Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Cash, Weapons and Surveillance: the U.S. is a Key Party to Every Israeli Attack - The Intercept

Cash, Weapons and Surveillance: the U.S. is a Key Party to Every Israeli Attack - The Intercept

 Article by Glenn Greenwald (with additional reporting from Andrew Fishman): The intercept

...President Obama, in his press conference on Friday,
said ”it is heartbreaking to see what’s happening there,” referring to
the weeks of civilian deaths in Gaza – “as if he’s just a bystander,
watching it all unfold,” observed Brooklyn College Professor Corey Robin. Robin added: ”Obama talks about Gaza as if it were a natural disaster, an uncontrollable biological event.” ...

The U.S. government has long lavished overwhelming aid on Israel,
providing cash, weapons and surveillance technology that play a crucial
role in Israel’s attacks on its neighbors. But top secret documents
provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden shed substantial new light
on how the U.S. and its partners directly enable Israel’s military
assaults – such as the one on Gaza.

Over the last decade, the NSA has significantly increased the
surveillance assistance it provides to its Israeli counterpart, the
Israeli SIGINT National Unit (ISNU; also known as Unit 8200), including
data used to monitor and target Palestinians. In many cases, the NSA and
ISNU work cooperatively with the British and Canadian spy agencies, the

The relationship has, on at least one occasion, entailed the covert
payment of a large amount of cash to Israeli operatives. Beyond their
own surveillance programs, the American and British surveillance
agencies rely on U.S.-supported Arab regimes, including the Jordanian
monarchy and even the Palestinian Authority Security Forces, to provide
vital spying services regarding Palestinian targets.

The new documents underscore the indispensable, direct involvement of
the U.S. government and its key allies in Israeli aggression against
its neighbors. That covert support is squarely at odds with the posture
of helpless detachment typically adopted by Obama officials and their

President Obama, in his press conference on Friday,
said ”it is heartbreaking to see what’s happening there,” referring to
the weeks of civilian deaths in Gaza – “as if he’s just a bystander,
watching it all unfold,” observed Brooklyn College Professor Corey Robin. Robin added: ”Obama talks about Gaza as if it were a natural disaster, an uncontrollable biological event.”

Each time Israel attacks Gaza and massacres its trapped civilian population – at the end of 2008, in the fall of 2012,
and now again this past month – the same process repeats itself in both
U.S. media and government circles: the U.S. government feeds Israel the weapons it uses and steadfastly defends its aggression both publicly and at the U.N.; the U.S. Congress unanimously enacts one resolution after the next to support and enable Israel;
and then American media figures pretend that the Israeli attack has
nothing to do with their country, that it’s just some sort of
unfortunately intractable, distant conflict between two equally
intransigent foreign parties in response to which all decent Americans
helplessly throw up their hands as though they bear no responsibility.

“The United States has been trying to broker peace in the Middle East for the past 20 years,” wrote the liberal commentator Kevin Drum in Mother Jones, last Tuesday. The following day, CNN reported that
the Obama administration ”agreed to Israel’s request to resupply it
with several types of ammunition … Among the items being bought are
120mm mortar rounds and 40mm ammunition for grenade launchers.”

The new Snowden documents illustrate a crucial fact: Israeli aggression would be impossible without the constant, lavish support and protection of the U.S. government,
which is anything but a neutral, peace-brokering party in these
attacks. And the relationship between the NSA and its partners on the
one hand, and the Israeli spying agency on the other, is at the center
of that enabling.

Tally of UN Vote on July 22, 2014 to investigate violations of international law in West Bank and Gaza (Credit: Ken Roth, Human Rights Watch)
of UN Vote on July 22, 2014 to investigate violations of international
law in West Bank and Gaza (Credit: Ken Roth, Human Rights Watch)
Last September, the Guardian revealed
that the NSA “routinely shares raw intelligence data with
Israel without first sifting it to remove information about US
citizens.” The paper published the
full top secret Memoranadum of Understanding between the two agencies governing that sharing. But the NSA/ISNU relationship extends far beyond that.

One newly disclosed top secret NSA document, dated April 13, 2013 and published today by the Intercept,
recounts that the “NSA maintains a far-reaching technical and analytic
relationship with the Israeli SIGINT National Unit (ISNU) sharing
information on access, intercept, targeting, language, analysis and

Specifically, “this SIGINT relationship has increasingly been the
catalyst for a broader intelligence relationship between the United
States and Israel.” Moreover, “NSA’s cyber partnerships expanded beyond
ISNU to include Israeli Defense Intelligence’s [Special Operation
Division] SOD and Mossad.”

Under this expanded cooperation, the Americans and Israelis work
together to gain access to “geographic targets [that] include the
countries of North Africa, the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, South
Asia, and the Islamic republics of the former Soviet Union.” It also
includes “a dedicated communications line between NSA and ISNU [that]
supports the exchange of raw material, as well as daily analytic and
technical correspondence.”

The relationship has provided Israel with ample support for both
intelligence and surveillance: “The Israeli side enjoys the benefits of
expanded geographic access to world-class NSA cryptanalytic and SIGINT
engineering expertise, and also gains controlled access to advanced U.S.
technology and equipment via accommodation buys and foreign military
sales.” Among Israel’s priorities for the cooperation are what the NSA
calls “Palestinian terrorism.”

The cooperation between the NSA and ISNU began decades ago. A top secret agreement between the two agencies
from July 1999 recounts that the first formal intelligence-sharing
agreement was entered into in 1968 between U.S. President Lyndon Johnson
and Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, and informally began in the
1950s. But the relationship has grown rapidly in the last decade.

In 2003 and 2004, the Israelis were pressuring the NSA to agree to a
massively expanded intelligence-sharing relationship called “Gladiator.”
As part of that process, Israel wanted the Americans to pay hundreds of
millions of dollars to fund Israeli activities. The specific proposed
“Gladiator” agreement appears never to have been consummated, derailed
by Israeli demands that the U.S. bear the full cost, but documents in
the Snowden archive pertaining to those negotiations contain what appear
to be two receipts for one or more payments of $500,000 in cash to
Israeli officials for unspecified purposes:

The surveillance-sharing relationship with Israel has expanded to include the NSA’s
British and Canadian counterparts, GCHQ and CSEC, both of which
actively participate in feeding the Israelis selected communications
data they have collected. Several documents from early 2009, at the
height of the Israeli attack on Gaza called “Cast Lead” that left more
than 1,000 people dead, detail some of this cooperation.

One top secret 2009 GCHQ project named “YESTERNIGHT” involved
“Ruffle,” the British agency’s code name for ISNU. According to the
document, the project involved a “trilateral (GCHQ, NSA and Third Party
RUFFLE) targeting exchange agreement covering respective COMSAT
accesses.” One of the “specific intelligence topics” shared between the
parties was “Palestinians”, although the GCHQ document states that “due
to the sensitivities” of Israeli involvement, that particular program
does not include direct targeting of Palestinians and Israelis
themselves. Another GCHQ document from February, 2009, describes “a
quadrilateral meeting for RUFFLE, NSA, CSEC and GCHQ.”

The British agency noted in early 2009 that it had been spying on
emails and telephone numbers specifically requested by ISNU, “and they
have thanked us many times over.”

The NSA and GCHQ receive intelligence about the Palestinians from
many sources. The agencies have even succeeded in inducing the
U.S.-supported Palestinian Authority Security Forces (PASF) to provide
them with surveillance and intelligence about other Arab groups in the
region. One July 2008 GCHQ document states:

Jordan also feeds surveillance data about the Palestinians to the
NSA. One classified NSA document from 2013 describes how “NSA’s
partnership with EWD [the Jordanian Electronic Warfare Directorate] is a
well established, long-standing and trusted relationship dating back to
the early 1980’s.” Specifically, the two agencies “cooperate on
high-priority SIGINT targets of mutual interest” that includes the
Palestinian Security Forces.

The document continues: “EWD provides high-interest, unique
collection on targets of mutual interest, such as the Palestinian
Security Forces; EWD is the sole contributor to a large body of NSA’s
reporting on this target.”


But even as the NSA and its partners are directed by political
branches to feed the Israelis surveillance data and technology, they
constantly characterize Israel as a threat – both to their own national
security and more generally to regional peace. In stark contrast to the
public statements about Israel made by American and British officials,
the Snowden archive is replete with discussions of the Israelis as a
menace rather than an ally.

NSA documents previously published by the Guardian
stated that “one of NSA’s biggest threats is actually from friendly
intelligence services, like Israel.” Another notes that the National
Intelligence Estimate ranked Israel as “the third most aggressive
intelligence service against the U.S.”

British officials have a similar view of the Israelis, describing
them as a “very real threat to regional stability.” One top secret GCHQ
planning document from 2008 notes that “policy makers remain deeply
concerned over the potential threat that Israel poses to a peaceful
resolution of the Iran problem, and to some of Israel’s less desirable
activities in the region.” Moreover, “Israel’s thinking on the long-term
threat offered by Iran to its fundamental foreign policy strategy of
armed deterrence may create very real threats to regional stability in


The NSA’s 2007 Strategic Mission List, identifying priorities for
surveillance targeting, repeatedly identifies Israel as one of the
leading threats in a diverse range of areas, including: “Combating the
threat of development of weapons of mass destruction” and “delivery
methods (particularly ballistic and nuclear-capable cruise missiles).”
The “focus area” for that concern is “WMD and missile proliferation
activities,” and one of the leading threats is listed as “Israel (cruise

The NSA internal discussion from that document regarding “Mastering
Cyberspace and Preventing an Attack on U.S. Critical Information
Systems” includes a subheading on “FIS [financial/banking system]
threats.” The nations identified as the leading FIS threats include
India, North Korea, Cuba and Israel. Similarly, Israel appears on the
list of countries believed by the NSA to be “Enabling EW

Another section of the threat assessment document is entitled
“Foreign Intelligence, Conterintelligence; Denial & Deception
Activities: Countering Foreign Intelligence Threats.” It is defined as
“Espionage/intelligence collection operations and manipulation/influence
operations conducted by foreign intelligence services directed against
U.S. government, military, science & technology and Intelligence
Community.” The countries posing the greatest threat: “China, Russia,
Cuba, Israel, Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, France, Venezuela, and South

Asked about its cooperative relationship with Israel, an NSA spokesperson told the Intercept:
“We are not going to comment on specific intelligence activities and
relationships.  The fact that intelligence services sometimes cooperate
in a lawful and appropriate manner mutually strengthens the security of
both nations.  Whenever NSA shares intelligence information or
technology, we comply with all applicable laws and rules.” A GCHQ
official refused to comment on the record beyond the agency’s standard
boilerplate claiming its activities are legal and subject to “rigorous

Legal or not, the NSA’s extensive, multi-level cooperation with
Israeli military and intelligence agencies is part of a broader American
policy that actively supports and enables Israeli aggression and
militarism. Every Israeli action in Gaza has U.S. fingerprints all over it.
Many Americans may wish that the Israeli attack on Gaza were a matter
of no special relevance or concern to them, but it is their own
government that centrally enables this violence.

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