Freitag, 7. November 2014

Mafia State: The Evolving Threat of North Korean Narcotics Trafficking

….is the title of an article, Peng Wang published with me in the RUSI Journal. The concise abstract describes it:

„The North Korean government has long been suspected of involvement in state-sponsored drug production and trafficking. Research in this field is hampered by the secrecy of the DPRK regime and the dearth of reliable sources. Nonetheless, using Chinese- and English-language sources, Peng Wang and Stephan Blancke look at developments over the past decade, intensified counter-narcotics co-operation between the Chinese and South Korean police forces, and the failure of the North Korean government to control private involvement in the illicit drug business, which has had an unexpected outcome: a crystal-meth epidemic. These trends expose a severe threat to Northeast Asia and the wider international community.“

For those who want to know the detail behind the business:

You can find the article here: RUSI Journal, Oct 2014, Vol. 159, No. 5

It´s an ongoing discussion about the question, if North Korea is a weak state or not – not to talk about a failed state. Thinking about this means thinking about the consequences, if North Korea would be this or would develop in this way. One can assume that problems would arise not with nuclear weapons or related systems – therefore the technical and social control mechanism inside the North Korean system are too tight and e.g. control flights have a close look on the nuclear facilities inside the country. In fact the problems would develop in a way Peng Wang and me described it in our paper.

I recommend a valuable analysis from Stewart Patrick, which is more a general overview and is not focused only on East Asia: Weak Links. Fragile States, Global Threats, and International Security
Reading his descriptions of fragile states it becomes clear that the GDP, financial avtivities of the elite, military and security spendings and black market revenue in North Korea are highly connected and should be investigated in a more sophisticated way.

Beside this I also recommend a paper from Nikos Passas, which was published in „Transnational Financial Crime“. In a way it deals with the problems we tried to describe for the border region between China and North Korea: Cross-border Crime and the Interface between Legal and Illegal Actors.

Montag, 2. Juni 2014

North Korea – Still an intelligence problem

Just a short note about a paper I wrote after speaking on North Korea and the problems in analysing organised crime in East Asia at a conference in Adelaide, Australia. 

A  few  years  after  Kim  Jong  Un  came  into  office,  North  Korea  is  still
attracting controversy  in  the  headlines, and  political  sanctions  are  still  in
operation.  Despite the harsh measures in place to isolate Pyongyang from
sources  of  money  and  luxury,  the  rulers  are  able  to  get  what  they  want
using front companies or the help of other states.  The reasons for this are
deeply rooted in the North Korean political structure.  A network of high
ranking  officials,  their  children,  and  political  minions  are  grappling  for
power and wealth.  Beside the powerful Kim clan there exist other families
in North Korea whose loyalty must be secured with bribes.  If the loyalty of
the influential families is eroded, the power base of Kim Jong Un is likely
to soon diminish.  As a result, the North Korean government is searching
for sources of money.  Illicit drugs may be one solution the ruling regime
find attractive to this problem, but there appears to be a twist: struggling
ordinary  citizens  are  showing  signs  that  they  too  are  taking  part  in  this
illegal  enterprise.    This  is  manifested  by  their  willingness  to  become
involved in crime in the same way as the corrupt regime. 

Read here: 

Analytical Essay: North Korea – Still an intelligence problem, in: SALUS Journal, Issue 2, Number 2, 2014, Special Issue on the Storage and Use of Information in an Intelligence and Security Context – Beyond 2014. Charles Sturt University, Sydney, pp. 2 – 15.

Montag, 24. März 2014

Kim Jong Un - The Godfather?

I published a new paper about the long lasting discussion about North Korea and its position in the international organised crime scene - as it seems to the outside analyst:

Criminal connections. State links to organised crime in North Korea, in: Jane's Intelligence Review, April 2014, Vol. 26, Issue 04, pp. 34-37.

The picture above shows Russian-made aircraft technical stuff on the Chong Chon Gang.

There are many aspects coming together, showing a dispersed society, looking for income and wealth. And it shows an influential network of younger North Koreans, trying to get more money, more power and more iPhones. In the near future I will publish a few more paper, going deeper into some special aspects of organised crime, the intelligence requirements in collecting data about it, processing it into information and  helping to crack down organised crime networks.

Sonntag, 12. Januar 2014

Wu Jiangxing knows Neuland

Interesting to read what People´s Daily from China is writing about Cyber Warfare last time: Seems the Chinese want a Network Warfare Unit...but don´t they got it already? LOL

Isn´t it some kind of ironic that Wu Jiangxing compares now the Chinese capabilities with the US or others? He is of course an expert and so it it somehow stupid that he acts like a prima donna.

The Chinese are good and Wu as the chief of the Information Engineering University - People´s daily call him an "academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering" - will know this. Its just funny to know - and ironic as well - that the Information Engineering University had some kind of "contact" to the Nortel Network in Canada... Beside this and other interesting adventures he was a 17th Party Congress PLA delegate. And he is a obviously a nationalist. Chinamail titled already in 2007: "From Soldier to Chinese Engineering Institute Academic".

He seems to be friendly, but for all you may smile and say: Jens Rosenke and me will go deeper in our new analysis about Chinese military espionage... coming soon!

Donnerstag, 9. Januar 2014

Jang Song-thaek, the Torch Group and Kiribati passports

After processing a few data about DPRK and trying to understand the dots I begin to understand (I try to!) more and more the reasons why Jang was executed. And it becomes clearer for me how to understand information in this grey zone of dynasties, elites, princelings, cliques, departments in special ministries...There are some parallels to the former Soviet bloc and Western analysts can expect of course more action of this kind. Maybe one can compare this to a mafia operation getting out of control.

But disturbance is not good for business. And so one can read the Chinese media about the consequences.

I can´t believe that a few Kiribati passports will be the end of the story: I guess that the guys from the North will be able to get some very other passports for doing business...

Donnerstag, 2. Januar 2014

Information sharing

Anybody who is interested in information sharing inside intelligence organisations should listen to a very interesting speech by Sean Dennehy, who was involved in the development of Intellipedia. You can find it here.

Well, instead of the boring national media coverage here in Germany there are many useful and valuable discussions and papers about this and similar projects on the international level.

Freitag, 27. Dezember 2013

Reading and thinking...

Obviously there is a lack of serious analysis of the current leaks from Edward Snowden and the so called “scandals” about hacked mobiles from governmental officials as the German chancellor or other more or less important persons around the globe. It is a real problem to let the media – despite their in parts brave role in the NSA-case – or the intelligence agencies themselves explain the How and Why of surveillance and monitoring communication. Terms from the intelligence sector are too often mixed with conspiracy theories. Technical definitions are described as if there would have never been any statement about them before.

E.g. “Spiegel Online” writes that the Merkel mobile would be on the NSA watch list since 2002. The article points to an ominous unit called "Special Collection Service" (SCS), almost as if the world would hear for the first time from SCS. But it was – beside many, many others – “The Spiegel”, who wrote 2001 about the KGB spy Robert Hanssen: “Für die Russen war er eine glänzende Investition, denn vermutlich hat Hanssen sogar die Kronjuwelen der US-Dienste ausgehändigt: Informationen über den "Special Collection Service", der, gesteuert von der CIA und der Abhörbehörde NSA, auf heimischem Boden ausländische Botschaften überwacht und im Ausland mit modernstem Hightech-Lauschgerät die elektronische Kommunikation von Regierungen, Behörden und Militär mitschneidet.“

And there are plenty of other articles to read, official or gray literature and leaked classified documents. For example one of the few very good reference books writes about the Central Security Service (CSS): "... CSS has within it - like a matryoshka nesting Doll - the quiet more elite and clandestine SCS. Primarily Composed of NSA Specialists, SCS operatives typically use diplomatic cover in order to put in place eavesdropping equipment in areas where access to U.S. intelligence by less laborious means would be considerably more difficult " (Lerner / Lerner ( Ed.): Encyclopedia Of Espionage , Intelligence And Security , Volume 3 , Farmington Hills 2004, p 103) .

What about a rereading of the reports of the European Parliament? Already in October 1999 Duncan Campbell has found clear words for the SCS and the technology they used. Yes, it is connected with archival research and has nothing to do with tabloid press nonsense. Go to the library and read PE 168 184 Volume 2/5: Read and think.

There is enough to study before start planning a counterintelligence operation, but it is necessary to look to similar aspects of intelligence covert work. For a current view on the developments of a few intelligence operational standards I recommend Mark Mazzetti and his last book “The Way Of The Knife. The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the End of the Earth”, published 2013 by Penguin Press. There you find many valuable references to present-day intelligence undercover work, outsourcing, assassination, drones etc. And of course one should read the publications of “them” to understand the special current approach. “No Data, No Analysis” was the meaningful title of an essay in “The Intelligencer. Journal Of U.S. Intelligence Studies” from Fall/Winter 2005. And already in 2000 one could read about “Covert Action and Foreign Policy in the Twenty-First Century” (Chapter 19 in John Jacob Nutter´s book about “The CIA´s Black Ops”). Of course the work from the SCS and other units is highly connected to covert operations.

A few years earlier Charles D. Ameringer wrote his very readable book about “U.S. Foreign Inteligence: The secret Side Of American History” (1990), especially Chapter 18 about “The Clandestine CIA” is still somehow a modern analysis. But it seems that many of those naive politicians, responsible for intelligence work AND the counterintelligence failures, should read some more offensive, but quite good books like “How to Stage a Military Coup” form David Hebditch and Ken Connor. Maybe then they will understand how visible they can be and will be, if it is important. Not without a reason John Pike says: " It's a black -bag , breaking -and- entering , Mission Impossible -type agency ."

Jeff Stein wrote for the Washington Post in 2010: " ... a joint CIA -NSA surgery known as the Special Collection Service, conduct ultra-sensitive operations against foreign targets from U.S. and allied embassies abroad." Abroad is even Germany! Stone also quoted Matthew M. Aid , an author: "The targets of the special collection units include the cell phone communications of (foreign ) government ministers, police officials, military commanders (and) ... security teams that are following (our) intelligence agents around the city ..."

Beside nervous people from various ministries the intelligence services are targeted by the SCS. Proactive measures are necessary, if the operations of the SCS shall run again walls. To do this one must understand the historical development of the SCS. It has of course technical reasons why the SCS teams are being substantially increasing. The old structures - two to three people and corresponding shift work – are things of the past. Today they cooperate with other units, which are also essential for more black operations, observation etc. Even for this you can find relevant literature. I recommend to go through old FOIA documents. There one might come to code F6 . This would lead to the HQ (Beltsville, MD), possibly one would be able to piece together 600 employees ... looking for F7 would help to understand suspicious SIGINT operations in this country, and perhaps this would lead to SORC/FP. And then prepare the paralysing counter operation...