NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans’ data with Israel

• 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 agreement for the US to provide raw intelligence data to Israel was reached in principle in March 2009, the document shows. Photograph: James Emery

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


© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Snowden Documents Reveal NSA Gave Israeli Spies Raw Emails, Texts, Calls of Innocent Americans

Despite assurances from President Obama, the scandal around the National Security Agency continues to grow. The Guardian reports the NSA has routinely passed raw intelligence to Israel about U.S. citizens. “The NSA was sharing what they call raw signals intelligence, which includes things like who you are calling and when you are calling, the content of your phone call, the text of your emails, your text messages, your chat messages,” says Alex Abdo of the American Civil Liberties Union. “It sounds like all of that was handed over.” Abdo also discusses the ACLU’s successful fight to force the government to declassify documents that show the NSA wrongly put 16,000 American phone numbers on an “alert list.”
Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The Guardian newspaper reported Wednesday the National Security Agency routinely has passed raw intelligence to Israel without first removing details about U.S. citizens. Documents leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed details of a secret intelligence-sharing agreement between the NSA and its Israeli counterpart, that shows the U.S. government handed over intercepted communications containing phone calls and emails of U.S. citizens. The agreement places no legally binding limits on the use of the data by the Israelis.

Meanwhile, newly declassified documents show the NSA wrongly put 16,000 phone numbers on an “alert list” so their incoming calls could be monitored in violation of court-ordered privacy protections.

AMY GOODMAN: When the NSA notified the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court about the error, Judge Reggie Walton of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court wrote, quote, “The court is exceptionally concerned about what appears to be a flagrant violation of its order in this matter.” The documents were declassified after a long fight with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union that filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit two years ago.

In other NSA news, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is facing pressure at home to cancel an upcoming state visit to the White House after documents leaked by Snowden revealed the NSA had hacked into the computer networks of Brazil’s state-run oil company Petrobras. On Wednesday, President Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, met with Brazilian Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto in an attempt to smooth relations between the countries.

To talk more about all of these latest developments, we’re joined by Alex Abdo. He is staff attorney at the National Security Project at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Alex, let’s take these in order. The information about the NSA, the U.S. intelligence agency, handing over raw data that it’s collected—legally or illegally, I think remains to be determined—to Israel, can you explain what’s taken place?

ALEX ABDO: It’s difficult to explain. And it’s, you know, of course, not surprising that the NSA is sharing foreign intelligence with our intelligence partners, but what’s troubling is that along with the foreign intelligence is information about innocent Americans that hasn’t been taken out of the data that’s being shared with our intelligence partners. And it’s troubling for a couple of reasons, the first of which, we haven’t known about this, and this may have been going on for years, and the second of which, there’s no avenue for Americans, innocent Americans who are swept up into these dragnets and have their information handed over to our intelligence partners, to stop that flow of information, to assert their rights and prevent it. So this has been going on for some time, it seems, and it raises new questions about the NSA’s—the extent to which we should trust the NSA with information, very sensitive, about innocent Americans.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what limitations were placed on the information that was—that was handed over to the Israelis, in terms of what they could do with it or how long they could hold it?

ALEX ABDO: Well, based on the documents that were released, it seems as though we basically had a “trust us” regime in place for the sharing of data with Israel. And that’s cold comfort, I think, to the potentially thousands or millions of Americans who find their way into these international surveillance dragnets of the NSA. But there’s simply no way of knowing right now how many Americans were affected, how the information was used, or what other measures the NSA may have taken or may not have taken to protect our privacy.

AMY GOODMAN: And what the information was that was handed over, is it the actual—is it the metadata of phone calls, who you called, when you called them? Is it the actual phone call?

ALEX ABDO: It sounds as though it was all of that. The NSA was sharing what they call raw signals intelligence, which includes things like who you’re calling and when you’re calling, but also the content of your phone calls, the text of your emails, your text messages, your chat messages. It sounds as though all of that was handed over in what they call this raw intelligence.

AMY GOODMAN: And who was targeted?

ALEX ABDO: It’s hard to say. It sounds as though the information sharing was indiscriminate, that they handed over large amounts of information without actually targeting at the outset, and allowing the Israeli analog to the NSA to then scour this information for what was useful. And like I said, they, you know, apparently had in place a clause asking Israel not to abuse this information, but there really didn’t seem to be any legally enforceable way to prevent Americans’ privacy from being violated in the course of this intelligence sharing.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, the documents you have referred to appear between 2006 and 2009, which would be the tail end of the Bush administration, but your battle to get access to the documents occurred during the Obama administration. Can you talk about that battle to be able to get these documents released?

ALEX ABDO: Sure. In 2011, two senators, Senators Wyden and Udall, started raising red flags, warnings to America about a secret interpretation that the government was relying on to collect an extraordinary amount of information about innocent Americans. And on the heels of that discussion, the ACLU and other organizations, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, filed requests with the government for these secret interpretations of law. And the Obama administration, which had come into power on a promise of a new era of transparency, fought bitterly to keep these documents secret for years. And they were—it’s actually a bit ironic. In the midst of the disclosures, Obama was in the course of defending very vigorously in court extreme secrecy about these very same documents that were released two days ago. So, it’s—the secrecy was troubling. The fact that they’re now public is a good first step toward greater transparency, but this is information that did not come easily out of the Obama administration.

AMY GOODMAN: One of the documents released was a March 2nd, 2009, court order written by Judge Reggie Walton, now the presiding judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Walton writes of the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records, quote, “To approve such a program, the Court must have every confidence that the government is doing its utmost to ensure that those responsible for implementation fully comply with the Court’s orders. The Court no longer has such confidence.” This is the judge.

ALEX ABDO: This is extremely troubling, and it should be very disturbing. We have trusted for years a secret and one-sided judicial process to safeguard Americans’ right to privacy when it comes to NSA surveillance. And the disclosures over the past few months have confirmed that we shouldn’t trust that system to safeguard our right to privacy. And at the end of the day, the battle is between a system in which the NSA is required to go to court to engage in lawful surveillance versus the system that it has now, where it rarely has to go to court to spy even on innocent Americans. And we shouldn’t have confidence in that system, and now we know that there are even more reasons than we suspected not to have confidence in the system. But at the end of the day, that’s the debate, whether the NSA, when it wants to spy on Americans, should be forced to go to a court to justify that spying. The NSA hasn’t been doing that for years, and we need to change that, to force the NSA to justify its surveillance in court.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Of course, President Obama has been justifying that surveillance. I want to turn to a clip from him speaking last month about the leaks by Edward Snowden.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If you look at the reports, even the disclosures that Mr. Snowden’s put forward, all the stories that have been written, what you’re not reading about is the government actually abusing these programs and, you know, listening in on people’s phone calls or inappropriately reading people’s emails. What you’re hearing about is the prospect that these could be abused. Now, part of the reason they’re not abused is because these checks are in place, and those abuses would be against the law and would be against the orders of the FISC.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: What about President Obama’s claim that the checks are in place?

ALEX ABDO: Well, I think it’s quite obvious now that the checks are not in place, that the very authorities that the government says are carefully overseen by the secret court in D.C. and by regulators within the intelligence communities are failing, that there are violations of even these very permissive rules. But at the end—you know, a core problem is not just that there are violations, but that the law authorizes an extraordinary amount of surveillance in the first place. And that underlying authorization is far too broad. It allows the NSA to engage in a form of dragnet surveillance of even Americans’ communications, that’s not tied to a particular investigation. It’s not tied to a particular terrorist plot that the NSA is trying to stop. That, I think, is the most troubling aspect of these revelations, is that these powers are simply too broad, to begin with.

AMY GOODMAN: On Wednesday, the Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer, responded to critics who have accused Internet companies of working with the NSA. During an interview at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco, she was asked why tech companies had not simply decided to tell the public more about what the NSA was doing.

MARISSA MAYER: We can’t talk about those things.

MICHAEL ARRINGTON: Why?

MARISSA MAYER: Because they’re classified.

MICHAEL ARRINGTON: What is—I mean, why?

MARISSA MAYER: And so—so, I mean—just to—

MICHAEL ARRINGTON: Let’s just say, look, right now you were just to tell us the truth about what’s going on, the stuff that’s classified, like what do you think would happen to you?

MARISSA MAYER: I mean, releasing classified information is treason.

MICHAEL ARRINGTON: And then what happens?

MARISSA MAYER: Just generally, and you—you know, incarcerated.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Marissa Mayer. She is the head of Yahoo. Alex Abdo?

ALEX ABDO: You know, Ms. Mayer is correct that there are extraordinary limits on what these companies can say, but it’s not correct to say that they can’t be doing more to protect the privacy of their users. There are a number of steps that these companies can take and should take, and Yahoo recently took one of those steps in joining Google and Microsoft in pushing the secret court in D.C. to allow them to say more about the government surveillance. Those companies want to be able to tell the public how many Americans are affected by the government’s surveillance, the numbers of court orders they get to turn over this information, and, very generally, the type of information they’re being asked to turn over. That’s all information that the government should allow these companies to disclose. It would allow Americans to better understand the surveillance that’s taking place in our name, and it would allow us to make a decision for ourselves whether the surveillance is lawful and whether it’s necessary.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Not only that, but I think there is a—as I’ve said before on this show, there is a conflict between the economic needs of these companies, because they’re all global companies, and no matter what happens in the United States, this is going to affect their businesses in other parts of the world as more and more countries decide you can’t trust American technology companies to use their search engines or use their products if they are allowing the government to serveil not only American citizens, but people around the world, so that it seems to me there’s a need to meet the needs of their own shareholders, the business interests of the company, to oppose these kind of government policies.

ALEX ABDO: I think that’s right. We’re putting our American companies at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to their business. They’re being forced to compete with companies outside the U.S. that aren’t receiving these NSA surveillance orders. But it’s important to note, too, that these companies can do more to protect the privacy of their consumers, even when they are not allowed to talk about the surveillance of the NSA. They can put in place technological fixes that allow users to trust their services more. And we’re starting to see that type of a response by the tech industry. They’re starting to compete over privacy. One of Microsoft’s—for example, its new campaigns is “Don’t get Scroogled.” It’s their way of competing against Google’s skimming of our emails for ad tracking. And as Americans, I think, come to appreciate the value of our privacy and the vastness of the information we trust with these companies, they’ll come to demand greater assurances from the Googles and the Microsofts and the Yahoos.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you very much for being with us, and just end with what surprised you most by all of these revelations that have come out from Ed Snowden. I mean, the president says this debate has—would have happened anyway. You’re a longtime—and certainly the ACLU has been deeply concerned about civil liberties issues. Would it have happened anyway? And what have you found most shocking in the last few months?

ALEX ABDO: I don’t think this transparency would have happened. This is an involuntary debate that the administration is now welcoming after the fact, and it’s a long overdue one. And one of the things that has shocked me the most, I think, is, in reading these documents, to see how much information is kept secret that should never have been kept secret in the first place. Americans deserve to be a part of this conversation, but they’re being kept out of it by unnecessary overclassification of this information.

AMY GOODMAN: Thanks so much, Alex Abdo, staff attorney at the National Security Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. Back in a minute.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Find this story at 12 September 2013

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NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans’ data with Israel

The agreement for the US to provide raw intelligence data to Israel was reached in principle in March 2009, the document shows. Photograph: James Emery

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
Read the NSA and Israel’s ‘memorandum of understanding’

© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Israel’s secret intel unit spawns high-tech tycoons

TEL AVIV, Israel, Sept. 9 (UPI) — The Israeli military’s top-secret Unit 8200, the Jewish state’s equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency, has spawned a generation of high-tech start-ups and more technology millionaires than many business schools, and these days the cyber security sector is booming.

Unit 8200 is now the Israeli military’s biggest branch in manpower terms. It has grown swiftly in recent years as cyberwarfare has become one of the major security threats to military organizations and industrialized states whose vital infrastructure is vulnerable to cyberattack.

But Unit 8200 remains the most secretive of Israel’s military units. Even the name of its commander is a state secret, as is its annual budget .

It has a major, highly secure base in the Negev Desert south of Tel Aviv. But little is known about its work in what’s known as signals intelligence, intercepting and analyzing other forces’ communications and data traffic from mobile phones chatter and emails to flight paths and electronic signals.

Unlike other branches of the Israeli military, virtually all its research and development is conducted in-house by its huge cadre of engineers, programmers and technicians.

Unit 8200 headhunts the brightest students from high schools and colleges, and there seems to be no shortage of volunteers.

So it’s no surprise that many veterans of Unit 8200 — invariably known as “eight-two hundred” — have been behind a host of successful high-tech start-ups in the commercial sector after they leave the service.

These enterprises provide a unique contribution to Israel’s high-tech sector, widely recognized as one of the most advanced in the world.

The country’s high-tech exports total an estimated $25 billion a year, a quarter of Israel’s exports.

The high-tech sector currently boasts 5,000 companies that employ 230,000 people and earn

Recent Israeli success in the field include the Zisapel brothers, Yehuda and Zonhar, who sold and floated a dozen companies for hundreds of millions of dollars; and Yair Cohen, a former brigadier general who once commanded Unit 8200, who heads the intelligence cyberdivision of Elbit Systems, a major defense company.

Then there’s Aharon Zeevi Farkash, another former Unit 8200 chief, founder and chief executive of FST21, which employs a mix of technologies, combining hardware and software to suit specific needs that are in the hands of young men and women hardly out of their teens.

Yossi Vardi, who founded Israel’s first software company in 1969, says “more high-tech millionaires have been created from 8200 than from any business school in the country.”

Israeli tech firms like Nice, Converse and Check Point were all set up by Unit 8200 alumni or based on technology developed by the unit which cyber insiders say is in some cases decades ahead of the U.S. and Europe

A measure of these companies’ success is that many are bought out by the titans of the field.

IBM announced in August that it’s buying Trusteer, a privately owned Israeli cloud-based cybersecurity software provider whose customers include many of the largest banks in the United States and Britain.

The terms of the deal have not been disclosed. But the Financial Times reported that IBM, which will form a cybersecurity software laboratory in Israel with more than 200 researchers from both companies, is believed to be forking up $800 million-$1 billion for Trusteer.

The Israeli outfit says its equipment can identify security threats that escape more traditional security software.

Trusteer software is designed to help ensure that bank customers can safely transfer funds on mobile devices by detecting malware that can infect a smartphone, allowing the bank to prevent fraudulent transactions taking place.

“The way organizations protect data are quickly evolving,” observed Trusteer’s chief executive, Mickey Boodaei, who founded the firm in 2006.

“As attacks become more sophisticated, traditional approaches to securing enterprise and mobile data are no longer valid.”

Unit 8200’s success as an incubator for Israel’s high-tech venture is likely to grow since under the military’s new strategic plan it’s downsizing conventional land, sea and air forces to meet the challenges of a new era of warfare with more agile, technology-oriented forces.

Farkash says 8200’s alumni are so successful because its organizational ethos encourages out-of-the-box thinking.

“We’re very tolerant of mistakes,” he explains. “It’s impossible to be creative when fear leads you.”

Published: Sept. 9, 2013 at 11:51 AM
TEL AVIV, Israel, Sept. 9 (UPI) —

Find this story at 9 September 2013

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Ex-Mossad-Agent; Israel zahlt Schweigegeld an Familie von Häftling X

Ben Zygier war ein Mossad-Agent, der Geheimnisse an Israels Feinde weitergab. Während der Isolationshaft erhängte sich der Spion. Die genauen Umstände seiner Haft will Jerusalem unter keinen Umständen preisgeben – und bezahlt Zygiers Familie für ihr Schweigen.

Tel Aviv – Einer der spektakulärsten Justizfälle der israelischen Geschichte hat ein finanzielles Nachspiel. Israels Regierung will die Familie des sogenannten Häftling X mit vier Millionen Schekel entschädigen – umgerechnet etwa 842.000 Euro.

Das Geld fließt an die Familie des früheren Mossad-Agenten Ben Zygier. Der australisch-israelische Doppelstaatsbürger hatte jahrelang für den Geheimdienst gearbeitet, war dann aber Anfang 2010 verhaftet worden. Nach Erkenntnissen des SPIEGEL hatte Zygier Informationen an die libanesische Hisbollah-Miliz weitergegeben, die zur Verhaftung zweier Mossad-Agenten im Libanon führten.

Zygier wurde in der Hochsicherheitsanstalt Ajalon im israelischen Ramle in Einzelhaft unter Videoüberwachung gehalten. Das Gefängnispersonal kannte weder seinen Namen noch den Grund für seine Haft. Trotz der Überwachung konnte er sich im Dezember 2010 in seiner Zelle erhängen. Eine Untersuchungsrichterin hatte daher im April festgestellt, dass Zygier nicht ausreichend überwacht worden sei. Der Fall wurde erst Jahre später durch australische Medienberichte publik.

“Ihr werdet schweigen, wir werden bezahlen”

Israels Regierung betont, dass die nun getroffene Einigung mit den Hinterbliebenen kein Eingeständnis eines “vorgeblichen Fehlverhaltens” sei. Vielmehr solle vermieden werden, die Angelegenheit vor Gericht zu bringen, weil dann Einzelheiten an die Öffentlichkeit kämen und die nationale Sicherheit ernsten Schaden nehmen können.

Zygiers Familie hat sich zu Stillschweigen verpflichtet. “Ihr werdet schweigen, wir werden bezahlen”, titelte die israelische Tageszeitung “Jedioth Achronoth” am Mittwoch. Die Hinterbliebenen von Häftling X hatten direkt mit dem Büro des Premierministers Benjamin Netanjahu und dem Justizministerium verhandelt.

Jahrelang war die Familie über die Umstände des Todes falsch informiert worden. Den Hinterbliebenen wurde erzählt, dass Zygier als Mossad-Agent hinter feindlichen Linien ums Leben gekommen war.

11. September 2013, 13:06 Uhr

Find this story at 11 September 2013

© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2013

Prisoner X: Israel to pay $1m to Ben Zygier’s family

Family of Australian-born Mossad agent who died in jail in 2010 while facing treason charges, is offered settlement

Ben Zygier, known as Prisoner X, picture in a still from an ABC TV report. Photograph: AAP/ABC TV

Israel is to pay more than $1m to the family of Ben Zygier, an Australian-born Mossad agent who hanged himself in an Israeli prison, in order to avoid damaging disclosures in a court case.

The agreement will see Zygier’s family receive four million shekels, or around $1.19m, in staged payments in return for the state of Israel being absolved of responsibility for the death.

Zygier, who held Australian and Israeli citizenships, hanged himself in the Ayalon Prison in 2010. He was known as Prisoner X due to his secret incarceration, where he was facing a 10-year sentence for treason.

A judicial inquiry found that guards did not properly check his cell and that at least one CCTV camera wasn’t working. Central district court president, Daphna Blatman, said: “Failure by various elements in the Israel prison service caused his death.”

The Israeli government has said that there was not enough evidence to bring charges over Zygier’s death.

Zygier’s parents – who are leading figures in Melbourne’s Jewish
community – threatened to bring a legal case against the state of
Israel, claiming negligence and seeking compensation.

According to a statement from the Israeli justice ministry,
negotiations between the state of Israel and the Zygiers led to the
settlement, “under which the state agreed to pay the family of the
deceased the sum of four million shekels”. The agreement was made
“without admitting claims raised against”, it said.

Israel made the payment in order to avoid court action, which might have
involved the disclosure of information “which could cause real damage
to national security”, the statement added.

Earlier this year, the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program reported that the Israeli government attempted to cover up the story of Zygier’s death, urging editors of Israeli newspapers not to report the incident.

The program claimed that Zygier was imprisoned for sabotaging a Mossad mission to recover the bodies of soldiers killed in action in Lebanon. Israel has refused to comment on the reasons for his incarceration.

Oliver Milman in Sydney and Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
The Guardian, Wednesday 11 September 2013 09.07 BST

Find this story at 11 September 2013

© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

‘Prisoner X’ family to get Israeli payout

Justice ministry says $1.1 million to be paid to family of alleged Mossad spy who hanged himself in prison.

Zygier known as “Prisoner X” was found hanged in his isolation cell in Ayalon prison near in December 2010. [EPA]

Israel is to pay more than $1 million to the family of an alleged Mossad spy who hanged himself in prison in 2010, the justice ministry has said.

“After negotiations, the two parties have reached an agreement whereby the state will pay $1.1 million to the deceased’s family,” the ministry said in a statement late on Tuesday.

The family of Ben Zygier, an Australian-Israeli known as “Prisoner X,” had accused Israel of negligence in dealing with his case, according to the statement.

Zygier was found hanged in his isolation cell in Ayalon prison near Tel Aviv in December 2010 — a case Israel went to extreme lengths to cover up.

A court document released on April 25 this year said Israel’s prison service had caused Zygier’s death by failing to prevent him from committing suicide.

The document revealed details about his background and imprisonment, indicating he was suicidal and had an emotionally-charged exchange with his wife the day he was found hanged.

It also said that his cell was not properly watched by prison guards.

The justice ministry statement stressed that the deal with Zygier’s family was not an “admission of alleged wrongdoing.”

It was instead “to avoid the affair going to court, which would lead to the publication of numerous details of the case which could cause serious harm to national security.”

The reasons for Zygier’s detention were unclear, but the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said in a report in May that the 34-year-old, who was allegedly working for Israel’s foreign spy service Mossad, had unwittingly sabotaged a top secret spy operation in Lebanon.

Last Modified: 11 Sep 2013 08:52

Find this story at 11 September 2013

www.aljazeera.com

Israel pays £714,000 to the family of ‘Prisoner X’

The move is designed to keep their allegation of negligence from becoming a public lawsuit that could expose state secrets

Israel has agreed to pay four million shekels (£714,000) in compensation to the family of an Australian-Israeli Mossad agent who apparently committed suicide while being held in secret detention in 2010.

The settlement with relatives of Ben Zygier, who was known as “Prisoner X” during his detention for unspecified crimes, is designed to keep their allegation of negligence from becoming a public lawsuit that could expose state secrets, the justice ministry said in a statement.

“It is possible that in the course [of a trial] details would be liable to be made public which could cause tangible damage to the security of the state,” the statement said. The justice ministry stressed that the payment was not tantamount to admitting that state was negligent in its care of Mr Zygier.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation broke the story of Mr Zygier’s secret incarceration in February. Before then, the Israeli media had been subject to a blackout on the “Prisoner X” case. A judicial inquiry later found that Mr Zygier’s death was a suicide enabled by “neglect of duty’’ on the part of those holding him.

Uri Misgav, an investigative reporter for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, said he doubted that security was the real reason for the state keeping the matter out of court. “There is at least suspicion of a cover up of failures in all aspects of this matter including recruitment, handling of him as an agent and his handling as a prisoner by the state,” he added.

The case has been an embarrassment to Israel, raising the question of whether the judiciary, which approved the secret incarceration, had acted as a rubber stamp of the security branches.

Ben Lynfield
Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Find this story at 11 September 2013

© independent.co.uk

Jonathan Pollard: Restoring Israel to greatness

“Only a re-awakening can guarantee the future. Political process devoid of fundamental values will never end the agony or the fear for the State of Israel.”

FREED PRISONER Atiya Salem Moussa returns to a hero’s welcome in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday. Photo: REUTERS

When tragedy strikes anywhere in the world, the State of Israel is always among the first to offer help, sending experienced rescue teams, portable hospitals and world-class medical experts to the scene. Israel is a world leader in medical research, farming technology, and military innovation. The country that made the desert bloom is the undisputed champion of hi-tech innovation, all of which it generously shares with the world.

Unfortunately, when it comes to morale, the State of Israel has the distinction of holding a number of world records which no other country would want.
Related:

US Jewish leaders, Kerry discuss Pollard

Peace talks resume against backdrop of prisoner release

Over the last six decades, Israel’s leaders and its judiciary have practiced the art of political expedience to such a degree that Israel is now the first and only country in the world to hold the following dubious “honors”:

• Israel is the only country in the world ever to voluntarily expel its own citizens from chunks of its homeland in order to hand over the land to its enemies.

• It is the only country in the world ever to voluntarily destroy the homes and businesses of its own citizens, leaving them with shattered lives and broken promises.

• Israel is the only country in the world ever to voluntarily dig up and transport the graves of its dead so that the land could be turned over to its enemies.

The State of Israel also holds unenviable world records for betraying those who serve the state, including the following:

• Israel is the only country in the world to restrain its military from rescuing a wounded soldier, for fear of provoking the enemy and risking its approval ratings with the world. The soldier, injured by enemy gunfire at a Jewish holy site, slowly bled to death needlessly while the IDF stood by and watched.

• Israel also remains the only country in the world ever to voluntarily cooperate in the prosecution of its own intelligence agent, refusing him sanctuary, turning over the documents to incriminate him, denying that the state knew him, and then allowing him to rot in a foreign prison for decades on end, cravenly forgoing its right to simple justice for the nation and for the agent.

• Additionally, Israel is still the only country in the world ever to violate its own system of justice by repeatedly releasing dangerous, unrepentant murderers and terrorists back into the civilian population with impunity. No other country in the world has ever done this!

In summary, Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world so befuddled by moral ambiguity that it is willing to dishonor its dead, betray its bereaved, and disgrace its citizens for the sake of political expediency.

Earlier this week, the State of Israel began the staged release of some of the worst murderers and terrorists the world has ever seen. Twenty-six out of the 104 murderers scheduled for release went free on Tuesday. Many are serving multiple life sentences for their heinous crimes and their many victims.

The blood of their victims cries out from the grave at this affront to human decency. Their cries go unheard.

The bereaved families of the victims beg and plead not to free the savage murderers of their loved ones. Their entreaties are ignored.

All the polls indicate that the overwhelming majority of Israeli citizens are opposed to the release of the murderers. It is a strange kind of democracy that pays no heed whatsoever to the will of the people.

No Israeli official has advanced a single compelling reason in support of the wholesale release of these murderers and terrorists. The claim that it “serves national interests” is spurious. There is no national interest that supersedes morality.

The second-most touted excuse is that the government of Israel was given three existentially threatening choices by its best ally, and the least damaging choice of the three was the release of murderers and terrorists.

Did anyone at the helm ever consider that given three life-threatening choices, the only response is: “No, no and no!”?

Overriding all objections, the government of the State of Israel is bound and determined to release the murderers, whose victims are not all dead. Some have been maimed, crippled and disfigured for life. Others show no external scars but have had parents, children and loved ones amputated from their lives. No one sees the broken hearts that will never stop bleeding for their loss.

Authentic Jewish tradition teaches in great detail how to relate to the dead with honor and reverence. The dead are not only keepers of the past; they are our teachers, our moral guides and our inspiration for the future. A country with no respect for the dead has no respect for the living.

A sovereign state which is capable of dishonoring its dead by freeing their murderers and tormenting their bereaved loved ones has, in essence, discarded all of the moral underpinnings of its own existence.

Nor should it come as any surprise – as any student of history knows – that no country can survive without a clearly defined moral infrastructure.

The Land of Israel is eternal and the State of Israel has temporal stewardship over the land. The corrosive moral ambiguity that has brought us to this dreadful day is relentlessly eating away at the legitimacy of the state’s continued role as legal guardian of the land. The prognosis is dire.

Only a reawakening of national resolve and a rebirth of ethical politics rooted in national self-respect, moral rectitude and courage of conviction can guarantee the future. No political process devoid of these fundamental values will ever end the agony or the fear for the State of Israel.

It is clearly time for an historic restoration.

Jonathan Pollard is completing his 28th year of an unprecedented life sentence in an American prison for his activities on behalf of Israel.

By JONATHAN POLLARD
LAST UPDATED: 08/16/2013 08:03

Find this story at 16 August 2013

© The Jerusalem Post 1995 – 2012

Capturing Jonathan Pollard

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.

Pollard onderzocht

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.

Gevoelige snaar

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.

Niet kieskeurig

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.

Opschepper

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.

Roekeloos

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.

Blunders

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.

Afkomst

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

Revealed: another secret incarceration of Israeli secret services agent

After revelations about Ben Zygier, ‘Prisoner X No. 2’ blamed for ‘horrible security breach’

For the second time in less than six months, the secret incarceration of a member of the Israeli secret services has been revealed.

The new case, which follows that of former Mossad agent Ben Zygier, who hanged himself in the high security Ayalon Prison in 2010, is also understood to involve someone who worked for of the Jewish state’s spy agencies. Both Zygier, and the other individual, were known only as ‘Prisoner X’ during their imprisonment. The second prisoner has not been identified.

There are still few details about the new case, which was revealed earlier today by the liberal Haaretz newspaper. However, Zygier’s lawyer, Avigdor Feldman, told Israeli radio that the allegations facing the second prisoner were much more severe.

“This affair points to far more severe failures than the ones committed by the defense [sic] establishment in Zygier’s case,” he said. “Regarding Zygier’s case, the authorities that recruited him didn’t understand who they were dealing with and weren’t aware of his conduct. Okay – that’s a failure. Prisoner X number two is an entirely different story – a horrible security breach. When I heard the story, as an Israeli citizen I was shocked, and the subject was completely silenced by lawyers who enjoy close ties with the establishment. Whoever opens this affair will be doing the country a great service.”

It is believed that Zygier – disappointed by his superior’s lack of willingness to hand him more interesting work – decided to try and impress his bosses and turn a leading member of the Lebanese group Hezbollah. He was then skilfully played to the extent that he ended blowing the cover of two double agents that had provided information to Israel.

Israeli officials have not commented on the case and like in Zygier’s case, are unlikely to offer any insight, although it is believed that unlike in Zygier’s case, the second Prisoner X had been convicted of whatever crimes he was accused of. It is not clear what has become of the second Prisoner X, but it is thought that he may still be being held at Ayalon prison.

Mr Feldman said that assumptions could be drawn from a detainee being classified as ‘prisoner X’.

“They are Israeli, they work in institutions linked to security whose activities are shrouded in secrecy,” he said. “And their detention demonstrates the failure of these organisations which are not capable of preventing offences such as those for which these agents have been arrested,” he said.

The disclosure that at least two of its spies are alleged to have committed grave crimes against their own state is a huge embarrassment to Israel and the fact that a second Prisoner X is guaranteed to raise questions about whether there yet more people being held in similar circumstances.

Alistair Dawber
Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Find this story at 9 July 2013

© independent.co.uk

Israel’s ‘Prisoner X2’ case raises concerns

In Israel, the news that a second prisoner is serving a jail sentence in top-secret conditions has triggered human rights concerns and raised questions about the transparency of the justice system.

A prominent Israeli criminal lawyer says the detainee, referred to as Prisoner X2, is a member of the nation’s covert security forces and has been held behind bars for years.

In February this year, an Australian TV report about another anonymous prisoner shook the Israeli security establishment and threatened to destabilize Israel’s relations with Australia. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation revealed that a man referred to as Prisoner X, who died in jail in December 2010, was a Jewish immigrant to Israel from Melbourne.

Ben Zygier had joined, then betrayed, the Mossad Israeli spy agency. He was arrested in February 2010 and held in a top-security cell in Israel’s Ayalon Prison. Even his guards did not know his name, and Israel’s courts imposed a media blackout on even mentioning the case. According to media reports, Zygier’s crime was revealing the identities of Mossad operatives in Lebanon. Zygier later hanged himself with a sheet in the shower of his cell. Guards who were supposed to be monitoring his cell said the camera malfunctioned and they were short staffed on the night Zygier died.

Israel’s Justice Ministry released a statement July 9 about Zygier. It included a mention of a second prisoner held in similar conditions, who has become known as Prisoner X2. Israeli criminal attorney Avigdor Feldman, who met with both detainees, told Israeli radio that, like Zygier, Prisoner X2 was also an Israeli citizen and a part of Israel’s covert security operations. However, he noted that the charges against Prisoner X2 were “more grave, more astounding and more fascinating” than those leveled against Zygier. Feldman did not detail the charges and declined to answer DW’s questions.
The Zygier case shook the Israeli establishment

Secret cells

The secret wings and blocks of Israel’s prisons are reserved for those considered to be its most dangerous criminals. Zygier’s cell was previously assigned to Yigal Amir, who assassinated late Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin.

Following the report of a second Prisoner X, legislator Miri Regev called a meeting to discuss the circumstances of his or her incarceration. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel appealed to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to end the prisoner’s isolation and lift a media blackout on the case.

“We cannot accept a situation in which a man is arrested, tried, and imprisoned in complete secrecy, and prevented from any possibility of contact with other persons on a daily basis,” ACRI attorney Lila Margalit said in a statement. “The ‘Prisoner X’ affairs prove again that without public scrutiny, it is impossible to safeguard the rights of suspected, accused or convicted persons.”

A senior Israeli government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the veiled arrests were necessary to safeguard important matters of national security. He noted that both secret prisoners were given access to defense lawyers and their families.

“The security services in Israel have a crucial job in protecting the citizens of Israel against the threats that are out there, but those security services work within the framework of the law,” he said.

Murky past
Israel has a history of secretive episodes

The recent Prisoner X cases recall other episodes in Israel. In 1995, an Israeli court order lifted a gag order on seven convicted spies held secretly. The most famous was Professor Avraham Marcus Klingberg, who was a senior researcher at the Israel Institute for Biological Research. He disappeared in 1983 and resurfaced a decade later in the Ashkelon prison, where he was held after being secretly sentenced to 20 years for spying for the Soviet Union. Klingberg was jailed under the false name of Avraham Greenberg. He was released in 1998 and placed under house arrest until he left the country after finishing his sentence in 2003.

Another prisoner on the list of seven was Col. Shimon Levinson, a security officer in the Prime Minister’s office. In 1991 he was found to have been spying for the Soviet Union and sentenced to 12 years in jail.

Yossi Melman, a journalist and commentator on security affairs, told DW that Israel holds far fewer secret prisoners today than in the past. Still, he doubted the method of using utter secrecy to cloak the latest cases.

“These are Israeli citizens. You don’t think Israelis have to know who is in their jails?” he said. “You don’t have to publish everything on him, but the minimum has to come out. [The government should] say someone was arrested, that he is suspected of something, that he is in prison, and has a certain sentence, and that his family is aware.”

Date 18.07.2013
Author Daniella Cheslow, Jerusalem
Editor Rob Mudge

Find this story at 18 July 2013

© 2013 Deutsche Welle

Tony Blair hired ex Israeli army intelligence officer despite envoy role

Tony Blair has hired a former Israeli army intelligence officer to work in his private office, despite his role as Middle East peace envoy. Pollak was recruited as a private consultant between October 2012 and April this year

Lianne Pollak, who has led intelligence teams in the Israel Defence Forces, was recruited as a private consultant between October 2012 and April this year.

The 30-year-old was previously a policy adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, working with security agencies and senior officials.

Mr Blair has been involved in sensitive negotiations between the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority. The former prime minister is the unpaid envoy to the Middle East for the Quartet – the group that represents the US, Russia, the United Nations and Europe.

His role includes encouraging development in Gaza and the West Bank and helping to forge a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, having been appointed when he left Downing Street in June 2007.

The disclosure of Miss Pollak’s appointment follows calls for the former prime minister to be more transparent about his complex business network.
Peter Kilfoyle, a former Labour minister who was Mr Blair’s leadership campaign manager, but is now a critic, said: “If you have got someone close to the so-called negotiator who is so partial in these matters [the Palestinians] are going to look even more sceptically at Mr Blair than they do currently.”

Miss Pollak’s public profile on the Linkedin website states: “She recently finished a project as a consultant at the Office of Tony Blair, where she managed processes on Economic Development, improving the business environment, and security related topics.”

Under “experience” she writes that she was a consultant in Mr Blair’s office, listing as her duties: “Strategy and Management Consulting for a major client overseas.

“Managing work processes on Economic Development, improving the business environment and security-related topics.”

Describing her professional experience before her work for Mr Blair, the profile states: “Before joining the team, she worked for the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office in the negotiation team with the Palestinians during the Annapolis process and with the Foreign Affairs Department at the National Security Council.

“She specialized in Economic Development and capacity building for the Palestinian population.

“Lianne was also an officer in the Israeli army in the area of intelligence analysis, and led intelligence teams and intelligence processes in volatile periods, working with senior generals on a daily basis.”

According to Linkedin she served as an officer in the IDF between November 2001 and May 2004, before going on to work for the Israeli prime minister’s office in September 2008, for just under three years.

During her time in the Israeli government she provided strategic planning for the prime minister and worked “hand in hand” with “diverse stakeholders” including high ranking officials and security agencies, her profile states.

A spokesman for Mr Blair said Miss Pollak, who has an MA in public management from the London School of Economics, worked on “public service reform” on a project not related to the Middle East, adding: “There are Palestinians who work for Tony Blair. So the idea of a conflict of interest on this basis is absolutely absurd.”

By Edward Malnick, and Robert Mendick
7:10AM BST 07 Jul 2013

Find this story at 7 July 2013

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2013

Microsoft founder Bill Gates buys into G4S

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has given a vote of confidence to embattled British security firm G4S, despite a recent profit warning and ongoing controversy over the company’s Israeli prison contracts and the death of an Angolan man.

The US tech titan’s private investment vehicle, Cascade Investment, and his high-profile charitable fund, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, poured an extra £16m into G4S stock on Thursday, to increase their joint stake in the security giant to 3.2pc. The total holding is now worth around £110m.

Mr Gates’ endorsement will come as welcome relief following a year blighted by the company’s failure to supply enough security staff for the London Olympics. The fiasco eventually claimed the scalp of chief executive Nick Buckles, but only after a difficult first quarter in Europe prompted the company to issue a profits warning in May.

Last week, board members endured a stormy annual meeting, at which they faced repeated questions over three Israeli prison contracts in occupied Palestine and the death of Angolan deportee Jimmy Mubenga in 2010. Despite protests, G4S’ new chief executive Mr Almanza insisted at the fraught meeting that an independent study concluded that the company had not breached any aspect of “international humanitarian law”.

But this would not be the first time the $36.4bn Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest of its kind, has invested in a company that has faced fierce public criticism. The charitable trust holds stakes in BP and Exxon Mobil, which have both come under fire over catastrophic oil spills.

Mr Gates also has a history of investing in British companies, including Carpetright, Diageo and JJB Sports.

“The best guess would be that given the changes that have taken place at G4S over the past year, it’s probably an opportunity for G4S to set out a clear path,” said Steve Woolf, support services analyst at Numis.

“The underlying business is still very good. The share price has been quite beleaguered over the past 12 months. Now there is a chance to begin again and reinforce the core strategy.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was established by Mr Gates and his wife in 2000 with the goal of eradicating poverty and combating the world’s deadliest diseases.

By Denise Roland
4:29PM BST 10 Jun 2013

Find this story at 10 June 2013

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2013

What was the Israeli involvement in collecting U.S. communications intel for NSA?

Israeli high-tech firms Verint and Narus have had connections with U.S. companies and Israeli intelligence in the past, and ties between the countries’ intelligence agencies remain strong.

Were Israeli companies Verint and Narus the ones that collected information from the U.S. communications network for the National Security Agency?

The question arises amid controversy over revelations that the NSA has been collecting the phone records of hundreds of millions of Americans every day, creating a database through which it can learn whether terror suspects have been in contact with people in the United States. It also was disclosed this week that the NSA has been gathering all Internet usage – audio, video, photographs, emails and searches – from nine major U.S. Internet providers, including Microsoft and Google, in hopes of detecting suspicious behavior that begins overseas.

According to an article in the American technology magazine “Wired” from April 2012, two Israeli companies – which the magazine describes as having close connections to the Israeli security community – conduct bugging and wiretapping for the NSA.

Verint, which took over its parent company Comverse Technology earlier this year, is responsible for tapping the communication lines of the American telephone giant Verizon, according to a past Verizon employee sited by James Bamford in Wired. Neither Verint nor Verizon commented on the matter.

Natus, which was acquired in 2010 by the American company Boeing, supplied the software and hardware used at AT&T wiretapping rooms, according to whistleblower Mark Klein, who revealed the information in 2004. Klein, a past technician at AT&T who filed a suit against the company for spying on its customers, revealed a “secret room” in the company’s San Fransisco office, where the NSA collected data on American citizens’ telephone calls and Internet surfing.

Klein’s claims were reinforced by former NSA employee Thomas Drake who testified that the agency uses a program produced by Narus to save the personal electrical communications of AT&T customers.

Both Verint and Narus have ties to the Israeli intelligence agency and the Israel Defense Forces intelligence-gathering unit 8200. Hanan Gefen, a former commander of the 8200 unit, told Forbes magazine in 2007 that Comverse’s technology, which was formerly the parent company of Verint and merged with it this year, was directly influenced by the technology of 8200. Ori Cohen, one of the founders of Narus, told Fortune magazine in 2001 that his partners had done technology work for the Israeli intelligence.

International intel

The question of whether intelligence communities outside the United States were involved has been raised. According to The Guardian, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Britain’s intelligence agency, secretly collected intelligence information from the world’s largest Internet companies via the American program PRISM. According to a top secret document obtained by The Guardian, GCHQ had access to PRISM since 2010 and it used the information to prepare 197 intelligence reports last year. In a statement to the Guardian, GCHQ, said it “takes its obligations under the law very seriously.”

According to The Guardian, details of GCHQ’s use of PRISM are set out in a 41-page PowerPoint presentation prepared for senior NSA analysts, and describe a “snooping” operation that gave the NSA and FBI access to the systems of nine Internet giants, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo and Skype.

Given the close ties between U.S. and Israeli intelligence, the question arises as to whether Israeli intelligence, including the Mossad, was party to the secret.

Obama stands by spies

At turns defensive and defiant, U.S. President Barack Obama stood by the spy programs revealed this week.

He declared Friday that his country is “going to have to make some choices” balancing privacy and security, launching a vigorous defense of formerly secret programs that sweep up an estimated 3 billion phone calls a day and amass Internet data from U.S. providers in an attempt to thwart terror attacks.

Obama also warned that it will be harder to detect threats against the United States now that the two top-secret tools to target terrorists have been so thoroughly publicized.

“Nobody is listening to your telephone calls,” Obama assured the nation after two days of reports that many found unsettling. What the government is doing, he said, is digesting phone numbers and the durations of calls, seeking links that might “identify potential leads with respect to folks who might engage in terrorism.” If there’s a hit, he said, “if the intelligence community then actually wants to listen to a phone call, they’ve got to go back to a federal judge, just like they would in a criminal investigation.”

Tapping thwarted terror attack

While Obama said the aim of the programs is to make America safe, he offered no specifics about how the surveillance programs have done this. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., on Thursday said the phone records sweeps had thwarted a domestic terror attack, but he also didn’t offer specifics.

U.S. government sources said on Friday that the attack in question was an Islamist militant plot to bomb the New York City subway system in 2009.

Obama asserted his administration had tightened the phone records collection program since it started in the George W. Bush administration and is auditing the programs to ensure that measures to protect Americans’ privacy are heeded – part of what he called efforts to resist a mindset of “you know, `Trust me, we’re doing the right thing. We know who the bad guys are.'”

But again, he provided no details on how the program was tightened or what the audit is looking at.

Obama: 100% privacy is impossible

The furor this week has divided Congress, and led civil liberties advocates and some constitutional scholars to accuse Obama of crossing a line in the name of rooting out terror threats.

Obama, himself a constitutional lawyer, strove to calm Americans’ fears – but also remind them that Congress and the courts had signed off on the surveillance.

“I think the American people understand that there are some trade-offs involved,” Obama said when questioned by reporters at a health care event in San Jose, California.

“It’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience,” he said. “We’re going to have to make some choices as a society. And what I can say is that in evaluating these programs, they make a difference in our capacity to anticipate and prevent possible terrorist activity.”

Obama said U.S. intelligence officials are looking at phone numbers and lengths of calls – not at people’s names – and not listening in.

The two classified surveillance programs were revealed this week in newspaper reports that showed, for the first time, how deeply the National Security Agency dives into telephone and Internet data to look for security threats. The new details were first reported by The Guardian and The Washington Post, and prompted Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to take the unusual and reluctant step of acknowledging the programs’ existence.

Obama echoed intelligence experts – both inside and outside the government – who predicted that potential attackers will find other, secretive ways to communicate now that they know that their phone and Internet records may be targeted.

By TheMarker, Haaretz, The Associated Press and Reuters | Jun.08, 2013 | 12:41 PM | 17

Find this story at 8 June 2013

© Haaretz Daily Newspaper Ltd.

Obama’s Visit to Israel Renews Effort to Free Spy

JERUSALEM — When President Obama lands here on Wednesday, he may encounter some Israelis staging a hunger strike in support of Jonathan Jay Pollard, the American serving a life term in a North Carolina prison for spying for Israel.

But the call for Mr. Pollard’s release will not be restricted to the strident, right-wing protests that have previously greeted American officials.

Instead, it will come from Israel’s dovish president, Shimon Peres, and some of the country’s most respected public figures: Nobel Prize-winning scientists, retired generals, celebrated authors and intellectuals who have signed, along with more than 175,000 other citizens, an online petition appealing for clemency for Mr. Pollard.

After years of being viewed as a somewhat marginal and divisive issue here, the campaign to free Mr. Pollard has become a mainstream crusade. Prominent Israelis are shedding the shame long felt over the affair, one of the most damaging, painful episodes in the annals of the American-Israeli relationship, and recasting it as a humanitarian issue ready to be resolved.

The effort has gathered momentum, and many Israelis consider Mr. Obama’s visit to be the perfect opportunity for a gesture of good will.

“I will sum it up in three words: enough is enough,” said Amnon Rubinstein, a law professor at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, and a former minister of education. “It is not humane to keep him in jail any longer.”

A main factor behind the shift, Israelis supporting the campaign say, is the time that Mr. Pollard, 58, who is said to be ailing, has already served — 28 years. Advocates for his release say that is unprecedented among Americans convicted of spying for an ally.

Another factor is the growing number of former officials in the United States who have called for clemency in recent years, including two former secretaries of state, George P. Shultz and Henry A. Kissinger, and a former director of the C.I.A., R. James Woolsey.

Mr. Woolsey, who has firsthand knowledge of the case and strongly opposed clemency for Mr. Pollard during his tenure at the C.I.A., told Israel’s Army Radio last week that three other spies for friendly countries who were tried and convicted in the United States were each sentenced to less than five years in prison.

Such voices have given the advocates for Mr. Pollard a new level of respectability and have allowed more Israelis to speak out.

Amos Yadlin, the former director of Israeli military intelligence who now runs the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, recently appeared on Israeli television to appeal for Mr. Pollard’s release.

“Clemency for Pollard, given his health situation, is a humanitarian issue that we can put behind us as our two countries face extraordinary challenges in 2013,” Mr. Yadlin said.

Yair Lapid, the new centrist force in Israeli politics, also signed the petition, as did Gilad Shalit, a former soldier who was held captive by Hamas militants for five years. Veteran campaigners have also changed their tone. After Israel refused to recognize Mr. Pollard as a “prisoner of Zion” in 2005, his wife, Esther, called the government’s attitude “petty and meanspirited.”

Now, Mrs. Pollard is taking a more stately approach. Lawrence J. Korb, who was an assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration and is now pushing for clemency for Mr. Pollard, has accompanied Mrs. Pollard to meetings with Israeli leaders in recent years.

Last week on Israeli television, Mrs. Pollard said that she and her husband felt “profound remorse and sorrow for what has happened” and begged Mr. Obama for mercy.

Mr. Pollard, a former United States Navy intelligence analyst, began spying for Israel after he approached an Israeli officer in 1984. When he was discovered 18 months later, he sought refuge in the Israeli Embassy in Washington but was refused entry. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison.

At first, Israel disowned Mr. Pollard, saying that he was an actor in a rogue operation. But he was granted Israeli citizenship in 1995, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during his first term in office in the late 1990s, officially recognized Mr. Pollard as an Israeli agent.

Many details of the case remain classified. But recently declassified documents from a 1987 C.I.A. damage assessment stated that Mr. Pollard’s instructions were primarily to provide Israel with American intelligence on Israel’s Arab adversaries and the military support they received from the Soviet Union, including information on Arab chemical and biological weapons.

Mr. Pollard’s supporters note that he was not asked to spy on the United States per se.

Mr. Pollard delivered suitcases full of copies of classified documents to the Israelis every two weeks. The copious disclosures posed multiple risks to American intelligence sources and methods, and to American foreign policy interests, the C.I.A. assessment stated.

In the past, Mr. Netanyahu pushed for Mr. Pollard’s release to balance concessions he was being pressed to make in Middle East peace negotiations.

But Sallai Meridor, Israel’s ambassador to the United States from 2006 to 2009, said that a “strong nucleus of people” within the United States defense establishment had adamantly opposed Mr. Pollard’s release, “exerting a lot of influence over others.”

“None of us know all the details,” Mr. Meridor said. “But assuming he did something really bad, the very worst that you could anticipate in this realm, 28 years is more than enough.”

March 17, 2013
By ISABEL KERSHNER

Find this story at 17 March 2013

Copyright The New York Times Company

The Many Scandals Of The Prisoner X Affair

There is a joke among spies that the worst curse you can bestow on a colleague is, “I hope to read about you in the newspapers one day.” In the tragic case of Ben Zygier, the curse wasn’t a joke, and he had to die for it to become a reality. Needless to say, the gallows humor that is a hallmark of my former profession has lost much of its luster.

This file photo taken on February 14, 2013 shows Australian newspapers leading their front pages in Australia with the story of Ben Zygier. (William West / AFP / Getty Images)

In a piece in these pages entitled “What Prisoner X Scandal? (/articles/2013/02/20/what-prisoner-x-scandal.html) “, Professor Gil Troy argues that Zygier was the author of his own demise—both figuratively and literally—and that his treatment at the hands of the state was decidedly unscandalous and in accordance with all the norms associated with a liberal democracy.

I would strongly disagree with Troy, and go so far as to say that what is unfolding in this case is more than just one scandal but a culmination of many. I also take strong issue with Troy’s observations about Zygier’s state of mind and motives for committing suicide.

I know what it was like to walk in Zygier’s shoes (and he in mine, since I preceded him by a decade). I served in the Mossad for 13 years and the first 7 of those as a member of the same covert operations unit that Zygier belonged to. For a short while, we would have even been in the field at the same time (albeit in different units) at that stage of my career. Like Zygier, I grew up in the Anglosphere, with all the inherent cultural differences separating me from native-born Israelis. In my case however, I wasn’t even born Jewish and my family had settled in Canada long before Confederation (Troy—an expert on the War of 1812—may be interested to know that I am a direct descendant of Laura Secord). All the psychobabble of divided loyalties and identity crisis were never a part of the equation for me, nor any of my colleagues. We got on with the business of being at the sharp-end of Mossad operations because we knew what we were doing was important and engendered universal values that apply to any Western democracy. I do not see any evidence that Zygier was any less dedicated to this ideal.

I find the circumstances of Zygier’s incarceration in solitary confinement—ostensibly as a means to “protect him and others” for reasons of national security—scandalous. Zygier was tucked away by the state after a bout of closed-door legal proceedings. The two main criteria a prosecutor must consider when assessing a case is whether the prosecution is in the public interest and whether it has a good chance of being successful. It is clear that this case was not in the public interest and bears all the worst elements of legal expediency excused by national security interests. Zygier did not present any danger to the public and could have been summarily dismissed, placed under house arrest, and the matter dealt with internally. This was an exceptional case requiring an exceptional solution and I see little in the way of critical thinking on behalf of those who decided to remand him in solitary for an indeterminate time.

The management of Zygier’s cover by his Mossad commanders is no less scandalous. Zygier was placed in an untenable situation that was prone to his being compromised when the decision was made to dispatch him to Australia on several occasions to alter his name and passport. These decisions were all made on the heels of a very public scandal that put Australian Jewry and their travel documents under the spotlight in 2004. The other scandal is the churlish and clearly vindictive behaviour of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), who decided to leak Zygier’s name and details to a journalist presumably with a view to embarrassing its ally into “good behavior.” There are flaps and deconfliction issues all the time between allied intelligence services, and they are worked out behind closed doors. The Mossad has on more than one occasion been the aggrieved party in these cases and solved the issue with the offending service out of the public domain. These scandals both large and small have caused serious damage to the Mossad’s operational capability, the Jewish community in Australia, and more importantly, Zygier’s family.

I also take issue with Troy’s assertion that Zygier lacked the mental toughness for the job. Living and working in hostile locales for long periods under cover is, with all due respect, very different from the globe-trotting escapades of an academic with dual citizenship. Building cover is a long and painstaking process that involves more than remembering not to use a Hebrew word here and there. Hollywood notwithstanding, cover is an operative’s first, last, and only line of defense against a visit to the “fingernail factory” and an unpleasant death. To suggest that Zygier did not possess the mental scaffolding necessary to cope with the stresses of his job is wholly without merit.

by Michael Ross (/contributors/michael-ross.html) | February 21, 2013 5:00 PM EST

Find this story at 21 February 2013
© 2013 The Newsweek/Daily Beast Company LLC

ASIO ‘burned’ Zygier

Analysis: Australian intelligence agency’s conduct played key role in Mossad operative’s decision to commit suicide

Ben Zygier was a victim. From details that have already been published by British and Australian media we learn that he was a victim of his own personality and also of the over-enthusiasm and lack of caution on the part of his handlers in Israel. Most infuriating is the fact that people who worked for the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) purposely got the Mossad operative in hot water and indirectly contributed to his decision to commit suicide.

According to the details that have surfaced so far, Zygier and two of his colleagues, who were also born in Australia and held Australian citizenship, were recruited to Mossad at the beginning of the last decade. After a few years of service in Europe, the three were sent back to Australia to obtain new, authentic passports. Australian law allows a person to change his name and have a passport issued under the new name every calendar year. The three took advantage of this law, ASIO claims, to obtain a number of passports under various names that concealed their Jewish identities and presented them as Australians with an Anglo-Saxon background.

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Zygier, for instance, had four passports issued during the four years he had spent in Australia. The Australians claim Mossad needed these passports to allow fighters and spies to enter enemy states such as Iran and Syria and carry out missions under false identities. Apparently Zygier and his friends were not sent on missions in these “target states” themselves, but their passports were used by other people who operated under assumed names. Zygier was not in Dubai, as the Kuwait newspaper claimed.

These events occurred at the time of the al-Aqsa Intifada, when Mossad increased its activity regarding the monitoring and thwarting of the Iranian nuclear program, and at the same time prevented the smuggling of weapons and terror attacks initiated by Iran – such as the transfer of arms and aid to Syria, Hezbollah and the Palestinian organizations. This activity increased significantly after then-prime minister Sharon appointed Meir Dagan as Mossad chief in 2002 and instructed him to focus on Iran.

During this time a number of embarrassing work accidents occurred that angered some of Israel’s allies. One such incident occurred in 2004 in New Zealand, one of Australia’s closest allies. Another incident was the assassination of Mabhouh, Hamas’ smuggler, during which it was revealed that Mossad operatives made extensive use of authentic passports belonging to Jews, including Australian Jews – at least this is what the Dubai police chief claimed. During this time, the ASIO also claimed that an Israeli diplomat from the embassy in Canberra took advantage of romantic relations to gather information on the activities of the Australian government. The diplomat, Amir Laty, was deported from Australia in 2005. Against this background, Australian government offices were apparently instructed to raise their level of alertness regarding Israeli activity to gather information, and in 2009 the government office in charge of issuing passports warned of the frequent name changes by Zygier and his colleagues.

The warning was relayed to ASIO, which apparently began to follow the three and later summon them for questioning. According to Australian newspaper The Age and another newspaper based in Brisbane, Zygier became the main suspect following things he said during the interrogation or due to details revealed by one of his colleagues. However, this occurred before the diplomatic crisis between Israel and Australia that broke out following the Mabhouh assassination. Seemingly, there was no reason for Australia to act against Zygier because he did not commit any acts of espionage on its soil or collect any information on the country.

The ASIO is tasked only with foiling subversive and terrorist activity against Australia. Apparently, the intelligence agency had no evidence indicating that the passports issued for Zygier were used illegally. It is also possible that the Australian government chose to turn a blind eye for the benefit of the close ties between Mossad and ASIS, Australia’s intelligence agency that operates overseas.

But at least some ASIO officials apparently had their own agenda, and they were not willing to give up on the Israeli prey so easily – perhaps due to frustration, damaged professional pride or simply because they were anti-Israel. Or maybe they realized that Zygier was the weak link in the story and thought that more pressure would break him and cause him to reveal all of his activities on behalf of Mossad. It appears that the two other Australian Jews who were interrogated did not disclose enough information, prompting the ASIO to use the media as a tool to apply more pressure.

The plan was to have the media attack Zygier in order to convince him that his activities had been exposed and there is no point in getting in trouble with the Australian authorities by continuing to conceal them. The ASIO investigation was launched in the summer of 2009. Mabhouh was assassinated in February 2010. At the end of that month The Age published an article on how three young Israelis holding Australian citizenship were given passports with false names which they used to enter Iran, Syria and Lebanon.

The reporters who wrote the article were Jason Koutsoukis and Jonathan Pearlman, who had visited Israel for work and were familiar with the Israeli scene. Koutsoukis did not try to hide the fact that their source was an Australian intelligence officer. To justify the surveillance of the Jews with the dual citizenship, reporters were told that as a student, Zygier was in contact with students from Saudi Arabia and Iran. The reporters were essentially being told that Zygier was spying for Israel on Australian soil and should therefore be followed.

Zygier was in Israel when the Australian intelligence officer leaked the information to Koutsoukis. According to all accounts, he returned to Israel willingly and even reported to his superiors in Mossad that he was interrogated in Australia. It is safe to assume that he also informed Mossad that his colleagues had been questioned as well. But even before the Mabhouh assassination, Koutsoukis called Zygier and asked about the passports and his activity in the service of Mossad. Koutsoukis claims an “anonymous source” in Israel gave him Zygier’s phone number. It is entirely possible that this source was not Israeli.

In any case, in his conversation with the reporter Zygier denied working for Mossad, but Koutsoukis got the impression that Zygier would eventually tell him the entire story. The reporter continued to call, and Zygier may have softened and told him of his work for the Israeli intelligence agency.

At a certain point it was decided that there was enough evidence to justify an arrest and an investigation. The rest is known. Zygier was held in isolation under an assumed name because the names on the various passports, including his real name, were known. Zygier was not a senior Mossad operative. It is not surprising that Zygier, a passionate Zionist, could not bear the guilt and committed suicide. He did not betray the country; he simply could not live up to his own expectations and those of his family and his surroundings. The burden became too heavy for his tormented soul.

Published: 02.17.13, 12:10 / Israel Opinion

Find this story at 17 February 2013

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Did British intelligence also know about Mossad suspect Ben Zygier?

Did Ben Zygier, the Australian-Israeli identified by Australian media last week as the mysterious “Prisoner X” who died in Israeli prison in 2010, also have British citizenship?

Australian reporter Jason Koutsoukis broke the story in February 27, 2010 that the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) had been investigating three Australian-Israelis suspected of links to Mossad. He confronted two of the (unnamed) men about the allegations, quoting one in his 2010 report:

“I have never been to any of those countries that you say I have been to,” he said. ”I am not involved in any kind of spying. That is ridiculous.”

The same man is also believed to hold British citizenship, and is believed to have come to the attention of British intelligence after he had changed his name.

Now see what Koutsoukis told The Guardian last week, after the Australian Broadcasting Company aired an investigation suggesting that Prisoner X who had died in Israel’s Ayalon prison in December 2010 was Ben Zygier :

At the time Zygier said: “I have never been to any of those countries that you say I have been to, I am not involved in any kind of spying. That is ridiculous.”

So we now know the man who told Koutsoukis in 2010 “I have never been to those countries” was Zygier. And that Koutsoukis indicated that he had been told at the time– presumably by Australian intelligence–that Zygier had also previously come on the radar of British intelligence for taking out a passport in a new name.

If Koutsoukis’ original information was correct, that Zygier also had British citizenship and another British alias, it would be interesting to know what the British government and intelligence services might know about the case and how Israel came to suspect that Zygier was compromised.

Update: Why did Israel move to arrest Zygier in February 2010? One possible theory is also suggested by information in Koutsoukis’s February 27, 2010 report.

In the piece, that came out days after Zygier was secretly detained, Koutsoukis writes:

In January the Herald visited the offices of the European company that connects the three men.

The company’s office manager confirmed to the Herald that one of the men being monitored by ASIO – the same man believed to hold a British passport – was employed by the company but was “unavailable”.

The company’s chief executive later emphatically denied that this man was ever employed by his company, and totally rejected that his company was being used to gather intelligence on behalf of Israel.

ASIO said it had no comment to make on the case.

So in January 2010, the head of an alleged Mossad front company allegedly involved in selling communications equipment to the Middle East discovers that a foreign reporter seems to know about it and the name of one of the men associated with it. We now know the name Koutsoukis gave the alleged front company was Zygier’s. (Koutsoukis’ home was broken into a day after he confronted Zygier in early 2010, he told Israel’s Channel 10 last week.)

How did Koutsoukis get the name of the firm? Likely from his ASIO source, who originally called him in October 2009. How did ASIO get it? Hypothetically, it seems possible that Zygier might have given the name of the firm to ASIO under questioning about suspected passport fraud. (Zygier had reportedly been in Australia in the fall of 2009 attending an MBA program at Monash University.)

(It’s not clear to this reporter if that is the kind of disclosure that Mossad would consider a serious breach, or not, given Australia and Israel are allies. Some Israeli sources have insisted that Zygier must have committed some more serious transgression, with intent, involving an entity hostile to Israel, to have been treated so severely. Other Israeli journalists and former officials, however, seem to believe Zygier was compromised by officials with the Australian security service. Australia’s ASIO “burned” Zygier to Koutsoukis, YNet analyst Ron Ben-Yishai wrote Sunday, amid a series of actions by Mossad in Australia that deeply angered Canberra. Former Israeli intelligence official Michael Ross agrees.)

However Koutsoukis learned of it, Mossad would, after Koutsoukis’ visit to the company in January 2010, soon have been aware that there had been a serious compromise of the firm and all associated with it.

(For more on the Prisoner X case, see Ron Ben-Yishai, ABC (Part I) and (Part II), The Age, Daoud Kuttab, Yossi Melman, and the Guardian.)

Posted on February 17, 2013 by Laura Rozen

Find this story at 17 February 2013

© 2013 AL-MONITOR

Interview: Israel’s ‘Prisoner X’ linked to 2010 al-Mabhouh killing

This morning I spoke to SBS Radio Australia’s Greg Dyett about the mysterious case of Ben Zygier, an Australian-born naturalized citizen of Israel, who is said to have killed himself in 2010 while being held at a maximum-security prison near Tel Aviv. As intelNews reported on Wednesday, Zygier, who is believed to have been recruited by Israel’s covert-action agency Mossad, had been imprisoned incommunicado for several months and was known only as ‘Prisoner X’, even to his prison guards. Is there any connection between Zygier’s incarceration and the January 2010 assassination of Palestinian arms merchant Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, in Dubai? And what could Zygier have done to prompt Israel to incarcerate him? You can listen to me discuss this mysterious case in an eight-minute interview here, or read the transcript, below.

Q: You say that, after conferring with your contacts in Israel, Europe and the United States, you believe that Ben Zygier had some sort of involvement in the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January 2010.

A: Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was a weapons procurer for the Palestinian militant group Hamas. At this point, there is little doubt that the Mossad was behind this operation. Several members of the team that killed al-Mabhouh were using third-country passports —Irish, British, Australian, and others— to travel to and from Dubai. In the aftermath of the assassination, there were questions about how the Mossad operatives managed to get those passports; and, if you’ll remember, that led to the expulsion of several Israeli diplomats from around the world, including Australia. At least four of those who conducted the assassination were using Australian passports. It appears that, although Zygier himself was not necessarily involved with the assassination on the operational level, he must have possessed significant knowledge about how these passports are actually obtained by the Mossad. And the general sense seems to be that his imprisonment in Israel is connected with his knowledge of how exactly this system works in Israel.

Q: What could he have done that would have prompted Israel to incarcerate him?

A: In order to answer that question one has to be aware of what is perhaps the main practical intelligence concern for Israel. The primary operational terrain for Israeli intelligence activities is of course the Middle East and North Africa. However, the problem Israeli intelligence agencies face —the Mossad in particular, which is Israel’s primary covert-action agency— is that Israeli officers cannot travel to most of the Arab world [or Iran], because Israeli passports are not accepted there. Because of this, Israeli intelligence agencies, including the Mossad, are constantly in a sort of desperate need for high-quality travel documents, which are considered indispensible in their work. Without them, they cannot fulfill their intelligence mission. So, procuring passports, especially from Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, is seen as highly important. Such passports are highly coveted because these countries are seen as politically neutral and their passports do not carry the baggage that you get when you carry, say, an American or an Israeli passport, especially around the Middle East. Therefore, a person like Zygier, if he had knowledge of how the system works and how exactly Israeli intelligence procures these passports, would have been absolutely critical for the operational cohesion of an agency like the Mossad.

Some people tend to think that, because Zygier was incarcerated in Ayalon, the same prison and the same cell that was built specifically for the person who killed Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, his crime must have been comparable in magnitude to killing an Israeli political leader. Now, I personally don’t think so. I think what he must have done is somehow compromised himself by collaborating with a foreign intelligence agency in the weeks or months following the al-Mabhouh assassination. Now, was that agency the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation? Was it perhaps the authorities in Dubai, who were investigating the al-Mabhouh assassination? Did he perhaps decide for some personal ethical reason to turn into some sort of whistleblower, reminiscent of Mordechai Vanunu, who in 1986 spilled the beans about Israel’s nuclear weapons program? That is, of course, an unanswered question. But I think the answer has to do with one of those three possibilities.

Q: If we go back to December 2009, an Australian journalist had the first of several telephone calls with Zygier, in which he put to Zygier that he had information that he was one of three Israeli-Australians involved in the production of false identity documents, like passports. What seemed interesting to me was the fact that Zygier was prepared to engage with that journalist to the point of taking several telephone calls from him between December 2009 and January the next year, shortly before the [al-Mabhouh] assassination on January 19 and just a month before Zygier was jailed in February.

A: Yes, this is very interesting, indeed. I think that if Zygier —and it seems almost certain at this point— was recruited by Israeli intelligence, when he received that call his world must have collapsed, because for someone like him, operational discretion would have been of the utmost importance. However, he did engage with the journalist and did continue to be in communication with him. This might perhaps point to Zygier not being a full-time operations officer for the Mossad, but rather a recruit —an asset— somebody recruited for a particular operation with an expiration date, who then falls into a sleeper-agent-type mode until he is recalled. It could also point to the possibility that Zygier was involved with the Mossad but seemed to have some kind of ethical concerns about the use of Australian passports to conduct assassinations around the world.

Incidentally, you might argue that his discovery by the press was not necessarily his own fault, but rather the fault of his Israeli handlers. His name was leaked to the press in Australia, probably by Australian intelligence, which was alerted by the fact that Zygier traveled back to Australia at least four times to legally change his name and to request new Australian passports, which he then must have used to travel around the world. That raised flags for Australian counterintelligence, which must have realized at some point that the Mossad had asked Zygier to anglicize his name so that he could travel to the Middle East without appearing to be in any way connected to Israel [or Judaism]. That is sloppy intelligence work, any way you look at it.

Q: Now, attention has been pointed to the fact that Zygier was being held in a supposedly suicide-proof prison cell. Would Israel have any motivation in wanting to kill this gentleman?

A: I really don’t think so. Let us take the gravest possibility, namely that Zygier had actually compromised himself —had collaborated with an intelligence agency of a country considered by Israel to be an adversary. In that possibility, the Mossad would have nothing to gain from his death. In a case like that, once the compromised officer or agent is incarcerated, he is seen as a card, which you can use to exchange with your agents or officers who might have been captured abroad. So he would be very useful in that respect. In addition, once he was considered essentially a defector-in-place —someone who collaborated consciously with a foreign intelligence agency— the Mossad would have had a lot more to gain by interrogating him for many, many years. Through this process, it could gain valuable information about the mode of operation of that adversary intelligence agency, which would be far more productive than actually killing him. So there is nothing to be gained by simply killing a compromised officer of the kind of Zygier.

[The last question, below, and the corresponding answer, were not aired as part of the SBS segment]

Q: Do you think we will ever find out the truth behind this story?

A: Yes. I am very optimistic that we will eventually find out a lot more information than we currently have available about this case. It is interesting how, in the hours after the initial revelation of Zygier’s identity by ABC Australia, a lot of Israeli news media received telephone calls by the office of the Israeli Prime Minister, requesting emergency meetings to discuss the case. In those meetings, the media were urged to exercise restraint and were warned of “very dramatic repercussions” to Israel’s security if more about this case was released. …

February 15, 2013 by intelNews

Find this story at 15 February 2013