INTEL TODAY DIARY — June 27 2017

Russia targets Telegram app after St Petersburg bombing — Yuri Drozdov, handler of Soviet undercover spies during Cold War, dies at 91 — France’s Macron says sees no legitimate successor to Syria’s Assad — Journalists Are Dying in Mexico

Russia targets Telegram app after St Petersburg bombing — BBC

Russia’s FSB security agency has said the Telegram mobile messaging app was used by a suicide bomber who killed 15 people in St Petersburg in April.

Authorities have already threatened to block the app, founded by Russian businessman Pavel Durov, for refusing to sign up to new data laws.

Mr Durov has refused to let regulators access encrypted messages on the app.

Telegram has some 100 million users and has been used by so-called Islamic State (IS) and its supporters.

IS used the app to declare its involvement in the jihadist attack on and around London Bridge in the UK last month.

 Telegram has been used by jihadists in France and the Middle East too, although the app company has highlighted its efforts to close down pro-IS channels. Telegram allows groups of up to 5,000 people to send messages, documents, videos and pictures without charge and with complete encryption.

Now the FSB has said that as part of its investigation into the St Petersburg attack it “received reliable information about the use of Telegram by the suicide bomber, his accomplices and their mastermind abroad to conceal their criminal plots at all the stages of preparation for the terrorist attack”.

Yuri Drozdov, handler of Soviet undercover spies during Cold War, dies at 91 — IntelNews

General Yuri Ivanovich Drozdov, who held senior positions in the Soviet KGB for 35 years, and handled a global network of Soviet undercover officers from 1979 until 1991, has died at the age of 91. Drozdov was born in Minsk, Soviet Belarus, in 1925. His father, Ivan Dmitrievich Drozdov, was an officer in the tsarist army who sided with the communists in the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. After serving in World War II, Yuri Drozdov joined the KGB in 1956. Following his training, he was appointed liaison officer between the KGB and East Germany’s Ministry of State Security, commonly known as the Stasi.

His knowledge of East German intelligence affairs prompted his involvement in the famous 1962 spy-swap between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Soviets surrendered the American pilot Francis Gary Powers, who had been captured in May 1960, when the U-2 spy plane he was piloting was shot down over Soviet airspace. In return, they received Rudolf Abel (real name Vilyam Fisher) a Soviet undercover spy who was captured in New York in 1957, posing as an American citizen. From 1964 until 1968, Drozdov was stationed in Beijing, China, where he served as the KGB rezident, effectively the agency’s chief of station. He returned to Moscow and in 1975 was posted under diplomatic cover in the United States, where he commanded the KGB’s station n New York until 1979.

France’s Macron says sees no legitimate successor to Syria’s Assad — Reuters

President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday he saw no legitimate successor to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and France no longer considered his departure a pre-condition to resolving the six-year-old conflict.

He said Assad was an enemy of the Syrian people, but not of France and that Paris’ priority was fighting terrorist groups and ensuring Syria did not become a failed state.

His comments were in stark contrast to those of the previous French administration and echo Moscow’s stance that there is no viable alternative to Assad.

“The new perspective that I have had on this subject is that I have not stated that Bashar al-Assad’s departure is a pre-condition for everything because nobody has shown me a legitimate successor,” Macron said in an interview with eight European newspapers.

“My lines are clear: Firstly, a complete fight against all the terrorist groups. They are our enemies,” he said, adding attacks that killed 230 people in France had come from the region. “We need everybody’s cooperation, especially Russia, to eradicate them.”

Journalists Are Dying in Mexico — GWU NSA

When gunmen shot and killed Mexican columnist, investigative reporter, and author Javier Valdez Cárdenas in Culiacán, Sinaloa on May 15, a chill went through newsrooms everywhere. Not only was he the sixth member of the press in Mexico to be assassinated in less than three months, some reporters had just assumed that someone of Valdez’s international fame and stature would be protected. After all, Valdez was renowned for his weekly columns in the regional outlet he co-founded, RíoDoce. He was a correspondent for the newspaper La Jornada. He was the author of nine books – including one translated into English, The Taken: True Stories of the Sinaloa Drug War – the most recent, Narcoperiodismo, in 2016. He was the recipient of some the world’s most prestigious international journalism prizes, including the Maria Moors Cabot Prize from the Columbia Journalism School and the International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

But Javier Valdez’s reporting and writing routinely addressed the most dangerous of subjects: organized crime, narco-trafficking, and the corruption of Mexican government officials. And someone took notice. At around noon on a sunny Monday, Valdez left his office with his customary and only slightly ironic farewell, “May God bestow his blessing on me,” and headed to his car. He had driven just a few blocks when two men, according to witnesses, stopped him and pulled him from his car, executing him with twelve bullets. They left his body sprawled on the street.

Javier Valdez now joins the black list of the estimated 125 journalists killed and 20 disappeared in Mexico since 2000. According to the press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders, Mexico is the third most dangerous country for journalists in the world, after Afghanistan and Syria. Yet Mexico’s government has done little to nothing to stop the violence targeting the media. Although President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration supports a “Federal Protection Mechanism of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists,” created in 2012 to offer special protection to journalists under threat, reporters have complained that it is underfunded, understaffed and does little to stop the violence. And according to a recent report by the Washington Office on Latin America and Peace Brigades International, in those cases the Mechanism did take on, some 38 percent of aggressors against the press were found to be government authorities, making it difficult for some journalists to trust government support of any kind.

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INTEL TODAY DIARY — June 27 2017

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