Insider Threat / Espionage

Insider espionage

French tourist jailed in Iran

Benjamin Brière, a 36-year-old French tourist, has been sentenced in Iran to eight year for espionage even as his country’s foreign ministry said the case had “no basis in fact.” Arrested in May 2020 for flying a drone near Iran’s border with Turkmenistan, he was tried in a closed-door Revolutionary Court. [node:read-more:link]

Wikileaks founder’s legal fight continues

Britain’s High Court ruled today that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange can petition the Supreme Court to block his extradition to the U.S., which wants to prosecute him for releasing thousands of classified documents a decade ago. The High Court’s chief justice said Assange's case had raised a legal question over the circumstances in which judges received and considered assurances from the U.S. about how he could be treated in prison. [node:read-more:link]

British resident freed by Iran

An employee of the government-funded British Council, which promotes arts and culture as way of building international bridges, has returned to Britain after having been jailed for more than three years in Iran, Aras Amiri, an Iranian expatriate, had been sentenced to 10 years on spurious espionage charges during a family visit but her conviction was overturned by Iran’s Supreme Court as being against Shariah law. [node:read-more:link]

Chinese influence at Westminster

Britain’s domestic counterintelligence and security agency, MI5, says an alleged Chinese agent has infiltrated Parliament to interfere in U.K. politics. It said in an official alert this week that Christine Ching Kui Lee had “established links” for the Chinese Communist Party with current and aspiring MPs, including donations linked to China and Hong Kong. Barry Gardner, a former member of the Labour shadow cabinet member reported to have received more than £420,000 over five years, said he had always made security services aware of the funding. [node:read-more:link]

Hackers seen as top security threat

SolarWinds, a Texas-based IT management and software company, reported Jan. 11 that hackers have supplanted insiders as the largest source of security threats to the U.S. public sector. Some 56 per cent of the 400 respondents to a commissioned survey said the hacker community was a key issue for public sector organizations, followed by careless or untrained insiders at 52 per cent and foreign governments at 47 per cent. Concern evidently was higher at the state and local level than federally. [node:read-more:link]

Danish intelligence chief in custody

It was disclosed Jan. 10 that Lars Findsen, head of Denmark's foreign intelligence agency since 2015, has been in prison for a month for allegedly leaking classified information to news media. Findsen, who has called the charges “completely insane”, was arrested in Dec. 8 at Copenhagen Airport. Four other current and former members of intelligence agencies also were arrested but have been released. [node:read-more:link]

Noted U.S. scientist lied about China ties

Charles M. Lieber, a Harvard University professor and government-funded nanotechnology researcher, has been found guilty by a U.S. federal court of lying to the Department of Defense and other authorities about his ties to China. The jury finding is seen as a victory for the Justice Department amidst a crackdown on academic espionage. Lieber was arrested in January 2020 and evidence against him included a contract paying him $50,000 a month for work with the Wuhan Institute of Technology. [node:read-more:link]

Assange facing extradition to U.S.

The U.S. has won the latest fight in a long-running legal battle to have Wikileaks founder Julian Assange extradited for trial under the Espionage Act for publishing classified material but the latest ruling is subject to further appeal. A British judge ruled last January that the Australian citizen should not be extradited due to concern about his potential treatment but two senior British judges overturned that decision Dec. 10. [node:read-more:link]

Opposition rejects offer of special committee

A government offer to set up a committee which would have access to documents pertaining to the firing of two scientists last January by the Public Health Agency of Canada has been rejected by the Conservatives. House leader Gerard Deltell said Dec. 8 that the proposal is “months late” and he faulted PHAC leadership for ignoring demands to produce unredacted documents. [node:read-more:link]

Chinese influence increasingly pervasive

Canadian Security Intelligence Service has told the government that China's efforts to distort and influence the news in Canada “have become normalized.” The warning by CSIS Director David Vigneault is included in briefing notes prepared for a meeting with the Prime Minister earlier this year. “Chinese-language media outlets operating in Canada and members of the Chinese-Canadian community are primary targets of PRC-directed foreign influenced activities.” [node:read-more:link]

Sinophobia in North America?

In a development possibly evocative of the abrupt and still mystery-shrouded dismissal of two Chinese researchers at Canada’s highest-security laboratory last January, U.S. authorities evidently fear that Chinese scientists at U.S. universities pose a security risk. Some institutions say the concern has slowed research and contributed to an exodus of talent which could benefit China. [node:read-more:link]

Extended U.S. 5G restrictions

President Joe Biden has signed off on legislation designed to prevent Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE, deemed by the U.S. to be national security threats, from receiving new Federal Communications Commission licences. [node:read-more:link]

Chinese telecom’s licence revoked

Citing “national security” concerns, the U.S. has revoked the licence of China Telecom and told it to stop U.S. services by late December. State Department officials said Chinese government control of the company, which has provided services in the U.S. for 20 years and has customers in 110 countries, gives it an opportunity “to engage in espionage and other harmful activities.” [node:read-more:link]

U.S. agencies buying Chinese drones

The Secret Service is the latest U.S. agency to have bought drones from a Chinese company the Defense Department considers a potential national security. Manufactured by Shenzhen-based DJI, they have become a global stable for recreational and other applications. It’s reported that efforts to block other U.S. law enforcement agencies and the military from similar procurements have become stuck in bureaucratic red tape. [node:read-more:link]

Canada seeks to ban whistleblower

An attempt by a former U.S. Army private who leaked U.S. secrets about the wars in Afghanistan and whose 35-year prison sentence in 3013 was commuted after seven years is about to be reviewed by the Immigration and Refugee Board. Federal officials are preparing to argue that Chelsea Manning’s offence render her inadmissible even though she was permitted entry in 2018 for a brief visit. [node:read-more:link]


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