Tag Archive | spying

Former director of Venezuelan spy agency shot dead in Caracas


The former director of Venezuela’s primary intelligence agency has been found shot dead. Venezuelan officials said Eliézer Otaiza was shot dead sometime in the early hours of Saturday morning in Baruta, a suburb in the outskirts of capital Caracas. His bullet-ridden vehicle was later found abandoned in another part of the same barrio.

Venezuela’s Minister of the Interior, Miguel Rodriguez Torres, told reporters on Tuesday that Otaiza’s body was discovered on Saturday, but that it took nearly two days for him to be identified due to the absence of identification documents on the body. At the time of his assassination, Otaiza headed the Libertador Bolivarian Municipality in Caracas which numbers over two million residents. Earlier in his career, however, Otaiza led an elite unit of the personal guard corps of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The latter also appointed him director of the National Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services (DISIP), later renamed Bolivarian Intelligence Service, which is today Venezuela’s foremost intelligence organization. Otaiza was known as a stalwart supporter of Venezuela’s populist president, even in the early 1990s, when Chavez was still in opposition. In February of 1992, when Chavez led a failed military coup aimed at ousting President Carlos Andres Perez, Otaiza had been unable to participate on account of his absence from Venezuela. But he played a leading role in another pro-Chavez military mutiny in November of that year, when he led a small military force attempting to storm the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas. He was shot several times in the chest but survived thanks to a bulletproof vest he was wearing. Venezuelan government media said Otaiza played “an important part in the events leading to the Bolivarian revolution”, and remained a strong supporter of Chavez throughout the president’s life.

Otaiza was last seen leaving a friend’s house in Caracas late on Friday night. Minister Torres, who also leads the Bolivarian Intelligence Service, said on Tuesday that Otaiza’s body was found bearing at least four bullet wounds. Police said no clear motive for his assassination has been established at this time. But they added that the circumstances around the killing had been deemed “suspicious” and announced that an official investigation into the case had been ordered by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.


Korean spy charged with forging Chinese files attempts suicide

A South Korean intelligence officer, who was charged earlier this month with deliberately forging Chinese government documents, tried to kill himself at his home on Sunday, according to local media. The officer, identified in reports only by his last name, Kwon, was fingered last week by South Korean media as the source of a set of documents used in a court case against a man accused of spying for North Korea. Yoo Woo-sung, a prominent North Korean defector living in the South, was arrested last year on charges of espionage.

Government prosecutors accused Yoo of collecting information on at least 200 North Korean defectors living in the South while working for the Seoul city government. The prosecution produced a number of Chinese transit documents showing that Yoo had entered North Korea repeatedly from China, ostensibly in order to transport information to his handlers in Pyongyang. However, in a dramatic turn of events, the case against Yoo collapsed in August of 2013 amidst allegations that some of the documents presented to the court by the prosecutors had been forged. It now appears that the forged documents, which were travel records allegedly issued by the Chinese government, had been given to the prosecution by South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS). Court documents surfaced last week identifying Kwon (named initially as ‘Kim’) as one of the sources of the forged documents. Kwon fervently denied the accusations, claiming that he too had been duped by a Chinese asset who gave him the forms. He also argued that that the asset was probably working for Chinese intelligence. On Sunday, however, Kwon apparently tried to kill himself at his home in a suburb of Seoul. The intelligence officer was reportedly found unconscious inside his car by first responders who rushed to the scene following a telephone call by a member of the public. One fire department official told South Korean media that several clues at the scene pointed to “an attempt at carbon monoxide poisoning”. Early on Monday, a spokesperson for the NIS confirmed that Kwon did try to end his life and is now recovering in hospital. The Wall Street Journal notes that Kwon’s suicide attempt is the second such case involving NIS this month. The paper says that another NIS officer was hospitalized earlier in March after he tried to kill himself. There is no proof, however, that the two suicide attempts are in any way linked.

Korean spy charged with forging Chinese files attempts suicide

Rift between US Congress and CIA biggest in 40 years, say observers

Rift between US Congress and CIA biggest in 40 years, say observers

CIA probes Senate staff monitoring

The United States Department of Justice has opened an investigation into Senate aides removing documents from CIA headquarters that they reportedly “weren’t authorized to have”. It turns out, however, that the CIA found this out because they were secretly spying on members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and their staff who were working on a high-profile report on CIA torture of detainees. What is more, Democratic Senator Mark Udall has claimed US President Barack Obama knew of the CIA’s secret monitoring of the Committee.

Secondary source.

CIA probes Senate staff monitoring

Report: UK spies intercept webcam pics, nudity


By Raphael Satter, AP, Feb 27, 2014

LONDON (AP)—Britain’s signals intelligence division is stealing screenshots from hundreds of thousands of innocent Yahoo users’ webcam videos, according to the Guardian newspaper, which also reported that the years-long operation has swept up a huge haul of intimate photographs.

The newspaper said GCHQ has been scooping up the sensitive images by intercepting video chats such as the kind offered by Yahoo Messenger, an effort codenamed OPTIC NERVE. It’s not clear how many Yahoo users were spied on in this way. The Guardian said that in one six-month period in 2008, GCHQ intercepted the video communications of 1.8 million users, but it’s possible that the program, which the Guardian says was still active in 2012, has either grown or shrunk in scope since then.

If the program expanded, millions more could have had their video communications intercepted. Yahoo Messenger had 75 million users worldwide in late 2011, according to an estimate by digital analytics company comScore, although numbers have fallen steadily since then.

The Guardian said the documents were provided by former U.S. intelligence worker Edward Snowden, who remains in Russia after having sought temporary asylum there.

If confirmed, the newspaper’s report would represent “a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy,” Yahoo Inc. said in a written statement. The Sunnyvale, California-based company said it was unaware of such snooping and would never condone it, calling on governments across the world to reform their surveillance practices.

Like the NSA’s collection of millions of innocent people’s phone, email, and credit card data, the webcam surveillance program was carried out in bulk, creating a massive database where the communications of hundreds of thousands of people could later be scanned by analysts for clues or patterns.

However, unlike the phone database, OPTIC NERVE also automatically downloaded the content of video communications—taking a screenshot from the video feed every five minutes, the Guardian said. One snippet of a leaked document published to the Guardian’s website appears to show that GCHQ hoped to eventually “collect images at a faster rate,” or perhaps even download all the webcam videos in their entirety.

Even at one screenshot every five minutes, material published to the Guardian’s website appeared to show U.K. analysts being deluged with X-rated footage.

“It would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person,” another snippet of an intelligence document published said. It went on to say that an informal study had found that between 3 and 11 percent of all the images carried “undesirable nudity.”

The Guardian said that OPTIC NERVE was intended at least in part to identify targets using automatic facial recognition software as they stared into their computer’s webcams. But the stockpiling of sexually explicit images of ordinary people had uncomfortable echoes of George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” where the authorities—operating under the aegis of “Big Brother”—fit homes with cameras to monitor the intimate details of people’s personal lives.

“At least Big Brother had the decency to install his own cameras,” British media lawyer David Banksy said in a message posted to Twitter after the revelations broke. “We’ve had to buy them ourselves.”

The collection of nude photographs also raises questions about potential for blackmail. America’s National Security Agency has already acknowledged that some analysts have been caught trawling databases for inappropriate material on partners or love interests. Other leaked documents have revealed how U.S. and British intelligence discussed leaking embarrassing material online to blacken the reputations of their targets.

GCHQ refused to answer a series of questions about OPTIC NERVE, instead returning the same boilerplate answer it has given to reporters for months.

“It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters,” the agency said, insisting all its work was legal, necessary, proportionate, and subject to rigorous oversight.

Edinburgh’s WW1 spy who was shot at dawn

Soon after the outbreak of World War One, the Germans sent a spy to Edinburgh to gather intelligence. The untrained spook’s “amateurish” methods soon led to him being caught and executed by firing squad at Tower of London.

Towards the end of August 1914 a man checked into what is now the Balmoral Hotel in the centre of Edinburgh claiming to be an American tourist.

In reality he was a German spy who had been sent to gather intelligence from the British.

Carl Lody, by now 37 years old, was a junior naval officer who had been forced to retire for health reasons but was looking for other ways to serve the fatherland.

“He was especially attractive to German naval intelligence because he had lived for years in the United States and spoke English fluently, although with an American accent,” according to Peter Jackson, professor of history at the University of Glasgow.

He says Lody was asked to focus in particular on the Firth of Forth, which was of special strategic importance because it was a “very significant deep-water harbour” which always had a number of important British warships at anchor.

The Forth Bridge was also seen as a vital strategic artery connecting southern Britain with Scotland’s north eastern seaboard, which looked out on to the North Sea and the German high seas fleet.

Lody travelled under the alias of Charles Inglis, having obtained a bogus passport in this name from the American consulate in Berlin, by claiming to have mislaid his passport.

Prof Jackson says: “Lody’s methods of communication were very amateurish. It showed that he had been given almost no training before having been dispatched to Great Britain via Norway.

“He communicated mainly by telegram or by post to a German agent in Stockholm named Adolf Buchard.

“Buchard was on the watchlist for MO5 (now MI5), the British counter-intelligence, and all of the communications between anyone in Britain and Buchard were monitored.

Lody had an emergency passport issued by the American embassy in Berlin

“Letters were opened, telegrams were recorded and monitored and it was in this way that MO5 became aware that a German spy was operating in Edinburgh, very soon after Lody began his activities.”

During his weeks in Edinburgh, Lody sent regular messages in English and German to his contact in Stockholm.

Some of these were allowed to go through because they contained misleading information that would alarm the Germans but cause no harm to Britain.

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Edinburgh’s WW1 spy who was shot at dawn

Brazil, Europe plan undersea cable to skirt U.S. spying

Brazil, Europe plan undersea cable to skirt U.S. spying

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