Is the NSA spying on senior Israeli government officials?

Israeli Heron UAVBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A series of hard-hitting revelations by Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the United States National Security Agency, have tested America’s relationship with a host of allied nations in recent months. Last week, Malaysia and Indonesia were added to the list of countries whose leaders were allegedly spied on by the US agency tasked with communications interception. Germany, Brazil, France and Greece, all of them American allies, are also said to be included on the list of NSA targets. One US partner, however, has been markedly absent from Snowden’s revelations: Israel. The Jewish state, which is routinely described as America’s strongest ally in the Middle East, has rarely been mentioned in Snowden’s sensational leaks. This changed slightly last weekend, when The New York Times published a lengthy piece describing Israel as “an important NSA target”. Based on information provided by the self-styled American whistleblower, who has been offered political asylum in Russia, the paper said Washington’s intelligence relationship with Tel Aviv is complex. The Times confirmed previous reports, which suggest that the NSA shares raw intercepted data with Israeli intelligence. According to a 2009 agreement between the NSA and its Israeli counterpart, the Israel SIGINT National Unit (ISNU), the American side provides the Israelis with raw intercepts, which often contain telephone and email data belonging to American citizens. The Israelis probably do the same in return, though one document seen by British newspaper The Guardian alleges that the sharing agreement as is “tilted heavily in favor of Israeli security concerns”. At the same time, while the NSA and ISNU collaborate, they also spy on each other. The Times noted that the American signals intelligence agency is tracking a host of “high priority Israeli military targets” on a routine basis. These include Israel’s drone aircraft systems (see photo), as well as the Jewish state’s Black Sparrow medium-range air-launched ballistic missile system. Is it true that the US spies on what is ostensibly its closest ally in the Middle East? Read more of this post

Advertisements

News you may have missed #822 (Israeli airstrikes on Syria)

Mapping of the Israeli airstrikes in SyriaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Should we be preparing for another Mideast war? Assad may not want a war with Israel, but Tehran could have other calculations. Over the weekend, Iran warned that it would consider any attack on Syria to be an attack on Iran. Claims by Syrian television that Israel hit a research facility near Damascus might be a pretext for an Iranian escalation with Israel. The Israeli army also deployed some of its Iron Dome batteries to northern Israel for the first time. It would not have done so if the chances of a war on Israel’s northern border weren’t increasing.
►►Why did Israel attack Syria now and why did the Syrians admit it? Two days before the Israeli attack on Syria, Iran said it would view any attack on Syrian territory as an attack against Iran itself. But the combination of strategic circumstances in the region at the moment makes the chance of a direct Iranian response unlikely. A Syrian military response seems even less likely, though neither possibility can be ruled out. The most worrying unknown since Tuesday night concerns Hezbollah’s reaction. It seems we are at the beginning of the story —and not the end.
►►Ex-Mossad head says Syria and Hezbollah will not respond. The former Director of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, Danny Yatom, has ruled out any response by the Syrian army or Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon to the Israeli attack on Syria. He told newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth on Wednesday he did not think there would be “any response, since there is no benefit for Hezbollah and Syria to do so”. He added: “Al-Assad is experiencing deep problems in his country and Hezbollah is doing its best to help him, so I don’t think that they will consider any response”.

Israeli intelligence insiders warn of ‘imminent’ attack on Iran

Efraim HalevyBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
If Iranian government officials had a uranium centrifuge for each time a warning is issued of an impending military attack on Tehran, they would undoubtedly have a nuclear weapon by now. Warnings about such an attack are now ‘a-dime-a-dozen’. Yet it is admittedly difficult to ignore the increasing frequency with which such warnings are being issued by leading retired intelligence officials in Israel. Last week alone, two intelligence insiders, Major-General Danny Yatom and Efraim Halevy, both former Directors of the Mossad, Israel’s main external intelligence agency, said a military attack on Iran was imminent. Speaking on Wednesday, Halevy said that Israel’s threats of a military attack were “credible” and “serious”, adding that, if he were an Iranian, he would be “very fearful of the next 12 weeks”. His comments were echoed on Sunday by Major-General Yatom, who told Israel’s Army Radio that the debate among senior Israeli security officials was not over whether Israel should strike Iran, but about when it should do so. The two men spoke shortly after a similar warning was issued by Major-General Aharon Ze’evi Farkash, former chief of Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate. Farkash, who is not a proponent of an all-out military operation against Iran, said that an Israeli attack would probably come “within weeks, or a couple of months”. It is worth pointing out that all three men issued their public warnings along with significant reservations about the way Israel is handing the situation with Iran. Halevy said that, in his view, “it would not be desirable for Israel to act alone” against Iran and warned of a potentially serious international backlash. Major-General Farkash reiterated his previously stated position that an open military attack on Iran at this point in time would be premature and would “ruin the legitimacy that is needed” in order to permanently stop Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #762

Danni YatomBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Italy postpones court decision on wanted CIA operatives. The Washington Post has published a useful update on Sabrina DeSousa, one of nearly two-dozen CIA operatives who were convicted in Italy in 2007 for the kidnapping four years earlier of Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr. The Americans kidnapped Nasr, known as Abu Omar, from the streets of Milan without the consent of Italian authorities. The Italians, who were themselves carefully monitoring Nasr, responded by convicting all members of the CIA team in absentia, and notifying INTERPOL. But last Friday, the Supreme Court of Cassation in Rome postponed its verdict after a two-day hearing aimed at deciding whether to uphold or overturn the Americans’ convictions.
►►Ex-Mossad chief urges Israel to prepare for military action in Syria. In an interview with British news network Sky News, former Mossad Chief Danni Yatom said last week that Israel must be prepared for the possibility of military attacks on Syria, which may deteriorate into war.  He said his warning stems from the fear that Syria’s hundreds of tons of chemical weapons will fall into the hands of terrorists. “We would have to pre-empt in order to prevent it. We need to be prepared to launch even military attacks […] and military attacks mean maybe a deterioration to war”, said the former Mossad Director.
►►British spy agencies failed to predict Arab Spring. The Intelligence and Security Committee of the British Houses of Parliament has said in its annual report that British spy agencies had been surprised by the spread of unrest during the Arab Spring and failed to predict the dramatic uprisings that swept the region. The report also noted that the Arab Spring had exposed Britain’s decision to scale back intelligence assets in much of the Arab world, in favor of monitoring Iran and al-Qaeda. We at intelNews wrote about this in 2011.

Attacking Iran ‘a stupid idea’ says Mossad ex-chief

Meir Dagan

Meir Dagan

By IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
The former director of Israel’s Mossad spy agency has described the option of a military attack by Israel on Iran’s nuclear installations as “the stupidest thing I have ever heard”. Meir Dagan, who led the Mossad from 2002 until January of this year, was speaking publicly for the first time since his retirement, at a conference held at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. He told conference participants that any military action against Iran would be “patently illegal under international law” and that it would probably not achieve its goals, since Iranian nuclear installations are deliberately dispersed in locations across that vast country. Consequently, the widespread nature of the attack could lead to a prolonged war, “the kind of thing where we know how it starts, but not how it will end”, said Dagan. His comments found their way to the front pages of most Israeli newspapers over the weekend, and were headlined in television and radio station news programs, prompting responses by several former and acting Israeli officials. Read more of this post