Thursday, January 3, 2019

Colombia says Venezuelans caught with submachine guns planned to kill president

Duque Holmes

Authorities in Colombia said that three Venezuelans, who were arrested in Colombia’s Caribbean coast with submachine guns and explosives, were planning to assassinate President Iván Duque. The claim was aired in a video posted on Twitter by Colombia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carlos Holmes, on December 29. In the brief video, Holmes said that Colombian intelligence services had uncovered evidence of a “credible threat to the life” or President Duque. He went on to suggest that the investigation into the alleged assassination operation had gone on for “several months” with the cooperation of “foreign intelligence agencies”, which he did not name. He also urged Colombians to come forward with any information in their possession that could assist the ongoing investigation.
On December 30, several Colombian newspapers reported that Holmes’ Twitter warning had been triggered by the arrest on December 21 of two Venezuelans in Colombia’s northern city of Valledupar. The two men, identified in media reports as Pedro José Acosta and José Vicente Gómez, both 22, were found to be in possession of rifles. Guillermo Botero, Colombia’s Minister of Defense, said later that the rifles were “high-precision” and were “camouflaged”, though he did not explain what that meant. On December 26, a third Venezuelan, identified in media reports as Geiger Vásquez, 35, was arrested in the city of Barranquilla. He was reportedly carrying a bag containing an Uzi submachine gun, along with ammunition and several grenades.
Government officials said that the attempt to kill President Duque could have been sponsored by leftist rebel groups, such as the National Liberation Army (ELN), that are active in the Colombian-Venezuelan border. There were also accusations in some Colombian media that the government of Venezuela may have helped plan the alleged attempt on Duque’s life. Since assuming the Colombian presidency in August, Duque has spearheaded international efforts to impose sanctions on the leftwing Venezuelan government of President Nicolas Maduro, who is about to begin his second term in office. Relations between the two neighboring countries have thus sunk to new lows in recent months. On Monday, the Venezuelan government said it had requested more information about the alleged assassination plot from Colombian authorities and that it would provide Bogotá with “the necessary police and intelligence cooperation” to help investigate the allegations.
Author: Joseph Fitsanakis |


https://intelnews.org/2019/01/02/01-2469/

General to head Brazilian spy agency in Bolsonaro’s military-dominated cabinet

Augusto Heleno

A retired general, who rose through the military’s ranks during Brazil’s 20-year dictatorship, will head the country’s intelligence agency as one of several military men in the new cabinet of President Jair Bolsonaro. Augusto Heleno, 71, was sworn in on Tuesday as head of the Institutional Security Cabinet (GSI), which advises the president on security policy and oversees Brazil’s intelligence and counterterrorism services. Heleno is one of four retired generals who are included in Bolsonaro’s 22-member cabinet. The latter also includes an admiral, an Army lieutenant, an Army captain, and a former professor at the Brazilian Army Staff College. Bolsonaro himself is a former Army captain, who served 27 years as a member of Congress before winning last October’s elections and becoming Brazil’s 38th president.
The 2014-2016 economic recession, the worst in Brazil’s history, was instrumental in helping propel Bolsonaro to the presidency, as was the so-called “car wash” scandal, known in Portuguese as Lava Jato. The term refers to a money-laundering probe that began in 2014, following allegations of illicit financial practices by a number of private import-export companies in Brazil. The Lava Jato probe led to the exposure of large-scale corruption, nepotism and bribing practices at the core of Brazil’s state-owned oil company Petrobras. As of this year, the ongoing investigation into Lava Jato has implicated nearly 200 people, many of them well-known politicians. Among them is Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s leftist former president, who is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence for corruption and money laundering.
During his inauguration ceremony on Tuesday, Bolsonaro pledged to “rid Brazil of socialism” and said that the country’s flag “would never turn red”. In previous speeches, some of them in Congress, Bolsonaro has expressed support for the military junta that ruled the country between 1964 and 1985. It is unsurprising, then, that nearly half his newly installed cabinet consists of members of the military with favorable views on the dictatorship. Bolsonaro’s choice for vice president, Hamilton Mourão, sparked controversy in recent weeks by saying that the military could suspend the Brazilian constitution if lawlessness and anarchy became endemic. In addition, several members of Bolsonaro’s cabinet have dismissed the phenomenon of global warming as a conspiracy and a few have called for a “holy Christian alliance” between Brazil, the United States and Russia.
Heleno, the new head of the GSI, served as a military attaché at the embassy of Brazil in Paris, before joining the country’s diplomatic mission in Brussels. His first post following his retirement was as commander of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti. Like Bolsanaro, Heleno has also expressed support for Brazil’s 20-year military junta. In 2011, he said that the country’s Armed Forces had “defended public order” and “prevented the Cubanization” of Brazil during the Cold War. In his first public address as GSI director on Tuesday, Heleno said that the intelligence functions of the GSI would be “rescued” from the “meltdown” that he claimed they had experienced under the previous government. He also accused Bolsonaro’s immediate predecessor, President Dilma Rousseff, of governing as a leader who “did not believe in the intelligence services”. Rousseff, a member of Loula’s Worker’s Party, was a Marxist militant who was captured, tortured and jailed from 1970 to 1972 by the military government.
Author: Joseph Fitsanakis |

https://intelnews.org/2019/01/03/01-2470/

THE GINGER 'JIHADI' Muslim convert faces jail for plot to kill 100 people in ram attack outside Oxford Street Disney store and Madame Tussauds

 Lewis Ludlow pleaded guilty to plotting an attack in the UK and funding ISIS abroad last yearLewis Ludlow pleaded guilty to plotting an attack in the UK and funding ISIS abroad last year.


A MUSLIM convert who hoped to kill 100 people will be sentenced later for plotting a terror attack in London.
Lewis Ludlow, 27, swore allegiance to Islamic State as he prepared to drive a van down Oxford Street or outside Madame Tussauds.
He bought a phone under a false name and wrote down his attack plans, which were later found ripped up in a bin.
The defendant, who called himself "The Eagle" and "The Ghost", researched potential targets around the capital.
He identified Oxford Street as an "ideal" spot, writing: "It is expected nearly 100 could be killed in the attack."
Other potential targets listed included St Paul's Cathedral and a "Shia temple in Romford".
 His plan detailed a possible 'ram attack' in busy places in London

Ludlow, from Rochester in Kent, formulated his plan after being stopped by police at Heathrow Airport in February as he attempted to board a flight to the Philippines.
It was alleged he also set up a Facebook account called Antique Collections as a front to send money to south-east Asia for terrorism.
Ludlow first came to the attention of police in 2010 when he attended a demonstration led by radical preacher Anjem Choudary and his banned Al-Muhajiroun (ALM) group.
When he was arrested in 2015, ISIS material was recovered from Ludlow's electronic devices but no further action was taken.
 One of his potential targets was Madame TussaudsOne of his potential targets was Madame Tussauds
 Cops were able to reconstruct handwritten notes of Ludlow's plan
Cops were able to reconstruct handwritten notes of Ludlow's plan

 Ludlow now awaits sentencingLudlow now awaits sentencing

Having set up a PayPal account and the Antique Collections site, he sent money to a man named Abu Yaqeen, allegedly living in an area with a significant ISIS presence.
His shredded plans detailed a potential attack on Oxford Street using a van mounting the pavement, noting the lack of safety barriers.
He said: "Wolf should either use a ram attack or use... on the truck to maximise death... it is a busy street it is ideal for an attack. It is expected nearly 100 could be killed in the attack."
On April 13 last year, Ludlow's mobile phone was retrieved from a storm drain and found to have videos of the defendant swearing allegiance to ISIS and evidence of "hostile reconnaissance".
Ludlow was arrested by counter-terrorism police on April 18 but refused to explain himself when he was interviewed.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/8109355/muslim-jail-plot-kill-ram-attack-oxford-street-store-madame-tussauds-london/

Thursday, November 29, 2018

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Four times more Sunni Islamist militants today than on 9/11, study finds

Al-Qaeda in Yemen


There are four times as many Sunni Islamist militants today in the world than on September 11, 2001, despite an almost 20 year-long war campaign by the United States and its allies, according to a new report. Washington launched the ‘global war on terrorism’ in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks that were perpetrated by al-Qaeda. In the ensuing years, American and other Western troops have engaged militarily in over a dozen countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and the Philippines. But a new study by the bipartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) suggests that the West’s efforts to combat Sunni militancy are failing —and may even be making the problem worse. The report by the Washington-based think-tank states that the number of active Sunni Islamist militants today is as much as “270 percent greater than in 2001, when the 9/11 attacks occurred”.
Entitled “The Evolution of the Salafi-Jihadist Threat”, the 71-page report is one of the most extensive ever undertaken on this topic, drawing on information from data sets that date back nearly 40 years. It warns that, despite the rapid loss of territory suffered by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, armed Sunni militancy is “far from defeated”. The number of Salafi-jihadists —active proponents of armed fight against perceived enemies of Islam— has slightly declined in comparison to 2016, but it remains at near-peak levels over a 38-year period, says the CSIS report. It estimates that there are today as many as 230,000 Salafi-jihadists in almost 70 countries. Most of them are based in Syria (as many as 70,500), Afghanistan (as many as 64,000), Pakistan (up to 40,000), and Iraq (up to 15,000). Nearly 30,000 more are in Africa, primarily in Somalia, Nigeria and the Sahel region.
These fighters, and the groups they fight under, are far more resilient than Western antiterrorist strategists tend to assume, claims the report. They are also inadvertently aided by successive policy failures by the US and its closest Western allies. The latter focus primarily on the military aspects of counterterrorism campaigns, while ignoring the importance of improving local governance in territories where Sunni Islamism is rife, argues the report. Therefore, as the US and its allies continue to engage “in a seemingly endless [military] confrontation with a metastasizing set of militant groups”, they face seemingly endless waves of militants, who are becoming increasingly capable of resisting Western conventional military force. The report is available online in .pdf form, here.
► Author: Joseph Fitsanakis

Huawei: Why has UK not blocked Chinese firm's 5G kit?

Huawei graphic


New Zealand government's move to prevent Huawei supplying a local mobile network with 5G equipment has raised questions about why the UK appears less concerned about use of the Chinese company's technology.
A press release from Spark, the New Zealand company involved, said it had been deemed that the deployment posed "significant security risks" - a polite way of saying that Beijing might use the technology to spy on the country or disrupt its communications in a future dispute.
The US and Australia had already closed the door on Huawei's involvement in their next-generation mobile networks.
That means three members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance have now acted against the Shenzhen-based company. And one other member, Canada, is carrying out a security review of its own.
So, there's a prospect that the UK could soon be the sole holdout, allowing Huawei to play a key role in delivering the data that everything from self-driving cars to smart city sensors will rely on.
"There are two factors at play here: 5G will be connected to everything as we go to the internet-of-things," said Ewan Lawson, from UK defence think tank Rusi.
"And concerns about foreign-sourced hardware were less intense than they are now."
For its part, Huawei has said: "[We are] aware of Spark's statement and we are looking into the situation.
"As a leading global supplier of telecoms equipment, we remain committed to developing trusted and secure solutions for our customers."

Is the UK just being complacent?

Huawei logoImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
The government argues not.
"This government and British telecoms operators work with Huawei at home and abroad to ensure the UK can continue to benefit from new technology while managing cyber-security risks," a Cabinet Office spokeswoman told BBC News.
That work includes a facility nicknamed the Cell, in Banbury, Oxfordshire, where staff employed by Huawei but answering to GCHQ hunt for security flaws in the company's products.
It has not uncovered evidence of hidden backdoors or other deliberate attempts of subterfuge. But its last report did identify shortcomings that led it to warn that it could offer only "limited assurance" that the company posed no threat.
The UK government is also thought to have fired a shot across the bows last month, when it wrote to telecoms companies warning that a review of their infrastructure could lead to "changes in the current rules" that should be taken into account during "procurement decisions".
Huawei was not mentioned by name, but the Financial Times - which revealed the letter's existence - said some industry executives interpreted it to mean a ban was still possible.
But others have their doubts, noting that other political factors are at play.
"The letter did go out but the issue remains that in the absence of any definitive evidence of a problem, an unspecific security risk has to be weighed against trade opportunities," said Mr Lawson.
"If Huawei was banned, we don't know the extent to which China might well refuse to do business with us in other fields - and the timing for that would not be great with so much attention on the potential economic impacts of Brexit."

How strong are Huawei's existing UK ties?

HuaweiImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Huawei opened its first office in the country in 2001 and soon had its equipment adopted by BT and Vodafone, which used it to support 2G, 3G and 4G mobile services as well as "superfast" fibre and other types of broadband connections to homes and businesses.
Its kit includes mobile phone radio antennas and the routers and switches found in kerbside cabinets.
Most of the country's mobile networks - Vodafone, EE and Three - are now working with Huawei to prepare their 5G offerings.
O2's parent Telefonica has also tested its new equipment elsewhere and signalled that it might use it in the UK.
In addition, Huawei says it has developed research and development partnerships with many of the country's leading academic institutions, including the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Cardiff and Imperial College.
Its UK board of directors includes Lord Browne, the former chief of BP, and Sir Andrew Cahn, a former high-ranking civil servant.

Does Huawei pose a real threat?

HuaweiImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
The company is keen to portray itself as a private company owned by its employees with no ties to the Chinese government beyond those of a law-abiding taxpayer.
It can also lay claim to being one of the biggest spenders on research and development - it invested more than $13.2bn (£10.3bn) last year and has said the figure will be even higher for 2018.
But critics like to point out that its media-shy founder, Ren Zhengfei, was a former engineer in the country's army and joined the Communist Party in 1978.
Furthermore, they question how free any major Chinese business can be from Beijing's influence.
"It's accepted practice in China that relationships between Chinese companies and the state have to be extremely close," said Prof Anthony Glees, director of the Buckingham University Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies.
"Many other countries have said no [to Huawei over 5G].
"We've come to the matter late as we have already let them through the door."
Another leading cyber-security expert agreed that Huawei could be co-opted into incapacitating the equipment it had sold.
"The obvious concern with 5G is whether there is a material risk of the Chinese being in a position to run a big denial-of-service attack on Britain in the event of a time of international tension," said Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at the University of Cambridge.
"There is obviously a risk. China plays hardball and we have been hoping in vain for years that it would get nice as it got richer but that hasn't happened."
For now, Beijing has been reticent to be seen to be too forceful in leaping to Huawei's defence.
The Chinese government did warn against "protectionism" when a deal to sell Huawei's phones in the US fell through and then "discriminatory practices" when Australia banned local networks using its 5G equipment.
But Chinese officials are already preoccupied with President Trump's threats of more trade tariffs and might see any effort to try to help Huawei as likely to backfire.
Even so, eyebrows have still been raised by a decision to exclude its founder from a list of 100 key contributors to China's economy over the past 40 years recently published in the Communist Party's People's Daily newspaper.
Whether that is because Mr Ren is viewed as being too close or not close enough to the government is unclear.

Norwegian spy service seeks right to break law during espionage operations

Royal Norwegian Ministry of Defense



Norway’s supreme legislature body is considering a bill that would offer immunity from prosecution to intelligence officers and informants who are authorized by the country’s spy service to conduct espionage. The bill has been proposed on behalf of the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Defense, which supervises the operations of the Norwegian Intelligence Service (NIS), Norway’s primary intelligence agency. The NIS operates primarily abroad and is the only institution of the Norwegian state that can be authorized by the government to break laws in foreign countries. However, supporters of the new bill point out that NIS overseas operations can also break Norwegian law. That is something that the proposed bill addresses, they argue.
The proposed bill offers immunity from prosecution to NIS case officers and their assets —either informants or foreign spies— who may commit offenses under Norwegian law, as part of authorized espionage operations. In its consultation note that accompanies the proposed bill, the Norwegian Ministry of Defense admits that a number of NIS operations “already violate existing Norwegian laws”. That is inevitable, argues the Ministry, because officers and informants who engage in espionage operations will often “act contrary to the stipulations of criminal law […] as part of their assignments”. They may, in other words, “do certain things that would be illegal if they were done not on behalf of the intelligence service”, states the consultation note.
The document does not provide details of the types of offenses that are committed in pursuit of intelligence operations, arguing that “the offenses that the NIS commits, as well as its methods, must remain secret”. It does, however, suggest that intelligence officers may make use of “false or misleading identities, documents and information”. They may also “smuggle large amounts of cash from the country”, which they will use to pay foreign assets. Given that these assets receive Norwegian taxpayers’ funds, and that some of them end up settling in Norway, it is important that their proceeds not be considered taxable income under Norwegian law, according to the Defense Ministry. By reporting their revenue to the Norwegian Tax Administration, these assets would make their NIS connection known, and thus blow their cover, the document states.
The Defense Ministry notes that the new bill “will have little legal significance”, as NIS espionage operations are generally shielded from prosecution under Norway’s existing legal codes. It will, however, formalize the NIS’ legal scope and allow the agency to assure its case officers that they can perform their missions without fearing arrest or prosecution, so long as they act within the parameters of their authorized missions. The spy agency will also be able to recruit more “informants, sources and contractors”, says the document.
► Author: Joseph Fitsanakis