Monthly Archives: August 2014

Australian Federal Police seize millions from the bank accounts of nine Russian business people

Nine Russian nationals used a Gold Coast ANZ bank to wire large sums of money from companies in Asia.image

Nine Russian nationals used a Gold Coast ANZ bank to wire large sums of money from companies in Asia. Photo: Glenn Hunt

The Gold Coast branch of the ANZ Bank sees its share of wealthy new customers, but few could match the smartly-dressed tourists with Russian accents who opened accounts in 2011.

Within days of setting up the accounts in the heart of Surfers Paradise, the money started rolling in in the form of six- or seven-figure wire transfers from companies in Asia.

First came several hundred thousand from an account in Hong Kong, then just weeks later another six-figure sum, then half a million from an account in China, then several more transfers. Eventually there was almost $29 million in accounts in the names of nine Russian nationals.

Late last year Federal Police moved in, raiding homes on the Gold Coast and taking action in Queensland’s supreme court to freeze the cash under money-laundering laws.

Police in the court argued that the Russians, from Irkutsk in Siberia, did not earn enough to justify the vast sums.

The Russians, who remain in Siberia, hit back, hiring their own lawyer and rejecting the allegations.

This week Fairfax Media has learnt some of the nine have been the subject of media reports in Russia linking them to alleged tax avoidance and failed companies. They are alleged to have been involved   in the jade mining industry in an area which has seen a series of violent robberies and deadly


The Russians have denied the allegations, with one of their number saying the group were only trying to close a deal in Queensland that would have involved the export of Australian powdered milk to Siberia.

And their Gold Coast-based tour guide, whose post box was used to receive correspondence for their ANZ bank accounts, says they were legitimate business people looking to invest and send their children to one of the Gold Coast’s top private schools.

The dispute provides a snapshot of the global movement of shadowy funds out of eastern Europe’s turbulent economy and the attractiveness of destinations such as the Gold Coast as a financial haven.

The first to arrive on the Gold Coast on December 30, 2010, was a party of five: Eduard Zelinskiy, Irina Strelnikov and Vladimir Strelnikov and Natalia Gudkova and Andrey Gudkov.

All five listed on their visa applications some connection with the Siberian-based Baikalkvartssamotsvety or Baikal Quartz Gemstones company, which mines precious and semi-precious stones west of Irkutsk.

All opened the accounts in about January 2011, then returned to Russia.

Two months later more Siberian associates with a connection to the mining company landed on the Gold Coast and made their way to the ANZ Bank to open accounts.

In March 2011 the quartz company’s commercial director, Eduard Karmadonov, 45, came for a visit. Police believe he earned about $24,879 a year but his ANZ account showed $12 million, while his wife Elena Karmadonova, 35, who accompanied him, finished up with $843,306 in her ANZ account.

Then there was the general director of the mining company, Sergey Kostyukov, 50, who visited about the same time and set up an account. Mr Kostyokov, who police believed earned $65,005 a year, eventually notched up about $2.9 million in his ANZ account.

Even the medical officer of the company, Galina Chuvasova, 49, tagged along for the trip and despite an annual income estimated by the police as being about $12,640, had $650,832 in her ANZ account.

Once on the Gold Coast, the Russians used the services of  tour guide Tamara Allnutt, who allowed them to use her post box to receive correspondence. She denies any impropriety and swears the group were legitimate business people.

“What we think is a lot of money to us is not necessarily so to them. Not every Russian businessman is a crook. Some are genuine people here to invest in the Gold Coast. They have businesses and they wanted to invest in Australia. They were more interested in dairy products.”

Visa debit charge records placed on the court record by the police reveal extraordinary expenditure overseas by Mr Karmadonov, who reportedly spent $1.008 million between March 2011 and September 2013, while his wife spent $189,759 between January 2012 and September 2013, all in exotic destinations throughout Europe and Asia.

Police in their legal action say they suspect the money is “the proceeds of an indictable offence or offences”.

But earlier this year Sydney lawyer Igor Kazagrandi in court documents said the respondents denied the money was the proceeds of unlawful activity.

Russian media have reported on some of the nine Siberians and there have also been reports of violent robberies at the Baikal Quartz mine and a deadly shooting nearby.

One online newspaper alleged Mr Kostyukov and Baikal Quartz Gemstones had been investigated for failing to pay taxes of about $300,000 and for fraudulently filing for bankruptcy.

Speaking from Irkutsk, Mr Kostyukov  denied any impropriety and said the group were in Australia to set up the dairy exports.

Asked about the quartz mining business, he declined to comment.

On Monday, in the Supreme Court as part of their action to seize the money, the Federal Police filed requests for subpoenas for two dairy products companies based in Brisbane.

An employee at one of the companies confirmed some Russians had been in touch to discuss a dairy products deal but he said he did not know anything about any subpoenas.

A spokesman for the ANZ Bank said they could not comment on customers. The Australian Federal Police declined to comment because the matter was before the court.

Further court hearings are expected before the end of the year.

Henry Sapiecha


Google for spies: how the NSA made a search engine for personal metadata

Headquarters of the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Maryland. USA image

Headquarters of the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Maryland.

This post was originally published on Mashable.

America’s National Security Agency doesn’t just store cellphone data — it can also look up who users talked to through its own Google-like search engine.

The agency’s search engine called ICREACH can comb through around 850 billion files of phone calls, emails and more made by Americans and citizens of other nations, according to The Intercept. All those records are available to 23 agencies, such as the FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency, which have access to the search engine.

Government analysts can search for specific bits of data associated with a person, such as a phone number or an email address, and up pops a list of emails both to and from that person over a period of time. From there, analysts can figure out who a person interacts with the most, according to The Intercept.

Agents do this by picking through metadata, which doesn’t include what was said during a phone call, but does include who a person is talking with, who called whom and the time of the call. Analysts can use that data to develop patterns of behavior. If an agent wants to listen to the call someone always makes on Tuesdays at 9 pm, for example, they can plan for it.

The legality of bulk metadata storage in the US is based on an executive order from former President Reagan. But the ICREACH database stores data mostly related to non-Americans, meaning no US domestic agencies are allowed to use it to build a legal case against a US citizen.

The concern, according to The Intercept, is that officials from agencies such as the FBI or the DEA could use the database to build a legal case against an American, then hide how they got their information, though there is no evidence yet that a domestic agency has done that.

Multiple government agencies did not respond to requests for comment about the possible legal issues with ICREACH,

The search engine is reportedly the first of its kind that allows different US government agencies to share metadata amongst themselves, and it can handle between 2 billion to 5 billion new records per day and costs around $US2.5 million to $US4.5 million per year.

Former NSA Director Keith Alexander first came up with the idea in 2006, and it was up-and-running in pilot form near the end of 2007, according to The Intercept.

Henry Sapiecha

Surveillance system being supplied which can track all & any mobile phones anywhere in the world

tracking your phone footprints at any time image

Illustration: Michael Mucci

Makers of surveillance systems are offering governments across the world the ability to track the movements of almost anybody who carries a mobile phone, whether they are blocks away or on another continent.

The technology works by exploiting an essential fact of all mobile phone networks: They must keep detailed, up-to-the-minute records on the locations of their customers to deliver calls and other services to them. Surveillance systems are secretly collecting these records to map people’s travels over days, weeks or longer, according to company marketing documents and experts in surveillance technology.

The world’s most powerful intelligence services, such as the National Security Agency in the US and Britain’s GCHQ, have long used mobile phone data to track targets around the globe. But experts say these new systems allow less technically advanced governments to track people in any nation with relative ease and precision.

Users of such technology type a phone number into a computer portal, which then collects information from the location databases maintained by mobile phone carriers, company documents show. In this way, the surveillance system learns which tower a target is currently using, revealing his or her location to within a few blocks in an urban area or a few kilometres in a rural one.

It is unclear which governments have acquired these tracking systems, but one industry official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share sensitive trade information, said that dozens of countries have bought or leased such technology in recent years. This rapid spread underscores how the burgeoning, multibillion-dollar surveillance industry makes advanced spying technology available worldwide.

“Any tin-pot dictator with enough money to buy the system could spy on people anywhere in the world,” said Eric King, deputy director for Privacy International, a London-based activist group that warns about abuse of surveillance technology. “This is a huge problem.”

Security experts say hackers, sophisticated criminal gangs and nations under sanctions also could use this tracking technology, which operates in a legal grey area. It is illegal in many countries to track people without their consent or a court order, but there is no clear international legal standard for secretly tracking people in other countries, nor is there a global entity with the authority to police potential abuses.

In response to questions from The Washington Post this month, the US Federal Communications Commission said it would investigate possible misuse of tracking technology that collects location data from carrier databases. The United States restricts the export of some surveillance technology, but with multiple suppliers based overseas, there are few practical limits on the sale or use of these systems internationally.

“If this is technically possible, why couldn’t anybody do this anywhere?” said Jon Peha, a former White House scientific adviser and chief technologist for the FCC who is now an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University. He was one of several telecommunications experts who reviewed the marketing documents at The Washington Post’s request.

“I’m worried about foreign governments, and I’m even more worried about non-governments,” Peha said. “Which is not to say I’d be happy about the NSA using this method to collect location data. But better them than the Iranians.”

Location tracking is an increasingly common part of modern life. Apps that help you navigate through a city or find the nearest coffee shop need to know your location. Many people keep tabs on their teenage children – or their spouses – through tracking apps on smartphones. But these forms of tracking require consent; mobile devices typically allow these location features to be blocked if users desire.

Tracking systems built for intelligence services or police, however, are inherently stealthy and difficult – if not impossible – to block. Private surveillance vendors offer government agencies several such technologies, including systems that collect cellular signals from nearby phones and others that use malicious software to trick phones into revealing their locations.

Governments also have long had the ability to compel carriers to provide tracking data on their own customers, especially within their own countries. The National Security Agency, meanwhile, taps into telecommunication-system cables to collect mobile phone location data on a mass, global scale.

But tracking systems that access carrier location databases are unusual in their ability to allow virtually any government to track people across borders, with any type of cellular phone, across a wide range of carriers – without the carriers even knowing. These systems also can be used in tandem with other technologies that, when the general location of a person is already known, can intercept calls and internet traffic, activate microphones, and access contact lists, photos and other documents.

Companies that make and sell surveillance technology seek to limit public information about their systems’ capabilities and client lists, typically marketing their technology directly to law enforcement and intelligence services through international conferences that are closed to journalists and other members of the public.

Yet marketing documents obtained by The Washington Post show that companies are offering powerful systems that are designed to evade detection while plotting movements of surveillance targets on computerised maps. The documents claim system success rates of more than 70 per cent.

A 24-page marketing brochure for SkyLock, a cellular tracking system sold by Verint, a maker of analytics systems based in New York, carries the subtitle “Locate. Track. Manipulate”. The document, dated January 2013 and labelled “Commercially Confidential,” said the system offers government agencies “a cost-effective, new approach to obtaining global location information concerning known targets.”

The brochure includes screen shots of maps depicting location tracking in what appears to be Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, Congo, the United Arab Emirates, Zimbabwe and several other countries. Verint says on its website that it is “a global leader in Actionable Intelligence solutions for customer engagement optimisation, security intelligence, and fraud, risk and compliance” with clients in “more than 10,000 organisations in over 180 countries”.

(Privacy International has collected several marketing brochures on cellular surveillance systems, including one that refers briefly to SkyLock, and posted them on its website. The 24-page SkyLock brochure and other material was independently provided to The Washington Post by people concerned that such systems are being abused.)

Verint, which also has substantial operations in Israel, declined to comment for this story. It said in the marketing brochure that it does not use SkyLock against US or Israeli phones, which could violate national laws. But several similar systems, marketed in recent years by companies based in Switzerland, Ukraine and elsewhere, likely are free of such limitations.

At The Washington Post‘s request, telecommunications security researcher Tobias Engel used the techniques described by the marketing documents to determine the location of a Post employee who used an AT&T phone and consented to the tracking. Based only on her phone number, Engel found the Post employee’s location, in downtown Washington DC, to within a city block – a typical level of precision when such systems are used in urban areas.

“You’re obviously trackable from all over the planet if you have a cellphone with you, as long as it’s turned on,” said Engel, who is based in Berlin. “It’s possible for almost anyone to track you as long as they are willing to spend some money on it.”

AT&T declined to comment for this story.

The tracking technology takes advantage of the lax security of SS7, a global network that carriers use to communicate with one another when directing calls, texts and internet data.

The system was built decades ago when only a few large carriers controlled the bulk of global phone traffic. Now thousands of companies use SS7 to provide services to billions of phones and other mobile devices, security experts say. All of these companies have access to the network and can send queries to other companies on the SS7 system, making the entire network more vulnerable to exploitation. Any one of these companies could share their access with others, including makers of surveillance systems.

The tracking systems use queries sent over the SS7 network to ask carriers what tower a customer has used most recently. Carriers configure their systems to transmit such information only to trusted companies that need it to direct calls or other telecommunications services to customers. But the protections against unintended access are weak and easily defeated, said Engel and other researchers.

By repeatedly collecting this location data, the tracking systems can show whether a person is walking down a city street or driving down a highway, or whether the person has recently taken a flight to a new city or country.

“We don’t have a monopoly on the use of this and probably can be sure that other governments are doing this to us in reverse,” said lawyer Albert Gidari Jr., a partner at Perkins Coie who specialises in privacy and technology.

Carriers can attempt to block these SS7 queries but rarely do so successfully, experts say, amid the massive data exchanges coursing through global telecommunications networks. P1 Security, a research firm in Paris, has been testing one query commonly used for surveillance, called an “Any Time Interrogation” query, that prompts a carrier to report the location of an individual customer. Of the carriers tested so far, 75 per cent responded to “Any Time Interrogation” queries by providing location data on their customers.

“People don’t understand how easy it is to spy on them,” said Philippe Langlois, chief executive of P1 Security.

The Washington Post

Henry Sapiecha

Telstra found divulging web browsing histories to law-enforcement agencies without a warrant

Telstra says it has divulged customers' web browsing histories without a warrant.image www.intelagencies.coms

Telstra says it has divulged customers’ web browsing histories without a warrant.

The federal government has been left red-faced following revelations that law-enforcement agencies have been accessing Australians’ web browsing histories without a warrant.

Access to phone and internet data held by telecommunications companies has been the subject of much debate recently, as the government seeks to extend the power of intelligence agencies to fight terrorism. It has proposed telcos retain customers’ metadata for up to two years for investigation.

However, spy agency ASIO and federal police have given assurances that data on what websites Australians visit – know as web history – could only be obtained with warrants.

Now a paper published by the parliamentary library on Monday has revealed an industry practice of providing website addresses (URLs) to law enforcement without warrants.

Telstra confirmed on Tuesday evening it had provided URLs to agencies without a warrant “in rare cases”. It did not name the agencies or how many times it provided information.

Jaan Murphy, author of the report, said the current regime already appeared to allow for access.

“The current regime for access to metadata arguably allows law enforcement and intelligence agencies to access [Uniform Resource Locators] under the umbrella of ‘metadata’ (provided the URL does not identify the content of the communication) despite stakeholders holding contradictory perspectives,” Murphy wrote.

In the paper, Murphy quotes a little-known submission by Telstra to a previous inquiry which examined, among many things, whether telcos should be required by law to store certain customer data for a period of up to two years.

Telstra’s submission indicated that the type of data it had already disclosed to law-enforcement and national security agencies without a warrant included “…(URLs) to the extent they do not identify the content of the communication”.

“Industry practice therefore illustrates that URLs are currently provided to law-enforcement and national security agencies without a warrant,” Murphy concluded.

A Telstra spokeswoman said the company did “not collect URLs as a normal part of providing customer services”.

“The last time we did so was in relation to a life-threatening situation involving a child more than 12 months ago,” she said.

In further comments published on Telstra’s Twitter account, company representatives said it did “not collect and store web browsing history against customer accounts”.

“We welcome the clarity from government that browsing history is not part of the current proposal,” Telstra added in two subsequent tweets, referring to the controversial data retention proposal.

In a Senate inquiry discussing comprehensive revisions of the Telecommunications Interception and Access Act last month, outgoing ASIO chief David Irvine said to gain access to web browsing histories agencies such as ASIO needed a warrant.

“Web surfing … is not picked up by us and is not regarded by us as metadata; it is regarded as content, and we need to have a warrant for that,” Mr Irvine told Senator Scott Ludlam.

The Act requires Telstra comply with warrantless authorisation requests from law-enforcement agencies or non-content data. Agencies that can access the data include federal, state and territory police, Medicare, Bankstown Council in NSW, WorkSafe Victoria, the RSPCA, the Tax Office, Australia Post, ASIO, ASIC and many others when conducting criminal and financial investigations.

In 2012-13 the Attorney-General’s Department reported that such data was accessed 330,640 times, an 11 per cent increase over the previous year and a jump of 31 per cent over two years.

A spokesman for Attorney-General George Brandis declined to comment to Fairfax Media, but told ZDNet that access to URLs should require a warrant.

“Security agencies currently require a warrant to access URLs and this requirement will continue,” the spokesman reportedly said.

Earlier this month, the Attorney-General and Prime Minister Tony Abbott said a mandatory data retention regime had been given “in principle” cabinet approval for legislating later this year. They said it was needed to ensure telcos continued to retain data for law-enforcement purposes.

But both have struggled to explain exactly what data would be retained under the regime, although Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has explicitly ruled out web browsing histories.

Telstra’s contradictory statements and assurance that it doesn’t normally collect URLs, but was able to provide them in rare cases, is unlikely to satisfy privacy advocates and civil libertarians.

The Attorney-General’s department, which administers the Act, has, over the past month, repeatedly refused to answer Fairfax questions about what constitutes metadata and whether it includes web browsing histories.

Victoria Police and NSW Police have also refused to provide a definition of metadata.

In high-level briefings with intelligence officials in Canberra, journalists were told that web browsing histories did not constitute metadata. Internet surfing history was considered “content”. Websites visited were also not metadata, they were told.

Northern Territory Police and Victorian Police have previously lobbied parliament for browsing histories to be stored as part of any data retention regime.

Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner and National Manager of high tech crime operations, Neil Gaughan, has also said previously that any data retention regime should include browsing histories, despite deputy commissioner Andrew Colvin recently saying the opposite.

Several Coalition MPs have spoken out about the data retention plan, warning there is a potential for the changes to breach the rights of individuals to privacy.

Prime Minister Abbott’s recently appointed Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson is also against data retention, as are a number of other civil liberties groups.

Optus said it did not comment on specific data retention practices or law enforcement requests.

“Optus co-operates fully with law enforcement and national security agencies as required by legislation and in accordance with the rules established for access to customer information,” an Optus spokeswoman said.

Comment was also sought from Vodafone but it had not responded at the time of publication. Its privacy policy was recently updated to include the fact it collected “the websites you visit and the online searches you perform“.

Henry Sapiecha

Me and my shadow – A history of the FBI’s counterintelligence

“Me and My Shadow”: A History of the FBI’s Covert Operations and COINTELPRO

In early 1971, COINTELPRO came to light when a “Citizens Committee to Investigate the FBI” removed secret files from an FBI office and released them to the press. Agents began to resign from the Bureau and blow the whistle on covert operations that went far beyond intelligence gathering. That same year, publication of the Pentagon Papers, the Pentagon’s top-secret history of the Vietnam War, exposed years of systematic official lies about the war. The public exposure of COINTELPRO and other government abuses resulted in a flurry of apparent reform in the 1970s, but domestic covert action did not end.

Henry Sapiecha

“The Art of Intelligence” Henry A. Crumpton

Published on May 16, 2012

Crumpton joined the CIA in 1981 and spent twenty-four years working undercover around the world, from Africa to Afghanistan. His experiences gave him a deep knowledge of and appreciation for the Agency and a special understanding of the capacities and limits of national security.

Henry Sapiecha

CIA Spy Interview – Terrorism and Interrogation

Published on May 3, 2013

Retired CIA Spy Glenn L. Carle discusses his role as Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Transnational Threats on the National Intelligence Council, the US Intelligence community’s most senior position for strategic analysis of critical national security issues.

Glen worked on terrorism at various times since the mid-1980s and he worked extensively on Balkan, Afghan, Central American, and European political, security, and economic issues. He retired from the CIA in March of 2007.

This video covers the two interview sessions by host Sonali Kolhatkar.

Henry Sapiecha

CIA Mind Control Techniques MK ULTRA Program

Published on Dec 21, 2013

Project MKUltra is the code name of a U.S. government human research operation experimenting in the behavioral engineering of humans through the CIA’s Scientific Intelligence Division. The program began in the early 1950s, was officially sanctioned in 1953, was reduced in scope in 1964, further curtailed in 1967 and officially halted in 1973. The program engaged in many illegal activities; in particular it used unwitting U.S. and Canadian citizens as its test subjects, which led to controversy regarding its legitimacy. MKUltra used numerous methodologies to manipulate people’s mental states and alter brain functions, including the surreptitious administration of drugs (especially LSD) and other chemicals, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation, verbal and sexual abuse, as well as various forms of torture.

The scope of Project MKUltra was broad, with research undertaken at 80 institutions, including 44 colleges and universities, as well as hospitals, prisons and pharmaceutical companies. The CIA operated through these institutions using front organizations, although sometimes top officials at these institutions were aware of the CIA’s involvement. As the Supreme Court later noted, MKULTRA was:

concerned with “the research and development of chemical, biological, and radiological materials capable of employment in clandestine operations to control human behavior.” The program consisted of some 149 subprojects which the Agency contracted out to various universities, research foundations, and similar institutions. At least 80 institutions and 185 private researchers participated. Because the Agency funded MKULTRA indirectly, many of the participating individuals were unaware that they were dealing with the Agency.

Project MKUltra was first brought to public attention in 1975 by the Church Committee of the U.S. Congress, and a Gerald Ford commission to investigate CIA activities within the United States. Investigative efforts were hampered by the fact that CIA Director Richard Helms ordered all MKUltra files destroyed in 1973; the Church Committee and Rockefeller Commission investigations relied on the sworn testimony of direct participants and on the relatively small number of documents that survived Helms’ destruction order.

In 1977, a Freedom of Information Act request uncovered a cache of 20,000 documents relating to project MKUltra, which led to Senate hearings later that same year. In July 2001 some surviving information regarding MKUltra was officially declassified.

Henry Sapiecha

NSA : Documentary on the Secret Intelligence Agency NSA

This NSA documentary is a full on video showing the ins & outs of the TOP secret spy agency NSA

Henry Sapiecha

Nova: The Spy Factory Full Video

Examine the high-tech eavesdropping carried out by theNational Security Agency and the pitfalls of surveillance in an age of terrorism.

CIA, FBI, NSA organizations investigate the al qaeda involvement in 9/11 September 11 2001 twin towers world trade centre wtc bombing truth conspiracy

Henry Sapiecha