June 3, 2019
by Joseph Fitsanakis
North Korea has executed at least five of its senior nuclear negotiators and imprisoned several others, according to a report in a leading South Korean newspaper. Rumors of executions of North Korean nuclear negotiators have circulated in international diplomatic circles since February, but specific allegations have not surfaced in the news media. That changed on Friday, when Chosun Ilbo, South Koreaâ€™s highest-circulation newspaper, said that at least five executions of nuclear negotiators took place in Pyongyang in March.
According to the paper, the most senior North Korean official to be executed was Kim Hyok-chol (pictured), who led the nuclear negotiations with Washington until February, when the North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un met US President Donald Trump in Vietnam. Citing an â€œanonymous sourceâ€ Chosun Ilbo said on Friday that Kim was executed by a firing squad at the Pyongyang East Airfield in Mirim, a suburb of the North Korean capital. Four other Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials were executed at the same time, allegedly for having been â€œswayed by American imperialists to betray the Supreme Leaderâ€, said the newspaper. Two more senior North Korean nuclear negotiators, Kim Yong-chol and Kim Song-hye (also pictured), have been stripped of their government posts and sent to labor camps, according to the report. Until recently, Kim Song-hye headed the Bureau of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, Pyongyahgâ€™s main agency for negotiations with South Korea. Kim Yong-chol was one of several vice-chairs of the ruling Workersâ€™ Party of Korea. He visited Washington with Kim Song-hye for negotiations prior to last Februaryâ€™s high-level summit in Vietnam.
There have been no reports in North Korean media about purges of senior officials or executions of alleged spies. However, the three officials named in the Chosun Ilbo report have not been seen in public in nearly a month. Additionally, last week the official Workersâ€™ Party of Korea newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, published an editorial that condemned â€œcounter-party and counter-revolutionary actionsâ€ of government officials who â€œclaim to labor for the Supreme Leader [â€¦] but clandestinely harbor other machinations behind the back of the Supreme Leaderâ€. The New York Times reached out to the South Korean and American governments about the Chosun Ilbo report, but no-one would comment on record. If the Chosun Ilbo report is accurate, it would support the view that there is exasperation in Pyongyang about the breakdown of its nuclear negotiations with Washington. It would also signify that Kim has radically reshuffled his team of negotiators, but this does not necessarily denote a change in his negotiating stance.
â–º Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 03 June 2019 | Permalink
Afghan spy chief warns drone warfare is Taliban’s new fighting method
November 24, 2020 by Joseph Fitsanakis THE DIRECTOR OF AFGHANISTAN’S main intelligence agency warned on Monday that the Taliban are for the first time resorting to using drones in order to carry out attacks against the Afghan government. Groups such as the Islamic State in Syria, and Houthi rebels in Yemen, have been using modified…
November 24, 2020
by Joseph Fitsanakis
THE DIRECTOR OF AFGHANISTAN’S main intelligence agency warned on Monday that the Taliban are for the first time resorting to using drones in order to carry out attacks against the Afghan government. Groups such as the Islamic State in Syria, and Houthi rebels in Yemen, have been using modified drones to drop makeshift bombs on enemy targets since at least 2016. But the Taliban have not previously been known to make use of such weapons.
The information was shared by Ahmad Zia Shiraj, director of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS), during an address to the Afghan parliament. Headquartered in Kabul, the NDS is Afghanistan’s primary domestic and foreign intelligence agency. It forms part of Afghanistan’s National Defense and Security Forces, along with the branches of the Armed Forces and the police. Its director reports directly to the Office of the President of Afghanistan.
Speaking during a parliament session on Monday, Shiraj said that the Taliban have begun to use drones to drop explosives on targets. These are commercially available hobby drones, which are equipped with video cameras and designed for filming. The Taliban purchase these drones and modify them so that they can carry and release explosives, said Shiraj. He added that Taliban forces had used drones to carry out attacks in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz, as well as in Paktia, on the Afghan-Pakistani border.
Media reports in October claimed that the Taliban used a drone to drop a bomb on the headquarters of the Kunduz governorate, killing at least four people. The New York Times noted at the time that, if true, the use of a drone to carry out an attack could be the first in the 19-year war between the Taliban and the American-supported Afghan government, and called it “a worrisome shift” in tactics. On Monday, Shiraj did not mention specific attacks, but he did say that there had been more than one such incidents. He said that the NDS would pressure the Afghan government to stop the importation of commercial drones.
► Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 24 November 2020 | Permalink
Senior US Republicans split on whether CIA director Gina Haspel should be fired
November 12, 2020 by Joseph Fitsanakis SENIOR FIGURES IN THE United States Republican Party appear to be split on whether President Donald Trump should fire Gina Haspel, the first female director of the Central Intelligence Agency, who has been serving in that capacity since 2018. According to The New York Times, Haspel is on a…
November 12, 2020
by Joseph Fitsanakis
SENIOR FIGURES IN THE United States Republican Party appear to be split on whether President Donald Trump should fire Gina Haspel, the first female director of the Central Intelligence Agency, who has been serving in that capacity since 2018. According to The New York Times, Haspel is on a list of senior intelligence and national security officials that the embattled American president plans to fire in the coming days. He already fired key defense officials this week, including the Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, as well as the Pentagon’s head of policy and director of intelligence.
Trump administration insiders, who want to see Haspel gone, are aware that Trump will not be president for much longer, and are thus pushing for her immediate termination, said The Times. They blame Haspel for not stopping the CIA whistleblower who filed a complaint about the president’s July 2019 telephone call with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky. The complaint led to Trump’s impeachment in the House of Representatives. Haspel had no role in that incident, but senior Trump loyalists believe she could have stopped the complaint before it reached the office of the US Intelligence Community’s Inspector General.
Haspel is also accused by Trump loyalists of not following the directives of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, under John Ratcliffe, a Trump appointee who serves as the most senior intelligence officer in the US government. The CIA and the ODNI have not seen eye-to-eye since the latter’s founding in 2005. Additionally, unlike Haspel, who rose through the ranks of the Intelligence Community, Ratcliffe had no intelligence experience before this year, when he was appointed by Trump to lead the ODNI. It is believed that his status as an outsider has made it difficult for him to exercise leadership in the close-knit Intelligence Community.
But other senior Republicans have rallied around Haspel. They are said to include the powerful Senator Mitch McConnell, who on Tuesday met with Haspel in his office on Capitol Hill. The closed-door meeting between McConnell and Haspel alarmed the Trump inner circle, with Donald Trump, Jr., calling the CIA director a “trained liar” and accusing those Republicans who support her of undermining his father. The CIA declined to comment on the story.
► Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 13 October 2020 | Permalink
UK spy agency to launch offensive cyber operation against anti-vaccine propaganda
November 9, 2020 by Joseph Fitsanakis BRITAIN’S SIGNALS INTELLIGENCE AGENCY is preparing to launch a major offensive cyber operation against state-sponsored propaganda aimed at undermining research on the COVID-19 vaccine. According to the London-based Times newspaper, which published the information about the purported cyber operation, it will be aimed mostly against disinformation campaigns coming out…
November 9, 2020
by Joseph Fitsanakis
BRITAIN’S SIGNALS INTELLIGENCE AGENCY is preparing to launch a major offensive cyber operation against state-sponsored propaganda aimed at undermining research on the COVID-19 vaccine. According to the London-based Times newspaper, which published the information about the purported cyber operation, it will be aimed mostly against disinformation campaigns coming out of Russia.
The alleged disinformation campaigns appear to be targeting research taking place at Oxford University, which seeks to create an effective vaccine against the novel coronavirus. A main theme in these campaigns promotes the claim that the vaccine will turn those who take it in to chimpanzees. Dozens of memes around this theme are said to have flooded Russian social media websites, with English-language translations making the rounds on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The Times reports that the British government considers shutting down the alleged Russian disinformation campaign a strategic priority, which grows in significance the closer British scientists get to their goal of creating a successful vaccine against the pandemic. London has therefore ordered the British Army’s 77th Brigade, which specializes in information operations, to launch an online campaign that will counter deceptive narratives about a potential vaccine against the coronavirus.
Whitehall has also mobilized the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Britain’s signals intelligence agency, which focuses on cyber-security, to launch offensive operations against the sources of the disinformation, says The Times. The paper cites a government source as saying that the spy agency will be using tools originally developed to monitor and incapacitate websites and other online platforms used by the Islamic State for recruitment.
According to the paper, the operational mandate of the 77th Brigade and GCHQ prevents them from tackling disinformation and misinformation originating from ordinary social media users, rather than state agencies. Additionally, the offensive cyber campaign cannot target websites that are based in Britain’s so-called Five Eyes allies, namely Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. Instead, British spies are required to notify their Five Eyes counterparts, so they can take action instead.
► Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 09 November 2020 | Permalink