CIA, Google to monitor the web in real time, predicting the future

CIA and Google are both backing a company that monitors the web in real time — and says it uses that information to predict the future.

WIRED

The company is called Recorded Future, and it scours tens of thousands of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts to find the relationships between people, organizations, actions and incidents — both present and still-to-come. In a white paper, the company says its temporal analytics engine “goes beyond search” by “looking at the ‘invisible links’ between documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and events.”

The idea is to figure out for each incident who was involved, where it happened and when it might go down. Recorded Future then plots that chatter, showing online “momentum” for any given event.

“The cool thing is, you can actually predict the curve, in many cases,” says company CEO Christopher Ahlberg, a former Swedish Army Ranger with a PhD in computer science.

Which naturally makes the 16-person Cambridge, Massachusetts, firm attractive to Google Ventures, the search giant’s investment division, and to In-Q-Tel, which handles similar duties for the CIA and the wider intelligence community.

It’s not the very first time Google has done business with America’s spy agencies. Long before it reportedly enlisted the help of the National Security Agency to secure its networks, Google sold equipment to the secret signals-intelligence group. In-Q-Tel backed the mapping firm Keyhole, which was bought by Google in 2004 — and then became the backbone for Google Earth.

This appears to be the first time, however, that the intelligence community and Google have funded the same startup, at the same time. No one is accusing Google of directly collaborating with the CIA. But the investments are bound to be fodder for critics of Google, who already see the search giant as overly cozy with the U.S. government, and worry that the company is starting to forget its “don’t be evil” mantra.

America’s spy services have become increasingly interested in mining “open source intelligence” — information that’s publicly available, but often hidden in the daily avalanche of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports.

Secret information isn’t always the brass ring in our profession,” then CIA-director General Michael Hayden told a conference in 2008. “In fact, there’s a real satisfaction in solving a problem or answering a tough question with information that someone was dumb enough to leave out in the open.”

U.S. spy agencies, through In-Q-Tel, have invested in a number of firms to help them better find that information. Visible Technologies crawls over half a million web 2.0 sites a day, scraping more than a million posts and conversations taking place on blogs, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon. Attensity applies the rules of grammar to the so-called “unstructured text” of the web to make it more easily digestible by government databases. Keyhole (now Google Earth) is a staple of the targeting cells in military-intelligence units.

Recorded Future strips from web pages the people, places and activities they mention. The company examines when and where these events happened (“spatial and temporal analysis”) and the tone of the document (“sentiment analysis”). Then it applies some artificial-intelligence algorithms to tease out connections between the players. Recorded Future maintains an index with more than 100 million events, hosted on Amazon.com servers. The analysis, however, is on the living web.

“We’re right there as it happens,” Ahlberg told Danger Room as he clicked through a demonstration. “We can assemble actual real-time dossiers on people.”

Recorded Future certainly has the potential to spot events and trends early. Take the case of Hezbollah’s long-range missiles. On March 21, Israeli President Shimon Peres leveled the allegation that the terror group had Scud-like weapons. Scouring Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s past statements, Recorded Future found corroborating evidence from a month prior that appeared to back up Peres’ accusations.

That’s one of several hypothetical cases Recorded Future runs in its blog devoted to intelligence analysis. But it’s safe to assume that the company already has at least one spy agency’s attention. In-Q-Tel doesn’t make investments in firms without an “end customer” ready to test out that company’s products.

Both Google Ventures and In-Q-Tel made their investments in 2009, shortly after the company was founded. The exact amounts weren’t disclosed, but were under $10 million each. Google’s investment came to light earlier this year online. In-Q-Tel, which often announces its new holdings in press releases, quietly uploaded a brief mention of its investment a few weeks ago.

Both In-Q-Tel and Google Ventures have seats on Recorded Future’s board. Ahlberg says those board members have been “very helpful,” providing business and technology advice, as well as introducing him to potential customers. Both organizations, it’s safe to say, will profit handsomely if Recorded Future is ever sold or taken public. Ahlberg’s last company, the corporate intelligence firm Spotfire, was acquired in 2007 for $195 million in cash.

Google Ventures did not return requests to comment for this article. In-Q-Tel Chief of Staff Lisbeth Poulos e-mailed a one-line statement: “We are pleased that Recorded Future is now part of IQT’s portfolio of innovative startup companies who support the mission of the U.S. Intelligence Community.”

Just because Google and In-Q-Tel have both invested in Recorded Future doesn’t mean Google is suddenly in bed with the government. Of course, to Google’s critics — including conservative legal groups, and Republican congressmen — the Obama Administration and the Mountain View, California, company slipped between the sheets a long time ago.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt hosted a town hall at company headquarters in the early days of Obama’s presidential campaign. Senior White House officials like economic chief Larry Summers give speeches at the New America Foundation, the left-of-center think tank chaired by Schmidt. Former Google public policy chief Andrew McLaughlin is now the White House’s deputy CTO, and was publicly (if mildly) reprimanded by the administration for continuing to hash out issues with his former colleagues.

In some corners, the scrutiny of the company’s political ties have dovetailed with concerns about how Google collects and uses its enormous storehouse of search data, e-mail, maps and online documents. Google, as we all know, keeps a titanic amount of information about every aspect of our online lives. Customers largely have trusted the company so far, because of the quality of their products, and because of Google’s pledges not to misuse the information still ring true to many.

But unease has been growing. Thirty seven state Attorneys General are demanding answers from the company after Google hoovered up 600 gigabytes of data from open Wi-Fi networks as it snapped pictures for its Street View project. (The company swears the incident was an accident.)

“Assurances from the likes of Google that the company can be trusted to respect consumers’ privacy because its corporate motto is ‘don’t be evil’ have been shown by recent events such as the ‘Wi-Spy’ debacle to be unwarranted,” long-time corporate gadfly John M. Simpson told a Congressional hearing in a prepared statement. Any business dealings with the CIA’s investment arm are unlikely to make critics like him more comfortable.

But Steven Aftergood, a critical observer of the intelligence community from his perch at the Federation of American Scientists, isn’t worried about the Recorded Future deal. Yet.

“To me, whether this is troublesome or not depends on the degree of transparency involved. If everything is aboveboard — from contracts to deliverables — I don’t see a problem with it,” he told Danger Room by e-mail. “But if there are blank spots in the record, then they will be filled with public skepticism or worse, both here and abroad, and not without reason.”

Wikileaks released material evidences US War Crimes

Yahoo News

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Monday he believes there is evidence of war crimes in the thousands of pages of leaked U.S. military documents relating to the war in Afghanistan.

The remarks came after WikiLeaks, a whistle-blowing group, posted some 91,000 classified U.S. military records over the past six years about the war online, including unreported incidents of Afghan civilian killings and covert operations against Taliban figures.

The White House, Britain and Pakistan have all condemned the release of the documents, one of the largest unauthorized disclosures in military history.

Assange told reporters in London that “it is up to a court to decide really if something in the end is a crime. That said … there does appear to be evidence of war crimes in this material.”

Assange compared the impact of the released material to the opening of the East German secret police archives. “This is the equivalent of opening the Stasi archives,” he said.

The documents cover much of what the public already knows about the troubled nine-year conflict: U.S. special operations forces have targeted militants without trial, Afghans have been killed by accident, and U.S. officials have been infuriated by alleged Pakistani intelligence cooperation with the very insurgent groups bent on killing Americans.

WikiLeaks posted the documents Sunday. The New York Times, London’s Guardian newspaper and the German weekly Der Spiegel were given early access to the records.

White House national security adviser Gen. Jim Jones said the release “put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk.” In a statement, he then took pains to point out that the documents describe a period from January 2004 to December 2009, mostly during the administration of President George W. Bush. And, Jones added, before President Obama announced a new strategy.

Pakistan’s Ambassador Husain Haqqani agreed, saying the documents “do not reflect the current on-ground realities,” in which his country and Washington are “jointly endeavoring to defeat al-Qaida and its Taliban allies.”

The U.S. and Pakistan assigned teams of analysts to read the records online to assess whether sources or locations were at risk.

Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, said Monday that the accusations it had close connections to Taliban militants were malicious and unsubstantiated.

A senior ISI official said they were from unverified raw intelligence reports and were meant to impugn the reputation of the spy agency. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with the agency’s policy.

Hamid Gul, a former head of the ISI who is mentioned many times in the documents, also denied allegations that he’d worked with the insurgents.

Assange said his group also had many more documents on other subjects, including files on countries from across the globe.

“We have built up an enormous backlog of whistleblower disclosures,” he said. “We have in this backlog … files that concern every country in the world with a population of over 1 million.”

He refused to go into detail, but said the information included “thousands of databases and files about all sorts of countries.”

Assange said that he believed more material would flood amid the blaze of publicity.

“It is our experience that courage is contagious,” he said. “Sources are encouraged by the opportunities that they see before them.”

* U.S. bombing of Children.  Read more details…

* War more out of hand than officials said.  Read more details…

Top Secret America: A hidden world, growing beyond control

Washington Post

The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.

 These are some of the findings of a two-year investigation by The Washington Post that discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine. 

The investigation’s other findings include:

* Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.

* An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.

* In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings – about 17 million square feet of space.

* Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.

* Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year – a volume so large that many are routinely ignored.

These are not academic issues; lack of focus, not lack of resources, was at the heart of the Fort Hood shooting that left 13 dead, as well as the Christmas Day bomb attempt thwarted not by the thousands of analysts employed to find lone terrorists but by an alert airline passenger who saw smoke coming from his seatmate.

They are also issues that greatly concern some of the people in charge of the nation’s security.

“There has been so much growth since 9/11 that getting your arms around that – not just for the DNI [Director of National Intelligence], but for any individual, for the director of the CIA, for the secretary of defense – is a challenge,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in an interview with The Post last week.

In the Department of Defense, where more than two-thirds of the intelligence programs reside, only a handful of senior officials – called Super Users – have the ability to even know about all the department’s activities. But as two of the Super Users indicated in interviews, there is simply no way they can keep up with the nation’s most sensitive work.

“I’m not going to live long enough to be briefed on everything” was how one Super User put it. The other recounted that for his initial briefing, he was escorted into a tiny, dark room, seated at a small table and told he couldn’t take notes. Program after program began flashing on a screen, he said, until he yelled ”Stop!” in frustration.

“I wasn’t remembering any of it,” he said.

Underscoring the seriousness of these issues are the conclusions of retired Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, who was asked last year to review the method for tracking the Defense Department’s most sensitive programs. Vines, who once commanded 145,000 troops in Iraq and is familiar with complex problems, was stunned by what he discovered.  Read the complete details…

Secret Raytheon Military Contract Rolls out Internet Clamp Down

It would rely on a set of sensors deployed in computer networks to spy on the Internet for “attacks” on infrastructure.  The irony is that the only people who have the power and technology to cause a massive attack of the scale it is being promoted, are the very same people who are clamping down on the Internet to establish censorship and control.  The program’s name (Perfect Citizen) could not be more deceiving.

WSJ

The federal government is launching an expansive program dubbed “Perfect Citizen” to detect cyber assaults on private companies and government agencies running such critical infrastructure as the electricity grid and nuclear-power plants, according to people familiar with the program.

The surveillance by the National Security Agency, the government’s chief eavesdropping agency, would rely on a set of sensors deployed in computer networks for critical infrastructure that would be triggered by unusual activity suggesting an impending cyber attack, though it wouldn’t persistently monitor the whole system, these people said.

Defense contractor Raytheon Corp. recently won a classified contract for the initial phase of the surveillance effort valued at up to $100 million, said a person familiar with the project.

An NSA spokeswoman said the agency had no information to provide on the program. A Raytheon spokesman declined to comment.

Some industry and government officials familiar with the program see Perfect Citizen as an intrusion by the NSA into domestic affairs, while others say it is an important program to combat an emerging security threat that only the NSA is equipped to provide.

“The overall purpose of the [program] is our Government…feel[s] that they need to insure the Public Sector is doing all they can to secure Infrastructure critical to our National Security,” said one internal Raytheon email, the text of which was seen by The Wall Street Journal. “Perfect Citizen is Big Brother.”

Raytheon declined to comment on this email.

A U.S. military official called the program long overdue and said any intrusion into privacy is no greater than what the public already endures from traffic cameras. It’s a logical extension of the work federal agencies have done in the past to protect physical attacks on critical infrastructure that could sabotage the government or key parts of the country, the official said.

U.S. intelligence officials have grown increasingly alarmed about what they believe to be Chinese and Russian surveillance of computer systems that control the electric grid and other U.S. infrastructure. Officials are unable to describe the full scope of the problem, however, because they have had limited ability to pull together all the private data.

Perfect Citizen will look at large, typically older computer control systems that were often designed without Internet connectivity or security in mind. Many of those systems—which run everything from subway systems to air-traffic control networks—have since been linked to the Internet, making them more efficient but also exposing them to cyber attack.

The goal is to close the “big, glaring holes” in the U.S.’s understanding of the nature of the cyber threat against its infrastructure, said one industry specialist familiar with the program. “We don’t have a dedicated way to understand the problem.”

The information gathered by Perfect Citizen could also have applications beyond the critical infrastructure sector, officials said, serving as a data bank that would also help companies and agencies who call upon NSA for help with investigations of cyber attacks, as Google did when it sustained a major attack late last year.

The U.S. government has for more than a decade claimed a national-security interest in privately owned critical infrastructure that, if attacked, could cause significant damage to the government or the economy. Initially, it established relationships with utility companies so it could, for instance, request that a power company seal a manhole that provides access to a key power line for a government agency.

With the growth in concern about cyber attacks, these relationships began to extend into the electronic arena, and the only U.S. agency equipped to manage electronic assessments of critical-infrastructure vulnerabilities is the NSA, government and industry officials said.

The NSA years ago began a small-scale effort to address this problem code-named April Strawberry, the military official said. The program researched vulnerabilities in computer networks running critical infrastructure and sought ways to close security holes.

That led to initial work on Perfect Citizen, which was a piecemeal effort to forge relationships with some companies, particularly energy companies, whose infrastructure is widely used across the country.

The classified program is now being expanded with funding from the multibillion-dollar Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, which started at the end of the Bush administration and has been continued by the Obama administration, officials said. With that infusion of money, the NSA is now seeking to map out intrusions into critical infrastructure across the country.

Because the program is still in the early stages, much remains to be worked out, such as which computer control systems will be monitored and how the data will be collected. NSA would likely start with the systems that have the most important security implications if attacked, such as electric, nuclear, and air-traffic-control systems, they said.

Intelligence officials have met with utilities’ CEOs and those discussions convinced them of the gravity of the threat against U.S. infrastructure, an industry specialist said, but the CEOs concluded they needed better threat information and guidance on what to do in the event of a major cyber attack.

Some companies may agree to have the NSA put its own sensors on and others may ask for direction on what sensors to buy and come to an agreement about what data they will then share with the government, industry and government officials said.

While the government can’t force companies to work with it, it can provide incentives to urge them to cooperate, particularly if the government already buys services from that company, officials said.

Raytheon, which has built up a large cyber-security practice through acquisitions in recent years, is expected to subcontract out some of the work to smaller specialty companies, according to a person familiar with the project.

Mossad in South America

By WAYNE MADSEN | WMR | JUNE 2, 2010

“N”, a correspondent from an Iranian media agency, whom I met in the association of foreign journalists in Caracas, told me that he Israeli Mossadused to work in Buenos Aires for some time. Things were going well, N’s employer was satisfied with the job he did, and he planned to spend a few more years in Argentine, but eventually had to change his plans. After a while “N” noticed that he was under surveillance and that his mail regularly got stolen. Uninvited guests started to frequent his office. He talked to the local police and counterintelligence service, but both replied they had nothing to do with the problem. They did mention to “N” cautiously that he was in the sphere of interests of «the Zionists». He told me: «The people in my agency in Tehran knew that Iranian citizens often encounter such problems and concluded that the Mossad was planning a provocation against me. This is why I relocated to Venezuela. It is a country friendly to Iran, one enjoys a certain level of security guarantees here and can expect to be protected in case of need».

I had a similar conversation with “F”, a journalist from Syria. He told me frankly that he preferred to stay on the alert even in Venezuela because the Israeli intelligence service watches over all Syrians working in Latin America and often attempts to compromise them. Like most of his countrymen, “F” believes that hostile acts by the Mossad — drugs put in his pocket, allegations of links to Arab terrorists, the emergence of «documentary evidence» of connections to Colombian guerrillas — are likely. “F” said: «I am ready to face whatever happens. I’m not paranoid, I just look at things realistically. I even obtained a gun permit» and showed me a gun he wore under his jacket.

The Mossads’s objectives are listed on its official web site. They include secret collection of operative, political, and strategic information abroad, termination of terrorist activity targeting Israeli and other Jewish installations, prevention of development or acquisition of nuclear weapons by countries hostile to Israel, and covert operations abroad. The January, 2010 killing by the Mossad of the leader of the the paramilitary wing of Hamas Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel gives an idea of what the term «covert operations abroad» refers to.

A Mossad hit squad of 11 agents disguised as tourists blocked the corridor leading to the hotel room where al-Mabhouh stayed. Then the Israeli hitmen got inside, electroshocked and strangulated the man. In several hours the Mossad agents left the Emirates with fake British, Canadian, Irish, and Australian passports.

The demonstrative character of the act was supposed to highlight the Mossad’s capability to score with the enemies of Israel in any part of the world. The operation drew extensive coverage in Latin American media, most of which published the photos of the Mossad agents and, of course, that of their chief – the 64 year old Meir Dagan who has long deserved the nickname of «a man with a knife between his teeth». Among other operations, hundreds of killings of Iranian and Iraqi scientists who were involved in military-related research and were regarded as potentially dangerous to Israel are tracked to Dagan.

According to ALAI (Latin America Information Agency), the Mossad is using at least 40 Israeli companies (as well as embassies and other official institutions of the state of Israel) as fronts for its activity. The total number of the Mossad operatives in Latin America is not greater than 100-110, but an extensive network of agents and the cooperation with Jewish organizations and communities ensure the Mossad’s presence across Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Mossad’s interests gravitate to the regions south of the Rio Grande which are densely populated by Arab immigrants. The Mossad analysts believe that the epicenter of the potential «Muslim terrorism» in Latin America is located in the Zone of Three Borders between Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil. Venezuela’s Isla Margarita, a place where Lebanese and Syrian immigrants hunting for pearls started to settle down in the early XX century, is viewed similarly. When a free trade zone was opened on Margarita Island, the Arab populations switched to selling shoes, textile, and bijouterie. The Venezuelan government was a number of times forced to disprove allegations that Chavez hosts Muslim terrorists. In reality, Margarita is a small island where more or less everybody knows everybody else and no secret activity — least the operation of Hezbollah training camps — is possible.

Over the years of spying on the above «terrorist centers» Mossad never discovered the networks that could present a threat to Israel. Nevertheless, the Mossad’s efforts were not wasted, at least since the Israeli «reliable» data were invariably used by Washington in planning its struggle against terrorism in Latin America. This is the mechanism of ideological support for the establishment of increasing numbers of US military bases on the continent in the proximity of the Latin American countries with «populist» regimes.

In many cases, Israeli intelligence operatives are involved in legal arms trade business which they use to gain connections in local military circles and security services.

The Mossad also uses affiliated companies to advise its Latin American colleagues on fighting terrorism, «leftist extremism», guerrilla groups and their support networks, as well as to help intelligence services modernize their technical base. A company most often mentioned in the context is Israel’s Global CST, whose CEOs are retired high-ranking Mossad operatives. In July, 2009 the Peruvian government hired the company to help reorganize the country’s intelligence community in order to boost the efficiency of its struggle against «subversive and terrorist organizations» including the re-emerging Sendero Luminoso Maoist group. Global CST is also helping the Peruvian government create a joint system of control over mobile communications, Internet, and other communications media.

Global CST has grown notably more active in Colombia. The Israeli company familiarizes the country’s military intelligence and political police (DAS) officers with new techniques in the spheres of anti-terrorist activity and espionage. Over recent years, Columbia’s intelligence services have been increasingly assertive outside the country, evidently imitating the modus operandi of their CIA and Mossad peers. Columbia maintains intelligence networks in Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, and other Latin American countries. The FARC and ELN envoys are finding themselves under permanent surveillance, routinely kidnapped and sometimes — assassinated.

International Security Agency (ISA) mainly staffed by former Israeli special forces officers and intelligence operatives is also active in Latin America. The agency (in tight cooperation with the CIA and the Mossad) took part in the coup that displaced M. Zelaya, the legitimate President of Honduras. Currently ISA specialists are working in the security service of the current President of Honduras P. Lobo, who was propelled to presidency as the result of an imitation of free elections like those Washington realized in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There is a consensus among experts that the Mossad’s number one adversary and target in Latin America is Hugo Chavez, the political leader condemning Israel’s attempts to resolve conflicts in the Middle East by force. Chavez suspended Venezuela’s diplomatic relations with Israel in August, 2006, following the Israeli aggression against Lebanon. At that time Israeli Ambassador Shlomo Cohen and the embassy staff (mostly Mossad operatives) left Caracas. In several months Chavez took steps to normalize the relations with Israel, largely in response to the requests made by Venezuela’s 12,000 Jewish community.

The diplomatic relations between Venezuela and Israel were severed again in January, 2009 when the former protested the crimes committed by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip, where the Israeli operation resulted in the killing of over 1,000 Palestinians, a third of them — children. In a televised address, Chavez criticized Israel as a country guilty of genocide and inhumane persecution of Palestinians. Not surprisingly, Israel’s reaction was negative. In November, 2009 Shimon Peres addressed a thinly veiled threat to Chavez by saying that «Chavez will soon disappear». The Venezuelan leader remarked that Perez had to undertake a long journey to Latin America to say the words and wondered publicly what would have happened if similar words were said about Peres in Venezuela.

TV commentator and former Venezuelan Vice President José Vicente Rangel often warns in his TV show that the Mossad is planning to assassinate Chavez. Agents with the corresponding qualifications were sent to Columbia, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Panama, and Curacao Island. In Rangel’s view, the greatest threat emanates from Colombia as DAS — instigated by the CIA — already conspired quite a few times to kill Chavez. Alarming comments were also made by US journalist Eva Hollinger who is a renown expert in operations against Venezuela. Author of CIA in Venezuela Hose Sant Ross calls the Venezuelan authorities to be mindful of the Mossad’s operations in the country.

As a rule, the efforts of Venezuelan security services to identify the Mossad agents echo with carefully orchestrated protests staged by the country’s Jewish community and with «solidarity» campaigns across Latin America. Media synchronously respond by charging Chavez with antisemitism and collusion with Muslim extremism.

Actually, the theme of antisemitism recurs due to a range of causes, for example whenever the Venezuelan government takes measures to scrutinize the country’s financial sphere. For decades, there used to be a number of jewelry stores in La Francia building in downtown Caracas, not far from the Venezuelan Foreign ministry, where gold and jewelry were bought and sold with practically no fiscal control. The administration’s attempts to make the business take legal shape and to subject the accounting documents of the stores to the long-overdue audit were condemned by the opposition media as persecution of Jewish businessmen. Nevertheless, the announcement of the coming audit had an explosive effect: in a matter of hours La Francia building was completely abandoned. The most valuable stuff was evacuated secretly at night.

Venezuelan counterintelligence agents watched the process from a distance, occasionally taking pictures. They did not expect to learn anything new — it was known that the Mossad used La Francia to carry out its financial transactions.