It’s time to reveal the Israeli role in the US surveillance machine

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 20 Comments
A slide from the National Security Agency powerpoint presentation on the PRISM program. (Image: Washington Post)

A slide from the National Security Agency powerpoint presentation on the PRISM program. (Image: Washington Post)

If the Israeli government has indeed ordered its spies “to dig up intelligence” showing links between the supporters of BDS and “terrorists and enemy states” as reported in the February 11, 2014 London Times, it may find that it already has as much information as it needs in its data banks.

As described in the UK Guardian by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill, a 2008 document obtained by whistleblower Edward Snowden states that “one of the 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.”

Nevertheless, in the following year the NSA and the Israeli SIGINT National Unit drafted a top-secret memorandum of understanding (MOU) dated March 2009 under which the NSA would provide raw intelligence to Israel, including on American citizens. The MOU requested Israeli intelligence to “destroy upon recognition” communications going to and from “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)” as well as communications of civilian and military personnel on official business of government.

It is not clear if the MOU revealed by Snowden was ever implemented.  But if it was, Israeli intelligence services might be receiving little data that they don’t already possess — including communications of US government officials and Members of Congress.

This will not be news to readers of Mondoweiss, which last June, in the wake of Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s PRISM program, featured a piece by Max Blumenthal on the critical role played by such Israeli-linked high tech companies as Narus and Verint in intercepting all forms of network communications for the NSA.

Thanks to the investigative work done by pioneering analyst of the NSA James Bamford in his book The Shadow Factory and numerous articles, journalists Christopher Ketcham and Carl Cameron in his Fox News four-part report on Israeli spying in the US soon after 9/11, we know that the products of several Israel-originated companies with alleged ties to Israel intelligence (especially its secretive version of the NSA, Unit 8200) and military services appear to have been embedded in US communications systems well before 9/11 and, in the words of former commander of Unit 8200, “dominate the U.S. eavesdropping and surveillance market.”

Christopher Ketcham in Counterpunch in September 2008 made a persuasive case speculating that “Israeli Backdoor Technology Penetrated the U.S. Government’s Telecom System and Compromised National Security” in the 1990s. When Congress in 1994 passed the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act requiring telephone networks to install equipment that would enable the government to conduct wiretaps, the Israeli company Comverse Infosys–now Verint Systems–had the technology to do the job of ‘lawful interception.’

Verint soon had contracts with a wide range of US government agencies including the NSA and law enforcement as well as major telecommunications companies like Verizon to handle ‘electronic interception’ or wiretaps (Narus handled interceptions at AT&T), while the Israeli company Amdocs Ltd collected the metadata from all US call and billing records, including the White House and FBI — information that might have been funneled to Israeli intelligence.

Ketcham quoted former CIA case officer David Steele: “Israeli penetration of the entire US telecommunications system means that NSA’s warrantless wiretapping actually means Israeli warrantless wiretapping.”

Is this really the case?

In the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the dimensions and intrusiveness of the US national security surveillance state, you might have expected this question to get the kind of mainstream attention that would eventually produce some hard proof, one way or the other. But it hasn’t–in the US at any rate.

Interestingly, when Ryan Gallagher writing for Slate’s ‘Future Tense’ invited readers to “Meet the American Company helping Governments Spy on ‘Billions of Communications'” he described Verint as headquartered in Melville, NY and never mentions its Israeli connection — except when listing Israel as one of the many countries in which its 16 offices were based.

But in Israel, there has been little effort to keep the matter under wraps. “In US snooping affair, Israeli firms at risk” was one headline in Ha’aretz, which described the involvement of Israeli companies in the US spying machine and spelled out the concern “that the manufacturers themselves have the ability to spy from afar.”

And on the Israeli website iHLS.com– which describes itself as “Israel’s Homeland Security Home” — Ami Dor-On lays out what is known about the Israeli Intelligence Unit 8200’s involvement with high tech surveillance in the US and cites testimony by NSA chief Keith Alexander about two companies with ties to Israel secretly eavesdropping on American internal communications.

So is there anything we can we do to force a discussion of Israeli’s role in the national security surveillance state onto the public agenda here in the US?

The time certainly appears ripe for such action.  A recent poll indicates that the majority of Americans now consider Edward Snowden a whistleblower and think his disclosures about dragnet surveillance are good for the country. The NSA is on the defensive, with serious pushback not just from people who care about privacy and the Constitution, but from the high tech business community and within Congress.

We now have the opportunity to build valuable alliances with groups concerned to roll back the components of the police state that NSA whistleblower William Binney fears we have already become.

One potential hook for raising pertinent questions is the USA FREEDOM Act, introduced on October 29, 2013 in the House by Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (who now regrets many of the powers he put in the USA PATRIOT ACT) and the Senate by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy. It would implement reforms described here. It has 143 co-sponsors in the House, including Reps. Capuano, Clark, Keating, Lynch, McGovern, Neal and Tierney from Massachusetts and 21 co-sponsors in the Senate, including Senators Markey and Warren.

If your elected officials are co-sponsoring the USA FREEDOM Act, you can contact them and thank them for their support of this important legislation. And then you can ask them if they would be willing to investigate the possible role played by Israel-linked high tech companies in the mass surveillance of Americans–which would include Members of Congress.  You can help educate them by sending them a copy of Blumenthal’s article in Mondoweiss.

If you do get a written response or have an interesting phone conversation, please let me know about it by emailing [email protected] so it can be incorporated in a future blog posting.

20 Responses

  1. Boomer
    April 14, 2014, 1:20 pm

    Thanks for reporting this reminder. Much had been reported, but pulling it together is good. Your call to action is well-advised, but I fear it will avail little.

  2. DaBakr
    April 14, 2014, 1:24 pm

    lol. when its convenient mw uses FOX news to spread its propaganda. fox isn’t a news site, its an infotainment channel.

    • Kay24
      April 15, 2014, 1:53 am

      Yet that Israeli warmonger, Bibi Netanyahu, has gone on this “infotainment channel” far too many times, being interviewed by Greta Van Susteran, Hannity and YES, Chris Wallace, to spread his lies and propaganda, and try to convince the naive, that a brutal occupation and land grabs, is “defending” Israel against the endless enemies it keeps making. Lol.

  3. CloakAndDagger
    April 14, 2014, 1:32 pm

    It may not be news to many that most of our systems and infrastructures are infiltrated by Israeli intelligence – including those of people in power in the US.

    Verint soon had contracts with a wide range of US government agencies including the NSA and law enforcement as well as major telecommunications companies like Verizon to handle ‘electronic interception’ or wiretaps (Narus handled interceptions at AT&T), while the Israeli company Amdocs Ltd collected the metadata from all US call and billing records, including the White House and FBI — information that might have been funneled to Israeli intelligence.

    It may seem innocuous to some, but all our telephone billing is outsourced to Amdocs in Israel. This means, at the very least, all the metadata associated with our phone calls, including whom we call and when, are available to Amdocs, and from them on to whomever they provide the data.

    Imagine how information like that could be used to coerce/blackmail those in power. It is not only for financial support that US politicians bend at the knee before Israel, it has been speculated that a lot of it is due to the use of blackmail. Our politicians are not exactly the models of morality, and many have hidden skeletons in their closets, from extramarital affairs, to more gruesome actions to consolidate their positions of power.

    A Herculean task indeed, akin to cleaning the Augean stables, clearing our government of all the rot and corruption that has accumulated over the years. If we are to survive as a nation, we have to undertake this task. Let’s start with the I-firsters and examine their backgrounds with intense scrutiny to determine what makes them vulnerable to blackmail. At the very least, it is a risk to their security clearances. More grave, it constitutes treason against us.

  4. pabelmont
    April 14, 2014, 2:05 pm

    Nancy, great article. I love the WaPo diagram, labeled “Top Secret … NoForn” and apparently blasted on the front pages even despite all the governments “men” Stuxnet? Flame? HeartBleed? — Intelligence?

    Still, one must make a small moue at mention of a USA/Israeli MOU which shows the ?? unintended breadth of NSA surveillance:

    The MOU requested Israeli intelligence to “destroy upon recognition” communications going to and from “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)” as well as communications of civilian and military personnel on official business of government.

    When I think about the thousands of NSA employees who must be presumed to have access to all emails, etc., and then think about the thousands more of employees at private corporations — whether Israeli or otherwise — who have the same access; and wonder at the security “vetting” of these folks, perhaps especially of those not part of the USA’s “intelligence” aparat, I do wonder that American NSA honchos are so sanguine about illicit use to which such info might be put.

    And, of course, if blackmail is part of the general pattern of things here, then might not the Justices of the US Supreme Court be just as much subject to blackmail — and thus to the will of NSA, Israel, and the oligarchy in general — as any lesser mortals?

    Oh, well, a little blackmail and theft of secrets and stealing from bank accounts [by non-government folks, I mean!] must be regarded as a price we agree to pay (who agrees to pay?) for safety and security (from which enemies again?).

    Could it be that this giant stethoscope on the communications of the world exists, perhaps even primarily — apart from empire building and making money, the usual reason for things — to allow Israel to blackmail the USA into supporting its policies such as settlement and de facto annexation? After all, if Israel got seriously angry with USA, what damage could they not do?

  5. irmep
    April 14, 2014, 2:44 pm

    “…love the WaPo diagram, labeled “Top Secret … NoForn” and apparently blasted on the front pages even despite all the governments “men” Stuxnet? Flame? HeartBleed? — Intelligence?”

    Nah. That particular PPoint slide, of data and findings from Telegeography, could have been found in the deck of any telecom consultant for the last 20 years. There’s utterly nothing remarkable about it, except that apparently NSA “geniuses” need to be trained on the basics of modern telecom.

    The NSA shipping data wholesale to Israel, after Obama approved it (while simultaneously quashing the AIPAC espionage prosecution) on the other hand is alarming, especially if the MOA is in place right now…

    There has to be new reasons the U.S. is starting to deny visas to Israeli intel/defense people trying to enter the country.

    link to haaretz.com

    Imagine how frustrating it is to a Mossad case officer not to automatically be granted a visa for extended stay in the U.S.

  6. Susie Kneedler
    April 14, 2014, 3:25 pm

    Hi irmep (Grant),
    Thanks for your incomparable research, including this today:
    link to original.antiwar.com .
    And thanks for your talk at the “National Summit to Reassess the U.S.-Israel ‘Special Relationship'”:
    link to veteransnewsnow.com
    link to youtube.com .

  7. puppies
    April 14, 2014, 4:35 pm

    I think the only approach that may work under today’s conditions is to start by enlisting genuine US nationalists like Buchanan, and even some of the Tea Party people, against giving away the farm to the Zionist entity –entirely from the viewpoint of an Obama treason. All national security elements are there; the only theoretical exception for politicians and such makes it even more egregious for them. Such a return of the accumulated information may blast away several of the media hurdles.

  8. Pixel
    April 14, 2014, 6:01 pm

    Thank-you for this, Nancy.

  9. David Doppler
    April 14, 2014, 8:42 pm

    Great article. I continue to be concerned about the value of this information to hedge fund billionaires and wannabes (American, Israeli, Russian, Chinese, wherever) who are every day looking for sure-fire ways to make money by shorting assets whose market price has not yet taken into account negative news not yet public. Pick any highly valued asset, and it would not be hard to identify the corporate people most likely to be communicating by phone and email about key issues facing the company. An analyst and trader with access to such email and phone traffic and inadequate ethics could make huge profits. For every Snowden, there’s likely to be ten analysts who might be seduced to provide inside information secretly for money. Within large corporations already processing this information for other reasons, there’s risk of systematic exploitation of this information. Without accountability or outside checks on people handling such valuable information, it’s only a matter of time before abuse occurs. The fact that the press looks away from news that this information is being outsourced to Israel pursuant to a MOA that relies on them to delete on sight stuff they’re not supposed to look at suggests its already being abused, big time. Remember Friedman boasting about Israel’s innovation economy by virtue of 1800 new millionaires in Israel in the 12 months or so following the global financial meltdown???? No mention as to how they made that money.

    • radii
      April 15, 2014, 12:32 am

      the irony is the only check against this is more invasion of privacy and more surveillance tech and software … no doubt it is already being done: voiceprint catalogues for every human on the planet, identifying lists of high-rollers in the markets (along with a more important list of known crooks and manipulators), and then algorithms that suss out who’s saying what to whom and when so it can be date-stamped and then available for later review when a prosecution (or blackmail) is in order … we’re fast moving into a Kafka-esque techno hell

  10. Susie Kneedler
    April 14, 2014, 9:18 pm

    Yes, thanks for all your great work, Nancy, now, and directing the Middle East Justice Network.

  11. radii
    April 15, 2014, 12:33 am

    like an old friend, good to see those Carl Cameron vids exposing israel’s nefarious monitoring of all U.S. electronic communications once again

  12. Citizen
    April 15, 2014, 8:21 am

    Anybody aware the Zionist Lobby is being splashed all over Aussie news? link to counterpunch.org

    • Annie Robbins
      April 15, 2014, 10:38 am

      citizen, phil wrote about Carr here:

      link to mondoweiss.net

      link to mondoweiss.net

    • Kay24
      April 15, 2014, 10:20 pm

      Mondoweiss did cover it, and we were made aware of it. If only the US had an ex congressperson, who had the courage to reveal the evils of AIPAC, and if only the zionist media would cover it, like they did in Australia.
      Let us not hold our breaths.

      • Citizen
        April 16, 2014, 3:00 pm

        @ Kay24
        I see the Israel Lobby is a major discussion point in Australia news. So what’s wrong with the US media? Why can Australia discuss it, but not the US? Weren’t the Australians colonials deadbeat Irish who couldn’t pay their debts?

      • RoHa
        April 16, 2014, 8:23 pm

        “Weren’t the Australians colonials deadbeat Irish who couldn’t pay their debts?”

        A foul slur, sir! They were English, Scots, and Welsh as well, and most of them – even the Irish – were good, honest, criminals.

        “From distant climes, o’er wide-spread seas we come,
        Though not with much eclat or beat of drum,
        True patriots all; for be it understood,
        We left our country for our country’s good ;”

  13. Rusty Pipes
    April 15, 2014, 9:36 pm

    Thank you for pulling this info together about Israel’s role in American surveillance. Post-Cold War, Israel has struggled to convince Americans that it continues to provide a valuable service to American national interests to justify continued unquestioned American support. Post-9/11, Israel has managed to ingratiate and enmesh itself with America’s Military-Industrial-Security-Complex to the extent that it has not only convinced many of the 1% that their interests are aligned, if not identical, but that any attempt to disentangle the two would be disastrous for the American economy and security.

Leave a Reply