US: FBI refutes spying allegations on Trump campaign

By Michael Hernandez</p> <p>WASHINGTON (AA) – FBI Director Christopher Wray broke with Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday, denying the bureau spied on President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.

Wray contradicted congressional testimony last month in which Barr said he thinks “spying did occur ” on the campaign.

“That's not the term I would use, ” Wray told the Senate Appropriations Committee under questioning from Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “I believe that the FBI is engaged in investigative activity, and part of investigative activity includes surveillance activity of different shapes and sizes, and to me the key question is making sure that it is done by the book. ”

Asked directly by Shaheen if he has any evidence to support allegations the bureau acted illegally in its investigation, Wray said he does not.

The Justice Department did not immediately return Anadolu Agency's request for comment.

Trump claimed federal investigators spied on his campaign, citing investigations that were conducted on at least one advisor to his campaign.

The FBI received Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court warrant in 2016 to surveil Carter Page, who was advising the campaign on foreign policy matters, on suspicions he was working with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election.

Trump and his partisan allies have cited the matter as alleged evidence the bureau was covertly spying, claiming the court order was granted under a flimsy pretext.

The Justice Department's inspector general is currently reviewing the process that led to the granting of the FISA warrants.

That process is expected to be completed this month or June, according to Barr.


UPDATE 2- Turkey remands 2 suspected of spying for UAE


By Muhammed Enes Can and Murat Kaya

ANKARA (AA) – Turkey on Friday remanded two alleged intelligence operatives working on behalf of the United Arab Emirates in custody, according to judicial sources.

Earlier in the day, the suspects were arrested as part of a probe by Istanbul prosecutors of alleged spying by the Gulf state.

The suspects were later referred to court on charges of political, military and international espionage.

*Writing by Sibel Morrow and Beyza Binnur Donmez


UK gives British-Iranian national diplomatic protection

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal</p> <p>LONDON (AA) – Britain said Thursday it will grant “diplomatic protection” to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national who is serving a five-year prison term in Iran, as part of the government’s continuing efforts to secure her release.</p> <p>“Affording diplomatic protection in Nazanin’s case represents formal recognition by the British government that her treatment fails to meet Iran’s obligations under international law and elevates it to a formal state to state issue,” the Foreign Office said in a statement. </p> <p>Nazanin was arrested on spying charges and is accused of plotting against the Tehran government. She was sentenced in 2016.</p> <p>The Foreign Office argued that the legal proceedings brought against Nazanin failed to meet international standards.</p> <p>The latest move by the UK will bring a consular case to the level of a dispute between the two states.</p> <p>“Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is an innocent woman who has spent the last three years in an Iranian jail, separated from her daughter and husband,” Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said.</p> <p> “We have been working hard to secure her release but despite repeated efforts have not been successful. We have not even been able to secure her the medical treatment she urgently needs despite assurances to the contrary.”</p> <p>Hunt said he has decided that the UK will take a step that is extremely unusual and exercise diplomatic protection.</p> <p>He said his decision is “an important diplomatic step which signals to Tehran that its behavior is totally wrong”.</p> <p>“It is unlikely to be a magic wand that leads to an overnight result. But it demonstrates to the whole world that Nazanin is innocent and the UK will not stand by when one of its citizens is treated so unjustly.”</p> <p>Diplomatic protection is a mechanism under international law according to which a state may seek to secure reparation for injury to one of its nationals on the basis that the second state has committed an internationally wrongful act against the national.</p> <p>The British government’s move comes nearly three years after she was arrested at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport with her young daughter while boarding a flight back to the UK after a family visit in Iran. </p> <p>&quot;Iran is one of the oldest civilizations in the world. I know there are many in Iran who understand the unjustness of this situation. No government should use innocent individuals as pawns for diplomatic leverage, so I call on Iran to release this innocent woman so she can be reunited with her family,&quot; Hunt said.


UPDATE – UK 'shocked' by UAE life sentence for student


By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON (AA) – The life sentence handed to a British academic, who was accused of spying for the U.K. in the United Arab Emirates, is “shocking,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Wednesday.

“I am deeply shocked and disappointed by the verdict today,” Hunt said.

Matthew Hedges, 31, a PhD student from Durham University, has been in a UAE prison for more than six months after he was arrested while leaving the country.

On Wednesday, Abu Dhabi’s Federal Appeals Court sentenced the British academic to life in prison after convicting him of spying and providing foreign parties with sensitive information, the United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Al-Ain website reported on Wednesday.

Hedges was arrested at the Dubai International Airport in May before boarding a flight to the U.K. after a two-week working visit to the UAE, according to the website.

He worked on the effects of Arab Spring on the UAE’s foreign policies as a subject for a thesis, according to the local media reports.

In October, the Emirati authorities referred Hedges to Abu Dhabi’s Federal Appeals Court on charges of “passing on sensitive military, political and economic information to a foreign entity”.

“I have personally raised the case of Matthew Hedges at the highest levels of the UAE government, including during my visit to Abu Dhabi on 12 November,” Hunt said in a statement.

Reminding that he spoke of the case with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed, Hunt said “today’s verdict is not what we expect from a friend and trusted partner of the United Kingdom and runs contrary to earlier assurances.”

Hunt said the UK’s consular officials “have been in close contact with Matthew Hedges and his family.”

“We will continue to do everything possible to support him.”

Hunt said he has “repeatedly made clear that the handling of this case by the UAE authorities will have repercussions for the relationship between our two countries, which has to be built on trust.”

“I regret the fact that we have reached this position and I urge the UAE to reconsider,” he added.


Ex-Israeli gov’t minister’s spy trial to begin Thursday

JERUSALEM (AA) – The trial of Gonem Segev, a former Israeli government minister accused of spying for Iran, will begin Thursday in Jerusalem, according to Israeli media reports.

“Segev is accused of aiding the enemy [i.e., Iran] during a time of war [and] spying and transferring secret information to the enemy,” Israeli daily Haaretz reported Wednesday.

The newspaper went on to assert that Segev was alleged to have provided Iranian intelligence officers with “dozens” of intelligence reports.

“Segev, the indictment claims, worked for the Iranian intelligence services from 2012 and met with his operators in a number of countries and allegedly knew the information [he was providing] was intended to help Iran and harm Israel,” Haaretz wrote.

According to the newspaper, the indictment further accuses Segev of flying to Iran to meet with Iranian intelligence officers who he provided with sensitive information.

The information he supplied, Haaretz wrote, “helped Iran locate [Israeli] bases and key institutions in Israel's defense establishment”.

Last month, Israel’s Shin Bet security agency announced the arrest of Segev — who served as energy and infrastructure minister from 1995 to 1996 — on charges of spying for the Islamic republic.

Bilim Teknoloji

Ex-CIA employee charged in Wikileaks 'Vault 7' case

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – A former CIA employee was charged Monday with giving Wikileaks sensitive hacking tools developed by the agency to spy on foreign governments.

Joshua Adam Schulte, 29, is charged in a 13-count indictment that includes illegally obtaining and disseminating classified U.S. government information to Wikileaks and lying to federal investigators.

Schulte is alleged to have been the source of the “Vault 7 ” leak of the agency's tools it developed to compromise a wide array of electronic devices, including smart TVs, as well as Apple's iOS and Google's Android mobile operating systems.

Wikileaks began disseminating the information in March 2017, sparking the CIA's ire and raising questions about the source of the information.

Prosecutors are alleging that Schulte stole the information in 2016 when he deleted records of his activities and locked others out of the CIA computer system the files were on before transmitting the information to the radical transparency group.

He is also charged with copyright infringement.

“As alleged, Schulte utterly betrayed this nation and downright violated his victims, ” William F. Sweeney, Jr., the assistant director-in-charge of the FBI's New York field office, said in a statement. “As an employee of the CIA, Schulte took an oath to protect this country, but he blatantly endangered it by the transmission of Classified Information. ”

The indictment does not cite Wikileaks by name, mentioning only an “Organization-1.” But the timeline of the leaks mentioned in court documents as well as the type of information that was disseminated matches the Vault 7 leak.

Schulte was arrested on Aug. 24, 2017 and later charged with receiving, possessing and transporting child pornography. He has pled not guilty and is currently in custody.

If convicted of all charges he faces, including the earlier child pornography counts, he could face up to 135 years behind bars.

Wikileaks responded to the indictment, saying on Twitter: “Perhaps reflecting weakness of CIA case, also charged for 'criminal copyright infringement' for sharing TV shows, child porn & lying to FBI. ”


Israel arrests ex-minister suspected of spying for Iran

JERUSALEM (AA) – A former Israeli government minister has been arrested on charges of spying for Iran, Israel’s Shin Bet security agency announced Monday.

In a statement, Shin Bet said that Gonen Segev, a former energy and infrastructure minister, had been arrested — in coordination with Israeli police — on charges of “spying for Iran and serving Israel’s enemies”.

“Over the course of our investigations, we learned that Segev had been employed as a spy after being recruited by Iranian intelligence,” the statement read.

In 2012, the statement continued, “contacts between Iranian intelligence and Segev were conducted via the Iranian embassy in Nigeria”.

According to the security agency, Segev — who served as energy and infrastructure minister from 1995 to 1996 — had also met with Iranian intelligence officers inside Iran.


Israeli party leader urges PM to resign amid spy claims

JERUSALEM (AA) – Israeli opposition leader Avi Gabbay has called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to step down over reports that he spied on a number of security officials, Israeli media has reported.

On Thursday night, an investigative news program reported that Netanyahu in 2011 had asked the head of Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security agency, to monitor the phone calls of then Mossad chief Tamir Pardo and then Army Chief-of-Staff Benny Gantz.

“It is inappropriate for him [Netanyahu] to take over the top of the pyramid: a prime minister who asks the Shin Bet chief to spy on his colleagues,” Gabbay, who leads Israel’s Labor Party, was later quoted as saying by Israel’s Channel 2.

“He must go home,” Gabbay added. “There is no honor in his actions. He has trampled on the sanctity of the state.”

In a statement issued Friday, Netanyahu’s office denied the allegations made in the news report.

Pardo, the former Mossad chief, has been quoted as saying that in 2011 Netanyahu had asked Yoram Cohen, Shin Bet’s chief at the time, to use his service to spy on senior officials, including himself.

Netanyahu’s requests were, however, reportedly turned down by Cohen.

“Monitoring people is an act of mistrust; spying on the chief of Mossad — he [Netanyahu] crossed the line,” Pardo was quoted as saying.


Trump orders probe of alleged campaign surveillance

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – Under pressure from President Donald Trump, the Justice Department and FBI have agreed to investigate “any irregularities ” in the FBI's tactics involving the Trump campaign, the White House said Monday.

The Justice Department has asked its Office of the Inspector General to look into the matter, according to White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders. Chief of Staff John Kelly will also establish a meeting between the Justice Department, FBI and the Director of National Intelligence along with “Congressional Leaders ” to review “highly classified and other information they have requested, ” she said.

The exact documents that will be reviewed are unclear.

Trump on Thursday suggested the FBI may have planted an undercover informant in his 2016 campaign, saying “If so, this is bigger than Watergate! ”

He then said Sunday he would formally demand the Justice Department probe the matter and determine whether “if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration “.

Representative Devin Nunes, a key Trump ally, has sought information on the alleged FBI informant, suggesting Sunday there may have been more than one person feeding information to the FBI.

Democrats, however, have maintained the independence of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation should remain unimpeded.

“The Justice Department is not an arm of the White House. The Justice Department is independent and serves the American people, ” Senator Dianne Feinstein said on Twitter Sunday. “Its job is to follow the facts and the law. Law enforcement investigations must be initiated and carried out free from political interference. ”

Monday's announcement comes as the Trump administration continues to strike a defiant tone over Mueller's investigation into Russia and the Trump campaign's potential collusion with Moscow's alleged effort to sway the 2016 election.

The U.S. intelligence community and a separate Senate investigation concluded that the multi-faceted campaign was aimed at bolstering Trump and undercutting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Republicans on Nunes' House Intelligence Committee said they found no evidence to support the conclusion that Russia sought to help Trump — who ran as a Republican.

Trump, who has steadfastly denied suggestions of collusion and has repeatedly called Mueller's probe into the matter a “witch hunt”, rejoiced in the House Republican determination on Twitter last month.


Saudi court tries two Israeli citizens for espionage

By Mohamed Fahd

RIYADH (AA) – Two Israeli nationals facing a raft of charges — including espionage and terrorism — kicked off Monday in a Saudi court, according to local media reports.

The Al-Riyadh newspaper reported that the defendants were Israeli citizens of Arab origin who had allegedly entered the kingdom to collect information at the behest of Israel’s Mossad spy agency.

According to the newspaper, charges against the pair include plotting to threaten the security of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which this year will begin in August.

Prominent Saudi daily Okaz reported that the defendants had entered Saudi Arabia — using Jordanian passports — with the stated aim of performing the annual Umra pilgrimage.

The men reportedly stand accused of “cooperating with the Israeli Mossad to spy on the kingdom and of planning to carry out terrorist acts — to be attributed to the Daesh terrorist group — during the upcoming Hajj pilgrimage”.

The case is the first time for Israeli nationals to be formally tried by the Saudi judiciary.

Five years ago, a Saudi court slapped an Arab expatriate living in the kingdom with nine years behind bars after convicting him of spying for Israel.

Like all Arab states except Egypt and Jordan, Saudi Arabia does not maintain formal relations with Israel.