The Week in Intelligence

on August 18 | in CIA, Congress, Foreign Policy, Intelligence Collection, NSA

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Here’s what caught our eye in the world of intelligence this week:

New documents purloined by Edward Snowden show the extent of the partnership between the NSA and telecommunications company AT&T. Documents described the partnership as between the two as “highly collaborative” while others cited AT&T’s “extreme willingness to help” the NSA.

Although it had been known that the two worked closely together, these new documents indicate the relationship was unique, especially compared to other phone companies. According to the documents, the NSA’s budget for the AT&T partnership in 2013 was allegedly more than twice that of the next largest partnership. Both the NSA and AT&T declined to comment on the documents, saying they do not discuss matters of national security.

According to VICE News, the CIA accidentally released a draft written by Director John Brennan apologizing for compromising computers used by Senate staff. VICE News and a researcher from MIT had filed an FOIA request asking for documents about the incident, for which they did eventually receive over 300 pages of documents.

However, it appears the apology draft was included by mistake. The draft stated the CIA’s internal investigation found the Agency’s staff had “improperly” accessed the network. Brennan then apologized for their actions and said they would fix the “shortcoming this report has revealed.” The apology was not signed however, and of course was never sent.

CIA Director John Brennan addressed the comments made earlier this month by Brett Jones, a Navy SEAL and a 13 year CIA contractor. Jones claimed he was harassed while on deployment for being gay and had to attend PowerPoint presentations that contained racist and homophobic language. In response, Brennan said the CIA has “zero tolerance” for such behavior and would act swiftly.

The CIA did not dispute Jones’ claims, but then again said they could not discuss any particular cases. Brennan did state however that he was pleased with the progress the CIA has made and is “very, very proud of what the agency’s record has been on LGBT issues.”

The U.S. has warned China about having secret government agents in the U.S

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. and using them to pressure prominent expatriates to return to China. Officials have said members of China’s Public Security Bureau are in the U.S. are a part of a broader campaign to hunt down Chinese fugitives and sometimes to recover “ill-gotten gains.”

The Chinese government has named the campaign Operation Fox Hunt, and do not deny that it exist but claim the fugitives are “persuaded” to return home. The U.S. however has stated the Chinese agents are using harsher tactics including making threats to the fugitives family.

Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda released an audio recording of two alleged CIA agents plotting to bring down Malaysia Flight MH17. The “comically bad” audio sounds as if the two men, one named David Hamilton and the other David L. Stern, are reading from a script. The two “agents” discuss shooting down the plane with surface-to-air missiles, and if that did not work Plan B was to plant a bomb inside the plane.

According to the audio, the purpose of staging a crash would be discredit Russian-backed separatists in the Ukraine and Kremlin. The authenticity was never debated. Both the actual words and manner of speaking used by the two men sound odd– including the fact that one of the “CIA agents” spoke with a British accent. 

photo: the AT&T store in Washington DC’s Chinatown.

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