June 21, 2021
by Joseph Fitsanakis
A FORMER AUSTRALIAN SPY, who prompted international outcry by revealing a controversial espionage operation by Canberra against the impoverished nation of East Timor, has been given a suspended prison sentence. The case against the former spy, known only as “Witness K.”, first emerged in 2013. It is believed that Witness K. served as director of technical operations in the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), Australia’s foreign-intelligence agency.
In 2013, Witness K. revealed an espionage operation that targeted the impoverished Pacific island nation of Timor-Leste, also known as East Timor. He alleged that ASIS officers, disguised as a renovation crew, bugged an East Timorese government complex. The information gathered from the spy operation allegedly allowed the Australian government to gain the upper hand in a series of complex negotiations that led to the 2004 Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS) treaty. The treaty awards Australia a share from profits from oil exploration in the Greater Sunrise oil and gas field, which is claimed by both Australia and East Timor.
In 2013, the East Timorese government took Australia to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, claiming that the Australian government was in possession of intelligence acquired through illegal bugging. The claim was supported by Witness K., who argued that ASIS’ espionage operation was both “immoral and wrong” because it was designed to benefit the interests of large energy conglomerates and had nothing to do with Australian national security. It is worth noting that Witness K. said he decided to reveal the ASIS bugging operation after he learned that Australia’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, had been hired as an adviser to Woodside Petroleum, an energy company that was directly benefiting from the CMATS treaty.
Meanwhile, officers from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the country’s domestic intelligence agency, raided the Canberra law offices of Bernard Collaery, East Timor’s lawyer in the case, who is also defending Witness K. in court. The raiders took away documents that revealed the identity of Witness K., and then proceeded to detain him for questioning. They also confiscated his passport, which prevented him from traveling to the Netherlands to testify in the case. In the following months, an embarrassed Australian government quietly conceded to East Timor’s claims and agreed to renegotiate the CMATS treaty.
However, Witness K. and Mr. Collaery were each charged with a single count of conspiring to share information that is protected by Section 39 of Australia’s Intelligence Services Act, which forbids the unauthorized release of classified information. The case was heard last week at the Australian Capital Territory Magistrates Court in Canberra, in circumstances that were described by reporters as “extraordinary”. Members of the public and the news media were barred from most of the proceedings in order to protect classified information. Witness K was physically hidden behind a makeshift black screen, which was designed to conceal his identity.
In the end, the Magistrate, Glenn Theakston, decided that the former spy’s actions had been motivated “by a sense of justice, rather than for personal gain”, and were “not intended to compromise Australia’s national security interests”. In the justification of his decision, Judge Theakston said he took into account the former spy’s age —he is believed to be in his 70s. Additionally, he accepted Witness K.’s legal team’s request that he should be offered “judicial mercy” due to suffering from a series of health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
Witness K.’s three-month suspended jail sentence does not expunge the conviction from his record. Additionally, has is required to pay AUS$1,000 (US$750) as security deposit for good behavior over the next 12 months. Witness K.’s attorney, Bernard Collaery, continues to face charges of conspiring with his client to reveal the Australian spy operation against East Timor. He has argued that his case should not be tried behind closed doors.
► Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 21 June 2021 | Permalink
Ex-Spanish King’s former mistress claims intelligence service spied on her
July 30, 2021 by Ian Allen THE EX-MISTRESS OF SPAIN’S former king has sued him in a British court, claiming that he deployed agents from Spain’s intelligence service in a “campaign of unlawful covert and over surveillance” against her. Juan Carlos I, 83, was king of Spain from 1975 until his abdication from the throne…
July 30, 2021
by Ian Allen
THE EX-MISTRESS OF SPAIN’S former king has sued him in a British court, claiming that he deployed agents from Spain’s intelligence service in a “campaign of unlawful covert and over surveillance” against her. Juan Carlos I, 83, was king of Spain from 1975 until his abdication from the throne in 2014. He now lives in self-imposed exile in the United Arab Emirates, having left Spain in August. His departure came amidst a barrage of media reports revealing his involvement in a host of financial scandals, which are still being investigated by Spain’s authorities.
In 2012, it became known that the king had a six-year love affair with German-born Danish business consultant Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, 57, who is based in Britain. Since the end of the affair, in 2009, it is alleged that Carlos has been trying to retrieve nearly £60 million ($84 million), which he reportedly gifted to Wittgenstein when they were lovers. According to some media reports, Wittgenstein claims that the funds were given to her by the then-monarch “as an expression of his love” for her.
Late last year, Wittgenstein filed a lawsuit in Britain, in which she accuses her former lover of a campaign of harassment against her. She also claims that he employed agents of the Spanish National Intelligence Agency (Centro Nacional de Inteligencia , or CNI) to spy on her. The lawsuit, made public on Wednesday, alleges that, starting in 2012, current or former CNI agents were deployed by the ex-king to keep Wittgenstein “under physical surveillance”. Wittgenstein’s lawyers claim that she was followed throughout Europe, and that her personal cellphones and computers were hacked by the CNI, or by private investigators. They also claim that a team of spies broke into her estate in Britain, and installed surveillance equipment through a “perfectly drilled hole” in her bedroom window.
The business consultant is now asking for a large sum —believed to be in the tens of millions of euros— to be paid to her as compensation for alleged damages caused to her reputation. She is also asking for a restraining order against Carlos, the CNI, and anyone working for the ex-king. The former monarch denies the charges.
► Author: Ian Allen | Date: 30 July 2021 | Permalink
Settlement reached in spying scandal that rocked Credit Suisse
July 26, 2021 by Joseph Fitsanakis CREDIT SUISSE, ONE OF the world’s most powerful banking firms, has announced that a settlement has been reached in a case in which it stood accused of having paid private investigators to spy at former executives. The case, which shocked Swiss public opinion in recent years, prompted the resignation…
July 26, 2021
by Joseph Fitsanakis
CREDIT SUISSE, ONE OF the world’s most powerful banking firms, has announced that a settlement has been reached in a case in which it stood accused of having paid private investigators to spy at former executives. The case, which shocked Swiss public opinion in recent years, prompted the resignation of several Credit Suisse senior officials, and some claim it may have prompted a suicide.
In October of 2019, two senior Credit Suisse executives resigned amidst a high-stakes espionage operation, whose alleged target was Iqbal Khan, the former Chief Executive Officer of Credit Suisse’s wealth-management division. Khan alleged that, once he left the firm, he was spied on by private investigators paid for by Credit Suisse. In a dramatic turn of events, one of the private investigators involved in the case, described as “an external security expert”, who mediated between Credit Suisse and the investigation firm, committed suicide.
At the time, Credit Suisse described the surveillance on Khan as “strictly an isolated incident”. Later, however, two more Credit Suisse executives came forward alleging that they too had been spied on after leaving their job at the firm. These allegations prompted concerns that spying on former —and even current employees— may have been a standard operating procedure at Credit Suisse.
There is now a strong chance the allegations will never be investigated fully. On Sunday, a Credit Suisse spokesperson announced that the lawsuits brought by Khan against the firm, as well as against the private detectives who allegedly spied on him, would be dropped. The move followed a settlement between the three sides, which was reached out of court. When asked about the financial terms of the settlement, the spokesperson said no comment would be made about that.
► Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 26 July 2021 | Permalink
Jordanian intelligence thwarted Islamic State plan to kill soldiers in Jordan, Israel
July 28, 2021 by Ian Allen THE INTELLIGENCE SERVICES OF Jordan allegedly thwarted a plan by a cell of Islamic State fighters to carry out an armed attack across two countries, with the ultimate aim of killing Jordanian and Israeli troops. The state-owned Jordanian newspaper Al-Ra’I said on Tuesday that the attack was to be…
July 28, 2021
by Ian Allen
THE INTELLIGENCE SERVICES OF Jordan allegedly thwarted a plan by a cell of Islamic State fighters to carry out an armed attack across two countries, with the ultimate aim of killing Jordanian and Israeli troops. The state-owned Jordanian newspaper Al-Ra’I said on Tuesday that the attack was to be carried out in Gawr as-Safi, a sparsely inhabited area of the Jordan Valley, which is adjacent to the southern portion of Israel’s Dead Sea region.
The paper said that Jordan’s General Intelligence Department caught on to a suspected Islamist militant in December of 2020. The suspect led them to a larger cell of three other militants, who were arrested in February of this year. Their goal was reportedly to attack a Jordanian border post in Gawr as-Safi and kill the border guards there. They then planned to cross into Israel and open fire on Israeli soldiers, with the aim of killing them, in what appears to have been planned as a murder-suicide mission.
In the indictment of the four men, Jordanian authorities claim that they were found to be hoarding a cache of weapons, which they planned to use to carry out their attack in Jordan and Israel. They now face charges of conspiring to commit an act of terrorism and propagating the ideology of the Islamic State, which the Jordanian government designates as an international terrorist organization.
Meanwhile, a new assessment of the Islamic State by the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the United Nations’ Security Council, warns that the militant organization remains strong in parts of the Middle East. The report, issued this week, recognizes that the Islamic State has suffered setbacks in recent years. But it cautions against dismissing the threat, noting that the militant group “has evolved into an entrenched insurgency” that is “exploiting weaknesses in local security to find safe havens and [is] targeting [government] forces” across the region.
► Author: Ian Allen | Date: 28 July 2021 | Permalink