May 18, 2013
The Russian-based news agency rt.com yesterday published a story about this week’s much publicized arrest in Moscow of alleged CIA officer Ryan Fogle. At the bottom of the story, rt.com disclosed the name of the current CIA station chief in Moscow, Stephen Holmes. Then an hour or two later, rt.com placed online a revised and edited version of the same story, this time without giving Holmes’ name. See this side-by-side comparison of the two stories carried on cryptome.org for the full story.
Based on my experience in Moscow. someone in the Russian intelligence community almost crtainly called up rt.com and asked them to delete the name. It is one of the ironies of the intelligence business, even back during the Cold War, that the Russians keep our secrets, and we keep their secrets.
To give you an example, years back the CIA deleted out the names of several known KGB officers from a document about Russian spying in the U.S. in the 1980s, citing as the justification for redacting the names as the section of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) designed to protect the privacy of intelligence officers pusuant to the Privacy Act. I told the CIA that the identities of KGB officers was not protected by the Privacy Act, but Langley refused to budge and the deletions were allowed to stand.
I sometimes wonder if the boys and girls at the CIA FOIA office sleep well at night.
May 1, 2013
Back on April 18, 2013, I wrote a brief post about how the U.S. Army Contracting Command had just placed online a Request for Proposals (RFP) to develop and build a mobile tactical SIGINT system for sale to an undisclosed foreign country under the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program.
On May 16, 2013, the Army supplemented the information contained in the original RFP request with an amended Confirmed Solicitation document, which revealed that the foreign buyer of this mobile tactical SIGINT system is Poland.
Goes to show that these contracting documents can be an incredibly valuable source of information about what is going on in the intelligence world.
May 18, 2013
N. Korea launches three short-range missiles: defense ministry
Yonhap News Agency
SEOUL, May 18 (Yonhap) — North Korea on Saturday launched three short range guided missiles into the sea off the Korean Peninsula’s east coast, South Korea’s Ministry of Defense said.
The ministry said it detected two launches in the morning, followed by another in the afternoon. It said the missiles were fired in a northeasterly direction away from South Korean waters.
“A more detailed analysis will be needed but the missiles launched may be a modified anti-ship missile or the KN-02 surface-to-surface missile derived from the Soviet era SS-21 that has a range of about 120 kilometers,” a Seoul official said.
He said judging by the trajectory and distance traveled, those missiles fired were not medium- or long-range ballistic missiles.
The communist country had deployed two Musudan intermediate-range missiles on its east coast along with medium-range Rodong missiles in April in an apparent countermeasure against joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises under way but they were later pulled back.
The Musudan is estimated to have a range of up to 4,000 kilometers that could reach the U.S. territory of Guam, while Nodong with a reach of 1,500 kilometers can cover all of South Korea and parts of Japan.
“All missiles launched fell into the sea,” a South Korean Defense Ministry official said, requesting that he not be identified. He speculated that the launch is likely part of a military exercise or a missile test.
Defense Ministry officials said they have beefed up monitoring on North Korea and are maintaining a high-level of readiness to deal with any risky developments.
The launches come a little over two months after the North fired off two short-range missiles into the sea off its east coast.
The presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said it has been closely watching the North’s move to test-launch the missiles.
“All information has been shared real time between the presidential office and the defense ministry,” Cheong Wa Dae spokeswoman Kim Haing said.
She said South Korea does not consider the North’s latest missile launches a serious threat to its security.
“The situation is being monitored carefully,” she said.
May 17, 2013
The following article by the Russian news service INTERFAX is interesting because it suggests that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested alleged CIA operative Ryan C. Fogle earlier this week in Moscow because Russian security officials were angered by what they characterize as a significant increase in CIA agent recruitment operations inside Russia over the past several years.
This view has been endorsed in recent days by several diplomatic sources here in Washington, who have been told in no uncertain terms by their Russian colleagues that Moscow was extremely unhappy about the rising number of Russian military officers and scientists who have been convicted of espionage on behalf of the CIA over the past two years.
Back in June 2012, I pieced together a report showing that four Russian military officers or scientists had been convicted of spying for the CIA inside Russia during the first six months of 2012 alone. The upshot of the report was that the FSB was not doing a very good job preventing the CIA’s Moscow Station from stealing Russian government and military secrets.
In the view of the Washington-based diplomats, it should come as no suprise that the FSB went to extraordinary lengths earlier this week to publicize the arrest of Ryan Fogle. The arrest sent a clear message to the CIA that these sorts of overt agent recruitment operations will no longer be tolerated. It also served as warning to Russians who might consider accepting a similar recruitment offer from the CIA.
Here is the INTERFAX article, which some new details about the Fogle arrest and the FSB’s surveillance operations.
Fogle was under surveillance of Russian counterintelligence service for 2 years - source
May 16, 2013
The Russian counterintelligence service was aware that U.S. diplomat Ryan Christopher Fogle, who arrived in Moscow in the spring of 2011, was an operative of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Sources familiar with the situation told Interfax that surveillance over Fogle was established immediately after his arrival in Moscow.
His departure for a meeting with a Russian special service officer was monitored both by CCTV cameras and electronic equipment.
It is known that Fogle, who was wearing a wig, secretly left the premises of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in the back seat of a car. The car then drove into an auto service station, where the CIA operative changed his wig and clothes and set off for the meeting.
The Russian special service officer, whom Fogle wanted to recruit, lives in Akademik Pilyugin Street, near Vorontsovsky Park in southwestern Moscow. The CIA operative identified himself as a friend and sought a meeting with him. Fogle called the Russian officer twice.
Two years ago, the Russian counterintelligence service detected an upsurge in the U.S. intelligence service’s activities in Russia. U.S. special services’ plans to infiltrate Russian government agencies were observed. Special interest was displayed in Russian security services.
The Russian counterintelligence service cautioned the CIA against these steps through partners at the end of 2011. However, the CIA reportedly ignored this warning and continued attempts to infiltrate Russian special services.
CIA operative Benjamin Dillon, who worked in Moscow as third secretary of the U.S. Embassy and tried to recruit a Russian counterintelligence agent, was quietly expelled from Russia in January 2013.
The CIA, however, once again refused to react and made another attempt to recruit an officer of Russia’s special service.
The number of CIA operatives who work against our country has not declined since the end of the Cold War. Furthermore, American intelligence agents started to operation in CIS countries. They work against us as well,” a Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officer said in an interview shown on the Rossiya 1 television station on Wednesday.
The FSB officer also told the TV channel that, despite the availability of modern means of disguise and liaison, CIA operatives prefer classical methods of intelligence.
Fogle was detained and a Moscow map, a compass, glasses, two wigs and a cheap cell phone, which Fogle was supposed to throw away after calling the “candidate” about the meeting, were confiscated from him.
It was reported earlier that Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) detained Ryan Christopher Fogle, a CIA operative, in the act of recruiting an officer of a Russian special service early on May 14.
May 17, 2013
Two days ago, Australian Minister of Defence Stephen Smith announced that the Australian government was entering into technical discussions with the U.S. to determine if it wished purchase a number of MQ-4C TRITON drones, which is maritime surveillance variant of the U.S. Air Force’s GLOBAL HAWK high-altitude unmanned drone.
The TRITON can remain in the air for more than 24 hours and has a maximum range of 2,000 nautical miles, which allows it to cover a staggring 2.7 million square-miles of ocean in a single mission.
May 17, 2013
According to a notice in yesterday’s Federal Register, the State Department this morning will designate Sheikh Abu Muhammad al Julani, the leader of the Al Nusrah Front, the militant group based in Syria that has been linked by the US government to al Qaeda, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. The US government formally designated the Al Nusrah Front as a Foreign Terrorist Organization six months ago in December 2012.
For further details, see this article published by longwarjournal.org.
May 17, 2013
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) unveiled its Fiscal Year 2014 budget request yesterday before Congress. FBI director Robert S. Mueller asked Congress to give the Bureau $8.4 billion to fund the investigative, counterintelligence, and counterterrorism activities of the FBI’s 34,787 employees (13,082 special agents, 3,026 intelligence analysts, and 18,679 professional staff).
Insofar as the Bureau’s counterterrorism operations, Mueller said that the terrorism threat is continuing to grow rather than diminish 12 years afte the 9/11 terrorist attacks. According to Mueller, “We are seeing more groups and individuals engaged in terrorism, a wider array of terrorist targets, greater cooperation among terrorist groups, and continued evolution and adaptation in tactics and communication.”
The FBI also believes that the threat posed by foreign intelligence services and operatives in the U.S. is also growing, highlighted by the rising number of cyber attacks on U.S. targets and cyber espionage aimed at stealing information and economic secrets from the U.S. government and American corporations. According to Mueller, “Last year alone, the FBI estimates that economic espionage cases cost the American economy more than $13 billion. In the last four years, the number of FBI arrests associated with economic espionage has doubled; indictments have increased five-fold; and convictions have risen eight-fold.”
May 17, 2013
Sectarianism in Iraq stoked by Syrian war
BAGHDAD — A recent tide of sectarian tensions that erupted into the worst violence seen in Iraq in five years is testing the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose ability to contain the crisis could hinge on a conflict raging beyond his control in Syria.
The prospect of a regional power shift driven by the bloody civil war next door, where a mostly Sunni rebel movement is struggling to topple the Shiite-dominated regime, has emboldened Iraq’s Sunni minority to challenge its own Shiite government and amplified fears within Maliki’s administration that Iraq may soon be swept up in a spillover war.
Sectarian bombings and assassinations targeting both Sunnis and Shiites increased last month after government forces raided a Sunni protest camp in northern Iraq, killing more than 40 people. Bombings continued Wednesday and Thursday, leaving more than 30 people dead in Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad.
Meanwhile, Iraq’s embittered Sunnis say the successes of the Syrian rebels have given them the confidence to challenge what they call worsening government discrimination and abuse against the minority that once ruled this country under Saddam Hussein.
Iraq’s Sunnis have been staging a growing wave of anti-
government demonstrations in Sunni-majority provinces across the country for five months, raising tensions that some say could reignite the civil war that peaked in 2006. The combustible situation, underpinned by what critics call mistakes of the decade-long U.S. occupation that enshrined sectarianism, has been aggravated by Maliki’s increasingly authoritarian policies, analysts say.
The government has labeled the protest movement a project of Hussein’s former Baath Party and of al-Qaeda, an allegation denied by Sunni participants, who say they represent a cross section of Iraqi society.
They list among their key grievances laws and practices codified under U.S. occupation that bar former Baathists from participating in public life and authorize the use of secret informants — many of them originally cultivated by the U.S. military — whom human rights groups say Maliki uses to target Sunnis.
But the April 23 assault on the Sunni camp in Hawijah, coupled with increasingly antagonistic rhetoric from clerics and political leaders on both sides, has injected an ominous militant tone into what had been a largely peaceful protest movement. Last month, tribal leaders in the Sunni heartland of Anbar province announced the formation of a “tribal army” to protect demonstrators; residents say the force has drawn heavily from jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic State of Iraq.
Meanwhile, at least two powerful Shiite militia leaders have rallied followers to crush the protest movement, which they, like the government, say is dominated by terrorists. On Thursday, government forces raided the home of a leading protest leader in Ramadi.
Some government officials and Sunni tribal leaders have made conciliatory gestures to pull Iraq back from the brink of a sectarian war, the kind that destroyed families and divided neighborhoods less than a decade ago. A parliamentary committee launched an investigation of the Hawijah raid, and several prominent Shiite officials called it a mistake. Last week, a group of Sunni sheiks in Anbar sent aid to flood victims in Shiite-majority areas of Iraq’s south.
Early last month, in a bid to appease protesters, Maliki’s cabinet proposed legal reforms that included amendments to weaken the laws that Sunnis say are used to discriminate against them. But the legislation has stalled in parliament amid fierce Shiite opposition.
Syria’s pivotal role
The muted state of unease, after the strife last month, may be a “false peace,” said Erin Evers, a Middle East researcher for Human Rights Watch.
Sunni protest leaders and some officials close to Maliki said that they remain pessimistic about the prospect of a long-term solution and that the war in Syria could become the deciding factor.
Inside a dust-battered tent at a protest camp in Fallujah last week, tribal leaders in white robes described the conflicts in Syria and Iraq as inescapably intertwined. Many here view Maliki as a puppet in a conspiracy by Shiite-majority Iran to achieve regional domination, and they say Syria’s Iran-backed regime is no different.
“Maliki’s intentions for the Sunnis are the same as Iran’s: They want to ‘Shii-ify’ the country,” said Mohamed al-Bajari, a spokesman for the protest movement in Fallujah. Bajari served as an officer in Hussein’s intelligence service.
At a rally last Friday on a highway that cuts through Fallujah, where the old flag of the Hussein-led Iraq fluttered above the crowd, one banner read: “America: You gave Iraq to Iran, and then you left.” Another, directed at Maliki, read: “If you don’t understand it in Arabic, we’ll say it in Persian: Leave.”
A rebel victory in Syria could benefit Sunnis in Iraq, Bajari said.
“When Iran loses Syria, that means they’ll lose influence here,” he said. “The new regime in Syria will be Sunni. So in these provinces, our backs will be protected by a Sunni regime.”
But as with the Syrian opposition, the credibility of Iraq’s largely peaceful Sunni protest movement is being undermined by the growing participation of jihadist groups, which tribal leaders have sought to play down but do not deny.
The attack in Hawijah signaled a warning to the sheiks of Anbar that their towns could be next, said one local journalist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal from the government or Sunni militants. That led protest leaders to “accept” jihadists as part of their tribal army, the journalist said.
Last Friday, Fallujah residents present at the rally said militants fanned out in the area to watch for encroaching government troops.
“All insurgent groups, including al-Qaeda, have united around one thing, which is to protect the demonstrations,” the journalist said.
Government officials say the emergence of the tribal army is evidence that al-Qaeda — which last month exchanged pledges of allegiance with the Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra — has infiltrated or is leading the protests.
The Islamic State of Iraq, a group affiliated with al-Qaeda, asserted responsibility for the killings in March of dozens of Syrian government troops who had temporarily retreated across the border into Anbar.
Hurdles for Sunnis
Despite their increasingly angry rhetoric, Sunnis are divided, analysts say.
A number of Sunni officials in Baghdad have lost credibility with the protest movement for their willingness to work with Maliki. In Anbar, tribal leaders, militants and protesters have sparred over the path forward.
Even as Khaled Hamoud al-Jumeili, the tribal leader organizing the weekly protests in Fallujah, called for a continuation of peaceful demonstrations last week, the Iraqi Islamic Party distributed surveys at local mosques to poll residents on what form of action — war or secession — they preferred, residents who participated in the protest said.
Meanwhile, tribal leaders say the government has created a new “Awakening” movement, modeled after the Sunni tribal alliance that the U.S. military recruited and paid to help pacify Anbar and defeat insurgents in 2007.
Maliki “formed the new Awakening to foment strife and to make it look like the sheiks here are with the government,” Bajari said. Ali al-Moussawi, a Maliki spokesman, said that no new movement had been formed but that the existing Awakening has been expanded and is under new leadership.
Ramzy Mardini, an adjunct fellow at the Beirut-based Iraq Institute for Strategic Studies, said that the Sunni minority is facing a much stronger adversary in today’s Iraqi government than it did at the height of the country’s civil war and that the odds are against them.
Sami al-Askari, a member of parliament from Maliki’s Dawa party, said the protests derive from an unwillingness by some Sunnis to accept the political reality of a post-Hussein Iraq, where demography ensures that the prime minister’s post, the parliament and the security forces are likely to be dominated by Shiites for a long time.
“The Sunnis in Iraq were the rulers for centuries. And, suddenly, the situation has changed,” Askari said. “The Sunnis know very well they cannot win this war.”
May 17, 2013
Syria Begins to Break Apart Under Pressure From War
By BEN HUBBARD
New York Times
CAIRO — The black flag of jihad flies over much of northern Syria. In the center of the country, pro-government militias and Hezbollah fighters battle those who threaten their communities. In the northeast, the Kurds have effectively carved out an autonomous zone.
After more than two years of conflict, Syria is breaking up. A constellation of armed groups battling to advance their own agendas are effectively creating the outlines of separate armed fiefs. As the war expands in scope and brutality, its biggest casualty appears to be the integrity of the Syrian state.
On Thursday, President Obama met in Washington with the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and once again pressed the idea of a top-down diplomatic solution. That approach depends on the rebels and the government agreeing to meet at a peace conference that was announced last week by the United States and Russia.
“We’re going to keep increasing the pressure on the Assad regime and working with the Syrian opposition,” Mr. Obama said. “We are going to keep working for a Syria that is free of Assad’s tyranny.”
But as evidence of massacres and chemical weapons mounts, experts and Syrians themselves say the American focus on change at the top ignores the deep fractures the war has caused in Syrian society. Increasingly, it appears Syria is so badly shattered that no single authority is likely to be able to pull it back together any time soon.
Instead, three Syrias are emerging: one loyal to the government, to Iran and to Hezbollah; one dominated by Kurds with links to Kurdish separatists in Turkey and Iraq; and one with a Sunni majority that is heavily influenced by Islamists and jihadis.
“It is not that Syria is melting down — it has melted down,” said Andrew J. Tabler, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and author of “In the Lion’s Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington’s Battle with Syria.”
“So much has changed between the different parties that I can’t imagine it all going back into one piece,” Mr. Tabler said.
Fueling the country’s breakup are the growing brutality of fighters on all sides and the increasingly sectarian nature of the violence.
Recent examples abound. Pro-government militias have hit coastal communities, targeting Sunni Muslim civilians. Sunni rebel groups have attacked religious shrines of other sects. A video circulating this week showed a rebel commander in Homs cutting out an enemy’s heart and liver, and biting into the heart.
Analysts say this shift in the nature of the violence will have a greater effect on the country’s future than territorial gains on either side by making it less likely that the myriad ethnic and religious groups that have long called Syria home will go back to living side by side. As the momentum seesaws back and forth between rebels and the government, the geographic divisions are hardening.
After steadily losing territory to rebels during the first two years of the conflict, government forces have progressed on a number of key fronts in recent weeks, routing rebel forces in the southern province of Dara’a, outside Damascus and in the central city of Homs and its surrounding villages.
These victories not only reflect strategic shifts by government forces but also could further solidify the country’s divisions.
Since mass defections of mostly conscripted soldiers shrank the government’s forces earlier in the uprising, it has largely given up on trying to reclaim parts of the country far from the capital, said Joseph Holliday, a fellow with the Institute for the Study of War in Washington.
Instead, the government has focused on solidifying its grip on a strip of land that extends from the capital, Damascus, in the south, up to Homs in the country’s center and west to the coastal area heavily populated by Mr. Assad’s sect, the Alawites.
Other than hitting them with airstrikes or artillery, Mr. Assad has made little effort to reclaim rebel-held areas in the country’s far north and east.
The character of those fighting for Mr. Assad has changed, too. As the uncommitted defected, the loyalists remained. “All of these defections and desertions basically created a more loyal and therefore more deployable core,” said Emile Hokayem, an analyst with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, who is based in Dubai. “At least you know who is fighting for you.”
Mr. Assad has also come to rely more heavily on paramilitary militias that draw largely from his Alawite sect and other minorities who consider him a bulwark against the rebels’ Islamism. More recently, fighters from Lebanon’s Shiite militant group Hezbollah have added extra muscle, especially in the border region near the town of Qusair, an area dotted with Shiite and Sunni villages that has seen intense fighting in recent months.
This new focus on tightening his grip on the country’s center suits Mr. Assad fine, said Abdulrahim Mourad, a Lebanese politician and former Parliament member who visited Mr. Assad in Damascus last month.
“He told jokes, was very funny,” Mr. Mourad said. “He was very relaxed and relieved.”
In the void left by the government in the country’s north and east, rebel groups have seized swaths of territory and struggled to establish local administrations.
Although the Obama administration and its allies share the rebels’ goal of removing Mr. Assad from power, they have little else in common with the many rebel brigades that define their struggle in Islamic terms and seek to replace Mr. Assad with an Islamic state. Among them is Jabhet al-Nusra, or the Nusra Front, the local branch of Al Qaeda, which the United States has blacklisted as a terrorist group.
The war’s duration and the competition for resources have left the rebel movement itself deeply fractured. Few effective links exist between the rebels’ exile leader, Gen. Salim Idris, and the most powerful groups on the ground.
And recent months have seen increasing fights among rebels, diminishing their ability to form a united front against the government. This week, the Islamist Shariah Commission in Aleppo went after rebels accused of looting. The council sent fighters to surround the group’s headquarters and arrested some of its members, confiscating trucks full of looted goods. The haul in one neighborhood included five washing machines and a television.
Another video, circulated this week, showed a Nusra Front leader in eastern Syria standing behind 11 bound and blindfolded captives. After announcing that they had been sentenced by an Islamic court for killing Syrians, he drew a pistol and shot them in the back of the head, one by one.
Activists later identified the man as a Saudi citizen named Qaswara al-Jizrawi. They also determined that the executions took place months earlier since Mr. Jizrawi was killed in March in a gunfight between his and another rebel group that left dozens of people dead on both sides.
In Syria’s northeastern Hassakeh Province, the country’s largest Kurdish majority area, residents have taken in Kurds fleeing violence elsewhere, expanded the teaching of the Kurdish language in schools and raised militias that have clashed with rebel brigades. Many local Kurds are linked to groups in Turkey and Iraq and hope to use the uprising to push for greater autonomy.
These spreading fissures leave little optimism that Syria can be stitched back together under one leadership in the near future.
“The only real outcome I see in the next 5 to 10 years is a series of cantons that agree to tactical cease-fires because they are tired of the bloodletting,” said Mr. Holliday, the analyst with the Institute for the Study of War. “That trajectory is in place, with or without Assad.”
March 17, 2013
U.S. Could Take Out Syrian Air Defenses Remotely
The Pentagon has cyberattack capabilities that allow the U.S. military to help blind Syrian air defenses without firing a shot, according to military analysts.
“One of the reasons the Air Force has paid so much attention to cyberwarfare is … for beating enemy air defenses,” said James Lewis, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
U.S. abilities to defeat Syria’s air defenses are central to a debate over whether to intervene in the 2-year-old civil war. Electronic methods to disable enemy air defense systems include the injection of malware, a form of computer software, into the air-defense network through a computer attack or by electronic warfare aircraft capable of jamming radar.
The radars act like wireless transmitters, and jammers can send false or destructive information into the radar, which then gets into the network, said Shlomo Narkolayev, an analyst who has worked on cyber issues for the Israeli military’s cyberwarfare unit. “It sounds like science fiction. It’s not,” Narkolayev said. “It’s not hard to do this,” he said.
Syria and other nations are constantly adjusting the electronics for their air systems, and Air Force documents show the U.S. military does the same with its cyberweapons. They are constantly updated to counter changes made by enemy militaries.
A 2007 Israeli attack on a suspected Syrian nuclear power plant in 2007 provided a template for a future attack. The Israelis used a cyberattack to disable Syrian air defenses before aircraft entered Syrian airspace.
The Israeli attack was a quick strike that only required temporarily blinding air defenses. Establishing a no-fly zone would require taking down Syrian air defenses for months.
Cyberattacks can cause permanent damage, Lewis said. U.S. forces have been reluctant to use cyberattacks for fear malware could damage other networks and because of concerns that enemy nations will copy the malware once it is released.
Syrians could take the system offline to avoid an infection spreading, but then the system would be less effective, Lewis said. The Pentagon has said any air campaign would be a challenge because of the size and sophistication of Syrian air defenses, which are far more extensive than in Libya, where the United States and NATO created a no-fly zone in 2011.
While cyberwarfare provides advantages, it is not without risk and can’t replace more conventional tactics, said Jeffrey Carr, founder of Taia Global, a cybersecurity consultancy. “Cyber is not a magic bullet,” he said.