AP Report: American spies outed in Lebanon!

AP/Truth Frequency News

By ADAM GOLDMAN and MATT APUZZO

WASHINGTON (AP) – The CIA’s operations in Lebanon have been badly damaged after Hezbollah identified and captured a number of U.S. spies recently, current and former U.S. officials told The Associated Press. The intelligence debacle is particularly troubling because the CIA saw it coming.

Hezbollah’s longtime leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, boasted on television in June that he had rooted out at least two CIA spies who had infiltrated the ranks of Hezbollah, which the U.S. considers a terrorist group closely allied with Iran. Though the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon officially denied the accusation, current and former officials concede that it happened and the damage has spread even further.

Hezbollah Leader - Hassan Nasrallah

In recent months, CIA officials have secretly been scrambling to protect their remaining spies – foreign assets or agents working for the agency – before Hezbollah can find them.

To be sure, some deaths are to be expected in shadowy spy wars. It’s an extremely risky business and people get killed. But the damage to the agency’s spy network in Lebanon has been greater than usual, several former and current U.S. officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about security matters.

The Lebanon crisis is the latest mishap involving CIA counterintelligence, the undermining or manipulating of the enemy’s ability to gather information. Former CIA officials have said that once-essential skill has been eroded as the agency shifted from outmaneuvering rival spy agencies to fighting terrorists. In the rush for immediate results, former officers say, tradecraft has suffered.

The most recent high-profile example was the suicide bomber who posed as an informant and killed seven CIA employees and wounded six others in Khost, Afghanistan in December 2009.

Last year, then-CIA director Leon Panetta said the agency had to maintain “a greater awareness of counterintelligence.” But eight months later, Nasrallah let the world know he had bested the CIA, demonstrating that the agency still struggles with this critical aspect of spying and sending a message to those who would betray Hezbollah.

The CIA was well aware the spies were vulnerable in Lebanon. CIA officials were warned, including the chief of the unit that supervises Hezbollah operations from CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., and the head of counterintelligence. It remains unclear whether anyone has been or will be held accountable in the wake of this counterintelligence disaster or whether the incident will affect the CIA’s ability to recruit assets in Lebanon.

In response to AP’s questions about what happened in Lebanon, a U.S. official said Hezbollah is recognized as a complicated enemy responsible for killing more Americans than any other terrorist group before September 2001. The agency does not underestimate the organization, the official said.

The CIA’s toughest adversaries, like Hezbollah and Iran, have for years been improving their ability to hunt spies, relying on patience and guile to exploit counterintelligence holes.

In 2007, for instance, when Ali-Reza Asgari, a brigadier general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps of Iran, disappeared in Turkey, it was assumed that he was either killed or defected. In response, the Iranian government began a painstaking review of foreign travel by its citizens, particularly to places like Turkey where Iranians don’t need a visa and could meet with foreign intelligence services.

It didn’t take long, a Western intelligence official told the AP, before the U.S., Britain and Israel began losing contact with some of their Iranian spies.

The State Department last year described Hezbollah as “the most technically capable terrorist group in the world,” and the Defense Department estimates it receives between $100 million and $200 million per year in funding from Iran.

Backed by Iran, Hezbollah has built a professional counterintelligence apparatus that Nasrallah – whom the U.S. government designated an international terrorist a decade ago – proudly describes as the “spy combat unit.” U.S. intelligence officials believe the unit, which is considered formidable and ruthless, went operational in about 2004.

Using the latest commercial software, Nasrallah’s spy-hunters unit began methodically searching for spies in Hezbollah’s midst. To find them, U.S. officials said, Hezbollah examined cellphone data looking for anomalies. The analysis identified cellphones that, for instance, were used rarely or always from specific locations and only for a short period of time. Then it came down to old-fashioned, shoe-leather detective work: Who in that area had information that might be worth selling to the enemy?

The effort took years but eventually Hezbollah, and later the Lebanese government, began making arrests. By one estimate, 100 Israeli assets were apprehended as the news made headlines across the region in 2009. Some of those suspected Israeli spies worked for telecommunications companies and served in the military.

Back at CIA headquarters, the arrests alarmed senior officials. The agency prepared a study on its own vulnerabilities, U.S. officials said, and the results proved to be prescient.

The analysis concluded that the CIA was susceptible to the same analysis that had compromised the Israelis, the officials said.

CIA managers were instructed to be extra careful about handling sources in Lebanon. A U.S. official said recommendations were issued to counter the potential problem.

But it’s unclear what preventive measures were taken by the Hezbollah unit chief or the officer in charge of the Beirut station. Former officials say the Hezbollah unit chief is no stranger to the necessity of counterintelligence and knew the risks. The unit chief has worked overseas in hostile environments like Afghanistan and played an important role in the capture of a top terrorist while stationed in the Persian Gulf region after the attacks of 9/11.

“We’ve lost a lot of people in Beirut over the years, so everyone should know the drill,” said a former Middle East case officer familiar with the situation.

But whatever actions the CIA took, they were not enough. Like the Israelis, bad tradecraft doomed these CIA assets and the agency ultimately failed to protect them, an official said. In some instances, CIA officers fell into predictable patterns when meeting their sources, the official said.

This allowed Hezbollah to identify assets and case officers and unravel at least part of the CIA’s spy network in Lebanon. There was also a reluctance to share cases and some files were put in “restricted handling.” The designation severely limits the number of people who know the identity of the source but also reduces the number of experts who could spot problems that might lead to their discovery, officials said.

Nasrallah’s televised announcement in June was followed by finger-pointing among departments inside the CIA as the spy agency tried figure out what went wrong and contain the damage.

The fate of these CIA assets is unknown. Hezbollah treats spies differently, said Matthew Levitt, a counterterrorism and intelligence expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies who’s writing a book about the terrorist organization

“It all depends on who these guys were and what they have to say,” Levitt said. “Hezbollah has disappeared people before. Others they have kept around.”

Who’s responsible for the mess in Lebanon? It’s not clear. The chief of Hezbollah operations at CIA headquarters continues to run the unit that also focuses on Iranians and Palestinians. The CIA’s top counterintelligence officer, who was one of the most senior women in the clandestine service, recently retired after approximately five years in the job. She is credited with some important cases, including the recent arrests of Russian spies who had been living in the U.S. for years.

Officials said the woman was succeeded by a more experienced operations officer. That officer has held important posts in Moscow, Southeast Asia, Europe and the Balkans, important frontlines of the agency’s spy wars with foreign intelligence services and terrorist organizations.

‘Anonymous’ Strikes Again – Israeli Military Sites Hacked

Editor’s Note– The group ‘Anonymous’, famous for bold incursions into secure sites and systems, has done it again. SUA was one of thousands of sites across the land hit in the past by this group, and they have done it again. The trouble is, they have hacked into military communications in Israel at a time when the least thing could set off a conflagration.

Canadian Flotilla Boarded by Israelis

There are some many trigger points in that region now, and this group of reprobates could at some time in the future be guilty of murder if they trigger what many believe is impending – a regional war. They claim it was done to retaliate against the two ships the Israelis stopped off the coast of Gaza, so they are actively trying to make things worse in the region.

Hackers Shut Down Israeli Military and Intelligence Websites

by Saed Bannoura

International Middle East Media Center

A group of hackers, calling itself Anonymous, managed to infiltrate sensitive Israeli websites that belong to the Israeli Army and security services, and was able to shut them down. The attacks are said to be an act of retaliation against Israel’s interception of the two solidarity ships that were heading to Gaza last week.

Israeli sources reported that the websites of the army, the internal security agency, Shin Bet, and the foreign intelligence agency, Mossad, were totally offline Sunday until the evening.

The Australian online daily reported that the website of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was not hacked, and that it initially claimed that the outage of the websites “was caused by a technical failure, and not by hackers.”

Spokesperson for Netanyahu, Ofir Gendelman, claimed on his twitter feed that the Websites went offline due to a malfunction in the servers.

A “hacktivist” group calling itself “Anonymous” claimed responsibility for the cyber-attacks. The group posted a Youtube a few days ago stating that it will retaliate against the Israeli government for intercepting the two ships that were heading to Gaza last week to deliver humanitarian supplies, and to challenge the illegal Israeli siege of the coastal enclave.

The boats were carrying 27 human rights activists, in addition to journalists and crew members; they were intercepted in international waters, and not in Israeli waters.

Hacktivists also published a video dubbed “An Open Letter from Anonymous”, stating that the Israeli government is conducting “piracy in the high seas”.

The group stated that it will not tolerate such attacks carried out against unarmed civilians, adding that they, along with 127 countries around the world, recognize Palestine as the state of the Palestinian people, and that the Israeli actions, and the actions of its military, are considered a declaration of war.

Anonymous previously targeted Websites of several corporations, including Credit Card Company’s which refused to transfer donations made to Wikileaks.

It is also believed to be behind the attack of the Syrian Defence Ministry Website, to protest the Syrian government’s continuing bloodshed of its own people.

On May 31, 2010, the Israeli Navy violently boarded the MV Marmara ship, part of the Freedom Flotilla that was heading to Gaza to deliver medical and humanitarian supplies, killing nine Turkish activists and wounding several others before towing the ships to the Ashdod Port.

Addressing Israel, the group stated in the video that should Tel Aviv continue its illegal siege on Gaza, or continue its deadly attacks, the group “will then have no other option but to strike back.”

The MidEast – a simple problem to describe – Prager tells us why

Editor’s Note– When we think of the Middle East, we all see a complexity of issues that have spanned most of our lifetimes, and to the young, their entire lives. With so many viewpoints, so many stake-holders, so many levels of understanding, it is easy to get confused, to jump to conclusions, and worst of all, believe a narrative that is simply not true. Actually, identifying the problem is rather easy, solving the problem of course has been most difficult. Why?

Dennis Prager

The answer to that questions is easily summed up by Dennis Prager in the video below. There he identifies a stark reality:

If the Israelis relinquished all their weapons, they would be wiped from the face of the Earth in days. If the surrounding nations, and the ‘Palestinians’ dropped all their weaponry, peace would breakout over night.

Arabs, Islam, Palestine, and Israel explained in just six minutes. The truth is easy to understand if learned accurately, and with truth the simpleness of the problem cannot be denied. This is not about land, it is about truth.

From Prager University

Leviathan Field – New trigger point for Mid East Conflict?

Editor’s Note– Exploration and the quest for natural gas and oil within the Mediterranean appears to have become a domain war and a battle over rights.

The Leviathan Oil/Gas Field - Eastern Mediterranean

Naval assets by many countries are filling up the waters around Cyprus to protect and stave off certain conflicts over what lays below the water line.

Although Israel and Cyprus have an agreement over the Leviathan Oil and Gas Field, Turkey, Cyprus, and Israel remain at odds and relationships, agreements, and trade may soon be a the core of a battle using weapons.

Yet another trigger point exists in the region, any one of which could begin a war on a scale that dwarfs all previous conflicts involving Israel and her Arab and now, Turkish and Cypriot neighbors. Relationships that have kept the region at a relative low boil since the great conflicts of 1967 and 1973, along with the Lebanese civil war are now gone.

Turkey is no longer as cozy with Israel since Erdogan wrested power in Ankara, Egypt is about to cancel its treaties as Muslim Brotherhood forces fill the power vacuum since the ‘Arab Spring’ uprising that ousted Mubarak, Hezbollah is a constant Iranian puppet threat, the uprising in Syria, and continual unrest and rocket launches from Gaza spell danger at all levels and at all four corners.

One misstep, one terrorist attack, one failed diplomatic endeavor could set off war involving everyone.

Again, SUA wishes to remind all of the history of the region, and while watching the video below, think about the increasing number of issues. Old myths need to be exposed, truth needs to be heard, as many times as it takes:

Turkey’s Rifts With 2 Nations Worry a Top NATO Official

NY Times

By  and 

BRUSSELS — NATO’s secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, expressed disquiet on Friday about tensions over natural gasexploration in the Mediterranean between a newly assertive Turkeyand Cyprus, as well as Turkey’s strained relations with Israel, saying that they were both “a matter of concern.”

Mr. Rasmussen said he did not foresee the tension turning into conflict in the Mediterranean, and he praised Turkey as an indispensable member of NATO that could be “a bridge” between the West and the Arab countries now engaged in revolts.

“Obviously the tensions between Turkey and Israel are a matter of concern,” he said in an interview here. “It’s a bilateral issue, NATO is not going to interfere with that,” he added, “but it is the interest of the alliance to see these tensions eased, because Turkey is a key ally and Israel is a valuable partner for the alliance.” Turkey has become increasingly outspoken in support of the Palestinians and in its animosity toward Israel, once an important ally. Mr. Rasmussen emphasized that NATO, as an alliance that works by consensus, would not become involved in bilateral matters or the domestic politics of member countries.

Asked about Turkey’s warning that it might send military ships toward Cyprus, which is exploring for natural gas in the Mediterranean, as is Israel, Mr. Rasmussen said that “NATO as an organization is not going to interfere with these disputes,” while adding, “I do not envisage armed conflict in the eastern part of the Mediterranean.”

Relations with Turkey have to be managed carefully as it asserts a growing role on the global stage, he suggested. “I think Turkey can play a stabilizing role in the region and serve as a role model for countries in the region that are currently transforming from dictatorship into democracy,” he said. Mr. Rasmussen, a former prime minister of Denmark who is now two years into his NATO post, also praised Turkey’s decision to participate in a new missile-defense system for NATO. The government in Ankara has agreed to host on its territory a sophisticated American radar system that will form part of the missile shield.

About Russia and the decision of President Dmitri A. Medvedev to make way for Vladimir V. Putin as a presidential candidate, he said: “We’ll see what I would call continuity in the Kremlin. I don’t expect major changes there in Russian foreign and security policy.” He said he thought Russia remained committed to working with NATO on missile defense, a main aim of Mr. Rasmussen’s tenure.

Another central objective for the NATO secretary general is to persuade European allies to coordinate defense spending and cooperate on procurement to try to ensure that military capabilities improve, despite the expenditure cuts being pushed through by many national governments.

Mr. Rasmussen criticized a proposal from the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain to set up a defense-planning headquarters for the European Union based in Brussels. The plan is opposed by Britain, which sees the move as a duplication of NATO facilities and a waste of money — a view echoed by Mr. Rasmussen.

“Honestly speaking, what we need is investment in military hardware and not in new bureaucracies and headquarters,” he said. “I don’t think we need more headquarters. What we need is more investment in critical military capabilities.”

“I’m neither naïve nor unrealistic,” Mr. Rasmussen added. “I know very well, as a politician, that during a period of economic austerity you cannot expect increases in defense budgets.” That fact, he said, indicated that the alliance countries “need to make more effective use of our resources through more multinational cooperation — what I call smart defense.”

Mr. Rasmussen rejected suggestions that the United States was reducing its commitment to NATO because it took a secondary role in the operations against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya. “The American commitment to NATO remains as strong as ever,” he said. “The U.S. was strongly engaged in this operation, and we could not have carried out this operation successfully without the unique and essential U.S. assets.” He mentioned intelligence, drone aircraft and air-to-air refueling, all areas in which European members should invest more, he said.

“The positive story, he said, “is that Europeans took the lead and that was actually a clear response to an American request for more European engagement, a call on Europeans to take more responsibility, and the Europeans stepped up to the plate.”

Waning influence in the ME – Kim Holmes Analysis

Editor’s Note – Country by country, inside the Middle East we find corruption, nefarious trade agreements, hidden gold, networks of banks with connections to unknown banks and leaders tunneling out in the middle of the night. This begs the question, is there really a foreign policy from the White House or does Hillary Clinton just assume she can drive secret deals while we hope someday they are revealed by Wikileaks? Here is a breakdown of the lack of foreign policy that is policy as managed by the White House.

HOLMES: America’s waning influence in the Middle East

By Kim R. Holmes – Special to The Washington Times

President Obama thought that if he reached out to the Muslim world, American influence in the Middle East would rise.

It didn’t work out that way.

Witness the fight the administration is waging at the United Nations to prevent the Palestinians from gaining its nod to “statehood” and borders without Israel’s agreement.

Kim R. Holmes

The Palestinians likely were emboldened when the administration distanced itself from Israel over its settlements. Despite Israel’s agreement to an unprecedented 10-month halt on building in the West Bank, it refused to make any concessions, expecting the U.S. to force Israel to cough up more. When Israel balked, the Palestinian Authority turned its back on the Oslo peace agreement and went to the U.N. instead.

Israel and the Palestinians both distrust the administration, which faces anti-American demonstrations if it carries through with its promise to veto aU.N. Security Council resolution on Palestinian statehood.

Next case, Egypt. The administration, like the rest of the world, was caught off guard by the uprising and quickly abandoned President Hosni Mubarak. True, Washington could do little to prop him up. But its reaction broadcast the message across the Middle East that the administration was quick to abandon America’s friends and much slower to penalize enemies such as Syrian dictatorBashar Assad.

Some may think we are at least “on the right side of history” in Egypt. But at this point, no one knows where that “history” is heading, particularly with the Muslim Brotherhood’s increased legitimacy. We do know that Egypt’s commitment to its peace treaty with Israel is much weaker, the anti-American Muslim Brotherhood is whipping up fervor against Israel and American influence with the government is much diminished. Let’s put the historical predictions on hold.

Then there is Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s pro-Islamist government has purged its pro-American military and kicked out the Israeli ambassador, and is moving away from NATO and closer to Iran and Russia. Yes, Turkey recently approved a missile defense radar site for the U.S., but this hardly changes Turkey’s steady drift away from America’s orbit.

As for Iran, the administration’s naive effort to establish relations with its implacably hostile regime earned only the ayatollahs’ contempt and the disappointment of the people who resent regime brutality. Mr. Obama’s engagement neither halted Iran’s accelerating nuclear weapons program nor its support for Islamists killing U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nor did it enlist the promised support of others. Russia and China, despite his “resets,” remain persistent drags on stricter Security Council sanctions onIran.

Reaching out to Tehran did, however, send shock waves through the Sunni Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf kingdoms that called for forcefully containing Iran, not diplomatically courting it. The administration’s infamously muted criticism of Tehran’s crackdown on protests prompted pro-democracy demonstrators to chant, “Obama, are you with us or are you with them?” He has at best confused the “right side of history” message on U.S. policy toward the Arab Spring, and at worst encouraged the regime to crack down even harder.

Even in Libya, the story is far from over. We should reserve our victory laps until we see what its new leaders are really like. Also, Col. Moammar Gadhafi is still at large. Even assuming it turns out well, it’s hard to see how Mr. Obama’s on-again, off-again approach signals strong American leadership. The Europeans dragged him into Libya and got U.S. military, logistical and diplomatic support for their campaign. You may like the outcome, but Europeans are touting it as a great victory for their leadership in the world, not America’s.

This is what happens when American leadership is defined as chairing the board of international consensus. In the end, it means following the crowd, not leading.

Yes, it’s hard to lead, and other countries don’t always follow. But the “leadership from behind” approach of a community organizer neither impresses nor influences the “international community” or the Middle East.

• Kim R. Holmes, a former assistant secretary of state, is a vice president at the Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org). Follow him on Twitter @kimsmithholmes.