Iran Executes Translator Convicted Of Spying For CIA, Israel

A handout picture provided by the Iranian Presidency on July 18, 2020, shows President Hassan Rouhani walking past a portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iranian Presidency / AFP
A handout picture provided by the Iranian Presidency on July 18, 2020, shows President Hassan Rouhani walking past a portrait of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iranian Presidency / AFP

 

Iran on Monday executed a former translator convicted of spying for the US and Israel, including helping to locate a top Iranian general killed later by the Americans, the judiciary said.

The killing of Major General Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike near Baghdad airport in January brought decades-old arch-enemies Iran and the United States to the brink of conflict.

The judiciary’s Mizan Online website said Mahmoud Mousavi Majd’s death “sentence was carried out on Monday morning over the charge of espionage so that the case of his betrayal to his country will be closed forever”.

Its spokesman said earlier this month that Majd had been sentenced to death for spying on “various security fields, especially the armed forces and the Quds Force and the whereabouts and movements of martyr General Qasem Soleimani”.

Majd had been found guilty of receiving large sums of money from both the US Central Intelligence Agency and Israel’s Mossad, said the spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili.

Soleimani headed the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Iran retaliated for his death by firing a volley of ballistic missiles at US troops stationed in Iraq, but US President Donald Trump opted against responding militarily.

A US strike killed top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani and the deputy head of Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi military force at Baghdad’s airport early on January 3, 2020, the Hashed announced.
IRIB TV / AFP

 

While the attack on the western Iraqi base of Ain Al-Asad left no US soldiers dead, dozens of them suffered brain trauma.

Majd was arrested some two years ago and was not directly involved in the killing of Soleimani in Baghdad, according to a statement the judiciary issued in June.

Majd had migrated to Syria in the 1970s with his family and worked as an English and Arabic language translator at a company, Mizan said.

When war broke out, he chose to stay in the country while his family left.

“His knowledge of Arabic and familiarity with Syria’s geography made him close to Iranian military advisers and he took responsibilities in groups stationed from Idlib to Latakia,” the site added.

‘American dollars’

Majd was not a member of the Revolutionary Guards “but infiltrated many sensitive areas under the cover of being a translator”.

He was found to have been paid “American dollars to reveal information on adviser convoys, military equipment and communication systems, commanders and their movements, important geographical areas, codes and passwords” until he came under scrutiny and his access was downgraded.

He was arrested in October 2018, Mizan said.

Iran said last week it had executed another man convicted of spying for the CIA by selling information about Iran’s missile programme.

Reza Asgari had worked at the defence ministry’s aerospace division for years but retired four years ago, after which he sold “information he had regarding our missiles” to the CIA in exchange for large sums of money.

Iran in February handed down a similar sentence for Amir Rahimpour, another man convicted of spying for the US and conspiring to sell information on Iran’s nuclear programme.

Tehran announced in December it had arrested eight people “linked to the CIA” and involved in nationwide street protests that erupted the previous month over a surprise petrol price hike.

It also said in July 2019 that it had dismantled a CIA spy ring, arrested 17 suspects between March 2018 and March 2019 and sentenced some of them to death.

Trump at the time dismissed the claim as “totally false”.

 

 

AFP

Coronavirus: Russian-Linked Social Media Accounts Used To Spread Alarm, Says US

(COMBO) This combination of pictures created on February 21, 2020 shows
US President Donald Trump delivers remarks at a Keep America Great rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on February 19, 2020. Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a ceremony in Jerusalem on January 23, 2020, commemorating the people of Leningrad during the Second World War Nazi siege on the city.
EMMANUEL DUNAND, JIM WATSON / AFP

 

Thousands of Russian-linked social media accounts have launched a coordinated effort to spread alarm about the new coronavirus, disrupting global efforts to combat the epidemic, US officials told AFP.

The disinformation campaign promotes unfounded conspiracy theories that the United States is behind the COVID-19 outbreak, in an apparent bid to damage the US image by seizing on international health concerns, they said.

READ ALSO: African Health System Ill-Equipped To Handle Coronavirus Outbreak – WHO

False personas are being used on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to advance Russian talking points and conspiracies, including suggesting that the CIA is behind the virus that has claimed more than 2,300 lives, mostly in China.

“Russia’s intent is to sow discord and undermine US institutions and alliances from within, including through covert and coercive malign influence campaigns,” said Philip Reeker, the acting Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia.

“By spreading disinformation about coronavirus, Russian malign actors are once again choosing to threaten public safety by distracting from the global health response,” he said.

AFP

Turkey Shares Evidence With CIA Chief Over Khashoggi’s Death

The general manager of Alarab TV, Jamal Khashoggi, looks on during a press conference in the Bahraini capital Manama. MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH / AFP

 

Turkish intelligence has shared “all the evidence” over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi with the CIA chief during a visit, pro-government media reported on Wednesday.

CIA Director Gina Haspel visited the Turkish capital Ankara on Tuesday for talks with officials about the killing of Washington Post contributor Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate.

Video images and audio tapes, as well as evidence gathered from the consulate and the consul’s residence, were shared with Haspel during the briefing at the Turkish Intelligence Organisation (MIT), Sabah newspaper reported.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stopped short of pointing the blame at the Saudi leadership for the death of the Saudi insider-turned-critic.

But he said in a keynote speech on Tuesday that the murder was meticulously planned, demanding that all those involved brought to justice.

The whereabouts of Khashoggi‘s corpse still remain unknown.

The 59-year-old vanished on October 2 after entering the Saudi mission to obtain documents for his wedding.

Erdogan said that a 15-person team came from Riyadh to kill Khashoggi, including by carrying out reconnaissance outside Istanbul and deactivating security cameras at the consulate.

Turkish police searched the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate, and the consul general’s residence as well as hunting for evidence in an Istanbul forest.

On Tuesday, the police searched an abandoned car belonging to the Saudi consulate in an underground car park in the Sultangazi district of Istanbul.

The Saudi leadership has denied involvement in the murder and instead blamed the chain of command.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “strongly said that he had nothing to do with this, this was at a lower level,” US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday, adding he had spoken on Monday to the prince and his father King Salman.

Turkish pro-government media has claimed that Ankara has audio tapes of the killing.

Last week, the Turkish government denied giving “any kind of audio tape” from the investigation to any US official.

AFP

Ex-CIA Directors Condemn Trump In Unprecedented Move

US President Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House on August 16, 2018, in Washington, DC. MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

Former CIA directors and another half dozen of America’s most senior spies have issued an unprecedented condemnation of President Donald Trump, after his decision to blacklist their colleague John Brennan.

In a statement, ex-CIA bosses appointed by Republican and Democratic presidents including Robert Gates, George Tenet, Porter Goss, Leon Panetta and David Petraeus  denounced Trump’s decision to strip Brennan of his security clearance.

“The president’s action regarding John Brennan and the threats of similar action against other former officials has nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances  and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech,” the statement read.

Describing Trump’s move as “inappropriate and deeply regrettable,” they insisted “we have never before seen the approval or removal of security clearances used as a political tool, as was done in this case.”

Two of those who signed the statement  former director of national intelligence James Clapper and former CIA director Michael Hayden  have been cited by Trump as on a list of people who could lose their clearance.

Former officials often retain security clearance after leaving office to allow their successors to consult them on issues of the day.

After the White House said Brennan  a notable Trump critic  had been stripped of clearance due to his “erratic” behaviour, Trump admitted it was because of his criticism and comments on the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Trump admitted his decision on Brennan’s clearance was linked to the ongoing federal probe into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 election.

“I call it the rigged witch hunt, [it] is a sham,” Trump was quoted as saying in the interview. “And these people led it!”

“So I think it’s something that had to be done,” he added.

Trump’s actions have been widely condemned, including by respected former admiral William McRaven, the commander of the US Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

“Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation,” he said.

But most of Trump’s Republican allies have defended the move or refused to condemn it publicly.

On Friday, Trump said he would likely remove the security clearance of Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, who has been targeted by Trump supporters, in part because his wife worked for a company that produced a dossier alleging Russia had incriminating evidence against the now president.

“Bruce Ohr is a disgrace. I suspect I’ll be taking it away very quickly,” Trump told journalists.

AFP

United States Charges Former CIA Agent With Spying For China

Head of the Central Intelligence Agency, Gina Haspel          Photo: Central Intelligence Agency / AFP

 

The US Justice Department announced Tuesday it had indicted a former CIA operative for spying for China, in a case that could be tied to the dramatic collapse of the CIA’s China network eight years ago.

Three years after he left the CIA in 2007, Jerry Chun Shing Lee took money from Chinese intelligence officers in exchange for information “relating to the national defense of the United States,” the Justice Department said.

Lee, 53, a naturalized US citizen who was at the time resident in Hong Kong, was given information requests by the Chinese agents and hid the cash payments he received.

He was arrested in January. According to a warrant made public at the time, FBI agents had discovered in Lee’s luggage, during a court-authorized search in 2012, notebooks with the names, contacts and other details on covert CIA employees and informants.

In voluntary interviews with FBI agents in 2012, Lee, who spent 14 years at the CIA, admitted preparing a classified document for the Chinese agents.

But nearly six years elapsed before he was arrested.

Lee was charged Tuesday with one count of conspiracy to gather or deliver national defense information to aid a foreign government, and two counts of unlawfully retaining documents related to the national defense.

Officials have not said why it took so long to bring charges against Lee, nor detailed what materials he gave to the Chinese agents.

But the case takes place amid widespread concern in the US intelligence community that Beijing has been able to cripple their operations in China.

The New York Times reported last year that starting in 2010, to the end of 2012, the Chinese killed “at least a dozen” sources the CIA had inside China and imprisoned six or more others.

A hunt for a “mole” in the agency led to one person, a “former operative” now living elsewhere in Asia, the Times said. But there was not enough information to arrest him.

But others in the agency blamed sloppy work and not a mole, the Times added.

AFP

Pompeo To Visit Israel, Saudi Arabia On First Trip

CIA Director Mike Pompeo smiles as he walks to a meeting with Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) on Capitol Hill April 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump has nominated Pompeo to become the next Secretary of State. Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP

 

Newly sworn-in US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, will head from this week’s NATO meeting in Brussels directly on to high-level talks in Israel, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, his spokeswoman said.

Speaking on the tarmac of Joint Base Andrews in front of the secretary’s government jet as he arrived from his Supreme Court swearing-in, Heather Nauert said the stops were chosen to reflect their “importance as key allies and partners in the region.”

AFP

Trump Confirms Kim’s Secret Meeting With CIA Chief

FILE COPY United States’ President Donald Trump addresses the nation at the White House in Washington, DC. Trump said strikes on Syria are underway. Photo Credit: Mandel NGAN / AFP

 

United States’ President Donald Trump confirmed Wednesday that his CIA chief has held secret talks with North Korea’s leader in Pyongyang, as the South said it was exploring paths to a peace deal with the nuclear-armed North.

Seoul’s push for discussions on formally declaring an end to inter-Korean hostilities was the latest in a series of diplomatic initiatives involving the divided Korean peninsula that would have been unthinkable just months ago.

The flurry of activity has raised hopes for a major breakthrough from a pair of upcoming and potentially historic summits.

The latest shock move was CIA director Mike Pompeo’s face-to-face meeting with North Korea’s young leader, reportedly during the first weekend in April.

“Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week. Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed. Details of Summit are being worked out now,” Trump tweeted.

“Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!” he added, regarding efforts to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions.

Kim is expected to meet South Korea’s President Moon Jae-In at a landmark meeting next Friday where discussion of a peace declaration is now on the cards.

Trump earlier said that the summit could, with his “blessing”, explore a peace treaty to formally end the conflict.

“We are looking at the possibility of replacing the armistice regime on the Korean peninsula with a peace regime,” a senior official at South Korea’s presidential Blue House said Wednesday.

“But this is not something we can do by ourselves. It needs close discussions with relevant parties including North Korea.”

Still enemies 

The 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty, leaving the two sides technically at war. The Demilitarised Zone between them bristles with minefields and fortifications.

But reaching any final treaty would be fraught with complications.

“The peace treaty is a very difficult problem,” said Koo Kab-woo, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies.

While the US-led United Nations command, China and North Korea are signatories to the decades-old armistice, South Korea is not.

Both Pyongyang and Seoul claim sovereignty over the whole Korean peninsula, but a treaty could imply mutual recognition of each other.

The North would be likely to demand the withdrawal of US troops, while the South’s national security adviser Chung Eui-Yong said Wednesday that Seoul and Washington wanted to see Pyongyang give up its nuclear ambitions.

Next week’s meeting will be just the third summit between the North and South since the armistice was signed 65 years ago.

Key moments including Kim and Moon’s first handshake will be televised live, both sides agreed at working-level talks Wednesday, Seoul said.

US summit by June 

Trump himself plans to hold a summit meeting with Kim within the next two months.

The pair have not spoken directly, the White House said, but the US president revealed Tuesday there had been contacting at “very high levels” to prepare for the historic meeting — an apparent reference to Pompeo’s visit.

He also said that “five locations” were being considered for the summit with Kim.

“That will be taking place probably in early June or before that assuming things go well. It’s possible things won’t go well and we won’t have the meetings and we’ll just continue to go on this very strong path we have taken.”

US officials say that no decision has yet been made on a meeting venue, but China, North Korea, South Korea, and Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas are seen as possible locations.

Beijing is North Korea’s sole major ally, an alliance dating back to the Korean War, but relations deteriorated after China supported United Nations sanctions to punish Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons programme.

The sudden talk of rapprochement on the Korean Peninsula has also sparked a flurry of diplomatic activity with Pyongyang’s giant northern neighbour

Last month Kim made a surprise visit to Beijing to meet President Xi Jinping in what was believed to be the North Korean leader’s first trip outside his isolated nation’s borders since he succeeded his father in 2011.

Senior Chinese officials have since travelled to Pyongyang amid mounting speculation Xi might make a reciprocal visit.

 ‘Half the battle’ 

On Wednesday reporters asked China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying about the reports of Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang.

“We welcome the direct contact and dialogue between the DPRK and the US,” Hua said, using the official acronym for the North. “But as the saying goes, a good start is half the battle.”

Pyongyang has in the past demanded a peace treaty with the US, describing them as the two direct parties in the conflict.

The South’s national security adviser Chung Eui-Yong suggested the two Koreas could first reach an agreement which would be followed by a meeting between Kim and Trump and a trilateral summit to seal the deal.

But four-party talks could also be needed, he added, in a reference to China.

AFP

New JFK Files Reveal Mafia Plots, FBI Warning

This file photo taken on October 24, 1962 shows US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy signing the order of naval blockade of Cuba at the White House in Washington, DC, during the Cuban missiles crisis. AFP FILES / AFP

The US government on Thursday released a mammoth, long-awaited trove of secret files on the killing of President John F. Kennedy, offering intriguing new insights into events surrounding one of the most infamous assassinations in history.

While many of the 2,891 records released by the National Archives were raw intelligence and uncorroborated, they were almost certain to reinvigorate rampant conspiracy theories about the November 22, 1963, slaying of JFK in Dallas, Texas.

An outlandish CIA plan to recruit the mafia to kill Fidel Castro, FBI foreknowledge of the plot to murder Kennedy’s killer, and Kremlin suspicions of a homegrown rightwing conspiracy were among the highlights, even as some files were withheld for further review on national security grounds.

One document from 1975 detailed how in the early days of Kennedy’s presidency the CIA offered $150,000 to Italian-American mob boss Sam Giancana to organise the killing of Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Giancana in return sought the CIA’s help to place a listening device in the room of his mistress — a Las Vegas entertainer — whom he thought was having an affair.

Other possible ideas to kill the Communist leader — said to be a keen diver — included contaminating his diving suit with disease-causing bacteria, or booby-trapping a seashell with a bomb.

The plan was scrapped when it was determined “there was no shell in the Caribbean area large enough to hold a sufficient amount of explosive.”

This file photo taken on September 26, 2013 shows various historical newspapers after the assassination of former US President John F. Kennedy on display during an exhibit at the Newseum in Washington, DC. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP

Another document included a transcript of a November 24, 1963, conversation with then FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who said his agency informed police of a threat against the life of Kennedy’s killer Lee Harvey Oswald the night before Oswald was murdered. Police, however, failed to act.

While many theories over the years have related to Oswald’s ties to Cuban or Soviet operatives, an FBI memo in 1963 indicated Kennedy’s death was source of deep mourning in the USSR.

According to a source, “officials at the Communist Party of the Soviet Union believed there was some well-organised conspiracy on the part of the ‘ultraright’ in the United States to effect a ‘coup’.”

The Soviets feared the killing would be used as a pretext to “stop negotiations with the Soviet Union, attack Cuba, and thereafter spread the war.”

– Withheld files –

The Warren Commission, which investigated the shooting of the charismatic Kennedy, 46, determined that Oswald, a former Marine sharpshooter, carried out the Kennedy assassination acting alone.

The released files are vast in number and scope, covering everything from FBI directors’ memos to interviews with members of the public in Dallas who came forward trying to provide clues after that singularly unforgettable moment in US history.

Trump said in a memorandum he had agreed to hold back for further review some records relating to the killing following pushback from intelligence agencies.

“I have no choice — today — but to accept those redactions rather than allow potentially irreversible harm to our nation’s security,” he said.

Trump gave agencies six months — until April 26, 2018 — to make their case for why the remaining documents should not be made public.

– Full and unredacted –

The 2,891 records approved for release in compliance with a 1992 act of Congress are viewable on the National Archives website, in full and unredacted form.

“The president wants to ensure that there is full transparency here,” an official said, but “there does remain sensitive information in the records.”

This includes, for example, the identities of informants and “activities that were conducted with the support of foreign partner organisations, either intelligence or law enforcement,” the official said.

The Warren Commission’s formal conclusion that Oswald killed JFK has done little to quell speculation that a more sinister plot was behind the murder of the 35th US president.

Hundreds of books and movies such as the 1991 Oliver Stone film “JFK” have fed the conspiracy industry, pointing the finger at Cold War rivals the Soviet Union or Cuba, the Mafia and even Kennedy’s vice president, Lyndon Johnson.

Kennedy assassination experts eagerly awaited the opportunity to look at the files but sought to tamp down expectations.

Gerald Posner, author of “Case Closed,” which determined that Oswald did indeed act alone, said people who think the files will “have the solution to the case that everybody can settle on” are going to be disappointed.

Experts agreed, however, that the documents may shed some light on an intriguing chapter in Oswald’s life — including his trip to Mexico City about seven weeks before the shooting where he is known to have met with Cuban and Soviet spies.

The CIA and FBI may be blocking the release of certain documents to hide their own failings, said Larry Sabato, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia and the author of “The Kennedy Half Century.”

“They had every indication that Oswald was a misfit and a sociopath,” he said.

But neither agency informed the Secret Service, which is charged with protecting the president, he said.

Oswald defected to the Soviet Union in 1959 but returned to the United States in 1962.

Two days after killing Kennedy he was fatally shot by a nightclub owner, Jack Ruby, as he was being transferred from the city jail.

AFP

U.S Federal Agencies Launches Criminal Investigation

Picture courtesy BBC
Picture courtesy BBC

The United States Federal Agencies, have launched an investigation into the public release of documents said to detail the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) hacking tools.

Officials said that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are coordinating an inquiry after Wikileaks published thousands of files that claims the CIA had developed ways to listen on smartphones and smart TV microphones.

The inquiry would also try to establish whether the disclosure was a breach from inside or outside the CIA.

However, both intelligence agencies said that, WikiLeaks revelation wants to damage the ability to protect America, against terrorists and other adversaries.

CIA Describes Wikileaks Email Release As A ‘Malicious Crime

Wikileaks Emails Release Was 'Malicious Crime' - CIAThe US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has condemned whistle-blowing website, Wikileaks for hacking the personal email account of its director, John Brennan.

Six documents taken from an old account belonging to Mr Brennan were published by the anti-secrecy group Wikileaks.

The CIA says Wikileaks hacked into Mr Brennan’s email with “malicious intent”, but there was “no indication” that anything classified was released.

However, the documents do include a draft security clearance application containing personal information.

They appear to all date to 2009, when Mr Brennan was seeking security clearance while applying for a job as a White House counter-terrorism adviser.

Venezuela Threatens To Expel CNN

The Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, is far from pleased with how the U.S. news network, CNN has reported recent protests there, and has threatened to expel it.

Mr. Maduro has vowed to go ahead with the move if CNN does not “rectify its coverage”.

Earlier on, Mr. Maduro confirmed that he was sending troops to the western state of Tachira, where there has been continuing unrest.

With tensions running high, the leader of the opposition, Henrique Capriles, has called for a fresh, peaceful anti-government march on Saturday.

At a news conference, Mr. Capriles rejected violence and said he was ready for dialogue, but claimed the government was not willing to listen.

In response, President Maduro has called the opposition politician a “murderer” and alleged he is being paid by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, to topple his government.

Microsoft Helped NSA, FBI Access User Info

Microsoft Corp worked closely with U.S. intelligence services to help them intercept users’ communications, including letting the National Security Agency circumvent email encryption, the Guardian reported on Thursday.

Citing top-secret documents provided by former U.S. spy contractor Edward Snowden, the UK newspaper said Microsoft worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the NSA to ease access via Prism – an intelligence-gathering program uncovered by the Guardian last month – to cloud storage service SkyDrive.

Microsoft also helped the Prism program collect video and audio of conversations conducted via Skype, Microsoft’s online chat service, the newspaper added.

Microsoft had previously said it did not provide the NSA direct access to users’ information. On Thursday, it repeated that it provides customer data only in response to lawful government requests.

“To be clear, Microsoft does not provide any government with blanket or direct access to SkyDrive, Outlook.com, Skype or any Microsoft product,” the company said in a statement on its website.

Facebook Inc, Google Inc and Microsoft had all publicly urged U.S. authorities to allow them to reveal the number and scope of the surveillance requests after documents leaked to the Washington Post and the Guardian suggested they had given the government “direct access” to their computers as part of the NSA’s Prism program.

The disclosures have triggered widespread concern and congressional hearings about the scope and extent of the information-gathering.a