Palestinians are being arrested by Israel for posting on Facebook
11 oktober 2017
One of the more insidious aspects of Israel’s military dictatorship in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is its blanket monitoring of Palestinian social networks and other forms of communication via the internet. This often leads to arrests being made. A recent report by 7amleh, the Arab Centre for Social Media Advancement, names 21 Palestinians who have been imprisoned or detained by Israel for their posts on Facebook.
An ongoing narrative popular among Israeli propagandists in the past few years blames the nebulous concept of “incitement” for the phenomenon of Palestinians fighting back against Israel’s brutal occupation forces. A Mossad proxy organisation misleadingly known as the “Israel Law Centre” (aka Shurat HaDin) has even launched lawsuits against Facebook for supposedly facilitating terrorism. A US federal court threw the billion-dollar case out in May.
Last year, Israel’s anti-BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) minister Gilad Erdan claimed that Israeli blood was “on the hands of Facebook” and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Shurat HaDin even organised a campaign to raise money for a billboard that would have been erected outside Zuckerberg’s home.
Predictive Policing: “Falsches” Facebook-Posting führt in Israel oft zu Haft
11 oktober 2017
Predictive Policing: “Falsches” Facebook-Posting führt in Israel oft zu Haft
Palästinensische Aktivisten haben rund 800 Fälle dokumentiert, in denen junge Leute in Israel wegen Facebook-Äußerungen festgenommen wurden. Auf der Konferenz von Netzpolitik.org ertönte der Ruf nach einer “Gemeinwohlförderung” von Algorithmen.
Marwa Fatafta vom Arab Center for Social Media Advancement 7amleh hat am Freitag auf der vierten Konferenz von Netzpolitik.org in Berlin ein düsteres Bild von “Predictive Policing” in Israel gezeichnet. Seit Oktober 2015 habe die palästinensische Organisation rund 800 Fälle dokumentiert, in denen junge Leute wegen Facebook-Postings verhaftet worden seien, erklärte die Aktivistin. Die Betroffenen verschwänden oft einfach einige Monate im Gefängnis, ohne dass ihnen ein ordentlicher Prozess gemacht werde.
Israel and Facebook team up to combat social media posts that incite violence
11 oktober 2017
Israeli officials are drafting legislation to force social media networks to ‘rein in’ racially-charged content, raising legal and ethical issues
Israel and Facebook will begin working together to tackle posts on the social media platform that incite violence, a senior Israeli cabinet minister has said.
A spate of high-profile new attacks on Israelis in the past 12 months have been incited by inflammatory posts on Facebook, the government argues, which is why legislation to compel the company to delete posts that encourage violent behaviour is on the books.
Representatives from Facebook met with government ministers last week, including interior minister Gilad Erdan and justice minister Ayelet Shaked, who have repeatedly called on the company to do more to monitor and control content.
THE NEW TARGETS FBI Stings Zero In on ISIS Sympathizers. Few Have Terrorist Links.
25 april 2017
Trial and TerrorTrial and Terror
The U.S. government has prosecuted almost 800 people for terrorism since the 9/11 attacks. Most of them never committed an act of violence.
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BOSTON POLICE CAPT. Robert Ciccolo was one of the first responders to the Boston Marathon bombings. When his 23-year-old son, Alexander, who had converted to Islam and given himself the name Ali Al Amriki, began telling his father he was “not afraid to die for the cause,” Ciccolo became alarmed. Alexander had a history of mental illness, and his interest in Islam had become an obsession. In October 2014, Ciccolo contacted the FBI about his son.
The federal agents could have monitored Alexander, or perhaps confronted him. Instead, as the bureau does in most such cases, agents launched an investigation. They found Alexander’s Facebook page, listed under his nom de guerre. There was a photograph of a young man in a wooded area wearing a head covering and holding a machete. “Another day in the forest strengthening myself,” the caption read. Another photo on his Facebook page appeared to show a dead American soldier. “Thank you Islamic State!” read the caption.
As part of a sting, an FBI informant contacted Alexander and offered to provide him with guns for an attack. After Alexander collected the weapons on July 4, 2015, FBI agents arrested him and charged him with terrorism-related offenses. As he was being processed at a detention center, he stabbed a nurse with a pen, causing a minor injury. His case made national news, and FBI Director James Comey told reporters that Alexander Ciccolo’s was among several plots related to the Fourth of July holiday that were foiled by counterterrorism agents. “I do believe that our work disrupted efforts to kill people, likely in connection with July 4,” Comey told reporters during a July 7, 2015, briefing.
Alexander Ciccolo is among 63 men and women who have been arrested in FBI stings targeting ISIS sympathizers, according to an analysis of federal terrorism prosecutions by The Intercept.
Demonstrating the evolving threat of terrorism in the United States, alleged ISIS sympathizers are now the primary targets of FBI stings, upstaging Al Qaeda, the Shabab, and all other terrorist groups. The first ISIS case in the United States culminated in an arrest in March 2014, and the number quickly grew. Fifty-eight people were charged in 2015 for alleged ISIS affiliations. In 2016, 32 FBI cases involved ISIS sympathizers, compared to just one each that year involving Al Qaeda and Shabab sympathizers.
But as with earlier FBI stings that primarily targeted Al Qaeda sympathizers, most of the targets of the bureau’s ISIS stings are aspirational, not operational.
In the majority of ISIS stings, targets were not in direct contact with ISIS representatives and did not have weapons of their own, government evidence showed. Instead, these targets were inspired by online propaganda to join ISIS and either made arrangements on their own to travel to Syria or were aided by FBI informants or undercover agents in their attempts join ISIS or plot attacks inside the United States.
BOSTON, MA – JUNE 24: Boston cab drivers rallied this morning before attending a hearing, chaired by Capt. Robert Ciccolo, seen here, with Boston Police Hackney Division at Roxbury Community College regarding a proposed fare increase. (Photo by George Rizer/The Boston Globe via Getty Images) Capt. Robert Ciccolo chairing a hearing at Roxbury Community College. Photo: George Rizer/The Boston Globe/Getty Images
After Alexander was arrested, FBI agents read him his Miranda rights. He then sat for an interview with FBI agents Paul Ambrogio and Julia Cowley.
Dressed in a black T-shirt and jeans, he refused to talk about the guns, but he defended ISIS as a just organization, even as he demonstrated his ignorance about the group. The FBI recorded the interview.
“ISIS claimed responsibility, right, for a lot of beheadings?” Ambrogio asked. “There’s someone who names himself Jihadi John and he beheads people, right? He does it in an online way so that people can see it. So what’s your feeling about that? They represent themselves as ISIS; they’re ISIS. What’s your feeling?”
“The people that you see being executed are criminals,” Alexander answered. “They’re criminals. They’re the lowest of the low.”
According to his family, Alexander, a high school dropout, had battled off and on with alcohol addiction. He was also admitted to a psychiatric institution when he was a teenager.
As a child, he went back and forth between the homes of his father, a stern cop who did not respond to requests for comment for this story, and his mother, something of a free spirit. Alexander followed in his mother’s footsteps.
“I raised him Catholic; he was baptized Catholic,” said Shelley MacInnes, his mother. “He stayed with his Catholic beliefs for quite a long time. I would say he is a very religious person and very spiritual, but as he got older, I think he started searching.”
Alexander Ciccolo first gravitated toward Buddhism and spent time at the Grafton Peace Pagoda in Petersburgh, New York. In 2012, he and other members of the Peace Pagoda walked around Lake Ontario to raise awareness of the dangers of nuclear power. A photograph from the time shows him wearing a green V-neck T-shirt and holding a handwritten sign that reads: “Peace walk for no more Fukushima.”
Shortly after, he returned to Massachusetts and announced that he would become a Muslim. “One day we were out having dinner, and he went to the bathroom,” MacInnes recalled. “He ran into an imam. … He was so excited. ‘Mom, you’re aren’t going to believe what just happened.’”
Alexander became fixated on Islam and ISIS, and he would talk often with his parents about his newfound beliefs. “He’s always been an investigator, never takes anything at face value,” MacInnes said. “As far as ISIS goes, my personal opinion is that he was investigating the validity of that organization, rather than taking the media’s answer for it.”
Following its sting playbook, the FBI introduced to Alexander an informant posing as an ISIS sympathizer. The informant and Alexander met for the first time in person on June 24, 2015. The young man told the informant that he wanted to travel to another state and use pressure cooker bombs to attack two bars and a police station. Over the course of a week, his plan changed from bombing bars and a police station to attacking a university. He boasted that he knew how to use sniper rifles and had grown up with guns. “I know what I’m doing,” he said.
But Alexander didn’t have any weapons, aside from a couple of machetes. His only would-be bomb components were a pressure cooker purchased from Wal-Mart and some half-made Molotov cocktails.
That’s where the FBI stepped in again. The undercover informant provided Alexander with two assault rifles and two handguns. As soon as Alexander took possession of the guns, FBI agents arrested him, charging him with attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization and attempting to use weapons of mass destruction. He was also charged with being a felon in possession of firearms, owing to an earlier state conviction of driving under the influence.
BRIGHTON — Buddhist nun Jun Yasuda, left, Lauren Carlbon and Alex Ciccolo on their recent peace walk through Brighton. Ms. Yasuda and her fellow walkers are traveling 600 km around Lake Ontario to spread awareness about the dangers of nuclear energy and weapons. July 26, 2012. Alexander Ciccolo, right, along with Buddhist nun Jun Yasuda and Lauren Carlbon, on a peace walk through Brighton, Mass., July 26, 2012. Photo: Dave Fraser/Metroland Media/The Independent
WHETHER OUT OF mental illness, immaturity, or naiveté, Alexander Ciccolo professed support for ISIS, but it’s unclear whether he would have posed a threat had the FBI informant not encouraged him and provided him with weapons. In this way, Ciccolo’s case is prototypical of ISIS stings.
In these cases, the FBI provides encouragement and capacity to otherwise hapless individuals.
For example, in a similar case in April 2016, the FBI arrested a South Florida man who allegedly plotted to bomb a Jewish community center. An FBI informant gave James Medina, a homeless man with a history of making baseless threats of violence, the opportunity. It was in fact the FBI informant who first came up with the idea of crediting their attack to ISIS. Farther north, in upstate New York, Emanuel L. Lutchman, another homeless man, told an FBI informant that he had received directions from an overseas ISIS member and was planning an attack, using a machete and knives, on a New Year’s Eve celebration in Rochester. The FBI’s informant provided the $40 Lutchman needed to purchase the machete and knives.
In other ISIS stings, the FBI has encouraged and helped to facilitate the international travel of would-be ISIS recruits. An example is the case of Jason Michael Ludke, a Milwaukee man who made contact with an FBI undercover employee through social media. The FBI undercover employee, pretending to be affiliated with ISIS, encouraged Ludke and his friend Yosvany Padilla-Conde to join the terrorist group. The pair drove from Wisconsin to Texas, where they were arrested. According to Padilla-Conde’s statements after the arrest, they were under the impression that the FBI undercover employee was going to assist them in crossing the border into Mexico and then traveling to Iraq or Yemen. Ludke and Padilla-Conde are facing charges of material support for terrorists.
The analysis of terrorism prosecutions by The Intercept shows that federal judges have wrestled with appropriate punishments for those convicted of ISIS-related terrorism offenses.
Some defendants who were arrested before they had an opportunity to travel to Syria have received relatively lenient sentences. Mohammed Hamzah Khan, of Bolingbrook, Illinois, was arrested as he attempted to board a flight to Turkey at O’Hare International Airport. He received about three years in prison. Shannon Maureen Conley, who lived in Colorado, received about four years after she was arrested at the airport in Denver, on her way to Turkey.
At the same time, defendants whose support for ISIS consisted of online activity, such as distributing propaganda on social media, have received comparable sentences to, and in some cases more prison time than, defendants who tried to join ISIS on the battlefield. Heather Elizabeth Coffman, of Glen Allen, Virginia, used several social media accounts to communicate with FBI informants posing as ISIS agents. She was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison. Ali Shukri Amin, who also lived in Virginia, admitted that he operated a pro-ISIS Twitter account and blog and provided instructions to ISIS supporters on how to use Bitcoin to avoid currency transfer restrictions. He was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison.
But the most significant prison sentences await those who, like Alexander Ciccolo, moved forward with terrorist plots in the United States, even if it was the FBI making them possible. Christopher Cornell, of Cincinnati, Ohio, plotted with an FBI informant to travel to Washington, D.C., and attack the U.S. Capitol. He was arrested as he was leaving a gun store. After pleading guilty to terrorism-related charges, Cornell was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Lutchman, who was involved in the purported plans to attack a New Year’s Eve celebration in upstate New York, pleaded guilty to material support and received a 20-year prison sentence.
It’s still too early to establish conclusive trends about the sentencing of ISIS defendants in U.S. District Courts. Of the 110 ISIS defendants charged, only 45 have been sentenced.
Yet the arrests of ISIS sympathizers continue at a steady clip, even when the targets of stings have proven themselves to be incompetent ISIS recruits.
An example is Mohamed Rafik Naji, of New York, who attempted five times to travel to ISIS territory but never made it. That’s when an FBI informant, posing as an ISIS affiliate, contacted him through Facebook.
The informant told him that ISIS needed someone to attack Times Square with a garbage truck. “I was saying if there is a truck, I mean a garbage truck, and one drives it there to Times Square and crushes them,” Naji told the informant, repeating the idea. Naji was indicted in November 2016 on a charge of material support for terrorists, the 93rd person to be charged in federal court in an ISIS-related case.
Alexander Ciccolo is now undergoing psychological evaluation; his trial is pending. MacInnes, Ciccolo’s mother, believes he was an impressionable young man manipulated by the FBI and set up with weapons that he never could have obtained on his own. “I don’t think he even knew what his plan was,” MacInnes said.
April 20 2017, 7:15 p.m.
Find this story at 20 April 2017
Mossad Reportedly Turned French Spies Into Double Agents After Joint Syria Op
25 april 2017
Le Monde reveals how Israeli espionage agency allegedly exploited a successful chemical weapons operation to get French counterparts to become sources; former head of French counterintelligence agency being questioned as suspect in case.
PARIS – An internal report written by French intelligence, parts of which were published in the daily newspaper Le Monde on Sunday, reveal efforts by the Mossad to develop relationships with French spies, “to the point of crossing the line of turning them into double agents.”
The audit report recommends investigating Bernard Squarcini, the head of the General Directorate for Internal Security until 2012, on suspicion of maintaining unauthorized and unreported ties with the Mossad’s Paris bureau chief at the time (identified in the report only by his initials, D.K.).
The background to all this was a joint operation launched by the Mossad and French counterintelligence agency in 2010 to collect intelligence about Syrian President Bashar Assad’s chemical warfare plans. The operation, code-named Ratafia, aimed to recruit a senior Syrian engineer, who was meant to come to France to do additional training in chemistry and also to help recruit other engineers.
The Mossad and French agents would hold work meetings using assumed names, as is customary. The French agents, who belonged to three different counterintelligence units, were responsible for the operation in Paris, while the Mossad agents were responsible for the plot that would enable the Syrian target to leave the country for studies and to recruit others in the French capital.
Police officers guard the General Directorate for Internal Security headquarters in Levallois Perret, outside Paris, 2015.
Police officers guard the General Directorate for Internal Security headquarters in Levallois Perret, outside Paris, 2015.Christophe Ena / AP
But according to the report, the Israelis exploited the operation to persuade an unknown number of French agents to also serve as intelligence sources for Israel.
One of the French agents under surveillance was seen going up to the apartment of the Mossad’s Paris chief for dinner one Friday night. Later, he reported to his superiors that he was going to Dubai on vacation, when in fact he flew with his family to Israel, where he spent time with Mossad agents without permission and without reporting the meetings afterward.
In addition, according to the report, suspicious sums of money were deposited in the bank accounts of those French agents who were involved in the Ratafia operation.
The internal report calls for further investigation to understand what damage was done to the French intelligence service.
Le Monde also published details about the Ratafia operation. The paper claimed that the Mossad succeeded in recruiting the Syrian engineer and extracted information from him about Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal.
The French daily said the operation enabled Israel to prove that the scientific cooperation between the European Union and Syria was being used to boost Assad’s chemical weapons program, which led to the cancellation of the agreement with the Syrians in 2011.
According to Le Monde, the Mossad’s interest in building relations with French spies was exposed because a different French espionage agency, responsible for information security, was keeping the agents under surveillance and photographed them with Mossad agents.
The paper said that all the Mossad agents involved were identified by their real names. The French filed a formal complaint, and two Israeli diplomats in the Israeli Embassy in Paris left their posts and returned to Israel. The Mossad chief, D.K., also returned to Israel following the French complaint.
According to the report, the two Mossad agents suspected of contacts with the French have left the service and are now private businessmen in Tel Aviv. But during 2016, the report noted, they made contact with Squarcini (the counterintelligence head they’d worked with) in Paris.
Squarcini, who is now being questioned as a suspect in the case, told investigators he met the two “totally by chance.”
A short time before the suspicions came to light, Squarcini himself launched an internal inquiry into whether the Mossad was trying to recruit French agents as sources. However, the agents he put under surveillance did not include those involved in the Ratafia operation, even though Squarcini was fully aware of the close ties that had developed between his people and the Mossad operatives, the report said.
An investigating judge appointed by the French filed an official request with Israel to question the two ex-Mossad agents who made contact with Squarcini in 2016. It isn’t clear if he received a response.
The judge is seeking to build on the internal investigative report and broaden the investigation into whether the Mossad infiltrated French intelligence under Squarcini.
Dov Alfon Mar 27, 2017 5:40 PM
Find this story at 27 March 2017
Associés dans l’opération « Ratafia », les espions français et israéliens se sont-ils espionnés entre eux ?
25 april 2017
Le Mossad aurait tenté d’infiltrer le service de contre-espionnage
français dans le cadre de l’opération visant à lutter contre le
programme d’armes chimiques syrien, à partir de 2010.
Dans le monde de l’espionnage, si des services décident d’unir leurs
efforts, cela n’en fait pas pour autant des amis. Rien ne les empêchera
de s’espionner. Jamais. La preuve lors d’une opération qui a réuni, à
partir de 2010, la sécurité intérieure française et le service secret
israélien du Mossad pour lutter contre le programme d’armes chimiques
développé par le régime syrien de Bachar Al-Assad.
L’enquête de sécurité interne diligentée par la Direction centrale du
renseignement intérieur (DCRI, devenue Direction générale de la sécurité
intérieure en 2014) sur la tentative du Mossad d’infiltrer, à cette
occasion, le service de contre-espionnage français illustre ces
pratiques. Lorsque l’opération ayant pour nom de code « Ratafia »
débute, en 2010, c’est encore l’union sacrée pour prendre au piège un
Syrien qui doit effectuer des séjours en France. Il s’agit de l’amener à
livrer des secrets sur le programme d’armes chimiques syrien auquel il
Lorsque le Mossad obtient le soutien de plusieurs groupes de la DCRI et
d’agents de la DGSE, tous ses membres agissent sous de faux noms et une
dizaine d’entre eux sont des clandestins à l’exception de D.K., chef de
poste du Mossad à Paris. Selon les accusations de la DCRI, auxquelles Le
Monde a eu accès, le Mossad aurait profité du contact quotidien avec ces
agents français lors des séjours de la cible syrienne pour nouer des
liens jugés suspects.
L’un des agents français a ainsi été vu fêtant le shabbat avec le chef
de poste du Mossad à Paris, il est également parti faire du tir à Dubaï
puis a rejoint, en famille, ses camarades du Mossad à Jérusalem. Une
proximité revenant, selon la DCRI, à franchir la ligne jaune. Des
soupçons portent également sur le versement de sommes d’argent en
espèces et l’existence de cadeaux contraire aux règles internes.
Résultat, plusieurs agents français intégrés dans l’équipe conjointe
avec le Mossad se verront retirer leur habilitation secret défense et
seront mutés dans des services subalternes.
L’enquête interne de la DGSI se garde cependant de rappeler qu’un autre
groupe de la DCRI, chargé de contre-espionnage, s’est arrangé pour
prendre en photo, à leur insu, les agents du Mossad qui travaillaient
avec les Français. Un audit sera, enfin, déclenché sur l’utilisation des
fonds de l’opération « Ratafia » après la découverte de demandes de
remboursement de frais douteux.
Cette enquête interne a été évoquée dans le cadre d’une information
judiciaire visant Bernard Squarcini, chef de la sécurité intérieure de
2007 à 2012. Soupçonné d’avoir pu utiliser les moyens d’écoutes de son
service à des fins personnelles, il s’est défendu en indiquant que le
bref placement sur écoute d’un fonctionnaire qui lui est reproché était
destiné à vérifier s’il n’avait pas été, à son tour, « touché » par ce
service étranger. Ce qui se révéla infondé. « Le service de sécurité de
la DCRI m’a informé qu’une entreprise de matériel côtoyait de très près
des personnels ex-RG affectés aux missions de surveillance
opérationnelle et qu’il s’agissait d’une tentative du Mossad ou de gens
considérés comme très proches d’infiltrer le service », a ajouté M.
Squarcini. S’il a évoqué la compromission de policiers de son service,
il n’a, en revanche, pas dit un mot sur l’opération « Ratafia » menée
avec le Mossad.
La DCRI fit part de ses griefs à la hiérarchie du Mossad à Tel-Aviv.
Deux membres de l’ambassade d’Israël à Paris furent priés de quitter la
France, dont D. K. Ils ont quitté le Mossad et se sont reconvertis dans
le privé. M. Squarcini a affirmé qu’il avait, par hasard, rencontré, en
2016, ces deux hommes venus en France pour affaires.
Fin décembre, les juges d’instruction ont émis, à l’attention de
l’Inspection générale de la police nationale (IGPN), deux commissions
rogatoires pour en savoir plus sur cette affaire. La première sur
l’enquête de contre-espionnage visant le Mossad et les relations
existant entre ce service et la DGSI, la seconde demande aux policiers
d’entendre les deux anciens du Mossad qu’aurait rencontrés M. Squarcini.
LE MONDE | 25.03.2017 à 11h26
Par Jacques Follorou
Find this story at 25 March 2017
Al Arabiya investigates: Who really killed Hezbollah’s Mustafa Badreddine?
5 april 2017
On the May 13, 2016, Lebanese people were surprised when the Hezbollah’s leading man Hassan Nasrallah was seen mourning the death of his most senior militia commander Mustafa Badreddine.
No sooner did the news of Badreddine demise in Syria broke out, the Lebanese media adopted the story perpetuated by Hezbollah on the circumstances surrounding his death. Still, a few days later, questions began to rise about the credibility of Hezbollah’s version of events.
After investigations into the story, evidence proved that Badreddine did not die fighting in the battlefields of Syria as claimed, but rather, the Hezbollah militia commander was assassinated. And the person responsible for his assassination was none other but his revered leader and friend, Hassan Nasrallah.
Events leading up to May 12
In 2013, Hezbollah was summoned to fight in Syria and Nasrallah commissioned Badreddine to lead the factions there alongside Iran’s Qassem Soleimani who led Quds Force, a branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Soleimani ignored Badreddine’s great experience and aspired to lead the entire battle all by himself. While Badreddine took one risk after the other in the battlefields, leading his soldiers to victories and assuming full responsibility for the losses, he discovered that Soleimani was favoring the lives of the revolutionary guards over those of Hezbollah. The former asked the latter to lead his soldiers himself and take full responsibility over his army.
Both Hassan Nasrallah and Qassem Soleimani are said to have a hand behind Mustafa Badreddine mysterious death.
While Badreddine was fighting with his army in Syria, he was tried in absentia at the International Tribunal in the case of the assassination Rafiq Hariri, former Prime Minister of Lebanon in 2005. Nasrallah has been under a huge pressure from Soleimani, who requested the removal of Badreddine from the battlefield. Consequently, it appears that he had schemed to get rid of the commander.
The question then begs: What really happened on the evening of May 12, 2016? How did Soleimani and Nasrallah arrange the assassination of Mustafa Badreddine? And what really happened near the Damascus International Airport on the night between the May 12-13, 2016?
On May 14, 2016, less than two days after the operation, Al-Akhbar newspaper published the results of the investigation. Badreddine was reported to have arrived to the international airport was reportedly accompanied to the meeting with three other people but was the only one who was killed.
Initial reporting by Al-Mayadeen blamed Israel for the fatal attack, claiming that an Israeli Air Force (IAF) strike successfully targeted Badreddine’s position. But that article was later erased.
The cause of his death was assumed to be a vacuum bomb, while the nearest fighter group was 12 km away from the Damascus airport, which places it in the range of the artillery. Yet, these groups usually used unguided shells for their operations.
However, no gun powder residue found at the scene.
Infographic: Who was Hezbollah’s Mustafa Badreddine?
(Design by: Craig Willers)
Nicholas Blanford, a nonresident senior fellow with the Middle East Peace and Security Initiative, recently wrote an analysis on that point.
“The one claim of responsibility from the rebels came from the Jaysh al-Sunna group which said it had killed Badreddine in Khan Touman in southern Aleppo province. If that were true, why would Hezbollah hide it and make up a story about “takfiris” killing Badreddine much further south in the Damascus airport area?” Blanford asked.
“Also it is unclear what weapon system would be in the hands of rebel groups in the vicinity of Damascus airport that could account for the “large explosion” that Hezbollah said on Friday killed Badreddine. Diplomatic sources in Beirut confirmed that there really was a powerful blast near Damascus airport on Thursday (May 12) even if its origin remains unknown,” Blanford added.
One airport employee recounted the events of the night, saying airport employees were being barred from entering their workplace as the operation was taking place.
“As I was approaching to go to work, I saw a lot of people crowding near the airport. At approximately 10 PM that night we suddenly heard a loud bang and what sounded like fire from three rifles,” the airport employee told Al Arabiya.
“We tried approaching the scene to see what was going on but we were stopped by Hezbollah fighters telling us we weren’t allowed to enter. They did not even allow Syrian senior army officer or the Syrian police from entering the airport,” he said.
Images show the reported site hours before Mustafa Badreddine was killed compared to the same site pictured a day later. (Al Arabiya)
Al Arabiya also obtained images of the site where Mustafa Badreddine was killed which revealed aerial views of the exact scene on May 12 and May 14, both photos showing the site unscathed.
On the same say, the Shiite cleric Abbas Hoteit declared to the south Lebanon website Janoubia that “Badreddine was killed by two treacherous bullets”.
Evidence and eyewitness accounts suggested that four people met at the security building near the Damascus airport that night, one of them being Badreddine himself. The identity of the second person was discovered immediately after the operation on Twitter when a number of people reported they saw Soleimani leaving the site minutes before the operation. The third person was Badreddine’s bodyguard, who could not save his commander’s life.
According to eyewitnesses, the fourth person identified was Ibrahim Hussein Jezzini, a person who Badreddine reportedly trusted the most.
Badreddine’s death was seen as a victory for those affected by his involvement in attacks dating back to the 1980s, reportedly including the deadly suicide truck bombing attack that left over 200 US soldiers dead in Beirut in 1983 as well as the bombings targeting the French and US embassies in Kuwait the same year.
Al Arabiya News ChannelWednesday, 8 March 2017
Find this story at 8 March 2017
Israel’s Army Chief: Hezbollah Commander Mustafa Badreddine Killed by His Own Men
5 april 2017
Killing of Mustafa Amine Badreddine last year shows the ‘depth of the internal crisis within Hezbollah,’ Gadi Eisenkot says.
Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said reports that Mustafa Amine Badreddine was killed by Hezbollah officers are in accordance to “intelligence we have.” The incident “indicates the depth of the internal crisis within Hezbollah,” and “the extent of the cruelty, complexity and tension between Hezbollah and its patron Iran.”
He added that despite Hezbollah’s fighting in Syria providing it with cumulative operational experience, it remains in crisis. “It is an internal crisis over what they are fighting fore, an economic crisis and a leadership crisis,” he asserted. Eisenkot was speaking at an academic conference in Netanya.
Badreddine, one of Hezbollah’s highest ranking military commanders, was killed in Syria in May last year. Initial reports attributed the attack to a covert Israeli operation, but signs suggested otherwise.
Badreddine was said to have assumed the position of his brother-in-law, Hezbollah commander Imad Moughniyeh, who died in a 2008 assassination in Damascus also attributed to Israel. However, some dispute his official status as the group’s military leader, saying he was only in charge of its operations in Syria, as Hezbollah has never publicly named a successor for Moughniyeh, whose son Jihad was also killed in Syria in an attack said to be Israel’s doing.
A U.S. Department of the Treasury statement detailing sanctions against Badreddine had said he was assessed to be responsible for the group’s military operations in Syria since 2011, and he had accompanied Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah during strategic coordination meetings with Assad in Damascus.
Eisenkot also hinted at the Israeli army’s recent operational activity, which has generated tension with the Russian regime. He said, “Despite six years of war in Syria, we are managing to maintain a quiet border, and to prevent the growth in power of those who need not be strengthened with advanced weaponry.” He added that the civil war in Syria involves not only risks but also “many opportunities for regional and international cooperation.”
In his remarks, Eisenkot also stressed Iran’s influence on Hezbollah and Hamas. “Iran is waging before us another campaign, a proxy war, and it is present both in Lebanon and in Syria with thousands of Shi’ite militiamen, as well as in Gaza,” he said. The chief of staff contended that the “primary challenge” for the Israel Defense Forces is Hezbollah, which operates both in Lebanon and in Syria.
Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, however, said Iran poses Israel’s foremost threat. Iran did not give up its nuclear ambitions, and it is trying to influence and shape the Middle East, said Cohen, also at the conference.
“As long as the Ayatollah regime exists, Iran will be the primary challenge for the security establishment, with or without the nuclear deal,” he asserted.
Gili Cohen Mar 22, 2017 12:44 PM
Find this story at 22 March 2017
© Haaretz Daily Newspaper Ltd
TOP HEZBOLLAH COMMANDER MUSTAFA BADREDDINE ASSASSINATED BY OWN GROUP: ISRAELI MILITARY
5 april 2017
Israel’s military chief said Tuesday that a top Hezbollah commander who died last year was assassinated by members of his own group, the Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite militia.
Mustafa Badreddine died near the Syrian capital, Damascus, in May 2016, and Hezbollah said that Syrian rebel shelling caused his death.
But recent Arab media reports have alleged that Hezbollah wanted rid of Badreddine because of a difference in opinion on how to wage the military campaign in support of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Hezbollah has deployed thousands of troops to the war-torn country to boost the Syrian dictator’s ranks.
Lieutenant-General Gadi Eisenkot, chief of the Israeli armed forces, said that Israeli intelligence had corroborated reports of Hezbollah assassinating one of its own commanders, but did not elaborate on the circumstances.
“According to [media] reports, he was killed by his superiors, which points to the extent of the cruelty, complexity and tension between Hezbollah and its patron, Iran,” he said during a conference speech in the central Israeli city of Netanya, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. “These reports corresponded with the information we have and with our assessment.”
Read more: Another war between Israel and Hezbollah is inevitable
He continued: “It is an internal crisis over what they are fighting for, an economic crisis and a leadership crisis.”
Hezbollah spokesman Mohammed Afif told Reuters the Israeli remarks were “lies that do not deserve comment.”
Both the U.S. and Israel believed 55-year-old Badreddine to be Hezbollah’s military commander in Syria. His brother-in-law Imad Mughniyeh was Hezbollah’s military commander until he was assassinated in a 2008 bomb blast in Damascus, which reports suggested was the work of both Israel’s Mossad and America’s CIA agencies. Israel as a rule does comment on its foreign operations.
The Lebanese militia fought a one-month war with Israel, its primary enemy, in 2006. It centered on the southern Lebanese border with northern Israel, and the Golan Heights, a contested territory that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Iran, whose leadership routinely calls for Israel’s destruction, continues to support Hezbollah financially and militarily. Israel continues to conduct strikes against Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon to prevent Iranian arms transfers to the group.
BY JACK MOORE ON 3/21/17 AT 1:51 PM
Find this story at 21 March 2017
2 Lebanese, 2 Nepalese and 1 Palestinian Held for Spying for Israel
5 april 2017
The General Directorate of General Security announced Wednesday that it has arrested two Lebanese men, two Nepalese women and a Palestinian man on charges of “spying for Israeli embassies abroad.”
“During interrogation, the detainees confessed to the charges, admitting that they had called phone numbers belonging to the Israeli enemy’s embassies in Turkey, Jordan, Britain and Nepal with the aim of spying and passing on information,” a General Security statement said.
The investigations revealed that the two aforementioned Nepalese women were actively recruiting Nepalese domestic workers in Lebanon with the aim of spying for Israel.
“They gave them the phone number of the Israeli embassy in Nepal so that they pass on information about their employers to the Mossad Israeli intelligence agency,” the statement added.
“Following interrogation, they were referred to the relevant judicial authorities on charges of collaborating with the Israeli enemy and efforts are underway to arrest the rest of the culprits,” General Security said.
by Naharnet Newsdesk 25 January 2017, 16:04
Find this story at 25 January 2017
Naharnet © 2017
Leading Hezbollah commander and key Israel target killed in Syria (2016)
5 april 2017
Hezbollah has confirmed its military commander, Mustafa Badreddine, was killed in Syria this week in what it described as a “major explosion” at Damascus airport.
Media reports in Lebanon and Israel quickly suggested the blast had been caused by an Israeli airstrike, a suggestion to which Hezbollah gave weight, announcing it was investigating whether a “missile or artillery strike” had been responsible.
Badreddine was the most senior member of the organisation to have been killed since the death of his predecessor and brother-in-law, Imad Mughniyeh, who was assassinated by a joint Mossad/CIA operation in the Syrian capital in February 2008.
There was no immediate reaction from the Israeli government, which has authorised at least eight air strikes against targets inside Syria since the start of the civil war five years ago. Most had targeted anti-aircraft systems that Israeli officials claimed were being moved to Lebanon, where they could pose a threat against its air force.
Mustafa Amine Badreddine, in an undated handout picture released at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon website.
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Mustafa Amine Badreddine, in an undated handout picture released at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon website.
Announcing Badreddine’s death, Hezbollah said: “He said months ago that he would not return from Syria except as a martyr or carrying the flag of victory. He is the great jihadi leader Mustafa Badreddine, and he has returned today a martyr.”
The statement added: “The information gleaned from the initial investigation is that a major explosion targeted one of our centres near Damascus International airport, which led to the martyrdom of Sayyid Zul Fikar [his nom de guerre] and the injuries of others.
“The investigation will work to determine the nature of the explosion and its causes, whether it was due to an air or missile or artillery strike, and we will announce the results of the investigation soon.”
Nicknamed Zul Fikar, after the sword of Imam Ali, the Prophet Muhammad’s cousin and one of the most revered figures in Shia Islam, Badreddine was born in 1961 in the southern Beirut suburb of Ghobeiry, and rose to greater prominence after Mughniyeh’s assassination.
He was sentenced to death in Kuwait in the 1980s over a plot to blow up the American and French embassies there during the Iran-Iraq war, but later escaped after Saddam Hussein’s army invaded the oil-rich emirate and threw open its prisons.
Hezbollah said he had been involved in nearly all the group’s operations since its inception in the early 1980s. Most had targeted Israel, which occupied southern Lebanon from 1982 to 2000. However, Badreddine had also been accused of leading a cell that was allegedly responsible for the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri on the Beirut waterfront in February 2005.
He was indicted in 2011 by the special tribunal for Lebanon, an international court established in the Hague, in connection with the massive 2005 bombing, which led Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to withdraw his forces from Lebanon in the face of a civic uprising.
Badreddine and four other alleged members of Hezbollah remain on trial in absentia at the Hague. Prosecutors have offered one of the few publicly available glimpses of the shadowy Hezbollah operative, describing him as the “apex” of the cell that allegedly killed Hariri, and a figure akin to an “untraceable ghost” who assumed multiple identities.
‘Nobody wants to stay in Lebanon. It’s a miserable life’
He was known to have studied at a Lebanese university and to have maintained an apartment in the Lebanese seaside area of Jounieh. He was also active in the south Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh, where he was last seen early last year at a wake for Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of Imad Mughniyeh, who was also killed by an Israeli airstrike.
While holding senior positions throughout his career, Badreddine was most known for his role in leading Hezbollah’s large contingent in Syria, which it sent to defend the interest of the Assad regime as his grip on power weakened in 2012. Hezbollah has since lost an estimated 900 members in fighting across Syria, where along with Iran, it has taken the lead in directing numerous battles.
Israel has refused to comment on airstrikes it has previously launched inside Syria. However, unnamed officials have said the strikes had targeted anti-aircraft systems that were allegedly being transferred to Hezbollah. It had also targeted a Hezbollah leader, Samir Kuntar, who had been jailed inside Israel for more than 30 years until his release in 2008.
Despite Israeli protests, Russia has recently proceeded with a long-delayed sale to Iran of the advanced S-300 weapons system, which can shoot down most modern fighter jets. Israeli officials have said they would prioritise tracking the whereabouts of the systems, the position of which in southern Lebanon would pose a potent threat to their air force.
The US treasury department sanctioned Badreddine in 2012 for his activities in support of the government of Assad in Syria, along with the group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, and its head of external operations, Talal Hamiyah.
Hezbollah said it would hold funeral services on Friday in honour of Badreddine. In south Beirut, posters of Badreddine, whose image had rarely been published, were being hung from overpasses and lamp-posts.
Tens of thousands of mourners are expected to pay their respects at a shrine site for Hezbollah dead, which includes the graves of Imad and Jihad Mughniyah. Nasrallah is also expected to make a public statement – his second within a week.
Martin Chulov and Kareem Shaheen in Beirut
Friday 13 May 2016 04.00 BST First published on Friday 13 May 2016 03.32 BST
Find this story at 13 May 2016
© 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited
Mustafa Badreddine: the Hezbollah leader who left no footprints (2016)
5 april 2017
Elias Saab. Sami Issa. Safi Badr. Zul Fikar. All were aliases of Hezbollah’s secretive military commander, Mustafa Amine Badreddine, described in court records as an “untraceable ghost”.
Few details are known about Badreddine, who was killed this week in a mysterious explosion at a Hezbollah base near Damascus airport. This despite him being one of the most prominent figures in the party and the brother-in-law of the notorious Imad Mughniyeh, who he succeeded as military commander after the latter was killed in a 2008 joint CIA-Mossad operation in the Syrian capital.
Born in the southern Beirut suburb of Ghobeiry on 6 April 1961, Badreddine had a pronounced limp, believed to have been sustained while he fought alongside pro-Palestinian and pan-Arabist militias during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.
His nom de guerre was Sayyed Zul Fikar: Sayyed indicating a claimed descent from the prophet Muhammad; Zul Fikar being the name of the legendary forked sword of Imam Ali, the prophet’s cousin and one of the most revered figures in Shia Islam.
Badreddine was arrested and sentenced to death in Kuwait in 1983 over his suspected involvement in a string of coordinated bombings in the tiny Gulf emirate that also targeted the US and French embassies. They were believed to be retribution for Kuwait and the west’s support for Iraq in its war with Iran.
The sentence, which had to be formally approved by the emir, was never carried out, perhaps as a consequence of a series of attacks and plane hijackings demanding the release of the Kuwait attackers, and which allegedly involved Mughniyeh. It was also never carried out because when the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990, he threw open the doors of the country’s prisons, allowing Badreddine to escape.
This is where the trail disappears. It only emerges again in 2011, when UN prosecutors investigating a 2005 Beirut bombing that killed Lebanon’s prime minister, Rafik Hariri, indicted Badreddine. They alleged he was the coordinator of a sophisticated network that tracked and ultimately assassinated the popular billionaire.
Analysis Ten years after Hariri’s assassination, Lebanon badly needs his moderation
Lebanon dared to hope under Rafik Hariri, but the prime minister’s death exposed the country’s sectarian fault lines and lit the fuse that led to Syria’s civil war
Court records from the special tribunal for Lebanon have offered a rare glimpse into the life of Badreddine, who was charged with conspiring to commit a terrorist act, carrying out a terrorist act by means of an explosive device, and intentional homicide.
Badreddine studied political science at the Lebanese American University from 2002-04. He drove a Mercedes Benz, owned the Samino jewellery shop in Beirut, and an apartment in Jounieh, a coastal town north of the capital known for its active nightlife, where he supposedly entertained friends.
His phone’s contact list, prosecutors alleged, included the numbers of college friends and business associates, Hezbollah officials and bodyguards, family members as well as supposed girlfriends.
Badreddine became military commander in 2008 after his brother-in-law was killed by a bomb placed in the headrest of his car. Mughniyeh had been the architect of Hezbollah’s guerrilla defence in Lebanon during the 2006 war with Israel and was implicated in the 1990s bombing of a synagogue in Argentina.
There are almost no images available of Badreddine. Two that were made available by the tribunal were dated, one showing him as a teenager and the other apparently from his days in Kuwait, showing a handsome young man with curly hair and a moustache, dressed in a tie-less suit. On Friday’s Hezbollah’s media department circulated an photo of the commander smiling in military fatigues and sporting a short grey beard and spectacles.
Badreddine left few personal records. Investigators for the UN trial say they found no driving licences or passports, no property formally owned by him, no record of him ever having left Lebanon, no bank accounts, and no photos from around the time of Hariri’s assassination. In the opening sessions of his trial in absentia in The Hague, prosecutors said he “passes as an unrecognisable and untraceable ghost throughout Lebanon, leaving no footprint as he passes”.
Hezbollah vehemently denies the allegations and does not recognise the tribunal.
In recent years, Badreddine was mostly known for his role in leading Hezbollah’s contingent in Syria, where the paramilitary group has been instrumental in ensuring the continued survival of the Assad government, alongside its patron, Iran, where an estimated 900 of the party’s fighters have died, including Jihad Mughniyeh, Imad’s son.
Badreddine was sanctioned by the US Treasury Department over his role in Syria in 2012.
An Israeli investigative journalist who is writing a history of the Mossad said the strike that killed Jihad Mughniyeh near the Golan Heights last year was actually aimed at Badreddine.
Kareem Shaheen in Beirut
Friday 13 May 2016 10.02 BST Last modified on Friday 27 May 2016 07.25 BST
Find this story at 13 May 2016
© 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited
Beirut, Also the Site of Deadly Attacks, Feels Forgotten (2015)
5 april 2017
The relatives of one of the victims of the twin suicide attacks in Beirut mourned during a funeral procession in the city’s Burj al-Barajneh neighborhood. Credit Wael Hamzeh/European Pressphoto Agency
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Ali Awad, 14, was chopping vegetables when the first bomb struck. Adel Tormous, who would die tackling the second bomber, was sitting at a nearby coffee stand. Khodr Alaa Deen, a registered nurse, was on his way to work his night shift at the teaching hospital of the American University at Beirut, in Lebanon.
All three lost their lives in a double suicide attack in Beirut on Thursday, along with 40 others, and much like the scores who died a day later in Paris, they were killed at random, in a bustling urban area, while going about their normal evening business.
Around the crime scenes in south Beirut and central Paris alike, a sense of shock and sadness lingered into the weekend, with cafes and markets quieter than usual. The consecutive rampages, both claimed by the Islamic State, inspired feelings of shared, even global vulnerability — especially in Lebanon, where many expressed shock that such chaos had reached France, a country they regarded as far safer than their own.
But for some in Beirut, that solidarity was mixed with anguish over the fact that just one of the stricken cities — Paris — received a global outpouring of sympathy akin to the one lavished on the United States after the 9/11 attacks.
Monuments around the world lit up in the colors of the French flag; presidential speeches touted the need to defend “shared values;” Facebook offered users a one-click option to overlay their profile pictures with the French tricolor, a service not offered for the Lebanese flag. On Friday the social media giant even activated Safety Check, a feature usually reserved for natural disasters that lets people alert loved ones that they are unhurt; they had not activated it the day before for Beirut.
The site of Thursday’s twin suicide bombings in the Burj al-Barajneh neighborhood of Beirut, Lebanon. Credit Bilal Hussein/Associated Press
“When my people died, no country bothered to light up its landmarks in the colors of their flag,” Elie Fares, a Lebanese doctor, wrote on his blog. “When my people died, they did not send the world into mourning. Their death was but an irrelevant fleck along the international news cycle, something that happens in those parts of the world.”
The implication, numerous Lebanese commentators complained, was that Arab lives mattered less. Either that, or that their country — relatively calm despite the war next door — was perceived as a place where carnage is the norm, an undifferentiated corner of a basket-case region.
In fact, while Beirut was once synonymous with violence, when it went through a grinding civil war a generation ago, this was the deadliest suicide bombing to hit the city since that conflict ended in 1990. Lebanon has weathered waves of political assassinations, street skirmishes and wars; Israeli airstrikes leveled whole apartment blocks in 2006. But it had been a year of relative calm.
(A reminder of the muddled perceptions came last week, when Jeb Bush, the Republican presidential candidate, declared that “if you’re a Christian, increasingly in Lebanon, or Iraq or Syria, you’re gonna be beheaded.” That was news to Lebanon’s Christians, who hold significant political power.)
The disparity in reactions highlighted a sense in the region of being left alone to bear the brunt of Syria’s deadly four-year war, which has sent more than four million refugees fleeing, mostly to neighboring countries like Lebanon. For the Lebanese, the government has been little help, plagued as it is with gridlock and corruption that have engendered electricity and water shortages and, most recently, a collapse of garbage collection. Many in the region — both supporters and opponents of the Syrian government — say they have long warned the international powers that, if left unaddressed, the conflict would eventually spill into the West.
How ISIS Expanded Its Threat
The Islamic State emerged from a group of militants in Iraq to take over large portions of Iraq and Syria, and now threatens other countries in Europe and elsewhere.
To be sure, the attacks meant different things in Paris and Beirut. Paris saw it as a bolt from the blue, the worst attack in the city in decades, while to Beirut the bombing was the fulfillment of a never entirely absent fear that another outbreak of violence may come.
Lebanon seemed to have recovered over the past year and a half from a series of bombings claimed by Sunni militant groups as revenge for the intervention by Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Shiite militia, in the Syrian civil war to provide critical support for the Syrian government.
Some blamed news coverage for the perception that Beirut is still an active war zone. They cited headlines — including, briefly, a Times one that was soon changed to be more precise — that refer to the predominantly Shiite neighborhood where the bombing took place as a “stronghold” of the militia and political party Hezbollah.
That is hard to dispute in the political sense — Hezbollah controls security in the neighborhood and is highly popular there, along with the allied Amal party. But the phrase also risks portraying a busy civilian, residential and commercial district as a justifiable military target.
Meanwhile, Syrians fretted that the brunt of reaction to both attacks would fall on them. There are a million Syrians in Lebanon, a country of four million; some have become desperate enough to contemplate joining the accelerating flow of those taking smugglers’ boats to Europe.
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But now, the attacks could rally political pressure in Europe to stop admitting them. When evidence emerged that at least one of the Paris attackers may have posed as an asylum seeker to reach Europe, some opponents of the migration quickly used that to argue for closing the doors.
That drew sharp reactions from Syrians, who said refugees were fleeing to Europe precisely to escape indiscriminate violence.
“This is the sort of terrorism that Syrian refugees have been fleeing by the millions,” declared Faisal Alazem, a spokesman for the Syrian Canadian Council.
The compassion gap is even more evident when it comes to the situation in Syria itself, where death tolls comparable to the 129 so far in the Paris attacks are far from rare and, during the worst periods, were virtually daily occurrences.
“Imagine if what happened in Paris last night would happen there on a daily basis for five years,” said Nour Kabbach, who fled the heavy bombardment of her home city of Aleppo, Syria, several years ago and now works in humanitarian aid in Beirut.
Where ISIS Has Directed and Inspired Attacks Around the World
More than a dozen countries have had attacks since the Islamic State, or ISIS, began to pursue a global strategy in the summer of 2014.
“Now imagine all that happening without global sympathy for innocent lost lives, with no special media updates by the minute, and without the support of every world leader condemning the violence,” she wrote on Facebook. Finally, she said, ask yourself what it would be like to have to explain to your child why an attack in “another pretty city like yours” got worldwide attention and your own did not.
Back in southern Beirut over the weekend, as the government announced the arrest of seven Syrians and two Lebanese in connection with the attack, the street where the bombings took place was strewn with lettuce and parsley from pushcarts overturned in the blast. Men washed blood from sidewalks. A shop’s inventory of shoes — from small children’s slippers to women’s clogs — was scattered across the pavement. Several funeral processions were massing, ready to march to cemeteries.
Residents mourned Ali Awad, 14, passing around his picture in a scouting uniform. He had run out to see what had happened after the first blast, and was caught in the second, relatives said.
Nearby, Abdullah Jawad stood staring glumly into a shop. His friend, the owner, had died there, just after Mr. Jawad had painted the place.
“The government can’t protect us,” he said. “They can’t even pick up the trash from the streets.”
As for Facebook, it declared that the high level of social media activity around the Paris attacks had inspired the company to activate Safety Check for the first time for an emergency other than a natural disaster, and that a policy of when to do so was still developing.
“There has to be a first time for trying something new, even in complex and sensitive times, and for us that was Paris,” wrote Alex Schultz, the company’s vice president for growth, adding that Safety Check is less useful in continuing wars and epidemics because, without a clear end point, “it’s impossible to know when someone is truly ‘safe.’”
Hwaida Saad contributed reporting.
By ANNE BARNARDNOV. 15, 2015
Find this story at 15 November 2015
© 2017 The New York Times Company
Lebanon better able to catch alleged Israeli spies (2010)
5 april 2017
A strengthening Lebanese government is helping the militant group Hezbollah bust alleged spy cells, sometimes using tools and tradecraft acquired from Western nations.
Reporting from Beirut — The chief of Lebanon’s domestic security forces had a warning for the Hezbollah commander: “You’ve been infiltrated.”
With that, Achraf Rifi, head of the U.S.-backed Internal Security Forces, handed over evidence showing that two trusted, mid-ranking Hezbollah commanders were working as informants for Israeli military intelligence, said a high-ranking Lebanese security official with knowledge of the April 2009 meeting.
Wafiq Safa, the security chief for the powerful Shiite Muslim militia and political organization, was silent.
“They were shocked,” said the security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak on the subject.
Things moved quickly after that. The Hezbollah commander called Rifi the next day to assure him that the militant group would “take care of” the alleged infiltrators, who were never heard from again, the security official said.
A monthlong war between Hezbollah and Israel ended four years ago, and Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon ended a decade ago. But a clandestine intelligence war between the Jewish state and the Iranian-backed militant group continues unabated, officials and security experts say.
Now, a strengthening Lebanese government is helping Hezbollah bust alleged spy cells, sometimes using tools and tradecraft acquired from Western nations eager to build up Lebanon’s security forces as a counterweight to the Shiite group, which since a 2008 power-sharing agreement has been a member of the governing coalition.
Although security officials here say they’re using newfound tools to ferret out spies watching Hezbollah, just like they would against anyone attempting to infiltrate the country, Western observers express concern.
“There are deep Israeli worries that anything the West gives the Lebanese armed forces and the Internal Security Forces could be used against them,” said Mara Karlin, a former Lebanon specialist at the U.S. Defense Department, now a researcher at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
The United States and its Western allies play a delicate balancing game in Lebanon. Since 2006, Washington has given nearly $500 million in military aid to Lebanese security forces and has allocated $100 million for 2011, making Lebanon the second-largest recipient of American military aid per capita after Israel.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow met officials in Lebanon on Monday, emphasizing that continuing U.S. aid and training would allow the army to “prevent militias and other nongovernment organizations” from undermining the government.
The use of sophisticated equipment in the foiling of alleged Israeli spies may be the first concrete illustration of the U.S. dilemma. According to Lebanese officials, Israeli analysts and a Western diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity, Lebanon has redirected for use against Israel signal-detection equipment donated by France and intended to fight Islamic militants.
“The technology used with Fatah Islam was used to detect Israeli spies and collaborators in Lebanon,” said retired Col. Kamal Awar, a U.S.-trained former member of the Lebanese Special Forces who now publishes Defense 21, an Arabic-language military journal. “They discovered they were talking with the Israeli guy on the other side of the border.”
The U.S. military has also contributed to the Lebanese security forces’ communications abilities. Israeli analyst Ronen Bergman, author of “The Secret War with Iran,” who is writing a book about the history of his country’s intelligence efforts, said the U.S. gave Lebanon’s army sophisticated electronic equipment that allowed it to identify and trace even encrypted communications.
But there is no evidence that the training and equipment have been used to foil the intelligence operations of Israel, a major American ally.
Israel and Lebanon have long claimed counterintelligence coups and thwarted alleged traitors.
In 2008, Israel charged Sgt. Maj. Lovai Balut of Military Intelligence Unit 504 of passing on information to Hezbollah, according to the Jerusalem Post. In June, the Israeli army arrested a soldier and several civilians accused of spying for Hezbollah and smuggling drugs into the Jewish state.
But over the last two years, Lebanon’s security forces may have conducted one of the most extraordinary counterintelligence sweeps in the annals of espionage. Dozens of alleged spies have been arrested in Lebanon on suspicion of sending information to Israel on the whereabouts and movements of Hezbollah and other enemies of the Jewish state.
The broad range of suspects suggests a widespread effort by Israeli security forces to infiltrate Hezbollah, which Israel views as a severe threat to its national security.
They include a city official of a small town in Hezbollah’s Bekaa Valley stronghold. Ziad Homsy, allegedly recruited at a conference in the Far East, is serving a temporary sentence of hard labor pending a final verdict.
“Homsy had fought against the Israeli occupation,” said a Lebanese army officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the topic. “It was not easy to recruit him. But he needed the money. He would never drive a Kia. It was either a Mercedes or an SUV or stay at home.”
There is the case of Lebanese army reserve Brig. Gen. Adib Alam, arrested in 2009 on charges of spying for Israel, who was reportedly convinced that it would help counter Syria, which he despised for its dominant role in recent Lebanese history.
One convicted spy, Marwan Faqih, was a car dealer who allegedly sold Hezbollah bigwigs SUVs equipped with tracking devices that allowed Israel to follow their movements. Hezbollah has denied that its members bought cars from him.
This summer, Lebanese security forces arrested two people working for the country’s state-owned Alfa cellphone company who allegedly allowed Israel to breach the communications network, a matter that has roiled the Lebanese Cabinet and prompted the government to announce that it would seek redress against Israel at the U.N. Security Council.
Three Lebanese nationals, one of whom was found guilty of providing Israel with sensitive information during its 2006 war with Hezbollah, have been sentenced to death for spying activities.
The motives vary, security officials said. Some of those apprehended have political gripes against Hezbollah.
“There are some political reasons, there are some psychological reasons,” the high-ranking security official said. “But mostly it’s money and sex.”
According to Lebanese security officials and intelligence experts, the alleged spies used sophisticated electronic devices to communicate with their handlers via coded messages. In May 2009, the intelligence branch of the ISF paraded some of the devices before an eager press corps. They included laptop computers, satellite phones, a tracking device hidden in the lid of a water cooler and a wooden chest installed with an apparatus for transmitting and receiving messages.
“If only part of this story is true, it means [Hezbollah] has been sharing its every step and move with a silent partner,” said Gad Shimron, a former Mossad officer and author of the book “Mossad Exodus.”
Over the last several years, Lebanon has doubled the number of officers working in counterintelligence. Security officials believed that their efforts are bearing fruit by dismantling a robust Israeli spy infrastructure they say has been in place in the country for decades.
“They were strong and we were weaker,” the Lebanese security official said. “The Israelis thought they had the technological edge that put them ahead of the Arabs by 30 years. But we showed them we’re catching up.”
But some analysts speculate that Lebanese security forces are giving themselves too much credit, and that Hezbollah, Iran and Syria may have contributed to the country’s apparent counterintelligence successes.
“Anecdotal data suggests Hezbollah is providing intelligence to ISF and LAF,” the Lebanese military, said Aram Nerguizian, a resident scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.
Some of the successes involved blind luck. The alleged activities of Faqih, the SUV dealer, unraveled when a Hezbollah member took his car to a mechanic over a minor electrical problem.
“The electrician started testing here and there,” the Lebanese army officer said. “He found a wire leading to a strange device. He told the owner.”
Hezbollah detained Faqih soon afterward.
July 31, 2010|By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times
Find this story at 31 July 2010
Copyright 2017 Los Angeles Times
Rashid Khalidi: Obama’s Condemnation of Israeli Occupation Doesn’t Match His Last 8 Years in Office
7 februari 2017
Edward Said professor of Arab studies at Columbia University. He’s the author of several books; his most recent is titled Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East.
During Wednesday’s press conference, President Obama warned that the expansion of Israeli settlements was making a two-state solution impossible. “I don’t see how this issue gets resolved in a way that maintains Israel as both Jewish and a democracy,” Obama said, “because if you do not have two states, then, in some form or fashion, you are extending an occupation. Functionally, you end up having one state in which millions of people are disenfranchised and operate as second-class occupant—or residents. You can’t even call them ‘citizens’ necessarily.” We get response from Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said professor of Arab studies at Columbia University. He’s the author of several books; his most recent is titled “Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East.”
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, there was an interesting sort of geography to and diversity to the questions that President Obama answered, all clearly laid out in advance—eight reporters—five women, three men—a gay publication, urban radio. And also he took a question from Janet Rodríguez, White House correspondent for Univision, and Nadia Bilbassy-Charters, senior diplomatic correspondent for Al Arabiya News Channel. She asked President Obama about the Middle East and about particularly the Israeli occupation; President Obama, in his answer, warning that the expansion of Israeli settlements was making a two-state solution impossible.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I’ve said this directly to Prime Minister Netanyahu. I’ve said it inside of Israel. I’ve said it to Palestinians, as well. I don’t see how this issue gets resolved in a way that maintains Israel as both Jewish and a democracy, because if you do not have two states, then, in some form or fashion, you are extending an occupation. Functionally, you end up having one state in which millions of people are disenfranchised and operate as second-class occupant—or residents. You can’t even call them “citizens” necessarily. And so—so the goal of the resolution was to simply say that the settlements, the growth of the settlements, are creating a reality on the ground that increasingly will make a two-state solution impossible. And we’ve believed, consistent with the positions that have been taken with previous U.S. administrations for decades now, that it was important for us to send a signal, a wake-up call, that this moment may be passing. And Israeli voters and Palestinians need to understand that this moment may be passing. And hopefully, that then creates a debate inside both Israeli and Palestinian communities that won’t result immediately in peace, but at least will lead to a more sober assessment of what the alternatives are.
AMY GOODMAN: That was President Obama yesterday, again, in the last 48 hours of his presidency. Rashid Khalidi also with us now, Edward Said professor of Arab studies at Columbia University. Your response to what he said and what he has done over this past eight years?
RASHID KHALIDI: Well, he did what he’s been doing for eight years: He sent a signal. The most powerful country on Earth, the sole serious supporter of Israel, without whose support Israel couldn’t do anything, has now, yet again, for administration after administration, sent a signal that what Israeli governments have been doing for decades is going to lead to a one-state solution, in which Palestinians, as he said, are disenfranchised, are not even citizens and so on and so forth. So we have the diagnostician-in-chief telling us about this problem, which he and previous presidents have absolutely—done absolutely nothing to solve. The United States can, could, should act to stop this ongoing annexation, colonization and so forth, which has led to disenfranchisement. I mean, his analysis is impeccable, but his actions—as Professor Glaude said, his actions are just not in keeping with his words, and have not been over eight years in keeping with his words.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think needs to happen? What opportunity did he miss? So much has happened in the last few weeks, with Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech. You wrote a piece in The New York Times, as well as in The Guardian, saying, “too little, too late.”
RASHID KHALIDI: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: And now [President-elect Trump] appointing, if he’s approved, the ambassador to Israel, who is very much for, among other things, moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which Nikki Haley just said—
RASHID KHALIDI: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: —who would be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, she also endorses in her confirmation hearing yesterday.
RASHID KHALIDI: Well, the president-elect’s team includes people like his son-in-law, his nominee for ambassador to Israel and others, who are not just in favor of incendiary acts like moving the embassy, but are themselves major financial or political supporters of the Israeli settler movement. So we’re not just talking about people who are rhetorically in favor of this or that extremist position.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk specifically—you’re talking about Jared Kushner, who will be a top adviser—
RASHID KHALIDI: Jared Kushner.
AMY GOODMAN: —his son-in-law. David Friedman.
RASHID KHALIDI: David Friedman, the ambassador designate, and Jared Kushner are both, according to all the reports, major financial backers of the settlement movement. So, what we have in American and Israeli politics with the arrival of Trump is the completion of a convergence between the extreme right-wing settler, colonial regime that we have in Israel and a segment of the American ruling class, if you want. I mean, Jared Kushner is a major real estate entrepreneur, and he’s used many, many, many of his family’s millions to support not just charitable causes in Israel, but the settler movement, among many other extreme causes.
And so, what we’re seeing on the policy level, what we’re seeing on the media level, what we’re seeing in terms of people who are making political contributions to both the right-wing parties in Israel and American political parties is sort of a convergence of the two systems, but at a time when we’re going to have the most extreme—we have had the most extreme right-wing government in Israel’s history, and when we’re going to have a president who is in favor of things that are sometimes to the right even of that right-wing Israeli government, in terms of what his designees for various positions have said.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel President Obama paved the way for this?
RASHID KHALIDI: I think every American president who has stood by idly and just uttered words, like the president has done in his press conference and like the secretary of state did in his speech, and did nothing to actually stop this trend, that he so accurately described, are—they’re all responsible. He is certainly responsible. Had Security Council Resolution 2334 been passed in the first year of this president’s eight years, who knows what might have happened?
AMY GOODMAN: And explain what that resolution is—
RASHID KHALIDI: Well—
AMY GOODMAN: —that caused so much furor, at least on the part of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.
RASHID KHALIDI: That resolution said that everything Israel has done in the Occupied Territories, in Jerusalem and the rest of them, is illegal. It has said that moving its population into occupied territories is a violation of the Geneva Convention, i.e. moving a half a million or 600,000 Israelis into territory occupied is illegal, that the acquisition of territory by force is illegal. And it went on to lay down various other parameters for a solution, including a two-state solution, and the ’67 borders as the basis of that. Now, none of this is new. The United Nations has said this again and again and again. This is a reiteration of Security Council Resolution 242 of November 1967. It’s also a reiteration of positions that have been taken by every single American administration from President Johnson’s to George W. Bush’s, and this one, as well.
But had that been laid down as a marker, a slap in the face of the Netanyahu government, in 2009, when the president came into office, instead of mollycoddling them, instead of continuing to fund settlements—we fund settlements by giving American so-called charities 501(c)(3) status. The president could have reversed that on the first day he was in office, saying, “You cannot send money, tax-free money—you cannot reduce your taxes to support illegal occupation and colonization.” He didn’t do that. The Justice Department, the Treasury could have done that. So, we have financed by—we taxpayers, who are actually paying our taxes, have enabled people who are not paying our taxes, by making so-called charitable deductions, support the settlement movement. Jared Kushner is one of them. [David] Friedman is one of them. There are many, many others.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what do you think is possible now?
RASHID KHALIDI: With Trump as president? Well, I think that this is a—this should be a wake-up call for people in the United States who had some kind of idea of Israel as the light unto the nations, to wake up and realize that the United States has helped to create a situation in which Israeli Jews rule over disenfranchised Arabs, that this is not a light unto the nations. This is not really a democracy, if you have helots. He called them “not citizens.” Well, you can call them what you want. He said they’re disenfranchised. It’s actually worse than that. Go to the Occupied Territories. Go to Arab communities inside Israel. Look at what happened to a member of Knesset yesterday, shot in the face by Israeli border police, because he protested the demolition of a village in the south of Israel. You’re talking about people who, in some cases, nominally have rights—Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel—or in the Occupied Territories having really no rights, and both of whom live under an unjust and discriminatory regime. We have fostered that. We have helped to finance and fund that, all the while our political leaders talk about how wonderful Israel is, how its values and our values—well, these are Jim Crow values. The president talked about Jim Crow. What Israel is enforcing are worse than Jim Crow values. And I think we have to start talking and thinking in those terms and setting ourselves apart or understanding how to set ourselves apart from those kinds of practices that are discriminatory or racist.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think—what do you think it was that led President Obama to have the ambassador for—to have the United States abstain from this, at the very end of his two terms?
RASHID KHALIDI: I mean, I can’t speculate what was going on in his mind, why at the very end. It’s a really good question. I would love to have seen this eight years ago. Maybe it was his chance to get back at the slights and insults that he’s been receiving from Prime Minister Netanyahu over the past eight years, coming to Congress and attacking American—
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, Netanyahu, famously, to say the least, disrespects him.
RASHID KHALIDI: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: And yet President Obama has been more solicitous of Israel than all the previous presidents—
RASHID KHALIDI: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: —from the Bushes on to Clinton, all involved with resolutions that were critical of Israel, but President Obama did not allow that to happen until now.
RASHID KHALIDI: Exactly. This is the first such resolution that has passed under Obama. Every—as you’ve just said, every previous American president has allowed or has sponsored resolutions that are just as harsh as this or involved elements of this resolution. So, maybe he was—you know, what he seems to be doing in his last few days, few weeks, few months, is to doing—is to do some of the things that maybe he wanted to do but felt he couldn’t do. And it’s really a terrible shame. I mean, this is a—this is a man who came into office, supposedly, with fresh ideas about how to deal with the Middle East. He appointed Senator Mitchell, who ultimately was undermined by people he himself had appointed, and was not able to do what he wanted to do. And from that point on, I think it really was downhill for this president, as far as the Middle East is concerned. His legacy is not a good one, as far as Arab-Israeli issues, as far as the Palestinians are concerned. Palestinians will not—and Arabs and, I would argue, Israelis should not remember this man’s legacy with any fondness.
AMY GOODMAN: Rashid Khalidi, professor of Arab studies at Columbia University, and Eddie Glaude, head of African American Studies at Princeton University, we thank you both for this conversation. This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we look at some of the Senate confirmation hearings. To say the least, heated. Stay with us.
JANUARY 19, 2017
Find this story at 19 January 2017
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CIA Cover-Up Thwarted FBI’s Nuclear Diversion Investigations Evidence that missing uranium went to Israel withheld since 1968
23 oktober 2015
According to formerly top-secret and secret Central Intelligence Agency files (PDF) released August 31 in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit (PDF), the agency’s long retention of key information ultimately stymied two FBI investigations into the 1960s diversion of weapons-grade uranium from a Pennsylvania-based government contractor into the Israeli nuclear weapons program.
The Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC) was a nuclear fuel processing company founded by legendary chemist Zalman Mordecai Shapiro and financed by entrepreneur David Luzer Lowenthal. According to the Department of Energy, during Shapiro’s reign at NUMEC, the company lost more weapons-grade uranium – 337 kilograms after accounting for losses – much of a particularly unique and high enrichment level than any other U.S. facility. Losses only returned to industry norms after Shapiro, who later unsuccessfully tried to get a job working on advanced hydrogen bomb designs, was forced out of NUMEC.
In the 1950’s Shapiro developed vital breakthroughs for US Navy nuclear propulsion systems. In the 1940s Lowenthal fought in Israel’s War of Independence, serving as a smuggler who developed close contacts with high Israeli intelligence officials. An ardent supporter of Israel, Shapiro was Pittsburgh Chapter President of the Zionist Organization of America. According to the Jerusalem Post, Shapiro later joined the board of governors of the Israeli Intelligence Heritage Center, an organization that honors spies who secretly took action to advance Israel. NUMEC holding company Apollo Industries President Morton Chatkin also held a ZOA leadership role while Apollo Executive Vice President Ivan J. Novick went on to become ZOA’s national president. David Lowenthal, who raised capital for acquiring NUMEC’s facilities (an old steel mill in the center of the village) served as Apollo’s treasurer.
In 1968 CIA Director Richard Helms sent an urgent request for an investigation to Attorney General Ramsey Clark (PDF) stating “You are well aware of the great concern which exists at the highest levels of this Government with regard to the proliferation of nuclear weapons…It is critical for us to establish whether or not the Israelis now have the capability of fabricating nuclear weapons which might be employed in the Near East…I urge that the Federal Bureau of Investigation be called upon to initiate a discreet intelligence investigation of all source nature of Dr. Shapiro in order to establish the nature and extent of his relationship with the Government of Israel.” (PDF)
The FBI investigation documented Shapiro’s many meetings with top Israeli nuclear weapons development officials such as Avraham Hermoni and wiretapped a conversation representative of the overall lack of concern over worker safety and the environment by Shapiro and Lowenthal. The FBI discovered that NUMEC had formed a joint venture with the Israel Atomic Energy Commission called Isorad to supply food irradiators to Israel. The now-defunct Atomic Energy Agency questioned Zalman Shapiro in 1969 – never asking if he had diverted material – over his many meetings with Israelis known to the FBI to be intelligence operatives. After the AEC defended Shapiro and his continued holding of security clearances, the FBI terminated its intelligence investigation.
In 1976 the Ford administration reopened the NUMEC investigation in order to determine if a diversion had occurred and whether a government cover-up had ensued. The 130-page release is replete with formal CIA denials to Congressional Committee investigators, the GAO and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission inquiries about whether the CIA had participated in any illegal diversions, or whether it was aware of any presidential finding authorizing such an operation. Arizona Democrat Morris Udall asked bluntly on August 23, 1977 “Is it possible that President Johnson, who was known to be a friend of Israel, could have encouraged the flow of nuclear materials to the Israelis?” Citing CIA’s role in alerting the attorney general to the problem as evidence that it was not involved, the agency also repeatedly emphasized “we in CIA are not and have not been concerned with the law enforcement aspects of this problem. Indeed, Dick Helms turned the matter over to the FBI in order to avoid such involvement.” Rather, exploring the NUMEC-Israel link was part of CIA’s intelligence function to substantiate why its National Intelligence Estimate concluded Israel had a nuclear arsenal.
FBI special agents soon lost morale over being sent unprepared into a second investigation. The CIA, for its part, continued withholding critical information that could have provided both motivation and a tool for confronting hostile interviewees. This was according to the newly released CIA files “information…of obvious importance in reaching an intelligence decision on the probability of diversion, it is not of any legal pertinence to the FBI’s criminal investigation of NUMEC. In our discussions with the FBI we have alluded to this information but we have not made the details available to special agents from the Washington Field Office of the FBI who are working on the case. While Mr. Bush’s [then-CIA Director George H.W. Bush] conversations are not known to us, we have had no substantive discussions with officials at FBI Headquarters on this matter.” It was this sensitive CIA information, made available only to the president, cabinet, and a limited number of top agency officials that led one National Security Council staffer to conclude, “I do not think that the President has plausible deniability.”
On June 6, 1977 Associate Deputy Director for Operations Theodore Shackley briefed the FBI agents in charge of the NUMEC investigation. They grumbled that since they had not established that the diversion took place, they could not begin to address the second question about a cover-up. They then pleaded for “new information” from the CIA, blithely ignorant that their reasoning was completely backward – it was old information they required, and it was the CIA’s withholding of it that was the true cover-up. The FBI also thought it needed a NUMEC insider willing to blow the whistle in order to finally break the case open.
Unknown to the FBI, every CIA director was complicit in withholding a key clandestine operational finding from investigators. According to a May 11, 1977 report by Shackley, the “CIA has not furnished to the FBI sensitive agent reporting…since the decision was made by Directors Helms, Colby and Bush that this information would not further the investigation of NUMEC but would compromise sources and methods.”
Though carefully redacted from the CIA release, the omitted fact was likely that highly enriched uranium of a signature unique to NUMEC had been detected in Israel, a country that did not have facilities to enrich uranium. This sensitive information (PDF) was delivered to former Atomic Energy Commissioner Glen Seaborg by two Department of Energy investigators sifting for more facts about NUMEC in June of 1978. It was powerful enough evidence that the retired Seaborg subsequently refused to be interviewed by less informed FBI investigators.
The CIA noted FBI investigators “indicated that even if they came up with a case, it was extremely unlikely that Justice and State would allow it to come to trial…they feel that they have been given a job to do with none of the tools necessary to do it.” Although in 1981 special agents finally identified a former NUMEC employee who had personally witnessed the means of the diversion – Zalman Shapiro and other NUMEC officials stuffing HEU canisters into irradiators (PDF) sealed and rushed to Israel – lacking the missing CIA puzzle piece the FBI investigation went dormant as the statute of limitations for Atomic Energy Act violations – punishable by death – finally expired.
Grant F. Smith is the author of DIVERT! NUMEC, Zalman Shapiro, and the diversion of U.S. weapons-grade uranium into the Israeli nuclear weapons program. He currently serves as director of research at the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy in Washington (IRmep), D.C. Read other articles by Smith, or visit the IRmep website.
by Grant Smith, September 07, 2015
Find this story at 7 September 2015
Copyright © Antiwar.com 2015
U.S. Suspected Israeli Involvement in 1960s Missing Uranium (2014)
23 oktober 2015
Officials Believed Ally Used Materials Lifted From Pennsylvania Toward a Weapons Program
Declassified documents from the 1970s provide new evidence that federal officials believed bomb-grade uranium that disappeared from a Pennsylvania nuclear facility in the 1960s was likely taken for use in a clandestine Israeli atomic-weapons program.
The documents, obtained earlier this year through public-records requests by a Washington-based nonprofit group, also indicate that senior officials wanted to keep the matter under wraps for fear it could undermine U.S. Middle East peace efforts.
Though the Central Intelligence Agency’s case for the suspected theft wasn’t conclusive, it was sufficiently persuasive that “I do not think that the President has plausible deniability” regarding the question, said a memo dated July 28, 1977, by a National Security Council staffer in President Jimmy Carter’s administration.
A security council memo to Mr. Carter a few days later expressed more uncertainty about whether a theft had occurred, but noted that then-Secretary of State Cyrus Vance had a coming Middle East trip and discussed the need to keep attention “away from the CIA’s information.”
The question of whether one of America’s closest allies was involved in the theft of some of its most valuable and dangerous material in pursuit of nuclear weapons has been one of the enduring mysteries of the atomic age. The suspected theft has drawn the attention of at least three presidents and other senior government officials.
The evidence suggested that “something did transpire,” said Zbigniew Brzezinski, Mr. Carter’s national-security adviser, in a recent interview. “But until you have conclusive evidence you don’t want to make an international incident. This is a potentially very explosive, controversial issue.” Besides, he added, even if a theft was proved, “What are we going to say to the Israelis, ‘Give it back?’ ”
Israel hasn’t ever said whether it has nuclear weapons. A spokeswoman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., declined to comment for this article.
So did a spokeswoman for the Obama administration, which like past U.S. administrations has declined to say whether it believes Israel has an atomic arsenal. A CIA spokesman also declined to comment.
Mr. Carter, who said at a 2008 gathering in Britain that he believes Israel has nuclear weapons, declined through a spokeswoman to be interviewed.
His diplomatic efforts as president, which helped produce a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1979, likely wouldn’t have been possible “if there was some huge scandal at the time about this,” said John Marcum, the staffer who wrote the July 28, 1977, memo, in a recent interview.
The theft suspicions surround events at a now-dismantled facility in Apollo, Pa., owned by a company called Nuclear Materials & Equipment Corp., or Numec. In the mid-1960s, some 200 pounds of bomb-grade uranium—enough possibly for several Hiroshima-sized bombs—couldn’t be accounted for there.
An FBI investigation begun in the late 1960s, which drew interest from top Nixon administration officials, including the president, couldn’t determine what happened to the uranium, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agency documents. But FBI officials did raise questions about suspected dealings between Numec’s founder and president, Zalman Shapiro, and Israeli intelligence officials, according to government documents. Babcock & Wilcox Co., a nuclear-technology and energy company that acquired Numec in 1971, declined to comment.
In an interview late last year, the 93-year-old Mr. Shapiro, who has long argued the material had been lost in the production process, said that no theft took place. He said his dealings with Israel, where Numec had commercial activities, were legitimate and to his knowledge never involved intelligence officials.
Potentially crucial sections of the recently released documents—obtained by the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy, an organization that has been critical of Israel—remain classified.
The latest document release underscores the need for the government to declassify the remaining information about the suspected theft, some former federal officials say.
“We know the CIA thought the material was stolen. We want to know why they thought that,” said Victor Gilinsky, a former commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Government records show that a federal nuclear-enrichment facility in Ohio sent shipments to Numec containing the highest percentage of U235, the explosive form of uranium, ever known to have been produced, said Roger Mattson, another former NRC official.
Did the CIA later find that such uranium had turned up in Israel, as some documentary evidence suggests? “That’s not something that’s declassified,” said Jessica Tuchman Mathews, a national-security official in the Carter administration who wrote or received some of the recently declassified documents.
By JOHN R. EMSHWILLER
Updated Aug. 6, 2014 7:41 p.m. ET
Find this story at 6 August 2014
Copyright ©2015 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
ISRAELI SPECIAL FORCES ASSASSINATED SENIOR SYRIAN OFFICIAL
27 juli 2015
On Aug. 1, 2008, a small team of Israeli commandos entered the waters near Tartus, Syria, and shot and killed a Syrian general as he was holding a dinner party at his seaside weekend home. Muhammad Suleiman, a top aide to the Syrian president, was shot in the head and neck, and the Israeli military team escaped by sea.
While Israel has never spoken about its involvement, secret U.S. intelligence files confirm that Israeli special operations forces assassinated the general while he vacationed at his luxury villa on the Syrian coast.
The internal National Security Agency document, provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, is the first official confirmation that the assassination of Suleiman was an Israeli military operation, and ends speculation that an internal dispute within the Syrian government led to his death.
A top-secret entry in the NSA’s internal version of Wikipedia, called Intellipedia, described the assassination by “Israeli naval commandos” near the port town of Tartus as the “first known instance of Israel targeting a legitimate government official.” The details of the assassination were included in a “Manhunting Timeline” within the NSA’s intelligence repository.
According to three former U.S. intelligence officers with extensive experience in the Middle East, the document’s classification markings indicate that the NSA learned of the assassination through surveillance. The officials asked that they not be identified, because they were discussing classified information.
The information in the document is labeled “SI,” which means that the intelligence was collected by monitoring communications signals. “We’ve had access to Israeli military communications for some time,” said one of the former U.S. intelligence officers.
The former officer said knowledge within the NSA about surveillance of Israeli military units is especially sensitive because the NSA has Israeli intelligence officers working jointly with its officers at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland.
Brig. Gen. Suleiman was a top military and intelligence adviser to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, and was suspected of being behind the Syrian government’s efforts to facilitate Iran’s provision of arms and military training to Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon. Suleiman was also reported to have been in charge of the security and construction of Syria’s Al Kibar nuclear facility, which Israel destroyed in a 2007 air attack. The NSA document described part of Suleiman’s responsibilities as “sensitive military issues.”
Israel’s involvement in Suleiman’s assassination raises questions about both the purpose of the killing, as well as whether Israel violated international law in conducting the operation.
“The Israelis may have had many good reasons to kill [Suleiman],” said Mary Ellen O’Connell, a professor of international law at Notre Dame. “But under international law it’s absolutely clear that in Syria in 2008, they had no rights under the laws of war because at the time there was no armed conflict. They had no right to kill General Suleiman.”
The Assad government withheld news of the assassination for four days before announcing Suleiman’s death. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied its involvement.
According to a classified State Department cable published online by WikiLeaks, the Syrian government’s investigation into the killing turned up $80 million in cash in Suleiman’s home. “[Assad] was said to be devastated by the discovery, and, fearing [Suleiman] had betrayed him, redirected the investigation from solving his murder to finding out how the general had acquired so much money,” the cable noted.
Last year, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah told journalists that the Israeli government killed Suleiman, and that the assassination was “linked” to Suleiman’s role in the July 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.
“For them it’s not only payback, but mitigates future operations,” said one of the retired intelligence officers, who has worked with the Israelis but does not have direct knowledge of the Suleiman assassination. “They will take a target of opportunity if it presents itself.”
The Israeli assassination of Suleiman came less than six months after a joint Mossad-CIA team assassinated a top Hezbollah operative in the heart of Damascus, according to several current and former U.S. military and intelligence officials. U.S. and Israeli involvement in that attack, which targeted Hezbollah operative Imad Mughniyeh, was first reported in detail by the Washington Post. The CIA had long sought Mughniyeh for his role in several terrorist attacks against Americans, including the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, Lebanon, which left 241 American service members dead.
The NSA declined to comment. A spokesperson for the Israeli Prime Minister did not respond to several requests for comment.
July 15 2015, 1:23 p.m.
Find this story at 15 July 2015
US said preparing to release Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard
27 juli 2015
Officials say chances of life-termer going free ‘better than ever’ as US seeks to sooth Israel over Iran; Justice Department denies report
The Obama administration is preparing to release Jonathan Pollard, who was convicted in 1987 of spying for Israel, in hopes of alleviating tensions over the Iranian nuclear deal, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
According to US officials cited in the report, some are pushing for Pollard’s release in a matter of weeks, while others say it could take months. Still other US officials mentioned in the report denied any link between the Iranian nuclear deal and Pollard’s potential release.
ABC News’ managing editor tweeted Friday night that US officials had confirmed to ABC that the former Navy analyst was set to be released in November, when he is eligible for parole.
But the Justice Department said it expected Pollard to serve out his entire sentence.
“The Department of Justice has always and continues to maintain that Jonathan Pollard should serve his full sentence for the serious crimes he committed, which in this case is a 30-year sentence as mandated by statute,” said spokesman Marc Raimondi.
“Mr. Pollard’s status will be determined by the United States Parole Commission according to standard procedures,” added National Security Council spokesman Alistair Baskey. “There is absolutely zero linkage between Mr. Pollard’s status and foreign policy considerations.”
Israeli government officials — including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself — activists, and even members of Congress have for decades lobbied successive US administrations for Pollard’s release.
There have been several reports in US media in recent months alleging that Pollard may be released later this year.
Last week, one of Pollar’s attorneys, Eliot Lauer, told the Times of Israel that he has received no indication of this.
“We have not received any word, and I would expect that either I or my client would be the ones who would be notified,” he said. Lauer is a member of Pollard’s pro bono legal team, and has represented him for over two decades.
The 61-year-old Pollard is serving a life sentence in a US federal prison for passing classified information to Israel; he was granted citizenship by Israel 20 years ago. The flurry of reports reflect a US government website that lists Pollard’s release date (under ID number 09185-016) as November 21, 2015 – a date that would coincide with the 30th anniversary of his arrest.
Lauer noted that November 21, 2015, has been listed as a release date for Pollard for decades.
US government site showing Jonathan Pollard’s scheduled release date
US government site showing Jonathan Pollard’s scheduled release date
In order for Pollard to be released, a Notice of Action must first be issued – and presumably, it is Pollard’s legal team which would receive it first. According to Lauer, no such Notice of Action has been received.
Lauer said the authorities could issue such a notice shortly before Pollard’s release date.
Although Pollard is serving a life sentence under a Federal law that allows the possibility of parole, he is the only American citizen who has been sentenced to life in prison for passing classified information to a US ally.
The US has at times considered releasing Pollard, but has been met with fierce opposition by some in the CIA, the FBI and the Justice Department. This could again be the case if indeed the Obama administration is considering it, but “[Pollard’s] chances at winning freedom are better now than they have ever been,” according to the WSJ report that attributes the belief to unnamed US officials.
There have been multiple false starts and reports over the years indicating that Pollard’s release was imminent. During his farewell visit as president of Israel to Washington DC last year, Shimon Peres pressed President Barack Obama for Pollard’s release.
In August 2014, a request by Pollard for parole was denied, with the officials arguing that releasing Pollard would “constitute contempt for the severity of the offense and promote a lack of respect for the law.”
AP contributed to this report.
BY REBECCA SHIMONI STOIL AND TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF July 24, 2015, 11:29 pm 43
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© 2015 THE TIMES OF ISRAEL
Capturing Jonathan Pollard
27 juli 2015
De Amerikaanse voormalig spion Jonathan Pollard zit een levenslange gevangenisstraf uit. Als werknemer bij de VS Marine Inlichtingendienst stal hij honderdduizenden geheime documenten en verkocht die aan Israël. De man die hem ontmaskerde, schreef er een boek over.
Bradley Manning wordt verdacht van het lekken van geheime documenten van de Amerikaanse overheid. Deze documenten werden openbaar gemaakt voor Wikileaks. Nog voordat Manning een eerlijk proces heeft gekregen, zit hij al een ruim een jaar in eenzame opsluiting.
De omvang en gevoeligheid van de Wikileaks-documenten vallen echter in het niet in vergelijking met het aantal geheime stukken dat Jonathan Pollard begin jaren ’80 aan de Israëliërs heeft overhandigd. Pollard werkte voor de Naval Intelligence Service. Van juni 1984 tot zijn aanhouding in november 1985 wandelde hij bijna dagelijks het gebouw van de Naval Intelligence Command uit met een tas vol top secret documenten.
De Amerikaanse overheid schat dat hij ruim een miljoen stukken aan de Israëliërs heeft overhandigd. Een van de stukken was het tiendelige boekwerk Radio-Signal Notations (RASIN), een gedetailleerde beschrijving van het netwerk van de wereldwijde elektronische observatie door de Amerikanen.
Capturing Jonathan Pollard werd in 2006 door de Naval Institue Press gepubliceerd. Het boek is van de hand van Ronald Olive, destijds werkzaam voor de Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). Als medewerker van de NCIS kreeg Olive in 1985 de taak om te onderzoeken of Pollard geheime stukken lekte.
Het onderzoek volgde op een tip van een medewerker van de Anti-Terrorism Alert Center (ATAC) van de NIS, de afdeling waar Pollard werkte. Deze man zag Pollard het gebouw uitlopen met een stapel papier. De stapel was verpakt in bruin inpakpapier en tape met de code TS/SCI, Top Secret/Sentive Compartmented Information. TS/SCI is een nog zwaardere kwalificatie als top secret.
Pollard stapte met de stukken bij zijn vrouw Ann in de auto. Nog even dacht zijn collega dat Pollard naar een andere inlichtingendienst, zoals de DIA (Defense Intelligence Service) zou rijden om daar de documenten af te geven. Dit leek onwaarschijnlijk omdat Pollard eerder tegen hem had gezegd dat hij verkeerde documenten had besteld bij het ‘archief’ en dat hij deze nu moest terugbrengen en vernietigen. Pollard en Ann reden echter een geheel andere kant op.
Olive beschrijft vervolgens de ontmaskering van Jonathan en Ann. In Pollards werkruimte wordt een camera opgehangen die registreert hoe de spion een aktetas vol TS/SCI documenten propt en het gebouw verlaat. Pollard en zijn vrouw ruiken onraad en proberen de sporen van spionage te wissen. Ann moet een koffer vol super geheime documenten, die in hun huis liggen, vernietigen. Zij raakt in paniek en de koffer belandt bij de buren.
Het boek van Ronald Olive is nog even actueel als het eerste boek dat over deze spionagezaak is verschenen in 1989, Territory of Lies: The American Who Spied on His Country for Israel and How He Was Betrayed.
Begin dit jaar wordt een petitie, ondertekend door meer dan 10.000 Israëliërs, aan de Israëlische president Shimon Peres gezonden. Hierin roepen politici, kunstenaars en andere bekende en onbekende Israëliërs de president op om Pollard vrij te krijgen. Op 1 september 2010 berichtte de LA Times zelfs dat de vrijlating van Pollard de bevriezing van de bouw van Israëlische nederzettingen in de bezette gebieden zou verlengen.
Pollard raakt kennelijk een gevoelige snaar, zowel in Israël als in de Verenigde Staten. Schrijver Olive op zijn beurt bevindt zich in een gezelschap van allerlei mensen die er voor ijveren om de spion zijn gehele leven achter slot en grendel te houden, hoewel levenslang in de Verenigde Staten niet echt levenslang hoeft te zijn. Bij goed gedrag kunnen gevangenen na dertig jaar vrijkomen.
In 1987 werd Pollard veroordeeld tot levenslang na een schuldbekentenis en toezegging dat hij de Amerikaanse overheid zou helpen bij het in kaart brengen van de schade die hij door zijn spionage-activiteiten had veroorzaakt. Die schade werd door de toenmalige minister van Defensie Casper Weinberger vastgelegd in een memorandum van 46 pagina’s, welke nog steeds niet openbaar is gemaakt. Pollard’s vrouw kreeg vijf jaar gevangenisstraf voor het in bezit hebben van staatsgeheime documenten.
Capturing Jonathan Pollard is geen spannend fictie / non-fictie boek met een twist, zoals Spywars van Bagley. Olive beschrijft droog het leven van de spion vanaf het moment dat hij bij de CIA solliciteert, tot aan de dag van zijn veroordeling. Natuurlijk is de schrijver begaan met de geheimhouding van Amerikaanse strategische informatie en verbaast het niet dat hij bij het verschijnen van het boek in 2006 een pleidooi hield om Pollard niet vrij te laten.
Hoewel de volle omvang van het lekken van Pollard niet duidelijk wordt beschreven, blijkt dat Pollard niet bepaald kieskeurig was. De Israëliërs hadden hem lijsten meegegeven van wat zij graag wilden hebben, vooral informatie over het Midden-Oosten, maar ook over de Russen en operaties van de Amerikanen in het Middellandse Zee gebied.
Zodra Pollard echter stukken langs ziet komen die ook voor andere landen interessant zouden kunnen zijn, probeert hij ook daar te winkelen. Zo poogt hij geheime documenten aan de Chinezen, Australiërs, Pakistani en de Zuid-Afrikanen, maar ook aan buitenlandse correspondenten te slijten.
Het gegeven dat landen elkaars strategische informatie en geheimen proberen te stelen, is niet nieuw. Het bestaan van contra-spionage afdelingen toont aan dat geheime diensten daar zelf ook rekening mee houden. De Australiërs dachten dan ook dat Pollard onderdeel uitmaakte van een CIA-operatie. Hoewel ze dat eigenlijk niet konden geloven, vermeed hun medewerker Pollard en werd de zaak niet gemeld bij Amerikaanse instanties.
Als onderdeel van thrillers en spannende lectuur zijn de spionage praktijken van Pollard, zoals Olive die beschrijft, niet bijster interessant, want het leidt af van waar het werkelijk om draait. Daarentegen is het boek van grote waarde waar het gaat om de beschrijving van de persoon Pollard, de wijze waarop hij kon spioneren, zijn werkomgeving, de blunders die worden gemaakt – niet alleen het aannemen en overplaatsen van Pollard, maar ook de wijze waarop geheimen zo eenvoudig kunnen worden gelekt – eigenlijk de totale bureaucratie die de wereld van inlichtingendiensten in zijn greep heeft.
Hoewel deze persoonlijke en bureaucratische gegevens niet breed worden uitgemeten – Olive is zelf een voormalig inlichtingenman – verschaft het boek een veelheid aan informatie daarover. De schrijver lijkt die persoonlijke details specifiek aan Pollard te koppelen, alsof het niet voor andere medewerkers zou gelden.
Dit gaat ook op ook voor de gemaakte fouten van de bureaucratie rond de carrière van de spion. Zo lijkt Pollard van jongs af aan een voorliefde te hebben gehad om spion te worden, of in ieder geval iets geheims te willen doen in zijn leven. Tijdens zijn studie schept hij erover op dat hij voor de Mossad zou werken en had gediend in het Israëlische leger. Zijn vader zou ook voor de CIA werkzaam zijn.
Aan deze opschepperij verbindt Olive een psychologisch element. Het zou een soort compensatie zijn voor de slechte jeugd van Pollard die vaak zou zijn gepest. Ook zijn vrouw zou niet bij hem passen omdat die te aantrekkelijk is. Pollard moet dat compenseren door stoer te doen. Later, toen hij voor een inlichtingendienst werkte, voelde hij zich opnieuw het buitenbeentje. Zijn carrière verliep alles behalve vlekkeloos, regelmatig werd hij op een zijspoor gezet.
Olive schetst een beeld van een verwend kind, dat niet op juiste waarde werd ingeschat en stoer wilde doen. Was Pollard echter zoveel anders dan zijn voormalige collega analisten of medewerkers van de inlichtingendienst? Werken voor een inlichtingendienst vereist een zekere mate van voyeurisme, een gespleten persoonlijkheid. Buiten je werk om kun je niet vrijelijk praten over datgene waar je mee bezig bent.
Dat doet wat met je psyche, maar trekt ook een bepaald soort mensen aan. Het werk betreft namelijk niet het oplossen van misdrijven, maar het kijken in het hoofd van mogelijke verdachten. Het BVD-dossier van oud-provo Roel van Duin laat zien dat een dienst totaal kan ontsporen door zijn eigen manier van denken. Dat komt echter niet voort uit de dienst als abstracte bureaucratie, maar door toedoen van de mensen die er werken.
Pollard gedroeg zich arrogant en opschepperig, misschien wel om zijn eigen onzekerheid te maskeren. Dergelijk gedrag wordt door de schrijver verbonden aan zijn spionage-activiteiten voor de Israëliërs. Pollard was echter niet getraind in het lekken van documenten en ging verre van zorgvuldig te werk. Hij deed het zo openlijk dat het verbazingwekkend is dat het zo lang duurde voordat hij tegen de lamp liep. Hij zei bijvoorbeeld tegen de Israëliërs dat zij alleen de TS/SCI documenten moesten kopiëren en dat ze de rest mochten houden.
In de loop van de anderhalf jaar dat hij documenten naar buiten smokkelde, werd hij steeds roekelozer. Dat hij gespot werd met een pak papier onder zijn arm terwijl hij bij zijn vrouw in de auto stapte, was eerder toeval dan dat het het resultaat was van grondig speurwerk van de NCIS.
Eenmaal binnenin het inlichtingenbedrijf zijn de mogelijkheden om te lekken onuitputtelijk. Als Pollard wel getraind was geweest en zorgvuldiger te werk was gegaan, dan had hij zijn praktijk eindeloos kunnen voorzetten. Welke andere ‘agenten’ doen dat wellicht nog steeds? Of welke andere medewerkers waren minder roekeloos en tevreden geweest met het lekken van enkele documenten?
Die medewerkers vormen gezamenlijk het systeem van de dienst. Pollard schepte graag op, maar de schrijver van Spy Wars, Bagley, klopte zich ook graag op de borst en, hoewel in mindere mate, Ronald Olive ook. Iets dat eigenlijk vreemd is, als het aantal blunders in ogenschouw wordt genomen nadat Pollard ontdekt was. Alleen omdat de Israëliërs Pollard de toegang tot de diplomatieke vestiging ontzegden, zorgde ervoor dat hij alsnog gearresteerd en levenslang kreeg in de VS. Hij was echter bijna ontsnapt.
Het is daarom niet gek dat inlichtingendiensten een gebrek aan bescheidenheid vertonen. Vele aanslagen zijn voorkomen, wordt vaak beweerd, maar helaas kunnen de diensten geen details geven. Het klinkt als Pollard, op bezoek bij Olive, die breed uitmeet dat hij die en die kent op de Zuid-Afrikaanse ambassade en of hij die moet werven als spion. Olive was werkzaam voor de NCIS. Pollard bezocht hem voordat hij werd ontmaskerd. Zijn eigen gebrek aan actie in relatie tot de twijfels over Pollard toont aan dat geen enkel bureaucratisch systeem perfect is, ook niet dat van inlichtingendiensten.
Het is niet verbazingwekkend dat de carrière van Pollard bezaaid is met blunders. Hij werd dan wel afgewezen door de CIA, maar waagde vervolgens een gokje bij een andere dienst en had geluk. Hij werd bij de NIS aangenomen en kroop zo langzaamaan in de organisatie. De fouten die bij het aannamebeleid en bij de evaluaties van Pollard zijn gemaakt, worden door Olive gepresenteerd als op zichzelf staand, maar de hoeveelheid blunders en gebrekkige administratie lijken zo talrijk dat het geen toevalstreffers zijn.
Bij elke promotie of overplaatsing lijkt slechts een deel van zijn persoonsdossier hem te volgen. De NIS wist vanaf het begin niet dat Pollard eerder door de CIA werd afgewezen. Als zijn toegang tot geheime documenten wordt ingetrokken, wacht Pollard net zo lang tot bepaalde medewerkers zijn overgeplaatst of vertrokken. Hij wordt dan wel afgeschilderd als een verwend kind dat met geheimen speelt, regelmatig moet Olive echter toegeven dat Pollard een briljant analist is. Pas in de laatste maanden van zijn spionage-activiteiten, lijdt zijn werk onder de operatie om zoveel mogelijk documenten naar buiten te smokkelen.
Waarom Pollard de Amerikaanse overheid schade toebracht, wijdt Olive vooral aan zijn joodse afkomst. Niet dat de schrijver alle joodse Amerikanen verdenkt, maar een belangrijke reden voor het fanatiek lekken wordt verklaard aan de hand van Pollard’s wens om naar Israël te emigreren. Olive gaat echter voorbij aan het geld dat de spion aan zijn activiteiten verdiende. Aanvankelijk 1.500 dollar per maand, na een paar maanden 2.500 en twee volledig verzorgde reizen met zijn vrouw naar Europa en Israël en tot slot een Zwitserse bankrekening met jaarlijks een bonus van 30.000 dollar.
Los van de Zwitserse rekening schat de Amerikaanse overheid dat Pollard rond de 50.000 dollar aan zijn spionagewerk heeft overgehouden. Eigenlijk niet eens veel in vergelijking met de één miljoen documenten die hij leverde. De onderhandelingen over het geld maken echter duidelijk dat Pollard wel degelijk geïnteresseerd was om zoveel mogelijk te verdienen. De prijs werd gedrukt omdat de Israëliërs niet erg toeschietelijk waren en Pollard ze sowieso wilde helpen.
Zijn joodse afkomst zat hem in de weg, want waarschijnlijk had hij alleen al voor het tiendelige boekwerk Radio-Signal Notations (RASIN) 50.000 dollar kunnen krijgen. Uiteindelijk blijkt Pollard een gewoon mens die de verlokking van het geld niet kon weerstaan. Andere agenten zijn hem voorgegaan en hebben zijn voorbeeld gevolgd.
Het nadeel van zijn afkomst blijkt ook uit het feit dat hij zijn Israëlische runner een ‘cadeautje’ gaf. Aviem Sella had mee gevochten in de zesdaagse Yom Kippur oorlog en was een van de piloten die de Iraakse kernreactor in Osirak bombardeerde. Pollard gaf hem destijds satellietbeelden van die aanval. Sella wordt nog steeds gezocht voor Verenigde Staten voor spionage.
De operatie werd door een andere veteraan, Rafi of Rafael Eitan, geleid. Onder diens leiding spoorde de Mossad Adolf Eichmann op. Eitan en Sella werden rijkelijk beloond voor hun werk met Pollard, maar moesten hun promoties inleveren omdat de Amerikanen eind jaren ’80 furieus reageerden. Na de arrestatie van Pollard beweerden de Israëliërs dat ze helemaal niet zoveel documenten hadden gekregen van de spion en de onderhandelingen over teruggave uiterst stroef waren verlopen.
Uiteindelijk werd maar een fractie van de documenten teruggegeven aan de Amerikanen. De Israëliërs waren vooral bezig om na zijn veroordeling Pollard vrij te krijgen. Premier Nethanyahu sprak vorig jaar de Knesset toe over het lot van Pollard, terwijl de Israëlische ambassadeur in de VS hem juli 2011 bezocht in de gevangenis.
Tot nu toe lijken de Amerikanen niet van zins om hem vrij te laten. Na de veroordeling van Pollard kwam de campagne Free Pollard op gang. Zijn vrouw verdween uit beeld. Niet alleen Israëliërs nemen deel aan de campagne, maar ook Alan Dershowitz, professor aan de Harvard Law School en andere academici. In het laatste hoofdstuk More sinned against than sinning beschrijft Olive enkele andere spionnen die documenten verkochten aan buitenlandse mogendheden.
Capturing Jonathan Pollard was nog niet gepubliceerd toen de stroom Wikileaks-documenten op gang kwam. Die documenten laten echter zien dat een waterdicht systeem niet bestaat en dat mensen voor geld of om andere redenen geheime stukken lekken. De Wikileaks-documenten onderstrepen dat er sinds de jaren ’80 weinig is veranderd. Met als enige verschil de hardvochtige wijze waarop verdachte Manning in deze zaak wordt behandeld en de gebrekkige aandacht die hij krijgt van professoren en andere betrokkenen bij de Wikileaks-documenten.
Capturing Jonathan Pollard: How One of the Most Notorious Spies in American History Was Brought to Justice. Auteur Ronald J. Olive. Uitgeverij US Naval Institute Press (2006).
Find this story at 19 June 2012
The Mystery of Duqu 2.0: a sophisticated cyberespionage actor returns New zero-day used for effective kernel memory injection and stealth
27 juli 2015
Earlier this year, during a security sweep, Kaspersky Lab detected a cyber-intrusion affecting several of our internal systems.
Following this finding, we launched a large scale investigation, which led to the discovery of a new malware platform from one of the most skilled, mysterious and powerful groups in the APT world – Duqu. The Duqu threat actor went dark in 2012 and was believed to have stopped working on this project – until now. Our technical analysis indicates the new round of attacks include an updated version of the infamous 2011 Duqu malware, sometimes referred to as the stepbrother of Stuxnet. We named this new malware and its associated platform “Duqu 2.0”.
Some of the new 2014-2015 Duqu infections are linked to the P5+1 events and venues related to the negotiations with Iran about a nuclear deal. The threat actor behind Duqu appears to have launched attacks at the venues for some of these high level talks. In addition to the P5+1 events, the Duqu 2.0 group has launched a similar attack in relation to the 70th anniversary event of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
In the case of Kaspersky Lab, the attack took advantage of a zero-day in the Windows Kernel, and possibly up to two other, currently patched vulnerabilities, which were zero-day at that time. The analysis of the attack revealed that the main goal of the attackers was to spy on Kaspersky Lab technologies, ongoing research and internal processes. No interference with processes or systems was detected. More details can be found in our technical paper.
From a threat actor point of view, the decision to target a world-class security company must be quite difficult. On one hand, it almost surely means the attack will be exposed – it’s very unlikely that the attack will go unnoticed. So the targeting of security companies indicates that either they are very confident they won’t get caught, or perhaps they don’t care much if they are discovered and exposed. By targeting Kaspersky Lab, the Duqu attackers probably took a huge bet hoping they’d remain undiscovered; and lost.
At Kaspersky Lab, we strongly believe in transparency, which is why we are going public with this information. Kaspersky Lab is confident that its clients and partners are safe and that there is no impact on the company’s products, technologies and services.
By GReAT on June 10, 2015. 12:00 pm
Find this story at 10 June 2015
© 2015 AO Kaspersky Lab.
Spy vs. Spy: Espionage and the U.S.-Israel Rift
27 juli 2015
If more evidence was needed to show that the relationship between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama has morphed from tragedy to farce, it came late Monday with the revelation that Israel had spied on the nuclear talks between the United States and Iran.
“The White House discovered the operation,” according to the blockbuster account by Adam Entous in The Wall Street Journal, “when U.S. intelligence agencies spying on Israel intercepted communications among Israeli officials that carried details the U.S. believed could have come only from access to the confidential talks, officials briefed on the matter said.”
Talk about spy vs. spy, the old Mad magazine trope featuring two pointy-nosed, masked cartoon creatures. The National Security Agency, eavesdropping on Israeli officials (as usual, according to the revelations of Edward Snowden), overheard them discussing intelligence their own spies had gathered by spying on U.S. officials talking about the Iran negotiations.
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This was a whole new level of gamesmanship between the two bickering allies.
“It’s one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy,” an unnamed “senior U.S. official” told the Journal.
Officials in Jerusalem issued emphatic denials, as they did last year when Newsweek reported on Israeli espionage against the U.S., saying that “Israel does not spy on the United States, period, exclamation mark,’’ as Yuval Steinitz, minister for intelligence and strategic affairs, told Israel Radio on Tuesday.
Of course, Israel does spy on the U.S., and vice versa. In the age of cyberwar, electronic spying runs on autopilot, with state-of-the-art Pac-Mans zooming around the Internet gobbling up anything with the right keyword. Anybody with an antenna (or a keyboard) spies on whoever is seen as the remotest threat, including friends. Or as the Journal put it, “While U.S. officials may not be direct targets…Israeli intelligence agencies sweep up communications between U.S. officials and parties targeted by the Israelis, including Iran.”
And how did the Israelis intercept conversations between officials in Tehran and Washington? In another comedic dimension to this latest spy flap, it turns out that “U.S. intelligence agencies helped the Israelis build a system to listen in on high-level Iranian communications,” the Journal reported.
In part, it’s an old story. Israel’s clandestine operations to steal U.S. scientific, technical, industrial and financial secrets are so commonplace here that officials in the Pentagon and FBI periodically verge into open revolt.
Last year, U.S. intelligence officials trooped up to Capitol Hill to tell U.S. lawmakers considering visa waivers for Israelis that Jerusalem’s spying here had “crossed red lines.” One congressional staffer who attended the behind-closed-doors briefings called the information “very sobering…alarming…even terrifying.” Another staffer called it “damaging.”
“We used to call the Israelis on the carpet once a year to tell them to cut it out, when a particular stunt was just too outrageous ” says a former top FBI counterintelligence official. “They’d make all the right noises and then go right back at it through another door.” But since Israel is such an important strategic ally of the U.S., it was a sin that could not be named. The standing order has always been to just suck it up.
Until this week. The accusations by the unnamed Obama administration officials marked a new frontier in calling out the Israelis—or at least Netanyahu’s right-wing administration.
Netanyahu had crossed some sort of red line again when, according to the Journal, his man in Washington began quietly sharing Israeli intelligence about the U.S. negotiating position with members of Congress, hoping to shore up support for its rejection of any deal with the Iranians short of a total nuclear capitulation on their part. But what seems to have pushed Obama officials over the edge was that Ambassador Ron Dermer, a former Republican operative who holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, was wildly exaggerating what the U.S. position was, according to the Journal, making it sound like the White House had given away the store to the Iranians in a desperate effort to ink a deal.
Republican Representative Devin Nunes of California, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, indicated he had indeed gotten a different view on Iran from sources outside the administration.
“As good as our intelligence community is, a lot of times we don’t even know what the Iranians are up to,” he told CNN. “So we were shocked at the disclosures that have come forward of the size and scope of the Iranian program even in the most recent years.”
One former U.S. intelligence operative with long, firsthand familiarity with Israeli operations called the revelation “appalling but not surprising,” especially under Netanyahu, whose governing coalition depends on the support of far-right Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox parties with a stake in the West Bank settlements.
“The fact that there is such manipulation of our institutions by a so-called ally must be exposed, and the ‘useful idiots’ in [the U.S.] government who toe the Likud line will someday be looked back upon as men and women who sacrificed the U.S. national interest for a foreign ideology—Likud right-wing Zionism,” the operative said, on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
“We know publicly that the administration is seething,” he added, “but I can assure you that behind closed doors the gloves are coming off. Bibi is in the administration’s crosshairs. If this is what is being allowed to leak publicly, you can bet that, behind the scenes, folks both in the White House and the foreign policy-intel community [are prepared to] act on that anger.”
This is not the end of it, he predicted. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which critics say has morphed from a powerful “pro-Israel” lobby to a powerful pro-Likud lobby over the years, will be Obama officials’ next target.
“I’m betting there are going to be some willing leakers now about stories such as AIPAC’s operations against Congress,” the former operative said.
Bob Corker of Tennessee, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has no doubt that Obama administration officials made a calculated decision to call out Netanyahu, who has long been at odds with the White House on the Middle East peace process, Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Iranian nuclear talks.
“I think y’all all understand what’s happening here,” he told reporters. “I mean, you understand who’s pushing this out.”
But if Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, is any barometer, the Israelis have little to worry about.
“I just don’t look at that as spying,” Kaine said of the Journal’s allegations. “Their deep existential interest in such a deal, that they would try to figure out anything that they could, that they would have an opinion on it…I don’t find any of that that controversial.”
Jeff Stein writes SpyTalk from Washington, D.C. He can be reached more or less confidentially via email@example.com.
BY JEFF STEIN 3/25/15 AT 12:23 PM
Find this story at 25 March 2015
© 2015 NEWSWEEK LLC
NETANYAHU’S SPYING DENIALS CONTRADICTED BY SECRET NSA DOCUMENTS
27 juli 2015
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday vehemently denied a Wall Street Journal report, leaked by the Obama White House, that Israel spied on U.S. negotiations with Iran and then fed the intelligence to Congressional Republicans. His office’s denial was categorical and absolute, extending beyond this specific story to U.S.-targeted spying generally, claiming: “The state of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel’s other allies.”
Israel’s claim is not only incredible on its face. It is also squarely contradicted by top-secret NSA documents, which state that Israel targets the U.S. government for invasive electronic surveillance, and does so more aggressively and threateningly than almost any other country in the world. Indeed, so concerted and aggressive are Israeli efforts against the U.S. that some key U.S. government documents — including the top secret 2013 intelligence budget — list Israel among the U.S.’s most threatening cyber-adversaries and as a “hostile” foreign intelligence service.
One top-secret 2008 document features an interview with the NSA’s Global Capabilities Manager for Countering Foreign Intelligence, entitled “Which Foreign Intelligence Service Is the Biggest Threat to the US?” He repeatedly names Israel as one of the key threats.
While noting that Russia and China do the most effective spying on U.S., he says that “Israel also targets us.” He explains that “A NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] ranked [Israel] as the third most aggressive intelligence service against the US.” While praising the surveillance relationship with Israel as highly valuable, he added: “One of NSA’s biggest threats is actually from friendly intelligence services, like Israel.” Specifically, the Israelis “target us to learn our positions on Middle East problems.”
Other NSA documents voice the grievance that Israel gets far more out of the intelligence-sharing relationship than the U.S. does. One top-secret 2007 document, entitled “History of the US – Israel SIGINT Relationship, post 1992,” describes the cooperation that takes place as highly productive and valuable, and, indeed, top-secret documents previously reported by The Intercept and the Guardian leave no doubt about the very active intelligence-sharing relationship that takes place between the two countries. Yet that same document complains that the relationship even after 9/11 was almost entirely one-sided in favor of serving Israeli rather than U.S. interests:
The U.S. perception of Israel as a threat as much as an ally is also evidenced by the so-called “black budget” of 2013, previously referenced by The Washington Post, which lists Israel in multiple places as a key intelligence “target” and even a “hostile foreign intelligence service” among several other countries typically thought of as the U.S.’s most entrenched adversaries:
The same budget document reveals that the CIA regards Israel — along with Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan and Cuba — as a “priority threat country,” one against which it “conduct[s] offensive [counter-intelligence] operations in collaboration with DoD”:
One particular source of concern for U.S. intelligence are the means used by Israel to “influence anti-regime elements in Iran,” including its use of “propaganda and other active measures”:
What is most striking about all of this is the massive gap between (a) how American national security officials talk privately about the Israelis and (b) how they have talked for decades about the Israelis for public consumption — at least until the recent change in public rhetoric from Obama officials about Israel, which merely brings publicly expressed American views more in line with how U.S. government officials have long privately regarded their “ally.” The NSA refused to comment for this article.
Previously reported stories on Israeli spying, by themselves, leave no doubt how false Netanyahu’s statement is. A Der Spiegel article from last fall revealed that “Israeli intelligence eavesdropped on US Secretary of State John Kerry during Middle East peace negotiations.” A Le Monde article described how NSA documents strongly suggest that a massive computer hack of the French presidential palace in 2012 was likely carried about by the Israelis. A 2014 article from Newsweek’s Jeff Stein revealed that when it comes to surveillance, “the Jewish state’s primary target” is “America’s industrial and technical secrets” and that “Israel’s espionage activities in America are unrivaled and unseemly.”
All of these stories, along with these new documents, leave no doubt that, at least as the NSA and other parts of the U.S. National Security State see it, Netanyahu’s denials are entirely false: The Israelis engage in active and aggressive espionage against the U.S., even as the U.S. feeds the Israelis billions of dollars every year in U.S. taxpayer funds and protects every Israeli action at the U.N. Because of the U.S. perception of Israel as a “threat” and even a “hostile” foreign intelligence service — facts they discuss only privately, never publicly — the U.S. targets Israel for all sorts of espionage as well.
Glenn Greenwald, Andrew Fishman
Mar. 25 2015, 8:06 p.m.
Find this story at 25 March 2015
Israeli TV Says US Has Stopped Sharing Intelligence About Iranian Nuclear Program With Israel
27 juli 2015
Report: Obama Administration Has Stopped Sharing Intelligence With Israel on Iran’s Nuclear Program
The Obama administration has “unilaterally” and “completely” stopped sharing intelligence with Israel over Iran’s nuclear development program due to its anger over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Tuesday address to Congress, Israel’s Channel 10 reported, a charge the White House flatly denied.
“The U.S. unilaterally stopped all of its joint activity with Israel regarding the nuclearization of Iran,” the news show reported Monday night. This freeze in intelligence sharing was attributed to the “American anger” at Netanyahu.
White House national security spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan told TheBlaze in an email, “the report is completely false.”
In this Oct. 26, 2010 file photo, a worker rides a bicycle in front of the reactor building of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, just outside the southern city of Bushehr, Iran. (AP Photo/Mehr News Agency, Majid Asgaripour, File)
On Sunday, one day before the Channel 10 report, Secretary of State John Kerry touted the close security relationship with Israel in an interview with ABC’s “This Week.”
“We have a closer relationship with Israel right now, in terms of security, than at anytime in history,” Kerry said.
To make up for the gap, Israel is cooperating with other countries, not the U.S., to collect intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program. Past joint efforts by American and Israeli intelligence have helped the International Atomic Energy Agency monitor Iran’s nuclear progress, which is suspected of ultimately being aimed at the development of weapons.
Those IAEA reports raising suspicions about the objectives of Iran’s nuclear program have been the cornerstone of the case to convince the international community to impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Netanyahu was in Washington to warn lawmakers of the dangers of the emerging deal currently being negotiated between Iran and six world powers, including the U.S. Media reports have said the framework being worked out would monitor Iranian nuclear progress for only 10 years.
An unnamed senior aide to Netanyahu told reporters traveling on Netanyahu’s plane Sunday that the Obama administration was not fully sharing details with Congress about the negotiations.
The State Department on Monday warned Netanyahu against disclosing those details to Congress.
“We’ve continuously provided detailed classified briefings to Israeli officials to keep them updated and to provide context for how we are approaching getting to a good deal, because we’ve been very clear we will not accept a bad deal,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. “So any release of any kind of information like that would, of course, betray that trust.”
Channel 10 also reported that in addition to refusing to meet the Israeli leader, Obama had no plans to phone him while he’s in town either.
The Jerusalem Post reported that the prime minister’s office would not comment on the Channel 10 report.
March 3, 2015
Find this story at 3 March 2015
Leak investigation stalls amid fears of confirming U.S.-Israel operation
27 juli 2015
A sensitive leak investigation of a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has stalled amid concerns that a prosecution in federal court could force the government to confirm a joint U.S.-Israeli covert operation targeting Iran, according to current and former U.S. officials.
Federal investigators suspect that retired Marine Gen. James E. “Hoss” Cartwright leaked to a New York Times reporter details about a highly classified operation to hobble Iran’s nuclear enrichment capability through cyber-sabotage — an effort not acknowledged by Israel or the United States.
Prosecutors will have to overcome significant national security and diplomatic concerns if they want to move forward, including pitting the Obama administration against Israel if that ally were opposed to any information about the cyber-operation being revealed in court.
The United States could move forward with the case against Israel’s wishes, but such a move might further harm relations between two countries, which are already frayed because of a disagreement over how best to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Administration officials also fear that any revelations could complicate the current negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.
“There are always legitimate national security reasons for not proceeding in one of these cases,” said John L. Martin, who handled many sensitive espionage investigations as a former Justice Department prosecutor.
The case captures the tension between national security concerns and the desire of prosecutors to hold high-ranking officials to account for leaking classified secrets. The Obama administration has been the most aggressive in U.S. history in pursuing those suspected of leaking classified information.
The Justice Department has offered no clues to whether it intends to proceed with a case against Cartwright, who helped design the cyber-campaign against Iran under President George W. Bush and was involved in its escalation under President Obama.
Spokesmen for the Justice Department, the White House and the FBI declined to comment for this article.
Gregory B. Craig, Cartwright’s attorney and a former White House counsel in the Obama administration, said he has had no contact with prosecutors for more than a year.
“General Cartwright has done nothing wrong,” Craig said. “He has devoted his entire life to defending the United States. He would never do anything to weaken our national defense or undermine our national security. Hoss Cartwright is a national treasure, a genuine hero and a great patriot.”
In discussions with the office of the White House counsel, then led by Kathryn Ruemmler, prosecutors sought to determine whether the White House would be willing to declassify material important to the case. Ruemmler was unwilling to provide the documentation, citing security concerns, including those relating to sources and methods, said a person familiar with the matter.
Ruemmler, who left the post in June, declined to comment.
“There’s a fundamental tension in cases like this between the needs of a criminal prosecution and the needs of national security,” said Jason Weinstein, a former deputy assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, who was not briefed on the investigation. “Where that comes to a head is when prosecutors want to use evidence in a courtroom that is highly classified and very sensitive.”
It is often the case that the needs of a particular criminal prosecution yield to national security interests. “At the end of the day,” Weinstein said, “if you can’t use the evidence you need in court, you can’t bring the case.”
Details of the joint program, including its code name, Olympic Games, were revealed by Times reporter David E. Sanger in a book and article in June 2012. The sabotage of Iranian nuclear centrifuges by the computer worm dubbed Stuxnet had emerged two years earlier, and security experts speculated that it was the work of the United States and Israel.
Confirmation of the joint authorship set off a political controversy, with congressional Republicans charging that the White House had deliberately leaked information to enhance Obama’s national security credentials as he sought reelection.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. assigned Rod J. Rosenstein, the U.S. attorney for Maryland, to investigate the leak. His office declined to comment.
FBI investigators focused on Cartwright in the fall of 2012, officials said. They interviewed him at least twice, according to people who are familiar with the case and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation. During the first interview, Cartwright had to go to the hospital.
Part of the challenge of preparing a case like this is determining to what extent authorities who control the declassification of information, in this case the White House and the intelligence community, are willing to divulge information.
In the case of a CIA officer who was recently convicted of espionage, the government disclosed sensitive details during the leak trial about a separate operation to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program that occurred more than a decade ago. The CIA even allowed a Russian scientist who had defected and taken part in the highly classified operation to testify.
“The government’s got to make a choice: Is it more important to prosecute a national security leak or more important to preserve relationships with allies and shield sources and methods that protect the country?” said one individual familiar with the matter.
The case also poses opportunities for “graymail” — a situation in which defense attorneys exercise leverage that lawyers in ordinary criminal cases lack by forcing prosecutors to make tough judgment calls about divulging sensitive or classified information.
Craig might, for instance, push for broad discovery of information aimed at demonstrating that other officials could have been sources of the leak. Experts say he also could press to establish the factual basis for the information leaked, which could expose sensitive material.
Cartwright, who retired in 2011, had White House authorization to speak with reporters, according to people familiar with the matter. Craig might try to put the White House’s relationship with reporters and the use of authorized leaks on display, creating a potentially embarrassing distraction for the administration.
The case could remain open beyond the point at which national security and foreign policy concerns are an issue. Under the Espionage Act, one of the statutes that the government probably would use, prosecutors have 10 years from the date of the alleged crime to file charges.
Sari Horwitz contributed to this report.
By Ellen Nakashima and Adam Goldman March 10
Find this story at 10 March 2015
Israel’s N.S.A. Scandal
27 juli 2015
WASHINGTON — IN Moscow this summer, while reporting a story for Wired magazine, I had the rare opportunity to hang out for three days with Edward J. Snowden. It gave me a chance to get a deeper understanding of who he is and why, as a National Security Agency contractor, he took the momentous step of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents.
Among his most shocking discoveries, he told me, was the fact that the N.S.A. was routinely passing along the private communications of Americans to a large and very secretive Israeli military organization known as Unit 8200. This transfer of intercepts, he said, included the contents of the communications as well as metadata such as who was calling whom.
Typically, when such sensitive information is transferred to another country, it would first be “minimized,” meaning that names and other personally identifiable information would be removed. But when sharing with Israel, the N.S.A. evidently did not ensure that the data was modified in this way.
Mr. Snowden stressed that the transfer of intercepts to Israel contained the communications — email as well as phone calls — of countless Arab- and Palestinian-Americans whose relatives in Israel and the Palestinian territories could become targets based on the communications. “I think that’s amazing,” he told me. “It’s one of the biggest abuses we’ve seen.”
It appears that Mr. Snowden’s fears were warranted. Last week, 43 veterans of Unit 8200 — many still serving in the reserves — accused the organization of startling abuses. In a letter to their commanders, to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to the head of the Israeli army, they charged that Israel used information collected against innocent Palestinians for “political persecution.” In testimonies and interviews given to the media, they specified that data were gathered on Palestinians’ sexual orientations, infidelities, money problems, family medical conditions and other private matters that could be used to coerce Palestinians into becoming collaborators or create divisions in their society.
The veterans of Unit 8200 declared that they had a “moral duty” to no longer “take part in the state’s actions against Palestinians.” An Israeli military spokesman disputed the letter’s overall drift but said the charges would be examined.
It should trouble the American public that some or much of the information in question — intended not for national security purposes but simply to pursue political agendas — may have come directly from the N.S.A.’s domestic dragnet. According to documents leaked by Mr. Snowden and reported by the British newspaper The Guardian, the N.S.A. has been sending intelligence to Israel since at least March 2009.
The memorandum of agreement between the N.S.A. and its Israeli counterpart covers virtually all forms of communication, including but not limited to “unevaluated and unminimized transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence metadata and content.” The memo also indicates that the N.S.A. does not filter out American communications before delivery to Israel; indeed, the agency “routinely sends” unminimized data.
Although the memo emphasizes that Israel should make use of the intercepts in accordance with United States law, it also notes that the agreement is legally unenforceable. “This agreement,” it reads, “is not intended to create any legally enforceable rights and shall not be construed to be either an international agreement or a legally binding instrument according to international law.”
Continue reading the main story
pak September 17, 2014
What type of information could be used against a palestinian to force him/her to collaborate? Homosexuality? Adultery? Premarital sex?…
kagni September 17, 2014
Very romantic to ignore that ugly breeds ugly, especially from a journalist of Mr Bamford’s age and experience. If anything, only…
Guy September 17, 2014
Clearly, there are thousands of ways to abuse private information collected on people. This is one of many, and this is why folks like…
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It should also trouble Americans that the N.S.A. could head down a similar path in this country. Indeed, there is some indication, from a top-secret 2012 document from Mr. Snowden’s leaked files that I saw last year, that it already is. The document, from Gen. Keith B. Alexander, then the director of the N.S.A., notes that the agency had been compiling records of visits to pornographic websites and proposes using that information to damage the reputations of people whom the agency considers “radicalizers” — not necessarily terrorists, but those attempting, through the use of incendiary speech, to radicalize others. (The Huffington Post has published a redacted version of the document.)
In Moscow, Mr. Snowden told me that the document reminded him of the F.B.I.’s overreach during the days of J. Edgar Hoover, when the bureau abused its powers to monitor and harass political activists. “It’s much like how the F.B.I. tried to use Martin Luther King’s infidelity to talk him into killing himself,” he said. “We said those kinds of things were inappropriate back in the ’60s. Why are we doing that now? Why are we getting involved in this again?”
It’s a question that American and Israeli citizens should be asking themselves.
James Bamford is the author of three books on the National Security Agency, including “The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret N.S.A. from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America.”
By JAMES BAMFORDSEPT. 16, 2014
Find this story at 16 September 2014
© 2015 The New York Times Company
Israel Eavesdropped on John Kerry in Mideast Talks
27 juli 2015
New information indicates that Israeli intelligence eavesdropped on telephone conversations by US Secretary of State John Kerry. Sources told SPIEGEL the government then used the information obtained from the calls during negotiations in the Mideast conflict.
SPIEGEL has learned from reliable sources that Israeli intelligence eavesdropped on US Secretary of State John Kerry during Middle East peace negotiations. In addition to the Israelis, at least one other intelligence service also listened in as Kerry mediated last year between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab states, several intelligence service sources told SPIEGEL. Revelations of the eavesdropping could further damage already tense relations between the US government and Israel.
During the peak stage of peace talks last year, Kerry spoke regularly with high-ranking negotiating partners in the Middle East. At the time, some of these calls were not made on encrypted equipment, but instead on normal telephones, with the conversations transmitted by satellite. Intelligence agencies intercepted some of those calls. The government in Jerusalem then used the information obtained in international negotiations aiming to reach a diplomatic solution in the Middle East.
In the current Gaza conflict, the Israelis have massively criticized Kerry, with a few ministers indirectly calling on him to withdraw from peace talks. Both the US State Department and the Israeli authorities declined to comment.
Only one week ago, Kerry flew to Israel to mediate between the conflict parties, but the Israelis brusquely rejected a draft proposal for a cease-fire. The plan reportedly didn’t include any language demanding that Hamas abandon its rocket arsenal and destroy its tunnel system. Last year, Kerry undertook intensive diplomatic efforts to seek a solution in the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, but they ultimately failed. Since those talks, relations between Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been tense.
Still, there are no doubts about fundamental support for Israel on the part of the United States. On Friday, the US Congress voted to help fund Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defense system to the tune of $225 million (around €168 million).
Find this story at 3 August 2014
© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2014
The officer who saw behind the top-secret curtain
27 juli 2015
From supporting Yemeni Royalists to a proposal for the assassination Iran’s Khomenei, former military intelligence officer Yossi Alpher had a behind-the-scenes look at some of the IDF’s most classified operations; now he explains the covert strategies that guided Israeli intelligence for decades.
In the mid-1960s, Lieutenant Yossi Alpher served as a junior officer in one of the Israel Defense Forces’ most classified units – the Military Intelligence unit responsible for liaising with Israel’s other intelligence bodies, the Shin Bet security service and the Mossad.
He was entrusted with a secret task: “I had to go under the cover of darkness to the Israel Air Forces’ Tel-Nof base,” he recalls during an interview, “and meticulously check through huge piles of military equipment, and weapons and ammunition in particular, to ensure they bore no distinguishing Israeli marks – no IDF symbol, no Hebrew letters, nothing that would be able to link the equipment to us even if someone were to go through it with a fine-tooth comb.”
On completing his inspection, Alpher signed off on a document to confirm that everything was in order, and the equipment and weapons were then loaded onto an IAF cargo aircraft and flown to a destination that only very few in Israel knew of. Even the name of the operation, Rotev (Hebrew for gravy) was top secret.
In those days, as is the case now too, Yemen was embroiled in a fierce civil war – between the Royalists (the Shia Zaidis, the Houthis of today) and the so-called Republican rebels, who were being supported by Egypt and the Soviets. Back then in the mid-1960s, however, the Royalists had the backing in fact of Saudi Arabia.
“The Saudis didn’t care that they were Shia, whose descendants are the ones supporting Iran today,” Alpher says. “It was important for them to preserve their influence in Yemen and oppose the Soviet-Egyptian intervention.”
The Saudis turned for help to Britain, where former members of the Special Air Service (SAS) – the elite British army unit- were recruited for the mission. Operating out of their headquarters in London and bases in Aden, Yemen, the SAS veterans sought help in turn from Israel, the strongest power in the region and Egypt’s main enemy.
At the same time, a representative of Imam al-Badr, leader of the Royalists in Yemen, made direct contact with Mossad operatives in Europe and was even brought to Israel for a visit. The operation was conducted over a period of slightly more than two years, during which an IAF Stratocruiser cargo aircraft made 14 dangerous nighttime sorties from Tel-Nof to Yemen – a 14-hour round trip. From an altitude of some 3,600 meters, Egyptian weapons seized during the 1956 Sinai Campaign were accurately parachuted into wadis surrounded by high mountains controlled by the Royalists.
Alpher says that in order to carry out the initial parachute drops in the proper fashion, and to ensure that the equipment ended up in the right place and right hands, two members of Caesarea, the Mossad’s special-operations division, were sent to Yemen in coordination with the British intelligence services. One of the Caesarea operatives fell ill on the way and was forced to pull out. The second made it to the drop site and guided the aircraft in for the initial deliveries.
Once everything was running smoothly, the Mossad stepped back and the logistics of the remaining drops were handled by the British. Even now, years later, it’s easy to grasp the intensity of the drama, the risk, the secrecy and the significance of the Israeli-British-Saudi-Yemeni operation of that time.
The operation was coordinated in Israel by Nahum Admoni, who went on to become Mossad chief from 1982 to 1989; the British, for their part, sent two senior SAS members to Israel, one by the name of the Gene and the other Tony – and hence the unofficial codename for the operation, “Gin and Tonic”.
Alpher: “Presumably, only a very few in Saudi Arabia knew of Israel’s involvement. The Yemenis didn’t know who was parachuting equipment to them, but it had a big impact on the war there and the damage caused to the rebels and the Egyptian forces.”
What was the objective of the operation from Israel’s perspective?
“The main objective was to pin down and wear out Egyptian forces. We’re talking about the period between the Sinai Campaign and the Six-Day War. We knew there was another war coming. We also knew that the Egyptians were using mustard gas in Yemen. That frightened us a great deal. We were concerned that we would struggle to cope with such an army and such a weapon in the next military campaign.
“And lo and behold, we were presented with the opportunity to strike at them and wear them down in a place where they least expected us to appear. In addition, we ended up with some intelligence from the Mossad’s activities in Yemen and better relations with the British and the Saudis. Not bad, right? Moreover, we didn’t invest all that much; the weapons were Egyptian spoils-of-war that fell into our hands in the 1956 war.”
The operation was going ahead so successfully that at one stage the IAF considered carrying out an attack on Egyptian aircraft stationed at their bases in Yemen, as an act of deterrence that would damage the reputation of then-Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser. The plan was eventually scrapped.
“And good that it was,” Alpher says, “because it allowed us to notch up a complete surprise later on, when the IAF carried out strikes on the Egyptian aircraft at their bases in Egypt on the morning of June 5, 1967.”
That said, Alpher believes that the operation can be crowned a big success, as it pinned down Egyptian forces in Yemen and severely undermined the fighting spirit of the Egyptian Army ahead of the Six-Day War. “We learned from prisoners we captured in the Sinai,” he says, “just how much the events in Yemen negatively impacted the mood and readiness of the Egyptian Army.”
The full extent of Operation Rotev, from the mouths of Israeli sources, has been released for publication and appears for the first time in Alpher’s book, Periphery: Israel’s Search for Middle East Allies (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015; the Hebrew edition has a slightly different title).
A long-serving Mossad official who went on to head the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, Alpher has written a comprehensive study, in part as an active player with firsthand knowledge, and in part based on interviews he conducted and documents he collected about the “Periphery doctrine” – Israel’s covert strategy in the region, with the Mossad operations at its center.
The general strategy of the “Periphery doctrine” was devised by Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. Its implementation was entrusted initially to the Mossad’s founder and first director, Reuven Shiloah, and then the Mossad chiefs to follow.
What is the so-called Periphery doctrine?
“It was the Israeli attempt to breach the hostile Arab ring surrounding us and to forge ties further afield, with the purpose of creating deterrence, acquiring intelligence assets, and counterbalancing the Arab hostility.
“Nasser spoke regularly of his desire to throw the Jews into the sea. The Mossad looked for allies to offset this desire and be able to say: We’re not alone. At the same time, we took advantage of these ties to gather intelligence about Arab states, in places where they least expected us to show up, to pin down and wear down Arab forces there, and to use our ties with countries in the region as an asset to present to the Americans.”
With this strategy in mind, the Mossad sought to forge intimate intelligence ties with countries bordering on Israel’s close-quarter enemies, even if the said countries publicly toed the line with the Arab states and condemned Israel in the international arena. Israelis gathered and obtained intelligence on Arab countries in the outlying countries with which secret ties were established; and in return, Israel provided training services, information, arms and sophisticated electronic equipment.
Alpher divides the periphery, from the Mossad’s perspective, into three categories. Included in the first were the non-Arab and/or non-Muslim states that bordered on the Arab conflict states – Iran, Ethiopia, Turkey, Eritrea, and Kenya and Uganda at the rear.
The second comprised non-Arab and non-Muslim ethnic groups and peoples living in the Arab conflict states – the Christians in southern Sudan and in Lebanon, and the Kurds in Iraq. And the third category was made up of Arab countries on the margins of the Middle East that felt that militant Arab nationalism was a threat to them or wanted ties with Israel in light of local or regional circumstances – Morocco, some of the Gulf States, and, for a short time, Yemen.
Alpher also talks of the ideological element that drove the system. “There were certainly instances, particularly when it came to providing help to minorities suffering at the hands of the Arabs, in which there was also an ideological component,” he says. “I remember my colleagues and I at the Mossad seeing ourselves, the Jews, as the only ethnic minority in the Middle East that has achieved self-determination and that needs to help other ethnic minorities that are up against imperialistic and extremely cruel Arab hostility. We felt a moral obligation to help them.
“When (Mossad official) David Kimche, for example, went to meet Kurdish leader Mullah Mustafa Barzani in Iraq in 1965, what did he see? What did he encounter? Dave saw an extremely downtrodden people who were suffering terribly under shocking Arab oppression. You cannot help but identify with them.”
Israel’s covert military and intelligence activities throughout the entire Middle East region were carried out for the most part by small forces and on a shoestring budget, in keeping with the country’s limited resources, and the jury is still out when it comes to the quality of the intelligence gathered; but as Alpher views things, these issues are dwarfed by the manner in which the Mossad’s activities were perceived by the other side. In the eyes of the enemy, the Arab states, the Mossad’s influence and capabilities increased beyond measure.
“In talks years later with Arab officials,” Alpher says, “I got an understanding of how the other side had viewed the whole issue. They saw our presence in those countries as an extremely powerful and direct threat to themselves. Thus, for example, they viewed our presence in southern Sudan and Ethiopia as a direct threat to the source of the Nile River.
“Israel never considered tampering with the Nile, and it’s impossible to do so from an engineering perspective too; but the Egyptians didn’t see it like that, and they interpreted the fact that the IDF and Mossad were so close to their lifeline very differently – as an Israeli attempt to say to them that we are breathing down their necks. And thus it contributed to peace: They understood that they wouldn’t be able to defeat us by means of an armed conflict.”
The Trident alliance
The highpoint of the “Periphery doctrine” was the tripartite intelligence pact involving Israel, Turkey and Iran – known in the Mossad as C’lil but termed Trident among the partners. The Turkish-Israeli part of the pact was sealed during a secret agreement in Ankara on August 20, 1958, between Ben-Gurion and the Turkish prime minister at the time, Adnan Menderes.
The catalyst for the Turks occurred a month earlier: In July, a coup d’etat led by Abd al-Karim Qasim toppled the Hashemite monarchy in Iraq and brought about Iraq’s withdrawal from the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) – a secret pro-Western alliance formed in 1955 between the United Kingdom, Turkey, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq – and its inclusion in the pro-Soviet radical camp.
“At the first trilateral meeting between the sides that took place in Turkey in late September and early October of 1958,” Alpher reveals, “the participants – all heads of their respective countries’ spy agencies – decided on a series of joint intelligence operations that included subversive activities directed against Nasser’s influence and the influence of the Soviets. They divided the region into realms of responsibility for each of the parties. The Iranian intelligence service, for example, was entrusted with the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Morocco.”
The American dimension was critical too. “As soon as we completed the establishment of Trident, we ran to tell the Americans about it,” Alpher says. “We bragged; look, we’ve put together a NATO pact of our own. To begin with, Ben-Gurion marketed Trident to the Eisenhower administration in Washington as an asset for the West.
“He portrayed the alliance as an effective means to thwart Soviet infiltration into the Middle East, and also as a counterbalance against the radical Arab states, especially after Iraq’s withdrawal from the Baghdad Pact.”
The Central Intelligence Agency didn’t remain indifferent. On a deserted hill north of Tel Aviv, the US agency financed the construction of a two-story building intended to serve as Trident headquarters. “The ground floor included a ‘Blue Wing’ for the use of the Iranians and a ‘Yellow Wing’ for the Turks, with the conference rooms on the second floor,” Alpher recalls.
Later came accommodation facilities, a fully equipped kitchen, a swimming pool, a plush movie theater and a gym – all for the purpose of secretly hosting high-ranking foreign officials in style, in keeping at least with what Israel could offer and afford at the time. “Bobby, an excellent chef, served non-kosher Hungarian food and the guests were very satisfied,” Alpher notes.
From the late 1950s and through to the Khomeini revolution in 1979, the meetings between the heads of the three intelligence services were held in a different country every time. Alpher attended some of the sessions. “Every meeting would begin with a festive reception that was followed by a ceremonial meeting in the presence of the heads of the services themselves,” Alpher recounts.
“I remember the excitement that gripped me when I arrived for my first meeting and was introduced to General Nassiri, the awe-inspiring commander of the SAVAK, the shah’s intelligence agency. He showed up in uniform, surrounded by an aura of fear and mystery.
“At the initial meetings, the heads (of the intelligence agencies) would first present their notes and papers that included matters of principle, and then the participants would break away into discussion groups in which intelligence and ideas were exchanged. It was a huge achievement for Israel, less so because of the quality of the intelligence presented – our capabilities were usually a lot higher – and more so due to the very existence of such an alliance under Israeli auspices.”
At the same time, in 1959, Israeli and Turkish military leaders – with Israel represented by then-chief of staff Haim Laskov – met in Istanbul to plan a joint military campaign against Syria. The joint operation didn’t materialize, but cooperation between the parties grew ever stronger.
Over and above the trilateral meetings that took place twice a year, the alliance also involved the exchange of intelligence on an almost-daily basis. “As a Military Intelligence officer, I remember we used to receive daily reports on the passage of Soviet vessels through the Dardanelles Strait,” Alpher says. “This was of dual importance – firstly, it was information about Soviet supplies to the Arab states; and secondly, it was information we could share with the CIA.”
The Iran-Israel cooperation was even more active: Jews who had fled Iraq for Iran via the Kurdish region in northern Iraq went on from there to Israel; IDF officers trained Iranian forces and Israel sold arms to Iran; in 1958, Iranian weapons were supplied via Israel to conservative Shia groups in southern Lebanon; and on behalf of the Iranians, Israeli intelligence officials set up a body that was responsible for recruiting and handling agents, with its efforts focused on Iraq and also countering Nasser’s subversive activities among the Arabs of the Khuzestan Province in southwest Iran.
Since the Trident building on the hilltop north of Tel Aviv remained vacant most days of the year, then-Mossad director Meir Amit decided to turn it into a training college named after Mossad agent Eli Cohen, who was executed in Damascus.
On several occasions over the years, the Mossad requested approval to refurbish the building or even demolish it completely, but the Tel Aviv Municipality declared it a heritage site due to its unique architecture – and thus it remained standing. Those Yellow and Blue rooms, painted many times since in different colors, would go on to serve as the location for some of the most dramatic meetings in Israel’s history, both with foreign officials and among Israeli leaders.
In 2010, the building hosted the series of lengthy and controversial discussions convened by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-defense minister Ehud Barak on the option of carrying out a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. And that’s just one example.
The intelligence cooperation with Iran fitted in well with Israel’s support of the Kurds in Iraq, one of the goals of which was to cause as much significant damage as possible to the hostile Iraqi Army.
The CIA financed a large portion of the Mossad’s activities with the Kurds; and later, as a Mossad official, Alpher, who was born in the United States and is fluent in English, was instructed to prepare the Israeli agency’s request for additional funding from its American counterpart. “We ceremoniously presented them with all the intelligence reports the Kurds had provided, along with information on the extent of the assistance they had received, the extent of the damage they had caused to the Iraqi forces, and so on,” Alpher recalls.
One of the tasks assigned to Alpher with respect to the Kurds left him feeling uncomfortable; he was asked to review a Kurdish request to plan the demolition of two dams in northern Iraq. “Implementation of such a plan would have led to catastrophic strategic and legal implications,” Alpher says, noting that Israeli experts he met with at the time had told that blowing up the dams would flood Baghdad entirely and cause the death of numerous people. “In the end,” he says, “we informed Barzani, via the Mossad team in Kurdistan, that we were opposed to the operation for humanitarian reasons.”
A second task was more straightforward, from a moral standpoint at least. “I approached Colonel David Laskov (commander at the time of the Engineering Corps’ research and development unit) and asked him to build Katyusha rocket launchers that could be carried by mules,” Alpher recounts.
“A week later, Laskov invited me to a firing range in the Negev. On arrival, I found a mule with a sled-like metal frame of sorts on its back, the size of a full briefcase; and in it were Katyushas of the kind that we were about to send to the Kurds. Laskov demonstrated how to tie the ‘saddle’ to the mule, to dismantle it, to position it on the ground, to aim and to launch the rocket.”
A month later, the Kurds deployed the launchers and rockets in Kirkuk, causing extensive damage to the Iraqi oil facilities there.
Another major operation carried out by the Mossad during the same period, in the late 1960s, involved assistance in the form of the weapons, food, equipment and training for the Anyanya, the Christian underground in southern Sudan. Under the leadership of Mossad operative David Ben Uziel, a series of three-man Israeli delegations were sent to southern Sudan to train the separatist army, coordinate the delivery of weapons and equipment (with the support of IAF cargo aircraft), and oversee a humanitarian mission that involved the establishment of a field hospital at which an Israeli medical team treated the sick and wounded and vaccinated thousands of children in the area against smallpox and yellow fever.
Alpher: “The operation was a resounding success. Sudanese President Nimeiri, frustrated by his army’s defeats, offered the South autonomy in 1972. A guerilla war, orchestrated by a junior commander from a minority tribe who operated with the help of Israel, laid the foundations for a new African country (from 2011) free of the Arab threat. At one point in 1970, we did the math and found that the total cost of the Israeli operation in southern Sudan was less than the price of a single Mirage III fighter plane – the French aircraft used at that time by the Israel Air Force against Egypt and Sudan on the Suez Canal front.”
Rabin in a blonde wig
Israel’s relations with Morocco are another layer in the Periphery alliance. Israel helped the Moroccan intelligence agency to set up its bodyguards unit and others, including a sophisticated technologically division. And in return, the Moroccans provided Israel with first-grade intelligence, including intimate access to the deliberations of the Arab Summit Conference in Casablanca in September 1965.
Another important element in the ties with Morocco came some 12 years later, when the North African state served as the stage for arranging then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem, with Morocco’s King Hassan as the mediator.
Alpher: “A meeting between the king and Mossad chief Yitzhak Hofi led to another royal meeting, this time with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who arrived in Morocco incognito and wearing a blonde wig. Rabin left Hassan with a series of questions for Egyptian President Anwar Sadat with regard to the possibility of a breakthrough towards peace.
At the next meeting, Hofi held talks with Hassan Tuhami, Sadat’s deputy, and this paved the way for a meeting between Tuhami and Moshe Dayan, foreign minister in (Menachem) Begin’s government. For his secret trip to Morocco, Dayan removed his eye patch and wore a fedora hat. Mossad officials who saw his passport photo couldn’t believe it was Dayan.”
Following the signing of the peace treaty with Egypt, one of Alpher’s assignments in the Mossad’s research division involved efforts to identify “signs of peace” among other Arab entities – a lesson learned after portions of the intelligence community were caught by surprise by Sadat’s daring initiative.
Alpher didn’t really find any signs of peace to speak of; but he did discover Israeli blindness in another region under his purview – Iran. “We were so obsessed about trying to preserve our ties with the Iranian shah, who blew hot and cold in his attitude towards us,” Alpher says, “and we so wanted to woo and appease him that we didn’t think about or try to understand what was really happening in Iran – whether the opposition movement stands a chance, or whether we could link up with them not at the expense of our relations with the shah. It was a terrible mistake. We should have known much more about our allies in the periphery, especially when it came to dictatorships.”
With the fires of the revolution growing ever-more intense in Tehran and elsewhere in the country, Alpher was put in charge of the Iranian file in the Mossad’s research unit. “And that’s when I discover the terrible ignorance,” he says. “Despite the fact that we were invested up to our necks in that country, with 1,500 Israelis working and living there, we knew almost nothing about the opposition – a long line of high-ranking Israeli officials who had served in Iran and were sure they knew it like the back of their hand and that Iran would always remain friendly towards us.”
In mid-January, Alpher was summoned urgently to the office of Mossad chief Hofi. “They told me to come immediately – right now, drop everything and go up to Hofi,” he recalls.
With several of the intelligence agency’s top brass in attendance, Hofi briefly laid out the reason for the meeting. A little while earlier, the director said, the secular prime minister appointed by the shah to govern Iran in his stead, Shapour Bakhtiar, had approached the head of the Mossad’s Tehran branch, Eliezer Tsafrir, with a plain and simple request – for the Mossad to assassinate Khomeini.
At the time, the radical Islamic leader was somewhere near Paris, following his deportation to France from Iraq, to which he was exiled from Iran in the 1960s. Iraq had suggested killing Khomeini, but the shah rejected the idea at the time. Saddam Hussein subsequently deported him, and Khomeini found refuge in a town near Paris from where he successfully orchestrated the revolution by phone and telex machine.
Khomeini (C) in Paris before his return to Iran (Photo: AFP)
Khomeini (C) in Paris before his return to Iran (Photo: AFP)
Tsafrir passed on Bakhtiar’s request to Mossad headquarters in Tel Aviv, where the heads of the agency convened to discuss the matter.
“Mossad chief Hofi declared at the start of the meeting that because he was opposed in principle to the use of assassination against political leaders, he was inclined to reject the request; but he asked for the thoughts of those in attendance,” Alpher recounts. “Hofi looked at me quizzically. I was frustrated due to the dearth of information that I had about Khomeini. In a split second, I ran through all we knew about him in my mind.
“But before I get a chance to respond, one division dead butts in and says: ‘Let Khomeini return to Tehran. He won’t last. The army and the SAVAK will deal with him and the clergy who are demonstrating in the streets. He represents Iran’s past, not its future.’
“Hofi looked at me again. I thought about the positions of Washington and Moscow, about the implications of the success of such an operation for the Middle East, and the consequences of its failure vis-à-vis our relations with France and the Muslim world. I took a deep breath and said: We don’t have enough information about Khomeini’s viewpoints and his chances to realize them, so I cannot accurately assess whether the risk is justified.”
And indeed, the Mossad rejected the request to assassinate Khomeini. Alpher says he “deeply regrets” not supporting the Iranian prime minister’s request and the fact that the Mossad chose not to kill the Islamic leader. “Just two months after that meeting, I realized who we were dealing with, and already then I regretted not supporting Bakhtiar’s request,” Alpher says.
Bakhtiar ended up in exile in Paris, where he was assassinated a decade later by Iranian intelligence agents.
Taken for a ride
The Periphery strategy has also known its fair share of setbacks and disappointments; but above all, according to Alpher’s book, hovers the shadow of the terrible failure in connection with the Christian Maronites in Lebanon.
“They took the Mossad and all of Israel for a ride with deceit and terrible lies,” Alpher says. “They knew exactly how to take advantage of us, of our desire to support persecuted minorities; and they led very senior officials in the security establishment and Mossad to believe that they would side with us in the event of a military invasion of Lebanon.
“I was less enamored with them at the time, perhaps because I was born in the United States and I was familiar with traditional Catholic anti-Semitism, into which they too were born. The heavy blow Israel suffered in the Lebanon War and its aftermath led to a pullback, perhaps excessive, in our desire to support persecuted minorities in the years to follow.”
Alpher warns against undertaking to intervene militarily on behalf of a different minority because of the existence of a lobby within Israel itself. Israel’s Druze citizens are an important minority with a very strong parliamentary and government lobby, Alpher says, adding: “I am concerned by the statement of former chief of staff Benny Gantz, who for some reason made a commitment to the Druze dignitaries that the State of Israel would act to safeguard their fellow Druze across the border during the civil war in Syria.
“This could push us into a very hazardous adventure. We need to think things over very carefully based on our past experience. What are the risks? What is the extent of our moral obligation towards another minority in the region that runs into trouble with radical Islam?”
The successes and failures aside, what about the moral issue? After all, as part of the Periphery strategy, the Mossad forged tied with a series of dark regimes, terrible dictatorships, actively supporting them and sometimes tipping the scales in their favor.
“And to all of that you can add the fact that we knew that the issue of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion plays a very important role for them. To a certain degree even, we played that card, so they’d think we have immense influence over the world, and could manipulate US policy in their favor in particular. The Moroccans, the Iranians, the Turks, Idi Amin – they were all sure that one word from us would change Washington’s position towards them.
“What did we say to ourselves? A. It allows us to survive; B. It allows us to deter Arab aggression; C. It gives us the money, in the case of Iran for example, to launch arms development programs we couldn’t otherwise afford. Without it, you have no military industry and you cannot survive.”
“We knew we were dealing with unpleasant, oppressive, anti-Semitic regimes – call them what you want. Of course we knew. But was there an alternative? In other words, the alternative was to remain an isolated state, to wallow in our solitude in the face of a ring of Arab hostility.
“Now, even if you accept Professor Shimon Shamir’s thesis (presented in the book and highly critical of the Mossad’s Periphery strategy) that with a little more effort we could actually have made peace with our close neighbors, were those regimes any better than the ones of Idi Amin and the shah? This is the environment. This is the neighborhood in which we live. It demands tough decisions sometimes.”
Published: 06.21.15, 23:52 / Israel News
Find this story at 21 June 2015
Copyright © Yedioth Internet.
(TS//REL TO USA, ISR) Subject: NSA Intelligence Relationship with Israel
27 juli 2015
(TS//N F) 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 reporting. This SIGINT relationship has increasingly been the
catalyst for a broader intelligence relationship between the United States and Israel.
Significant changes in the way NSA and ISNU have traditionally approached SIGINT
have prompted an expansion to include other Israeli and U.s. intelligence organizations
such as CIA, Mossad, and Special Operation Division (SOD).
(U) Key Issues
(TS//SI//N F) The single largest exchange between N SA and ISN U is on targets in the
Middle East which constitute strategic threats to U.s. and Israeli interests. Building
upon a robust analytic exchange, NSA and ISNU also have explored and executed
unique opportunities to gain access to high priority targets. The mutually agreed upon
geographic targets include the countries of North Africa, the Middle East, the Persian
Gulf, South Asia, and the Islamic republics of the former Soviet Union. Within that set of
countries, cooperation covers the exploitation of internal governmental, military, civil,
and diplomatic communications; and external security/intelligence organizations.
Regional Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and “Stateless”/lnternational
Terrorism comprise the exchanged transnational target set. A dedicated
communications line between NSA and ISN U supports the exchange of raw material, as
well as daily analytic and technical correspondence. Both N SA and ISN U have liaison
officers, who conduct foreign relations functions, stationed at their respective
(TS//REL TO USA, ISR) What NSA Provides to ISNU
(TS//SI//REL TO USA, ISR) 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.
(TS//REL TO USA, ISR) What ISNU Provides to NSA
(TS//SI//RE L TO USA, ISR) Benefits to the U.s. include expanded geographic access to
high priority SIGINT targets, access to world-class Israeli cryptanalytic and SIGINT
engineering expertise, and access to a large pool of highly qualified analysts.
Derived From: NSA/CSSM 1-52
Declassify On: 20371101
(U) Success Stories _
(TS//SI//REL TO USA, ISR) A key priority for ISN U is the Iranian nuclear development
program, followed by Syrian nuclear efforts, Lebanese Hizballah plans and intentions,
Palestinian terrorism, and Global Jihad. Several recent and successful joint operations
between N SA and IS N U have broadened both organizations’ ability to target and exploit
Iranian nuclear efforts. In addition, a robust and dynamic cryptanalytic relationship has
enabled breakthroughs on high priority Iranian targets.
(TS//REL TO USA, ISR) NSA and ISNU continue to initiate joint targeting of Syrian and
Iranian leadership and nuclear development programs with CIA, ISNU, SOD and
Massad. This exchange has been particularly important as unrest in Syria continues,
and both sides work together to identify threats to regional stability. N SA’s cyber
partnerships expanded beyond IS N U to include Israeli Defense Intelligence’s soD and
Massad, resulting in unprecedented access and collection breakthroughs that all sides
acknowledge would not have been possible to achieve without the others.
(TS//SI//N F) In July 2012, the Office of the Director of N ationallntelligence (ODN I)
provided guidance for expanded sharing with the GOI (Government of Israel) on Egypt.
This approval has allowed N SA to task for ISN U on select strategic issues, specifically
terrorist elements in the Sinai.
(S//N F) Beyond the traditional SIGI NT relationship, N SA and ISN U signed a M 0 U in
September 2011 providing for Information Assurance/Computer Network Defense
collaboration. N SA’s Information Assurance Deputy Director anended an lAIC N D
conference in Tel Aviv in January 2012 during which N SA and ISN U established
objectives for the relationship. NSA intends to focus the collaboration on cyber threats
from Iran, H izballah and other regional actors and may provide limited, focused support
on specific Russian and Chinese cyber threats. Conferences to further develop this
partnership were held in May 2012 and December 2012.
(TS//SI//REL TO USA, ISR) NSA and ISNU led their communities in the establishment
of U.s. – Israeli Intelligence Community VTC connectivity that allows both sides to
broaden and accelerate the pace of collaboration against targets’ use of advanced
telecommunications. Target sets include, but are not limited to Iran Nuclear, Syrian
Foreign Fighter movements, Lebanese Hizballah and Iranian Revolutionary Guard
Corps activities. Dialogue is ongoing, with each potential new intelligence or technology
initiative considered for approval individually.
(TS//N F) The three most common concerns raised by ISN U regarding the partnership
with NSA is NSA’s reluctance to share on technology that is not directly related to a
specific target, ISN U’s perceived reduction in the amount and degree of cooperation in
certain areas, and the length of time NSA takes to decide on ISN U proposals. Efforts in
these three areas have been addressed with the partner and NSA continues to work to
TOP SECRET//SI//NOFORN 2
increase cooperation with IS N U, where appropriate and mindful of U.s. policy and
(U//FOUO) Updated by:
Country Desk Officer
Fo n Affairs Directorate
view the file at
NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans’ data with Israel
27 juli 2015
• Secret deal places no legal limits on use of data by Israelis
• Only official US government communications protected
• Agency insists it complies with rules governing privacy
• Read the NSA and Israel’s ‘memorandum of understanding’
The National Security Agency routinely shares raw intelligence data with Israel without first sifting it to remove information about US citizens, a top-secret document provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.
Details of the intelligence-sharing agreement are laid out in a memorandum of understanding between the NSA and its Israeli counterpart that shows the US government handed over intercepted communications likely to contain phone calls and emails of American citizens. The agreement places no legally binding limits on the use of the data by the Israelis.
The disclosure that the NSA agreed to provide raw intelligence data to a foreign country contrasts with assurances from the Obama administration that there are rigorous safeguards to protect the privacy of US citizens caught in the dragnet. The intelligence community calls this process “minimization”, but the memorandum makes clear that the information shared with the Israelis would be in its pre-minimized state.
The deal was reached in principle in March 2009, according to the undated memorandum, which lays out the ground rules for the intelligence sharing.
The five-page memorandum, termed an agreement between the US and Israeli intelligence agencies “pertaining to the protection of US persons”, repeatedly stresses the constitutional rights of Americans to privacy and the need for Israeli intelligence staff to respect these rights.
But this is undermined by the disclosure that Israel is allowed to receive “raw Sigint” – signal intelligence. The memorandum says: “Raw Sigint includes, but is not limited to, unevaluated and unminimized transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence metadata and content.”
According to the agreement, the intelligence being shared would not be filtered in advance by NSA analysts to remove US communications. “NSA routinely sends ISNU [the Israeli Sigint National Unit] minimized and unminimized raw collection”, it says.
Although the memorandum is explicit in saying the material had to be handled in accordance with US law, and that the Israelis agreed not to deliberately target Americans identified in the data, these rules are not backed up by legal obligations.
“This agreement is not intended to create any legally enforceable rights and shall not be construed to be either an international agreement or a legally binding instrument according to international law,” the document says.
In a statement to the Guardian, an NSA spokesperson did not deny that personal data about Americans was included in raw intelligence data shared with the Israelis. But the agency insisted that the shared intelligence complied with all rules governing privacy.
“Any US person information that is acquired as a result of NSA’s surveillance activities is handled under procedures that are designed to protect privacy rights,” the spokesperson said.
The NSA declined to answer specific questions about the agreement, including whether permission had been sought from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (Fisa) court for handing over such material.
The memorandum of understanding, which the Guardian is publishing in full, allows Israel to retain “any files containing the identities of US persons” for up to a year. The agreement requests only that the Israelis should consult the NSA’s special liaison adviser when such data is found.
Notably, a much stricter rule was set for US government communications found in the raw intelligence. The Israelis were required to “destroy upon recognition” any communication “that is either to or from an official of the US government”. Such communications included those of “officials of the executive branch (including the White House, cabinet departments, and independent agencies), the US House of Representatives and Senate (member and staff) and the US federal court system (including, but not limited to, the supreme court)”.
It is not clear whether any communications involving members of US Congress or the federal courts have been included in the raw data provided by the NSA, nor is it clear how or why the NSA would be in possession of such communications. In 2009, however, the New York Times reported on “the agency’s attempt to wiretap a member of Congress, without court approval, on an overseas trip”.
The NSA is required by law to target only non-US persons without an individual warrant, but it can collect the content and metadata of Americans’ emails and calls without a warrant when such communication is with a foreign target. US persons are defined in surveillance legislation as US citizens, permanent residents and anyone located on US soil at the time of the interception, unless it has been positively established that they are not a citizen or permanent resident.
Moreover, with much of the world’s internet traffic passing through US networks, large numbers of purely domestic communications also get scooped up incidentally by the agency’s surveillance programs.
The document mentions only one check carried out by the NSA on the raw intelligence, saying the agency will “regularly review a sample of files transferred to ISNU to validate the absence of US persons’ identities”. It also requests that the Israelis limit access only to personnel with a “strict need to know”.
Israeli intelligence is allowed “to disseminate foreign intelligence information concerning US persons derived from raw Sigint by NSA” on condition that it does so “in a manner that does not identify the US person”. The agreement also allows Israel to release US person identities to “outside parties, including all INSU customers” with the NSA’s written permission.
Although Israel is one of America’s closest allies, it is not one of the inner core of countries involved in surveillance sharing with the US – Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. This group is collectively known as Five Eyes.
The relationship between the US and Israel has been strained at times, both diplomatically and in terms of intelligence. In the top-secret 2013 intelligence community budget request, details of which were disclosed by the Washington Post, Israel is identified alongside Iran and China as a target for US cyberattacks.
While NSA documents tout the mutually beneficial relationship of Sigint sharing, another report, marked top secret and dated September 2007, states that the relationship, while central to US strategy, has become overwhelmingly one-sided in favor of Israel.
“Balancing the Sigint exchange equally between US and Israeli needs has been a constant challenge,” states the report, titled ‘History of the US – Israel Sigint Relationship, Post-1992′. “In the last decade, it arguably tilted heavily in favor of Israeli security concerns. 9/11 came, and went, with NSA’s only true Third Party [counter-terrorism] relationship being driven almost totally by the needs of the partner.”
In another top-secret document seen by the Guardian, dated 2008, a senior NSA official points out that Israel aggressively spies on the US. “On the one hand, the Israelis are extraordinarily good Sigint partners for us, but on the other, they target us to learn our positions on Middle East problems,” the official says. “A NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] ranked them as the third most aggressive intelligence service against the US.”
Later in the document, the official is quoted as saying: “One of NSA’s biggest threats is actually from friendly intelligence services, like Israel. There are parameters on what NSA shares with them, but the exchange is so robust, we sometimes share more than we intended.”
The memorandum of understanding also contains hints that there had been tensions in the intelligence-sharing relationship with Israel. At a meeting in March 2009 between the two agencies, according to the document, it was agreed that the sharing of raw data required a new framework and further training for Israeli personnel to protect US person information.
It is not clear whether or not this was because there had been problems up to that point in the handling of intelligence that was found to contain Americans’ data.
However, an earlier US document obtained by Snowden, which discusses co-operating on a military intelligence program, bluntly lists under the cons: “Trust issues which revolve around previous ISR [Israel] operations.”
The Guardian asked the Obama administration how many times US data had been found in the raw intelligence, either by the Israelis or when the NSA reviewed a sample of the files, but officials declined to provide this information. Nor would they disclose how many other countries the NSA shared raw data with, or whether the Fisa court, which is meant to oversee NSA surveillance programs and the procedures to handle US information, had signed off the agreement with Israel.
In its statement, the NSA said: “We are not going to comment on any specific information sharing arrangements, or the authority under which any such information is collected. The fact that intelligence services work together under specific and regulated conditions mutually strengthens the security of both nations.
“NSA cannot, however, use these relationships to circumvent US legal restrictions. Whenever we share intelligence information, we comply with all applicable rules, including the rules to protect US person information.”
Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill
The Guardian, Wednesday 11 September 2013 15.40 BST
Find this story at 11 September 2013
Memorandum of understanding
© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.
The Story of ‘Operation Orchard’ How Israel Destroyed Syria’s Al Kibar Nuclear Reactor
27 juli 2015
In September 2007, Israeli fighter jets destroyed a mysterious complex in the Syrian desert. The incident could have led to war, but it was hushed up by all sides. Was it a nuclear plant and who gave the orders for the strike?
The mighty Euphrates river is the subject of the prophecies in the Bible’s Book of Revelation, where it is written that the river will be the scene of the battle of Armageddon: “The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East.”
Today, time seems to stand still along the river. The turquoise waters of the Euphrates flow slowly through the northern Syrian provincial city Deir el-Zor, whose name translates as “monastery in the forest.” Farmers till the fields, and vendors sell camel’s hair blankets, cardamom and coriander in the city’s bazaars. Occasionally archaeologists visit the region to excavate the remains of ancient cities in the surrounding area, a place where many peoples have left their mark — the Parthians and the Sassanids, the Romans and the Jews, the Ottomans and the French, who were assigned the mandate for Syria by the League of Nations and who only withdrew their troops in 1946. Deir el-Zor is the last outpost before the vast, empty desert, a lifeless place of jagged mountains and inaccessible valleys that begins not far from the town center.
But on a night two years ago, something dramatic happened in this sleepy place. It’s an event that local residents discuss in whispers in teahouses along the river, when the water pipes glow and they are confident that no officials are listening — the subject is taboo in the state-controlled media, and they know that drawing too much attention to themselves in this authoritarian state could be hazardous to their health.
Some in Deir el-Zor talk of a bright flash which lit up the night in the distant desert. Others report seeing a gigantic column of smoke over the Euphrates, like a threatening finger. Some talk of omens, while others relate conspiracy theories. The pious older guests at Jisr al-Kabir, a popular restaurant near the city’s landmark suspension bridge, believe it was a sign from heaven.
All the rumors have long since muddied the waters as to what people may or may not have seen. But even the supposedly advanced Western world, with its state-of-the-art surveillance technology and interconnectedness through the mass media, has little more solid information than the people in this Syrian desert town. What happened in the night of Sept. 6, 2007 in the desert, 130 kilometers (81 miles) from the Iraqi border, 30 kilometers from Deir el-Zor, is one of the great mysteries of our times.
‘This Incident Never Occurred’
At 2:55 p.m. on that day, the Damascus-based Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported that Israeli fighter jets coming from the Mediterranean had violated Syrian airspace at “about one o’clock” in the morning. “Air defense units confronted them and forced them to leave after they dropped some ammunition in deserted areas without causing any human or material damage,” a Syrian military spokesman said, according to the news agency. There was no explanation whatsoever for why such a dramatic event was concealed for half a day.
At 6:46 p.m., Israeli government radio quoted a military spokesman as saying: “This incident never occurred.” At 8:46 p.m., a spokesperson for the US State Department said during a daily press briefing that he had only heard “second-hand reports” which “contradict” each other.
To this day, Syria and Israel, two countries that have technically been at war since the founding of the Jewish state in 1948, have largely adhered to a bizarre policy of downplaying what was clearly an act of war. Gradually it became clear that the fighter pilots did not drop some random ammunition over empty no-man’s land on that night in 2007, but had in fact deliberately targeted and destroyed a secret Syrian complex.
Was it a nuclear plant, in which scientists were on the verge of completing the bomb? Were North Korean, perhaps even Iranian experts, also working in this secret Syrian facility? When and how did the Israelis learn about the project, and why did they take such a great risk to conduct their clandestine operation? Was the destruction of the Al Kibar complex meant as a final warning to the Iranians, a trial run of sorts intended to show them what the Israelis plan to do if Tehran continues with its suspected nuclear weapons program?
In recent months, SPIEGEL has spoken with key politicians and experts about the mysterious incident in the Syrian desert, including Syrian President Bashar Assad, leading Israeli intelligence expert Ronen Bergman, International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohammed ElBaradei and influential American nuclear expert David Albright. SPIEGEL has also talked with individuals involved in the operation, who have only now agreed to reveal, under conditions of anonymity, what they know.
These efforts have led to an account that, while not solving the mystery in its entirety, at least delivers many pieces of the puzzle. It also offers an assessment of an operation that changed the Middle East and generated shock waves that are still being felt today.
Syria’s Unpredictable President
Tel Aviv, late 2001. An inconspicuous block of houses located among eucalyptus trees is home to the headquarters of the legendary Israeli foreign intelligence agency, the Mossad. A memorial to agents who died in commando operations behind enemy lines stands in the small garden. There are already more than 400 names engraved on the gray marble, with room for many more. In the main building, intelligence analysts are trying to assemble a picture of the new Syrian president.
In July 2000, Bashar Assad succeeded his deceased father, former President Hafez Assad. The Israelis believed that the younger Assad, a politically inexperienced ophthalmologist who had lived in London for many years and who was only 34 when he took office, would be a weak leader. Unlike his father, an unscrupulous political realist nicknamed “The Lion” who had almost struck a deal with the Israelis over the Golan Heights in the last few months of his life, Bashar Assad was considered relatively unpredictable.
According to Israeli agents in Damascus, the younger Assad was trying to consolidate his power by espousing radical and controversial positions. He supplied massive amounts of weapons to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon, for their “struggle for independence” from the “Zionist regime.” He received high-ranking delegations from North Korea. The Mossad was convinced that the subject of these secret talks was a further upgrading of Syria’s military capabilities. Pyongyang had already helped Damascus in the past in the development of medium-range ballistic missiles and chemical weapons like sarin and mustard gas. But when Israeli military intelligence informed their Mossad counterparts that a Syrian nuclear program was apparently under discussion, the intelligence professionals were dismissive.
Nuclear weapons for Damascus, a nuclear plant literally on Israel’s doorstep? For the experts, it seemed much too implausible.
Besides, the senior Assad had rebuffed Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani “father of the atom bomb,” when Khan tried to sell him centrifuges for uranium enrichment on the black market in the early 1990s. The Israelis also knew all too well how complex the road to the bomb is, after having spent a lengthy period of time in the 1960s to covertly procure uranium and then develop nuclear weapons at their secret laboratories in the town of Dimona in the Negev desert. They took extreme measures to prevent then-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein from following their example: On a June night in 1981, Israeli F-16s, in violation of international law, entered Iraqi airspace and destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor near Baghdad.
The Israelis took a pinprick approach to dealing with the “little” Assad. In 2003, the air force conducted multiple air strikes against positions on the Syrian border, and in October Israeli fighter jets flew a low-altitude mission over Assad’s residence in Damascus. It was an arrogant show of power that even had many at the Mossad shaking their heads, wondering how Assad would respond to such humiliating treatment.
At that time, the nuclear plant on Euphrates had likely entered its first key phase. In the spring of 2004, the American National Security Agency (NSA) detected a suspiciously high number of telephone calls between Syria and North Korea, with a noticeably busy line of communication between the North Korean capital Pyongyang and a place in the northern Syrian desert called Al Kibar. The NSA dossier was sent to the Israeli military’s “8200” unit, which is responsible for radio reconnaissance and has its antennas set up in the hills near Tel Aviv. Al-Kibar was “flagged,” as they say in intelligence jargon.
In late 2006, Israeli military intelligence decided to ask the British for their opinion. But almost at the same time as the delegation from Tel Aviv was arriving in London, a senior Syrian government official checked into a hotel in the exclusive London neighborhood of Kensington. He was under Mossad surveillance and turned out to be incredibly careless, leaving his computer in his hotel room when he went out. Israeli agents took the opportunity to install a so-called “Trojan horse” program, which can be used to secretly steal data, onto the Syrian’s laptop.
The hard drive contained construction plans, letters and hundreds of photos. The photos, which were particularly revealing, showed the Al Kibar complex at various stages in its development. At the beginning — probably in 2002, although the material was undated — the construction site looked like a treehouse on stilts, complete with suspicious-looking pipes leading to a pumping station at the Euphrates. Later photos show concrete piers and roofs, which apparently had only one function: to modify the building so that it would look unsuspicious from above. In the end, the whole thing looked as if a shoebox had been placed over something in an attempt to conceal it. But photos from the interior revealed that what was going on at the site was in fact probably work on fissile material.
One of the photos showed an Asian in blue tracksuit trousers, standing next to an Arab. The Mossad quickly identified the two men as Chon Chibu and Ibrahim Othman. Chon is one of the leading members of the North Korean nuclear program, and experts believe that he is the chief engineer behind the Yongbyon plutonium reactor. Othman is the director of the Syrian Atomic Energy Commission.
By now, both Israeli military intelligence and the Mossad were on high alert. After being briefed, then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asked: “Will the reactor be up and running soon, and is there is a need to take action?” Hard to say, the experts said. The prime minister asked for more detailed information, preferably from first hand.
The CIA Catches a Big Fish
Istanbul , a CIA safe house for high-profile defectors, February 2007. An Iranian general had decided to switch sides. He was a big fish, of the sort rarely caught in the nets of the CIA and the Mossad.
Ali-Reza Asgari, 63, a handsome man with a moustache, was the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in Lebanon in the 1980s and became Iran’s deputy defense minister in the mid-1990s. Though well-liked under the relatively liberal then-President Mohammad Khatami, Asgari fell out of favor after the election victory of hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005. Because he had branded several men close to Ahmadinejad as corrupt, there was suddenly more at stake for Asgari than his career: His life was in danger.
Sources in the intelligence community claim that Asgari’s defection to the West was meticulously planned over a period of months. However Amir Farshad Ebrahimi, a former Iranian media attaché in Beirut who fled to Berlin in 2003 and who had known Asgari personally for many years, told SPIEGEL that the general contacted him twice to ask for help in his escape — first from Iran in the second half of 2006 and later from Damascus. In Ebrahimi’s version of events, Asgari succeeded in crossing the border into Turkey at night with the help of a smuggler. Ebrahimi says he only notified the CIA and turned his friend over to the Americans after Asgari had reached Istanbul.
But from that point on, the versions of the story coincide again. The Americans and Israelis soon discovered that the Tehran insider was an intelligence goldmine. For the Israelis, the most alarming part of Asgari’s story was what he had to say about Iran’s nuclear program. According to Asgari, Tehran was building a second, secret plant in addition to the uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, which was already known to the West. Besides, he said, Iran was apparently funding a top-secret nuclear project in Syria, launched in cooperation with the North Koreans. But Asgari claimed he did not know any further details about the plan.
After a few days, the general’s handlers flew him from Istanbul, considered relatively unsafe, to the highly secure Rhein-Main Air Base near Frankfurt. “I brought my computer along. My entire life is in there,” Asgari told his friend Ebrahimi, who identified him for the Americans. Asgari contacted Ebrahimi another two times, once from Washington and then from “somewhere in Texas.” The defector wanted his friend to let his wife know that he was safe and in good hands. The Iranian authorities had announced that Asgari had been “kidnapped by the Mossad and probably killed.” But then nothing further was heard from Asgari. The American authorities had apparently created a new identity for their high-level Iranian source. Ali-Reza Asgari had ceased to exist.
The Need for US Support
Olmert was kept apprised of the latest developments. In March 2007, three senior experts from the political, military and intelligence communities were summoned to his residence on Gaza Street in Jerusalem, where Olmert swore them to absolute secrecy. The trio was to advise him on matters relating to the Syrian nuclear program. Olmert wanted results, knowing that he would have to gain the support of the Americans before launching an attack. At the very least, he needed the Americans’ tacit consent if he planned to send aircraft into regions that were only a few dozen kilometers from military bases in Turkey, a NATO member.
In August, Major General Yaakov Amidror, the trio’s spokesman, delivered a devastating report to the prime minister. While the Mossad had tended to be reserved in its assessment of Al Kibar, the three men were now more than convinced that the site posed an existential threat to Israel and that there was evidence of intense cooperation between Syria and North Korea. There also appeared to be proof of connections to Iran. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, who experts believed was the head of Iran’s secret “Project 111” for outfitting Iranian missiles with nuclear warheads, had visited Damascus in 2005. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad traveled to Syria in 2006, where he is believed to have promised the Syrians more than $1 billion (€675 million) in assistance and urged them to accelerate their efforts.
According to this version of the story, Al Kibar was to be a backup plant for the heavy-water reactor under construction near the Iranian city of Arak, designed to provide plutonium to build a bomb if Iran did not succeed in constructing a weapon using enriched uranium. “Assad apparently thought that, with his weapon, he could have a nuclear option for an Armageddon,” says Aharon Zeevi-Farkash, the former director of Israeli military intelligence.
Olmert approved a highly risky undertaking: a fact-finding mission by Israeli agents on foreign soil. On an overcast night in August 2007, says intelligence expert Ronen Bergman, Israeli elite units traveling in helicopters at low altitude crossed the border into Syria, where they unloaded their testing equipment in the desert near Deir el-Zor and took soil samples in the general vicinity of the Al Kibar plant. The group had to abort its daring mission prematurely when it was discovered by a patrol. The Israelis still lacked the definitive proof they needed. However those in Tel Aviv who favored quick action argued that the results of the samples “provided evidence of the existence of a nuclear program.”
One of them was the head of the trio of experts, Yaakov Amidror. Amidror, a deeply religious man strongly influenced by his fear of a new Holocaust, also found evidence suggesting that construction on the Syrian plant was to be accelerated. He told Olmert about a ship called the Gregorio, which was coming from North Korea and which was seized in Cyprus in September 2006. It was found to have suspicious-looking pipes bound for Syria on board. And in early September 2007, the freighter Al-Ahmad, also coming from Pyongyang, arrived at the Syrian port of Tartous — with a cargo of uranium materials, according to the Mossad’s information.
At the time, no one was claiming that Al Kibar represented an immediate threat to Israel’s security. Nevertheless, Olmert wanted to attack, despite the tense conditions in the region, the Iraq crisis and the conflict in the Gaza Strip. Olmert notified then-US National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and gave his own military staff the authority to bomb the Syrian plant. The countdown for Operation Orchard had begun.
Ramat David Air Base, Sept. 5, 2007. Israel’s Ramat David air base is located south of the port city of Haifa. It is also near Megiddo, which according to the Bible will be the site of Armageddon, the final battle between good and evil.
The order that the pilots in the squadron received shortly before 11 p.m. on Sept. 5, 2007 seemed purely routine: They were to be prepared for an emergency exercise. All 10 available aircraft, known affectionately by their pilots as “Raam” (“Thunder”), took off into the night sky and headed westward, out into the Mediterranean. It was a maneuver designed to deflect attention from the extraordinary mobilization that had been taking place behind the scenes.
Three of the 10 F-15’s were ordered to return home, while the remaining seven continued flying east-northeast, at low altitude, toward the nearby Syrian border, where they used their precision-guided weapons to eliminate a radar station. Within an additional 18 flight minutes, they had reached the area around Deir el-Zor. By then, the Israeli pilots had the coordinates of the Al Kibar complex programmed into their on-board computers. The attack was filmed from the air, and as is always the case with these strikes, the bombs were far more destructive than necessary. For the Israelis, it made little difference whether a few guards were killed or a larger number of people.
Immediately following the brief report from the military (“target destroyed”), Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, explained the situation, and asked him to inform President Assad in Damascus that Israel would not tolerate another nuclear plant — but that no further hostile action was planned. Israel, Olmert said, did not want to play up the incident and was still interested in making peace with Damascus. He added that if Assad chose not to draw attention to the Israeli strike, he would do the same.
In this way, a deafening silence about the mysterious event in the desert began. Nevertheless, the story did not end there, because there were many who chose to shed light on the incident — and others who were intent on exacting revenge.
Washington , DC , late October 2007. The independent Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) is located less than a mile from the White House. It is more important than some US federal departments.
The office of its founder and president, David Albright, who holds a degree in physics and was a member of the United Nation’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) group of experts in Iraq, is in suite 500 of the brick building that houses the ISIS. As relaxed as he seems to his staff, in his pleated khaki trousers and rolled up shirtsleeves, they know that it is no accident that Albright has managed to turn the ISIS into one of the leading think tanks in Washington. Albright’s words carry significant weight in the world of nuclear scientists.
The ISIS spent four weeks analyzing the initial reports about the mysterious air strike in Syria, combing over satellite images covering an area of 25,000 square kilometers (9,650 square miles) before they discovered the destroyed complex of buildings in the desert.
In April 2008, Albright received an unexpected invitation from the CIA to attend a meeting. There, then-CIA Director Michael Hayden showed him images that the Israelis had obtained from the Syrian computer in London (much to the outrage of officials in Tel Aviv, incidentally, as it provided insights into Mossad sources). The photos enabled Albright, who was familiar with the dimensions and characteristics of North Korea’s Yongbyon reactor, to compare the various stages at Al Kibar. “There are no longer any serious doubts that we were dealing with a nuclear reactor in Syria,” the scientist concluded.
Albright believes that the CIA’s strange behavior had to be understood in the context of the Iraq disaster. At the time, the administration of then-President George W. Bush, citing CIA information, constantly repeated the false claim that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. This time around, American intelligence wanted to prove that the threat was real.
But where did the Syrians get the uranium they needed for their heavy-water reactor, and in which secret plants was it enriched? In addition to the North Koreans, were the Iranians also involved? And what did the latest images of this “Manhattan project” in the Syrian desert actually depict — the conversion of an existing plant or a completely new facility?
The Sisyphus of Non-Proliferation
Vienna, the UN complex on Wagramer Straße, headquarters of the IAEA’s nuclear detectives. An impressive collection of national flags hangs in the lobby, like sails waiting for a tailwind. Of the 192 UN member states, 150 are also members of the IAEA, and almost all UN members have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The problem children of the nuclear world, Israel, Pakistan and India, have not signed the treaty. All three of them possess — or in the case of Israel, are believed to possess — nuclear weapons.
Signatory states like Syria and Iran are entitled to support in pursuing the peaceful use of nuclear energy. They are also required to either phase out nuclear weapons and prevent their proliferation (in the case of the nuclear “haves”) or refrain from developing them in the first place (in the case of the “have-nots”).
The IAEA, whose job is to verify compliance with the provisions of the NPT, has 2,200 employees and an annual budget of roughly $300 million. That may sound impressive, but it is really just peanuts if the claim repeatedly made by politicians around the world is true, namely that the possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of blackmailing dictators or terrorists poses the greatest danger to humanity.
During an interview with SPIEGEL in his Vienna office in May 2009, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, 67, sighed as he took stock of his life. At times, the IAEA boss says, he has felt like Sisyphus, the tragic figure in Greek mythology who is constantly pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to lose hold of it shortly before the summit. ElBaradei, the winner of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize, has repeatedly pointed out that his organization is subject to the whims of the member states. The nuclear detectives can admittedly be deployed to use their highly sensitive testing equipment to obtain a “nuclear fingerprint” in any particular place, but they also need access to reactors. Libya has caused problems in the past, while today’s recalcitrants are North Korea and Iran — in other words, the usual suspects. And now Syria. The news about the desert nuclear plant came as a great shock to the IAEA.
“What the Israelis did was a violation of international law. If the Israelis and the Americans had information about an illegal nuclear facility, they should have notified us immediately,” says ElBaradei, who only learned of the dramatic incident from media reports. “When everything was over, we were supposed to head out and search for evidence in the rubble — a virtually impossible task.”
But he had underestimated his inspectors. In June 2008, a team of IAEA experts visited the destroyed Al Kibar plant. The Syrians had given in to pressure from the weapons inspectors, but they had also done everything possible to dispose of the evidence first. They removed all the debris from the bombed facility and paved over the entire site with concrete. They told the inspectors that it had been a conventional weapons factory, and not a nuclear reactor, which they would have been required to report to the IAEA. They also insisted that foreigners had not been involved.
The IAEA experts painstakingly collected soil samples, and used special wipes to remove minute traces of material from furnishings or pipes still on the site. The samples were sent to the IAEA special laboratories in Seibersdorf, a town near Vienna, where they were subjected to ultrasensitive isotope analyses capable of determining whether samples had come into contact with suspicious uranium. And indeed, the analysis produced some very alarming findings.
In its report, the IAEA describes “a significant number of anthropogenic natural uranium particles (i.e. produced as a result of chemical processing)” which were “of a type not included in Syria’s declared inventory of nuclear material.” The Syrian authorities claimed that the uranium was introduced by the Israeli bombing, something that the IAEA said was of “low probability.”
In its latest report, released in June 2009, the IAEA demanded, in no uncertain terms, that Damascus grant it permission for another series of inspections, this time with access to “three other locations” that may have been related to Al Kibar. “The characteristics of the complex, including the cooling water capacities, bear a strong similarity to those of a nuclear reactor, something which urgently requires clarification,” says one IAEA expert. In the cautious language of UN officials, this is practically a guilty verdict.
In the Crosshairs
“Syria is not giving us the transparency we require,” ElBaradei says angrily. A picture hanging in his office seems to reflect his mood. It is a print of “The Scream,” by the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch, which depicts a deeply distraught person. ElBaradei does not believe that he is too lenient with those suspected of illegally pursuing nuclear weapons programs, as the Bush administration repeatedly claimed, particularly in relation to Iran. The IAEA, he says, will probably receive permission for a new inspection trip to Syria soon. Or at least he hopes it will.
If and when that happens, a different host will greet the UN team. The affable Brigadier General Mohammed Suleiman, an Assad confidant in charge of all manner of “sensitive security issues,” was formerly in charge of presiding over the inspections. However he was assassinated in 2008. He landed in the crosshairs of his pursuers, just like Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah.
For the Israelis, Mughniyah was the epitome of terror, the most notorious terrorist mastermind in the Middle East. He was responsible for the bloody attack on American military headquarters in Beirut in the 1980s and on Jewish institutions in Argentina in the 1990s, attacks in which hundreds of innocent people died. He is regarded by some as the inventor of the suicide attack and was deeply rooted in Iranian power structures.
The Mossad had information that Mughniyah was planning to avenge the air strike on Al Kibar with an attack on an Israeli embassy — either in the Azerbaijani capital Baku, Cairo or the Jordanian capital Amman.
Assassinated in an SUV
Damascus, the building complex of the Atomic Energy Commission of Syria in the city’s Kafar Soussa diplomatic quarter, February 2008. Visitors are not welcome. “Please contact post office box 6091,” says the guard at the entrance. There is also an email address (firstname.lastname@example.org). But inquiries sent to both addresses remain unanswered. No wonder, say experts, who speculate that the threads of a secret nuclear weapons program come together in the inconspicuous AECS complex.
It was precisely on the street where the AECS complex is located that Imad Mughniyah, a.k.a. “The Fox,” parked his Mitsubishi Pajero on Feb. 12, 2008 while he attended a reception at the nearby Iranian embassy. It was a rare appearance by a man who normally avoided being seen in public. But on that evening Mughniyah knew that he would be among friends, including Hamas leader Khaled Mashal and Syrian General Mohammed Suleiman, whom he had met many times in Tehran and at Hezbollah centers in Lebanon.
Shortly after 10:30 p.m., Mughniyah drank his last glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Then he kissed the host, the newly installed Iranian diplomat Ahmed Mousavi, on both cheeks, as local custom dictates, and left the party. Mughniyah was “probably the most intelligent, most capable operative we’ve ever run across,” said former CIA agent Robert Baer, who had been tracking him for a long time. The terrorist knew that he was at the very top of the Mossad’s hit list, and he also knew that the FBI was offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest. But he felt relatively safe in Syria, as he did in Beirut and Tehran, which he visited on a regular basis.
The explosion completely destroyed the SUV and ripped apart Mughniyah’s body. He was killed instantly. But the explosive charge was apparently calculated so carefully that nearby buildings were barely harmed. The terrorist leader remained the only victim on that night in Damascus.
Whoever committed the act, “the world is a better place without this man,” the American government announced the next day through State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. Hezbollah, which had no doubts as to who was responsible for the killing, called Mughniyah a “martyr” and vowed to retaliate against the “Zionists.”
The Israel government neither confirmed nor denied any involvement in the assassination. But agents at the Mossad could hardly contain their delight. According to information leaked to intelligence expert Uzi Mahnaimi, Israeli agents had removed the driver’s seat headrest and filled it with a compound that would detonate on contact. Intelligence expert Ronen Bergman can even describe the reaction of Israelis who were involved. “It was a shame about that nice new Pajero,” one of them reportedly said.
Tartous, a medieval stronghold of the Knights Templar on the Syrian Mediterranean coast, five months later. It was at this port city, 160 kilometers northwest of Damascus, that the mysterious freighter Hamed had once berthed with its supposed cargo of cement from North Korea. Here, on a beach 13 kilometers north of the medieval city walls, General Suleiman had a weekend house, not far from the Rimal al-Zahabiya luxury beach resort. In the summer, Suleiman traveled to his weekend house almost every Friday to review files, relax and swim. On this first August weekend in 2008, President Assad’s eminence grise must have taken along a particularly large number of documents. A few days later, he had planned to accompany Assad on a secret visit to Tehran.
As always, Suleiman drove from Damascus to Tartous in an armored vehicle. Additional bodyguards were waiting for him at his chalet. They never let him out of their sight, even escorting him into the water when he went swimming. After Mughniyah’s murder on a busy Damascus street, security was at the highest possible level. The general, who interacted with the global community as the regime’s senior representative on nuclear issues, was considered particularly at risk.
The sea was calm that morning. Yachts were cruising off the coast, and there was nothing to raise suspicions in Tartous, a popular sailing destination for Syria’s moneyed aristocracy where boats can be chartered for visits to nearby Arwad Island and its fish restaurants. An unusually sleek yacht came within 50 meters of the coast, but it was not close enough to raise any red flags with the bodyguards when their boss decided to jump into the sea.
No one even heard the gunshots, which were probably fired from precision rifles equipped with silencers. But they clearly came from offshore, striking Sulaiman in the head, chest and neck. The general died before his bodyguards could do anything for him. The yacht carrying the snipers turned away and disappeared into international waters.
The Syrian authorities kept the news of the murder from the public for days. After that, it issued terse statements about the “vicious crime.” According to the official account, the general was “found shot dead near Tartous.” There was no mention of a yacht or of the angle from which the shots were fired.
Speculation was rife in Damascus. Diplomats assumed that Suleiman had become too powerful for his fellow cabinet members, and that his killing was evidence of an internal Syrian power struggle. According to Western critics of the president, Suleiman had become a burden for Assad after the debacle involving the bombed nuclear plant and the Mughniyah murder, and he was eliminated on orders from Assad. For experts, however, the most likely scenario is that the Israelis were behind the highly professional assassination.
Suleiman, who was nicknamed “the imported general” because of his European appearance, was buried in a private ceremony in his native village of Draykish two days after his murder. President Assad sent his younger brother Maher to attend the secret funeral, while he himself embarked on his scheduled trip to Tehran. It was important for him to put on a show of self-control, no matter how distressed he may have felt.
Can bomb attacks and hit squads against real or presumed terrorists bring about progress in the Middle East? Is it true that Arabs and Israelis only understand the language of violence, as many in Tel Aviv are now saying? Did the operation against the Al Kibar complex, which violated international law, bring the Syrian president to his senses, or did it merely encourage him to harden his position?
And what does all this mean for a possible Iranian nuclear bomb?
The Consequences of Operation Orchard
“The facility that was bombed was not a nuclear plant, but rather a conventional military installation,” Syrian President Bashar Assad insisted during a SPIEGEL interview at his palace near Damascus in mid-January 2009. “We could have struck back. But should we really allow ourselves to be provoked into a war? Then we would have walked into an Israeli trap.” What about the traces of uranium? “Perhaps the Israelis dropped it from the air to make us the target of precisely these suspicions.”
Damascus, he said, is not interested in becoming a nuclear power, nor does it believe that Tehran is developing the bomb. “Syria is fundamentally opposed to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. We want a nuclear-free Middle East, Israel included.”
Assad, outraged over Israeli belligerence in the Gaza Strip, has suspended secret peace talks with the enemy, which had been brokered by Turkey. But it is also abundantly clear that Assad is eager to remove himself from the list of global political pariahs and enter into dialogue with the United States and Europe.
In the autumn of 2009, relations between Damascus and the West seem to be on the mend, probably as the result of American concessions rather than Israeli bombs. French President Nicolas Sarkozy received Assad at the Elysée Palace and told him that the normalization of relations would depend on the Syrians meeting a provocatively worded condition: “End nuclear weapons cooperation with Iran.” In the first week of October, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad traveled to Washington to meet with his counterparts there. And Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, with Washington’s explicit blessing, went to Damascus in an attempt to make a shift to the moderate camp more palatable for Assad.
President Barack Obama will probably send a US military attaché to Damascus soon, followed by an ambassador. Syria could be removed from the US’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, a list which also includes Iran, Cuba and Sudan. The prospect of billions in aid, as well as transfers of high technology, is being held out to Assad. The Syrian president knows that this is probably his only hope to revive his ailing economy in the long term.
Relations between Damascus and Tehran have worsened considerably in recent weeks. Western intelligence agencies report that the Iranian leadership is demanding that Syria return — in full and without compensation — substantial shipments of uranium, which it no longer needs now that its nuclear program has been destroyed.
The latest news from Damascus, the ancient city where Saulus turned into Paulus according to the old scripts: According to information SPIEGEL has obtained from sources in Damascus, Assad has been considering taking a sensational political step. He is believed to have suggested to contacts in Pyongyang that he is considering the disclosure of his “national” nuclear program, but without divulging any details of cooperation with his North Korean and Iranian partners. Libyan revolutionary leader Moammar Gadhafi reaped considerable benefits from the international community after a similar “confession” about his country’s nuclear program.
The reaction from North Korea was swift and extremely harsh: Pyongyang sent a senior government representative to Damascus to inform Syrian authorities that the North Koreans would terminate all cooperation on chemical weapons if Assad proceeded with his plan. And this regardless whether he mentioned Pyongyang in this context or not.
Tehran’s reaction is believed to have been even more severe. Saeed Jalili, the country’s leading nuclear negotiator and a close associate of Iran’s supreme religious leader, apparently brought along an urgent message from the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in which Khamenei called Assad’s plan “unacceptable” and threatened that it would spell the end of the two countries’ strategic alliance and a sharp decline in relations.
According to intelligence sources, Assad has backed down — for the time being. However he is also looking for ways to do business with his enemies, even Israel’s hard-line prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Nevertheless, Assad is loath to give up his contacts to Hezbollah and Tehran completely, and he will demand a very high price for the possible recognition of Israel and for playing the role of mediator with Tehran, namely the return of the entire Golan Heights.
Time on Its Side
Did Operation Orchard make an impression on the Iranians, and did they understand it the way it was probably intended by the Israelis: as a final warning to Tehran?
The Iranians have — literally — entrenched themselves, and not only since the Israeli attack on Syria. Many of the centrifuges they use for uranium enrichment are now operating in underground tunnels. Not even the bunker-busting super-bombs the Pentagon has requested be made available soon, citing “urgent operational requirements,” are capable of fully destroying facilities like the one in Natanz.
The Americans — or the Israelis — would have to conduct air strikes for several weeks and destroy more than a dozen known nuclear facilities to set back the Iranian nuclear program by more than a few weeks. It would be a far more complex undertaking than the Israelis’ past attacks on the Osirak reactor in Iraq and Syria’s Al Kibar nuclear plant. And even after such a comprehensive operation, which would expose them to counterattacks, they could not be entirely sure of having wiped out all key elements of the Iranian nuclear program. Just in September, Tehran surprised the world with the confession that it had built a previously unreported uranium enrichment plant near Qom.
Operation Orchard achieved only one thing: If the Iranians had planned to build a “spare” nuclear plant in Syria, that is, a backup plutonium factory, their plans were thwarted. But Tehran has time on its side. The Iranians are already believed to have reached breakout capacity — in other words, the ability to begin building a nuclear weapon if they so desire. Iran is on the verge of becoming a nuclear power.
And Syria? There is nothing to suggest that Damascus will or is even able to play with fire once again. A conventional factory has in fact been built over the ruins of the Al Kibar plant. There is no access to the plant — for “security reasons,” as residents of Deir el-Zor say tersely — at the roadblock near the great river and the desert village of Tibnah.
The turquoise-colored river flows slowly, the river that Moses, according to the Bible, promised to the Israelites as part of their holy land. To this day, many radical Israelis take the relevant passage in the Bible as seriously as an entry in the land register: “Every place that your foot shall tread upon shall be yours. From the desert, and from Libanus, from the great river Euphrates unto the western sea.”
Referring to the same river, the Prophet Muhammad is supposed to have said: “The Euphrates reveals the treasures within itself. Whoever sees it should not take anything from it.”
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
11/02/2009 04:53 PM
By Erich Follath and Holger Stark
Find this story at 11 February 2009
© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2009
Ripe for Abuse Palestinian Child Labor in Israeli Agricultural Settlements in the West Bank
27 juli 2015
Hundreds of Palestinian children work on Israeli settlement farms in the occupied West Bank, the majority located in the Jordan Valley. This report documents rights abuses against Palestinian children as young as 11 years old, who earn around US $19 for a full day working in the settlement agricultural industry. Many drop out of school and work in conditions that can be hazardous due to pesticides, dangerous equipment, and extreme heat.
Children working on Israeli settlements pick, clean, and pack asparagus, tomatoes, eggplants, sweet peppers, onions, and dates, among other crops. Children whom Human Rights Watch interviewed said they begin work as early as 5:30 or 6 a.m. and usually work around 8 hours a day, six or seven days a week. During peak harvest periods, some children reported working up to 12 hours a day, over 60 hours a week. Some children described pressure from supervisors to keep working, and not to take breaks.
Although international law, as well as Israeli and Palestinian law, sets 15 as the minimum age of employment, many children told Human Rights Watch that they began working at age 13 or 14. Even younger children work part-time, and one boy interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that he worked together with a boy who was only 10 years old.
The work that children perform can be both grueling and hazardous. Some children who work on settlement farms described vomiting, dizziness, and skin rashes after spraying pesticides with little protection, and experienced body pain or numbness from carrying heavy pesticide containers on their back. Many suffered cuts from using sharp blades to cut onions, sweet peppers, and other crops. Heavy machinery also causes injuries. One child said he saw another child who was pinned under a tractor that rolled over. Another boy said he caught his finger in a date-sorting machine. Children risk falls from climbing ladders to prune and pick dates. Two children had been stung by scorpions while working in settlers’ fields.
Temperatures in the fields often exceed 40 degrees Celsius in summer (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and can be as high as 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in greenhouses. Some children described nausea and other symptoms indicating they were susceptible to heat stroke from working in such extreme temperatures. One boy told Human Rights Watch that he had repeatedly fainted while working in a hot greenhouse.
None of the children interviewed received medical insurance or social insurance benefits, and the majority of those who needed medical treatment due to work injuries or illness said they had to pay their own medical bills and transportation costs to Palestinian hospitals. Three Palestinian children who got sick or were injured while working and had to go home or to the hospital said they were not even paid for the hours they had worked that day, much less for the time they had to take off work.
To research this report, Human Rights Watch interviewed 38 children and 12 adults in Palestinian communities in the Jordan Valley who said they were employed to work on settlement farms in the area, as well as teachers and principals in those communities, Israeli and Palestinian labor lawyers, development-agency staff and labor rights advocates. Children are a minority of Palestinians employed on settlement farms, but most Palestinian children who work in settlements do so in the agricultural sector. All of the children and adults Human Rights Watch interviewed said they took the work due to a lack of alternative jobs and because of the dire economic conditions faced by their families – conditions for which Israel’s policies throughout the occupied West Bank including the Jordan Valley, which severely restrict Palestinians’ access to land, water, agricultural inputs like fertilizers, and their ability to transport goods, are largely responsible. One 18-year-old said that he quit school in Grade 10 because, as he explained, “so what if you get an education, you’ll wind up working for the settlements.”
The vast majority of the children working in settlements whom Human Rights Watch interviewed said they had dropped out of school. Teachers and principals told Human Rights Watch that children often dropped out around Grade 8, or age 14. Of the 33 children that Human Rights Watch interviewed who were then working full-time in agricultural settlements, 21 had dropped out of schools in Grade 10 or earlier; the other 12 dropped out of secondary school in Grade 11 or 12. Other children worked part-time while still attending school, often at the expense of their studies. “It’s very obvious which kids go to work in the settlements, because they are exhausted in class,” said a school administrator.
All the children Human Rights Watch interviewed said that they were working to provide money for their families. When asked why children chose to work, a Palestinian middleman who supplied Palestinian workers to settlers told an Israeli human rights worker: “Ask [the children] if they have any bread in the house.” Palestinian children and adults who work in settlements told Human Rights Watch that they hoped the international community would pressure Israel to end settlement agriculture and lift related restrictions on Palestinian land-use, access to water, freedom of movement, and market access, and instead, allow Palestinians to cultivate their own lands and to create an economic environment in which they could support their children to stay in school and receive an education. In some cases, Palestinian workers said that they worked on farmland that Israel had, in violation of international law, confiscated from their own villages and allocated to settlements.
Most of the children and adults live in villages in the Jordan Valley. Some of the children came from villages elsewhere in the West Bank, moved to the Jordan Valley, and lived for months at a time in empty warehouses there, working in settlements during the day, in order to save on the cost and time required to travel from home.
Children working in agricultural settlements earn very low wages. All of the Palestinian adults and children whom Human Rights Watch interviewed earned far less than the Israeli minimum wage, which was 23 shekels ($6.20) per hour for adults and between 16 and 18 shekels ($4.30 and $4.86) per hour for children at the time the research for this report was conducted. Most earned only 60 to 70 shekels per day ($16 to $19), and some children took home 50 shekels per day ($13.50) after paying for transportation to and from settlements to work; most workdays lasted 7 or 8 hours, except during peak harvesting times. Military orders issued by the Israeli military commander in the West Bank make provisions of Israel’s domestic Minimum Wage Law applicable to Palestinian workers in settlements. However, many children either did not know that Israel had a minimum wage law or that the law’s provisions were supposed to apply to Palestinians working in settlements.
All the children Human Rights Watch interviewed said they were employed through unwritten agreements with Palestinian middlemen working on behalf of Israeli settlers. Israeli settlers’ practice of using Palestinian middlemen to hire Palestinian laborers, including children, means that there is no work contract or any other documents linking the children directly to the settler-employer. In practice, it is extremely difficult for Palestinians who work in settlements to demand their rights under Israeli labor law without such proof of employment. According to a Palestinian middleman, workers are paid “in cash, [get] no pay slips, and there are no [work] permits, so there is no paper trail to demand severance pay or anything else.”
Most labor disputes that Palestinian workers and middlemen described to Human Rights Watch involved severance pay, presumably because workers demanding severance pay have already lost their jobs and so have less to lose from making legal claims than workers who are employed. Israel’s Minimum Wage Law – which is applicable, via military orders, to Palestinian workers in settlements – states that workers cannot waive their rights to minimum wages, but none of the Palestinian children or adults interviewed said they expected or had demanded to be paid minimum wages. The Palestinian middleman believed that if a worker asked a settler-employer for a raise, “they’d fire you.”
Find this story at 13 April 2015
© 2015 Human Rights Watch
Israelis tried to send arms to Iran via Greece, probe finds
22 februari 2014
Israeli arms dealers tried to send spare parts for F-4 Phantom aircraft via Greece to Iran in violation of an arms embargo, according to a secret probe by the US government agency Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) carried out in cooperation with the drugs and weapons unit of Greece’s Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE).
According to the probe, which Kathimerini has had access to, the operation was carried out in two phases – one in December 2012 and the second in April 2013. In both cases, officials traced containers packed with the F-4 parts on Greek territory. The cargo had been sent by courier from the Israeli town of Binyamina-Giv’at Ada and had been destined for Iran, which has a large fleet of F-4 aircraft, via a Greek company registered under the name Tassos Karras SA in Votanikos, near central Athens. SDOE officials established that the firm was a ghost company, while the company’s contact number was found to belong to a British national residing in Thessaloniki who could not be located.
According to HSI memos, the cargo appears to have been sent by arms dealers based in Israel, seeking to supply Iran in contravention of an arms embargo, and using Greece as a transit nation.
Last November, an Athens court ruled against the confiscation of the consignments and ordered that they be delivered to US authorities.
The US imposed sanctions against Iran in 1979, after a revolution which overthrew the Shah, extending them in 1995 to include firms dealing with the Iranian government. Several governments and multinationals have since followed suit.
ekathimerini.com , Sunday February 16, 2014 (15:23)
Find this story at 16 February 2014
© 2014, H KAΘHMEPINH
Turkey denies exposing Israeli spies to Iran
7 november 2013
Washington Post report accuses Ankara of blowing the cover of 10 Iranians who met in Turkey with Mossad handlers.
Davutoglu said the Washington Post allegations were “without any foundation” [Reuters]
Turkey denied on Thursday a US newspaper report claiming it had revealed an Israeli spy ring working with Iranians on its soil to the authorities in Tehran, a sign of the souring ties between the once-close allies.
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government had last year revealed to Iranian intelligence the identities of up to 10 Iranians who had been meeting in Turkey with Mossad handlers.
But Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the allegations were “without any foundation”.
“[Turkish intelligence chief Hakan] Fidan and other security agents report only to the Turkish government and the parliament,” he said.
The allegation angered officials in Ankara, already on the defensive after a Wall Street Journal article last week suggested Washington was concerned that Fidan had shared sensitive information with Iran.
Other officials in Ankara, speaking on condition they not be named, described the article as part of an attempt to discredit Turkey by foreign powers uncomfortable with its growing influence in the Middle East.
“Turkey is a regional power and there are power centres which are uncomfortable with this… stories like these are part of a campaign,” a Turkish official said, asking not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject.
There was no immediate comment from Israel, but Israeli ministers have accused Erdogan of adopting an anti-Israeli stance in recent years. Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin declined to comment on the report, but said relations with Turkey were “very complex.”
“The Turks made a strategic decision … to seek the leadership of our region, in the Middle East, and they chose the convenient anti-Israeli card in order to build up leadership,” he told Israel Radio.
The relationship hit the rocks in 2010 after Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish activists seeking to break Israel’s long-standing naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Relations between the two US allies have been fraught ever since, with military cooperation frozen and mutual distrust scuppering attempts to restore ties, despite efforts by US President Barack Obama to broker a reconciliation.
Iran has long accused Israel of spying on it soil and of killing several Iranian nuclear scientists, the last in January 2012.
In April 2012, Iran announced that it had broken up a large Israeli spy network and arrested 15 suspects. It was not clear if this was connected to the alleged Turkish leak.
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2013 17:15
Find this story at 17 October 2013
Turkey blows Israel’s cover for Iranian spy ring
7 november 2013
The Turkish-Israeli relationship became so poisonous early last year that the Turkish government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is said to have disclosed to Iranian intelligence the identities of up to 10 Iranians who had been meeting inside Turkey with their Mossad case officers.
Knowledgeable sources describe the Turkish action as a “significant” loss of intelligence and “an effort to slap the Israelis.” The incident, disclosed here for the first time, illustrates the bitter, multi-dimensional spy wars that lie behind the current negotiations between Iran and Western nations over a deal to limit the Iranian nuclear program. A Turkish Embassy spokesman had no comment.
Israeli anger at the deliberate compromise of its agents may help explain why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became so entrenched in his refusal to apologize to Erdogan about the May 2010 Gaza flotilla incident . In that confrontation at sea, Israeli commandos boarded a Turkish-organized convoy of ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza. Nine Turks were killed.
Netanyahu finally apologized to Erdogan by phone in March after President Obama negotiated a compromise formula. But for more than a year before that, the Israeli leader had resisted entreaties from Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to heal the feud.
Top Israeli officials believe that, despite the apology, the severe strain with Erdogan continues. The Turkish intelligence chief, Hakan Fidan, is also suspect in Israel because of what are seen as friendly links with Tehran; several years ago, Israeli intelligence officers are said to have described him facetiously to CIA officials as “the MOIS station chief in Ankara,” a reference to Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security. The United States continued to deal with Fidan on sensitive matters, however.
Though U.S. officials regarded exposure of the Israeli network as an unfortunate intelligence loss, they didn’t protest directly to Turkish officials. Instead, Turkish-American relations continued warming last year to the point that Erdogan was among Obama’s key confidants. This practice of separating intelligence issues from broader policymaking is said to be a long-standing U.S. approach.
U.S. officials were never sure whether the Turkish disclosure was done in retaliation for the flotilla incident or was part of a broader deterioration in Turkish-Israeli relations.
Israeli intelligence had apparently run part of its Iranian spy network through Turkey, which has relatively easy movement back and forth across its border with Iran. The Turkish intelligence service, known as the Milli Istihbarat Teskilati, or MIT, conducts aggressive surveillance inside its borders, so it had the resources to monitor Israeli-Iranian covert meetings.
U.S. officials assessed the incident as a problem of misplaced trust, rather than bad tradecraft. They reasoned that the Mossad, after more than 50 years of cooperation with Turkey, never imagined the Turks would “shop” Israeli agents to a hostile power, in the words of one source. But Erdogan presented a unique challenge, as he moved in 2009 to champion the Palestinian cause and, in various ways, steered Ankara away from what had been, in effect, a secret partnership with Jerusalem.
The Israeli-Turkish intelligence alliance was launched in a secret meeting in August 1958 in Ankara between David Ben-Gurion, then Israel’s prime minister, and Adnan Menderes, then Turkey’s prime minister. “The concrete result was a formal but top-secret agreement for comprehensive cooperation” between the Mossad and Turkish intelligence, wrote Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman in their 2012 book, “Spies Against Armageddon.”
The groundwork had been laid secretly by Reuven Shiloah, the founding director of the Mossad, as part of what he called a “peripheral alliance strategy.” Through that partnership, Israelis provided training in espionage to the Turks and, ironically, also to Iranians under the shah’s government, which was toppled in 1979.
Fidan, the Turkish spy chief, is a key Erdogan adviser. He became head of the MIT in 2010 after serving as a noncommissioned officer in the Turkish army and gaining a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and a doctorate in Ankara. After Fidan took over the Turkish service, “he rattled Turkey’s allies by allegedly passing to Iran sensitive intelligence collected by the U.S. and Israel,” according to a recent profile in the Wall Street Journal. The Journal also noted U.S. fears that Fidan was arming jihadist rebels in Syria.
The Netanyahu-Erdogan quarrel, with its overlay of intelligence thrust and parry, is an example of the kaleidoscopic changes that may be ahead in the Middle East. The United States, Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are all exploring new alliances and struggling to find a new equilibrium — overtly and covertly.
Read more from David Ignatius’s archive, follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook.
Read more about this issue: David Ignatius: Rouhani sees a nuclear deal in 3 months Soli Ozel: The protests in Turkey won’t be the last Fareed Zakaria: Israel dominates the new Middle East Sonet Cagaptay: Syria becomes a wedge between the United States and Turkey Dani Rodrik: Turkey’s miscarriage of justice
By David Ignatius, Published: October 17
Find this story at 17 October 2013
© The Washington Post Company
France in the NSA’s crosshair : phone networks under surveillance
7 november 2013
The future will perhaps tell us one day why France has remained so discreet in comparison with Germany or Brazil, for example, after the first revelations about the extent of the American electronic espionage programmes in the world as revealed by Edward Snowden, the ex-employee of an NSA (National Security Agency) sub-contractor. France was also concerned and today has at its disposition tangible proof that its interests are targeted on a daily basis.
According to the documents retrieved from the NSA database by its ex-analyst, telephone communications of French citizens are intercepted on a massive scale. Le Monde has been able to obtain access to documents which describe the techniques used to violate the secrets or simply the private life of French people. Some elements of information about this espionage have been referred to by Der Speigel and The Guardian, but others are, to date, unpublished.
Amongst the thousands of documents extracted from the NSA by its ex-employee there is a graph which describes the extent of telephone monitoring and tapping (DNR – Dial Number Recognition) carried out in France. It can be seen that over a period of thirty days – from 10 December 2012 to 8 January 2013, 70,3 million recordings of French citizens’ telephone data were made by the NSA. This agency has several methods of data collection. According to the elements obtained by Le Monde, when a telephone number is used in France, it activates a signal which automatically triggers the recording of the call. Apparently this surveillance system also picks up SMS messages and their content using key words. Finally, the NSA apparently stores the history of the connections of each target – or the meta-data.
This espionage is listed under the programme US-985D. The precise explanation of this acronym has not been provided, to date, by the Snowden documents nor by the former members of the NSA. By way of comparison, the acronyms used by the NSA for the same type of interception targeting Germany are US-987LA and US-987LB. According to some sources, this series of numbers corresponds to the circle referred to by the United States as the ’third party’, to which belong France, Germany but also Austria, Poland or again Belgium. ‘The second party’ concerns the English-speaking countries historically close to Washington: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – this group is known by the name the ‘five eyes’. ‘The first party’ concerns the sixteen American secret services of which today the NSA has become the most important, according to a senior official from the French Intelligence community.
The techniques used for these interceptions appear under the codenames ‘DRTBOX’ and ‘WHITEBOX’. Their characteristics are not known either. But we do know that, thanks to DRTBOX, 62.5 million data were collected in France and that WHITEBOX enables the recording of 7.8 million elements. The documents which Le Monde has been able to see have not enabled the provision of further details on these methods. But they give sufficient explanation to lead us to think that the NSA targets concerned both people suspected of association with terrorist activities as well as people targeted simply because they belong to the worlds of business, politics or French state administration.
The NSA graph shows an average of 3 million data intercepts per day with peaks at almost 7 million on 24 December 2012 and 7 January 2013. But between 28 and 31 December no interception seems to have taken place. This apparent stoppage of activity could be explained, in particular, by the time required at the end of December 2012, for the American Congress to renew section 702 of the law dealing with electronic espionage abroad. Similarly nothing appears on the 3, 5 and 6 January 2013; this time we cannot suggest any plausible reason. Many questions are still posed by this diagram – to start with the precise identity of the targets and the justifications for such a large-scale collection of data in a foreign country which is both sovereign and an ally.
When questioned, the American authorities did not wish to comment on these documents which they considered to be ‘classified’. Nevertheless, they do refer to the statement made on 8 June 2013 by the Director of National Intelligence according to which, ’the government cannot target anyone under the court-approved procedures for Section 702 collection unless there is an appropriate, and document foreign intelligence purpose for the acquisition (such as for the prevention of terrorism, hostile cyber activities, or nuclear proliferation) and the foreign target is reasonably believed to be outside the United States. We cannot target even foreign persons overseas without a valid foreign intelligence purpose.
France is not the country in which the NSA intercepts the most digital or telephone connections. The ‘Boundless Informant’ system, revealed in June by Edward Snowden to the British daily The Guardian, enabled an overall vision and in real time of the information gathered throughout the world, by means of the various NSA wire-tapping systems. This system gathers not only telephone data (DNR) but also digital data (DNI Digital Network Intelligence). One of the documents which Le Monde was able to consult notes that between 8 February and 8 March 2013, the NSA collected, throughout the world, 124,8 billion telephone data items and 97,1 billion computer data items. In Europe, only Germany and the United Kingdom exceed France in terms of numbers of interceptions.
21.10.2013 à 06h08
Par Jacques Follorou et Glenn Greenwald (Journaliste)
Find this story at 21 October 2013
© Le Monde.fr
Was ISRAEL behind the hacking of millions of French phones and NOT the U.S.? Extraordinary twist in spying saga revealed
7 november 2013
Agents said to have intercepted 70 million calls and text messages a month
France had previously blamed the United States of America
U.S. was first suspected of hacking into Nicolas Sarkozy’s phone in 2012
Americans insisted they have never been behind hacking in France
Comes after it emerged German officials are planning trip to U.S. to discuss allegations Angela Merkel’s phone was hack by the NSA
The German Chancellor said President Obama’s reputation has been shattered on an international scale because of espionage scandal
Israel and not America was behind the hacking of millions of French phones, it was claimed today.
In the latest extraordinary twist in the global eavesdropping scandal, Israeli agents are said to have intercepted more than 70 million calls and text messages a month.
Up until now the French have been blaming the U.S., even summoning the country’s Paris ambassador to provide an explanation.
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France first suspected the U.S. of hacking into former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s communications network when he was unsuccessfully trying for re-election in 2012
But today’s Le Monde newspaper provides evidence that it was in fact Israeli agents who were listening in.
France first suspected the U.S. of hacking into former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s communications network when he was unsuccessfully trying for re-election in 2012.
Intelligence officials Bernard Barbier and Patrick Pailloux travelled from Paris to Washington to demand an explanation, but the Americans hinted that the Israelis were to blame.
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Cameron attacks ‘lah-di-dah, airy-fairy’ ideas about spy agencies, as he reveals his own mobile was NOT targeted by the US
The Americans insisted they have never been behind any hacking in France, and were always keen to get on with the French, whom they viewed as some of their closest allies.
They were so determined to be friends with the French, that U.S. briefing notes included details of how to pronounce the names of the Gallic officials.
A note published in Le Monde shows that the Americans refused to rule out Mossad, Israel’s notoriously uncompromising intelligence agency, or the ISNU, Israel’s cyber-intelligence unit.
Today’s newspaper report was co-written by Glenn Greenwald, whose main contact is NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden (pictured)
Tailored Access Operations (TAO), the branch of the US National Security Agency (NSA) which deals with cyber-attacks, is referred to throughout the note.
It reads: ‘TAO intentionally did not ask either Mossad or ISNU whether they were involved as France is not an approved target for joint discussions.’
Le Monde’s article, co-authored by U.S. journalist Glenn Greenwald, whose main contact is NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, however, hints that the Israelis were doing the spying.
Both US and French intelligence work closely with Mossad, but there is known to be a great deal of suspicion between all the agencies.
A 2008 NSA note says that the Israelis are ‘excellent partners in terms of sharing information’, but it also says that Mossad is ‘the third most aggressive intelligence service in the world against the United States’.
A spokesman for the Israeli government told Le Monde: ‘Israel is a country which is a friend, ally and partner of France and does not carry out any hostile activity which could pose a threat to its security.’
France has complained in the past about Mossad’s use of its soil to plan so called black operations including the 2010 assassination in Dubai of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh of the Palestinian movement Hamas.
The revelation comes after senior German officials said they would be travelling to the U.S. ‘shortly’ to talk about allegations the NSA bugged Angela Merkel’s phone.
Obama orders review of surveillance activities
Anger: German Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) and Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff (right) have both voiced concerns over the NSA’s infiltration of the online communications of foreigners
The heads of Germany’s foreign and domestic intelligence agencies will participate in high-level discussions with the White House and National Security Agency, government spokesman Georg Streiter said.
News of the talks signals an escalation in the diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and its allies after it was claimed the NSA had monitored the calls of 35 world leaders.
Brazil and Germany have joined forces in an attempt to pile pressure on the United Nations to rein in the snooping activities. They want a UN General Resolution that promotes the right to online privacy.
This step, the first major international response to the NSA’s infiltration of the online communications of foreigners, comes after German Chancellor Merkel said the recent U.S. espionage scandal has shattered international trust in Barack Obama.
Angela Merkel said the recent espionage scandal has shattered international trust in President Obama
Not hacked: The White House has denied that David Cameron’s communications were ever monitored
A month earlier Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff branded the NSA’s clandestine activities ‘a breach of international law’ in a speech to the UN General Assembly and demanded steps be made to stop ‘cyberspace from being used as a weapon of war’.
Brazilian and German diplomats met in New York yesterday to thrash out a draft resolution demanding the strengthening of privacy rights in the International Covenant Civil and Political Rights.
While the UN has no real power to reign in the NSA, there are fears among security experts that the effort alone could signal a growing consensus to freeze the US out of future international security dialogues.
By Nabila Ramdani
PUBLISHED: 16:32 GMT, 25 October 2013 | UPDATED: 20:46 GMT, 25 October 2013
Find this story at 25 October 2013
© Associated Newspapers Ltd
France feared US hacked president, was Israel involved?
7 november 2013
AFP – France believed the United States attempted to hack into its president’s communications network, a leaked US intelligence document published on Friday suggests.
US agents denied having anything to do with a May 2012 cyber attack on the Elysee Palace, the official residence of French presidents, and appeared to hint at the possible involvement of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, a classified internal note from the US National Security Agency suggests.
Extracts from the document, the latest to emerge from the NSA via former contractor Edward Snowden, were published by Le Monde newspaper alongside an article jointly authored by Glenn Greenwald, the US journalist who has been principally responsible for a still-unravelling scandal over large-scale US snooping on individuals and political leaders all over the world.
The document is a briefing note prepared in April this year for NSA officials who were due to meet two senior figures from France’s external intelligence agency, the DGSE. The French agents had travelled to Washington to demand explanations over their discovery in May 2012 of attempts to compromise the Elysee’s communications systems.
The note says that the branch of the NSA which handles cyber attacks, Tailored Access Operations (TAO), had confirmed that it had not carried out the attack and says that most of its closest allies (Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand) had also denied involvement.
It goes on to note: “TAO intentionally did not ask either Mossad or (Israel’s cyber intelligence unit) ISNU whether they were involved as France is not an approved target for joint discussions.”
Le Monde interpreted this sentence as being an ironic reference to a strong likelihood that Mossad had been behind the attack.
The cyber attacks on the Elysee took place in the final weeks of Nicolas Sarkozy’s term, between the two rounds of the presidential election which he ended up losing to Francois Hollande.
The attacks had been previously reported by French media, who have described them as an attempt to insert monitoring devices into the system but it remains unclear whether the presidential networks were compromised for any time.
There was no immediate response from the Elysee on Friday when asked for comment by AFP.
Sarkozy enjoyed warmer relations with the United States than any French president of recent times, to the extent that the media sometimes referred to him as “Sarko the American.”
The revelations about the Elysee attacks followed damaging revelations that the US had tapped the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and spied on other allies.
“Spying between friends, that’s just not done,” Merkel said Thursday at the start of a summit of European Union leaders which has been overshadowed by the issue.
On a lighter note, the leaked document published by Le Monde on Friday underlines that NSA officials were anxious not to cause any further offence to their angry French counterparts.
Along with the technical details, the briefing note contains a phonetic guide to the pronunciation of the names of the French visitors.
They included DGSE technical director Bernard Barbier, who was to be addressed as bear-NAR bur-BYAY, and Patrick Pailloux, or pah-TREEK pie-YOO.
25 OCTOBER 2013 – 12H58
Find this story at 25 October 2013
© 2006 – 2013 Copyright FRANCE 24. All rights reserved
US also eavesdrops on Israel, says former Mossad head
7 november 2013
Americans want to know what Netanyahu is thinking about Iran, Palestinian issues, says Danny Yatom; follows reports NSA listened in to 35 world leaders
A day after it was revealed that the US National Security Agency monitored the private conversations of some 35 world leaders, former head of the Mossad Danny Yatom said Friday that the US listens in on its ally Israel as well.
“I can tell you with certain knowledge that [America] has been listening in on its allies, including Israel,” Yatom said, and “not necessarily in [Benjamin] Netanyahu’s tenure” as prime minister.
“The US doesn’t really care about anyone [but itself] and the Americans are vehemently denying the incidents,” Yatom told the Israeli daily Maariv on Friday. ”It could very well be that these things [monitoring calls] are happening here [in Israel] too. When the Americans think they need to listen in on someone, they’ll do just that.”
Yatom explained that there are two issues around which the Americans are likely spying on Israel — negotiations with Palestinians and the Iranian nuclear program.
“It is important for them to know what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu really thinks… They have interests here because they want to be able to contend with Israeli claims that arise when talking about these issues,” the ex-Mossad chief said.
Yatom also stressed that the US seeks to obtain information on Israel’s “real” position vis-a-vis-negotiations and what obstacles stand in the way of advancing peace talks.
He also criticized the US for misusing its power as a world leader.
“The Americans rightly see themselves as a superpower, but wrongly feel that they can do whatever they want, including the eavesdropping,” he said.
Yatom served from 1996-1998 as head of the Mossad. The Israeli intelligence agency is smarting from recent reports that Turkey deliberately exposed a ring of Israeli agents in Iran, and further reports that US did not sanction or protest to Turkey over this alleged betrayal. Yatom has been particularly outspoken over the matter.
Yatom’s statements came a day after the the British newspaper The Guardian said it had obtained a confidential memo suggesting the NSA was able to monitor 35 world leaders’ communications in 2006.
The memo said the NSA encouraged senior officials at the White House, Pentagon and other agencies to share their contacts so the spy agency could add foreign leaders’ phone numbers to its surveillance systems, the report said.
The report drew furious reactions in Germany, Spain — both of whom summoned the US ambassador in their countries for talks over the report — and France.
European Union leaders, meeting Friday at a summit in Brussels, vowed to maintain a strong trans-Atlantic partnership despite their anger over allegations of widespread US spying on allies. Still, France and Germany are insisting the United States agree upon new surveillance rules with them this year to stop US eavesdropping on their leaders, innocent civilians and companies.
“We are seeking a basis for cooperation between our (intelligence) services, which we all need and from which we have all received a great deal of information … that is transparent, that is clear and is in keeping with the character of being partners,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters.
“The United States and Europe are partners, but this partnership must be built on trust and respect,” Merkel said early Friday. “That of course also includes the work of the respective intelligence services.”
Several European leaders noted Friday that the continent’s close political and commercial ties to the US must be protected as EU nations demand more assurances from the Obama administration.
“What is at stake is preserving our relations with the United States,” said French President Francois Hollande. “Trust has to be restored and reinforced.”
“The main thing is that we look to the future. The trans-Atlantic partnership was and is important,” said Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, whose nation holds the rotating presidency of the 28-country bloc.
Merkel complained to President Barack Obama on Wednesday after her government received information that her cellphone may have been monitored. Merkel and Hollande insisted that, beyond being fully briefed on what happened in the past, the European allies and Washington need to set up common rules for US surveillance that does not impede the fundamental rights of its allies.
Lazar Berman and AP contributed to this report.
By Times of Israel staff October 25, 2013, 7:50 pm 13
Find this story at 25 October 2013
© 2013 The Times of Israel, All rights reserved
No Morsel Too Minuscule for All-Consuming N.S.A.<< oudere artikelen
7 november 2013
When Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, sat down with President Obama at the White House in April to discuss Syrian chemical weapons, Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and climate change, it was a cordial, routine exchange.
The National Security Agency nonetheless went to work in advance and intercepted Mr. Ban’s talking points for the meeting, a feat the agency later reported as an “operational highlight” in a weekly internal brag sheet. It is hard to imagine what edge this could have given Mr. Obama in a friendly chat, if he even saw the N.S.A.’s modest scoop. (The White House won’t say.)
But it was emblematic of an agency that for decades has operated on the principle that any eavesdropping that can be done on a foreign target of any conceivable interest — now or in the future — should be done. After all, American intelligence officials reasoned, who’s going to find out?
From thousands of classified documents, the National Security Agency emerges as an electronic omnivore of staggering capabilities, eavesdropping and hacking its way around the world to strip governments and other targets of their secrets, all the while enforcing the utmost secrecy about its own operations. It spies routinely on friends as well as foes, as has become obvious in recent weeks; the agency’s official mission list includes using its surveillance powers to achieve “diplomatic advantage” over such allies as France and Germany and “economic advantage” over Japan and Brazil, among other countries.
Mr. Obama found himself in September standing uncomfortably beside the president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, who was furious at being named as a target of N.S.A. eavesdropping. Since then, there has been a parade of such protests, from the European Union, Mexico, France, Germany and Spain. Chagrined American officials joke that soon there will be complaints from foreign leaders feeling slighted because the agency had not targeted them.
James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, has repeatedly dismissed such objections as brazen hypocrisy from countries that do their own share of spying. But in a recent interview, he acknowledged that the scale of eavesdropping by the N.S.A., with 35,000 workers and $10.8 billion a year, sets it apart. “There’s no question that from a capability standpoint we probably dwarf everybody on the planet, just about, with perhaps the exception of Russia and China,” he said.
Since Edward J. Snowden began releasing the agency’s documents in June, the unrelenting stream of disclosures has opened the most extended debate on the agency’s mission since its creation in 1952. The scrutiny has ignited a crisis of purpose and legitimacy for the N.S.A., the nation’s largest intelligence agency, and the White House has ordered a review of both its domestic and its foreign intelligence collection. While much of the focus has been on whether the agency violates Americans’ privacy, an issue under examination by Congress and two review panels, the anger expressed around the world about American surveillance has prompted far broader questions.
If secrecy can no longer be taken for granted, when does the political risk of eavesdropping overseas outweigh its intelligence benefits? Should foreign citizens, many of whom now rely on American companies for email and Internet services, have any privacy protections from the N.S.A.? Will the American Internet giants’ collaboration with the agency, voluntary or otherwise, damage them in international markets? And are the agency’s clandestine efforts to weaken encryption making the Internet less secure for everyone?
Matthew M. Aid, an intelligence historian and author of a 2009 book on the N.S.A., said there is no precedent for the hostile questions coming at the agency from all directions.
“From N.S.A.’s point of view, it’s a disaster,” Mr. Aid said. “Every new disclosure reinforces the notion that the agency needs to be reined in. There are political consequences, and there will be operational consequences.”
A review of classified agency documents obtained by Mr. Snowden and shared with The New York Times by The Guardian, offers a rich sampling of the agency’s global operations and culture. (At the agency’s request, The Times is withholding some details that officials said could compromise intelligence operations.) The N.S.A. seems to be listening everywhere in the world, gathering every stray electron that might add, however minutely, to the United States government’s knowledge of the world. To some Americans, that may be a comfort. To others, and to people overseas, that may suggest an agency out of control.
The C.I.A. dispatches undercover officers overseas to gather intelligence today roughly the same way spies operated in biblical times. But the N.S.A., born when the long-distance call was a bit exotic, has seen its potential targets explode in number with the advent of personal computers, the Internet and cellphones. Today’s N.S.A. is the Amazon of intelligence agencies, as different from the 1950s agency as that online behemoth is from a mom-and-pop bookstore. It sucks the contents from fiber-optic cables, sits on telephone switches and Internet hubs, digitally burglarizes laptops and plants bugs on smartphones around the globe.
Mr. Obama and top intelligence officials have defended the agency’s role in preventing terrorist attacks. But as the documents make clear, the focus on counterterrorism is a misleadingly narrow sales pitch for an agency with an almost unlimited agenda. Its scale and aggressiveness are breathtaking.
The agency’s Dishfire database — nothing happens without a code word at the N.S.A. — stores years of text messages from around the world, just in case. Its Tracfin collection accumulates gigabytes of credit card purchases. The fellow pretending to send a text message at an Internet cafe in Jordan may be using an N.S.A. technique code-named Polarbreeze to tap into nearby computers. The Russian businessman who is socially active on the web might just become food for Snacks, the acronym-mad agency’s Social Network Analysis Collaboration Knowledge Services, which figures out the personnel hierarchies of organizations from texts.
The spy agency’s station in Texas intercepted 478 emails while helping to foil a jihadist plot to kill a Swedish artist who had drawn pictures of the Prophet Muhammad. N.S.A. analysts delivered to authorities at Kennedy International Airport the names and flight numbers of workers dispatched by a Chinese human smuggling ring.
The agency’s eavesdropping gear, aboard a Defense Department plane flying 60,000 feet over Colombia, fed the location and plans of FARC rebels to the Colombian Army. In the Orlandocard operation, N.S.A. technicians set up what they called a “honeypot” computer on the web that attracted visits from 77,413 foreign computers and planted spyware on more than 1,000 that the agency deemed of potential future interest.
The Global Phone Book
No investment seems too great if it adds to the agency’s global phone book. After mounting a major eavesdropping effort focused on a climate change conference in Bali in 2007, agency analysts stationed in Australia’s outback were especially thrilled by one catch: the cellphone number of Bali’s police chief.
“Our mission,” says the agency’s current five-year plan, which has not been officially scheduled for declassification until 2032, “is to answer questions about threatening activities that others mean to keep hidden.”
The aspirations are grandiose: to “utterly master” foreign intelligence carried on communications networks. The language is corporate: “Our business processes need to promote data-driven decision-making.” But the tone is also strikingly moralistic for a government bureaucracy. Perhaps to counter any notion that eavesdropping is a shady enterprise, signals intelligence, or Sigint, the term of art for electronic intercepts, is presented as the noblest of callings.
“Sigint professionals must hold the moral high ground, even as terrorists or dictators seek to exploit our freedoms,” the plan declares. “Some of our adversaries will say or do anything to advance their cause; we will not.”
The N.S.A. documents taken by Mr. Snowden and shared with The Times, numbering in the thousands and mostly dating from 2007 to 2012, are part of a collection of about 50,000 items that focus mainly on its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters or G.C.H.Q.
While far from comprehensive, the documents give a sense of the agency’s reach and abilities, from the Navy ships snapping up radio transmissions as they cruise off the coast of China, to the satellite dishes at Fort Meade in Maryland ingesting worldwide banking transactions, to the rooftops of 80 American embassies and consulates around the world from which the agency’s Special Collection Service aims its antennas.
The agency and its many defenders among senior government officials who have relied on its top secret reports say it is crucial to American security and status in the world, pointing to terrorist plots disrupted, nuclear proliferation tracked and diplomats kept informed.
But the documents released by Mr. Snowden sometimes also seem to underscore the limits of what even the most intensive intelligence collection can achieve by itself. Blanket N.S.A. eavesdropping in Afghanistan, described in the documents as covering government offices and the hide-outs of second-tier Taliban militants alike, has failed to produce a clear victory against a low-tech enemy. The agency kept track as Syria amassed its arsenal of chemical weapons — but that knowledge did nothing to prevent the gruesome slaughter outside Damascus in August.
The documents are skewed toward celebration of the agency’s self-described successes, as underlings brag in PowerPoints to their bosses about their triumphs and the managers lay out grand plans. But they do not entirely omit the agency’s flubs and foibles: flood tides of intelligence gathered at huge cost that goes unexamined; intercepts that cannot be read for lack of language skills; and computers that — even at the N.S.A. — go haywire in all the usual ways.
Mapping Message Trails
In May 2009, analysts at the agency learned that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was to make a rare trip to Kurdistan Province in the country’s mountainous northwest. The agency immediately organized a high-tech espionage mission, part of a continuing project focused on Ayatollah Khamenei called Operation Dreadnought.
Working closely with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which handles satellite photography, as well as G.C.H.Q., the N.S.A. team studied the Iranian leader’s entourage, its vehicles and its weaponry from satellites, and intercepted air traffic messages as planes and helicopters took off and landed.
They heard Ayatollah Khamenei’s aides fretting about finding a crane to load an ambulance and fire truck onto trucks for the journey. They listened as he addressed a crowd, segregated by gender, in a soccer field.
They studied Iranian air defense radar stations and recorded the travelers’ rich communications trail, including Iranian satellite coordinates collected by an N.S.A. program called Ghosthunter. The point was not so much to catch the Iranian leader’s words, but to gather the data for blanket eavesdropping on Iran in the event of a crisis.
This “communications fingerprinting,” as a document called it, is the key to what the N.S.A. does. It allows the agency’s computers to scan the stream of international communications and pluck out messages tied to the supreme leader. In a crisis — say, a showdown over Iran’s nuclear program — the ability to tap into the communications of leaders, generals and scientists might give a crucial advantage.
On a more modest scale, the same kind of effort, what N.S.A. calls “Sigint development,” was captured in a document the agency obtained in 2009 from Somalia — whether from a human source or an electronic break-in was not noted. It contained email addresses and other contact details for 117 selected customers of a Mogadishu Internet service, Globalsom.
While most on the list were Somali officials or citizens, presumably including some suspected of militancy, the document also included emails for a United Nations political officer in Mogadishu and a local representative for the charity World Vision, among other international institutions. All, it appeared, were considered fair game for monitoring.
This huge investment in collection is driven by pressure from the agency’s “customers,” in government jargon, not only at the White House, Pentagon, F.B.I. and C.I.A., but also spread across the Departments of State and Energy, Homeland Security and Commerce, and the United States Trade Representative.
By many accounts, the agency provides more than half of the intelligence nuggets delivered to the White House early each morning in the President’s Daily Brief — a measure of success for American spies. (One document boasts that listening in on Nigerian State Security had provided items for the briefing “nearly two dozen” times.) In every international crisis, American policy makers look to the N.S.A. for inside information.
Pressure to Get Everything
That creates intense pressure not to miss anything. When that is combined with an ample budget and near-invisibility to the public, the result is aggressive surveillance of the kind that has sometimes gotten the agency in trouble with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a United States federal court that polices its programs for breaches of Americans’ privacy.
In the funding boom that followed the Sept. 11 attacks, the agency expanded and decentralized far beyond its Fort Meade headquarters in Maryland, building or expanding major facilities in Georgia, Texas, Colorado, Hawaii, Alaska, Washington State and Utah. Its officers also operate out of major overseas stations in England, Australia, South Korea and Japan, at overseas military bases, and from locked rooms housing the Special Collection Service inside American missions abroad.
The agency, using a combination of jawboning, stealth and legal force, has turned the nation’s Internet and telecommunications companies into collection partners, installing filters in their facilities, serving them with court orders, building back doors into their software and acquiring keys to break their encryption.
But even that vast American-run web is only part of the story. For decades, the N.S.A. has shared eavesdropping duties with the rest of the so-called Five Eyes, the Sigint agencies of Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. More limited cooperation occurs with many more countries, including formal arrangements called Nine Eyes and 14 Eyes and Nacsi, an alliance of the agencies of 26 NATO countries.
The extent of Sigint sharing can be surprising: “N.S.A. may pursue a relationship with Vietnam,” one 2009 G.C.H.Q. document reported. But a recent G.C.H.Q. training document suggests that not everything is shared, even between the United States and Britain. “Economic well-being reporting,” it says, referring to intelligence gathered to aid the British economy, “cannot be shared with any foreign partner.”
As at the school lunch table, decisions on who gets left out can cause hurt feelings: “Germans were a little grumpy at not being invited to join the 9-Eyes group,” one 2009 document remarks. And in a delicate spy-versus-spy dance, sharing takes place even with governments that are themselves important N.S.A. targets, notably Israel.
The documents describe collaboration with the Israel Sigint National Unit, which gets raw N.S.A. eavesdropping material and provides it in return, but they also mention the agency’s tracking of “high priority Israeli military targets,” including drone aircraft and the Black Sparrow missile system.
The alliances, and the need for stealth, can get complicated. At one highly valued overseas listening post, the very presence of American N.S.A. personnel violates a treaty agreed to by the agency’s foreign host. Even though much of the eavesdropping is run remotely from N.S.A.’s base at Fort Gordon, Ga., Americans who visit the site must pose as contractors, carry fake business cards and are warned: “Don’t dress as typical Americans.”
“Know your cover legend,” a PowerPoint security briefing admonishes the N.S.A. staff members headed to the overseas station, directing them to “sanitize personal effects,” send no postcards home and buy no identifiably local souvenirs. (“An option might be jewelry. Most jewelry does not have any markings” showing its place of origin.)
In the agency’s early years, its brainy staff members — it remains the largest employer of mathematicians in the country — played an important role in the development of the first computers, then largely a tool for code breaking.
Today, with personal computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones in most homes and government offices in the developed world, hacking has become the agency’s growth area.
Some of Mr. Snowden’s documents describe the exploits of Tailored Access Operations, the prim name for the N.S.A. division that breaks into computers around the world to steal the data inside, and sometimes to leave spy software behind. T.A.O. is increasingly important in part because it allows the agency to bypass encryption by capturing messages as they are written or read, when they are not encoded.
In Baghdad, T.A.O. collected messages left in draft form in email accounts maintained by leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq, a militant group. Under a program called Spinaltap, the division’s hackers identified 24 unique Internet Protocol addresses identifying computers used by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, making it possible to snatch Hezbollah messages from the flood of global communications sifted by the agency.
The N.S.A.’s elite Transgression Branch, created in 2009 to “discover, understand, evaluate and exploit” foreign hackers’ work, quietly piggybacks on others’ incursions into computers of interest, like thieves who follow other housebreakers around and go through the windows they have left ajar.
In one 2010 hacking operation code-named Ironavenger, for instance, the N.S.A. spied simultaneously on an ally and an adversary. Analysts spotted suspicious emails being sent to a government office of great intelligence interest in a hostile country and realized that an American ally was “spear-phishing” — sending official-looking emails that, when opened, planted malware that let hackers inside.
The Americans silently followed the foreign hackers, collecting documents and passwords from computers in the hostile country, an elusive target. They got a look inside that government and simultaneously got a close-up look at the ally’s cyberskills, the kind of intelligence twofer that is the unit’s specialty.
In many other ways, advances in computer and communications technology have been a boon for the agency. N.S.A. analysts tracked the electronic trail left by a top leader of Al Qaeda in Africa each time he stopped to use a computer on his travels. They correctly predicted his next stop, and the police were there to arrest him.
And at the big N.S.A. station at Fort Gordon, technicians developed an automated service called “Where’s My Node?” that sent an email to an analyst every time a target overseas moved from one cell tower to another. Without lifting a finger, an analyst could follow his quarry’s every move.
The Limits of Spying
The techniques described in the Snowden documents can make the N.S.A. seem omniscient, and nowhere in the world is that impression stronger than in Afghanistan. But the agency’s capabilities at the tactical level have not been nearly enough to produce clear-cut strategic success there, in the United States’ longest war.
A single daily report from June 2011 from the N.S.A.’s station in Kandahar, Afghanistan, the heart of Taliban country, illustrates the intensity of eavesdropping coverage, requiring 15 pages to describe a day’s work.
The agency listened while insurgents from the Haqqani network mounted an attack on the Hotel Intercontinental in Kabul, overhearing the attackers talking to their bosses in Pakistan’s tribal area and recording events minute by minute. “Ruhullah claimed he was on the third floor and had already inflicted one casualty,” the report said in a typical entry. “He also indicated that Hafiz was located on a different floor.”
N.S.A. officers listened as two Afghan Foreign Ministry officials prepared for a meeting between President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Iranian officials, assuring them that relations with the United States “would in no way threaten the interests of Iran,” which they decided Mr. Karzai should describe as a “brotherly country.”
The N.S.A. eavesdropped as the top United Nations official in Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, consulted his European Union counterpart, Vygaudas Usackas, about how to respond to an Afghan court’s decision to overturn the election of 62 members of Parliament.
And the agency was a fly on the wall for a long-running land dispute between the mayor of Kandahar and a prominent local man known as the Keeper of the Cloak of the Prophet Muhammad, with President Karzai’s late brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, as a mediator.
The agency discovered a Taliban claim to have killed five police officers at a checkpoint by giving them poisoned yogurt, and heard a provincial governor tell an aide that a district police chief was verbally abusing women and clergymen.
A Taliban figure, Mullah Rahimullah Akhund, known on the United States military’s kill-or-capture list by the code name Objective Squiz Incinerator, was overheard instructing an associate to buy suicide vests and a Japanese motorbike, according to the documents.
And N.S.A. listened in as a Saudi extremist, Abu Mughira, called his mother to report that he and his fellow fighters had entered Afghanistan and “done victorious operations.”
Such reports flowed from the agency’s Kandahar station day after day, year after year, and surely strengthened the American campaign against the Taliban. But they also suggest the limits of intelligence against a complex political and military challenge. The N.S.A. recorded the hotel attack, but it had not prevented it. It tracked Mr. Karzai’s government, but he remained a difficult and volatile partner. Its surveillance was crucial in the capture or killing of many enemy fighters, but not nearly enough to remove the Taliban’s ominous shadow from Afghanistan’s future.
Mining All the Tidbits
In the Afghan reports and many others, a striking paradox is the odd intimacy of a sprawling, technology-driven agency with its targets. It is the one-way intimacy of the eavesdropper, as N.S.A. employees virtually enter the office cubicles of obscure government officials and the Spartan hide-outs of drug traffickers and militants around the world.
Venezuela, for instance, was one of six “enduring targets” in N.S.A.’s official mission list from 2007, along with China, North Korea, Iraq, Iran and Russia. The United States viewed itself in a contest for influence in Latin America with Venezuela’s leader then, the leftist firebrand Hugo Chávez, who allied himself with Cuba, and one agency goal was “preventing Venezuela from achieving its regional leadership objectives and pursuing policies that negatively impact U.S. global interests.”
A glimpse of what this meant in practice comes in a brief PowerPoint presentation from August 2010 on “Development of the Venezuelan Economic Mission.” The N.S.A. was tracking billions of dollars flowing to Caracas in loans from China (radar systems and oil drilling), Russia (MIG fighter planes and shoulder-fired missiles) and Iran (a factory to manufacture drone aircraft).
But it was also getting up-close and personal with Venezuela’s Ministry of Planning and Finance, monitoring the government and personal emails of the top 10 Venezuelan economic officials. An N.S.A. officer in Texas, in other words, was paid each day to peruse the private messages of obscure Venezuelan bureaucrats, hunting for tidbits that might offer some tiny policy edge.
In a counterdrug operation in late 2011, the agency’s officers seemed to know more about relations within a sprawling narcotics network than the drug dealers themselves. They listened to “Ricketts,” a Jamaican drug supplier based in Ecuador, struggling to keep his cocaine and marijuana smuggling business going after an associate, “Gordo,” claimed he had paid $250,000 and received nothing in return.
The N.S.A., a report said, was on top of not just their cellphones, but also those of the whole network of “buyers, transporters, suppliers, and middlemen” stretching from the Netherlands and Nova Scotia to Panama City and Bogotá, Colombia. The documents do not say whether arrests resulted from all that eavesdropping.
Even with terrorists, N.S.A. units can form a strangely personal relationship. The N.S.A.-G.C.H.Q. wiki, a top secret group blog that Mr. Snowden downloaded, lists 14 specialists scattered in various stations assigned to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani terrorist group that carried out the bloody attack on Mumbai in 2008, with titles including “Pakistan Access Pursuit Team” and “Techniques Discovery Branch.” Under the code name Treaclebeta, N.S.A.’s hackers at Tailored Access Operations also played a role.
In the wiki’s casual atmosphere, American and British eavesdroppers exchange the peculiar shoptalk of the secret world. “I don’t normally use Heretic to scan the fax traffic, I use Nucleon,” one user writes, describing technical tools for searching intercepted documents.
But most striking are the one-on-one pairings of spies and militants; Bryan is assigned to listen in on a man named Haroon, and Paul keeps an ear on Fazl.
A Flood of Details
One N.S.A. officer on the Lashkar-e-Taiba beat let slip that some of his eavesdropping turned out to be largely pointless, perhaps because of the agency’s chronic shortage of skilled linguists. He “ran some queries” to read intercepted communications of certain Lashkar-e-Taiba members, he wrote in the wiki, but added: “Most of it is in Arabic or Farsi, so I can’t make much of it.”
It is a glimpse of the unsurprising fact that sometimes the agency’s expensive and expansive efforts accomplish little. Despite the agency’s embrace of corporate jargon on goal-setting and evaluation, it operates without public oversight in an arena in which achievements are hard to measure.
In a world of ballooning communications, the agency is sometimes simply overwhelmed. In 2008, the N.S.A.’s Middle East and North Africa group set about updating its Sigint collection capabilities. The “ambitious scrub” of selectors — essentially search terms — cut the number of terms automatically searched from 21,177 to 7,795 and the number of messages added to the agency’s Pinwale database from 850,000 a day to 450,000 a day.
The reduction in volume was treated as a major achievement, opening the way for new collection on Iranian leadership and Saudi and Syrian diplomats, the report said.
And in a note that may comfort computer novices, the N.S.A. Middle East analysts discovered major glitches in their search software: The computer was searching for the names of targets but not their email addresses, a rather fundamental flaw. “Over 500 messages in one week did not come in,” the report said about one target.
Those are daily course corrections. Whether the Snowden disclosures will result in deeper change is uncertain. Joel F. Brenner, the agency’s former inspector general, says much of the criticism is unfair, reflecting a naïveté about the realpolitik of spying. “The agency is being browbeaten for doing too well the things it’s supposed to do,” he said.
But Mr. Brenner added that he believes “technology has outrun policy” at the N.S.A., and that in an era in which spying may well be exposed, “routine targeting of close allies is bad politics and is foolish.”
Another former insider worries less about foreign leaders’ sensitivities than the potential danger the sprawling agency poses at home. William E. Binney, a former senior N.S.A. official who has become an outspoken critic, says he has no problem with spying on foreign targets like Brazil’s president or the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. “That’s pretty much what every government does,” he said. “It’s the foundation of diplomacy.” But Mr. Binney said that without new leadership, new laws and top-to-bottom reform, the agency will represent a threat of “turnkey totalitarianism” — the capability to turn its awesome power, now directed mainly against other countries, on the American public.
“I think it’s already starting to happen,” he said. “That’s what we have to stop.”
Whatever reforms may come, Bobby R. Inman, who weathered his own turbulent period as N.S.A. director from 1977 to 1981, offers his hyper-secret former agency a radical suggestion for right now. “My advice would be to take everything you think Snowden has and get it out yourself,” he said. “It would certainly be a shock to the agency. But bad news doesn’t get better with age. The sooner they get it out and put it behind them, the faster they can begin to rebuild.”
November 2, 2013
By SCOTT SHANE
Find this story at 2 November 2013
© 2013 The New York Times Company