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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 8/4/14

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

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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:


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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:


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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."

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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 2009."

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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 missiles)."

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 (producers/proliferators)."

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 Korea."

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 oversight."

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Glenn Greenwald is one of three co-founding editors of The Intercept. He is a journalist, constitutional lawyer, and author of four New York Times best-selling books on politics and law. His most recent book, No Place (more...)
 

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