Turkey’s FM, Clinton discussed over alleged Iran plot

Nuland told a daily press briefing that Clinton informed Davutoglu on an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States Adel Al-Jubeir during the conversation.

A Spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, Victoria Nuland, said on Friday that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu discussed Iran during phone conversation.

Nuland told a daily press briefing that Clinton informed Davutoglu on an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States Adel Al-Jubeir during the conversation.

Replying to a question on the European Commission’s progress report on Turkey, Nuland said that the United States has been supporting Turkey’s eagerness to join the EU. The United States wanted to see Turkey as a member of the EU, Nuland said.




15 October 2011 Saturday

Turkey believes NATO members won’t share intelligence with Israel

Turkey has said it trusts on promise of NATO member states on keeping its intelligence within the alliance and not sharing it with Israel, Turkey’s new foe.

Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz
Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz

Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz told reporters following NATO’s Defense Ministers meeting in Brussels that one should trust on NATO member states’ pledge that they won’t use the intelligence they gather from NATO’s early warning radar system in the southeast of the country that will serve as part of the alliance’s missile defense system.

Yılmaz also warned that this intelligence cannot be used outside NATO member states, referring to Israel.

Turkish-Israeli relations badly damaged after Israeli naval commandos stormed Mavi Marmara ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza to breach the naval blockade, killing nine Turkish civilians. Turkey demands official apology, compensation to families of the victims and lifting Gaza blockade. Israel claims its soldiers acted in self-defense.

Last year, Turkey’s leaders also repeatedly asked NATO during the alliance summit in Lisbon not to share intelligence it gets from radar systems with Israel.

Turkey agreed to host the radar in September as part of NATO’s missile defense system aimed at countering ballistic missile threats from neighboring Iran. Ankara claims the shield doesn’t target a specific country and had threatened to block the deal if Iran was explicitly named as a threat.

A military installation in Kürecik has been designated as the radar site, according to Turkish government officials. Kürecik in Malatya province lies some 700 kilometers (435 miles) west of the Iranian border.

In September, Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said the United States hopes to have the radar deployed there by the end of the year.

Yılmaz stressed that the primary reason for NATO’s early warning radar system is to maintain the security of Europe. Yılmaz also added that by the radar system, Turkey is also protecting itself.

Yılmaz said no one has a right to object a project which is only for defense purposes and said no any NATO state member should tell “no” when asked to protect other member states.

Yılmaz said he had a chance to have talks with his British, Canadian, Australian and Afghan counterparts and said all of them stressed Turkey’s increasingly influence in the region and asked for more cooperation.




06 October 2011, Thursday / TODAYSZAMAN.COM,

Turkish intelligence officials request US cooperation against PKK in Iraq

Officials from Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) emphasized during US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s visit to Ankara last week that future anti-terror cooperation between the two countries must include concrete US efforts to disrupt operations of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq.

According to documents obtained by the Turkish daily Sabah, the American intelligence chief was told that the free movement of PKK leaders in Iraq has facilitated the group’s operations in Turkey, greatly complicating Ankara’s counterterrorism efforts. MİT consequently requested that three new steps be taken against PKK operations in northern Iraq.

Officials first requested that 97 individuals wanted by the Turkish state for alleged links to the PKK be detained if they attempt to fly from airports in Iraq. Turkey maintains that international airports in Baghdad and the northern city of Arbil are currently used by the PKK to travel freely to Europe, where it allegedly recruits members and traffics drugs.

Second, Clapper was told that Iraqi banks, which have become the group’s outlet for transferring money abroad, must be more active in monitoring suspicious financial activity.

It is estimated that the PKK annually channels over $100 million through Iraq to accounts abroad. Turkish intelligence officials stated that such transfers are often highly conspicuous operations, where PKK members deposit briefcases full of cash into accounts with no questions asked.

Turkish officials last told Clapper that intelligence cooperation between MİT and its American counterparts ought to increase, with a focus on real-time intelligence-sharing between the two nations. MİT’s requests to Clapper come as Turkey ramps up its campaign against the PKK’s activity abroad. Two days after Clapper’s visit to Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu delivered a similar message to the UN, where he argued that increased cooperation among European nations was necessary to combat foreign chapters of the PKK.


29 September 2011, Thursday / TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL

Report: Turkey seeks US secretive spy network help in capturing PKK leaders

19 September 2011 Monday

The Sabah daily in a story published on Monday claimed Ankara had asked to use the services of this controversial spy network.

Turkey has reportedly asked to use the US-operated ECHELON — a secretive and officially nonexistent spy network — to help capture 120 of the most influential Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants higher up in the organization’s hierarchy in return for the deployment of an early warning radar on Turkish soil as part of a NATO missile defense system.

ECHELON is the codename given to a system that can eavesdrop on global satellite and phone communications as well as computers. The system was created by the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand in a secret treaty signed in 1943. Although its existence has been officially denied, a report in 2001 by the European Parliament, which investigated ECHELON’s activities on suspicion that it might be tapping into phones in Europe to steal industrial and commercial data, attested to its existence. There has also been other evidence about ECHELON’s existence in addition to the EP report.

The Sabah daily in a story published on Monday claimed Ankara had asked to use the services of this controversial spy network.

The paper said the system, operated by the US National Security Agency (NSA), has four ground stations in the Middle East. It also claimed that it was this system that helped to capture PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in Nairobi in 1999. The 2001 EP report listed a number of suspected ground stations, but none of them were in the Middle East.



Top US intelligence official in surprise visit to Turkey

19 September 2011 Monday

US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper arrived in Ankara for a surprise visit, a news report said on Monday.

James Clapper
James Clapper

US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper arrived in Ankara for a surprise visit, a news report said on Monday.

Clapper arrived in Ankara on Sunday evening and began talks with Turkish officials on Monday morning, private NTV television reported. There was no official statement on Clapper’s visit from Turkish or US authorities.

Clapper was having talks at the General Staff, the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and the Foreign Ministry, according to NTV.

His talks focus on the planned deployment of a US radar system as part of a NATO-backed missile defense system in the eastern Turkish province of Malatya and the fight against the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), as well as the developments in the Middle East.

Turkey announced earlier this month that it had agreed to the deployment of the X-Band radar as part of NATO’s missile defense system, designed to protect the European allies of NATO from “missile threats that could stem from Russia or Iran”. Turkey had insisted during the course of negotiations over hosting the US radar that no country should be mentioned as a threat, a demand accepted by the US and other allies.

On Sunday, Turkish officials denied earlier reports that Clapper was to visit Turkey soon.

The US has been sharing intelligence with Turkey about the PKK’s movements in a joint effort to combat the militant group. Turkish and American officials have recently discussed the possibility of Predator drones being stationed at bases in Turkey.

Given the fact that US withdrawal from Iraq is only weeks away, the American military may soon send its unmanned aerial vehicles home. Turkey, which has found half of its own unmanned aerial vehicles impounded by its formerly close ally Israel, has suggested instead that they be stationed in Turkey for intelligence gathering against the PKK.



Combatant Commanders Beware: US Army Program Cancerous, Contagious

By John Stanton

A spokesman, and a high ranking official, at the Office of the Inspector General, Department of Defense, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), could not “confirm or deny” that the Human Terrain System (HTS) is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the DCIS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Sources are adamant that an investigation is underway and that many in the program are aware of the activity. Whatever the case, one thing is for certain: the effect of that information traveling from soul to soul within the HTS program is damaging to the performance and morale of employees in HTS.

“The US Army Human Terrain System program is in a profound state of organizational decay. Everything within the Human Terrain System is decaying. It is as if it is at the stage-4 level of cancer. It is pathetic. I don’t believe HTS should continue” said an observer. Others report that nothing has changed within the program and that Colonel Sharon Hamilton, USA, was unable, or unwilling, to clear out the “dead wood” from the Social Science and Training directorates of HTS.

“HTS is a place for people who do not want to be accountable,” said a source.

HTS manages to “irritate people downrange” in Afghanistan. Program management and contractors are more concerned about “what comes after Afghanistan” rather than focusing on the immediate needs commanders have there. Growing the program, rather than serving current constituents fully has been the pathology of HTS program managers and contractors since the program started. The US Army has encouraged this activity at the expense of their personnel.

Further, there are ongoing administrative brushfires within the HTS bureaucracy with procedures and processes being constantly altered, diffusing personnel issues, and more. This effort takes up time that should be spent on assisting teams and commanders downrange. “It’s really sad the so much intellectual capital is spent on such tasks,” said an observer.

Dead Bodies

Human Terrain Team (HTT) leadership is the major problem in Iraq and Afghanistan. “They leave dead bodies wherever they go,” noted one observer using a colorful metaphor. “The interviewing process for team leaders is as bad as their performance.” But no one in charge seems to care about that.

The response from HTS leadership to organizational dysfunction is mercenary, according an observer. When learning of disruptive activity in the field, the typical response is this: “Well, have they [team leaders] committed a crime or done anything immoral. If not, it is ok.” There is no “moral code” within the program. This is a message that sanctions mediocrity and invites trouble.

Patronage and politics still dominate within HTS. Subprime contractors have allegedly shared information on everything from proposals to MAP HT design. Some think that their relationships are too cozy. And funding streams from the US Army to the prime contractor and then down to subprime contractors have been described as “weird.”

The program directorate at HTS (to include Training and Doctrine Command and elements of the Office of the Secretary of Defense) are pushing HTS to other COCOMS in hopes of expanding the crippled program. AFRICOM is a particularly noteworthy target as that continent is a zone of fierce economic warfare between the USA and China, Russia, Brazil, India, and Europe. Africa’s cultural landscape is nearly alien to American leadership (and the American people) as are its many troubles.

US Army HTS to the rescue? Not so fast!

It would be a “huge mistake for the US Combatant Commanders (COCOMS) to accept HTS expertise, precisely because there is no expertise,” according to one source. “Why accept something with such a poor track record.”

“There is a dangerous ethnocentric attitude at work,” said one source. With little or no Africa experience in the HTS house, and demonstrably poor design and research skills, the leap to deploy HTS to a COCOM like AFRICA makes no sense. Indeed, an internal HTS report from 2010 stated that there was a “lack of necessary knowledge & skills” within the program.

Three of the deficiencies listed in the 2010 report include: “Lack of Social Science Skills: failure to present correct information obtained during interviews, social science products not supported by evidence and not vetted against the Intelligence stream, and lack of training. Lack of Requisite Knowledge: failure to understand the specific region to be worked, and how to use knowledge management tools. Lack of Knowledge of Operational Environment: failure to understand deployment stressors, and OPTEMPO.”

False Advertising

It takes a lot of moxie to sell a COCOM, or anyone, a skill set that is known to be absent. More galling is that the HTS program directorate knows this to be the case. In the end, lives/careers are at stake; or rather, lives/careers end up on the stake.

HTS leaders have been saying for years that the MAP HT program has been a success. That is incorrect according to sources. As one said, “The GIS component of MAP HT does not interface with the Link Analysis portion of the system. How efficient is that? It is unusable. The MAP HT cell is a failure. I have never known such a waste of taxpayer money.”

On the subject of money, HTS managers authorized the purchase of a software license for Palintir, a data analysis program. The cost for that license was $1 million (US). The computers on which the Palintir program operates sit idle in an office somewhere in Virginia. Observers are not quite sure what the purpose of the purchase was. The program has never been used. Some think that software engineers in HTS were studying the Palintir program, learning from it, or even pilfering it for MAP HT.

So what to do with HTS? One observer said that the plug should be pulled once the US vacates much of its armed forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. “HTS was designed for two wars: Iraq and Afghanistan. It should stay focused on those two theaters.”

Another solution perhaps preferred by HTS program management is to go ahead and classify it all. Recent advertisements for HTS senior level positions show that Top Secret clearances are required. Perhaps HTS will become a highly classified program. “Some would like it to be mysterious and hidden,” said an observer.

John Stanton is a Virginia based writer specializing in national security matters. Reach him at cioran123@yahoo.com.

Did Pakistani Intelligence Help U.S. in Finding Bin Laden?

An American spy novelist is disputing the details of the raid that took down the world’s “Most Wanted” terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

RJ Hillhouse, who runs the blog www.thespywhobilledme.com, writes that sources in the intelligence community told her that bin Laden was killed because a Pakistani intelligence (ISI) official informed the U.S. authorities about the al Qaeda leader’s whereabouts.

This would contradict widely published reports that a four-year CIA surveillance of Laden’s courier led to the intel that made the famous Navy SEAL Team Six raid possible.

“Forget the cover story of waterboarding-leads-to-courier-leads-to bin Laden,” writes Hillhouse in her blog.

The ISI informant allegedly passed on information leading to Laden in exchange of a roughly $25 million reward offered by the State Department’s Rewards for Justice program, states Hillhouse’s blog. He also wished to secure the U.S. citizenship for his family.

The State Department said it would not comment on Hillhouse’s blog, the Daily Mail reported.

The blog, which describes Hillhouse as an expert on national security outsourcing, posted other conflicting details about Operation Neptune’s Spear.

The informant told the U.S. officials that the Saudi’s were paying off Pakistan and the ISI to shelter Laden in the Abottabad compound, writes Hillhouse. Hillhouse claims that his information led to the intelligence gathering that brought the CIA to Abottobad, Pakistan, where bin Laden had been living.

Published reports say that Pakistani authorities were unaware of the mission.

However, Hillhouse claims that the Pakistani military as well as the ISI knew about the operation and even cooperated with the U.S., after the CIA offered to pay them double what the Saudi’s were paying to keep bin Laden.

“The cooperation was why there were no troops in Abottabad,” posted Hillhouse on her blog. “They were all pulled out. It had always seemed very farfetched to me that a helicopter could crash and later destroyed in an area with such high military concentration without the Pakistanis noticing.”

Hillhouse has taught at the University of Michigan and was a professor of political science at the University of Hawaii. During her student days, she claims to have engaged in the black market between East and West, running Cuban rum, smuggling jewels from the Soviet Union and laundering East Bloc currencies. Her blog states that foreign governments had tried to recruit her as a spy but failed.

TheSpyWhoBilledMe was featured in The New York Times Week in Review after the head of the private military corporation Blackwater USA granted her an exclusive interview.

Read Hillhouse’s blog about the raid here.



Spain to have Dual Observation Satellite for both Military and Civilian Use

At the presentation of the Paz satellite on Tuesday, 7 June, the Minister for Defence, Carme Chacón, highlighted that, in a few years’ time, Spain will become “the first European country to have a dual Earth observation system, radar and optical, for both civilian and military use”.

The Paz satellite, which is fitted with radar technology and a very high resolution, was ordered from Hisdesat by the Ministry of Defence at the end of 2007 under the National Earth Observation Plan to meet the operational requirements of the Spanish Armed Forces. In turn, Hisdesat contracted the design and manufacture of the satellite to EADS CASA Espacio, meaning this is the first time that the Spanish space industry has undertaken the challenge to build a satellite of this size and complexity to be assembled and manufactured entirely in Spain.

Carme Chacón explained that the radar technology installed on this satellite, 100% designed and manufactured in Spain, will enable up to 100 images of the Earth’s surface to be taken per day at a resolution of up to one metre. In three years’ time, this capacity will be joined by that of the Ingenio satellite and its optical technology. “With the Paz and Ingenio satellites, our military will have their own observation systems, thus multiplying our autonomy in terms of obtaining information and better protecting the interests of Spain”, she said.

The presentation ceremony for the Paz satellite, which took place on the premises of EADS CASA Espacio, was attended by the Minister for Defence, Carme Chacón, the Chief of Defence Staff, Jose Julio Rodríguez, the State Secretary for Defence, Constantino Méndez, the Secretary-General for Industry, Teresa Santero, the Managing Director of Hisdesat, Roberto López, and the General Director of Astrium España, Antonio Cuadrado.

Carme Chacón stressed that this satellite, which will be in orbit in 2013, will be able to detect the position of any ship in the world that could possibly become the victim of hijacking thanks to the automatic AIS identification system. Furthermore, it will enable the tasks of border control monitoring, the verification of international treaties, the monitoring and assessment of natural disasters and environmental control to be carried out more easily and effectively.

The Minister for Defence also mentioned the innovation and efforts being made by the Spanish aerospace industry, which has positioned itself among the top five European powers in this field in only a few years, progressing at the same pace as the Spanish Armed Forces. “The Paz satellite will multiply the operational capabilities of our Armed Forces both within and beyond our borders”, she said.

One of the greatest challenges for the Spanish space industry

For his part, the Managing Director of Hisdesat, Roberto López, said that the presentation of the Paz satellite represents a successful response to one of the greatest challenges for the Spanish space industry in recent years. “Thanks to the support from the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Trade, we have travelled the long and arduous path to creating a satellite fitted with sophisticated technology that will enable our country to play a very important role in the field of high-resolution satellite imaging”, he said.

Finally, the General Director of Astrium España, Antonio Cuadrado, highlighted that the Paz satellite will give Spain the ability to observe the Earth at any time, day or night, and in any meteorological conditions. “This programme forms part of the National Earth Observation Plan and consolidates Astrium España as the leading and integrating satellite contractor in our country”, he concluded.

Hisdesat has contracted the launch of the satellite with the Russian Dnepr launcher, scheduled for some time at the end of 2012. The satellite, which has been designed for a five and a half year mission, measures 5 metres in height and 2.4 metres in diameter, with a total weight of some 1,400 kilograms.

From manufacture to launch, the Paz satellite will generate 425 highly-qualified jobs in Spain and another 80 jobs once it is in orbit.

The National Institute for Aerospace Technology (Spanish acronym: INTA) is responsible for developing the terrestrial aspects of the programme, which include control and monitoring stations in Torrejón (Madrid) and Maspalomas (Gran Canaria), as well as the data processing and storage centres.

The Bin Laden Operation: Tapping Human Intelligence

Since May 2, when U.S. special operations forces crossed the Afghan-Pakistani  border and killed  Osama bin Laden, international media have covered the raid from virtually  every angle. The United States and Pakistan have also squared off over the U.S.  violation of Pakistan’s sovereign territory and Pakistan’s possible complicity in hiding the al Qaeda leader. All this  surface-level discussion, however, largely ignores almost 10 years of  intelligence development in the hunt for bin Laden.

While the cross-border nighttime raid deep into Pakistan was a daring and  daunting operation, the work to find the target — one person out of 180 million  in a country full of insurgent groups and a population hostile to American  activities on its soil — was a far greater challenge. For the other side, the  challenge of hiding the world’s most wanted man from the world’s most funded  intelligence apparatus created a clandestine shell game that probably involved  current or former Pakistani intelligence officers as well as competing  intelligence services. The details of this struggle will likely remain  classified for decades.

Examining the hunt for bin Laden is also difficult, mainly because of the  sensitivity of the mission and the possibility that some of the public  information now available could be disinformation intended to disguise  intelligence sources and methods. Successful operations can often compromise  human sources and new intelligence technologies that have taken years to  develop. Because of this, it is not uncommon for intelligence services to try to  create a wilderness of mirrors to protect sources and methods. But using  open-source reporting and human intelligence from STRATFOR’s own sources, we can  assemble enough information to draw some conclusions about this complex  intelligence effort and raise some key questions.

The Challenge

Following the 9/11 attacks, finding and killing bin Laden became the primary  mission of the U.S. intelligence community, particularly the CIA. This mission  was clearly laid out in a presidential “finding,” or directive, signed on Sept.  17, 2001, by then-U.S. President George W. Bush. By  2005 it became clear to STRATFOR that bin Laden was deep inside Pakistan.  Although the Pakistani government was ostensibly a U.S. ally, it was known that  there were elements within it sympathetic to al Qaeda and bin Laden. In order to  find bin Laden, U.S. intelligence would have to work with — and against — Pakistani intelligence services.

Finding bin Laden in a hostile intelligence environment while friends and  sympathizers were protecting him represented a monumental intelligence challenge  for the United States. With bin Laden and his confederates extremely conscious  of U.S technical intelligence abilities, the search quickly became a  human-intelligence challenge. While STRATFOR believes bin Laden had become tactically  irrelevant since 9/11, he remained symbolically important and a focal point  for the U.S. intelligence effort. And while it appears that the United States  has improved its intelligence capabilities and passed an important test, much  remains undone. Today, the public information surrounding the case illuminates  the capabilities that will be used to  find other high-value targets as the U.S. effort continues.

The official story on the intelligence that led to bin Laden’s Abbottabad  compound has been widely reported, leaked from current and former U.S.  officials. It focuses on a man with the cover name Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, a  Pakistani Pashtun born in Kuwait who became bin Laden’s most trusted courier.  With fluency in Pashto and Arabic, according to media reports, al-Kuwaiti would  be invaluable to al Qaeda, and in order to purchase bin Laden’s property and run  errands he would also need to be fluent in Urdu. His position as bin Laden’s  most trusted courier made him a key link in disrupting the organization. While  this man supposedly led the United States to bin Laden, it took a decade of  revamping U.S. intelligence capabilities and a great deal of hard work (and  maybe even a lucky break) to actually find him.

The first step for U.S. intelligence services after Bush’s directive was  focusing their efforts on bin Laden and the al Qaeda leadership. Intelligence  collection against al Qaeda was under way before 9/11, but after the attacks it  became the No. 1 priority. Due to a lack of human intelligence in the region and  allies for an invasion of Afghanistan, the CIA revived connections with  anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan and with Pakistan’s Inter-Services  Intelligence (ISI) directorate in order to oust the Taliban government and  accrue intelligence for use in disrupting al Qaeda. The connections were built  in the 1980s as the CIA famously operated through the ISI to fund militant  groups in Afghanistan fighting the Soviet military. Most of these links were  lost when the Soviets withdrew from the Southwest Asian state and the CIA  nominally declared victory. Pakistan, left with Afghanistan and these militant  groups, developed a working relationship with the Taliban and others for its own  interests. A coterie of ISI officers was embedded with different militant  groups, and some of them became jihadist sympathizers.

U.S. intelligence budgets were severely cut in the 1990s in light of the “peace dividend” following the fall of the Soviet Union, as some U.S. leaders  argued there was no one left to fight. Intelligence collection was a dirty,  ambiguous and dangerous game that U.S. politicians were not prepared to stomach.  John Deutch, the director of the CIA from 1995 to 1996, gutted the CIA’s sources  on what was known as the “Torricelli Principle” (named after then-Rep. Robert  Torricelli), which called for the removal of any unsavory characters from the  payroll. This meant losing sources in the exact kind of organizations U.S.  intelligence would want to infiltrate, including militants in Southwest Asia.

The CIA began to revive its contacts in the region after the 1998 U.S.  Embassy bombings in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. While the U.S.  intelligence community was looking for bin Laden at this time, he was not a high  priority, and U.S. human-intelligence capabilities in the region were limited.  The United States has always had trouble with human intelligence — having people  sitting at computers is less of a security risk than having daring undercover  operatives running around in the field — and by the end of the 1990s it was  relying on technological platforms for intelligence more than ever.

The United States was in this state on Sept. 12, 2001, when it began to ramp  up its intelligence operations, and al Qaeda was aware of this. Bin Laden knew  that if he could stay away from electronic communications, and generally out of  sight, he would be much harder to track. After invading Afghanistan and working  with the ISI in Pakistan, the United States had a large number of detainees who  it hoped would have information to breach bin Laden’s operational security. From  some mix of detainees caught in operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan  (particularly with the help of the ISI), including Khalid  Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Farj al-Libi, came  information leading to an important bin Laden courier known by various names,  including Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. (His actual identity is still unconfirmed,  though his real name may be Sheikh Abu Ahmed.)

The efficacy  of enhanced interrogation and torture techniques is constantly debated — they may have helped clarify or obfuscate the courier’s identity (some reports  say Mohammed tried to lead investigators away from him). What is clear is that  U.S. intelligence lacked both a sophisticated and nuanced understanding of al  Qaeda and, most important, human sources with access to that information. With  the United States not knowing what al Qaeda was capable of, the fear of a  follow-on attack to 9/11 loomed large.

Anonymous U.S. intelligence officials told Reuters the breakthrough came when  a man named Hassan Ghul was captured in Iraq in 2004 by Kurdish forces and  turned over to the United States. Little is known about Ghul’s identity except  that he is believed to have worked with Abu  Musab al-Zarqawi and to have given interrogators information about a man  named “al-Kuwaiti” who was a courier between al-Zarqawi and al  Qaeda operational commanders in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ghul was then  given over to the Pakistani security services; he is believed to have been  released in 2007 and to now be fighting somewhere in the region.

While U.S. intelligence services got confirmation of al-Kuwaiti’s role from  al-Libi, they could not find the courier. It is unknown if they gave any of this  information to the Pakistanis or asked for their help. According to leaks from  U.S. officials to AP, the Pakistanis provided the National Security Agency  (NSA), the main U.S. communications interception agency, with information that  allowed it to monitor a SIM card from a cellphone that had frequently called  Saudi Arabia. In 2010, the NSA intercepted a call made by al-Kuwaiti and began  tracking him in Pakistan. Another U.S. official told CNN that the operational  security exercised by al-Kuwaiti and his brother made them difficult to trail,  but “an elaborate surveillance effort” was organized to track them to the  Abbottabad compound.

From then on, the NSA monitored all of the cellphones used by the couriers  and their family members, though they were often turned off and had batteries  removed when the phones’ users went to the Abbottabad compound or to other  important meetings. The compound was monitored by satellites and RQ-170  Sentinels, stealth versions of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which were  reportedly flown over the compound. According to The Wall Street Journal, the  National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) even built a replica of the  compound for CIA Director Leon Panetta and other officials. The NGA is the  premier U.S. satellite observation agency, which could have watched the  goings-on at the compound and even spotted bin Laden, though it would have been  difficult to confirm his identity.

Some of these leaks could be disingenuous in order to lead the public and  adversary intelligence agencies away from highly classified sources and methods.  But they do reflect long-believed assessments of the U.S. intelligence community  regarding its advanced capability in technology-based intelligence gathering as  well as the challenges it faces in human-intelligence collection.

The Utility of Liaison Relationships

Historically, U.S. intelligence officers have been white males, though the  CIA has more recently begun hiring more minorities, including those from various  ethnic and linguistic groups important to its mission (or at least those who can  pass the polygraph and full-field background investigation, a substantial  barrier). Even when intelligence officers look the part in the countries in  which they operate and have a native understanding of the cultures and  languages, they need sources within the organizations they are trying to  penetrate. It is these sources, recruited by intelligence officers and without  official or secret status, who are the “agents” providing the information needed  back at headquarters. The less an intelligence officer appears like a local the  more difficult it is to meet with and develop these agents, which has led the  United States to frequently depend on liaison services — local intelligence  entities — to collect information.
Many intelligence services around the world were established with American  support or funding for just this purpose. The most dependent liaison services  essentially function as sources, acquiring information at the local CIA  station’s request. They are often made up of long-serving officers in the local  country’s military, police or intelligence services, with a nuanced  understanding of local issues and the ability to maintain a network of sources.  With independent intelligence services, such as Israel’s Mossad, there has been  roughly an equal exchange of intelligence, where Israeli sources may recruit a  human source valuable to the United States and the CIA may have satellite  imagery or communications intercepts valuable to the Israelis.
Of course, this is not a simple game. It involves sophisticated players  trying to collect intelligence while deceiving one another about their  intentions and plans — and many times trying to muddy the water a little to hide  the identity of their sources from the liaison service. Even the closest  intelligence relationships, such as that between the CIA and the British Secret  Intelligence Service, have been disrupted by moles like Kim  Philby, a longtime Soviet plant who handled the liaison work between the two  agencies.
Since most U.S. intelligence officers serve on rotations of only one to three  years — out of concern they will “go native” or to allow them to return to the  comfort of home — it becomes even more challenging to develop long-term  human-intelligence sources. While intelligence officers will pass their sources  off to their replacements, the liaison service becomes even more valuable in  being able to sustain source relationships, which can take years to build.  Liaison relationships, then, become a way to efficiently use and extend U.S.  intelligence resources, which, unlike such services in most countries, have  global requirements. The United States may be the world’s superpower, but it is  impossible for it to maintain sources everywhere.

Liaison and Unilateral Operations in the Hunt for Bin Laden

In recent years, U.S. intelligence has worked with Pakistan’s ISI most  notably in raids throughout Pakistan against senior al Qaeda operatives like Abu  Zubaydah, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Farj al-Libi. We  can also presume that much of the information used by the United States for UAV  strikes comes through sources in Pakistani intelligence as well as those on the  Afghan side of the border. Another example of such cooperation, also to find bin  Laden, is the CIA’s work with the Jordanian General Intelligence Department, an  effort that went awry in the Khost  suicide attack. Such is the risk with liaison relationships — to what extent  can one intelligence officer trust another’s sources and motives? Nevertheless,  these liaison networks were the best the United States had available, and huge  amounts of resources were put into developing intelligence through them in  looking for major jihadists, including bin Laden.
The United States is particularly concerned about Pakistan’s intelligence  services and the possibility that some of their officers could be compromised  by, or at least sympathetic to, jihadists. Given the relationships with  jihadists maintained by former ISI officers such as Khalid Khawaja and Sultan  Amir Tarar (known as Colonel Imam), who were both held hostage and killed by  Pakistani militants, and most famously former ISI Director Hamid Gul, there is  cause for concern. These three are the most famous former ISI officers with  links to jihadists, but because they were (or are) long retired from the ISI and  their notoriety makes them easy to track to jihadists, they have little  influence on either group. But the reality is that there are current ISI and  military officers sympathizing or working with important jihadist groups.  Indeed, it was liaison work by the CIA and Saudi Arabia that helped develop  strong connections with Arab and Afghan militants, some of whom would go on to  become members of al Qaeda and the Taliban. The ISI was responsible for  distributing U.S.- and Saudi-supplied weapons to various Afghan militant groups  to fight the Russians in the 1980s, and it controlled contact with these groups.  If some of those contacts remain, jihadists could be using members of the ISI  rather than the other way around.
Due to concerns like these, according to official statements and leaked  information, U.S. intelligence officers never told their Pakistani liaison  counterparts about the forthcoming bin Laden raid. It appears the CIA developed  a unilateral capability to operate within Pakistan, demonstrated by the Raymond  Davis shooting in January as well as the bin Laden raid. Davis was a  contractor providing security for U.S. intelligence officers in Pakistan when he  killed two reportedly armed men in Lahore, and his case brought the CIA-ISI  conflict out in the open. Requests by Pakistani officials to remove more  than 300 similar individuals from the country show that there are a large number  of U.S. intelligence operatives in Pakistan. Other aspects of this unilateral  U.S. effort were the tracking of bin Laden, further confirmation of his identity  and the safe house the CIA maintained in Abbottabad for months to monitor the  compound.

The CIA and the ISI

Even with the liaison relationships in Pakistan, which involved meetings  between the CIA station chief in Islamabad and senior members of the ISI, the  CIA ran unilateral operations on the ground. Liaison services cannot be used to  recruit sources within the host government; this must be done unilaterally. This  is where direct competition between intelligence services comes into play. In  Pakistan, this competition may involve different organizations such as  Pakistan’s Intelligence Bureau or Federal Investigation Agency, both of which  have counterintelligence functions, or separate departments within the ISI,  where one department is assigned to liaison while others handle  counterintelligence or work with militant groups. Counterintelligence officers  may want to disrupt intelligence operations that involve collecting information  on the host-country military, or they may simply want to monitor the foreign  intelligence service’s efforts to recruit jihadists. They can also feed  disinformation to the operatives. This competition is known to all players and  is not out of the ordinary.
But the U.S. intelligence community is wondering if this ordinary competition  was taken to another level — if the ISI, or elements of it, were actually  protecting bin Laden. The people helping bin Laden and other al Qaeda operatives  and contacts in  Abbottabad were the same people the CIA was competing against. Were they  simply jihadists or a more resourceful and capable state intelligence agency? If  the ISI as an institution knew about bin Laden’s location, it would mean it  outwitted the CIA for nearly a decade in hiding his whereabouts. It would also  mean that no ISI officers who knew his location were turned by U.S.  intelligence, that no communications were intercepted and that no leaks reached  the media.
On the other hand, if someone within the ISI was protecting bin Laden and  keeping it from the rest of the organization, it would mean the ISI was beaten  internally and the CIA eventually caught up by developing its own sources and  was able to find bin Laden on its own. As we point out above, the official story  on the bin Laden intelligence effort may be disinformation to protect sources  and methods. Still, this seems to be a more plausible scenario. American and  Pakistani sources have told STRATFOR that there are likely jihadist sympathizers  within the ISI who helped bin Laden or his supporters. Given that Pakistan is  fighting its own war with al Qaeda-allied groups like Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan,  the country’s leadership in Islamabad has no interest in protecting them.  Furthermore, finding an individual anywhere, especially in a foreign country  with multiple insurgencies under way, is an extremely  difficult intelligence challenge.
Assuming the official story is mostly true, the bin Laden raid demonstrates  that U.S. intelligence has come full circle since the end of the Cold War. It  was able to successfully collect and analyze intelligence of all types and  develop and deploy on-the-ground capabilities it had been lacking to find an  individual who was hiding and probably protected. It was able to quickly work  with special operations forces under CIA command to carry out an elaborate  operation to capture or kill him, a capability honed by the U.S. Joint Special  Operations Command (JSOC) in the development of its own capture-and-kill  capabilities in Iraq and Afghanistan. The CIA is responsible for missions in  Pakistan, where, like the JSOC, it has demonstrated an efficient and devastating  capability to task UAV strikes and conduct cross-border raids. The bin Laden  raid was the public proof of concept that the United States could collect  intelligence and reach far into hostile territory to capture or kill its  targets.
It is unclear exactly how the U.S. intelligence community has been able to  develop these capabilities, beyond the huge post-9/11 influx of money and  personnel (simply throwing resources at a problem is never a complete solution).  The United States faced Sept. 11, 2001, without strategic warning of the attacks  inspired by bin Laden, and then it faced a tactical threat it was unprepared to  fight. Whatever the new and improved human-intelligence capabilities may be,  they are no doubt some function of the experience gained by operatives in a  concerted, global campaign against jihadists. Human intelligence is probably  still the biggest U.S. weakness, but given the evidence of unilateral operations  in Pakistan, it is not the weakness it used to be.

The Intelligence Battle Between the U.S. and Pakistan

The competition and cooperation among various intelligence agencies did not end  with the death of Osama bin Laden. Publicity surrounding the operation has led  to calls in Pakistan to eject any and all American interests in the country. In  the past few years, Pakistan has made it difficult for many Americans to get  visas, especially those with official status that may be cover for intelligence  operations. Raymond Davis was one of these people. Involved in protecting  intelligence officers who were conducting human-intelligence missions, he would  have been tasked not only with protecting them from physical threats from  jihadists but also with helping ensure they were not under the surveillance of a  hostile intelligence agency.
Pakistan has only ratcheted up these barriers since the bin Laden raid. The  Interior Ministry announced May 19 that it would ban travel by foreign diplomats  to cities other than those where they are stationed without permission from  Pakistani authorities. The News, a Pakistani daily, reported May 20 that  Interior Minister Rehman Malik chaired a meeting with provincial authorities on  regulating travel by foreigners, approving their entry into the country and  monitoring unregistered mobile phones. While some of these efforts are intended  to deal with jihadists disguised within large groups of Afghan nationals, they  also place barriers on foreign intelligence officers in the country. While  non-official cover is becoming more common for CIA officers overseas, many are  still traveling on various diplomatic documents and thus would require these  approvals. The presence of intelligence officers on the ground for the bin Laden  raid shows there are workarounds for such barriers that will be used when the  mission is important enough. In fact, according to STRATFOR sources, the CIA has  for years been operating in Pakistan under what are known as “Moscow rules” — the strictest tradecraft for operating behind enemy lines — with clandestine  units developing human sources and searching for al Qaeda and other militant  leaders.
And this dynamic will only continue. Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman  Bashir told The Wall Street Journal on May 6 that another operation like the bin  Laden raid would have “terrible consequences,” while U.S. President Barack Obama  told BBC on May 22 that he would authorize similar strikes in the future if they  were called for. Pakistan, as any sovereign country would, is trying to protect  its territory, while the United States will continue to search for high-value  targets who are hiding there. The bin Laden operation only brought this  clandestine competition to the public eye.
Bin Laden is dead, but many other individuals on the U.S. high-value target  list remain at large. With the bold execution and ultimate success of the  Abbottabad raid now public, the overarching American operational concept for  hunting high-value targets has been demonstrated and the immense resources that  were focused on bin Laden are now freed up. While the United States still faces  intelligence challenges, those most wanted by the Americans can no longer take  comfort in the fact that bin Laden is eluding his hunters or that the Americans  are expending any more of their effort looking for him.
Fred Burton

Nuclear Weapons Threat Not Decreasing: SIPRI

More than 5,000 nuclear weapons are deployed around the world and nuclear powers continue investing in new weapon systems, making meaningful disarmament in the near future unlikely, a report published Tuesday said.

“More than 5,000 nuclear weapons are deployed and ready for use, including nearly 2,000 that are kept in a high state of alert,” according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

SIPRI’s report said the world’s eight nuclear powers – Britain, China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia and the U.S. – possess more than 20,500warheads.

As of January 2011, Russia had 11,000 nuclear warheads, including 2,427deployed, while the United States had 8,500 including 2,150 deployed, the report said.

The U.S. and Russia have signed a Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) that calls for a maximum of 1,550 warheads deployed per country.

However SIPRI argued that prospects for meaningful disarmament in the short-term are grim as all eight countries seem committed to either improving or maintaining their nuclear programs.

“The five legally recognized nuclear weapons states, as defined by the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty are either deploying new nuclear weapon systems or have announced their intention to do so,” the report said, referring to Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S.

India and Pakistan are “expanding their capacity to produce fissile material for military purposes,” according to the report.

SIPRI Director Daniel Nord said south Asia, where relations between India and Pakistan seem perpetually tense, is “the only place in the world where you have a nuclear weapons arms race.”

While Israel, which has never conclusively declared itself a nuclear weapons state but is almost universally assumed to be one, “appears to be waiting to assess how the situation with Iran’s nuclear program develops,” SIPRI said.

Nord argued that because “nuclear weapons states are modernizing and are investing in their nuclear weapons establishments (it) seems unlikely that there will be any real nuclear weapon disarmament within the foreseeable future.”

The report said that North Korea “is believed to have produced enough plutonium to build a small number of nuclear warheads, but there is no public information to verify that it has operational nuclear weapons.”

Nord identified Pakistan “losing control of part of its nuclear arsenal” to a terrorist group as a specific concern.

He also voiced worry over the potential consequences if “Israel or the United States decide that they will have to intervene and do something about the program in Iran.”

Iran has repeatedly insisted that its nuclear program is non-military, but several world powers have demanded closer international inspection of Iran’s nuclear sites to verify the claim.

SIPRI is an independent institution that receives 50 percent of its funding from the Swedish state.

Stockholm – AFP