Tuesday, February 27, 2007

College Professor Sentenced in Cuban Spy Case

A Florida International University professor was sentenced to 5 years in prison after admitting he spied on Miami's Cuban exiles for Havannah over the past 30 years.

Carlos Alvarez received the 5 year sentence, his wife Elsa Alvarez received a 3 year sentence for her part in concealing her husband's activities.

You can read more about the case here.

New Tactics

The terrorist insurgency in Iraq have adopted new techniques that have been deployed in at least three suicide attacks over the past few months - chemical attacks. It has been reported that chlorine gas has been used in conjunction with vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (ied).

The Jamestown Foundation has a segment in the latest edition of their Terrorism Focus newsletter (Vol. IV, Is 3):
"Chlorine Attack Reflects Ongoing Militant Strategy in Iraq

For at least the third time this year, insurgents in Iraq have incorporated canisters of liquefied chlorine into vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices. The latest of these attacks came on February 21, and left several dead and scores suffering from exposure to the dispersed chlorine in an area of Baghdad (Gulf Daily News, February 23). These are not the first instances of fighters exploring the use of chemicals in explosive devices, but they may be distinguished by their employment methods which can act as potential windows into the tactical and strategic thinking of such insurgents.

Several scientific experts have commented on the efficiency of the attacks, taking the position that the attacks were poorly executed. It is true that in each incident, insurgents introduced varying quantities of the chemical agent into an attack where explosives ruptured the chlorine tanks and dispersed the chemical agent. Such a dispersal method is inherently inefficient since much of the potential agent is burned or left oxidized in the ensuing explosion. Nevertheless, the less efficient method currently employed caused a significant number of casualties even if the number killed was not optimal given the quantities of agent present. Furthermore, low-tech chemical, biological, radiological (CBR) attacks—such as those employed by almost all non-state actors to date—are thought to be much more effective in terms of psychological damage than physical damage when staged against a target audience.

Insurgent groups have consistently innovated their tactics over the course of the conflict to achieve their desired objective in the face of equally persistent counter-insurgency innovations. New counter-insurgency/counter-sectarian violence initiatives have had little effect on the militants' ability to inflict terror on the populations through "conventional" means. Thus, the selection of employing chlorine in a series of bombings in Iraq raises several questions not likely to be immediately answered. Are the insurgents preempting an anticipated or actual perceived desensitization of their target audiences and thus feel the need to resort to novel means to keep pace with the elevated threshold of tolerance? Or were these attacks simply continued experimentation to assess the technical capabilities of the weapons and the corresponding effects on the target populations with little expectations for the necessity of such advancements? Although it is only possible to hypothesize on the strategic motivations, it is far from certain that such attacks will either become commonplace or that they would even achieve a significantly elevated level of psychological pressure on the target populations if they are employed in a concerted campaign (Gulf Times, February 23).

Fortunately, the potential supply of chlorine suitable for such attacks will not allow groups to employ the agent in significant quantities indefinitely. Although there are numerous potential sources of chlorine in Iraq, future large-scale attacks can be kept at a minimum if bulk access points are kept under proper controls and distributions monitored. Moreover, if needed, the Iraqi government could also disseminate basic information to the public as how to quickly identify and mitigate the effects of such attacks. At the very least, the most recent attacks show a continued desire on the part of militants to expand their capabilities beyond conventional means. Considering Iraq's dismantled al-Abud network that attempted to acquire chemical weapons, claims of attacks with chemical munitions and Abu Hamza al-Muhajir's call for scientists to engage in nuclear and biological experimentation, it is clear that insurgent groups continue to be enticed by the potential capabilities of such weapons and the trend remains unbroken (Terrorism Focus, October 10, 2006; Arab News, February 24).

Robert Wesley is a terrorism analyst specializing in emerging trends in Islamist militancy and weapons of mass destruction."

You can subscribe to the Terrorism Focus newsletter on the Jamestown Foundation Web site located here.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Madrid Terror Trials Underway

Twenty-nine men are on trial in Madrid for their alleged involvement in the March 2004 train bombings that killed 191 people.

The trial is scheduled to last approx. 6 months and will be televised live on Spanish television.

You can find additional information here.

Monday, January 22, 2007

British Intelligence Tracking Muslim Pilgrims

A recent news article on the British Times Online news site discloses a profiling program being used by MI5 and MI6.
"The intelligence agencies are monitoring every Muslim who travels from Britain to Mecca on pilgrimage in a wider effort to piece together intelligence on suspected Al-Qaeda terrorist activity."
According to the intelligence services terrorists may visit Mecca prior to participating in terrorist operations in the UK and abroad.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

CIA Competing With Special Forces

A recent article in the LA Times outlines the CIA's struggle to limit US Special Forces activities in foreign nations.

The use of Special Forces teams to conduct surveillance and other operations began after 9/11. On several occasions the Special Forces teams have gotten themselves into trouble; once in Paraguay by shooting a would-be robber, and once getting themselves compromised on a surveillance in East Africa.

Some CIA officers are complaining that the forces are interfering and possibly compromising ongoing CIA operations in the process.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Alleged Spy Ordered Deported From Canada

An article in the Canadian Globe and Mail newspaper says that a suspected spy no longer contested the national security certificate labeling him as a threat to Canada.

The lawyers of the alleged spy, who used the Canadian alias of Paul William Hempel, said their client could not produce a single photograph or childhood friend that could help verify their client was indeed Canadian.

One of the lawyers told the court that the man, who's real identity is being withheld, is Russian and wished to return to Russia.

"Hempel" was arrested at Montreal's international airport on Nov. 14th carrying $7,800 in five different currencies, a short-wave radio, two digital cameras, two cell phones and five sim cards with phone information on them.

Espionage = 12 years

Petty Officer 3rd Class Ariel Weinmann was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of espionage, desertion and other charges.

PO Weinmann told the judge that the reason he deserted was the service "did not meet his expectations."

PO Weinmann could have received life in prison without parole for the charge of espionage.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

U.S. Sailor to Plead Guilty in Espionage Case

A U.S. Navy sailor has agreed to plead guilty to some of the charges against him.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Ariel J. Weinmann is facing charges of espionage, desertion, failing to properly secure classified information, copying classified information, communication of classified information to a foreign agent, and stealing and destroying a laptop computer.

Weinmann was assigned as a fire control technician aboard the USS Albuquerque, a Connecticut based submarine, when he deserted and allegedly gave classified information to a representative of an undisclosed foreign government in Vienna.

You can find more about the case here.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

China Calls U.S. Allegations "Irresponsible"

A recent NBC news report titled US worries about Chinese espionage outlines the threat China poses with it's espionage activities. The report says that China is specifically targeting technologies it can use to upgrade its Navy and Air Force.

Former FBI Counterintelligence Chief Dave Szady was interviewed as part of the story, there is also a link to the video on the page.

In their response, the Chinese say that they do not engage in espionage in the U.S., and that the allegations are "irresponsible."

Former-Spy's Death Spotlights Russian Espionage Activities

The poisoning, and subsequent death, of Former-KGB Colonel Aleaxander Litvinenko has put an unwelcome spotlight on Russian intelligence activities in the UK.

A report in London's Telegraph newspaper says there are "30 or more" spies working out of the Russian embassy located in Kensington.
"There is still a significant Russian spy presence in Britain, mainly represented by the GRU military intelligence and the SVR, the new name for the overseas operations of the old KGB.

The FSB, which some claim was behind the alleged assassination plot, is Russia's internal security apparatus - the equivalent of MI5 in Britain."
A similar Financial Times article says President Putin has increased the intelligence service's budgets and that,
"...the [UK] activities are in three main areas: traditional efforts aimed at gathering government information; the collection of sensitive scientific and technological information; and a growing effort to monitor the activity of Russian dissidents in London."

B2 or not B2...

It appears that China has managed to purchase B2 stealth technology from one of the aircraft's engineers. A report in the Washington Times says that Noshir S. Gowadia, a former defense contractor, sold China information on the B2 Bomber's exhaust system that may allow China to develop countermeasures for the aircraft.

Gowadia allegedly also provided assistance to the Chinese to develop a cruise missile with an exhaust system that will make it extremely hard to detect, and also a second missile China could use to intercept air-to-air missiles.

Is it a coincidence that Mr. Gowadia worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the 1990's?

Mr. Gowadia's trial is scheduled to begin in July.

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