nation's hundreds of thousands of local police have not been knitted into a comprehensive national system of domestic intelligence collection.
We need an agency that will integrate local police and other information gatherers (such as border patrol police, customs officials and private security personnel) into a comprehensive national intelligence network, as MI5 has done in Britain -- and as the FBI has failed to do here, in part because of deeply rooted tensions that have long inhibited cooperation between the bureau and the rest of the law enforcement community. The bureau does not want the local police to steal its cases, and vice versa. Moreover, it is a self-consciously elite institution whose stars -- the special agents -- look down on local police and are reluctant to share information with them. Lacking police powers or a law enforcement function, a domestic intelligence agency separate from the FBI would be an honest broker among all the institutions that gather information of potential significance for national intelligence.
The Director of National Intelligence has not evaluated the FBI's performance. Nor has he explored the feasibility and desirability of creating a separate agency. The FBI staggers and stumbles; the managers of the intelligence community are content to avert their eyes from the unedifying spectacle.
Mr. Posner, a federal circuit judge and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School, is the author of "Uncertain Shield: The U.S. Intelligence System in the Throes of Reform" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006).
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #29 on:
September 22, 2007, 09:34:15 AM »
Written with shading typical of the NY Times, but the subject is important and some interesting data is covered:
Israeli Raid on Syria Fuels Debate on Weapons
By MARK MAZZETTI and DAVID E. SANGER
Published: September 22, 2007
WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 — American concerns about ties between Syria and North Korea have long focused on a partnership involving missiles and missile technology. Even many hawks within the Bush administration have expressed doubts that the Syrians have the money or technical depth to build a serious nuclear program like the one in Iran.
But the Sept. 6 Israeli airstrike inside Syria has reignited debate over whether the Syrians are trying to overcome past obstacles by starting their own small nuclear program, or by trying to buy nuclear components from an outside supplier. It is a particularly difficult question for American spy agencies, which are still smarting from the huge prewar misjudgments made about the status of Iraq’s weapons programs.
American officials are now sorting through what they say are Israel’s private claims that what their jets struck was tied to nuclear weapons development, not merely to missile production. So far, American officials have been extremely cautious about endorsing the Israeli conclusion.
Syria’s efforts to bolster its missile arsenal have been a source of worry for Israel for years, especially given Syria’s track record of arming Hezbollah fighters when they clash with Israeli troops. During the summer of 2006, Hezbollah, the militant Shiite group, fired hundreds of missiles at targets inside Israel from Lebanon, surprising Israeli officials with the sophistication of its arsenal.
And North Korean engineers are long believed to have helped Syria develop a sophisticated class of Scud missiles that have a longer range and are more accurate than earlier versions. According to GlobalSecurity.org, a defense research organization, North Korea has helped Syria develop the Scud-D missile, with a range of about 435 miles.
Whether Syria is actively pursuing a nuclear program has been the subject of fierce debate in Washington for several years. The dispute was at the center of the fight in 2005 over the nomination of John R. Bolton to become ambassador to the United Nations.
At the time, several intelligence officials said they had clashed in 2002 and 2003 with Mr. Bolton, then an under secretary of state, about the extent of Syria’s unconventional weapons programs. According to the officials, Mr. Bolton wanted to include information in a public speech about a Syrian nuclear program that could not be corroborated by intelligence agencies.
In recent interviews, Mr. Bolton has suggested that the Israeli strike may have partly vindicated his view.
Yet that is hard to assess, since whatever information a few senior officials in Washington and Jerusalem possess has been so restricted that two senior Asian diplomats, representing close American allies who are frequently updated on North Korea, said late this week that they had received no useful information from their American counterparts.
On Thursday, President Bush declined three times to shed any light on the Israeli strike, although he did repeat a warning to North Korea.
It is unclear to what extent the secrecy about the Israeli strike has been motivated by American doubts about the intelligence or by an effort to protect sources and classified information. But American officials are now looking at the possibility that the Syrians saw an opportunity to buy some of the basic components of a nuclear program on the cheap, perhaps because North Korea is trying to get elements of its nuclear program out of the country to meet deadlines in a precarious denuclearization agreement with Washington.
American officials are also studying at least two technology trade agreements between Syria and North Korea that were signed over the summer, trying to determine whether the arrangements may be designed for nascent nuclear cooperation between the two countries.
“One has to balance the skepticism that the Syrians can build an indigenous nuclear program with the very sobering assessment that North Korea is the world’s No. 1 proliferator and a country willing to sell whatever it possesses,” said a former senior Bush administration official who once had full access to the intelligence about both countries, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was discussing intelligence assessments.
Though it has long sold its missile technology — to Syria, Iran, Pakistan and other customers — North Korea has never been known to export nuclear technology or material. Last Oct. 9, hours after the North tested its first nuclear device, Mr. Bush went in front of cameras in the White House to issue the North a specific warning that “the transfer of nuclear weapons or material by North Korea to states or nonstate entities would be considered a grave threat to the United States, and we would hold North Korea fully accountable of the consequences of such action.”
His declaration that day had been urged for years by hard-liners in the administration who believed that the United States had never been explicit enough with North Korea. They saw their opportunity after the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, ignored pressure from China, South Korea, Russia and others and conducted its test.
Even though the Israelis are whispering that there was a nuclear connection to the Sept. 6 attack, so far there has been no hard evidence that the North has ever tried to sell elements of its two nuclear programs. One of those programs, involving plutonium, is quite advanced, enough to produce six to a dozen nuclear weapons. But selling that fuel would be enormously risky, and perhaps easily detectable.
The other program, based on uranium-enrichment equipment believed to have been bought from the network created by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani nuclear engineer, is assessed to be in its very early stages, and some doubt the North Koreans ever made much progress on it at all. That program involves the construction of centrifuges to enrich uranium, the path that Iran is taking. But it is complex, expensive and hard to hide, and many experts believe it is beyond Syria’s capabilities or budget.
Syria does have one very small research reactor, which is Chinese built. But it was described in a 2004 Swedish defense research agency report as “the smallest on the world market and incapable of military applications.”
John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org said that, given its neighborhood, Syria might be interested in a nuclear deterrent, but that he was highly skeptical that Damascus could at this point have developed anything that would pose a significant risk to Israel.
“Any country in the region that was not at least learning what it would take to develop a nuclear program is asleep at the switch,” he said. “But the proposition that there is anything sufficiently mature to warrant bombing is difficult to believe.”
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #30 on:
September 22, 2007, 12:09:24 PM »
I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that the NorKs or the AQ Khan network hadn't seeded several countries with pre-fab nuke kits, including Syria and Iran.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #31 on:
September 22, 2007, 07:11:39 PM »
**File this under "G M not surprised".
From The Sunday Times
September 23, 2007
Israelis seized nuclear material in Syrian raid
Uzi Mahnaimi and Sarah Baxter
Israeli commandos seized nuclear material of North Korean origin during a daring raid on a secret military site in Syria before Israel bombed it this month, according to informed sources in Washington and Jerusalem.
The attack was launched with American approval on September 6 after Washington was shown evidence the material was nuclear related, the well-placed sources say.
They confirmed that samples taken from Syria for testing had been identified as North Korean. This raised fears that Syria might have joined North Korea and Iran in seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.
Israeli special forces had been gathering intelligence for several months in Syria, according to Israeli sources. They located the nuclear material at a compound near Dayr az-Zwar in the north.
Evidence that North Korean personnel were at the site is said to have been shared with President George W Bush over the summer. A senior American source said the administration sought proof of nuclear-related activities before giving the attack its blessing.
Diplomats in North Korea and China believe a number of North Koreans were killed in the strike, based on reports reaching Asian governments about conversations between Chinese and North Korean officials.
Syrian officials flew to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, last week, reinforcing the view that the two nations were coordinating their response.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #32 on:
September 22, 2007, 07:33:30 PM »
More on the Syrian-NorK alliance.
N Korea trains Syrian missile engineers: report
Posted Fri Sep 21, 2007 10:32pm AEST
A report says North Korea has trained Syrian missile engineers and the Arab nation has bartered farm products and computers for missiles from the Stalinist state.
The two countries have recently strengthened missile cooperation, with Syrian engineers staying in Pyongyang to acquire technology, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said.
The barter system began in 1995 due to Syria's worsening financial woes.
Syria has shipped cotton, food and computers to North Korea in return for buying short-range missiles, the report said.
The United States has accused North Korea of being a leading global proliferator of weapons of mass destruction, but the cash-strapped country has refused to stop missile exports, a major source of hard currency earnings.
North Korea has sold about 100 missiles to Syria, Iran and other countries each year, Yonhap said.
In July last year the North test-fired seven missiles, including the Taepodong-2, which in theory could reach the US west coast. This year it tested a series of short-range missiles.
Last Edit: September 22, 2007, 07:52:33 PM by G M
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #33 on:
September 23, 2007, 11:24:04 AM »
From The Sunday Times
September 23, 2007
Snatched: Israeli commandos ‘nuclear’ raid
Uzi Mahnaimi, Tel Aviv, Sarah Baxter, Washington, and Michael Sheridan
ISRAELI commandos from the elite Sayeret Matkal unit – almost certainly dressed in Syrian uniforms – made their way stealthily towards a secret military compound near Dayr az-Zawr in northern Syria. They were looking for proof that Syria and North Korea were collaborating on a nuclear programme.
Israel had been surveying the site for months, according to Washington and Israeli sources. President George W Bush was told during the summer that Israeli intelligence suggested North Korean personnel and nuclear-related material were at the Syrian site.
Israel was determined not to take any chances with its neighbour. Following the example set by its raid on an Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak 1981, it drew up plans to bomb the Syrian compound.
Blast at secret missile site killed dozens
But Washington was not satisfied. It demanded clear evidence of nuclear-related activities before giving the operation its blessing. The task of the commandos was to provide it.
Today the site near Dayr az-Zawr lies in ruins after it was pounded by Israeli F15Is on September 6. Before the Israelis issued the order to strike, the commandos had secretly seized samples of nuclear material and taken them back into Israel for examination by scientists, the sources say. A laboratory confirmed that the unspecified material was North Korean in origin. America approved an attack.
News of the secret ground raid is the latest piece of the jigsaw to emerge about the mysterious Israeli airstrike. Israel has imposed a news blackout, but has not disguised its satisfaction with the mission. The incident also reveals the extent of the cooperation between America and Israel over nuclear-related security issues in the Middle East. The attack on what Israeli defence sources now call the “North Korean project” appears to be part of a wider, secret war against the nonconventional weapons ambitions of Syria and North Korea which, along with Iran, appears to have been forging a new “axis of evil”.
The operation was personally directed by Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, who is said to have been largely preoccupied with it since taking up his post on June 18.
It was the ideal mission for Barak, Israel’s most decorated soldier and legendary former commander of the Sayeret Matkal, which shares the motto “Who Dares Wins” with Britain’s SAS and specialises in intelligence-gathering deep behind enemy lines.
President Bush refused to comment on the air attack last week, but warned North Korea that “the exportation of information and/or materials” could jeopard-ise plans to give North Korea food aid, fuel and diplomatic recognition in exchange for ending its nuclear programmes.
Diplomats in North Korea and China said they believed a number of North Koreans were killed in the raid, noting that ballistic missile technicians and military scientists had been working for some time with the Syrians.
A senior Syrian official, Sayeed Elias Daoud, director of the Syrian Arab Ba’ath party, flew to North Korea via Beijing last Thursday, reinforcing the belief among foreign diplomats that the two nations are coordinating their response to the Israeli strike.
The growing assumption that North Korea suffered direct casualties in the raid appears to be based largely on the regime’s unusually strident propaganda on an issue far from home. But there were also indications of conversations between Chinese and North Korean officials and intelligence reports reaching Asian governments that supported the same conclusion, diplomats said.
Jane’s Defence Weekly reported last week that dozens of Iranian engineers and Syrians were killed in July attempting to load a chemical warhead containing mustard gas onto a Scud missile. The Scuds and warheads are of North Korean design and possibly manufacture, and there are recent reports that North Koreans were helping the Syrians to attach airburst chemical weapons to warheads.
Yesterday, while Israelis were observing Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, the military was on high alert after Syria promised to retaliate for the September 6 raid. An Israeli intelligence expert said: “Syria has retaliated in the past for much smaller humiliations, but they will choose the place, the time and the target.”
Critics of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, believe he has shown poor judgment since succeeding his father Hafez, Syria’s long-time dictator, in 2000. According to David Schenker, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, he has provoked the enmity of almost all Syria’s neighbours and turned his country into a “client” of Iran.
Barak’s return to government after making a fortune in private business was critical to the Israeli operation. Military experts believe it could not have taken place under Amir Peretz, the defence minister who was forced from the post after last year’s ill-fated war in Lebanon. “Barak gave Olmert the confidence needed for such a dangerous operation,” said one insider.
The unusual silence about the airstrikes amazed Israelis, who are used to talkative politicians. But it did not surprise the defence community. “Most Israeli special operations remain unknown,” said a defence source.
When Menachem Begin, then Israeli prime minister, broke the news of the 1981 Osirak raid, he was accused of trying to help his Likud party’s prospects in forthcoming elections.
Benjamin Netanyahu, who leads Likud today, faced similar criticism last week when he ignored the news blackout, revealed that he had backed the decision to strike and said he had congratulated Olmert. “I was a partner from the start,” he claimed.
But details of the raid are still tantalisingly incomplete. Some analysts in America are perplexed by photographs of a fuel tank said to have been dropped from an Israeli jet on its return journey over Turkey. It appears to be relatively undamaged. Could it have been planted to sow confusion about the route taken by the Israeli F-15I pilots?
More importantly, questions remain about the precise nature of the material seized and about Syria’s intentions. Was Syria hiding North Korean nuclear equipment while Pyongyang prepared for six-party talks aimed at securing an end to its nuclear weapons programme in return for security guarantees and aid? Did Syria want to arm its own Scuds with a nuclear device?
Or could the material have been destined for Iran as John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, has suggested? And just how deep is Syrian and North Korean nuclear cooperation anyway?
China abruptly postponed a session of the nuclear disarmament talks last week because it feared America might confront the North Koreans over their weapons deals with Syria, according to sources close to the Chinese foreign ministry. Negotiations have been rescheduled for this Thursday in Beijing after assurances were given that all sides wished them to be “constructive”.
Christopher Hill, the US State Department negotiator, is said to have persuaded the White House that the talks offered a realistic chance to accomplish a peace treaty formally ending the 1950-1953 Korean war, in which more than 50,000 Americans died. A peace deal of that magnitude would be a coup for Bush – but only if the North Koreans genuinely abandon their nuclear programmes.
The outlines of a long-term arms relationship between the North Koreans and the Syrians are now being reexamined by intelligence experts in several capitals. Diplomats in Pyongyang have said they believe reports that about a dozen Syrian technicians were killed in a massive explosion and railway crash in North Korea on April 22, 2004.
Teams of military personnel wearing protective suits were seen removing debris from the section of the train in which the Syrians were travelling, according to a report quoting military sources that appeared in a Japanese newspaper. Their bodies were flown home by a Syrian military cargo plane that was spotted shortly after the explosion at Pyongyang airport.
In December last year, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Seyassah quoted European intelligence sources in Brussels as saying that Syria was engaged in an advanced nuclear programme in its northeastern province.
Most diplomats and experts dismiss the idea that Syria could master the technical and industrial knowhow to make its own nuclear devices. The vital question is whether North Korea could have transferred some of its estimated 55 kilos of weapons-grade plutonium to Syria. Six to eight kilos are enough for one rudimentary bomb.
“If it is proved that Kim Jong-il sold fissile material to Syria in breach of every red line the Americans have drawn for him, what does that mean?” asked one official. The results of tests on whatever the Israelis may have seized from the Syrian site could therefore be of enormous significance.
The Israeli army has so far declined to comment on the attack. However, several days afterwards, at a gathering marking the Jewish new year, the commander-in-chief of the Israeli military shook hands with and congratulated his generals. The scene was broadcast on Israeli television. After the fiasco in Lebanon last year, it was regarded as a sign that “we’re back in business, guys”.
AQ goes dark
Reply #34 on:
October 09, 2007, 07:58:12 AM »
Enemy Vanishes From Its Web Sites
By ELI LAKE
Staff Reporter of the Sun
WASHINGTON — Al Qaeda's Internet communications system has suddenly gone dark to American intelligence after the leak of Osama bin Laden's September 11 speech inadvertently disclosed the fact that we had penetrated the enemy's system.
The intelligence blunder started with what appeared at the time as an American intelligence victory, namely that the federal government had intercepted, a full four days before it was to be aired, a video of Osama bin Laden's first appearance in three years in a video address marking the sixth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001. On the morning of September 7, the Web site of ABC News posted excerpts from the speech.
But the disclosure from ABC and later other news organizations tipped off Qaeda's internal security division that the organization's Internet communications system, known among American intelligence analysts as Obelisk, was compromised. This network of Web sites serves not only as the distribution system for the videos produced by Al Qaeda's production company, As-Sahab, but also as the equivalent of a corporate intranet, dealing with such mundane matters as expense reporting and clerical memos to mid- and lower-level Qaeda operatives throughout the world.
While intranets are usually based on servers in a discrete physical location, Obelisk is a series of sites all over the Web, often with fake names, in some cases sites that are not even known by their proprietors to have been hacked by Al Qaeda.
One intelligence officer who requested anonymity said in an interview last week that the intelligence community watched in real time the shutdown of the Obelisk system. America's Obelisk watchers even saw the order to shut down the system delivered from Qaeda's internal security to a team of technical workers in Malaysia. That was the last internal message America's intelligence community saw. "We saw the whole thing shut down because of this leak," the official said. "We lost an important keyhole into the enemy."
By Friday evening, one of the key sets of sites in the Obelisk network, the Ekhlaas forum, was back on line. The Ekhlaas forum is a password-protected message board used by Qaeda for recruitment, propaganda dissemination, and as one of the entrance ways into Obelisk for those operatives whose user names are granted permission. Many of the other Obelisk sites are now offline and presumably moved to new secret locations on the World Wide Web.
The founder of a Web site known as clandestineradio.com, Nick Grace, tracked the shutdown of Qaeda's Obelisk system in real time. "It was both unprecedented and chilling from the perspective of a Web techie. The discipline and coordination to take the entire system down involving multiple Web servers, hundreds of user names and passwords, is an astounding feat, especially that it was done within minutes," Mr. Grace said yesterday.
The head of the SITE Intelligence Group, an organization that monitors Jihadi Web sites and provides information to subscribers, Rita Katz, said she personally provided the video on September 7 to the deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Michael Leiter.
Ms. Katz yesterday said, "We shared a copy of the transcript and the video with the U.S. government, to Michael Leiter, with the request specifically that it was important to keep the subject secret. Then the video was leaked out. An investigation into who downloaded the video from our server indicated that several computers with IP addresses were registered to government agencies."
Yesterday a spokesman for the National Counterterrorism Center, Carl Kropf, denied the accusation that it was responsible for the leak. "That's just absolutely wrong. The allegation and the accusation that we did that is unfounded," he said. The spokesman for the director of national intelligence, Ross Feinstein, yesterday also denied the leak allegation. "The intelligence community and the ODNI senior leadership did not leak this video to the media," he said.
Ms. Katz said, "The government leak damaged our investigation into Al Qaeda's network. Techniques and sources that took years to develop became ineffective. As a result of the leak Al Qaeda changed their methods." Ms. Katz said she also lost potential revenue.
A former counterterrorism official, Roger Cressey, said, "If any of this was leaked for any reasons, especially political, that is just unconscionable." Mr. Cressey added that the work that was lost by burrowing into Qaeda's Internet system was far more valuable than any benefit that was gained by short-circuiting Osama bin Laden's video to the public.
While Al Qaeda still uses human couriers to move its most important messages between senior leaders and what is known as a Hawala network of lenders throughout the world to move interest-free money, more and more of the organization's communication happens in cyber space.
"While the traditional courier based networks can offer security and anonymity, the same can be had on the Internet. It is clear in recent years if you look at their information operations and explosion of Al Qaeda related Web sites and Web activities, the Internet has taken a primary role in their communications both externally and internally," Mr. Grace said.
Firm Says Administration's Handling of Video Ruined Its Spying Efforts
By Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 9, 2007; A01
A small private intelligence company that monitors Islamic terrorist groups obtained a new Osama bin Laden video ahead of its official release last month, and around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, it notified the Bush administration of its secret acquisition. It gave two senior officials access on the condition that the officials not reveal they had it until the al-Qaeda release.
Within 20 minutes, a range of intelligence agencies had begun downloading it from the company's Web site. By midafternoon that day, the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast worldwide.
The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group's communications network.
"Techniques that took years to develop are now ineffective and worthless," said Rita Katz, the firm's 44-year-old founder, who has garnered wide attention by publicizing statements and videos from extremist chat rooms and Web sites, while attracting controversy over the secrecy of SITE's methodology. Her firm provides intelligence about terrorist groups to a wide range of paying clients, including private firms and military and intelligence agencies from the United States and several other countries.
The precise source of the leak remains unknown. Government officials declined to be interviewed about the circumstances on the record, but they did not challenge Katz's version of events. They also said the incident had no effect on U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts and did not diminish the government's ability to anticipate attacks.
While acknowledging that SITE had achieved success, the officials said U.S. agencies have their own sophisticated means of watching al-Qaeda on the Web. "We have individuals in the right places dealing with all these issues, across all 16 intelligence agencies," said Ross Feinstein, spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
But privately, some intelligence officials called the incident regrettable, and one official said SITE had been "tremendously helpful" in ferreting out al-Qaeda secrets over time.
The al-Qaeda video aired on Sept. 7 attracted international attention as the first new video message from the group's leader in three years. In it, a dark-bearded bin Laden urges Americans to convert to Islam and predicts failure for the Bush administration in Iraq and Afghanistan. The video was aired on hundreds of Western news Web sites nearly a full day before its release by a distribution company linked to al-Qaeda.
Computer logs and records reviewed by The Washington Post support SITE's claim that it snatched the video from al-Qaeda days beforehand. Katz requested that the precise date and details of the acquisition not be made public, saying such disclosures could reveal sensitive details about the company's methods.
SITE -- an acronym for the Search for International Terrorist Entities -- was established in 2002 with the stated goal of tracking and exposing terrorist groups, according to the company's Web site. Katz, an Iraqi-born Israeli citizen whose father was executed by Saddam Hussein in the 1960s, has made the investigation of terrorist groups a passionate quest.
"We were able to establish sources that provided us with unique and important information into al-Qaeda's hidden world," Katz said. Her company's income is drawn from subscriber fees and contracts.
Katz said she decided to offer an advance copy of the bin Laden video to the White House without charge so officials there could prepare for its eventual release.
She spoke first with White House counsel Fred F. Fielding, whom she had previously met, and then with Joel Bagnal, deputy assistant to the president for homeland security. Both expressed interest in obtaining a copy, and Bagnal suggested that she send a copy to Michael Leiter, who holds the No. 2 job at the National Counterterrorism Center.
Administration and intelligence officials would not comment on whether they had obtained the video separately. Katz said Fielding and Bagnal made it clear to her that the White House did not possess a copy at the time she offered hers.
Around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, Katz sent both Leiter and Fielding an e-mail with a link to a private SITE Web page containing the video and an English transcript. "Please understand the necessity for secrecy," Katz wrote in her e-mail. "We ask you not to distribute . . . [as] it could harm our investigations."
Fielding replied with an e-mail expressing gratitude to Katz. "It is you who deserves the thanks," he wrote, according to a copy of the message. There was no record of a response from Leiter or the national intelligence director's office.
Exactly what happened next is unclear. But within minutes of Katz's e-mail to the White House, government-registered computers began downloading the video from SITE's server, according to a log of file transfers. The records show dozens of downloads over the next three hours from computers with addresses registered to defense and intelligence agencies.
By midafternoon, several television news networks reported obtaining copies of the transcript. A copy posted around 3 p.m. on Fox News's Web site referred to SITE and included page markers identical to those used by the group. "This confirms that the U.S. government was responsible for the leak of this document," Katz wrote in an e-mail to Leiter at 5 p.m.
Al-Qaeda supporters, now alerted to the intrusion into their secret network, put up new obstacles that prevented SITE from gaining the kind of access it had obtained in the past, according to Katz.
A small number of private intelligence companies compete with SITE in scouring terrorists' networks for information and messages, and some have questioned the company's motives and methods, including the claim that its access to al-Qaeda's network was unique. One competitor, Ben Venzke, founder of IntelCenter, said he questions SITE's decision -- as described by Katz -- to offer the video to White House policymakers rather than quietly share it with intelligence analysts.
"It is not just about getting the video first," Venzke said. "It is about having the proper methods and procedures in place to make sure that the appropriate intelligence gets to where it needs to go in the intelligence community and elsewhere in order to support ongoing counterterrorism operations."
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #35 on:
October 09, 2007, 11:24:29 AM »
Coincidental to the timing of the story that US intel obtained bin Laden's tape before he posted it, that media outlets blew our cover and that AQ had to shut down their sites, I see there has been heavy fighting in Waziristan the last 3 days where that group is presumed to be residing. I'm guessing the new fighting is inspired by the latest intel. One of these days, one of these battles is going to bring us the head of AQ.
Battles rage on Pakistan border
Pakistani troops in North Waziristan (file photo)
The army faces well-armed, well-trained militants in Waziristan
At least 45 Pakistani soldiers and 150 pro-Taleban militants have died in three days of fierce fighting in North Waziristan, the Pakistani army says.
Unconfirmed reports say 50 more rebels died in fresh air strikes on Tuesday. It is the heaviest fighting in the Waziristan region, which borders Afghanistan, for many months. Locals are reported to be fleeing the clashes.
US and Nato have been pressing Pakistan to do more to stop militants crossing the border to attack their troops.
The fighting is centred around the town of Mir Ali. The bombing destroyed many shops and homes...
Latest reports say many of its residents are trying to escape, but it is unclear how many are going.
The BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad says that Mir Ali is known as a base for foreign militants with links to the Taleban and al-Qaeda. The violence has been escalating since mid-July when a ceasefire between the army and the militants broke down. Access for journalists to the tribal areas is restricted and it is impossible to independently verify the casualty figures.
Military aircraft struck "one or two places" near Mir Ali on Tuesday, army spokesman Maj Gen Waheed, the Associated Press news agency reports. There were unconfirmed reports that about 50 militants had been killed.
As well as soldiers confirmed killed, the army says up to 15 soldiers who went missing on Monday are still unaccounted for.
The army says it has rejected a ceasefire proposed by the militants and will "continue punitive action till complete peace is restored", AP said.
Our correspondent says that, by all accounts, the fighting in North Waziristan has been extraordinarily fierce. The army has been bombing suspected militant positions in villages using helicopter gun ships and jet fighters.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #36 on:
November 14, 2007, 09:13:04 AM »
A Hizbollah Mole?
Case against CIA spy shocks counter-intelligence community
By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball
Newsweek Web Exclusive
Updated: 7:46 PM ET Nov 13, 2007
A former FBI agent who pleaded guilty Tuesday to fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizenship and then improperly accessing sensitive computer information about Hizbollah was working until about a year ago as a CIA spy assigned to Middle East operations, Newsweek has learned.
The stunning case of Nada Nadim Prouty, a 37-year-old Lebanese native who is related to a suspected Hizbollah money launderer, appears to raise a nightmarish question for U.S. intelligence agencies: Could one of the world's most notorious terrorist groups have infiltrated the U.S. government?
"I'm beginning to think it's possible that Hizbollah put a mole in our government," said Richard Clarke, the former White House counter-terrorism chief under Presidents Clinton and, until 2002, Bush. "It's mind-blowing."
A U.S. official familiar with the case said Tuesday that the government's investigation has uncovered no evidence so far that Prouty, who was employed by the CIA until last week, had compromised any undercover operations or passed along sensitive intelligence information to Hizbollah operatives. After joining the CIA in June 2003, Prouty was an undercover officer for the agency's National Clandestine Service, the espionage division, working on Middle East-related cases. She was reassigned to a less sensitive position about a year ago, after she first came under suspicion, officials said.
Prosecutors have not charged Prouty with espionage. Nonetheless, the case remains an "ongoing investigation" and "that is obviously something we're looking at," a senior law enforcement official said. Her lawyer declined comment today. Under the terms of her plea agreement, she faces six to twelve months behind bars, and could be stripped of her U.S. citizenship.
The case is clearly a major embarrassment for both the FBI and CIA and has already raised a host of questions. Chief among them: how did an illegal alien from Lebanon who was working as a waitress at a shish kabob restaurant in Detroit manage to slip through extensive security background checks, including polygraphs, to land highly sensitive positions with the nation's top law enforcement and intelligence agencies?
Indeed, the bizarre details of the Prouty investigation—which include connections to both Hizbollah and a multi-million dollar bribery ring involving a former senior U.S. Homeland Security official—could ultimately be cast as a war-on-terror version of the notorious spy cases of Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, Soviet spies who worked for the CIA and FBI respectively.
"It's hard to imagine a greater threat than the situation where a foreign national uses fraud to attain citizenship and then, based on that fraud, insinuates herself into a sensitive position in the U.S. government," said Stephen J. Murphy, the U.S. attorney in Detroit.
According to court papers filed Tuesday, Prouty pleaded guilty to three charges in federal court in Detroit: naturalization fraud; unlawfully accessing a federal computer system to obtain information about her relatives as well as Hizbollah; and conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Prouty, according to court documents, first entered the United States from Lebanon in 1989 on a one-year, non-immigrant student visa. After her visa expired, she illegally remained in the country, residing in Taylor, Michigan with her sister and another individual. In order to stay in the country and evade immigration laws, she offered money to an unemployed U.S. citizen to marry her in the summer of 1990. But, according to her indictment, Prouty "never lived as husband and wife with her fraudulent 'husband' and the marriage was never consummated sexually."
By 1992, the court papers say, Prouty landed a job as a waitress and hostess at La Shish, a popular chain of Middle Eastern shish kabob restaurants in the Detroit area owned by a Lebanese businessman, Talil Khalil Chahine, who later came under federal investigation for his suspected ties to Hizbollah.
At this point, Prouty's case seemed like a garden variety case of marriage and immigration fraud. But as laid out in the court papers, the story took a more ominous turn in April, 1999, when Prouty, using the alias of "Nada Nadim Alley" and her fraudulently-obtained U.S. citizenship, landed a job as an FBI special agent. Prouty got the job under a special FBI "language program" designed to recruit Arabic and other foreign-language speakers, a bureau official said today. Not only was she quickly granted a security clearance, she was then assigned to the bureau's Washington field office, where she worked on an extraterritorial squad investigating crimes against U.S. persons overseas. In that capacity, Prouty in September 2000 improperly tapped into bureau computers to access information about herself, her sister, and Chahine. Three years later, Prouty again tapped into bureau computers to obtain information about a case she was not assigned to: a national security investigation targeting Hizbollah being conducted by the Detroit field office.
Prouty, the court papers suggest, may have had a personal motive for seeking information about Chahine and Hizbollah. Her sister, Elfat El Aouar, had by then married Chahine and both of them in August 2002 had attended a "fundraising event in Lebanon." The keynote speakers at the event, according to the court papers, were Chahine and Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, the spiritual leader of Hizbollah, who has been designated by the U.S. Treasury Department as a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist."
Chahine was subsequently charged in two federal indictments. One of them last year accused him of skimming $20 million from his chain of restaurants in Detroit and routing some of that cash to unnamed persons in Lebanon. (Prouty's sister was also charged in that case. She has since pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months in prison last May.) In the second indictment last month, Chahine—now believed to be a fugitive in Lebanon—was charged with conspiring with a former senior official of the Homeland Security's office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Detroit to extort funds from former employees of Chahine's La Shish restaurant chain. (Although he has since left the country, his lawyer has denied that Chahine had any involvement in terrorism.) The ICE official, Roy Bailey, was accused of misusing his position to accept "large sums of currency and other property in return for granting immigration benefits," according to a Justice Department press release last month. (Bailey has entered a plea of not guilty.)
Officials emphasized that there is still there is much they don't know about Prouty's activities—most importantly, whether she was actively providing U.S. government intelligence to Hizbollah. But the FBI acknowledged Tuesday that they didn't discover Prouty's connections to Hizbollah until December 2005—apparently as a result of the ICE bribery probe--and more than two years after she left the bureau to go work for the CIA's Clandestine Service. Eventually, the bureau alerted the agency and the CIA later reassigned her into a less sensitive position, a U.S. official said. But while both agencies are still doing damage control assessments, the mere fact that Prouty got as far as she did has stunned the counter-intelligence community. "This is not good," said one chagrined senior official, who, like all officials quoted anonymously in this story, declined to speak on the record owing to the sensitivity of the subject.
Paul Gimigliano, a CIA spokesman, said: "The CIA, among other federal agencies, cooperated with the investigation. Ms. Prouty was a mid-level employee who came to us in 2003 from the FBI, where she had been a special agent. The naturalization issue occurred well before she was hired by the Bureau. She formally resigned from the federal service as part of her plea agreement."
More on Nada Prouty scandal
Reply #37 on:
November 21, 2007, 07:02:28 PM »
It Only Gets Worse
Kudos to Debbie Schlussel, Michelle Malkin and the New York Post, who are still digging into on the Nada Prouty scandal, while the MSM takes the a pass.
Readers will recall that Ms. Prouty is the former FBI Special Agent and CIA Operative who pleaded guilty last week to charges of fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizenship, unlawfully obtaining information from a government computer system, and defrauding the United States.
The charges stemmed from Prouty's use of a sham marriage to attain citizenship, a prerequisite for federal employment. Once on the FBI payroll, she attempted to gain information on the bureau's efforts to investigate Hizballah activities in the U.S. and abroad. Prouty's brother-in-law, who provided employment during the 1990s, is a reported Hizballah fund-raiser, accused of funneling more than $20 million to the terrorist group before fleeing the United States.
Now, it seems that Prouty has a former sister-in-law who pulled a similar scam, to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. Reporter Jeane MacIntosh of the Post has discovered that Samar Khalil Nabbou Spinelli married the brother of the man that Prouty wed to obtain U.S. citizenship. Both marriages took place in 1990; neither woman ever lived with their "husbands," and once the naturalization process was complete, they filed for divorce. Sources tell the Post that the Michigan men involved in the scheme, Christopher and Jean Paul Deladurantaye, agreed to the deal.
With her citizenship in hand, Samar Khalil Nabbou enlisted in the Marine Corps and eventually became a commissioned officer; her rank has not been disclosed. However, depending on when she earned her commission, Nabbou is at least a Captain (O-3), a Major (O-4). After entering the Corps--and divorcing her sham husband--Nabbou married a fellow Marine, giving her yet another last name.
So far, the Marine Corps has said little about Samar Khalil Nabbou Spinelli, reporting only that she is currently stationed in Japan. The Corps has not provided information on her military specialty or past duty assignments. However, with her background and language skills, it would not be surprising to learn that Spinelli is an intelligence officer.
This much we know: as a commissioned officer in the Marine Corps, Spinelli held a "Secret" security clearance at a minimum. If she held a Top Secret/SCI security clearance, Spinelli had access to Intelink, the secure "intranet" which allows the FBI, intelligence agencies and military intelligence to access and share information, including some of the nation's most sensitive secrets. As an FBI agent, Prouty may have had access to the same system, and she certainly used Intelink during her subsequent employment as a CIA operative.
What remains unclear is the relationship between Prouty and Spinelli once their sham marriages ended. The Post reports that both women lived together--with Prouty's sister--during their marriages to the Deladurantayes. However, Spinelli enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1990, while Prouty remained in the Detroit area until 1997, when she applied for a position with the FBI. Prouty used Spinelli as a reference on her employment application, suggesting there was some contact after her former "sister-in-law" began her military career.
At this point, the Marine Corps won't say what punishment (if any) Spinelli might face. For starters, there's the issue of Fraudulent Enlistment, which is a crime under Article 83 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). To become a Marine officer, Spinelli had to be a U.S. citizen, and she obtained her citizenship through fraud.
Spinelli was also named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the federal case against Prouty, along with the former CIA operative's sister, and her Hizballah-connected husband, Talil Kahil Chahine. We're guessing that Spintelli's status as a co-conspirator was based on more than merely providing a reference for Prouty's FBI application. Needless to say, the Marines will frown on Spinelli's role in the Prouty case, and her own, fraudulent enlistment into the Corps.
Beyond Spinelli's potential problems with the military justice system, there are other, equally pressing issues that require immediate resolution. The emergence of the Marine officer as an un-indicted co-conspirator raises new questions about her own access to classified information, contact with Nada Prouty after 1997, and how Spinelli's entrance into the Marine Corps (and subsequent commissioning) were vetted by authorities.
Complete background on the Prouty case from the experts at the Counter-Intelligence Centre.
Labels: Hizballah, Nada Prouty, Samar Nabbou Spinelli
Reply #38 on:
December 08, 2007, 10:55:46 AM »
This latest intelligence fiasco is Mr. Bush's fault.
Saturday, December 8, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
President Bush has been scrambling to rescue his Iran policy after this week's intelligence switcheroo, but the fact that the White House has had to spin so furiously is a sign of how badly it has bungled this episode. In sum, Mr. Bush and his staff have allowed the intelligence bureaucracy to frame a new judgment in a way that has undermined four years of U.S. effort to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions.
This kind of national security mismanagement has bedeviled the Bush Presidency. Recall the internal disputes over post-invasion Iraq, the smearing of Ahmad Chalabi by the State Department and CIA, hanging Scooter Libby out to dry after bungling the response to Joseph Wilson's bogus accusations, and so on. Mr. Bush has too often failed to settle internal disputes and enforce the results.
What's amazing in this case is how the White House has allowed intelligence analysts to drive policy. The very first sentence of this week's national intelligence estimate (NIE) is written in a way that damages U.S. diplomacy: "We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program." Only in a footnote below does the NIE say that this definition of "nuclear weapons program" does "not mean Iran's declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment."
In fact, the main reason to be concerned about Iran is that we can't trust this distinction between civilian and military. That distinction is real in a country like Japan. But we know Iran lied about its secret military efforts until it was discovered in 2003, and Iran continues to enrich uranium on an industrial scale, with 3,000 centrifuges, in defiance of binding U.N. resolutions. There is no civilian purpose for such enrichment. Iran has access to all the fuel it needs for civilian nuclear power from Russia at the plant in Bushehr. The NIE buries the potential danger from this enrichment, even though this enrichment has been the main focus of U.S. diplomacy against Iran.
In this regard, it's hilarious to see the left and some in the media accuse Mr. Bush once again of distorting intelligence. The truth is the opposite. The White House was presented with this new estimate only weeks ago, and no doubt concluded it had little choice but to accept and release it however much its policy makers disagreed. Had it done otherwise, the finding would have been leaked and the Administration would have been assailed for "politicizing" intelligence.
The result is that we now have NIE judgments substituting for policy in a dangerous way. For one thing, these judgments are never certain, and policy in a dangerous world has to account for those uncertainties. We know from our own sources that not everyone in American intelligence agrees with this NIE "consensus," and the Israelis have already made clear they don't either. The Jerusalem Post reported this week that Israeli defense officials are exercised enough that they will present their Iran evidence to Admiral Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, when he visits that country tomorrow.
For that matter, not even the diplomats at the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency agree with the NIE. "To be frank, we are more skeptical," a senior official close to the agency told the New York Times this week. "We don't buy the American analysis 100 percent. We are not that generous with Iran." Senator John Ensign, a Nevada Republican, is also skeptical enough that he wants Congress to establish a bipartisan panel to explore the NIE's evidence. We hope he keeps at it.
All the more so because the NIE heard 'round the world is already harming U.S. policy. The Chinese are backing away from whatever support they might have provided for tougher sanctions against Iran, while Russia has used the NIE as another reason to oppose them. Most delighted are the Iranians, who called the NIE a "victory" and reasserted their intention to proceed full-speed ahead with uranium enrichment. Behind the scenes, we can expect Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to expand their nuclear efforts as they conclude that the U.S. will now be unable to stop Iran from getting the bomb.
We reported earlier this week that the authors of this Iran NIE include former State Department officials who have a history of hostility to Mr. Bush's foreign policy. But the ultimate responsibility for this fiasco lies with Mr. Bush. Too often he has appointed, or tolerated, officials who oppose his agenda, and failed to discipline them even when they have worked against his policies. Instead of being candid this week about the problems with the NIE, Mr. Bush and his National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley, tried to spin it as a victory for their policy. They simply weren't believable.
It's a sign of the Bush Administration's flagging authority that even many of its natural allies wondered this week if the NIE was really an attempt to back down from its own Iran policy. We only wish it were that competent.
Reply #39 on:
December 10, 2007, 02:44:20 PM »
Trivia: Jane Harman was my opponent the last time I ran for Congress.
The Limits of Intelligence
By PETER HOEKSTRA and JANE HARMAN
December 10, 2007; Page A18
On one of our several trips together to Iraq, a senior intelligence official told us how she wrote her assessments -- on one page, with three sections: what we know, what we don't know, and what we think it means.
Sound simple? Actually, it's very hard.
The limitations of the intelligence community are unfortunately well known to us. As past leaders of the House Intelligence Committee, we both saw the intelligence on Iraq's WMD in the run-up to the war, as well as the failure to detect the 9/11 plot or predict India's rise to the ranks of nuclear-armed nations. As a result, we coauthored, along with Sens. Susan Collins and Joe Lieberman, the 2004 Intelligence Reform & Terrorism Prevention Act.
Since then, we have monitored the intelligence community as it tries to reinvent itself and become a strong, world-class organization. And we have worked, on a bipartisan basis, to strengthen the capability of the intelligence community to penetrate targets. Those efforts are moving forward, but we still have work to do. We are not convinced we have the necessary access to form definitive conclusions on Iran's future plans, or the plans and intentions of other hard targets. As lawmakers on homeland security and intelligence, we want hard information on what is actually happening on the ground.
Moreover, the only way Congress can have faith in the intelligence we receive is for the administration and intelligence community to follow the law by keeping the congressional intelligence committees "fully and currently" informed on intelligence matters. The controversy over the recording and destruction of interrogation tapes by the Central Intelligence Agency underscores this point, and the negative consequences when they don't.
Still, intelligence is in many ways an art, not an exact science. The complete reversal from the 2005 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear-weapons program to the latest NIE serves as its own caution in this regard. The information we receive from the intelligence community is but one piece of the puzzle in a rapidly changing world. It is not a substitute for policy, and the challenge for policy makers is to use good intelligence wisely to fashion good policy.
In fact, the new NIE on Iran comes closest to the three-part model our intelligence community strives for: It carefully describes sources and the analysts' assessment of their reliability, what gaps remain in their understanding of Iran's intentions and capabilities, and how confident they are of their conclusions. Yet it ignores some key questions. Most importantly, it does not explain why the 2005 NIE came to the opposite conclusion, or what factors could drive Iran to "restart" its nuclear-weapons program.
We were among the loudest voices in 2006 demanding more intelligence on the status of Iran's program and its intent to construct nuclear weapons. In a joint television interview, we raised serious concerns about the quality and extent of our intelligence community's penetration of Iran. We were concerned that some of the conclusions being reached were based on scant reporting. Our view is that there were more gaps in our coverage of Iran than many were willing to admit at the time.
Intelligence is essential in countering proliferation challenges from state and nonstate actors. And national-security issues should be bipartisan and debated in a constructive manner, recognizing that sometimes, based on the information available, what we believe in good faith to be true may turn out to be wrong.
Lawmakers have a constitutional obligation to understand and investigate these issues. This is why we have traveled extensively throughout the Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan and Afghanistan to assess the situation firsthand, and why we both recently signed a letter responding to a request from Iranian parliamentarians to meet with them. The purpose of the meeting would not be foreign policy, but to learn and hopefully fill in some of the gaps in information we receive from the intelligence community.
Though the new NIE may be taken as positive news, Iran clearly remains dangerous. The combination of international pressure, economic sanctions and the presence of U.S. troops on Iran's borders may have indeed convinced Tehran to abandon its nuclear-weapons program, as the NIE states with "high confidence." Nevertheless, Congress must engage in vigorous oversight -- to challenge those who do intelligence work, and to make site visits to see for ourselves.
Intelligence is an investment -- in people and technology. It requires sustained focus, funding and leadership. It also requires agency heads that prioritize their constitutional duty to keep the intelligence committees informed. Good intelligence will not guarantee good policy, but it can spare us some huge policy mistakes.
Mr. Hoekstra, a Michigan Republican, was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee from 2004-2006. Ms. Harman, a California Democrat, was on the Intelligence Committee for eight years ending in 2006, the final four as ranking member
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #40 on:
December 11, 2007, 11:28:45 AM »
The NIE Fantasy
The intelligence community failed to anticipate the Cuban Missile Crisis.
BY BRET STEPHENS
Tuesday, December 11, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
"The USSR could derive considerable military advantage from the establishment of Soviet medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Cuba, or from the establishment of a submarine base there. . . . Either development, however, would be incompatible with Soviet practice to date and with Soviet policy as we presently estimate it."
--Special National Intelligence Estimate 85-3-62, Sept. 19, 1962
Twenty-five days after this NIE was published, a U-2 spy plane photographed a Soviet ballistic missile site in Cuba, and the Cuban Missile Crisis began. It's possible the latest NIE on Iran's nuclear weapons program will not prove as misjudged or as damaging as the 1962 estimate. But don't bet on it.
At the heart of last week's NIE is the "high confidence" judgment that Tehran "halted its nuclear weapons program" in the fall of 2003, "primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure resulting from exposure of Iran's previously undeclared nuclear work." Prior to that, however, the NIE states, also with "high confidence," that "Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons." Left to a footnote is the explanation that "by 'nuclear weapons program' we mean Iran's nuclear weapon design and weaponization work. . . . we do not mean Iran's declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment."
Let's unpack this.
In August 2002, an Iranian opposition group revealed that Iran had an undeclared uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and an undeclared heavy water facility at Arak--both previously unknown to the pros of the U.S. intelligence community. Since then, the administration has labored to persuade the international community that all these facilities have no conceivable purpose other than a military one. Those efforts paid off in three successive U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding Iran suspend enrichment because it was "concerned by the proliferation risks" it posed.
Along comes the NIE to instantly undo four years of diplomacy, using a semantic sleight-of-hand to suggest some kind of distinction can be drawn between Iran's bid to master the nuclear fuel cycle and its efforts to build nuclear weapons. How credible is this distinction?
In "Avoiding Nuclear Anarchy" (1996), MIT's Owen Cote notes that "The recipe [for designing a weapon] is very simple. . . . Nor are the ingredients, other than plutonium or HEU [highly enriched uranium], hard to obtain. For a gun weapon, the gun barrel could be ordered from any machine shop, as could a tungsten tamper machined to any specifications the customer desired. The high-explosive charge for firing the bullet could also be fashioned by anyone with access to and some experience handling TNT, or other conventional, chemical explosives" (my emphasis).
In other words, Iran didn't abandon its nuclear weapons program. On the contrary, it went public with it. It's certainly plausible Tehran may have suspended one aspect of the program--the aspect that is the least technically challenging and that, if exposed, would offer smoking-gun proof of ill intent. Then again, why does the NIE have next to nothing to say about Iran's efforts to produce plutonium at the Arak facility, which is of the same weapons-producing type as Israel's Dimona and North Korea's Yongbyon reactors? And why the silence on Iran's ongoing and acknowledged testing of ballistic missiles of ever-longer range, the development of which only makes sense as a vehicle to deliver a weapon of mass destruction?
Equally disingenuous is the NIE's assessment that Iran's purported decision to halt its weapons program is an indication that "Tehran's decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach"--an interesting statement, given that Iran's quest for "peaceful" nuclear energy makes no economic sense. But the NIE's real purpose becomes clear in the next sentence, when it states that Iran's behavior "suggests that some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige and goals for regional influence in other ways, might--if perceived by Iran's leaders as credible--prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program."
This is a policy prescription, not an intelligence assessment. Nonetheless, it is worth recalling that if Iran did have an active weaponization program prior to 2003, as the NIE claims, it means that former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami was lying when he said that "weapons of mass destruction have never been our objective." Mr. Khatami is just the kind of "moderate" that advocates of engagement with Iran see as a credible negotiating partner. If he's not to be trusted, is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?
Then again, when it comes to the issue of trust, it isn't just Mr. Ahmadinejad we need to worry about. It has been widely pointed out that the conclusions of this NIE flatly contradict those of a 2005 NIE on the same subject, calling the entire process into question. Less discussed is why the administration chose to release a shoddy document that does maximum political damage to it and to key U.S. allies, particularly France, the U.K. and Israel.
The likely answer is that the administration calculated that any effort by them to suppress or tweak the NIE would surely leak, leading to accusations of "politicizing intelligence." But that only means that we now have an "intelligence community" that acts as an authority unto itself, and cannot be trusted to obey its political masters, much less keep a secret. The administration's tacit acquiescence in this state of affairs may prove even more damaging than its wishful thinking on Iran.
For years it has been a staple of fever swamp politics to believe the U.S. government is in the grip of shadowy powers using "intelligence" as a tool of control. With the publication of this NIE, that is no longer a fantasy.
Mr. Stephens is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. His column appears in the Journal Tuesdays.
AQ on the Dark Web
Reply #41 on:
December 11, 2007, 01:35:47 PM »
Second post of the AM
U.S.: The Role and Limitations of the 'Dark Web' In Jihadist Training
Security experts have warned in recent weeks that Western governments have yielded control of the Internet to jihadists by failing to understand the efficacy of pro-al Qaeda Web sites to recruit and train new operatives. Although the Internet has been a great enabler for grassroots cells to spread their ideology and recruit new acolytes, some things are incredibly difficult to accomplish online -- namely, absorbing the technical information and tradecraft of terrorism and applying it to a real-world situation, particularly in a hostile environment.
Security experts have warned in recent weeks that Western governments have ceded control of the Internet to jihadists, the World Tribune reported Dec. 10. In a conference on Internet security at Germany's Federal Police Office headquarters Nov. 21, Western experts argued that the United States and a number of EU countries have failed to understand the efficacy of pro-al Qaeda Web sites -- or the "Dark Web" -- to recruit and train new operatives, and have written off such Web sites as propaganda.
According to these Western experts, al Qaeda has been so successful in its exploitation of the Internet that it has closed training camps in Afghanistan, though this somewhat understates the role of the U.S. military in closing the camps. Gabriel Weimann, a professor in Israel and Germany, told the conference that al Qaeda has made a shift and is now able to indoctrinate, train and mobilize new recruits and turn them into jihadist militants via practical Web sites that illustrate how to handle weapons, carry out kidnappings and make bombs. The Internet -- specifically Google Earth -- has also reduced jihadists' need for target reconnaissance. Although the Internet has been a boon for grassroots cells in spreading their ideology and recruiting new acolytes, the Web has some serious limitations as a terrorism enabler. Some things are very difficult to accomplish online -- namely, absorbing technical information and the tradecraft of terrorism and applying it to a real-world situation, particularly in a dangerous environment.
Since 9/11, blogs, chat rooms and Web sites have experienced an increase in popularity among jihadists. Often, these jihadist "cyberwarriors" -- usually in their late teens or early 20s -- join or form grassroots cells and become "al Qaeda 3.0 or 4.0" operatives.
However, the application of technical skills (bomb-making, targeting, and deployment) often requires subtle and complex abilities that one cannot perfect simply by reading about them. It is quite difficult to follow written instructions and build a perfectly functioning improvised explosive device from scratch; as with any scientific endeavor, trial and error and testing in the real world usually are required. Bomb-making is a talent best learned from an experienced teacher (and many potential teachers have blown themselves up in pursuit of expert-level skills). Without such a teacher and hands-on experience, there is a steep learning curve, and much trial and error is required.
Additionally, tradecraft -- those intuitive skills needed to sustain secrecy and operations in a hostile environment -- are essential to both the individual jihadist and his network. History has shown repeatedly that -- even when preoperational planning and other activities have begun in cyberspace -- as a matter of routine, jihadists conduct target surveillance in the physical world and carry out dry runs when possible. While Google Earth might be an efficient tool for mapping and coordinating an attack, it does not negate the need for preoperational surveillance. Jihadists recognize, as do law enforcement agents, that however detailed a picture of a target might appear on a Web site, it is an incomplete snapshot of reality that has been frozen in time. Successful attacks depend on knowledge of large swathes of terrain, security routines and other details that cannot be obtained from videos or photographs.
Although these Web sites are not going to produce super-jihadists, the challenge remains for law enforcement agencies to identify and remove dangerous sites quickly and to develop Web monitoring programs in an attempt to track those using them as part of counterterrorism efforts. As these sites proliferate, so does the attention devoted to them. It is important to note that visiting such Web sites is an operational security hazard that can allow counterterrorism forces to identify potential militants and close in on them, as they did in Canada in the summer of 2006 and in Atlanta before that.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #42 on:
December 13, 2007, 04:47:10 PM »
By CLAUDE MONIQUET
December 13, 2007
The citizens of the free world have nothing to worry any more -- America's spy masters have recovered their missing crystal ball. No fewer than 16 U.S. intelligence agencies have just told us that the Iranian nuclear program really is not so dangerous. According to the National Intelligence Estimate, Tehran has, for reasons yet to be explained, supposedly stopped the military plank of its atomic research.
Before rolling out the peace banners, though, it's worth looking at the agencies' track record in getting these sorts of "estimates" right. As a matter of fact, U.S. intelligence services have so far failed to predict the nuclearization of a single foreign nation. They failed to do so with regard to the Soviet Union in 1949, China in 1964, India and Pakistan in 1998, and North Korea in 2002. They also got Saddam's weapons program wrong -- twice. First by underestimating it in the 1980s and then by overplaying its progress before the 2003 invasion. But on the possible nuclearization of a regime that sounds fanatic enough to use this doomsday weapon, the NIE, contradicting everything we have heard so far about the issue, including from a previous NIE report, is suddenly to be trusted?
It's not just on the nuclear front where American intelligence services have failed their country. They foresaw neither the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 nor the collapse of the Soviet Union two years later. In Afghanistan, during the 1980s, while other friendly services, among them the French, urged the CIA to support more "moderate" tribal chiefs in the fight against the Red Army, the agency relied on the enlightened advice of its Saudi friends and supported the most extreme Islamists. U.S. troops are fighting and dying today for that blunder.
More recently, the CIA conducted those "extraordinary renditions" of terrorist suspects in such an amateurish manner that several American intelligence officers were exposed and are now being tried in absentia in Italy. Allied services in other countries were also compromised, souring future cooperation between the agencies.
I do not rehash this history with any kind of schadenfreude but to urge policy makers in the U.S. and here in Europe to read this report with more than just a grain of salt. Many Democrats in Washington and the international media welcomed the agencies' "independence" from the political leadership. But one must wonder whether, in a democracy, intelligence services are supposed to cultivate their "independence" to the point of opposing the elected political leadership.
And make no mistake, the NIE has little in common with intelligence as it is understood by professionals. Instead, Langley & Co. seem to have decided to carry out their own foreign policy. The report's most controversial conclusion -- that Iran ceased its covert nuclear program -- is based on the absurd distinction between military and civilian. Iran itself admits -- no, boasts -- that it continues enriching uranium as part of its "civilian" program. But such enrichment can have only a military purpose.
With this sleight of hand, though, the intelligence services effectively sabotaged the Bush administration's efforts to steer its allies toward a tougher position on Iran. Paris in particular won't be amused about what appears almost like a betrayal. President Nicolas Sarkozy took a great political risk when he turned around French foreign policy and became Europe's leading opponent of a nuclear Iran. He even warned of a possible armed conflict with Iran -- not the most popular thing to do in France.
The agencies say in the report that they don't "know" whether Tehran is considering equipping itself with nuclear arms. These super-spies in the suburbs of Washington do not seem to be the least embarrassed by this admission of incompetence. With their multibillion-dollar budget, one might certainly expect the agencies to "know" these sorts of things.
This admission also betrays a rather naive view of the nature of the Iranian regime. Are the mullahs' intentions really so hard to discern? What everybody "knows" -- and not only those in the intelligence community -- is that Tehran has made it pretty clear that it wants nuclear arms and that it has very concrete plans for their deployment: to erase Israel from the map. Everybody also "knows" that nuclear arms would make the Islamic Republic almost untouchable, turning it into a regional superpower that could dictate its will on the Gulf states -- the world's suppliers of oil and gas. And everybody "knows" that this is an unacceptable prospect for the Gulf countries, practically forcing them to get the bomb as well. Over time the Middle East, not a very stable region, would become completely nuclearized.
The CIA and its covert colleagues could have thought about these realities a bit longer before publishing a document that can only add confusion to an already complex crisis. But to do so would have meant concentrating on intelligence analysis rather than politics. This whole affair would be almost laughable if it weren't so disturbing and dangerous.
Mr. Moniquet, a former field operative for the French foreign intelligence service, heads the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #43 on:
December 15, 2007, 01:17:04 PM »
Israel: US report on Iran may spark war
By LAURIE COPANS, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 27 minutes ago
JERUSALEM - Israel's public security minister warned Saturday that a U.S. intelligence report that said Iran is no longer developing nuclear arms could lead to a regional war that would threaten the Jewish state.
In his remarks — Israel's harshest criticism yet of the U.S. report — Avi Dichter said the assessment also cast doubt on American intelligence in general, including information about Palestinian security forces' crackdown on militant groups. The Palestinian action is required as part of a U.S.-backed renewal of peace talks with Israel this month.
Dichter cautioned that a refusal to recognize Iran's intentions to build weapons of mass destruction could lead to armed conflict in the Middle East.
He compared the possibility of such fighting to a surprise attack on Israel in 1973 by its Arab neighbors, which came to be known in Israel for the Yom Kippur Jewish holy day on which it began.
"The American misconception concerning Iran's nuclear weapons is liable to lead to a regional Yom Kippur where Israel will be among the countries that are threatened," Dichter said in a speech in a suburb south of Tel Aviv, according to his spokesman, Mati Gil. "Something went wrong in the American blueprint for analyzing the severity of the Iranian nuclear threat."
Dichter didn't elaborate on the potential scenario but seemed to imply that a world that let its guard down regarding Iran would be more vulnerable to attack by the Islamic regime.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had disputed the U.S. intelligence assessment this month, saying that Iran continues its efforts to obtain components necessary to produce nuclear weapons. Tehran still poses a major threat to the West and the world must stop it, Olmert said.
Israel has for years been warning that Iran is working on nuclear weapons and backed the United States in its international efforts to exert pressure on Iran to stop the program. Israel considers Iran a significant threat because of its nuclear ambitions, its long-range missile program and repeated calls by its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for the disappearance of Israel.
Iran says its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes.
Israel will work to change the American intelligence agencies' view of Iran, said Dichter, a former chief of Israel's Shin Bet secret service agency.
"A misconception by the world's leading superpower is not just an internal American occurrence," Dichter said.
Any future faulty U.S. intelligence on the actions of Palestinian security forces could damage peace efforts, Dichter said.
"Those same (intelligence) arms in the U.S. are apt to make a mistake and declare that the Palestinians have fulfilled their commitments, which would carry with it very serious consequences from Israel's vantage point," Dichter said.
Uh oh , , ,
Reply #44 on:
December 17, 2007, 02:41:24 PM »
LEBANON: A senior Iranian intelligence officer arrived in Lebanon the week of Dec. 9, and Imad Mughniyye, Hezbollah official in charge of foreign operations, is accompanying the officer to his meetings there, Stratfor sources said Dec. 16. The two have held continuous talks with Hezbollah foreign operations officers in meetings attended by Hezbollah security chief Wafiq Safa. They later traveled to the town of Nabi Sheit in the northern Biqaa, then met with Syrian intelligence officers led by Brig. Gen. Ali Diab in Hezbollah training grounds in Shara near the border village of Janta.
AG Mukasey on Protecting Telcoms from lawsuits for helping track I-fascists
Reply #45 on:
January 04, 2008, 07:51:40 AM »
Notable & Quotable
January 4, 2008; Page A11
Attorney General Michael Mukasey at the American Bar Association, December 19:
I also want to address the issue of protecting telecom companies from lawsuits. It's critical that Congress provide retroactive liability protection for telecommunications companies, as a bipartisan bill from the Senate Intelligence Committee does. Let me explain why this is important.
Over 40 lawsuits have been filed against telecommunication companies simply because these companies are believed to have assisted our intelligence agencies after the attacks of September 11th. The amounts of these claims -- which run into the hundreds of billions of dollars; that's billions with a B -- are enough to send any company into bankruptcy. These companies face lawsuits, they face bankruptcy, they face loss of reputation, they face millions of dollars in legal fees, all because they are alleged to have helped the government in obtaining intelligence information after 9/11.
Even if you believe the lawsuits will ultimately be dismissed, as we do, the prospect of having to defend against these massive claims is an enormous burden for the companies to bear.
Not only is the litigation itself costly, but the companies also may suffer significant business and reputational harm as the result of the allegations against them -- allegations which may or may not be true, but to which they cannot publicly respond, because they're not allowed to confirm or deny whether, and to what extent, they provide classified assistance to the Government. . . .
As you might imagine, these companies and others may decide that it's too risky to help the Intelligence Community in the future, no matter how great our need for their assistance may be.
phone data - secure? - nah.
Reply #46 on:
January 04, 2008, 08:49:37 PM »
"these companies are believed to have assisted our intelligence agencies"
And how did these companies assist law enforcement?
Who is monitoring what these companies do with their databases of personal phone call information? Who monitors who they track with cell tower info?
The answer: nobody knows but them.
Don't think for a minute they (mis)use information only for "law enforcement purposes".
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #47 on:
January 04, 2008, 11:40:37 PM »
Heather Mac Donald
Talking Sense on “Spying”
Requiring warrants for computerized surveillance is absurd and dangerous to national security.
2 January 2006
It’s time to get real: Computers can’t spy. They can’t violate your privacy, because they don’t know that you exist. Computers are the solution to Americans’ hyperactive privacy paranoia, not its nightmare confirmation. Next Monday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the National Security Agency’s Al Qaeda phone-tracking program should focus on the promise of computer technology in fighting terrorism, and on overcoming the impediments to using it.
The furor over the National Security Agency program has been inflamed by conflating computer scanning with human spying. Administration opponents and the media have thrown around the phrases “domestic surveillance” and “warrantless eavesdropping” to refer to what appears to be computer analysis of vast amounts of communications traffic. In only the most minute fraction of cases has a human mind attended to the results—at which point, the term “eavesdropping” may become appropriate. Most of the time, however, the communications data passed through NSA’s supercomputers without any further consequences and without any sentient being learning what the data were. Anyone who feels violated by the possibility that his international phone calls or emails joined the flood of zeros and ones that feed the NSA’s machines only to be passed by undeciphered, must believe that his wonderful individuality can spark interest even in silicon chips.
But although the NSA’s Al Qaeda communications analysis program did not in the vast majority of cases violate privacy, it probably did violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. And that fact should serve as a warning that national security law needs reform if we want to deploy one of our greatest defensive assets—computer technology—against Islamic terrorists.
The facts about the NSA tracking program remain unknown: administration accounts and media reports are conflicting and incomplete. Assuming some truth in what has come out to date, it seems that when American soldiers and intelligence agents abroad seize phones and computers from Al Qaeda suspects, NSA computers start tracking communications to and from the phone numbers and email addresses contained in those devices, including communications between Al Qaeda suspects abroad and people here in the U.S.
Some of that mechanized tracking, it appears, simply follows calling or emailing patterns to and from the intercepted numbers and internet addresses—looking solely at phone numbers and email addresses without analyzing content. Other aspects of the program may search for certain key phrases within phone and electronic messages. And perhaps in a small percentage of cases, an NSA agent may monitor the content of highly suspicious communications between Al Qaeda operatives and U.S. residents.
Under the law, all of those methods require a court order if any of the numbers or addresses belong to U.S. citizens or legal residents, even though only a live agent poses any privacy problems. Using a computer to track phone numbers called and email addresses contacted, or to search for key words in conversations—assuming no follow-up action by the government—is a privacy-protecting measure. A computer is no more sensitive to the meaning of the millions of conversations it may be scanning for Jihadist code words than a calculator that you use to figure out your taxes is privy to your income and debt levels.
But the legal hurdles to such automated-scanning programs become significant if there’s any possibility that data on American residents are in play. To track just the phone numbers dialed out of and received by numbers contained in Khalid Sheik Mohammad’s cell phone, without any interception of content, for example, requires a court order under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, if some of those numbers belong to U.S. residents or are found in the U.S. This requirement is particularly perverse, because the Supreme Court has held that there is no Fourth Amendment privacy interest in the numbers you dial from or receive into your phone. Phone companies already possess that information, which they use (among other things) to pitch new calling plans to subscribers. Dialing patterns, therefore, have no claim to constitutionally protected privacy.
The barriers to using our computer capacity grow even more daunting when the government wants to use computers to find Jihadist language in communications. Remember: a computer cannot eavesdrop on a conversation, because it does not “know” what anyone is saying, and a key-word detection program would exclude from computer analysis all conversations and all parts of conversations that don’t use suspicious language. Nevertheless, such an insensate tracking device becomes “surveillance” for FISA purposes. Thus, in order to put a computer to work sifting through thousands of phone conversations or email messages a day, the NSA must convince the FISA court that there is probable cause to believe that every U.S. resident whose conversations will be dumbly scanned is an agent of a foreign power knowingly and illegally gathering intelligence or planning terrorism. FISA’s 72-hour emergency exception rule, which allows the government to begin monitoring a conversation and seek a warrant within 72 hours, is no help. The government will still need to prove that the thousands of electronically scanned and ignored conversations emanate from American agents of foreign governments or terrorist organizations.
Obviously, such a requirement is both unworkable and unnecessary. It is wrong to consider computer analysis a constitutional “search” of data that haven’t been selected for further inspection. Only when authorities order a follow-up investigation on selected results should a probable-cause standard come into play.
That FISA employs probable-cause standards at all is a belated encroachment on national defense that contravened centuries of constitutional thinking. The Fourth Amendment’s probable-cause requirement governs criminal prosecution. It requires public authorities to prove to a judge issuing a search or arrest warrant that there is sufficient reason to believe that the wanted individual has committed a crime or that the criminal evidence sought is likely to be in the alleged location. The purpose of probable-cause rules is to ensure that the government’s police powers are correctly targeted and do not unreasonably invade privacy. But federal judges and criminal evidentiary standards should be irrelevant when the government is gathering intelligence to prevent an attack on the country. A federal judge has no expertise in evaluating the need for and significance of foreign intelligence information. And the standard for gathering intelligence on our enemies should be lower than that for bringing the government’s penal powers to bear on citizens.
FISA’s incongruous probable-cause standards, passed in a fit of civil-libertarian zeal after the Church Committee hearings in the 1970s, however, are likely here to stay. At the very least, we should not make matters worse by equating computer interception of large-scale data with “surveillance” under FISA. Requiring probable cause for computer analysis of intelligence data would knock out our technological capacity in the war on Islamic terrorists almost as effectively as a Jihadist strike against NSA’s computers.
Bolton: Our politicized intel
Reply #48 on:
February 05, 2008, 08:37:46 AM »
Our Politicized Intelligence Services
By JOHN R. BOLTON
February 5, 2008; Page A17
Today, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee (and Thursday on the House side) to give the intelligence community's annual global threat analysis. These hearings are always significant, but the stakes are especially high now because of the recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iran.
Criticism of the NIE's politicized, policy-oriented "key judgments" has spanned the political spectrum and caused considerable turmoil in Congress. Few seriously doubt that the NIE gravely damaged the Bush administration's diplomatic strategy. With the intelligence community's credibility and impartiality on the line, Mr. McConnell has an excellent opportunity to correct the NIE's manifold flaws, and repair some of the damage done to international efforts to stop Iran from obtaining deliverable nuclear weapons.
There are (at least) three things he should do:
- Explain how the NIE was distorted, and rewrite it objectively to reflect the status of Iran's nuclear programs. The NIE's first key judgment is "we judge with high confidence that in fall, 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program." Most of the world, predictably, never got beyond that opinion. Only inveterate footnote hunters noticed the extraordinary accompanying footnote which redefined Iran's "nuclear weapons program" to mean only its "nuclear weapon design and weaponization work," and undeclared uranium conversion and enrichment activities. Card sharks -- not intelligence professionals -- could be proud of this sleight of hand, which grossly mischaracterizes what Iran actually needs for a weapons program.
The NIE later makes clear that Iran's nuclear efforts and capabilities are continuing and growing, that many activities are "dual use" (i.e., for either civil or military purposes), and that Iran's real intentions are unknown. Substantively, therefore, the NIE is not far different from the 2005 NIE, but its first sentence gives a radically different impression.
Here is the first question for Congress: Was the NIE's opening salvo intended to produce policy consequences congenial to Mr. McConnell's own sentiments? If not, how did he miss the obvious consequences that flowed from the NIE within minutes of its public release?
This was a sin of either commission or omission. If the intelligence community intended the NIE's first judgment to have policy ramifications -- in particular to dissuade the Bush administration from a more forceful policy against Iran -- then it was out of line, a sin of commission.
If, on the other hand, Mr. McConnell and others missed the NIE's explosive nature, then this is at best a sin of omission, and perhaps far worse. Will Mr. McConnell say he saw nothing significant in how the NIE was written? Does he believe in fact that the first sentence is the NIE's single most important point? If not, why was it the first sentence?
Why not start by using the NIE's very last key judgment, "we assess with high confidence that Iran has the scientific, technical and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it decides to do so." Who decided which sentence should be first and which last? This is not an exercise in style, but a matter of critical importance for American national security.
- Commit that NIEs will abjure policy bias. Policy makers and intelligence community analysts agree that assessing hard capabilities is typically easier than judging the murkier world of intentions. The NIE's judgments on Iran's intentions and sensitivities, however, often sound as though they were written by Supreme Leader Khamenei's psychologist, albeit with precious little factual basis.
While acknowledging that the 2003 halt was due to "pressure," the NIE opines that a combination of pressures and "opportunities for Iran" might cause the halt to be extended, but only if those worthy mullahs in Tehran find the "opportunities" to be "credible." One can only guess where that conclusion comes from, but the NIE's next sentence says "it is difficult to specify what such a combination might be," thus rendering the earlier conclusions not only unsupported, but incomprehensible.
One key proof of the NIE's policy-driven nature is the number of dogs that don't bark. The 2003 halt could have been triggered by the invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam Hussein, acts which certainly awakened Moammar Gadhafi and led to Libya renouncing its nuclear-weapons program. But somehow the Iraq war never makes it into the NIE. The 2003 halt is attributed merely to the "exposure of Iran's previously undeclared work." Moreover, the NIE says nothing about Iran's aggressive ballistic missile development program, which bears directly on Iran's intentions: Was it expending large sums only to deliver conventional weapons?
Mr. McConnell should commit the intelligence community to stick to its knitting -- intelligence -- and return its policy enthusiasts to agencies where policy is made.
- Reaffirm the existing policy that NIE key judgments should not be made public. Then, stick to it and enforce discipline against leaks. Press reports say that the White House agreed to make the key judgments public, contrary to a policy adopted only weeks earlier, because the intelligence community warned that the document would otherwise surely leak. Some might see this as blackmail, but at best it represents a failure of both the intelligence community's leadership and rank and file. The only clear victor was Tehran, which might as well have received the NIE via e-mail directly from Mr. McConnell's office.
The intelligence community is not a think tank. It is a clandestine service to advise U.S. decision makers, proud and honorable work that its members once uniformly understood was to remain behind the scenes. This is where it should return.
Whatever the intentions of the drafters of the NIE, it mortally wounded the administration's diplomatic strategy, which was ineffective to begin with. Many applauded the outcome of this internecine bureaucratic warfare, but it is highly risky to allow such outcome-determinative opinions to prevail.
Iran is a critical challenge for the U.S. -- which Mr. McConnell should begin his testimony by stressing -- but the implications of how this NIE was written are also serious. Several members of Congress have suggested an independent analysis of the data underlying the NIE. Mr. McConnell should agree to this, to resolve the disagreements and restore the intelligence community's damaged credibility.
Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations" (Simon & Schuster/Threshold Editions, 2007).
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #49 on:
February 05, 2008, 07:10:07 PM »
We'll ignore Bolton's advice, until after it's too late....
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