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

(Date: Fri, 02 Nov 2001 21:29:47 +0100)

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Intelligence news

Russia

President Vladimir Putin has announced that Russia will shut down its SIGINT base at Lourdes, Cuba. There are ca 1500 Russians based at the station. According to mr Putin, closing Lourdes would save some $200 million a year. The closure is a surprise as mr Putin visited the station about a year ago and stated then that it is still an important Russian base. Beside Lourdes, Russia will also close the naval SIGINT station at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam.

The reaction in Russia was very mixed. The pro-Putin journalists and analysts say that it is a good thing to do because the costs of the facilities is very high. In the eyes of the military it is a catastrophe while the intelligence world cannot understand the decision.

USA

The USA is doing the opposite of Russia. The base that would be closed at the end of the year, will stay open until 30 September 2004. The SIGINT base at Bad Aibling, Germany, has to stay open because the aircraft that would have been used to remove the communications and surveillance equipment, are now deployed in Afghanistan. At least, that is the official statement. I think that it is more likely that the base is being used to eavesdrop on the Taliban.

Echelon

Robert Williams writes that the ABC network in Australia recently ran a story on Echelon in their Netnews programme. Nicky Haga who wrote a book in 1996 called "Secret Power" is interviewed on the programme. To hear the story go to www.abc.net.au/newsradio/audio/eschelon.ram (for the real audio version) or .asx (for the wmp version). The interview goes for 14 minutes.

Thanks, Robert

Netherlands

The Dutch Government announced that it wants to regulate the public use of sophisticated cryptography. They claim that terrorists make intensive use of modern technology and that the police and intelligence agencies must have the means to prevent and fight terrorism.

The Dutch government seizes this opportunity with both hands. In the early nineties they tried to restrict the use of cryptography. The draft law was however withdrawn after a storm of protest from privacy and legal groups, and the business world.

Afghanistan / Pakistan

The Pakistan Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), was involved in the training and arming of the Taliban. Starting in the 1980s, the ISI developed strong links with Bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Possibly as many as five Pakistani ISI officers, including a brigadier and a colonel, crossed into Afghanistan at the end of September to help the Taliban prepare their defences and strategy against pending U.S. attacks.

 


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