Thirty-second edition of the N&O column / Spooks newsletter

(Date: Sun, 24 Dec 2000 11:43:47 +0100)

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Intelligence news

Edmond Pope

A Russian court sentenced U.S. businessman Edmond Pope to 20 years in jail. Pope is the first Westerner convicted of spying in Russia since the Cold War. He was accused of stealing the design of a new kind of torpedo and would serve his time in a high security penal colony. Pope suffers from bone cancer and would probably die in prison. Former naval intelligence officer, Edmond Pope (54) denied he was a spy and said in court ``The only decision that you should take is to release me to my family and to let me go home.'' After a telephone call of president Clinton, mr Putin has promised to pardon Pope and set him free.

MI5

MI5 will possibly use the Tetra radio system in the near future. Tetra is a digital trunked radio system which allows users to make both mobile phone and walkie-talkie calls from their handsets for combined voice and data communications.

The agency is to use the public safety radio communications service (PSRCS), known as Airwave, which is managed by BT Quadrant. It will sit on the accreditation panel for Airwave's security.

The communications electronics security group (CESG) will supervise the technical evaluation of the security of the Airwave network when it goes live. CESG is part of government communications headquarters (GCHQ), the UK signals intelligence agency.

<source: VNU Business Publishing Ltd>

Putin visits Lourdes

Russia's President Vladimir Putin has visited Cuba this month. Putin is apparently trying to renew the ties with the old Soviet allies. He met Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz earlier this month, visited North Korea, and has contacts with Libyan leader Gaddafi. In Cuba he had to visit Russia's SIGINT center in Lourdes, of course.

According to Russian journalists who were present, Mr Putin praised the work of the Lourdes personnel. "I am glad to see how you live here," he told them. "The results of your labour are important, not only to the military command but also to the political management of Russia." <Times of London>

Russia's "Radio-Electronic Station/Cuba" near the abandoned Cuban village of Lourdes is the largest and most productive spy station the Russians ever built, a base that specializes in "telephone espionage." It is the last and most valuable jewel in their electronic crown, the Russian version of "Echelon," a worldwide spy network that includes bases inside Russia and overseas - a network that is reportedly called "Dozor." Lourdes is operated by Russia's GRU, its military intelligence arm, and the Federal Agency for Government Communications (FAPSI), an electronic spy agency that evolved out of the old KGB in the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. <NBC News>

Swiss antennas for Echelon ?

According to Dimanche, Swisscom, a Swiss telecom provider, has sold part of its strategic equipment to an US company. The company is said to have ties with the NSA.

Dimanche indicated that the parabolic aerials of Swisscom installed in Loeche (Valais), and those of seven other stations in Geneva, Basle and Zurich, are part of a deal between the Swiss operator and the US company Verestar, which belongs to the American Tower Corporation (Boston) group. Verestar is specialized in telecom and wireless networks. It has a contract with the US Navy.

Swisscom was formerly owned by the state and is now partly privately owned. A group of Swiss senators and the Federal Department of Defense were not informed of the sale of the aerials, although the sale could have effects on the country's security. The senators were "surprised and irritated".

The American and British observers consulted by the authors of the investigation confirm that Verestar is a kind of front of the NSA for the acquisition of satellite reception bases - it has a ten of them around the world, and roughly 160 stations of smaller importance.

Dimanche points out that the Swiss Confederation has developed its own listening system, code name 'Satos 3', which plans to deploy parabolic aerials to listen to communications outside of its borders.Some of the aerials will be installed in Loeche, close to the Verestar antennas. One of the consulted observers suspects that Satos 3 could be one of the new elements of Echelon.

<source: Swiss magazine 'Dimanche'. Translated by JMM>


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