Lebanon better able to catch alleged Israeli spies (2010)
April 5, 2017
A strengthening Lebanese government is helping the militant group Hezbollah bust alleged spy cells, sometimes using tools and tradecraft acquired from Western nations.
Reporting from Beirut — The chief of Lebanon’s domestic security forces had a warning for the Hezbollah commander: “You’ve been infiltrated.”
With that, Achraf Rifi, head of the U.S.-backed Internal Security Forces, handed over evidence showing that two trusted, mid-ranking Hezbollah commanders were working as informants for Israeli military intelligence, said a high-ranking Lebanese security official with knowledge of the April 2009 meeting.
Wafiq Safa, the security chief for the powerful Shiite Muslim militia and political organization, was silent.
“They were shocked,” said the security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak on the subject.
Things moved quickly after that. The Hezbollah commander called Rifi the next day to assure him that the militant group would “take care of” the alleged infiltrators, who were never heard from again, the security official said.
A monthlong war between Hezbollah and Israel ended four years ago, and Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon ended a decade ago. But a clandestine intelligence war between the Jewish state and the Iranian-backed militant group continues unabated, officials and security experts say.
Now, a strengthening Lebanese government is helping Hezbollah bust alleged spy cells, sometimes using tools and tradecraft acquired from Western nations eager to build up Lebanon’s security forces as a counterweight to the Shiite group, which since a 2008 power-sharing agreement has been a member of the governing coalition.
Although security officials here say they’re using newfound tools to ferret out spies watching Hezbollah, just like they would against anyone attempting to infiltrate the country, Western observers express concern.
“There are deep Israeli worries that anything the West gives the Lebanese armed forces and the Internal Security Forces could be used against them,” said Mara Karlin, a former Lebanon specialist at the U.S. Defense Department, now a researcher at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
The United States and its Western allies play a delicate balancing game in Lebanon. Since 2006, Washington has given nearly $500 million in military aid to Lebanese security forces and has allocated $100 million for 2011, making Lebanon the second-largest recipient of American military aid per capita after Israel.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow met officials in Lebanon on Monday, emphasizing that continuing U.S. aid and training would allow the army to “prevent militias and other nongovernment organizations” from undermining the government.
The use of sophisticated equipment in the foiling of alleged Israeli spies may be the first concrete illustration of the U.S. dilemma. According to Lebanese officials, Israeli analysts and a Western diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity, Lebanon has redirected for use against Israel signal-detection equipment donated by France and intended to fight Islamic militants.
“The technology used with Fatah Islam was used to detect Israeli spies and collaborators in Lebanon,” said retired Col. Kamal Awar, a U.S.-trained former member of the Lebanese Special Forces who now publishes Defense 21, an Arabic-language military journal. “They discovered they were talking with the Israeli guy on the other side of the border.”
The U.S. military has also contributed to the Lebanese security forces’ communications abilities. Israeli analyst Ronen Bergman, author of “The Secret War with Iran,” who is writing a book about the history of his country’s intelligence efforts, said the U.S. gave Lebanon’s army sophisticated electronic equipment that allowed it to identify and trace even encrypted communications.
But there is no evidence that the training and equipment have been used to foil the intelligence operations of Israel, a major American ally.
Israel and Lebanon have long claimed counterintelligence coups and thwarted alleged traitors.
In 2008, Israel charged Sgt. Maj. Lovai Balut of Military Intelligence Unit 504 of passing on information to Hezbollah, according to the Jerusalem Post. In June, the Israeli army arrested a soldier and several civilians accused of spying for Hezbollah and smuggling drugs into the Jewish state.
But over the last two years, Lebanon’s security forces may have conducted one of the most extraordinary counterintelligence sweeps in the annals of espionage. Dozens of alleged spies have been arrested in Lebanon on suspicion of sending information to Israel on the whereabouts and movements of Hezbollah and other enemies of the Jewish state.
The broad range of suspects suggests a widespread effort by Israeli security forces to infiltrate Hezbollah, which Israel views as a severe threat to its national security.
They include a city official of a small town in Hezbollah’s Bekaa Valley stronghold. Ziad Homsy, allegedly recruited at a conference in the Far East, is serving a temporary sentence of hard labor pending a final verdict.
“Homsy had fought against the Israeli occupation,” said a Lebanese army officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the topic. “It was not easy to recruit him. But he needed the money. He would never drive a Kia. It was either a Mercedes or an SUV or stay at home.”
There is the case of Lebanese army reserve Brig. Gen. Adib Alam, arrested in 2009 on charges of spying for Israel, who was reportedly convinced that it would help counter Syria, which he despised for its dominant role in recent Lebanese history.
One convicted spy, Marwan Faqih, was a car dealer who allegedly sold Hezbollah bigwigs SUVs equipped with tracking devices that allowed Israel to follow their movements. Hezbollah has denied that its members bought cars from him.
This summer, Lebanese security forces arrested two people working for the country’s state-owned Alfa cellphone company who allegedly allowed Israel to breach the communications network, a matter that has roiled the Lebanese Cabinet and prompted the government to announce that it would seek redress against Israel at the U.N. Security Council.
Three Lebanese nationals, one of whom was found guilty of providing Israel with sensitive information during its 2006 war with Hezbollah, have been sentenced to death for spying activities.
The motives vary, security officials said. Some of those apprehended have political gripes against Hezbollah.
“There are some political reasons, there are some psychological reasons,” the high-ranking security official said. “But mostly it’s money and sex.”
According to Lebanese security officials and intelligence experts, the alleged spies used sophisticated electronic devices to communicate with their handlers via coded messages. In May 2009, the intelligence branch of the ISF paraded some of the devices before an eager press corps. They included laptop computers, satellite phones, a tracking device hidden in the lid of a water cooler and a wooden chest installed with an apparatus for transmitting and receiving messages.
“If only part of this story is true, it means [Hezbollah] has been sharing its every step and move with a silent partner,” said Gad Shimron, a former Mossad officer and author of the book “Mossad Exodus.”
Over the last several years, Lebanon has doubled the number of officers working in counterintelligence. Security officials believed that their efforts are bearing fruit by dismantling a robust Israeli spy infrastructure they say has been in place in the country for decades.
“They were strong and we were weaker,” the Lebanese security official said. “The Israelis thought they had the technological edge that put them ahead of the Arabs by 30 years. But we showed them we’re catching up.”
But some analysts speculate that Lebanese security forces are giving themselves too much credit, and that Hezbollah, Iran and Syria may have contributed to the country’s apparent counterintelligence successes.
“Anecdotal data suggests Hezbollah is providing intelligence to ISF and LAF,” the Lebanese military, said Aram Nerguizian, a resident scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.
Some of the successes involved blind luck. The alleged activities of Faqih, the SUV dealer, unraveled when a Hezbollah member took his car to a mechanic over a minor electrical problem.
“The electrician started testing here and there,” the Lebanese army officer said. “He found a wire leading to a strange device. He told the owner.”
Hezbollah detained Faqih soon afterward.
July 31, 2010|By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times
Find this story at 31 July 2010
Copyright 2017 Los Angeles Times
Rashid Khalidi: Obama’s Condemnation of Israeli Occupation Doesn’t Match His Last 8 Years in Office
February 7, 2017
Edward Said professor of Arab studies at Columbia University. He’s the author of several books; his most recent is titled Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East.
During Wednesday’s press conference, President Obama warned that the expansion of Israeli settlements was making a two-state solution impossible. “I don’t see how this issue gets resolved in a way that maintains Israel as both Jewish and a democracy,” Obama said, “because if you do not have two states, then, in some form or fashion, you are extending an occupation. Functionally, you end up having one state in which millions of people are disenfranchised and operate as second-class occupant—or residents. You can’t even call them ‘citizens’ necessarily.” We get response from Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said professor of Arab studies at Columbia University. He’s the author of several books; his most recent is titled “Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East.”
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, there was an interesting sort of geography to and diversity to the questions that President Obama answered, all clearly laid out in advance—eight reporters—five women, three men—a gay publication, urban radio. And also he took a question from Janet Rodríguez, White House correspondent for Univision, and Nadia Bilbassy-Charters, senior diplomatic correspondent for Al Arabiya News Channel. She asked President Obama about the Middle East and about particularly the Israeli occupation; President Obama, in his answer, warning that the expansion of Israeli settlements was making a two-state solution impossible.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I’ve said this directly to Prime Minister Netanyahu. I’ve said it inside of Israel. I’ve said it to Palestinians, as well. I don’t see how this issue gets resolved in a way that maintains Israel as both Jewish and a democracy, because if you do not have two states, then, in some form or fashion, you are extending an occupation. Functionally, you end up having one state in which millions of people are disenfranchised and operate as second-class occupant—or residents. You can’t even call them “citizens” necessarily. And so—so the goal of the resolution was to simply say that the settlements, the growth of the settlements, are creating a reality on the ground that increasingly will make a two-state solution impossible. And we’ve believed, consistent with the positions that have been taken with previous U.S. administrations for decades now, that it was important for us to send a signal, a wake-up call, that this moment may be passing. And Israeli voters and Palestinians need to understand that this moment may be passing. And hopefully, that then creates a debate inside both Israeli and Palestinian communities that won’t result immediately in peace, but at least will lead to a more sober assessment of what the alternatives are.
AMY GOODMAN: That was President Obama yesterday, again, in the last 48 hours of his presidency. Rashid Khalidi also with us now, Edward Said professor of Arab studies at Columbia University. Your response to what he said and what he has done over this past eight years?
RASHID KHALIDI: Well, he did what he’s been doing for eight years: He sent a signal. The most powerful country on Earth, the sole serious supporter of Israel, without whose support Israel couldn’t do anything, has now, yet again, for administration after administration, sent a signal that what Israeli governments have been doing for decades is going to lead to a one-state solution, in which Palestinians, as he said, are disenfranchised, are not even citizens and so on and so forth. So we have the diagnostician-in-chief telling us about this problem, which he and previous presidents have absolutely—done absolutely nothing to solve. The United States can, could, should act to stop this ongoing annexation, colonization and so forth, which has led to disenfranchisement. I mean, his analysis is impeccable, but his actions—as Professor Glaude said, his actions are just not in keeping with his words, and have not been over eight years in keeping with his words.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think needs to happen? What opportunity did he miss? So much has happened in the last few weeks, with Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech. You wrote a piece in The New York Times, as well as in The Guardian, saying, “too little, too late.”
RASHID KHALIDI: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: And now [President-elect Trump] appointing, if he’s approved, the ambassador to Israel, who is very much for, among other things, moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which Nikki Haley just said—
RASHID KHALIDI: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: —who would be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, she also endorses in her confirmation hearing yesterday.
RASHID KHALIDI: Well, the president-elect’s team includes people like his son-in-law, his nominee for ambassador to Israel and others, who are not just in favor of incendiary acts like moving the embassy, but are themselves major financial or political supporters of the Israeli settler movement. So we’re not just talking about people who are rhetorically in favor of this or that extremist position.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk specifically—you’re talking about Jared Kushner, who will be a top adviser—
RASHID KHALIDI: Jared Kushner.
AMY GOODMAN: —his son-in-law. David Friedman.
RASHID KHALIDI: David Friedman, the ambassador designate, and Jared Kushner are both, according to all the reports, major financial backers of the settlement movement. So, what we have in American and Israeli politics with the arrival of Trump is the completion of a convergence between the extreme right-wing settler, colonial regime that we have in Israel and a segment of the American ruling class, if you want. I mean, Jared Kushner is a major real estate entrepreneur, and he’s used many, many, many of his family’s millions to support not just charitable causes in Israel, but the settler movement, among many other extreme causes.
And so, what we’re seeing on the policy level, what we’re seeing on the media level, what we’re seeing in terms of people who are making political contributions to both the right-wing parties in Israel and American political parties is sort of a convergence of the two systems, but at a time when we’re going to have the most extreme—we have had the most extreme right-wing government in Israel’s history, and when we’re going to have a president who is in favor of things that are sometimes to the right even of that right-wing Israeli government, in terms of what his designees for various positions have said.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel President Obama paved the way for this?
RASHID KHALIDI: I think every American president who has stood by idly and just uttered words, like the president has done in his press conference and like the secretary of state did in his speech, and did nothing to actually stop this trend, that he so accurately described, are—they’re all responsible. He is certainly responsible. Had Security Council Resolution 2334 been passed in the first year of this president’s eight years, who knows what might have happened?
AMY GOODMAN: And explain what that resolution is—
RASHID KHALIDI: Well—
AMY GOODMAN: —that caused so much furor, at least on the part of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.
RASHID KHALIDI: That resolution said that everything Israel has done in the Occupied Territories, in Jerusalem and the rest of them, is illegal. It has said that moving its population into occupied territories is a violation of the Geneva Convention, i.e. moving a half a million or 600,000 Israelis into territory occupied is illegal, that the acquisition of territory by force is illegal. And it went on to lay down various other parameters for a solution, including a two-state solution, and the ’67 borders as the basis of that. Now, none of this is new. The United Nations has said this again and again and again. This is a reiteration of Security Council Resolution 242 of November 1967. It’s also a reiteration of positions that have been taken by every single American administration from President Johnson’s to George W. Bush’s, and this one, as well.
But had that been laid down as a marker, a slap in the face of the Netanyahu government, in 2009, when the president came into office, instead of mollycoddling them, instead of continuing to fund settlements—we fund settlements by giving American so-called charities 501(c)(3) status. The president could have reversed that on the first day he was in office, saying, “You cannot send money, tax-free money—you cannot reduce your taxes to support illegal occupation and colonization.” He didn’t do that. The Justice Department, the Treasury could have done that. So, we have financed by—we taxpayers, who are actually paying our taxes, have enabled people who are not paying our taxes, by making so-called charitable deductions, support the settlement movement. Jared Kushner is one of them. [David] Friedman is one of them. There are many, many others.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what do you think is possible now?
RASHID KHALIDI: With Trump as president? Well, I think that this is a—this should be a wake-up call for people in the United States who had some kind of idea of Israel as the light unto the nations, to wake up and realize that the United States has helped to create a situation in which Israeli Jews rule over disenfranchised Arabs, that this is not a light unto the nations. This is not really a democracy, if you have helots. He called them “not citizens.” Well, you can call them what you want. He said they’re disenfranchised. It’s actually worse than that. Go to the Occupied Territories. Go to Arab communities inside Israel. Look at what happened to a member of Knesset yesterday, shot in the face by Israeli border police, because he protested the demolition of a village in the south of Israel. You’re talking about people who, in some cases, nominally have rights—Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel—or in the Occupied Territories having really no rights, and both of whom live under an unjust and discriminatory regime. We have fostered that. We have helped to finance and fund that, all the while our political leaders talk about how wonderful Israel is, how its values and our values—well, these are Jim Crow values. The president talked about Jim Crow. What Israel is enforcing are worse than Jim Crow values. And I think we have to start talking and thinking in those terms and setting ourselves apart or understanding how to set ourselves apart from those kinds of practices that are discriminatory or racist.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think—what do you think it was that led President Obama to have the ambassador for—to have the United States abstain from this, at the very end of his two terms?
RASHID KHALIDI: I mean, I can’t speculate what was going on in his mind, why at the very end. It’s a really good question. I would love to have seen this eight years ago. Maybe it was his chance to get back at the slights and insults that he’s been receiving from Prime Minister Netanyahu over the past eight years, coming to Congress and attacking American—
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, Netanyahu, famously, to say the least, disrespects him.
RASHID KHALIDI: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: And yet President Obama has been more solicitous of Israel than all the previous presidents—
RASHID KHALIDI: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: —from the Bushes on to Clinton, all involved with resolutions that were critical of Israel, but President Obama did not allow that to happen until now.
RASHID KHALIDI: Exactly. This is the first such resolution that has passed under Obama. Every—as you’ve just said, every previous American president has allowed or has sponsored resolutions that are just as harsh as this or involved elements of this resolution. So, maybe he was—you know, what he seems to be doing in his last few days, few weeks, few months, is to doing—is to do some of the things that maybe he wanted to do but felt he couldn’t do. And it’s really a terrible shame. I mean, this is a—this is a man who came into office, supposedly, with fresh ideas about how to deal with the Middle East. He appointed Senator Mitchell, who ultimately was undermined by people he himself had appointed, and was not able to do what he wanted to do. And from that point on, I think it really was downhill for this president, as far as the Middle East is concerned. His legacy is not a good one, as far as Arab-Israeli issues, as far as the Palestinians are concerned. Palestinians will not—and Arabs and, I would argue, Israelis should not remember this man’s legacy with any fondness.
AMY GOODMAN: Rashid Khalidi, professor of Arab studies at Columbia University, and Eddie Glaude, head of African American Studies at Princeton University, we thank you both for this conversation. This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we look at some of the Senate confirmation hearings. To say the least, heated. Stay with us.
JANUARY 19, 2017
Find this story at 19 January 2017
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CIA Cover-Up Thwarted FBI’s Nuclear Diversion Investigations Evidence that missing uranium went to Israel withheld since 1968
October 23, 2015
According to formerly top-secret and secret Central Intelligence Agency files (PDF) released August 31 in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit (PDF), the agency’s long retention of key information ultimately stymied two FBI investigations into the 1960s diversion of weapons-grade uranium from a Pennsylvania-based government contractor into the Israeli nuclear weapons program.
The Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC) was a nuclear fuel processing company founded by legendary chemist Zalman Mordecai Shapiro and financed by entrepreneur David Luzer Lowenthal. According to the Department of Energy, during Shapiro’s reign at NUMEC, the company lost more weapons-grade uranium – 337 kilograms after accounting for losses – much of a particularly unique and high enrichment level than any other U.S. facility. Losses only returned to industry norms after Shapiro, who later unsuccessfully tried to get a job working on advanced hydrogen bomb designs, was forced out of NUMEC.
In the 1950’s Shapiro developed vital breakthroughs for US Navy nuclear propulsion systems. In the 1940s Lowenthal fought in Israel’s War of Independence, serving as a smuggler who developed close contacts with high Israeli intelligence officials. An ardent supporter of Israel, Shapiro was Pittsburgh Chapter President of the Zionist Organization of America. According to the Jerusalem Post, Shapiro later joined the board of governors of the Israeli Intelligence Heritage Center, an organization that honors spies who secretly took action to advance Israel. NUMEC holding company Apollo Industries President Morton Chatkin also held a ZOA leadership role while Apollo Executive Vice President Ivan J. Novick went on to become ZOA’s national president. David Lowenthal, who raised capital for acquiring NUMEC’s facilities (an old steel mill in the center of the village) served as Apollo’s treasurer.
In 1968 CIA Director Richard Helms sent an urgent request for an investigation to Attorney General Ramsey Clark (PDF) stating “You are well aware of the great concern which exists at the highest levels of this Government with regard to the proliferation of nuclear weapons…It is critical for us to establish whether or not the Israelis now have the capability of fabricating nuclear weapons which might be employed in the Near East…I urge that the Federal Bureau of Investigation be called upon to initiate a discreet intelligence investigation of all source nature of Dr. Shapiro in order to establish the nature and extent of his relationship with the Government of Israel.” (PDF)
The FBI investigation documented Shapiro’s many meetings with top Israeli nuclear weapons development officials such as Avraham Hermoni and wiretapped a conversation representative of the overall lack of concern over worker safety and the environment by Shapiro and Lowenthal. The FBI discovered that NUMEC had formed a joint venture with the Israel Atomic Energy Commission called Isorad to supply food irradiators to Israel. The now-defunct Atomic Energy Agency questioned Zalman Shapiro in 1969 – never asking if he had diverted material – over his many meetings with Israelis known to the FBI to be intelligence operatives. After the AEC defended Shapiro and his continued holding of security clearances, the FBI terminated its intelligence investigation.
In 1976 the Ford administration reopened the NUMEC investigation in order to determine if a diversion had occurred and whether a government cover-up had ensued. The 130-page release is replete with formal CIA denials to Congressional Committee investigators, the GAO and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission inquiries about whether the CIA had participated in any illegal diversions, or whether it was aware of any presidential finding authorizing such an operation. Arizona Democrat Morris Udall asked bluntly on August 23, 1977 “Is it possible that President Johnson, who was known to be a friend of Israel, could have encouraged the flow of nuclear materials to the Israelis?” Citing CIA’s role in alerting the attorney general to the problem as evidence that it was not involved, the agency also repeatedly emphasized “we in CIA are not and have not been concerned with the law enforcement aspects of this problem. Indeed, Dick Helms turned the matter over to the FBI in order to avoid such involvement.” Rather, exploring the NUMEC-Israel link was part of CIA’s intelligence function to substantiate why its National Intelligence Estimate concluded Israel had a nuclear arsenal.
FBI special agents soon lost morale over being sent unprepared into a second investigation. The CIA, for its part, continued withholding critical information that could have provided both motivation and a tool for confronting hostile interviewees. This was according to the newly released CIA files “information…of obvious importance in reaching an intelligence decision on the probability of diversion, it is not of any legal pertinence to the FBI’s criminal investigation of NUMEC. In our discussions with the FBI we have alluded to this information but we have not made the details available to special agents from the Washington Field Office of the FBI who are working on the case. While Mr. Bush’s [then-CIA Director George H.W. Bush] conversations are not known to us, we have had no substantive discussions with officials at FBI Headquarters on this matter.” It was this sensitive CIA information, made available only to the president, cabinet, and a limited number of top agency officials that led one National Security Council staffer to conclude, “I do not think that the President has plausible deniability.”
On June 6, 1977 Associate Deputy Director for Operations Theodore Shackley briefed the FBI agents in charge of the NUMEC investigation. They grumbled that since they had not established that the diversion took place, they could not begin to address the second question about a cover-up. They then pleaded for “new information” from the CIA, blithely ignorant that their reasoning was completely backward – it was old information they required, and it was the CIA’s withholding of it that was the true cover-up. The FBI also thought it needed a NUMEC insider willing to blow the whistle in order to finally break the case open.
Unknown to the FBI, every CIA director was complicit in withholding a key clandestine operational finding from investigators. According to a May 11, 1977 report by Shackley, the “CIA has not furnished to the FBI sensitive agent reporting…since the decision was made by Directors Helms, Colby and Bush that this information would not further the investigation of NUMEC but would compromise sources and methods.”
Though carefully redacted from the CIA release, the omitted fact was likely that highly enriched uranium of a signature unique to NUMEC had been detected in Israel, a country that did not have facilities to enrich uranium. This sensitive information (PDF) was delivered to former Atomic Energy Commissioner Glen Seaborg by two Department of Energy investigators sifting for more facts about NUMEC in June of 1978. It was powerful enough evidence that the retired Seaborg subsequently refused to be interviewed by less informed FBI investigators.
The CIA noted FBI investigators “indicated that even if they came up with a case, it was extremely unlikely that Justice and State would allow it to come to trial…they feel that they have been given a job to do with none of the tools necessary to do it.” Although in 1981 special agents finally identified a former NUMEC employee who had personally witnessed the means of the diversion – Zalman Shapiro and other NUMEC officials stuffing HEU canisters into irradiators (PDF) sealed and rushed to Israel – lacking the missing CIA puzzle piece the FBI investigation went dormant as the statute of limitations for Atomic Energy Act violations – punishable by death – finally expired.
Grant F. Smith is the author of DIVERT! NUMEC, Zalman Shapiro, and the diversion of U.S. weapons-grade uranium into the Israeli nuclear weapons program. He currently serves as director of research at the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy in Washington (IRmep), D.C. Read other articles by Smith, or visit the IRmep website.
by Grant Smith, September 07, 2015
Find this story at 7 September 2015
Copyright © Antiwar.com 2015
U.S. Suspected Israeli Involvement in 1960s Missing Uranium (2014)
October 23, 2015
Officials Believed Ally Used Materials Lifted From Pennsylvania Toward a Weapons Program
Declassified documents from the 1970s provide new evidence that federal officials believed bomb-grade uranium that disappeared from a Pennsylvania nuclear facility in the 1960s was likely taken for use in a clandestine Israeli atomic-weapons program.
The documents, obtained earlier this year through public-records requests by a Washington-based nonprofit group, also indicate that senior officials wanted to keep the matter under wraps for fear it could undermine U.S. Middle East peace efforts.
Though the Central Intelligence Agency’s case for the suspected theft wasn’t conclusive, it was sufficiently persuasive that “I do not think that the President has plausible deniability” regarding the question, said a memo dated July 28, 1977, by a National Security Council staffer in President Jimmy Carter’s administration.
A security council memo to Mr. Carter a few days later expressed more uncertainty about whether a theft had occurred, but noted that then-Secretary of State Cyrus Vance had a coming Middle East trip and discussed the need to keep attention “away from the CIA’s information.”
The question of whether one of America’s closest allies was involved in the theft of some of its most valuable and dangerous material in pursuit of nuclear weapons has been one of the enduring mysteries of the atomic age. The suspected theft has drawn the attention of at least three presidents and other senior government officials.
The evidence suggested that “something did transpire,” said Zbigniew Brzezinski, Mr. Carter’s national-security adviser, in a recent interview. “But until you have conclusive evidence you don’t want to make an international incident. This is a potentially very explosive, controversial issue.” Besides, he added, even if a theft was proved, “What are we going to say to the Israelis, ‘Give it back?’ ”
Israel hasn’t ever said whether it has nuclear weapons. A spokeswoman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., declined to comment for this article.
So did a spokeswoman for the Obama administration, which like past U.S. administrations has declined to say whether it believes Israel has an atomic arsenal. A CIA spokesman also declined to comment.
Mr. Carter, who said at a 2008 gathering in Britain that he believes Israel has nuclear weapons, declined through a spokeswoman to be interviewed.
His diplomatic efforts as president, which helped produce a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1979, likely wouldn’t have been possible “if there was some huge scandal at the time about this,” said John Marcum, the staffer who wrote the July 28, 1977, memo, in a recent interview.
The theft suspicions surround events at a now-dismantled facility in Apollo, Pa., owned by a company called Nuclear Materials & Equipment Corp., or Numec. In the mid-1960s, some 200 pounds of bomb-grade uranium—enough possibly for several Hiroshima-sized bombs—couldn’t be accounted for there.
An FBI investigation begun in the late 1960s, which drew interest from top Nixon administration officials, including the president, couldn’t determine what happened to the uranium, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agency documents. But FBI officials did raise questions about suspected dealings between Numec’s founder and president, Zalman Shapiro, and Israeli intelligence officials, according to government documents. Babcock & Wilcox Co., a nuclear-technology and energy company that acquired Numec in 1971, declined to comment.
In an interview late last year, the 93-year-old Mr. Shapiro, who has long argued the material had been lost in the production process, said that no theft took place. He said his dealings with Israel, where Numec had commercial activities, were legitimate and to his knowledge never involved intelligence officials.
Potentially crucial sections of the recently released documents—obtained by the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy, an organization that has been critical of Israel—remain classified.
The latest document release underscores the need for the government to declassify the remaining information about the suspected theft, some former federal officials say.
“We know the CIA thought the material was stolen. We want to know why they thought that,” said Victor Gilinsky, a former commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Government records show that a federal nuclear-enrichment facility in Ohio sent shipments to Numec containing the highest percentage of U235, the explosive form of uranium, ever known to have been produced, said Roger Mattson, another former NRC official.
Did the CIA later find that such uranium had turned up in Israel, as some documentary evidence suggests? “That’s not something that’s declassified,” said Jessica Tuchman Mathews, a national-security official in the Carter administration who wrote or received some of the recently declassified documents.
By JOHN R. EMSHWILLER
Updated Aug. 6, 2014 7:41 p.m. ET
Find this story at 6 August 2014
Copyright ©2015 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
ISRAELI SPECIAL FORCES ASSASSINATED SENIOR SYRIAN OFFICIAL
July 27, 2015
On Aug. 1, 2008, a small team of Israeli commandos entered the waters near Tartus, Syria, and shot and killed a Syrian general as he was holding a dinner party at his seaside weekend home. Muhammad Suleiman, a top aide to the Syrian president, was shot in the head and neck, and the Israeli military team escaped by sea.
While Israel has never spoken about its involvement, secret U.S. intelligence files confirm that Israeli special operations forces assassinated the general while he vacationed at his luxury villa on the Syrian coast.
The internal National Security Agency document, provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, is the first official confirmation that the assassination of Suleiman was an Israeli military operation, and ends speculation that an internal dispute within the Syrian government led to his death.
A top-secret entry in the NSA’s internal version of Wikipedia, called Intellipedia, described the assassination by “Israeli naval commandos” near the port town of Tartus as the “first known instance of Israel targeting a legitimate government official.” The details of the assassination were included in a “Manhunting Timeline” within the NSA’s intelligence repository.
According to three former U.S. intelligence officers with extensive experience in the Middle East, the document’s classification markings indicate that the NSA learned of the assassination through surveillance. The officials asked that they not be identified, because they were discussing classified information.
The information in the document is labeled “SI,” which means that the intelligence was collected by monitoring communications signals. “We’ve had access to Israeli military communications for some time,” said one of the former U.S. intelligence officers.
The former officer said knowledge within the NSA about surveillance of Israeli military units is especially sensitive because the NSA has Israeli intelligence officers working jointly with its officers at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland.
Brig. Gen. Suleiman was a top military and intelligence adviser to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, and was suspected of being behind the Syrian government’s efforts to facilitate Iran’s provision of arms and military training to Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon. Suleiman was also reported to have been in charge of the security and construction of Syria’s Al Kibar nuclear facility, which Israel destroyed in a 2007 air attack. The NSA document described part of Suleiman’s responsibilities as “sensitive military issues.”
Israel’s involvement in Suleiman’s assassination raises questions about both the purpose of the killing, as well as whether Israel violated international law in conducting the operation.
“The Israelis may have had many good reasons to kill [Suleiman],” said Mary Ellen O’Connell, a professor of international law at Notre Dame. “But under international law it’s absolutely clear that in Syria in 2008, they had no rights under the laws of war because at the time there was no armed conflict. They had no right to kill General Suleiman.”
The Assad government withheld news of the assassination for four days before announcing Suleiman’s death. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied its involvement.
According to a classified State Department cable published online by WikiLeaks, the Syrian government’s investigation into the killing turned up $80 million in cash in Suleiman’s home. “[Assad] was said to be devastated by the discovery, and, fearing [Suleiman] had betrayed him, redirected the investigation from solving his murder to finding out how the general had acquired so much money,” the cable noted.
Last year, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah told journalists that the Israeli government killed Suleiman, and that the assassination was “linked” to Suleiman’s role in the July 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.
“For them it’s not only payback, but mitigates future operations,” said one of the retired intelligence officers, who has worked with the Israelis but does not have direct knowledge of the Suleiman assassination. “They will take a target of opportunity if it presents itself.”
The Israeli assassination of Suleiman came less than six months after a joint Mossad-CIA team assassinated a top Hezbollah operative in the heart of Damascus, according to several current and former U.S. military and intelligence officials. U.S. and Israeli involvement in that attack, which targeted Hezbollah operative Imad Mughniyeh, was first reported in detail by the Washington Post. The CIA had long sought Mughniyeh for his role in several terrorist attacks against Americans, including the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, Lebanon, which left 241 American service members dead.
The NSA declined to comment. A spokesperson for the Israeli Prime Minister did not respond to several requests for comment.
July 15 2015, 1:23 p.m.
Find this story at 15 July 2015
US said preparing to release Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard
July 27, 2015
Officials say chances of life-termer going free ‘better than ever’ as US seeks to sooth Israel over Iran; Justice Department denies report
The Obama administration is preparing to release Jonathan Pollard, who was convicted in 1987 of spying for Israel, in hopes of alleviating tensions over the Iranian nuclear deal, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
According to US officials cited in the report, some are pushing for Pollard’s release in a matter of weeks, while others say it could take months. Still other US officials mentioned in the report denied any link between the Iranian nuclear deal and Pollard’s potential release.
ABC News’ managing editor tweeted Friday night that US officials had confirmed to ABC that the former Navy analyst was set to be released in November, when he is eligible for parole.
But the Justice Department said it expected Pollard to serve out his entire sentence.
“The Department of Justice has always and continues to maintain that Jonathan Pollard should serve his full sentence for the serious crimes he committed, which in this case is a 30-year sentence as mandated by statute,” said spokesman Marc Raimondi.
“Mr. Pollard’s status will be determined by the United States Parole Commission according to standard procedures,” added National Security Council spokesman Alistair Baskey. “There is absolutely zero linkage between Mr. Pollard’s status and foreign policy considerations.”
Israeli government officials — including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself — activists, and even members of Congress have for decades lobbied successive US administrations for Pollard’s release.
There have been several reports in US media in recent months alleging that Pollard may be released later this year.
Last week, one of Pollar’s attorneys, Eliot Lauer, told the Times of Israel that he has received no indication of this.
“We have not received any word, and I would expect that either I or my client would be the ones who would be notified,” he said. Lauer is a member of Pollard’s pro bono legal team, and has represented him for over two decades.
The 61-year-old Pollard is serving a life sentence in a US federal prison for passing classified information to Israel; he was granted citizenship by Israel 20 years ago. The flurry of reports reflect a US government website that lists Pollard’s release date (under ID number 09185-016) as November 21, 2015 – a date that would coincide with the 30th anniversary of his arrest.
Lauer noted that November 21, 2015, has been listed as a release date for Pollard for decades.
US government site showing Jonathan Pollard’s scheduled release date
US government site showing Jonathan Pollard’s scheduled release date
In order for Pollard to be released, a Notice of Action must first be issued – and presumably, it is Pollard’s legal team which would receive it first. According to Lauer, no such Notice of Action has been received.
Lauer said the authorities could issue such a notice shortly before Pollard’s release date.
Although Pollard is serving a life sentence under a Federal law that allows the possibility of parole, he is the only American citizen who has been sentenced to life in prison for passing classified information to a US ally.
The US has at times considered releasing Pollard, but has been met with fierce opposition by some in the CIA, the FBI and the Justice Department. This could again be the case if indeed the Obama administration is considering it, but “[Pollard’s] chances at winning freedom are better now than they have ever been,” according to the WSJ report that attributes the belief to unnamed US officials.
There have been multiple false starts and reports over the years indicating that Pollard’s release was imminent. During his farewell visit as president of Israel to Washington DC last year, Shimon Peres pressed President Barack Obama for Pollard’s release.
In August 2014, a request by Pollard for parole was denied, with the officials arguing that releasing Pollard would “constitute contempt for the severity of the offense and promote a lack of respect for the law.”
AP contributed to this report.
BY REBECCA SHIMONI STOIL AND TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF July 24, 2015, 11:29 pm 43
Find this story at 24 July 2015
© 2015 THE TIMES OF ISRAEL
Capturing Jonathan Pollard
July 27, 2015
De Amerikaanse voormalig spion Jonathan Pollard zit een levenslange gevangenisstraf uit. Als werknemer bij de VS Marine Inlichtingendienst stal hij honderdduizenden geheime documenten en verkocht die aan Israël. De man die hem ontmaskerde, schreef er een boek over.
Bradley Manning wordt verdacht van het lekken van geheime documenten van de Amerikaanse overheid. Deze documenten werden openbaar gemaakt voor Wikileaks. Nog voordat Manning een eerlijk proces heeft gekregen, zit hij al een ruim een jaar in eenzame opsluiting.
De omvang en gevoeligheid van de Wikileaks-documenten vallen echter in het niet in vergelijking met het aantal geheime stukken dat Jonathan Pollard begin jaren ’80 aan de Israëliërs heeft overhandigd. Pollard werkte voor de Naval Intelligence Service. Van juni 1984 tot zijn aanhouding in november 1985 wandelde hij bijna dagelijks het gebouw van de Naval Intelligence Command uit met een tas vol top secret documenten.
De Amerikaanse overheid schat dat hij ruim een miljoen stukken aan de Israëliërs heeft overhandigd. Een van de stukken was het tiendelige boekwerk Radio-Signal Notations (RASIN), een gedetailleerde beschrijving van het netwerk van de wereldwijde elektronische observatie door de Amerikanen.
Capturing Jonathan Pollard werd in 2006 door de Naval Institue Press gepubliceerd. Het boek is van de hand van Ronald Olive, destijds werkzaam voor de Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). Als medewerker van de NCIS kreeg Olive in 1985 de taak om te onderzoeken of Pollard geheime stukken lekte.
Het onderzoek volgde op een tip van een medewerker van de Anti-Terrorism Alert Center (ATAC) van de NIS, de afdeling waar Pollard werkte. Deze man zag Pollard het gebouw uitlopen met een stapel papier. De stapel was verpakt in bruin inpakpapier en tape met de code TS/SCI, Top Secret/Sentive Compartmented Information. TS/SCI is een nog zwaardere kwalificatie als top secret.
Pollard stapte met de stukken bij zijn vrouw Ann in de auto. Nog even dacht zijn collega dat Pollard naar een andere inlichtingendienst, zoals de DIA (Defense Intelligence Service) zou rijden om daar de documenten af te geven. Dit leek onwaarschijnlijk omdat Pollard eerder tegen hem had gezegd dat hij verkeerde documenten had besteld bij het ‘archief’ en dat hij deze nu moest terugbrengen en vernietigen. Pollard en Ann reden echter een geheel andere kant op.
Olive beschrijft vervolgens de ontmaskering van Jonathan en Ann. In Pollards werkruimte wordt een camera opgehangen die registreert hoe de spion een aktetas vol TS/SCI documenten propt en het gebouw verlaat. Pollard en zijn vrouw ruiken onraad en proberen de sporen van spionage te wissen. Ann moet een koffer vol super geheime documenten, die in hun huis liggen, vernietigen. Zij raakt in paniek en de koffer belandt bij de buren.
Het boek van Ronald Olive is nog even actueel als het eerste boek dat over deze spionagezaak is verschenen in 1989, Territory of Lies: The American Who Spied on His Country for Israel and How He Was Betrayed.
Begin dit jaar wordt een petitie, ondertekend door meer dan 10.000 Israëliërs, aan de Israëlische president Shimon Peres gezonden. Hierin roepen politici, kunstenaars en andere bekende en onbekende Israëliërs de president op om Pollard vrij te krijgen. Op 1 september 2010 berichtte de LA Times zelfs dat de vrijlating van Pollard de bevriezing van de bouw van Israëlische nederzettingen in de bezette gebieden zou verlengen.
Pollard raakt kennelijk een gevoelige snaar, zowel in Israël als in de Verenigde Staten. Schrijver Olive op zijn beurt bevindt zich in een gezelschap van allerlei mensen die er voor ijveren om de spion zijn gehele leven achter slot en grendel te houden, hoewel levenslang in de Verenigde Staten niet echt levenslang hoeft te zijn. Bij goed gedrag kunnen gevangenen na dertig jaar vrijkomen.
In 1987 werd Pollard veroordeeld tot levenslang na een schuldbekentenis en toezegging dat hij de Amerikaanse overheid zou helpen bij het in kaart brengen van de schade die hij door zijn spionage-activiteiten had veroorzaakt. Die schade werd door de toenmalige minister van Defensie Casper Weinberger vastgelegd in een memorandum van 46 pagina’s, welke nog steeds niet openbaar is gemaakt. Pollard’s vrouw kreeg vijf jaar gevangenisstraf voor het in bezit hebben van staatsgeheime documenten.
Capturing Jonathan Pollard is geen spannend fictie / non-fictie boek met een twist, zoals Spywars van Bagley. Olive beschrijft droog het leven van de spion vanaf het moment dat hij bij de CIA solliciteert, tot aan de dag van zijn veroordeling. Natuurlijk is de schrijver begaan met de geheimhouding van Amerikaanse strategische informatie en verbaast het niet dat hij bij het verschijnen van het boek in 2006 een pleidooi hield om Pollard niet vrij te laten.
Hoewel de volle omvang van het lekken van Pollard niet duidelijk wordt beschreven, blijkt dat Pollard niet bepaald kieskeurig was. De Israëliërs hadden hem lijsten meegegeven van wat zij graag wilden hebben, vooral informatie over het Midden-Oosten, maar ook over de Russen en operaties van de Amerikanen in het Middellandse Zee gebied.
Zodra Pollard echter stukken langs ziet komen die ook voor andere landen interessant zouden kunnen zijn, probeert hij ook daar te winkelen. Zo poogt hij geheime documenten aan de Chinezen, Australiërs, Pakistani en de Zuid-Afrikanen, maar ook aan buitenlandse correspondenten te slijten.
Het gegeven dat landen elkaars strategische informatie en geheimen proberen te stelen, is niet nieuw. Het bestaan van contra-spionage afdelingen toont aan dat geheime diensten daar zelf ook rekening mee houden. De Australiërs dachten dan ook dat Pollard onderdeel uitmaakte van een CIA-operatie. Hoewel ze dat eigenlijk niet konden geloven, vermeed hun medewerker Pollard en werd de zaak niet gemeld bij Amerikaanse instanties.
Als onderdeel van thrillers en spannende lectuur zijn de spionage praktijken van Pollard, zoals Olive die beschrijft, niet bijster interessant, want het leidt af van waar het werkelijk om draait. Daarentegen is het boek van grote waarde waar het gaat om de beschrijving van de persoon Pollard, de wijze waarop hij kon spioneren, zijn werkomgeving, de blunders die worden gemaakt – niet alleen het aannemen en overplaatsen van Pollard, maar ook de wijze waarop geheimen zo eenvoudig kunnen worden gelekt – eigenlijk de totale bureaucratie die de wereld van inlichtingendiensten in zijn greep heeft.
Hoewel deze persoonlijke en bureaucratische gegevens niet breed worden uitgemeten – Olive is zelf een voormalig inlichtingenman – verschaft het boek een veelheid aan informatie daarover. De schrijver lijkt die persoonlijke details specifiek aan Pollard te koppelen, alsof het niet voor andere medewerkers zou gelden.
Dit gaat ook op ook voor de gemaakte fouten van de bureaucratie rond de carrière van de spion. Zo lijkt Pollard van jongs af aan een voorliefde te hebben gehad om spion te worden, of in ieder geval iets geheims te willen doen in zijn leven. Tijdens zijn studie schept hij erover op dat hij voor de Mossad zou werken en had gediend in het Israëlische leger. Zijn vader zou ook voor de CIA werkzaam zijn.
Aan deze opschepperij verbindt Olive een psychologisch element. Het zou een soort compensatie zijn voor de slechte jeugd van Pollard die vaak zou zijn gepest. Ook zijn vrouw zou niet bij hem passen omdat die te aantrekkelijk is. Pollard moet dat compenseren door stoer te doen. Later, toen hij voor een inlichtingendienst werkte, voelde hij zich opnieuw het buitenbeentje. Zijn carrière verliep alles behalve vlekkeloos, regelmatig werd hij op een zijspoor gezet.
Olive schetst een beeld van een verwend kind, dat niet op juiste waarde werd ingeschat en stoer wilde doen. Was Pollard echter zoveel anders dan zijn voormalige collega analisten of medewerkers van de inlichtingendienst? Werken voor een inlichtingendienst vereist een zekere mate van voyeurisme, een gespleten persoonlijkheid. Buiten je werk om kun je niet vrijelijk praten over datgene waar je mee bezig bent.
Dat doet wat met je psyche, maar trekt ook een bepaald soort mensen aan. Het werk betreft namelijk niet het oplossen van misdrijven, maar het kijken in het hoofd van mogelijke verdachten. Het BVD-dossier van oud-provo Roel van Duin laat zien dat een dienst totaal kan ontsporen door zijn eigen manier van denken. Dat komt echter niet voort uit de dienst als abstracte bureaucratie, maar door toedoen van de mensen die er werken.
Pollard gedroeg zich arrogant en opschepperig, misschien wel om zijn eigen onzekerheid te maskeren. Dergelijk gedrag wordt door de schrijver verbonden aan zijn spionage-activiteiten voor de Israëliërs. Pollard was echter niet getraind in het lekken van documenten en ging verre van zorgvuldig te werk. Hij deed het zo openlijk dat het verbazingwekkend is dat het zo lang duurde voordat hij tegen de lamp liep. Hij zei bijvoorbeeld tegen de Israëliërs dat zij alleen de TS/SCI documenten moesten kopiëren en dat ze de rest mochten houden.
In de loop van de anderhalf jaar dat hij documenten naar buiten smokkelde, werd hij steeds roekelozer. Dat hij gespot werd met een pak papier onder zijn arm terwijl hij bij zijn vrouw in de auto stapte, was eerder toeval dan dat het het resultaat was van grondig speurwerk van de NCIS.
Eenmaal binnenin het inlichtingenbedrijf zijn de mogelijkheden om te lekken onuitputtelijk. Als Pollard wel getraind was geweest en zorgvuldiger te werk was gegaan, dan had hij zijn praktijk eindeloos kunnen voorzetten. Welke andere ‘agenten’ doen dat wellicht nog steeds? Of welke andere medewerkers waren minder roekeloos en tevreden geweest met het lekken van enkele documenten?
Die medewerkers vormen gezamenlijk het systeem van de dienst. Pollard schepte graag op, maar de schrijver van Spy Wars, Bagley, klopte zich ook graag op de borst en, hoewel in mindere mate, Ronald Olive ook. Iets dat eigenlijk vreemd is, als het aantal blunders in ogenschouw wordt genomen nadat Pollard ontdekt was. Alleen omdat de Israëliërs Pollard de toegang tot de diplomatieke vestiging ontzegden, zorgde ervoor dat hij alsnog gearresteerd en levenslang kreeg in de VS. Hij was echter bijna ontsnapt.
Het is daarom niet gek dat inlichtingendiensten een gebrek aan bescheidenheid vertonen. Vele aanslagen zijn voorkomen, wordt vaak beweerd, maar helaas kunnen de diensten geen details geven. Het klinkt als Pollard, op bezoek bij Olive, die breed uitmeet dat hij die en die kent op de Zuid-Afrikaanse ambassade en of hij die moet werven als spion. Olive was werkzaam voor de NCIS. Pollard bezocht hem voordat hij werd ontmaskerd. Zijn eigen gebrek aan actie in relatie tot de twijfels over Pollard toont aan dat geen enkel bureaucratisch systeem perfect is, ook niet dat van inlichtingendiensten.
Het is niet verbazingwekkend dat de carrière van Pollard bezaaid is met blunders. Hij werd dan wel afgewezen door de CIA, maar waagde vervolgens een gokje bij een andere dienst en had geluk. Hij werd bij de NIS aangenomen en kroop zo langzaamaan in de organisatie. De fouten die bij het aannamebeleid en bij de evaluaties van Pollard zijn gemaakt, worden door Olive gepresenteerd als op zichzelf staand, maar de hoeveelheid blunders en gebrekkige administratie lijken zo talrijk dat het geen toevalstreffers zijn.
Bij elke promotie of overplaatsing lijkt slechts een deel van zijn persoonsdossier hem te volgen. De NIS wist vanaf het begin niet dat Pollard eerder door de CIA werd afgewezen. Als zijn toegang tot geheime documenten wordt ingetrokken, wacht Pollard net zo lang tot bepaalde medewerkers zijn overgeplaatst of vertrokken. Hij wordt dan wel afgeschilderd als een verwend kind dat met geheimen speelt, regelmatig moet Olive echter toegeven dat Pollard een briljant analist is. Pas in de laatste maanden van zijn spionage-activiteiten, lijdt zijn werk onder de operatie om zoveel mogelijk documenten naar buiten te smokkelen.
Waarom Pollard de Amerikaanse overheid schade toebracht, wijdt Olive vooral aan zijn joodse afkomst. Niet dat de schrijver alle joodse Amerikanen verdenkt, maar een belangrijke reden voor het fanatiek lekken wordt verklaard aan de hand van Pollard’s wens om naar Israël te emigreren. Olive gaat echter voorbij aan het geld dat de spion aan zijn activiteiten verdiende. Aanvankelijk 1.500 dollar per maand, na een paar maanden 2.500 en twee volledig verzorgde reizen met zijn vrouw naar Europa en Israël en tot slot een Zwitserse bankrekening met jaarlijks een bonus van 30.000 dollar.
Los van de Zwitserse rekening schat de Amerikaanse overheid dat Pollard rond de 50.000 dollar aan zijn spionagewerk heeft overgehouden. Eigenlijk niet eens veel in vergelijking met de één miljoen documenten die hij leverde. De onderhandelingen over het geld maken echter duidelijk dat Pollard wel degelijk geïnteresseerd was om zoveel mogelijk te verdienen. De prijs werd gedrukt omdat de Israëliërs niet erg toeschietelijk waren en Pollard ze sowieso wilde helpen.
Zijn joodse afkomst zat hem in de weg, want waarschijnlijk had hij alleen al voor het tiendelige boekwerk Radio-Signal Notations (RASIN) 50.000 dollar kunnen krijgen. Uiteindelijk blijkt Pollard een gewoon mens die de verlokking van het geld niet kon weerstaan. Andere agenten zijn hem voorgegaan en hebben zijn voorbeeld gevolgd.
Het nadeel van zijn afkomst blijkt ook uit het feit dat hij zijn Israëlische runner een ‘cadeautje’ gaf. Aviem Sella had mee gevochten in de zesdaagse Yom Kippur oorlog en was een van de piloten die de Iraakse kernreactor in Osirak bombardeerde. Pollard gaf hem destijds satellietbeelden van die aanval. Sella wordt nog steeds gezocht voor Verenigde Staten voor spionage.
De operatie werd door een andere veteraan, Rafi of Rafael Eitan, geleid. Onder diens leiding spoorde de Mossad Adolf Eichmann op. Eitan en Sella werden rijkelijk beloond voor hun werk met Pollard, maar moesten hun promoties inleveren omdat de Amerikanen eind jaren ’80 furieus reageerden. Na de arrestatie van Pollard beweerden de Israëliërs dat ze helemaal niet zoveel documenten hadden gekregen van de spion en de onderhandelingen over teruggave uiterst stroef waren verlopen.
Uiteindelijk werd maar een fractie van de documenten teruggegeven aan de Amerikanen. De Israëliërs waren vooral bezig om na zijn veroordeling Pollard vrij te krijgen. Premier Nethanyahu sprak vorig jaar de Knesset toe over het lot van Pollard, terwijl de Israëlische ambassadeur in de VS hem juli 2011 bezocht in de gevangenis.
Tot nu toe lijken de Amerikanen niet van zins om hem vrij te laten. Na de veroordeling van Pollard kwam de campagne Free Pollard op gang. Zijn vrouw verdween uit beeld. Niet alleen Israëliërs nemen deel aan de campagne, maar ook Alan Dershowitz, professor aan de Harvard Law School en andere academici. In het laatste hoofdstuk More sinned against than sinning beschrijft Olive enkele andere spionnen die documenten verkochten aan buitenlandse mogendheden.
Capturing Jonathan Pollard was nog niet gepubliceerd toen de stroom Wikileaks-documenten op gang kwam. Die documenten laten echter zien dat een waterdicht systeem niet bestaat en dat mensen voor geld of om andere redenen geheime stukken lekken. De Wikileaks-documenten onderstrepen dat er sinds de jaren ’80 weinig is veranderd. Met als enige verschil de hardvochtige wijze waarop verdachte Manning in deze zaak wordt behandeld en de gebrekkige aandacht die hij krijgt van professoren en andere betrokkenen bij de Wikileaks-documenten.
Capturing Jonathan Pollard: How One of the Most Notorious Spies in American History Was Brought to Justice. Auteur Ronald J. Olive. Uitgeverij US Naval Institute Press (2006).
Find this story at 19 June 2012
The Mystery of Duqu 2.0: a sophisticated cyberespionage actor returns New zero-day used for effective kernel memory injection and stealth
July 27, 2015
Earlier this year, during a security sweep, Kaspersky Lab detected a cyber-intrusion affecting several of our internal systems.
Following this finding, we launched a large scale investigation, which led to the discovery of a new malware platform from one of the most skilled, mysterious and powerful groups in the APT world – Duqu. The Duqu threat actor went dark in 2012 and was believed to have stopped working on this project – until now. Our technical analysis indicates the new round of attacks include an updated version of the infamous 2011 Duqu malware, sometimes referred to as the stepbrother of Stuxnet. We named this new malware and its associated platform “Duqu 2.0”.
Some of the new 2014-2015 Duqu infections are linked to the P5+1 events and venues related to the negotiations with Iran about a nuclear deal. The threat actor behind Duqu appears to have launched attacks at the venues for some of these high level talks. In addition to the P5+1 events, the Duqu 2.0 group has launched a similar attack in relation to the 70th anniversary event of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
In the case of Kaspersky Lab, the attack took advantage of a zero-day in the Windows Kernel, and possibly up to two other, currently patched vulnerabilities, which were zero-day at that time. The analysis of the attack revealed that the main goal of the attackers was to spy on Kaspersky Lab technologies, ongoing research and internal processes. No interference with processes or systems was detected. More details can be found in our technical paper.
From a threat actor point of view, the decision to target a world-class security company must be quite difficult. On one hand, it almost surely means the attack will be exposed – it’s very unlikely that the attack will go unnoticed. So the targeting of security companies indicates that either they are very confident they won’t get caught, or perhaps they don’t care much if they are discovered and exposed. By targeting Kaspersky Lab, the Duqu attackers probably took a huge bet hoping they’d remain undiscovered; and lost.
At Kaspersky Lab, we strongly believe in transparency, which is why we are going public with this information. Kaspersky Lab is confident that its clients and partners are safe and that there is no impact on the company’s products, technologies and services.
By GReAT on June 10, 2015. 12:00 pm
Find this story at 10 June 2015
© 2015 AO Kaspersky Lab.
Spy vs. Spy: Espionage and the U.S.-Israel Rift
July 27, 2015
If more evidence was needed to show that the relationship between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama has morphed from tragedy to farce, it came late Monday with the revelation that Israel had spied on the nuclear talks between the United States and Iran.
“The White House discovered the operation,” according to the blockbuster account by Adam Entous in The Wall Street Journal, “when U.S. intelligence agencies spying on Israel intercepted communications among Israeli officials that carried details the U.S. believed could have come only from access to the confidential talks, officials briefed on the matter said.”
Talk about spy vs. spy, the old Mad magazine trope featuring two pointy-nosed, masked cartoon creatures. The National Security Agency, eavesdropping on Israeli officials (as usual, according to the revelations of Edward Snowden), overheard them discussing intelligence their own spies had gathered by spying on U.S. officials talking about the Iran negotiations.
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This was a whole new level of gamesmanship between the two bickering allies.
“It’s one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy,” an unnamed “senior U.S. official” told the Journal.
Officials in Jerusalem issued emphatic denials, as they did last year when Newsweek reported on Israeli espionage against the U.S., saying that “Israel does not spy on the United States, period, exclamation mark,’’ as Yuval Steinitz, minister for intelligence and strategic affairs, told Israel Radio on Tuesday.
Of course, Israel does spy on the U.S., and vice versa. In the age of cyberwar, electronic spying runs on autopilot, with state-of-the-art Pac-Mans zooming around the Internet gobbling up anything with the right keyword. Anybody with an antenna (or a keyboard) spies on whoever is seen as the remotest threat, including friends. Or as the Journal put it, “While U.S. officials may not be direct targets…Israeli intelligence agencies sweep up communications between U.S. officials and parties targeted by the Israelis, including Iran.”
And how did the Israelis intercept conversations between officials in Tehran and Washington? In another comedic dimension to this latest spy flap, it turns out that “U.S. intelligence agencies helped the Israelis build a system to listen in on high-level Iranian communications,” the Journal reported.
In part, it’s an old story. Israel’s clandestine operations to steal U.S. scientific, technical, industrial and financial secrets are so commonplace here that officials in the Pentagon and FBI periodically verge into open revolt.
Last year, U.S. intelligence officials trooped up to Capitol Hill to tell U.S. lawmakers considering visa waivers for Israelis that Jerusalem’s spying here had “crossed red lines.” One congressional staffer who attended the behind-closed-doors briefings called the information “very sobering…alarming…even terrifying.” Another staffer called it “damaging.”
“We used to call the Israelis on the carpet once a year to tell them to cut it out, when a particular stunt was just too outrageous ” says a former top FBI counterintelligence official. “They’d make all the right noises and then go right back at it through another door.” But since Israel is such an important strategic ally of the U.S., it was a sin that could not be named. The standing order has always been to just suck it up.
Until this week. The accusations by the unnamed Obama administration officials marked a new frontier in calling out the Israelis—or at least Netanyahu’s right-wing administration.
Netanyahu had crossed some sort of red line again when, according to the Journal, his man in Washington began quietly sharing Israeli intelligence about the U.S. negotiating position with members of Congress, hoping to shore up support for its rejection of any deal with the Iranians short of a total nuclear capitulation on their part. But what seems to have pushed Obama officials over the edge was that Ambassador Ron Dermer, a former Republican operative who holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, was wildly exaggerating what the U.S. position was, according to the Journal, making it sound like the White House had given away the store to the Iranians in a desperate effort to ink a deal.
Republican Representative Devin Nunes of California, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, indicated he had indeed gotten a different view on Iran from sources outside the administration.
“As good as our intelligence community is, a lot of times we don’t even know what the Iranians are up to,” he told CNN. “So we were shocked at the disclosures that have come forward of the size and scope of the Iranian program even in the most recent years.”
One former U.S. intelligence operative with long, firsthand familiarity with Israeli operations called the revelation “appalling but not surprising,” especially under Netanyahu, whose governing coalition depends on the support of far-right Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox parties with a stake in the West Bank settlements.
“The fact that there is such manipulation of our institutions by a so-called ally must be exposed, and the ‘useful idiots’ in [the U.S.] government who toe the Likud line will someday be looked back upon as men and women who sacrificed the U.S. national interest for a foreign ideology—Likud right-wing Zionism,” the operative said, on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
“We know publicly that the administration is seething,” he added, “but I can assure you that behind closed doors the gloves are coming off. Bibi is in the administration’s crosshairs. If this is what is being allowed to leak publicly, you can bet that, behind the scenes, folks both in the White House and the foreign policy-intel community [are prepared to] act on that anger.”
This is not the end of it, he predicted. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which critics say has morphed from a powerful “pro-Israel” lobby to a powerful pro-Likud lobby over the years, will be Obama officials’ next target.
“I’m betting there are going to be some willing leakers now about stories such as AIPAC’s operations against Congress,” the former operative said.
Bob Corker of Tennessee, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has no doubt that Obama administration officials made a calculated decision to call out Netanyahu, who has long been at odds with the White House on the Middle East peace process, Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Iranian nuclear talks.
“I think y’all all understand what’s happening here,” he told reporters. “I mean, you understand who’s pushing this out.”
But if Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, is any barometer, the Israelis have little to worry about.
“I just don’t look at that as spying,” Kaine said of the Journal’s allegations. “Their deep existential interest in such a deal, that they would try to figure out anything that they could, that they would have an opinion on it…I don’t find any of that that controversial.”
Jeff Stein writes SpyTalk from Washington, D.C. He can be reached more or less confidentially via firstname.lastname@example.org.
BY JEFF STEIN 3/25/15 AT 12:23 PM
Find this story at 25 March 2015
© 2015 NEWSWEEK LLC
NETANYAHU’S SPYING DENIALS CONTRADICTED BY SECRET NSA DOCUMENTS
July 27, 2015
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday vehemently denied a Wall Street Journal report, leaked by the Obama White House, that Israel spied on U.S. negotiations with Iran and then fed the intelligence to Congressional Republicans. His office’s denial was categorical and absolute, extending beyond this specific story to U.S.-targeted spying generally, claiming: “The state of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel’s other allies.”
Israel’s claim is not only incredible on its face. It is also squarely contradicted by top-secret NSA documents, which state that Israel targets the U.S. government for invasive electronic surveillance, and does so more aggressively and threateningly than almost any other country in the world. Indeed, so concerted and aggressive are Israeli efforts against the U.S. that some key U.S. government documents — including the top secret 2013 intelligence budget — list Israel among the U.S.’s most threatening cyber-adversaries and as a “hostile” foreign intelligence service.
One top-secret 2008 document features an interview with the NSA’s Global Capabilities Manager for Countering Foreign Intelligence, entitled “Which Foreign Intelligence Service Is the Biggest Threat to the US?” He repeatedly names Israel as one of the key threats.
While noting that Russia and China do the most effective spying on U.S., he says that “Israel also targets us.” He explains that “A NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] ranked [Israel] as the third most aggressive intelligence service against the US.” While praising the surveillance relationship with Israel as highly valuable, he added: “One of NSA’s biggest threats is actually from friendly intelligence services, like Israel.” Specifically, the Israelis “target us to learn our positions on Middle East problems.”
Other NSA documents voice the grievance that Israel gets far more out of the intelligence-sharing relationship than the U.S. does. One top-secret 2007 document, entitled “History of the US – Israel SIGINT Relationship, post 1992,” describes the cooperation that takes place as highly productive and valuable, and, indeed, top-secret documents previously reported by The Intercept and the Guardian leave no doubt about the very active intelligence-sharing relationship that takes place between the two countries. Yet that same document complains that the relationship even after 9/11 was almost entirely one-sided in favor of serving Israeli rather than U.S. interests:
The U.S. perception of Israel as a threat as much as an ally is also evidenced by the so-called “black budget” of 2013, previously referenced by The Washington Post, which lists Israel in multiple places as a key intelligence “target” and even a “hostile foreign intelligence service” among several other countries typically thought of as the U.S.’s most entrenched adversaries:
The same budget document reveals that the CIA regards Israel — along with Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan and Cuba — as a “priority threat country,” one against which it “conduct[s] offensive [counter-intelligence] operations in collaboration with DoD”:
One particular source of concern for U.S. intelligence are the means used by Israel to “influence anti-regime elements in Iran,” including its use of “propaganda and other active measures”:
What is most striking about all of this is the massive gap between (a) how American national security officials talk privately about the Israelis and (b) how they have talked for decades about the Israelis for public consumption — at least until the recent change in public rhetoric from Obama officials about Israel, which merely brings publicly expressed American views more in line with how U.S. government officials have long privately regarded their “ally.” The NSA refused to comment for this article.
Previously reported stories on Israeli spying, by themselves, leave no doubt how false Netanyahu’s statement is. A Der Spiegel article from last fall revealed that “Israeli intelligence eavesdropped on US Secretary of State John Kerry during Middle East peace negotiations.” A Le Monde article described how NSA documents strongly suggest that a massive computer hack of the French presidential palace in 2012 was likely carried about by the Israelis. A 2014 article from Newsweek’s Jeff Stein revealed that when it comes to surveillance, “the Jewish state’s primary target” is “America’s industrial and technical secrets” and that “Israel’s espionage activities in America are unrivaled and unseemly.”
All of these stories, along with these new documents, leave no doubt that, at least as the NSA and other parts of the U.S. National Security State see it, Netanyahu’s denials are entirely false: The Israelis engage in active and aggressive espionage against the U.S., even as the U.S. feeds the Israelis billions of dollars every year in U.S. taxpayer funds and protects every Israeli action at the U.N. Because of the U.S. perception of Israel as a “threat” and even a “hostile” foreign intelligence service — facts they discuss only privately, never publicly — the U.S. targets Israel for all sorts of espionage as well.
Glenn Greenwald, Andrew Fishman
Mar. 25 2015, 8:06 p.m.
Find this story at 25 March 2015
Israeli TV Says US Has Stopped Sharing Intelligence About Iranian Nuclear Program With Israel
July 27, 2015
Report: Obama Administration Has Stopped Sharing Intelligence With Israel on Iran’s Nuclear Program
The Obama administration has “unilaterally” and “completely” stopped sharing intelligence with Israel over Iran’s nuclear development program due to its anger over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Tuesday address to Congress, Israel’s Channel 10 reported, a charge the White House flatly denied.
“The U.S. unilaterally stopped all of its joint activity with Israel regarding the nuclearization of Iran,” the news show reported Monday night. This freeze in intelligence sharing was attributed to the “American anger” at Netanyahu.
White House national security spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan told TheBlaze in an email, “the report is completely false.”
In this Oct. 26, 2010 file photo, a worker rides a bicycle in front of the reactor building of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, just outside the southern city of Bushehr, Iran. (AP Photo/Mehr News Agency, Majid Asgaripour, File)
On Sunday, one day before the Channel 10 report, Secretary of State John Kerry touted the close security relationship with Israel in an interview with ABC’s “This Week.”
“We have a closer relationship with Israel right now, in terms of security, than at anytime in history,” Kerry said.
To make up for the gap, Israel is cooperating with other countries, not the U.S., to collect intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program. Past joint efforts by American and Israeli intelligence have helped the International Atomic Energy Agency monitor Iran’s nuclear progress, which is suspected of ultimately being aimed at the development of weapons.
Those IAEA reports raising suspicions about the objectives of Iran’s nuclear program have been the cornerstone of the case to convince the international community to impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Netanyahu was in Washington to warn lawmakers of the dangers of the emerging deal currently being negotiated between Iran and six world powers, including the U.S. Media reports have said the framework being worked out would monitor Iranian nuclear progress for only 10 years.
An unnamed senior aide to Netanyahu told reporters traveling on Netanyahu’s plane Sunday that the Obama administration was not fully sharing details with Congress about the negotiations.
The State Department on Monday warned Netanyahu against disclosing those details to Congress.
“We’ve continuously provided detailed classified briefings to Israeli officials to keep them updated and to provide context for how we are approaching getting to a good deal, because we’ve been very clear we will not accept a bad deal,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. “So any release of any kind of information like that would, of course, betray that trust.”
Channel 10 also reported that in addition to refusing to meet the Israeli leader, Obama had no plans to phone him while he’s in town either.
The Jerusalem Post reported that the prime minister’s office would not comment on the Channel 10 report.
March 3, 2015
Find this story at 3 March 2015
Leak investigation stalls amid fears of confirming U.S.-Israel operation
July 27, 2015
A sensitive leak investigation of a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has stalled amid concerns that a prosecution in federal court could force the government to confirm a joint U.S.-Israeli covert operation targeting Iran, according to current and former U.S. officials.
Federal investigators suspect that retired Marine Gen. James E. “Hoss” Cartwright leaked to a New York Times reporter details about a highly classified operation to hobble Iran’s nuclear enrichment capability through cyber-sabotage — an effort not acknowledged by Israel or the United States.
Prosecutors will have to overcome significant national security and diplomatic concerns if they want to move forward, including pitting the Obama administration against Israel if that ally were opposed to any information about the cyber-operation being revealed in court.
The United States could move forward with the case against Israel’s wishes, but such a move might further harm relations between two countries, which are already frayed because of a disagreement over how best to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Administration officials also fear that any revelations could complicate the current negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.
“There are always legitimate national security reasons for not proceeding in one of these cases,” said John L. Martin, who handled many sensitive espionage investigations as a former Justice Department prosecutor.
The case captures the tension between national security concerns and the desire of prosecutors to hold high-ranking officials to account for leaking classified secrets. The Obama administration has been the most aggressive in U.S. history in pursuing those suspected of leaking classified information.
The Justice Department has offered no clues to whether it intends to proceed with a case against Cartwright, who helped design the cyber-campaign against Iran under President George W. Bush and was involved in its escalation under President Obama.
Spokesmen for the Justice Department, the White House and the FBI declined to comment for this article.
Gregory B. Craig, Cartwright’s attorney and a former White House counsel in the Obama administration, said he has had no contact with prosecutors for more than a year.
“General Cartwright has done nothing wrong,” Craig said. “He has devoted his entire life to defending the United States. He would never do anything to weaken our national defense or undermine our national security. Hoss Cartwright is a national treasure, a genuine hero and a great patriot.”
In discussions with the office of the White House counsel, then led by Kathryn Ruemmler, prosecutors sought to determine whether the White House would be willing to declassify material important to the case. Ruemmler was unwilling to provide the documentation, citing security concerns, including those relating to sources and methods, said a person familiar with the matter.
Ruemmler, who left the post in June, declined to comment.
“There’s a fundamental tension in cases like this between the needs of a criminal prosecution and the needs of national security,” said Jason Weinstein, a former deputy assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, who was not briefed on the investigation. “Where that comes to a head is when prosecutors want to use evidence in a courtroom that is highly classified and very sensitive.”
It is often the case that the needs of a particular criminal prosecution yield to national security interests. “At the end of the day,” Weinstein said, “if you can’t use the evidence you need in court, you can’t bring the case.”
Details of the joint program, including its code name, Olympic Games, were revealed by Times reporter David E. Sanger in a book and article in June 2012. The sabotage of Iranian nuclear centrifuges by the computer worm dubbed Stuxnet had emerged two years earlier, and security experts speculated that it was the work of the United States and Israel.
Confirmation of the joint authorship set off a political controversy, with congressional Republicans charging that the White House had deliberately leaked information to enhance Obama’s national security credentials as he sought reelection.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. assigned Rod J. Rosenstein, the U.S. attorney for Maryland, to investigate the leak. His office declined to comment.
FBI investigators focused on Cartwright in the fall of 2012, officials said. They interviewed him at least twice, according to people who are familiar with the case and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation. During the first interview, Cartwright had to go to the hospital.
Part of the challenge of preparing a case like this is determining to what extent authorities who control the declassification of information, in this case the White House and the intelligence community, are willing to divulge information.
In the case of a CIA officer who was recently convicted of espionage, the government disclosed sensitive details during the leak trial about a separate operation to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program that occurred more than a decade ago. The CIA even allowed a Russian scientist who had defected and taken part in the highly classified operation to testify.
“The government’s got to make a choice: Is it more important to prosecute a national security leak or more important to preserve relationships with allies and shield sources and methods that protect the country?” said one individual familiar with the matter.
The case also poses opportunities for “graymail” — a situation in which defense attorneys exercise leverage that lawyers in ordinary criminal cases lack by forcing prosecutors to make tough judgment calls about divulging sensitive or classified information.
Craig might, for instance, push for broad discovery of information aimed at demonstrating that other officials could have been sources of the leak. Experts say he also could press to establish the factual basis for the information leaked, which could expose sensitive material.
Cartwright, who retired in 2011, had White House authorization to speak with reporters, according to people familiar with the matter. Craig might try to put the White House’s relationship with reporters and the use of authorized leaks on display, creating a potentially embarrassing distraction for the administration.
The case could remain open beyond the point at which national security and foreign policy concerns are an issue. Under the Espionage Act, one of the statutes that the government probably would use, prosecutors have 10 years from the date of the alleged crime to file charges.
Sari Horwitz contributed to this report.
By Ellen Nakashima and Adam Goldman March 10
Find this story at 10 March 2015
Israel’s N.S.A. Scandal
July 27, 2015
WASHINGTON — IN Moscow this summer, while reporting a story for Wired magazine, I had the rare opportunity to hang out for three days with Edward J. Snowden. It gave me a chance to get a deeper understanding of who he is and why, as a National Security Agency contractor, he took the momentous step of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents.
Among his most shocking discoveries, he told me, was the fact that the N.S.A. was routinely passing along the private communications of Americans to a large and very secretive Israeli military organization known as Unit 8200. This transfer of intercepts, he said, included the contents of the communications as well as metadata such as who was calling whom.
Typically, when such sensitive information is transferred to another country, it would first be “minimized,” meaning that names and other personally identifiable information would be removed. But when sharing with Israel, the N.S.A. evidently did not ensure that the data was modified in this way.
Mr. Snowden stressed that the transfer of intercepts to Israel contained the communications — email as well as phone calls — of countless Arab- and Palestinian-Americans whose relatives in Israel and the Palestinian territories could become targets based on the communications. “I think that’s amazing,” he told me. “It’s one of the biggest abuses we’ve seen.”
It appears that Mr. Snowden’s fears were warranted. Last week, 43 veterans of Unit 8200 — many still serving in the reserves — accused the organization of startling abuses. In a letter to their commanders, to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to the head of the Israeli army, they charged that Israel used information collected against innocent Palestinians for “political persecution.” In testimonies and interviews given to the media, they specified that data were gathered on Palestinians’ sexual orientations, infidelities, money problems, family medical conditions and other private matters that could be used to coerce Palestinians into becoming collaborators or create divisions in their society.
The veterans of Unit 8200 declared that they had a “moral duty” to no longer “take part in the state’s actions against Palestinians.” An Israeli military spokesman disputed the letter’s overall drift but said the charges would be examined.
It should trouble the American public that some or much of the information in question — intended not for national security purposes but simply to pursue political agendas — may have come directly from the N.S.A.’s domestic dragnet. According to documents leaked by Mr. Snowden and reported by the British newspaper The Guardian, the N.S.A. has been sending intelligence to Israel since at least March 2009.
The memorandum of agreement between the N.S.A. and its Israeli counterpart covers virtually all forms of communication, including but not limited to “unevaluated and unminimized transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence metadata and content.” The memo also indicates that the N.S.A. does not filter out American communications before delivery to Israel; indeed, the agency “routinely sends” unminimized data.
Although the memo emphasizes that Israel should make use of the intercepts in accordance with United States law, it also notes that the agreement is legally unenforceable. “This agreement,” it reads, “is not intended to create any legally enforceable rights and shall not be construed to be either an international agreement or a legally binding instrument according to international law.”
Continue reading the main story
pak September 17, 2014
What type of information could be used against a palestinian to force him/her to collaborate? Homosexuality? Adultery? Premarital sex?…
kagni September 17, 2014
Very romantic to ignore that ugly breeds ugly, especially from a journalist of Mr Bamford’s age and experience. If anything, only…
Guy September 17, 2014
Clearly, there are thousands of ways to abuse private information collected on people. This is one of many, and this is why folks like…
SEE ALL COMMENTS
It should also trouble Americans that the N.S.A. could head down a similar path in this country. Indeed, there is some indication, from a top-secret 2012 document from Mr. Snowden’s leaked files that I saw last year, that it already is. The document, from Gen. Keith B. Alexander, then the director of the N.S.A., notes that the agency had been compiling records of visits to pornographic websites and proposes using that information to damage the reputations of people whom the agency considers “radicalizers” — not necessarily terrorists, but those attempting, through the use of incendiary speech, to radicalize others. (The Huffington Post has published a redacted version of the document.)
In Moscow, Mr. Snowden told me that the document reminded him of the F.B.I.’s overreach during the days of J. Edgar Hoover, when the bureau abused its powers to monitor and harass political activists. “It’s much like how the F.B.I. tried to use Martin Luther King’s infidelity to talk him into killing himself,” he said. “We said those kinds of things were inappropriate back in the ’60s. Why are we doing that now? Why are we getting involved in this again?”
It’s a question that American and Israeli citizens should be asking themselves.
James Bamford is the author of three books on the National Security Agency, including “The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret N.S.A. from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America.”
By JAMES BAMFORDSEPT. 16, 2014
Find this story at 16 September 2014
© 2015 The New York Times Company
Israel Eavesdropped on John Kerry in Mideast Talks
July 27, 2015
New information indicates that Israeli intelligence eavesdropped on telephone conversations by US Secretary of State John Kerry. Sources told SPIEGEL the government then used the information obtained from the calls during negotiations in the Mideast conflict.
SPIEGEL has learned from reliable sources that Israeli intelligence eavesdropped on US Secretary of State John Kerry during Middle East peace negotiations. In addition to the Israelis, at least one other intelligence service also listened in as Kerry mediated last year between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab states, several intelligence service sources told SPIEGEL. Revelations of the eavesdropping could further damage already tense relations between the US government and Israel.
During the peak stage of peace talks last year, Kerry spoke regularly with high-ranking negotiating partners in the Middle East. At the time, some of these calls were not made on encrypted equipment, but instead on normal telephones, with the conversations transmitted by satellite. Intelligence agencies intercepted some of those calls. The government in Jerusalem then used the information obtained in international negotiations aiming to reach a diplomatic solution in the Middle East.
In the current Gaza conflict, the Israelis have massively criticized Kerry, with a few ministers indirectly calling on him to withdraw from peace talks. Both the US State Department and the Israeli authorities declined to comment.
Only one week ago, Kerry flew to Israel to mediate between the conflict parties, but the Israelis brusquely rejected a draft proposal for a cease-fire. The plan reportedly didn’t include any language demanding that Hamas abandon its rocket arsenal and destroy its tunnel system. Last year, Kerry undertook intensive diplomatic efforts to seek a solution in the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, but they ultimately failed. Since those talks, relations between Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been tense.
Still, there are no doubts about fundamental support for Israel on the part of the United States. On Friday, the US Congress voted to help fund Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defense system to the tune of $225 million (around €168 million).
Find this story at 3 August 2014
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The officer who saw behind the top-secret curtain<< oudere artikelen nieuwere artikelen >>
July 27, 2015
From supporting Yemeni Royalists to a proposal for the assassination Iran’s Khomenei, former military intelligence officer Yossi Alpher had a behind-the-scenes look at some of the IDF’s most classified operations; now he explains the covert strategies that guided Israeli intelligence for decades.
In the mid-1960s, Lieutenant Yossi Alpher served as a junior officer in one of the Israel Defense Forces’ most classified units – the Military Intelligence unit responsible for liaising with Israel’s other intelligence bodies, the Shin Bet security service and the Mossad.
He was entrusted with a secret task: “I had to go under the cover of darkness to the Israel Air Forces’ Tel-Nof base,” he recalls during an interview, “and meticulously check through huge piles of military equipment, and weapons and ammunition in particular, to ensure they bore no distinguishing Israeli marks – no IDF symbol, no Hebrew letters, nothing that would be able to link the equipment to us even if someone were to go through it with a fine-tooth comb.”
On completing his inspection, Alpher signed off on a document to confirm that everything was in order, and the equipment and weapons were then loaded onto an IAF cargo aircraft and flown to a destination that only very few in Israel knew of. Even the name of the operation, Rotev (Hebrew for gravy) was top secret.
In those days, as is the case now too, Yemen was embroiled in a fierce civil war – between the Royalists (the Shia Zaidis, the Houthis of today) and the so-called Republican rebels, who were being supported by Egypt and the Soviets. Back then in the mid-1960s, however, the Royalists had the backing in fact of Saudi Arabia.
“The Saudis didn’t care that they were Shia, whose descendants are the ones supporting Iran today,” Alpher says. “It was important for them to preserve their influence in Yemen and oppose the Soviet-Egyptian intervention.”
The Saudis turned for help to Britain, where former members of the Special Air Service (SAS) – the elite British army unit- were recruited for the mission. Operating out of their headquarters in London and bases in Aden, Yemen, the SAS veterans sought help in turn from Israel, the strongest power in the region and Egypt’s main enemy.
At the same time, a representative of Imam al-Badr, leader of the Royalists in Yemen, made direct contact with Mossad operatives in Europe and was even brought to Israel for a visit. The operation was conducted over a period of slightly more than two years, during which an IAF Stratocruiser cargo aircraft made 14 dangerous nighttime sorties from Tel-Nof to Yemen – a 14-hour round trip. From an altitude of some 3,600 meters, Egyptian weapons seized during the 1956 Sinai Campaign were accurately parachuted into wadis surrounded by high mountains controlled by the Royalists.
Alpher says that in order to carry out the initial parachute drops in the proper fashion, and to ensure that the equipment ended up in the right place and right hands, two members of Caesarea, the Mossad’s special-operations division, were sent to Yemen in coordination with the British intelligence services. One of the Caesarea operatives fell ill on the way and was forced to pull out. The second made it to the drop site and guided the aircraft in for the initial deliveries.
Once everything was running smoothly, the Mossad stepped back and the logistics of the remaining drops were handled by the British. Even now, years later, it’s easy to grasp the intensity of the drama, the risk, the secrecy and the significance of the Israeli-British-Saudi-Yemeni operation of that time.
The operation was coordinated in Israel by Nahum Admoni, who went on to become Mossad chief from 1982 to 1989; the British, for their part, sent two senior SAS members to Israel, one by the name of the Gene and the other Tony – and hence the unofficial codename for the operation, “Gin and Tonic”.
Alpher: “Presumably, only a very few in Saudi Arabia knew of Israel’s involvement. The Yemenis didn’t know who was parachuting equipment to them, but it had a big impact on the war there and the damage caused to the rebels and the Egyptian forces.”
What was the objective of the operation from Israel’s perspective?
“The main objective was to pin down and wear out Egyptian forces. We’re talking about the period between the Sinai Campaign and the Six-Day War. We knew there was another war coming. We also knew that the Egyptians were using mustard gas in Yemen. That frightened us a great deal. We were concerned that we would struggle to cope with such an army and such a weapon in the next military campaign.
“And lo and behold, we were presented with the opportunity to strike at them and wear them down in a place where they least expected us to appear. In addition, we ended up with some intelligence from the Mossad’s activities in Yemen and better relations with the British and the Saudis. Not bad, right? Moreover, we didn’t invest all that much; the weapons were Egyptian spoils-of-war that fell into our hands in the 1956 war.”
The operation was going ahead so successfully that at one stage the IAF considered carrying out an attack on Egyptian aircraft stationed at their bases in Yemen, as an act of deterrence that would damage the reputation of then-Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser. The plan was eventually scrapped.
“And good that it was,” Alpher says, “because it allowed us to notch up a complete surprise later on, when the IAF carried out strikes on the Egyptian aircraft at their bases in Egypt on the morning of June 5, 1967.”
That said, Alpher believes that the operation can be crowned a big success, as it pinned down Egyptian forces in Yemen and severely undermined the fighting spirit of the Egyptian Army ahead of the Six-Day War. “We learned from prisoners we captured in the Sinai,” he says, “just how much the events in Yemen negatively impacted the mood and readiness of the Egyptian Army.”
The full extent of Operation Rotev, from the mouths of Israeli sources, has been released for publication and appears for the first time in Alpher’s book, Periphery: Israel’s Search for Middle East Allies (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015; the Hebrew edition has a slightly different title).
A long-serving Mossad official who went on to head the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, Alpher has written a comprehensive study, in part as an active player with firsthand knowledge, and in part based on interviews he conducted and documents he collected about the “Periphery doctrine” – Israel’s covert strategy in the region, with the Mossad operations at its center.
The general strategy of the “Periphery doctrine” was devised by Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. Its implementation was entrusted initially to the Mossad’s founder and first director, Reuven Shiloah, and then the Mossad chiefs to follow.
What is the so-called Periphery doctrine?
“It was the Israeli attempt to breach the hostile Arab ring surrounding us and to forge ties further afield, with the purpose of creating deterrence, acquiring intelligence assets, and counterbalancing the Arab hostility.
“Nasser spoke regularly of his desire to throw the Jews into the sea. The Mossad looked for allies to offset this desire and be able to say: We’re not alone. At the same time, we took advantage of these ties to gather intelligence about Arab states, in places where they least expected us to show up, to pin down and wear down Arab forces there, and to use our ties with countries in the region as an asset to present to the Americans.”
With this strategy in mind, the Mossad sought to forge intimate intelligence ties with countries bordering on Israel’s close-quarter enemies, even if the said countries publicly toed the line with the Arab states and condemned Israel in the international arena. Israelis gathered and obtained intelligence on Arab countries in the outlying countries with which secret ties were established; and in return, Israel provided training services, information, arms and sophisticated electronic equipment.
Alpher divides the periphery, from the Mossad’s perspective, into three categories. Included in the first were the non-Arab and/or non-Muslim states that bordered on the Arab conflict states – Iran, Ethiopia, Turkey, Eritrea, and Kenya and Uganda at the rear.
The second comprised non-Arab and non-Muslim ethnic groups and peoples living in the Arab conflict states – the Christians in southern Sudan and in Lebanon, and the Kurds in Iraq. And the third category was made up of Arab countries on the margins of the Middle East that felt that militant Arab nationalism was a threat to them or wanted ties with Israel in light of local or regional circumstances – Morocco, some of the Gulf States, and, for a short time, Yemen.
Alpher also talks of the ideological element that drove the system. “There were certainly instances, particularly when it came to providing help to minorities suffering at the hands of the Arabs, in which there was also an ideological component,” he says. “I remember my colleagues and I at the Mossad seeing ourselves, the Jews, as the only ethnic minority in the Middle East that has achieved self-determination and that needs to help other ethnic minorities that are up against imperialistic and extremely cruel Arab hostility. We felt a moral obligation to help them.
“When (Mossad official) David Kimche, for example, went to meet Kurdish leader Mullah Mustafa Barzani in Iraq in 1965, what did he see? What did he encounter? Dave saw an extremely downtrodden people who were suffering terribly under shocking Arab oppression. You cannot help but identify with them.”
Israel’s covert military and intelligence activities throughout the entire Middle East region were carried out for the most part by small forces and on a shoestring budget, in keeping with the country’s limited resources, and the jury is still out when it comes to the quality of the intelligence gathered; but as Alpher views things, these issues are dwarfed by the manner in which the Mossad’s activities were perceived by the other side. In the eyes of the enemy, the Arab states, the Mossad’s influence and capabilities increased beyond measure.
“In talks years later with Arab officials,” Alpher says, “I got an understanding of how the other side had viewed the whole issue. They saw our presence in those countries as an extremely powerful and direct threat to themselves. Thus, for example, they viewed our presence in southern Sudan and Ethiopia as a direct threat to the source of the Nile River.
“Israel never considered tampering with the Nile, and it’s impossible to do so from an engineering perspective too; but the Egyptians didn’t see it like that, and they interpreted the fact that the IDF and Mossad were so close to their lifeline very differently – as an Israeli attempt to say to them that we are breathing down their necks. And thus it contributed to peace: They understood that they wouldn’t be able to defeat us by means of an armed conflict.”
The Trident alliance
The highpoint of the “Periphery doctrine” was the tripartite intelligence pact involving Israel, Turkey and Iran – known in the Mossad as C’lil but termed Trident among the partners. The Turkish-Israeli part of the pact was sealed during a secret agreement in Ankara on August 20, 1958, between Ben-Gurion and the Turkish prime minister at the time, Adnan Menderes.
The catalyst for the Turks occurred a month earlier: In July, a coup d’etat led by Abd al-Karim Qasim toppled the Hashemite monarchy in Iraq and brought about Iraq’s withdrawal from the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) – a secret pro-Western alliance formed in 1955 between the United Kingdom, Turkey, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq – and its inclusion in the pro-Soviet radical camp.
“At the first trilateral meeting between the sides that took place in Turkey in late September and early October of 1958,” Alpher reveals, “the participants – all heads of their respective countries’ spy agencies – decided on a series of joint intelligence operations that included subversive activities directed against Nasser’s influence and the influence of the Soviets. They divided the region into realms of responsibility for each of the parties. The Iranian intelligence service, for example, was entrusted with the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Morocco.”
The American dimension was critical too. “As soon as we completed the establishment of Trident, we ran to tell the Americans about it,” Alpher says. “We bragged; look, we’ve put together a NATO pact of our own. To begin with, Ben-Gurion marketed Trident to the Eisenhower administration in Washington as an asset for the West.
“He portrayed the alliance as an effective means to thwart Soviet infiltration into the Middle East, and also as a counterbalance against the radical Arab states, especially after Iraq’s withdrawal from the Baghdad Pact.”
The Central Intelligence Agency didn’t remain indifferent. On a deserted hill north of Tel Aviv, the US agency financed the construction of a two-story building intended to serve as Trident headquarters. “The ground floor included a ‘Blue Wing’ for the use of the Iranians and a ‘Yellow Wing’ for the Turks, with the conference rooms on the second floor,” Alpher recalls.
Later came accommodation facilities, a fully equipped kitchen, a swimming pool, a plush movie theater and a gym – all for the purpose of secretly hosting high-ranking foreign officials in style, in keeping at least with what Israel could offer and afford at the time. “Bobby, an excellent chef, served non-kosher Hungarian food and the guests were very satisfied,” Alpher notes.
From the late 1950s and through to the Khomeini revolution in 1979, the meetings between the heads of the three intelligence services were held in a different country every time. Alpher attended some of the sessions. “Every meeting would begin with a festive reception that was followed by a ceremonial meeting in the presence of the heads of the services themselves,” Alpher recounts.
“I remember the excitement that gripped me when I arrived for my first meeting and was introduced to General Nassiri, the awe-inspiring commander of the SAVAK, the shah’s intelligence agency. He showed up in uniform, surrounded by an aura of fear and mystery.
“At the initial meetings, the heads (of the intelligence agencies) would first present their notes and papers that included matters of principle, and then the participants would break away into discussion groups in which intelligence and ideas were exchanged. It was a huge achievement for Israel, less so because of the quality of the intelligence presented – our capabilities were usually a lot higher – and more so due to the very existence of such an alliance under Israeli auspices.”
At the same time, in 1959, Israeli and Turkish military leaders – with Israel represented by then-chief of staff Haim Laskov – met in Istanbul to plan a joint military campaign against Syria. The joint operation didn’t materialize, but cooperation between the parties grew ever stronger.
Over and above the trilateral meetings that took place twice a year, the alliance also involved the exchange of intelligence on an almost-daily basis. “As a Military Intelligence officer, I remember we used to receive daily reports on the passage of Soviet vessels through the Dardanelles Strait,” Alpher says. “This was of dual importance – firstly, it was information about Soviet supplies to the Arab states; and secondly, it was information we could share with the CIA.”
The Iran-Israel cooperation was even more active: Jews who had fled Iraq for Iran via the Kurdish region in northern Iraq went on from there to Israel; IDF officers trained Iranian forces and Israel sold arms to Iran; in 1958, Iranian weapons were supplied via Israel to conservative Shia groups in southern Lebanon; and on behalf of the Iranians, Israeli intelligence officials set up a body that was responsible for recruiting and handling agents, with its efforts focused on Iraq and also countering Nasser’s subversive activities among the Arabs of the Khuzestan Province in southwest Iran.
Since the Trident building on the hilltop north of Tel Aviv remained vacant most days of the year, then-Mossad director Meir Amit decided to turn it into a training college named after Mossad agent Eli Cohen, who was executed in Damascus.
On several occasions over the years, the Mossad requested approval to refurbish the building or even demolish it completely, but the Tel Aviv Municipality declared it a heritage site due to its unique architecture – and thus it remained standing. Those Yellow and Blue rooms, painted many times since in different colors, would go on to serve as the location for some of the most dramatic meetings in Israel’s history, both with foreign officials and among Israeli leaders.
In 2010, the building hosted the series of lengthy and controversial discussions convened by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-defense minister Ehud Barak on the option of carrying out a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. And that’s just one example.
The intelligence cooperation with Iran fitted in well with Israel’s support of the Kurds in Iraq, one of the goals of which was to cause as much significant damage as possible to the hostile Iraqi Army.
The CIA financed a large portion of the Mossad’s activities with the Kurds; and later, as a Mossad official, Alpher, who was born in the United States and is fluent in English, was instructed to prepare the Israeli agency’s request for additional funding from its American counterpart. “We ceremoniously presented them with all the intelligence reports the Kurds had provided, along with information on the extent of the assistance they had received, the extent of the damage they had caused to the Iraqi forces, and so on,” Alpher recalls.
One of the tasks assigned to Alpher with respect to the Kurds left him feeling uncomfortable; he was asked to review a Kurdish request to plan the demolition of two dams in northern Iraq. “Implementation of such a plan would have led to catastrophic strategic and legal implications,” Alpher says, noting that Israeli experts he met with at the time had told that blowing up the dams would flood Baghdad entirely and cause the death of numerous people. “In the end,” he says, “we informed Barzani, via the Mossad team in Kurdistan, that we were opposed to the operation for humanitarian reasons.”
A second task was more straightforward, from a moral standpoint at least. “I approached Colonel David Laskov (commander at the time of the Engineering Corps’ research and development unit) and asked him to build Katyusha rocket launchers that could be carried by mules,” Alpher recounts.
“A week later, Laskov invited me to a firing range in the Negev. On arrival, I found a mule with a sled-like metal frame of sorts on its back, the size of a full briefcase; and in it were Katyushas of the kind that we were about to send to the Kurds. Laskov demonstrated how to tie the ‘saddle’ to the mule, to dismantle it, to position it on the ground, to aim and to launch the rocket.”
A month later, the Kurds deployed the launchers and rockets in Kirkuk, causing extensive damage to the Iraqi oil facilities there.
Another major operation carried out by the Mossad during the same period, in the late 1960s, involved assistance in the form of the weapons, food, equipment and training for the Anyanya, the Christian underground in southern Sudan. Under the leadership of Mossad operative David Ben Uziel, a series of three-man Israeli delegations were sent to southern Sudan to train the separatist army, coordinate the delivery of weapons and equipment (with the support of IAF cargo aircraft), and oversee a humanitarian mission that involved the establishment of a field hospital at which an Israeli medical team treated the sick and wounded and vaccinated thousands of children in the area against smallpox and yellow fever.
Alpher: “The operation was a resounding success. Sudanese President Nimeiri, frustrated by his army’s defeats, offered the South autonomy in 1972. A guerilla war, orchestrated by a junior commander from a minority tribe who operated with the help of Israel, laid the foundations for a new African country (from 2011) free of the Arab threat. At one point in 1970, we did the math and found that the total cost of the Israeli operation in southern Sudan was less than the price of a single Mirage III fighter plane – the French aircraft used at that time by the Israel Air Force against Egypt and Sudan on the Suez Canal front.”
Rabin in a blonde wig
Israel’s relations with Morocco are another layer in the Periphery alliance. Israel helped the Moroccan intelligence agency to set up its bodyguards unit and others, including a sophisticated technologically division. And in return, the Moroccans provided Israel with first-grade intelligence, including intimate access to the deliberations of the Arab Summit Conference in Casablanca in September 1965.
Another important element in the ties with Morocco came some 12 years later, when the North African state served as the stage for arranging then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem, with Morocco’s King Hassan as the mediator.
Alpher: “A meeting between the king and Mossad chief Yitzhak Hofi led to another royal meeting, this time with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who arrived in Morocco incognito and wearing a blonde wig. Rabin left Hassan with a series of questions for Egyptian President Anwar Sadat with regard to the possibility of a breakthrough towards peace.
At the next meeting, Hofi held talks with Hassan Tuhami, Sadat’s deputy, and this paved the way for a meeting between Tuhami and Moshe Dayan, foreign minister in (Menachem) Begin’s government. For his secret trip to Morocco, Dayan removed his eye patch and wore a fedora hat. Mossad officials who saw his passport photo couldn’t believe it was Dayan.”
Following the signing of the peace treaty with Egypt, one of Alpher’s assignments in the Mossad’s research division involved efforts to identify “signs of peace” among other Arab entities – a lesson learned after portions of the intelligence community were caught by surprise by Sadat’s daring initiative.
Alpher didn’t really find any signs of peace to speak of; but he did discover Israeli blindness in another region under his purview – Iran. “We were so obsessed about trying to preserve our ties with the Iranian shah, who blew hot and cold in his attitude towards us,” Alpher says, “and we so wanted to woo and appease him that we didn’t think about or try to understand what was really happening in Iran – whether the opposition movement stands a chance, or whether we could link up with them not at the expense of our relations with the shah. It was a terrible mistake. We should have known much more about our allies in the periphery, especially when it came to dictatorships.”
With the fires of the revolution growing ever-more intense in Tehran and elsewhere in the country, Alpher was put in charge of the Iranian file in the Mossad’s research unit. “And that’s when I discover the terrible ignorance,” he says. “Despite the fact that we were invested up to our necks in that country, with 1,500 Israelis working and living there, we knew almost nothing about the opposition – a long line of high-ranking Israeli officials who had served in Iran and were sure they knew it like the back of their hand and that Iran would always remain friendly towards us.”
In mid-January, Alpher was summoned urgently to the office of Mossad chief Hofi. “They told me to come immediately – right now, drop everything and go up to Hofi,” he recalls.
With several of the intelligence agency’s top brass in attendance, Hofi briefly laid out the reason for the meeting. A little while earlier, the director said, the secular prime minister appointed by the shah to govern Iran in his stead, Shapour Bakhtiar, had approached the head of the Mossad’s Tehran branch, Eliezer Tsafrir, with a plain and simple request – for the Mossad to assassinate Khomeini.
At the time, the radical Islamic leader was somewhere near Paris, following his deportation to France from Iraq, to which he was exiled from Iran in the 1960s. Iraq had suggested killing Khomeini, but the shah rejected the idea at the time. Saddam Hussein subsequently deported him, and Khomeini found refuge in a town near Paris from where he successfully orchestrated the revolution by phone and telex machine.
Khomeini (C) in Paris before his return to Iran (Photo: AFP)
Khomeini (C) in Paris before his return to Iran (Photo: AFP)
Tsafrir passed on Bakhtiar’s request to Mossad headquarters in Tel Aviv, where the heads of the agency convened to discuss the matter.
“Mossad chief Hofi declared at the start of the meeting that because he was opposed in principle to the use of assassination against political leaders, he was inclined to reject the request; but he asked for the thoughts of those in attendance,” Alpher recounts. “Hofi looked at me quizzically. I was frustrated due to the dearth of information that I had about Khomeini. In a split second, I ran through all we knew about him in my mind.
“But before I get a chance to respond, one division dead butts in and says: ‘Let Khomeini return to Tehran. He won’t last. The army and the SAVAK will deal with him and the clergy who are demonstrating in the streets. He represents Iran’s past, not its future.’
“Hofi looked at me again. I thought about the positions of Washington and Moscow, about the implications of the success of such an operation for the Middle East, and the consequences of its failure vis-à-vis our relations with France and the Muslim world. I took a deep breath and said: We don’t have enough information about Khomeini’s viewpoints and his chances to realize them, so I cannot accurately assess whether the risk is justified.”
And indeed, the Mossad rejected the request to assassinate Khomeini. Alpher says he “deeply regrets” not supporting the Iranian prime minister’s request and the fact that the Mossad chose not to kill the Islamic leader. “Just two months after that meeting, I realized who we were dealing with, and already then I regretted not supporting Bakhtiar’s request,” Alpher says.
Bakhtiar ended up in exile in Paris, where he was assassinated a decade later by Iranian intelligence agents.
Taken for a ride
The Periphery strategy has also known its fair share of setbacks and disappointments; but above all, according to Alpher’s book, hovers the shadow of the terrible failure in connection with the Christian Maronites in Lebanon.
“They took the Mossad and all of Israel for a ride with deceit and terrible lies,” Alpher says. “They knew exactly how to take advantage of us, of our desire to support persecuted minorities; and they led very senior officials in the security establishment and Mossad to believe that they would side with us in the event of a military invasion of Lebanon.
“I was less enamored with them at the time, perhaps because I was born in the United States and I was familiar with traditional Catholic anti-Semitism, into which they too were born. The heavy blow Israel suffered in the Lebanon War and its aftermath led to a pullback, perhaps excessive, in our desire to support persecuted minorities in the years to follow.”
Alpher warns against undertaking to intervene militarily on behalf of a different minority because of the existence of a lobby within Israel itself. Israel’s Druze citizens are an important minority with a very strong parliamentary and government lobby, Alpher says, adding: “I am concerned by the statement of former chief of staff Benny Gantz, who for some reason made a commitment to the Druze dignitaries that the State of Israel would act to safeguard their fellow Druze across the border during the civil war in Syria.
“This could push us into a very hazardous adventure. We need to think things over very carefully based on our past experience. What are the risks? What is the extent of our moral obligation towards another minority in the region that runs into trouble with radical Islam?”
The successes and failures aside, what about the moral issue? After all, as part of the Periphery strategy, the Mossad forged tied with a series of dark regimes, terrible dictatorships, actively supporting them and sometimes tipping the scales in their favor.
“And to all of that you can add the fact that we knew that the issue of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion plays a very important role for them. To a certain degree even, we played that card, so they’d think we have immense influence over the world, and could manipulate US policy in their favor in particular. The Moroccans, the Iranians, the Turks, Idi Amin – they were all sure that one word from us would change Washington’s position towards them.
“What did we say to ourselves? A. It allows us to survive; B. It allows us to deter Arab aggression; C. It gives us the money, in the case of Iran for example, to launch arms development programs we couldn’t otherwise afford. Without it, you have no military industry and you cannot survive.”
“We knew we were dealing with unpleasant, oppressive, anti-Semitic regimes – call them what you want. Of course we knew. But was there an alternative? In other words, the alternative was to remain an isolated state, to wallow in our solitude in the face of a ring of Arab hostility.
“Now, even if you accept Professor Shimon Shamir’s thesis (presented in the book and highly critical of the Mossad’s Periphery strategy) that with a little more effort we could actually have made peace with our close neighbors, were those regimes any better than the ones of Idi Amin and the shah? This is the environment. This is the neighborhood in which we live. It demands tough decisions sometimes.”
Published: 06.21.15, 23:52 / Israel News
Find this story at 21 June 2015
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