Entries Tagged "CIA"

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Possible Hizbullah Mole Inside the FBI and CIA

Oops:

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?

Here’s another article.

Posted on November 16, 2007 at 12:12 PMView Comments

More on the German Terrorist Plot

This article is a detailed writeup of the actual investigation. While it seems that intercepted emails were instrumental at several points during the investigation, the article doesn’t explain whether the intercepts were the result of some of the wholesale eavesdropping programs or specifically obtained for this case.

The US intelligence agencies, the NSA and CIA, provided the most important information: copies of messages between German Islamists and their contacts in Pakistan. Three people in Germany were apparently the ones maintaining contact. The first was a man with the pseudonym “Muaz,” who investigators suspected was Islamist Attila S., 22. The second was a man named “Zafer,” from the town of Neunkirchen, who they believed was Zafer S., an old friend of Daniel S., one of the three men arrested last week. According to his father, Hizir S., Zafer is currently attending a language course in Istanbul. The third name that kept reappearing in the emails the NSA intercepted was “Abdul Malik,” a.k.a. Fritz Gelowicz, who prosecutors believe was the ringleader of the German cell, a man Deputy Secretary Hanning calls “cold-blooded and full of hate.”

[…]

While at the Pakistani camp in the spring of 2006, Adem Y. and Gelowicz probably discussed ways to secretly deliver messages from Pakistan to Germany. They used a Yahoo mailbox, but instead of sending messages directly, they would store them in a draft folder through which their fellow Islamists could then access the messages. But it turned out that the method they hit upon had long been known as an al-Qaida ploy. The CIA, NSA and BKA had no trouble monitoring the group’s communications. Two men who went by the aliases “Sule” or “Suley” and “Jaf” kept up the contact from the IJU side.

This is also interesting, given the many discussions on this blog and elsewhere about stopping people watching and photographing potential terrorist targets:

Early in the evening of Dec. 31, 2006, a car containing several passengers drove silently past the Hutier Barracks in Lamboy, a section of the western German city of Hanau. Hanau is known as the home of a major US military base, where thousands of US soldiers live and routinely look forward to celebrating New Year’s Eve in their home away from home. The BfV’s observation team later noted that the car drove back and forth in front of the barracks several times. When German agents finally stopped the car, they discovered that the passengers were Fritz Gelowicz, Attila S. from the southern city of Ulm, Ayhan T. from Langen near Frankfurt and Dana B., a German of Iranian descent from Frankfurt who, when asked what he and the others were doing there, claimed that they had just wanted to see “how the Americans celebrate New Year’s Eve.”

Posted on September 21, 2007 at 4:00 AMView Comments

The Unabomber's Code

This is interesting. Ted Kaczynski wrote in code:

In a small journal written in code, he documented his thoughts about the crimes he was committing. That code was so difficult, a source says the CIA couldn’t crack it — until someone found the key itself among other documents, and then translated it.

Look at the photo. It was a manual, pencil-and-paper cipher. Does anyone know the details of the algorithm?

Posted on December 6, 2006 at 12:53 PMView Comments

More Than 10 Ways to Avoid the Next 9/11

From yesterday’s New York Times, “Ten Ways to Avoid the Next 9/11”:

If we are fortunate, we will open our newspapers this morning knowing that there have been no major terrorist attacks on American soil in nearly five years. Did we just get lucky?

The Op-Ed page asked 10 people with experience in security and counterterrorism to answer the following question: What is one major reason the United States has not suffered a major attack since 2001, and what is the one thing you would recommend the nation do in order to avoid attacks in the future?

Actually, they asked more than 10, myself included. But some of us were cut because they didn’t have enough space. This was my essay:

Despite what you see in the movies and on television, it’s actually very difficult to execute a major terrorist act. It’s hard to organize, plan, and execute an attack, and it’s all too easy to slip up and get caught. Combine that with our intelligence work tracking terrorist cells and interdicting terrorist funding, and you have a climate where major attacks are rare. In many ways, the success of 9/11 was an anomaly; there were many points where it could have failed. The main reason we haven’t seen another 9/11 is that it isn’t as easy as it looks.

Much of our counterterrorist efforts are nothing more than security theater: ineffectual measures that look good. Forget the “war on terror”; the difficulty isn’t killing or arresting the terrorists, it’s finding them. Terrorism is a law enforcement problem, and needs to be treated as such. For example, none of our post-9/11 airline security measures would have stopped the London shampoo bombers. The lesson of London is that our best defense is intelligence and investigation. Rather than spending money on airline security, or sports stadium security — measures that require us to guess the plot correctly in order to be effective — we’re better off spending money on measures that are effective regardless of the plot.

Intelligence and investigation have kept us safe from terrorism in the past, and will continue to do so in the future. If the CIA and FBI had done a better job of coordinating and sharing data in 2001, 9/11 would have been another failed attempt. Coordination has gotten better, and those agencies are better funded — but it’s still not enough. Whenever you read about the billions being spent on national ID cards or massive data mining programs or new airport security measures, think about the number of intelligence agents that the same money could buy. That’s where we’re going to see the greatest return on our security investment.

Posted on September 11, 2006 at 6:36 AMView Comments

Sloppy CIA Tradecraft

CIA agents exposed due to their use of frequent-flier miles and other mistakes:

The man and woman were pretending to be American business executives on international assignments, so they did what globe-trotting executives do. While traveling abroad they used their frequent-flier cards as often as possible to gain credits toward free flights.

In fact, the pair were covert operatives working for the CIA. Thanks to their diligent use of frequent-flier programs, Italian prosecutors have been able to reconstruct much of their itinerary during 2003, including trips to Brussels, Venice, London, Vienna and Oslo.

[…]

Aides to former CIA Director Porter Goss have used the word “horrified” to describe Goss’ reaction to the sloppiness of the Milan operation, which Italian police were able to reconstruct through the CIA operatives’ imprudent use of cell phones and other violations of basic CIA “tradecraft.”

I’m not sure how collecting frequent-flier miles is a problem, though. Assuming they’re traveling under the cover of being business executives, it makes sense for them to act just like other business executives.

It’s not like there’s no other way to reconstruct their travel.

Posted on July 26, 2006 at 1:22 PMView Comments

The Kryptos Sculpture

The Kryptos Sculpture is located in the center of the CIA Headquarters in Langley, VA. It was designed in 1990, and contains a four-part encrypted puzzle. The first three parts have been solved, but now we’ve learned that the second-part solution was wrong and here’s the corrected solution.

The fourth part remains unsolved. Wired wrote:

Sanborn has said that clues to the last section, which has only 97 letters, are contained in previously deciphered parts. Therefore getting those first three sections correct has been crucial.

Posted on April 21, 2006 at 7:54 AMView Comments

Googling for Covert CIA Agents

It’s easy to blow the cover of CIA agents using the Internet:

The CIA asked the Tribune not to publish her name because she is a covert operative, and the newspaper agreed. But unbeknown to the CIA, her affiliation and those of hundreds of men and women like her have somehow become a matter of public record, thanks to the Internet.

When the Tribune searched a commercial online data service, the result was a virtual directory of more than 2,600 CIA employees, 50 internal agency telephone numbers and the locations of some two dozen secret CIA facilities around the United States.

Only recently has the CIA recognized that in the Internet age its traditional system of providing cover for clandestine employees working overseas is fraught with holes, a discovery that is said to have “horrified” CIA Director Porter Goss.

Seems to be serious:

Not all of the 2,653 employees whose names were produced by the Tribune search are supposed to be working under cover. More than 160 are intelligence analysts, an occupation that is not considered a covert position, and senior CIA executives such as Tenet are included on the list.

Covert employees discovered

But an undisclosed number of those on the list–the CIA would not say how many–are covert employees, and some are known to hold jobs that could make them terrorist targets.

Other potential targets include at least some of the two dozen CIA facilities uncovered by the Tribune search. Most are in northern Virginia, within a few miles of the agency’s headquarters. Several are in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah and Washington state. There is one in Chicago.

Some are heavily guarded. Others appear to be unguarded private residences that bear no outward indication of any affiliation with the CIA.

A senior U.S. official, reacting to the computer searches that produced the names and addresses, said, “I don’t know whether Al Qaeda could do this, but the Chinese could.”

There are more articles.

Posted on March 13, 2006 at 11:02 AMView Comments

30,000 People Mistakenly Put on Terrorist Watch List

This is incredible:

Nearly 30,000 airline passengers discovered in the past year that they were mistakenly placed on federal “terrorist” watch lists, a transportation security official said Tuesday.

When are we finally going to admit that the DHS is incompetent at this?

EDITED TO ADD (12/7): At least they weren’t kidnapped and imprisoned for five months, and “shackled, beaten, photographed nude and injected with drugs by interrogators.”

Posted on December 7, 2005 at 10:26 AMView Comments

The Onion on Security

CIA Realizes It’s Been Using Black Highlighters All These Years“:

A report released Tuesday by the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General revealed that the CIA has mistakenly obscured hundreds of thousands of pages of critical intelligence information with black highlighters.

According to the report, sections of the documents— “almost invariably the most crucial passages”—are marred by an indelible black ink that renders the lines impossible to read, due to a top-secret highlighting policy that began at the agency’s inception in 1947.

Terrorist Has No Idea What To Do With All This Plutonium“:

Yaquub Akhtar, the leader of an eight-man cell linked to a terrorist organization known as the Army Of Martyrs, admitted Tuesday that he “doesn’t have the slightest clue” what to do with the quarter-kilogram of plutonium he recently acquired.

And “RIAA Bans Telling Friends About Songs.”

Posted on December 3, 2005 at 9:26 AMView Comments

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.