April 21, 2020
by Ian Allen
Officials in South Korea and China have cast doubt on rumors circulating in recent days that North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un may be dead or close to dying. The rumors about Kim’s demise began to circulate on April 15, when the North Korean leader failed to participate at an official ceremony held to mark the birthday of his grandfather. Known as the Day of the Sun —a public holiday in North Korea— the annual event commemorates the birth of the country’s founder, Kim il-Sung.
Kim’s absence sparked intense discussion in South Korea. On the same day, April 15, Daily NK and NK News, two South Korean websites that are critical of the North Korean government, claimed that Kim had been taken to hospital on April 11 and had not been seen since. The website, which regularly carries articles by North Korean defectors to the South, claimed that the 36-year-old supreme leader had undergone an emergency procedure to stabilize his cardiovascular system, and was recovering from the surgery.
On Monday the American news network CNN
Analysis: The second intifada, a spontaneous act that shocked Israelis and Palestinians
September 22, 2020 by intelNews On the 20th anniversary of the outbreak of the second intifada (October 2000), the debate arises again in Israel as to whether the Palestinian move was an initiative of Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority or whether it was a spontaneous evolution on the Palestinian side that largely surprised not…
September 22, 2020
On the 20th anniversary of the outbreak of the second intifada (October 2000), the debate arises again in Israel as to whether the Palestinian move was an initiative of Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority or whether it was a spontaneous evolution on the Palestinian side that largely surprised not only Israel but also the Palestinians.
One opinion in Israel states that the intifada was the result of an initiative by the head of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, and that Israeli intelligence knew about it in advance and warned Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who did not listen. This opinion was expressed in the memoirs of Maj. Gen. Res. Amos Gilad, formerly the head of the research division in the Israeli Military Intelligence (IMI) and former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chief of staff, Lieutenant Gen. Res. Moshe (Boogie) Ya’alon. However, the picture presented by the two former IDF senior personalities seem to be wrong, and in this article, I’ll present another view showing that actually, the IMI (which is responsible for Israel’s national intelligence estimates), contrary to its allegation, failed to predict the Palestinian moves and did not warn the IDF and the Prime Minister to prepare for the intifada.
The different and probably correct opinion has been argued by the ISA (Israel Security Agency, known also as Shabak or the Shin Bet) former managing directors at the time, who discussed the event very openly and presented a clear conclusion: namely that Palestinian Authority Chairman Arafat did not initiate the intifada but was as much surprised by it as was Israel. The source of the views presented by ISA leaders is the book The Gatekeepers (in Hebrew) by David Moreh (2014), in which six former ISA leaders were interviewed. Among other things, the book raised the question of how the second intifada broke out. It is important to mention that there is no doubt in Israel that the ISA is the organization that has the best intelligence on the Palestinian territories.
Avi Dichter, who was the head of ISA at the outbreak of the intifada, said in this context (p. 263): “I do not recognize the intelligence materials beyond the reality that existed, indicative signs that they are heading towards an intifada. The Palestinians did not know that an intifada was going to break out”. Yuval Diskin, who was Dichter’s deputy at the time, says (pages 263,264): “The atmosphere in the Palestinian public, as well as in Israel to a large extent, was that we were going to an inevitable confrontation. I do not know if you remember the media at that time. Everyone prepared for the intifada, prophesied and the prophecy came true […] there were also incidents in Joseph’s tomb. This time the IDF decided that it would be prepared for an eruption. “No one thought we would enter here for five, six, or seven years of suicide bombings and such a large cycle of bloodshed”, according to Dichter.
His deputy, Diskin, went on to talk about internal processes in Judea and Samaria that created unrest against Chairman Arafat, and said: “On the eve of the second intifada there were elections in Judea and Samaria and [Marwan] Barghouti won. Arafat turned the election around because Barghouti was an oppositionist. Barghouti led the intifada and not Arafat”. Diskin notes that, “contrary to what experts say, Arafat did not drive the intifada. He rode the wave later. The Fatah youths started the riots and Arafat was surprised in the early stages by what was happening on the streets. He even tried, not with all his might, to stop the events in the first weeks, at some point he decided to join them and rode the wave in a very nice way”.
Avi Dichter, head of the ISA at the time, says the following later on in Moreh’s book (p. 265): “There was an argument between us and the IDF’s Intelligence Division (IMI) that lasted until Operation DEFENSIVE SHIELD, in 2002. The IMI claimed that the intifada was Initiated by Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria and possibly also in Gaza, and we –the ISA– argued that it has no intelligence back up and it’s all speculation. During DEFENSIVE SHIELD, all the perpetrators of the intifada were arrested by ISA, and told in the interrogations how they were being led into the intifada, how they caught the bull by its horns to gain assets just like Marwan Barghouti did […]. When we interrogated them”, Dichter added, “they told us how they were dragged in and how they started putting names and terms together. I remember there was someone very senior in IMI’s research division, who said, ‘It’s good that ISA is investigating. They can direct their investigations to support their thesis’”. In my (the present author) opinion, the man who said so was Amos Gilad, who was then the head of the research division at IMI.
The question of the initiative for the intifada also arose in an interview given in 2009 by Col. Ephraim Lavie, who was the head of the Palestinian department in IMI at the outbreak of the second intifada. Lavie told journalist Akiva Eldar in Haaretz that he demanded a thorough investigation of the failures in IMI and claimed that a culture of speaking in two voices had developed there, one the oral version for the consumption of the political echelon, and one the written version for internal purposes. According to Lavie, this “formula” allowed the head of IMI and the head of the research division to claim, ‘we told you so’ and be ‘covered’ no matter in which direction reality would develop. Gadi Zohar (Brigadier Gen. Res.), former head of the Palestinian department at IMI, strengthens Lavie’s opinion –in the book Craft of Thought (Hebrew), p. 121– and claims: “The heads of the research division [developed and promoted the] ‘no partner’ theory and [promoted the idea of] Arafat having planned and initiated the intifada, even when it was clear at the time that this was not the professional opinion of the IMI’s Palestinian analysts”.
It should be noted also that an investigation conducted in 2004 by Ephraim Lavei’s successor at the Palestinian desk in the research division of IMI stated that the second intifada broke out as a “popular protest” that sought to release steam and vent the popular outrage accumulated after the failure of negotiations and inability to extract political achievements from Israel, and not as an initiative of the Palestinian Authority.
In conclusion, the narrative that exists among sections of the Israeli public, especially encouraged by the political right, according to which Arafat initiated the intifada, is incorrect. It is essential to know the reality because as a result of errors in the Israeli intelligence, a wrong assessment was presented to the decision-makers, according to which Arafat initiated the intifada. Decisions and vital political moves were made in Israel, which only worsened the situation. In this case, we are facing again the implication of intelligence failures and also the difficulties to predict civil rebellions, which are often spontaneous and diffused, and which make them hard to anticipate.
► Author: Avner Barnea | Date: 22 September 2020 | Permalink
CIA launches new research and development laboratory to compete with Silicon Valley
September 23, 2020 by Joseph Fitsanakis The United States Central Intelligence Agency has announced the creation of a new advanced research laboratory system that it hopes will allow it to compete with Silicon Valley for attracting top technical talent. The initiative, announced on Monday, is called CIA Labs, and it aims to attract scientists and…
September 23, 2020
by Joseph Fitsanakis
The United States Central Intelligence Agency has announced the creation of a new advanced research laboratory system that it hopes will allow it to compete with Silicon Valley for attracting top technical talent. The initiative, announced on Monday, is called CIA Labs, and it aims to attract scientists and engineers with an interest in advanced research projects that have applied potential in the area of national security.
According to Dawn Meyerriecks (pictured), who heads the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology, the purpose behind this new initiative is to allow the agency to attract and retain scientists and engineers, who are highly sought after by some of America’s top technology firms, like Google and Oracle. MIT’s Technology Review, which wrote about this initiative, referred to it as a “skunkworks”. The term refers to a select team of experts within an organization, who are given the flexibility to operate with independence and without restrictions by bureaucratic red tape, in order to produce something new and innovative.
According to Meyerriecks, CIA Labs will give the agency’s top technical talent the ability to file patents in the public domain. That was impossible in the past, given that virtually all of the research that takes place in the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology is classified. However, there may be civilian applications of some of these inventions that do not impinge on classified research. In such cases, CIA scientists who file patents will be able to profit from them, by making up to 15 percent of the income of a patent, while the Agency will keep the remaining 85 percent. The additional salary cap that an inventor is limited to is $150,000, which would more than double the yearly income of most CIA scientists.
Meyerriecks said on Monday that, ideally, CIA Labs will end up generating more funds for the agency than it costs to set up. She added that some of the areas of research that the new CIA venture is interested in include biotechnology, advanced materials science, as well as artificial intelligence, data analytics and high-performance quantum computing. The latter three are needed to help the CIA manage the immense volume of data it gathers on a daily basis, said Meyerriecks.
► Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 23 September 2020 | Permalink
Bulgaria expels two Russian diplomats for espionage, Russia vows to respond in kind
September 24, 2020 by Joseph Fitsanakis Bulgaria, a once close Soviet ally, which is now a member of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has expelled two Russian diplomats whom it accuses of conducting military espionage. This raises to five the number of Russian diplomats who have been expelled from Bulgaria for…
September 24, 2020
by Joseph Fitsanakis
Bulgaria, a once close Soviet ally, which is now a member of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has expelled two Russian diplomats whom it accuses of conducting military espionage. This raises to five the number of Russian diplomats who have been expelled from Bulgaria for espionage in the past year.
In a hastily announced press conference on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told reporters in the Bulgarian capital Sofia that the ministry had “declared two Russian diplomats personae non grate”, a Latin term meaning unwanted persons. He added that the Bulgarian government had notified the Russian embassy of its decision with an official diplomatic note. The two Russian diplomats, who have not been named, were given 72 hours to leave the country, said the spokesman.
In addition to the expulsion of the two diplomats, it was later reported that the Bulgarian government had denied an earlier request by Moscow to provide diplomatic accreditation to Russia’s new military attaché to the country, who was expected to assume his post in Sofia this coming December. It is believed that this action by the Bulgarian government is connected to the alleged espionage case involving the two Russian diplomats.
Bulgarian government prosecutors allege that the two Russians have engaged in espionage activities in Bulgaria since 2016. Their goal, according to the Bulgarians, was to obtain classified information about the technological modernization of the Bulgarian Armed Forces, which is ongoing. They had allegedly already made contacts with Bulgarian officials who were privy to such information, and in some cases had already provided them with money in exchange for secrets. The two diplomats are believed to be working for the Main Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff, which is commonly referred to as GRU.
The Russian Embassy in Sofia confirmed late on Wednesday that it had received a telephone call from the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, informing it of the expulsion order issued for the two diplomats. It added, however, that it had not been given proof of acts of espionage by the two diplomats. In the same statement, the Russian Embassy said the two diplomats would leave Bulgaria as instructed, but warned that Moscow reserved the right “to a response in kind”.
► Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 24 September 2020 | Permalink