spies, national security, espionage, counterterrorism, u.s. foreign policy, intelligence operations, CIA, special forces, counterterrorism, terrorism
Showing posts with label FBI. Show all posts
Showing posts with label FBI. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

National Security Reporting Under Fire

A federal appeals court's decision last Friday compelling New York Times reporter James Risen to identify the source for a chapter in his 2006 book, State of War, about a CIA operation that went awry, is just the latest big blow in the government's assault on press freedom--a pillar of the Constitution.  Read more here.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


"Argo" this ain't. More like "Three Days of the Condor."

Edward Snowden is on his own, it appears. The CIA is hunting, not helping him.

So what's he do?  SpyTalk found several former CIA operatives to muse on what they'd do if they were in the NSA leaker's shoes.

Run, Edward, run! READ MORE HERE.

UPDATE: Russia says its would consider an asylum request from Snowden.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Rogue Agent: Marty Martin's Less Public Roles

Marty Martin took bows at Sundance for his role as a top CIA counterterrorism operative, dramatized in the riveting HBO documentary "Manhunt."  But he's also been popping up in less savory, little noticed roles since 2007, including, now, an FBI investigation into shadowy right-wing forces behind allegations that New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat, patronized prostitutes in the Dominican Republic.  Apparently you can take Marty Martin out of the CIA, but you can't take the CIA out of him.


Friday, May 10, 2013

The Day Our Spies Started Dying (Video)

Watch former CIA spy catcher Sandra Grimes recount the chilling days of 1985 when the agency's secret assets in Moscow started disappearing, and her team's desperate search to find the mole -- Aldrich Ames.  (Video starts at about 18:45.)

Useless Big Brother

What good were all the intelligence-sharing  task forces in Boston?
Maybe they should get their heads out of their computer screens. And go back to index cards and hallway water coolers.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Tsarnaev: My Generation

SpyTalk Writer

When I first heard about the college kid behind the bombings in Boston, I was initially surprised and curious about where he went to school.

Like Dzhokar Tsarnaev, I'm a college student from liberal Massachusetts.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Why Didn't Russia Arrest Tamerlan Tsarnaev?


People are squabbling over whether the FBI and CIA let the Tsarnaev brothers slip through their fingers.

To that we'd add: If Tamerlan Tsarnaev was such a terrorist threat, why didn’t the Russians arrest him? Or take away his passport? After all, Chechan Islamists are far more a threat to Moscow than the United States, even counting their soldierly duty with al Qaeda in South Asia.

Philip Mudd, a former deputy director of both the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center and the FBI National Security Branch, offered a heated defense of the intelligence agencies' performance in the Tsarnaev case on the Charlie Rose show Tuesday night.

The Tsarnaevs had no known involvement with terrorist groups, as far as we know more than 10 days out from the Patriots Day attack. Even “if they had an operational linkage back home,” Mudd said, “I can’t figure out what kind of capabilities that operational linkage offered them.”

At least one of the Tsarnaevs did frequent Islamist Web sites, though, and reportedly learned how to make their crude bombs from the online English-language al Qaeda magazine “Inspire.”

Otherwise, investigators say now, they had no help.

Honing in on people who merely visit radical Web sites would be a fool’s errand, Mudd suggested, far beyond the capabilities of the FBI, CIA and other intelligence agencies, which are busy enough tracking real threats.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Alleged Railway Saboteur May Be Advanced Biological Engineer


One of the suspects in an alleged terrorist plot to blow up a Canadian railway line may be the same man as listed as a Tunis-born biological engineer at a prestigious research institute in Quebec, who features an al Qaeda banner on his Linked-in web site.

Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, of Montreal, and Raed Jaser, 35, of Toronto, were planning to sabotage tracks of Canada’s VIA passenger line that runs from Toronto toward New York authorities said.

"Had this plot been carried out it would have resulted in innocent people being killed or seriously injured," Royal Canadian Mounted Police official James Malizia told reporters.

Shameless Lindsey Graham's Boston Cracks Blow Up in His Face


Does Lindsey Graham have a screw loose? Or is he just shameless in his latest attempt to wring partisan advantage from a national tragedy?

Whatever, his latest attacks on an American intelligence agency blew up on him Monday like a trick cigar.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Circuit Board Could Crack Boston Bombing Case (UPDATED)

The tiniest shard of a circuit board can lead police to a bomber.

According to the Wall Street Journal, investigators in Boston have recovered a circuit board piece.  If true, that could lead the FBI to the culprits, as it did in the bombing of PamAm Flight 103 over Scotland in 1989.

A similar fragment, discovered in the wreckage scattered around Lockerbie, led the FBI to Libya and the conviction of Libyan intelligence agent Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi in the case.

“Without the timer fragment” -- contained in a circuit board shard -- “we would have been unable to develop additional evidence against Libya," Richard Marquise, a leading FBI agent on the PanAm case, said in the Dutch documentary film, Lockerbie Revisited.


Marquise, who headed the Washington end of the FBI investigation, told SpyTalk by email Wednesday night:

"I had read that a fragment of a circuit board was found which might -- let's be be clear -- might be connected to the device."

"As in Lockerbie" Marquise added, "two circuit board fragments were found--one to a Toshiba radio, which told us what kind of container the bomb was in, and the second, which was traced to a timer made for Libya (one of 20). 

"These circuit boards might be able to be linked to a cell phone, detonator, etc. But I have no way to know what it goes to, or if in fact it is identifiable," said Marquise, now retired from the FBI.

"Most electronic components have circuit boards, so if in fact a cell phone was used, they could be able to determine make and model. Other identification is more difficult, and since I have not seen the fragment it is difficult to say if it was in fact part of the device."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston Bomb Case Will be Solved Quickly

Or so I predicted on Washington, DC's WUSA-TV-9 today.

The intelligence technologies and policies developed in the past dozen years -- the same ones that give civil libertarians pause (and rightly, I should add) -- provide  the FBI and other investigative agencies vastly more power to solve the case than were available before the 9/11 attacks.  Watch it here.

How They Will Investigate the Boston Bombing

Former White House Counterterrorism Adviser Richard A. Clarke says U.S. security agencies have a wealth of investigative resources and techniques to employ against whomever carried out Monday's horrific bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

"While detectives and federal agents have started the laborious process of interviewing thousands of people in Boston, much of the work that is likely to be key to solving the Boston Bombing is technical and forensic," Clarke said on his FaceBook page.

Video from bystanders' cell phones, retail outlets and traffic cameras could provide quick clues to the perpetrators. The National Security Agency will also zero in on cell phone traffic around Boston and to such terrorist lairs and Pakistan and Yemen, he said. 

The resources that the government can bring to the case a dozen years after the 9/11 attacks are stupendous, said Clarke, a White House counterterrorism adviser to both Bushes and President Clinton.

"First, the FBI will stitch together hundreds of hours of video camera recordings from private and public surveillance and traffic cameras, as well as recordings made by private citizens attending the race. They will look for when the bombs might have been left behind and then examine the faces of everyone who was in the area around that time. They will try to put names to those faces, using facial recognition matching software, drawing on drivers license, passport, and visa databases."

After agents from Israel's Mossad carried out an assassination in Dubai, Clark said, "the police in the United Arab Emirates were able to recreate most of the the assassination operation by using snippets from dozens of surveillance cameras. For the FBI in Boston, a similar process has now begun."

Monday, April 15, 2013

FBI Sleuths Investigating South Korean Spies Find an Agent from the North


North Korea's lone registered agent in the United States is a liquor salesman with curious ties to U.S.-based spies from Seoul, it turns out.

Call it a deep kimchi spy mystery.

According to a fascinating yarn by Talking Points Memo's Hunter Walker, Ill Woo Park is “a 64-year-old South Korean national with legal permanent resident status in the United States,” to wit, Upper Manhattan. 

Park’s business, Korea Pyongyang Trading U.S.A., Inc.'s main import is soju, a North Korean “traditional liquor.”  Indeed, TPM reports Park’s “business was based on what he regularly described as extensive connections to the North Korean government.”

But here's the odd twist: FBI agents got onto Kim when they were investigating possible South Korean spies on American soil in 2007.  Park was arrested and brought to federal court for “multiple counts of lying to FBI agents.”

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Justice Dept's Kid Gloves Audit of FBI Datamining Unit

The Justice Department essentially put lipstick on a pig Thursday with its audit of a little-known and controversial FBI surveillance program, the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hot Shots: Follow the Dots Edition


FBI Wants More, More, More: The FBI, joining the CIA, is on a controversial “crusade for more surveillance authority,” Ryan Gallagher notes at Slate.  In a speech last week to the American Bar Association, according to Gallagher, FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissman expressed the need for increased surveillance of Gmail, Google Voice, Drop Box, Skype and live games (“the chat feature in Scrabble”).

“Those communications are being used for criminal conversations,” he quoted Weissman as saying. 

“It’s no secret that under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the feds can easily obtain archive copies of emails,” Gallagher wrote. “When it comes to spying on emails or Gchat in real time, however, it’s a different story.”

Poland in the Middle on Torture: While the Warsaw government has been praised by human rights advocates for investigating the alleged CIA ‘black site’ in Poland, it’s also been knocked for stalling the process as well.  Now, lawyers for Abu Zubaydah, accused of running an al-Qaeda training camp for the 9/11 hijackers, have applied for a hearing in the European Court of Human Rights, according to Reuters.  The lawyers expressed concern  “there was no hope of him receiving fair treatment inside Poland.”

Abu Zubaydah was allegedly one of the suspected al-Qaeda terrorists who “were flown in secret to a remote Polish airfield between 2002 and 2005 and then transported to an intelligence academy near a village called Stare Kiejkuty,” Reuters said, citing rights groups and the Council of Europe.  “Here, on the edge of a lake and surrounded by forest, rights campaigners say, the detainees were subjected to interrogation techniques which amounted to torture.”

The Polish government has denied the existence of the black site and has claimed to have launched a “full and fair investigation, free of any political pressure,” according to Reuters. However, Zubaydah’s lawyers have complained about not being able to access the evidence against their client or take notes on the evidence they are allowed to see.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Leak Dogs Are Gonna Bite Obama in the End

One of the salacious ironies of the John Kiriakou case is that the dogs the Obama administration has let loose on leakers are circling back, teeth bared, toward their owners.

“The Obama administration’s vigorous prosecution of leaks may yet cost it dearly,” Steve Coll writes in “The Spy Who Talked Too Much,” his autopsy on the former CIA man who revealed the agency’s torture practices and other secrets, in this week’s New Yorker.

“Recently, FBI agents have been interviewing administration officials about any role they might have had in providing classified information to David Sanger, of the [New York] Times, who last year disclosed the administration’s role in cyber attacks on Iran’s nuclear program,” Coll reported.

What’s sauce for the goose is even saucier for the gander. FBI agents on the case, who tilt against liberal windmills anyway, must be smacking their lips.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Hot Shots - Another Hawk for the Secret Court

FISA Court Adds Another Hawk: Judge Rosemary M. Collyer of the D.C. District Court has been named to a seven-year term on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the ever-vigilant Steve Aftergood at Secrecy News tells us. Collyer, appointed by SCOTUS Chief Justice John Roberts, replaces Judge John D. Bates, whose term ended on February 21, Aftergood said. 

(A roster of the current membership of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court can be found here.)

Judge Collyer, a George W. Bush appointment, wrote a Sept. 2011 opinion “accepting the CIA's view that for the agency merely to acknowledge the fact that it had an interest in the use of drones for targeted killing would pose unacceptable damage to national security,” Aftergood writes.

“Today, the DC District of Appeals unanimously reversed Judge Collyer's decision,” Aftergood added. “The appeals court said the CIA was adhering to ‘a fiction of deniability that no reasonable person would regard as plausible.’ The case -- American Civil Liberties Union v. Central Intelligence Agency -- was remanded to Judge Collyer for further processing."

Benghazi (cont’d): “The FBI was given direct access to” Benghazi assault suspect Faraj al-Shibli “and it interviewed him recently in the presence of Libyan authorities,” CNN reported. Shibli has been held for about 2 days. No report yet on what his role, if any, was during the attacks and “it's also unclear whether his detention is likely to lead to charges in connection with the assault on the compound,” CNN said.  However, sources say he has connections to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and al-Qaeda in Pakistan.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Hot Shots – CIA Cats Edition

Hear, Kitty: Emily Anthes's Frankenstein’s Cat may yet claw its way up the best-seller lists with its account of the CIA’s attempts to turn a cat into a roaming microphone, among other high-tech hijinks, but actually the story has been around for a long time.  Intelligence historian Jeffrey T. Richelson wrote about the so-called “acoustic kitty” in his groundbreaking 2001 book, "The Wizards of Langley: Inside the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology." Whoever came up with the feline fakeout had obviously never tried to herd a cat, which in any case was run over by a taxi before it could complete its mission. Other brilliant ideas included lipstick pistols and eavesdropping shoe heels. And who can forget Don Adams’s shoe phone in “Get Smart”?  

Dum, Da-Dum-Dum: Author Ron Kessler once again demonstrates his unequaled access to FBI sources with his latest edition of “Secrets of the FBI,” sprinkled with the kind of scoops and inside dope we’ve come to expect. Highlights, according to his Thursday press release:

• Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy secretly borrowed the personal car of the FBI agent in charge of the Los Angeles field office to visit Marilyn Monroe just before she took her own life.
• FBI agents determined that an encounter with Hillary Clinton triggered Vince Foster’s suicide a week later.
• Russia tried to include convicted spies Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames in the swap of Russian spies arrested by the FBI and tried to contact Ames in prison.
• After he was killed, the FBI could not match Osama bin Laden’s fingerprints.
• Contrary to the fictionalized portrayal in the movie "Breach," it was FBI agent Mike Rochford who uncovered fellow agent Robert Hanssen as a spy.
• FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had a spousal relationship with his deputy, Clyde Tolson.
• When planting bugs in the homes and offices of Mafia figures, spies, and terrorists, FBI agents tranquilize dogs, stage fake traffic accidents, and instruct police to stop occupants who try to return.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Hot Shots: Law and Order Edition

NIMBY:Senators Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) think Congress should have been consulted before the Justice Department rendered Sulaiman Abu Ghaith to New York for trial (instead of Guantanamo). Maybe the Republican caucus should get its own terrorist-hunting and prosecution unit, too. “I’ve got news for the good senators,” Benjamin Wittes says in an open letter to the solons at Lawfare. “As long as it’s impossible ever to get anyone out of Guantanamo, neither this nor any other administration is going to bring anyone there.”

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Did NASA Spy's Stolen Secrets Reach Israel?

Former NASA employee Stewart Nozette was convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison last year for selling classified information to an undercover FBI agent.

The federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ron Machen, claimed that Nozette did not actually pass secrets to Israel.  But a videotape of Nozette meeting with the undercover agent and other documents filed in court refute that claim, according to Grant F. Smith of the Institute for Research: Middle East Policy, an organization devoted to uncovering Israeli espionage here.

The redacted video, which Smith obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and posted on You Tube, "reveals Nozette appearing to say he sold classified U.S. government information to 'Israeli Aircraft,' also known as Israel Aerospace Industries, or IAI," Smith writes.

"He appears to say, 'Israel Aircraft program alone, I gave them samples, technical specifications, whole files...'" Smith adds. "Nozette mentions he kept stolen classified information on hard disks in safety deposit boxes." He asked the agent for one percent of the $200 million R & D costs.

No one else was prosecuted in the case.