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Entries in Spying (7)

Sunday
May192013

Iran Executes Two Men Accused of Spying for United States and Israel

Hemera/Thinkstock(TEHRAN, Iran) – Iran executed two men they had convicted of spying for the Unites States and Israel, according to Iran State Radio.

The radio report said one of the men hanged was Mohammad Heidari, convicted of providing the Israeli intelligence service Mossad with classified information. The second man was Kourosh Ahmadi, who was alleged to have given the CIA intelligence on Iran.

Iran has long accused Israel and the United States of spying on its nuclear program.

It’s not known when the two men were arrested and tried, but they were hanged at dawn Sunday, according to BBC News.

The execution comes only a few months after the Iran Supreme Court overturned Amir Mirzai Hekmati’s death sentence. Hekmati, an Iranian-American national, is accused of spying for the CIA and was arrested in August of 2011 while visiting family in Iran.

Hekmati and the United States government deny Iran’s spying allegations, and numerous groups are working to secure his release.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May302012

Who Is Behind Super Cyber Spy Tool?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Cyber security experts around the world are racing to dissect Flame, the largest cyber espionage program ever discovered, as clues in the code and vague statements from Western officials fueled speculation as to whether the U.S. or Israel may be behind what researchers are calling a potential game-changer in the burgeoning arena of cyber warfare.

The existence of Flame, an unprecedented intelligence-gathering program designed to track and record basically everything an infected computer does, was disclosed Monday by two international cyber security firms as well as the Iranian government, which said Flame had been discovered on its networks.

One of the firms, Kaspersky Labs, reported the malware had been discovered in several countries in the Middle East, mostly in Iran, and had been operating for at least two years. Kaspersky Labs, along with a Hungarian cryptology lab called Crysys that also analyzed Flame, said that because of the expertise, time and funding required to create such a large and sophisticated program, it was likely some government agency had created the malicious code, rather than a group of cyber criminals or rogue hackers.

Clues in the code, such as the names of processes like "Beetlejuice" and "Platypus," led some experts to believe it could have been written by native English-speakers, but others pointed out that English is a common coding language in many countries.

Roel Schouwenberg, a senior researcher at Kasperky Labs, told ABC News on Wednesday some monikers used in coding mean nothing at all or are just inside jokes among the programmers.

"We are talking about a very high stakes operation here, covert cyber ops, but that doesn't mean these guys aren't just having fun sometimes," he said.

Another possible clue in the code, Schouwenberg said, is that even though the program's structure and capabilities are very different, Flame shares some sophisticated techniques and geographical targets with another infamous cyber weapon, Stuxnet. Stuxnet was an offensive cyber weapon that was only discovered in 2010 after it had reportedly infected and caused physical damage to an Iranian nuclear facility.

Schouwenberg said Kaspersky Labs is operating under the theory that Stuxnet and Flame were created by different development teams but likely under the direction from the same backer and with access to each other's work. A researcher with the U.S.-based cyber firm Symantec told ABC News that scenario was a "definite" possibility and in its report Crysys said it could not be ruled out.

After Stuxnet's discovery, a Congressional report in December 2010 put the U.S. and Israel on a short list of countries believed to be capable of carrying out that attack -- a list that also included China, France, Russia and the U.K. A month later, The New York Times reported Stuxnet may have been the result of a joint U.S., Israeli project to undermine Iran's nuclear program.

Publicly, U.S. officials repeatedly denied involvement in Stuxnet, while Israeli officials declined to comment.

Within hours of Flame's public disclosure, a top Israeli official, vice prime minister Moshe Yaalon, sparked speculation when he hinted to an Israeli news outlet that his country may have been behind it all, as ABC News reported Tuesday.

"Whoever sees the Iranian threat as a serious threat would be likely to take different steps, including these, in order to hurt them," Yaalon told Israel's Army Radio, referring to the cyber attack. "Israel is blessed to be a nation possessing superior technology. These achievements of ours open up all kinds of possibilities for us."

However, after those comments made headlines, Yaalon took to Twitter and said that "plenty of advanced Western countries, with apparent cyber-warfare capabilities, view Iran and especially its nuclear program as a real threat."

Later, NBC News reported that an unnamed U.S. official who acknowledged having no first-hand knowledge of the virus said, "It was us." And on Wednesday the Israeli military magazine Israel Defense quoted its own unnamed Israeli officials who said they believe the virus came from the U.S.

For their part, the official spokespersons for an alphabet soup of American government agencies have stayed quiet on where exactly Flame came from.

In response to questions from ABC News on Wednesday, the National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Defense Cyber Operations and State Department either declined to comment or referred ABC News to the Department of Homeland Security. The DHS said in a statement it was analyzing Flame to determine its impact on the U.S., but refused to comment on whether the U.S. had a hand in its creation.

Though cyber security experts said it will be months, and possibly years, before Flame is completely analyzed, Schouwenberg said there is little chance much more information about the author will be gleaned from the code itself.

"What is proof in cyber? It's very tough. When you look at the remnants of a bomb, at least you know who made it," he said. "In cyber, you never know for sure."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan112012

Lawyer Hired to Work for American 'Spy' Sentenced to Death in Iran

ABC News(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Amir Mirzaei Hekmati's family has retained Los Angeles attorney Pierre-Richard Prosper to see what he can do to free 28-year-old Hekmati, who was sentenced to death by a court in Iran for allegedly spying for the CIA.

The White House has denied that Hekmati, a former Marine Arabic translator, was secretly spying while visiting his grandmother.  However, the State Department's options are limited since Washington and Tehran have had no formal diplomatic relations since the Islamic Revolution overthrew the Shah of Iran in 1979.

Prosper has an extensive background in international affairs, having served as an ambassador at large for war crimes under the Bush administration.  He also acted as prosecutor for the Rwanda war crimes tribunal at the Hague.

But what drew Hekmati's family, who live in Michigan, to Prosper was that he was able to free American businessman Reza Taghavi from an Iranian prison after he was accused of having ties to an Iranian opposition group.

Gaining Hekmati's release could prove more daunting since he has already been charged, convicted and sentenced, becoming the first American to receive the death penalty in the long and contentious relationship between the U.S. and Iran.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec272011

American Accused of Spying in Iran Appears in Court

ABC News(TEHRAN, Iran) -- An American man appeared in Iranian court Tuesday on charges he was spying on Iran for the CIA.

Amir Mirzaei Hekmati is accused of trying to infiltrate Iranian intelligence and, according to Fars news agency, could face the death penalty if convicted. Fars reports the prosecution has applied for capital punishment in the case of Hekmati due to reports he "admitted that he received training in the United States and planned to imply that Iran was involved in terrorist activities in foreign countries" upon his return to the U.S. Capital punishment for spy crimes is only applicable in military cases under Iranian law.

"We are aware of press reports that a closed door trial has begun against Mr Hekmati," Mark Toner, deputy spokesperson for the State Department, told ABC News. "We have requested access to him via our Swiss protecting power and we call on the government of Iran to grant the Swiss protecting power immediate access to him and release him without delay. We’ve seen this story before with the Iranian regime falsely accusing people of being spies and then holding the innocent foreigners for political reasons...the Swiss demarched the Iranians on December 24 but they refused consular access again."

Hekmati's lawyer, identified only by his surname, Samadi, denied charges his client entered Iran's intelligence department three times. Samadi alleges Hekmati was deceived by the CIA, and that intention to infiltrate is not a crime.

The report says the 28-year-old Hekmati, who was born in Arizona but has Iranian citizenship from his father, confessed on state TV Dec. 18.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May112011

Americans Hikers Back in Iranian Court over Spying Charges

ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty ImagesUPDATE: The Iranian court where American hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer were to appear Wednesday has postponed the meeting, citing an "absence of the two prisoners."  Sources tell ABC News the reasoning most likely means that Fattal and Bauer were not brought to the court from the prison.

(TEHRAN, Iran) -- American hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer will be back in court in Iran Wednesday, where they face charges of espionage.

While a verdict is possible, some officials believe that a decision on the case will be postponed again.

Fattal and Bauer, along with fellow hiker Sarah Shourd, were detained on July 31, 2009 after crossing an unmarked border while hiking in northern Iraq.  Iranian authorities claimed the trio had illegally crossed over into their territory and charged them with spying for the U.S.

Shourd, who was kept in solitary confinement until she was released by Iranian authorities after posting $500,000 bail in September of 2010, will not be at the trial.  While she wants to be with Bauer and Fattal during their trying time, she said that going back to Iran would aggravate the depression and post traumatic stress she has suffered from her ordeal.

If convicted of espionage, Bauer and Fattal could face long jail sentences.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May052011

Hiker Sarah Shourd Won't Return to Iran to Attend Espionage Trial

ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- American Sarah Shourd, who was held in captivity in Iran for more than a year, says that there's no way she'll be returning to that country to stand trial next week on espionage charges.

Shourd and her two male companions, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, were hiking in northern Iraq on July 31, 2009 when they were taken into custody by Iranian soldiers, who claimed the trio had illegally crossed over into their territory.

For over 14 months, Shourd was kept in solitary confinement until she was released by Iranian authorities after posting $500,000 bail in September of 2010.  Bauer, to who Shourd became engaged to in prison, and Fattal were not freed and face the possibility of long jail sentences if convicted of spying for the U.S., charges vehemently denied by their families and the U.S. State Department.

While Shourd wants desperately to be with Bauer and Fattal during their trying time, she says that going back to Iran would aggravate the depression and post traumatic stress she has suffered from her ordeal.

Obviously conflicted about her decision, Shourd, now 32, said, "I worry about their safety, I worry about their mental health.  We've had no information from them, no contact, phone call, nothing for over five months... what I've heard is that they now have only 40 minutes out of their cell every day."

Shourd contends that Bauer and Fattal are caught in a "political tug-of-war" between the U.S. and Iran.  The two governments broke off diplomatic relations in 1979 when Iranian revolutionaries stormed the American Embassy in Tehran and held 53 people hostage for 444 days.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct222010

Michigan Man Faces Prison for Spying

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A Michigan man faces prison time after pleading guilty to spying charges.  28-year-old Glenn Shriver faces four years behind bars after admitting he failed to disclose on U.S. government job applications that he had had contact with Chinese intelligence officials. 

Shriver had apparently sought employment with the State Department or the C.I.A. in 2009 and 2010, but lied on the applications, denying contact with a foreign government. 

Shriver had made visits to China between 2004 and 2007.  Federal authorities say he received $70,000 dollars from Chinese intelligence officers while there.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

 







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