1. Witnesses in Ukrainian Town Tell of Seeing Rebel-Controlled BUK Missile Launcher Near Where Malaysian Airliner Was Shot Down

    July 22, 2014

    Ukrainians report sightings of missile launcher on day of MH17 crash

    Shaun Walker

    The Guardian

    July 22, 2014

    Buk
    An image of what is believed to be a Buk surface-to-air missile battery near Torez last Thursday. Photograph: EMPR/Barcroft Media

    Claims by pro-Russia separatists in east Ukraine that they have never been in possession of the missile launcher apparently used to down flight MH17 are looking increasingly flimsy, as several witnesses told the Guardian they had seen what appeared to be a Buk missile launcher in the vicinity of the crash site last Thursday.

    The sightings back up a number of photographs and videos posted online that put the Buk system close to the crash site on the day of the disaster. Just before lunchtime last Thursday, prior to the Malaysia Airlines plane’s takeoff, a Buk was driven through Gagarin Street, one of the central thoroughfares of Torez, witnesses said.

    Torez would later be the town where bodies of the victims were loaded on to refrigerated train cars. The tarmac on Gagarin Street is strewn with ruts made by tank treads, and locals say armoured vehicles controlled by separatists driving through the town have become a regular occurrence in recent weeks. The convoy last Thursday was different, however.

    "We were inside and heard a noise much louder than usual," said one shopkeeper, who did not want to be identified. "We came running out and saw a jeep disappearing into the distance with something much larger in front of it. Later, customers said it had been a missile carrier."

    In another shop further down the street, there was talk of a convoy of two jeeps and a missile launcher covered in a net driving past in the direction of the town of Snizhne. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” said a middle-aged woman. She said her husband showed her a photograph of a Buk launcher afterwards and she realised that was indeed what she had seen. A group of men also said they had seen a Buk.

    There have been suggestions that the missile was fired from fields on the outskirts of Snizhne. Many in Torez did not want to speak about the Buk or claimed not to have heard anything about it. Others said the missile’s journey through the town had been a talking point in recent days, but people were scared of divulging too much to outsiders. None of those who reported sightings of the Buk wanted their names published.

    Armed rebels at a checkpoint outside the entrance to Snizhe were turning away cars with journalists on Tuesday, saying they had received orders not to let the press into the town.

    Ukrainian intelligence has suggested that the missile launcher was provided by Russia and taken back across the border after the deadly attack on MH17. “It is most likely that the machinery which fired the missiles at Malaysian aircraft will be destroyed and the people who committed the act of terror will be annihilated,” said Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister.

    Russia has denied giving the rebels a Buk launcher, and suggested the Ukrainian army had a number of Buk systems in the vicinity. They have also claimed that a Ukrainian fighter jet was in the vicinity of MH17 at the time of the crash.

    The self-styled prime minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Alexander Borodai, again denied that the rebels were responsible for the crash in a statement to the press in the early hours of Tuesday morning, before he handed the flight’s black box recorders to a visiting Malaysian delegation. Ukraine had the “technical ability and the motive” to carry out the attack while the rebels had neither, he said.

    However, the rebels had downed a number of Ukrainian planes in the area in recent weeks, and while the presence of the Buk in rebel-controlled territory on the day of the crash does not prove that rebels launched the missile, it does show they are lying about not having any of the systems under their control.

    US officials have said they have satellite evidence that a missile was launched at MH17 from the region of Snizhne last Thursday, and were due to make the evidence public later on Tuesday.

    4 hours ago  /  0 notes

  2. U.S. Airlines Banned From Flying to Israel by FAA Because of Security Concerns

    July 22, 2014

    FAA bans U.S. airlines from flying to or from Tel Aviv

    Mark Berman

    Washington Post

    July 22, 2014


    A Delta flight to Israel was diverted after the reported rocket strike. (Carlos Osorio/AP)

    The Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday afternoon ordered U.S. carriers to stop flying to or from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, prohibiting them from traveling through Israel’s largest airport after a rocket landed nearby.

    Airlines were banned from flying to or from Tel Aviv for a 24-hour period beginning on Tuesday at 12:15 p.m. The FAA said it will issue additional guidance by the end of that period.

    This prohibition came after a rocket landed about a mile away from the airport, the FAA said.

    “The FAA immediately notified U.S. carriers when the agency learned of the rocket strike and informed them that the agency was finalizing [the notice],” the agency said in a statement. “The FAA will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation.”

    Even before the FAA’s notice was sent out, several U.S. airlines began canceling flights on Tuesday morning and afternoon.

    Delta Airlines was the first to cancel, suspending its service between New York and Tel Aviv after one of its flights between the two cities was diverted. The Delta flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport to Ben Gurion was diverted to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.

    That flight, which had 273 passengers and 17 crew members on board, was heading to Tel Aviv when it was diverted after the report of a rocket near Tel Aviv.

    United Airlines had suspended all operations to and from Tel Aviv “until further notice,” the airline said in a statement to The Washington Post. Two US Airways flights between Tel Aviv and Philadelphia on Tuesday were also canceled in response to security concerns, said a spokeswoman for American Airlines (which merged with US Airways).

    While the FAA notice did not cover airlines based outside the United States, airlines in other countries began to follow suit and cancel flights. Air France said they were suspending flights to Israel until further notice; Air Canada canceled flights to and from Tel Aviv and said it would continue monitoring the situation.

    The State Department issued a warning on Monday advising U.S. citizens to delay “non-essential travel to Israel and the West Bank,” owing to the current conflict between Israel and Hamas. This travel warning, replacing one issued earlier in the year, noted that long-range rockets from Gaza have reached Tel Aviv.

    This was the scene at Ben Gurion at around 2 p.m. in Washington (so around 9 p.m. in Tel Aviv), with travelers lined up at the airport:

    News of the diverted Delta flight and the ban on U.S. flights to and from Israel comes just days after a Malaysian passenger jet was shot down in eastern Ukraine, killing 298 people. Authorities believe the flight was shot down by a missile battery located in an area held by pro-Russian separatists, and recorded conversations indicate that rebel leaders believed they were shooting down a military transport jet rather than a commercial airliner.

    The shooting down of the plane highlighted the extreme dangers faced by airlines operating near areas with armed conflicts and rocket fire. The Federal Aviation Administration prohibited any U.S. carriers from flying over eastern Ukraine after the Malaysian flight was shot down.

    ​ Though there was no immediate description of the rocket that landed near Ben Gurion, the hundreds of rockets that Hamas militants have fired into Israel in recent weeks in no way resemble the missile which took down Malaysia Air flight 17 last Thursday. The Hamas weapons are surface to surface rockets that lack sophisticated guidance systems and often fall harmlessly in remote, scarcely populated sections of Israel.

    The Malaysian airliner was believed to have been struck by a Russian-make Buk SA-11 surface to air missile. The plane was flying at an altitude of 33,000 feet when the missile struck.

    4 hours ago  /  0 notes

  3. In Sign of Growing Fissures Within Syrian Rebel Movement, 2 Syrian Militant Groups Fighting Over Town of Haram Near Turkish Border

    July 22, 2014

    Infighting as Split Emerges Among Syrian Rebels

    Associated Press

    July 22, 2014

    BEIRUT — Fighters of an al-Qaida affiliate seized a northern border town in Syria from rival rebels, activists reported Tuesday, as new infighting threatened opposition gains.

    The Nusra Front captured the town of Haram in northern Idlib province, said Rami Abdurrahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory. The town was seized after weeks of skirmishes between the Nusra Front and their one-time allies among the Western-backed rebel groups, who once united over seeking the overthrow of President Bashar Assad.

    A spokesman for some Western-backed groups, Hussam al-Marie, confirmed the infighting. Another rebel group, the Hazzm Movement, said earlier this week that they would no longer work with the Nusra Front.

    The infighting apparently began after Nusra Front fighters left a front threatened by government forces near the northern city of Aleppo. It later worsened after rebels accused Nusra fighters of not helping them hold a town on a strategic highway route in central Syria. Later, Nusra fighters clashed with a rebel group near the northern town of Darkoush, al-Marie said.

    If fighting spreads, it may threaten rebel gains in Syria. Rebel forces already are badly weakened by government victories and infighting that began last winter against militants of an extremist group now called the “Islamic State.”

    The Islamic State group now dominates the arc of the Euphrates River from near the Turkish border in Syria deep into neighboring Iraq.

    Although the Nusra Front is an al-Qaida affiliate, other Syrian rebels fought alongside their fighters, arguing that it was dominated by Syrian fighters — unlike the foreigners of the harsh “Islamic State” group. They also said that Nusra was not imposing its ultra-conservative agenda.

    Nusra was one of the chief groups that fought against the Islamic State group.

    Abdurrahman, who obtains his information from activists in Syria, said Nusra was trying to carve out its own stronghold in the Idlib province on the Turkish border. He said they seized the city of Jisr al-Shaghour earlier this month and other towns along the border route.

    "It’s clear from the clashes in the area — there is a project in Nusra," he said. "They are seizing towns and areas to be connected geographically."

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  4. Ukrainian Intelligence Service Says That It Has Arrested Terrorist Group Planning to Conducting Bombings in City of Odessa

    July 22, 2014

    SSU detained terrorist group ready for terrorist attacks in Odessa

    SBU Press Center

    July 22, 2014

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    The Security Service of Ukraine prevented terrorist attacks with improvised explosive devices in crowded downtown areas and against politicians in Odesa.

    On the night of 21 to July 22, 2014, the SSU law enforcers detained five citizens of Ukraine, members of the terrorist organization the aim of which was to destabilize the situation in the region. Earlier they have already committed explosions of the city banking organizations. Also the offenders were preparing to destroy the military commissariats in Odessa.

    It was established that the detainees coordinated their activity with terrorists’ leaders, involved in the combat operations against ATO forces in the eastern Ukraine.

    During the searches members of the terrorist group were seized of explosive items, explosive mixture, traumatic explosion items (metal balls, shredded nails, etc.), and separatist symbols.

    The SSU initiated the criminal proceedings under Article 258 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

    4 hours ago  /  0 notes

  5. UK Government Announces That It WIll Hold Public Inquiry Into Death of Former KGB Officer Alexander Litvinenko

    July 22, 2014

    Britain does U-turn on ex-KGB agent Litvinenko murder inquiry

    Reuters

    July 22, 2014

    Marina Litvinenko (R), the wife of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who was murdered in London in 2006, holds a news conference alongside lawyer Elena Tsirlina in London July 22, 2014.  REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

    Marina Litvinenko (R), the wife of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who was murdered in London in 2006, holds a news conference alongside lawyer Elena Tsirlina in London July 22, 2014.

    Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

    (Reuters) - Britain announced on Tuesday it would hold a public inquiry into the death of a former Russian spy who accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering his murder, but denied the decision was linked to the Ukraine crisis.

    A year ago, the British government declined to order an inquiry into the killing of ex-KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko, who died after drinking tea poisoned with a radioactive isotope in a London hotel in 2006. That led to accusations Britain was appeasing the Kremlin, which has always denied involvement.

    Tuesday’s announcement comes as Prime Minister David Cameron leads calls for hard-hitting sanctions against Russia, including freezing the assets of Putin’s close allies, after the downing of Malaysian airliner MH17 in a pro-Russian rebel-held part of Ukraine last week.

    A spokesman for Cameron denied there was a connection between the decision to hold an inquiry and the Ukraine crisis.

    “I can very clearly and firmly say there isn’t a link,” he told reporters.

    Litvinenko’s wife Marina said she too believed the decision had not been taken as a result of events in Ukraine.

    "I am definitely sure it was not taken because of this (the Ukraine situation)," she told reporters. "I was waiting for this since February. I believed one day it would happen."

    She told a news conference she did not expect the inquiry would lead to the extradition of her husband’s suspected killers from Russia, but would reveal what happened to him.

    "I do this not against Russia. I do this for justice, for truth," she said.

    The inquiry will be chaired by Robert Owen, the judge in charge of the inquest into Litvinenko’s death who has said there is evidence indicating Russian involvement in the murder, Home Secretary Theresa May said in a statement.

    Owen himself had called for an inquiry, saying the inquest - a British legal process held in cases of violent or unnatural deaths - could not get to the truth because he could not consider secret evidence held by the British government.

    POST-COLD WAR LOW

    Relations between the countries fell to a post-Cold War low following the death of the 43-year-old Kremlin critic who had been granted British citizenship. He died days after being poisoned with polonium-210.

    British police and prosecutors have said there was enough evidence to charge former KGB agents Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun with murder, but Moscow refused to extradite them, and Lugovoy, who denied involvement, was later elected a lawmaker.

    After Cameron took power in 2010, he made a concerted effort to improve relations, with an eye on strengthening trade links.

    When May rejected calls for an inquiry last year, she admitted she had taken into account the interests of Anglo-Russian relations, but said it had not been the main factor.

    However, it led to accusations from Litvinenko’s family that the government was covering up what their lawyers described as “state-sponsored nuclear terrorism” to protect the Kremlin.

    Marina Litvinenko launched a legal challenge and, in February, London’s High Court quashed May’s decision and told her to reconsider the issue.

    In his formal submission to the High Court as coroner, Owen wrote that the secret evidence did “establish a prima facie case as to the culpability of the Russian state in the death of Alexander Litvinenko”.

    Hearings ahead of the inquest also heard that Litvinenko had been working for Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, for a number of years.

    The inquiry will start on July 31 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2015, Cameron’s spokesman said.

    4 hours ago  /  0 notes

  6. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Counterterrorism Adviser Lisa Monaco Fly to Berlin Over Spy Scandals

    July 22, 2014

    Obama sends top aides to Germany amid spying flap

    Associated Press

    July 22, 2014

    (AP) — Working to stem the fraying of ties with a key European ally, President Barack Obama dispatched his chief of staff to Berlin, a diplomatic gesture reflecting Germany’s growing indignation about allegations of American spying on its soil.

    Chief of staff Denis McDonough and Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, Lisa Monaco, are both in the German capital for meetings with their counterparts, with intelligence and security matters on the agenda. The White House said the two nations have agreed to set up an ongoing dialogue to address spying concerns on both sides.

    The espionage dispute reached a new low earlier this month when Germany demanded that the CIA station chief in Berlin leave the country, a response provoked by published accounts alleging that U.S. intelligence recruited two German government employees to spy for Washington. The allegations follow last year’s revelations that the National Security Agency was conducting mass surveillance of Germans and eavesdropping on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone.

    The fresh strains in the U.S.-German relationship come as the United States is seeking to project a united front with Europe in pressing Russia to stop fomenting unrest in Ukraine. The reluctance of Germany and other nations to impose tougher sanctions that could ricochet on their own economies has created a diplomatic split. The U.S. is also working with Germany and other world powers to seek a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran.

    White House spokesman Josh Earnest wouldn’t say whether Obama’s aides brought any answers or specific information to Berlin to try to pacify the concerns of the counterparts. He downplayed the notion that the “strategic dialogue” marked a new channel in U.S.-German discussions, arguing that security cooperation between the two NATO allies remains close.

    "It’s in the interests of both sides to ensure that those channels remain open," Earnest said. "They do."

    Washington has dismissed the idea of a “no-spy” agreement demanded by Germany has refused to address the substance of the allegations publicly. The White House has said it’s better to address those concerns in private and has generally brushed off the matter as standard intelligence operations.

    That approach has done little to quell the fury in Germany, a country that prizes the sanctity of personal information and bears deep suspicion of government intrusion, given its history of abuses in the Nazi era and in communist East Germany. Merkel, in her first lengthy news conference since the two most recent spy cases came to light, said last week that she and Obama have different positions on what’s needed to guarantee security and also protect privacy.

    "Trust can only be restored through talks and certain agreements," Merkel said.

    4 hours ago  /  0 notes

  7. U.S. Intelligence Community Will Release Report on Malaysian Airliner Shootdown

    July 22, 2014

    US to present intelligence data on plane crash

    Associated Press

    July 22, 2014

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration said Tuesday it would present data from the U.S. intelligence community laying out what’s known about the Malaysia Airlines plane that was shot down in Ukraine.

    White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the intelligence community will have some additional data to present later in the day. No additional details about what would be released were available.

    Earnest said the U.S. welcomed the news that most of the remains of the 298 killed have been handed over to authorities and the black boxes were transferred to Dutch and Malaysian authorities.

    But he said the U.S. still hasn’t seen the level of cooperation from Russia and pro-Russian separatists that it wants to see. He said international investigators led by the Dutch still need full and immediate access to the crash site.

    Meanwhile, President Barack Obama visited the Netherlands Embassy in Washington and signed a condolence book for those who were lost. He said he wanted to “assure the Dutch people that we will work with them to make sure that loved ones are recovered, that a proper investigation is conducted and that ultimately justice is done.”

    Out of the 298 passengers and crew killed on the flight from the Netherlands to Malaysia, the Netherlands was the hardest hit nation, losing 193 citizens.

    4 hours ago  /  0 notes

  8. U.S. Becoming Complacent About Growing Terrorist Threats, 9/11 Commission Members

    July 22, 2014

    Thanks to Kate for forwarding this article to me.

    U.S. Faces Growing Threats, 9/11 Commission Cautions

    Public Doesn’t Appreciate the Dangers and Is Growing Complacent, New Report Warns

    Siobhan Gorman

    Wall Street Journal

    July 22, 2014

    http://si.wsj.net/public/resources/images/BN-DU087_072191_G_20140721212759.jpg

    Former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, shown in June, headed the Sept. 11 commission. ‘I have not heard this much concern since 9/11,’ he said. Jason Andrew

    WASHINGTON—The U.S. faces a growing array of threats, from new terrorist havens to cyberattacks, but the American public doesn’t appreciate these dangers and is growing complacent, warns a new report from the former members of the commission that investigated the 2001 terrorist attacks.

    In its report 10 years ago, the Sept. 11 commission warned that if Iraq became a failed state, it could become a breeding ground for attacks against Americans at home. “That nightmare scenario may now be coming to pass,” the new report concludes.

    Members of the panel, formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the U.S., reconvened for the 10th anniversary of their high-profile report. They interviewed current and former intelligence officials and will issue a report Tuesday assessing today's threats and the government's handling of them.

    The report culls the assessments of senior intelligence and security officials, and nearly everyone warned of the dangers unfolding in Iraq and Syria.

    "The sense of alarm surprised me," said Tom Kean, the former Republican New Jersey governor who headed the Sept. 11 commission. "I have not heard this much concern since 9/11."

    The emerging threat from the extremist group calling itself the Islamic State—now competing with al Qaeda—also raises questions about the adequacy of legal authorities for the U.S. to respond to new threats not directly related to al Qaeda.

    Congress and the president need to decide whether the 2001 act called the Authorization to Use Military Force provides adequate authority to take on the group, or if new powers are needed, the report says.

    Cyberattacks also are an area nearly every top spy official identified as a growing danger that the government has yet to adequately address, according to the new report.

    Commissioners say that one lesson from the 2001 attacks is that Americans didn’t appreciate the danger terrorism posed until it was too late. “History may be repeating itself in the cyber realm,” the report says.

    Taking on the controversy over the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs in the wake of leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the commissioners say such programs are “worth preserving” but need additional oversight.

    A decade ago, the commission criticized the government’s inability to “connect the dots,” so commissioners support government data-collection and analysis programs. But President Barack Obama needs to make the case for them to the public to ensure their legitimacy, the report says.

    Former Sept. 11 commission vice chairman Lee Hamilton, who was a longtime Democratic House member from Indiana, said the Snowden disclosures have shown that current oversight of surveillance programs from Congress and the courts has been inadequate.

    "I don’t think that balance [between liberty and security] has been properly struck," he said. "The courts and the Congress need to become much more robust in their oversight."

    Threaded throughout the report is the commissioners’ warning that the American public’s understanding and concern about threats from terrorist groups and cyberattacks lags far behind those of security professionals.

    "The terrorist threat has evolved, but it is still very real and very dangerous," the report concludes. "Complacency is setting in. There is a danger that this waning sense of urgency will divert attention and needed resources from counterterrorism efforts."

    4 hours ago  /  0 notes

  9. Formerly Restricted Documents at the Clinton Presidential Library Available Online

    July 22, 2014

    Without much (if any) publicity, the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas has been placing online copies of formerly restricted documents which, although not classified, were barred from release to the public under the terms of the Presidential Records Act because they contained things such as “advise for the president.”

    All formerly Restricted documents released to date by the Clinton Library can be viewed here.

    5 hours ago  /  0 notes

  10. German Government Now Implementing New Security and Counterintelligence Measures Aimed at Preventing U.S. Spying

    July 22, 2014

    German Ratchets Up Counterintelligence Measures

    Der Spiegel

    July 22, 2014

    Officials in Berlin were long in denial that their closest allies were spying on Germany. Now, ministries are undertaking measures to improve security and counterintelligence. They’re anticipating frosty relations with the US for some time to come.

    Last Wednesday, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière paid a visit to his colleague in the Foreign Ministry, Frank-Walter Steinmeier for a strictly confidential conversation about the currently tense relationship with the United States. Specifically, they planned to address the latest spying revelations and accusations. Before the meeting began, both ministers turned in their mobile phones. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has a small side room he uses for this purpose; part of the Foreign Ministry is in the former Nazi Reichsbank and has very thick walls. The room is now used to store smartphones and tablet computers when sensitive discussions take place.

    The precaution reflects the significant disquiet and anxiety in Berlin’s ministries and in the Chancellery as the summer holidays get underway. Slowly, ministry officials are starting to grapple with the true meaning of “360 degree” counterintelligence. It means defending yourself not just usual suspects like Russia or China. But also against Germany’s closest allies, particularly the United States.

    A few days ago, Chancellor Merkel reportedly told US President Barack Obama in a telephone conversation that anger over the US spying activities in Berlin’s government quarter as well as the recruitment of an informant inside Germany’s Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) foreign intelligence service has in no way subsided. Because Obama apparently expressed little understanding for the commotion in Germany, Merkel is now taking action.

    The only thing she is lacking is a solid plan.

    Thus far, most ministries are going it mostly alone when it comes to addressing the espionage threat. Some are having their internal networks tested for security problems while others have issued new rules of conduct for their employees. Still others have taken no concrete steps aside from increasing general vigilance.

    Security Reviews

    But cryptophones are being used more frequently by members of Merkel’s cabinet these days. They’re more intricate than normal mobile phones, but they also provide better protection against eavesdropping. Some have even avoided sensitive telephone conversations at all — or at least they are avoiding certain words. “It’s true that we’re thinking twice about what we say,” says one minister serving in Merkel’s government.

    Now that the ministries are taking stock, they’re discovering just how vulnerable Germany is as a potential target of espionage.

    At the Justice Ministry, officials do not believe their building has sufficient safeguards to protect it from surveillance. Justice Minister Heiko Maas recently shared that sentiment with his colleague de Maizière. He has asked the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), which is overseen by de Maizière’s Interior Ministry, to review all his ministry’s mobile phones, computers and software. There was even a discussion of conducting spot checks on employees in units with a higher need for security, an idea quickly dropped out of respect for staff and data protection rights. At the Foreign Ministry, notices alert staff that a specialized firm has been contracted to conduct security reviews of the agency’s computers at night.

    Officials at Ursula von der Leyen’s Defense Ministry have also taken steps. The minister herself often uses a cryptophone. Indeed, prior to sensitive calls in Berlin, she sometimes dispatches a military officer to deliver a cryptophone to her conversation partner. The officer places a call to the minister’s encrypted mobile before passing the phone off to the person Von der Leyen wants to speak to.

    Following revelations earlier this month that there may have been an informant inside her ministry, von der Leyen ordered a thorough security review. All of the Defense Ministry’s units were called upon to submit proposals by early this week on ways to improve its ability to protect secrecy.

    Outdated Security Rules

    Some 400 rules are included in the Defense Ministry’s internal security regulations, but the reality is that little attention has been paid to them in recent years and a certain amount of sloppiness is part of everyday business. Most of the rules were last updated in 2005, two years prior to the mass spread of smart phones and, later, tablet computers — all tools that can be used by almost any employee to copy sensitive data in almost unlimited ways. The ministry is now moving to update its rules as quickly as possible.

    SPIEGEL has obtained information indicating that, earlier this year, the BSI installed small mobile radio masts in central locations inside the Berlin parliament and inside ministries. The mobile phones of people making calls nearby log into the mini-masts that have been specially prepared by the BSI and not masts that may be located on the roof of the US Embassy at the Brandenburg Gate or possibly the nearby British or Russian embassies. At the very least, the measure makes it more difficult to practice surveillance from centrally located embassies.

    It remains to be seen if the measures will be sufficient or if they will make even the slightest of impressions on the Americans. Few in the government in Berlin believe they will. It depends on whether the German government can make a truly concerted effort that goes beyond the poorly coordinated measures that have been taken so far.

    Targeted Monitoring of Embassies and Consulates

    Still, Interior Minister de Maizière has had a comprehensive plan for improving technology and counterintelligence measures for some time now. It includes the targeted monitoring of embassies and consulates that are officially considered friends. The minister still hasn’t approved all the proposals given to him by his staff, but he is now expected to give the green light more quickly than previously expected. It would enable the federal government to adopt new regulations and instructions without having to pass any new laws.

    The fact that de Maiziére and Chancellor Merkel want to move faster underscores just how deep seated resentment towards the US has become and how low hopes are for reconciliation anytime soon. “As long as these very different assessments remain disparate … one of course cannot talk about fully trouble-free cooperation,” Chancellor Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said last week. It would be difficult to make a public statement that was sharper in tone.

    On Friday, Chancellor Merkel also suggested she would like to provide German intelligence agencies with additional financing and equipment. She said it is “more likely that new technology” would be provided, especially at the BND.

    The responsible committee in the Bundestag has already approved a first tranche of additional funding for the BND, but there is still division over further demands for the service. Among the disputed projects is an early warning system for cyber attacks that will cost around €300 million by the time it is completed in 2020. Additionally, the BND is working on a system that can monitor social networks in real-time. Facebook and its competitors are also increasingly becoming the focus of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), the intelligence agency responsible for monitoring extremists.

    In its program for “Expanded Internet Technical Assistance,” the agency outlines its intent to collect and analyze large quantities of Internet data in the future. Agency head Hans-Georg Maassen has said BfV will require additional staff to make that happen. However, he also warns that negative media stories about the agency in recent years have made it difficult to recruit talent. “Nobody wants to work in an agency with a reputation of being filled with fools,” he has said.

    Capitalizing on Scandal

    Both the BND and the BfV are doing their utmost to capitalize on the spying scandal. Officials at both argue that the German government needs to strengthen its own intelligence services if it is truly seeking greater independence from the United States and Britain. It appears these officials are also finding growing support. Government sources say officials in Berlin are preparing for frosty relations with the Americans that could last for some time.

    The foreign minister has no illusions about the situation. “This is about more than just decency,” Steinmeier says. “There has to be an understanding between friendly states that they won’t spy on each other. If this then happens anyway, there has to be a reaction. We’ve provided that.”

    The German government is betting that the US and other Western allies will get the message. Some in the government believe the tough new line has already borne fruit — at least when it comes to the British in Berlin.

    As the German national team celebrated its World Cup victory in front of the Brandenburg Gate on Tuesday afternoon, aerial cameras at times panned to show views of Pariser Platz right behind the stage. On the rear right of the images, a building could be recognized that has been of interest to the Office for the Protection of the Constitution for some time now: the British Embassy.

    Until recently, a several-meter high, white cylindrically shaped object that looked like the a New York City water tower could be seen on top of the embassy. It’s surface bore a strong resemblance to the golf ball-shaped US listening facilities, so called Radomes, that have the subject of scrutiny in other parts of Germany over the past year as the suspected centers of spying on Germany by the National Security Agency.

    The aerial images taken during Tuesday's celebrations showed that the white cylinder has been taken down. It's unlikely it was just for repairs.

    5 hours ago  /  1 note