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Israeli Drone Feeds Hacked By British and American Intelligence et al, from Peter Myers | ODS

(1) Obama ordered NSA to spy on Israel during Iran negotiations
(2) US has a national interest in stopping the Israel lobby; Obama approved the wiretaps
(3) NSA tapped Communications between Netanyahu and Congress
(4) Netanyahu was telling American-Jewish groups to get Congress to sabotage the Iran Deal
(5) Israeli Drone Feeds Hacked By British and American Intelligence
(6) Is America is still an ally of Israel? Is Israel still an ally of America?

(1) Obama ordered NSA to spy on Israel during Iran negotiations

U.S. Spy Net on Israel Snares Congress

NSA’s targeting of Israeli leaders swept up the content of private
conversations with U.S. lawmakers

By Adam Entous and Danny Yadron

The Wall Street Journal

Dec. 29, 2015 4:40 p.m. ET

President Barack Obama announced two years ago he would curtail
eavesdropping on friendly heads of state after the world learned the
reach of long-secret U.S. surveillance programs.

But behind the scenes, the White House decided to keep certain allies
under close watch, current and former U.S. officials said. Topping the
list was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The U.S., pursuing a nuclear arms agreement with Iran at the time,
captured communications between Mr. Netanyahu and his aides that
inflamed mistrust between the two countries and planted a political
minefield at home when Mr. Netanyahu later took his campaign against the
deal to Capitol Hill.

The National Security Agency’s targeting of Israeli leaders and
officials also swept up the contents of some of their private
conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups. That
raised fears… that the executive branch would be accused of spying on

(2) US has a national interest in stopping the Israel lobby; Obama approved the wiretaps

Israel and Its Lobby Lose the Iran Deal All over Again, in News of
Damning Wiretaps

By James North and Philip Weiss

Mondoweiss 1 December 2015
Global Research, January 01, 2016

You’d think that there would be widespread outrage over the story
everyone’s talking about today, the Wall Street Journal scoop that the
Obama administration spied on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu during
the Iran Deal negotiations so as to counter his efforts to sink it. The
wiretaps reveal that Israeli officials were up to their necks in the US
political process; they "coordinated talking points with Jewish-American
groups against the deal; and asked undecided lawmakers what it would
take to win their votes, according to current and former officials
familiar with the intercepts."

The president approved the wiretaps.

Privately, Mr. Obama maintained the monitoring of Mr. Netanyahu on the
grounds that it served a "compelling national security purpose,"
according to current and former U.S. officials.

That’s right; there’s a compelling national interest in stopping the
Israel lobby.

Many have said that President Obama lacks spine? Well, it sure looks
like the leak to reporters Adam Entous and Danny Yadron came from the
administration, and it’s hard to believe that a leak of this magnitude
was not approved by the president. Just when the Israel lobby thought
that it was starting to get back to business as usual, the Obama
administration has reminded them that something has fundamentally
changed in the U.S.-Israel relationship. Not only did we beat the lobby
and Israel on the Iran Deal, but: we’re exposing your tactics, and
patriotic Americans are going to be very upset by what they see.

Remember that Obama in his highlight moment of the Iran Deal told
Americans it would be an "abrogation of my constitutional duty" to defer
to Israel’s interests on the Iran Deal. You’d think it would be a
scandal that the Israeli PM was intriguing with Republicans — and surely
some Democrats– in the way the WSJ has documented; but instead the
official reaction is likely to be how outrageous it was for Obama and
the NSA to be listening in on the supposed only democracy in the Middle

Some of the details from the article:

The U.S., pursuing a nuclear arms agreement with Iran at the time,
captured communications between Mr. Netanyahu and his aides that
inflamed mistrust between the two countries and planted a political
minefield at home when Mr. Netanyahu later took his campaign against the
deal to Capitol Hill.

The National Security Agency’s targeting of Israeli leaders and
officials also swept up the contents of some of their private
conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups. That
raised fears—an "Oh-s— moment," one senior U.S. official said — that the
executive branch would be accused of spying on Congress…

White House officials believed the intercepted information could be
valuable to counter Mr. Netanyahu’s campaign…

Much of the article substantiates the allegations swirling at the time
of the deal, that Netanyahu was getting inside information on the secret
negotiations. The eavesdropping revealed to the White House:

How Mr. Netanyahu and his advisers had leaked details of the U.S.-Iran
negotiations — learned through Israeli spying operations — to undermine
the talks; coordinated talking points with Jewish-American groups
against the deal; and asked undecided lawmakers what it would take to
win their votes, according to current and former officials familiar with
the intercepts.

The notorious Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer was caught on the tapes:

Mr. Dermer was described as coaching unnamed U.S. organizations — which
officials could tell from the context were Jewish-American groups — on
lines of argument to use with lawmakers, and Israeli officials were
reported pressing lawmakers to oppose the deal…

Israel’s pitch to undecided lawmakers often included such questions as:
"How can we get your vote? What’s it going to take?"

Again, no names of US legislators, but this article contains the
explicit threat that Israel could expose individuals down the road. The
practice is sure to anger Americans and drive an even deeper wedge into
the Jewish community over the role of the lobby. Patriotic Jewish
Americans are going to be embarrassed yet again by the extent to which
Israel tries to subvert our government, using American Jewish friends to
do so. And many will walk away from the lobby over this kind of
business. The large wavering middle of pro-Israel forces is going to be
set back. J Street made the right call on the Iran Deal (reluctantly,
I’ve heard) but it will reap a dividend.

Notre Dame professor Michael Desch’s interpretation: "The lobby and
Congress will no doubt try to spin it as more evidence of Obama’s
anti-Israel animus. But the story constitutes powerful evidence of 1)
divergence of US and Israeli interests on important issues like Iran and
2) close coordination of the lobby and Government of Israel in trying to
influence US domestic politics."

Scott Horton refers to the last big eavesdropping scandal, when
then-congresswoman Jane Harman promised a suspected Israeli agent that
she would attempt to stop a federal case against American Israel Public
Affairs Committee (AIPAC) staffers in exchange for that agent’s
political influence in getting her a committee chair. Jeff Stein
reported the story:

Rep. Jane Harman, the California Democrat with a longtime involvement in
intelligence issues, was overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected
Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department to reduce
espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli
Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel organization in

Harman was recorded saying she would "waddle into" the AIPAC case "if
you think it’ll make a difference," according to two former senior
national security officials familiar with the NSA transcript.

In exchange for Harman’s help, the sources said, the suspected Israeli
agent pledged to help lobby Nancy Pelosi , D-Calif., then-House minority
leader, to appoint Harman chair of the Intelligence Committee after the
2006 elections, which the Democrats were heavily favored to win.

The suspected Israeli agent was inferred (it was the opinion of Josh
Marshall and Ron Kampeas) to be Haim Saban, the giant contributor to the
Democratic Party. So a "suspected Israeli agent" is also a giant
Democratic funder with influence over the Congress? We’re headed for a
showdown between the lobby and the grassroots, inside the Democratic
Party. And praise to the Obama administration, who we guess is fueling
the controversy out of "compelling national" interest.

(3) NSA tapped Communications between Netanyahu and Congress

The NSA-Israel Scandal: Who Cares?

Communications between Benjamin Netanyahu and Congress were fair game
for the NSA.

Daniel R. DePetris

December 31, 2015

Adam Entous and Danny Yadron of the Wall Street Journal had Facebook,
Twitter and every other social media platform abuzz last night when they
published their exclusive December 29 piece, entitled "U.S. Spy Net on
Israel Snares Congress." The account, based on interviews with more than
two dozen former and current administration and intelligence officials,
outlines the length to which the National Security Agency—under explicit
orders from policymakers in the Obama administration—kept tabs on
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the high-stakes nuclear
negotiations with Iran.

As Entous and Yadron report, the Obama administration made the decision
to allow the NSA to continue intercepting Prime Minister Netanyahu’s
communications, in a program that was apparently designed to uncover
precisely what the premier’s thoughts were about the highly sensitive
and delicate Iran-P5+1 diplomatic process. Contacts between Netanyahu
and his senior advisors were fair game for NSA analysts to sweep up,
which is standard business for the men and women who work in the massive
Fort Meade complex. In the context of that work, however, the NSA
realized that some of the conversations they were intercepting were
between senior Israeli officials and members of Congress who were being
lobbied by Netanyahu’s administration to vote against the Iran nuclear
deal when the accord came up for a vote. From the story:

"The U.S., pursuing a nuclear arms agreement with Iran at the time,
captured communications between Mr. Netanyahu and his aides that
inflamed mistrust between the two countries and planted a political
minefield at home when Mr. Netanyahu later took his campaign against the
deal to Capitol Hill.

"The National Security Agency’s targeting of Israeli leaders and
officials also swept up the contents of some of their private
conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups. That
raised fears… that the executive branch would be accused of spying on

No one can blame NSA officials for covering their tracks and worrying
amongst themselves that they would be accused by members of Congress for
spying on the American people’s elected representatives. Indeed, if
Entous and Yadros’ story had gotten out during the height of the Edward
Snowden disclosures, there would be more than a distinct possibility of
the head of the NSA and the Director of National Intelligence being
summoned to Capitol Hill for an angry and tense multi-hour grilling.

And yet, when one takes a step back and looks past the initial hype of
the Wall Street Journal article, there is nothing at all unusual between
what the Obama administration authorized and the program that the NSA
carried out.

Yes, Israel is America’s closest ally in the Middle East and yes, the
Israeli and U.S. intelligence agencies are often in synch on numerous
national security issues. But from where President Obama was sitting,
permitting the NSA to intercept Netanyahu’s communications was both
legal under U.S. law and strategically wise. Just because some U.S.
lawmakers happened to be included in the reports sent back to the
president does not change these three fundamental facts.

1. It was no secret to President Obama that Prime Minister Netanyahu was
deeply unreceptive to Washington’s plan of resolving the Iranian nuclear
issue diplomatically. If Obama viewed Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad
Javad Zarif and his entourage as rational human beings that would be
willing to strike an agreement if the right mix of pressure and
concessions were offered, Netanyahu considered the entire enterprise a
waste of precious time—time that could otherwise be used to lay the
groundwork for even an even more severe package of international
economic sanctions to or a preemptive military operation to get Tehran
to comply. For Netanyahu, any enrichment capability inside Iran was a
non-starter for his government, and an inspection and verification
regime that would only last ten to fifteen years was an indirect
admission from the international community that Iran would eventually be
able to acquire a nuclear weapon.

Netanyahu wasn’t shy about expressing his reservations and outright
opposition to the diplomacy that the U.S. and the P5+1 were conducting.
In fact, he used every appearance when interviewed on U.S. television to
condemn the concessions that the administration was offering, and
scoffed at the very idea that a settlement should result in a domestic
enrichment program for Iran. Whether it was bashing the interim nuclear
agreement as an "historic mistake" immediately after it was signed or
admitting freely on Meet the Press that he was "trying to kill a bad
deal," Netanyahu’s objective as it concerned Iran’s nuclear program was
completely contrary to U.S. policy. It’s only natural, indeed expected,
for the United States to leverage its intelligence resources to defend
an investment that the country was working to achieve over three years
time. The surest way to defend an investment is to determine what other
players are saying or doing. This is exactly what the administration
chose to do.

(4) Netanyahu was telling American-Jewish groups to get Congress to sabotage the Iran Deal

Spying on Congress and Israel: NSA Cheerleaders Discover Value of
Privacy Only When Their Own Is Violated


Glenn Greenwald

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the NSA under President
Obama targeted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his top
aides for surveillance. In the process, the agency ended up
eavesdropping on "the contents of some of their private conversations
with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups" about how to sabotage
the Iran Deal. All sorts of people who spent many years cheering for and
defending the NSA and its programs of mass surveillance are suddenly
indignant now that they know the eavesdropping included them and their
American and Israeli friends rather than just ordinary people.

The long-time GOP chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and
unyielding NSA defender Pete Hoekstra last night was truly indignant to
learn of this surveillance:

In January 2014, I debated Rep. Hoekstra about NSA spying and he could
not have been more mocking and dismissive of the privacy concerns I was
invoking. "Spying is a matter of fact," he scoffed. As Andrew Krietz,
the journalist who covered that debate, reported, Hoekstra "laughs at
foreign governments who are shocked they’ve been spied on because they,
too, gather information" — referring to anger from German and Brazilian
leaders. As TechDirt noted, "Hoekstra attacked a bill called the RESTORE
Act, that would have granted a tiny bit more oversight over situations
where (you guessed it) the NSA was collecting information on Americans."

But all that, of course, was before Hoekstra knew that he and his
Israeli friends were swept up in the spying of which he was so fond. Now
that he knows that it is his privacy and those of his comrades that has
been invaded, he is no longer cavalier about it. In fact, he’s so
furious that this long-time NSA cheerleader is actually calling for the
criminal prosecution of the NSA and Obama officials for the crime of
spying on him and his friends.

This pattern — whereby political officials who are vehement supporters
of the Surveillance State transform overnight into crusading privacy
advocates once they learn that they themselves have been spied on — is
one that has repeated itself over and over. It has been seen many times
as part of the Snowden revelations, but also well before that.

In 2005, the New York Times revealed that the Bush administration
ordered the NSA to spy on the telephone calls of Americans without the
warrants required by law, and the paper ultimately won the Pulitzer
Prize for doing so. The politician who did more than anyone to suffocate
that scandal and ensure there were no consequences was
then-Congresswoman Jane Harman, the ranking Democratic member on the
House Intelligence Committee.

In the wake of that NSA scandal, Harman went on every TV show she could
find and categorically defended Bush’s warrantless NSA program as "both
legal and necessary," as well as "essential to U.S. national security."
Worse, she railed against the "despicable" whistleblower (Thomas Tamm)
who disclosed this crime and even suggested that the newspaper that
reported it should have been criminally investigated (but not, of
course, the lawbreaking government officials who ordered the spying).
Because she was the leading House Democrat on the issue of the NSA, her
steadfast support for the Bush/Cheney secret warrantless surveillance
program and the NSA generally created the impression that support for
this program was bipartisan.

But in 2009 — a mere four years later — Jane Harman did a 180-degree
reversal. That’s because it was revealed that her own private
conversations had been eavesdropped on by the NSA. Specifically, CQ’s
Jeff Stein reported that an NSA wiretap caught Harman "telling a
suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department to
reduce espionage charges against two officials of American Israeli
Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in exchange for the agent’s agreement
to lobby Nancy Pelosi to name Harman chair of the House Intelligence
Committee." Harman vehemently denied that she sought this quid pro quo,
but she was so furious that she herself(rather than just ordinary
citizens) had been eavesdropped on by the NSA that — just like Pete
Hoekstra did yesterday — she transformed overnight into an aggressive
and eloquent defender of privacy rights, and demanded investigations of
the spying agency that for so long she had defended:

  I call it an abuse of power in the letter I wrote [Attorney General
Eric Holder] this morning. … I’m just very disappointed that my country
— I’m an American citizen just like you are — could have permitted what
I think is a gross abuse of power in recent years. I’m one member of
Congress who may be caught up in it, and I have a bully pulpit and I can
fight back. I’m thinking about others who have no bully pulpit, who may
not be aware, as I was not, that someone is listening in on their
conversations, and they’re innocent Americans.

The stalwart defender of NSA spying learned that her own conversations
had been monitored and she instantly began sounding like an ACLU lawyer,
or Edward Snowden. Isn’t that amazing?

The same thing happened when Dianne Feinstein — one of the few members
of Congress who could compete with Hoekstra and Harman for the title of
Most Subservient Defender of the Intelligence Community ("I can honestly
say I don’t know a bigger booster of the CIA than Senator Feinstein,"
said her colleague Sen. Martin Heinrich) — learned in 2014 that she and
her torture-investigating Senate Committee had been spied on by the CIA.
Feinstein — who, until then, had never met an NSA mass surveillance
program she didn’t adore — was utterly filled with rage over this
discovery, arguing that "the CIA’s search of the staff’s computers might
well have violated … the Fourth Amendment." The Fourth Amendment! She
further pronounced that she had "grave concerns" that the CIA snooping
may also have "violated the separation of powers principles embodied in
the United States Constitution."

During the Snowden reporting, it was common to see foreign governments
react with indifference — until they learned that they themselves,
rather than just their unnotable subjects, were subject to spying. The
first reports we did in both Germany and Brazil were about mass
surveillance aimed at hundreds of millions of innocent people in those
countries’ populations, and both the Merkel and Rousseff governments
reacted with the most cursory, vacant objections: It was obvious they
really couldn’t have cared less. But when both leaders discovered that
they had been personally targeted, that was when real outrage poured
forth, and serious damage to diplomatic relations with the U.S. was

So now, with yesterday’s WSJ report, we witness the tawdry spectacle of
large numbers of people who for years were fine with, responsible for,
and even giddy about NSA mass surveillance suddenly objecting. Now
they’ve learned that they themselves, or the officials of the foreign
country they most love, have been caught up in this surveillance
dragnet, and they can hardly contain their indignation. Overnight,
privacy is of the highest value because now it’s their privacy, rather
than just yours, that is invaded.

What happened to all the dismissive lectures about how if you’ve done
nothing wrong, then you have nothing to hide? Is that still applicable?
Or is it that these members of the U.S. Congress who conspired with
Netanyahu and AIPAC over how to sabotage the U.S. government’s Iran Deal
feel they did do something wrong and are angry about having been
monitored for that reason?

I’ve always argued that on the spectrum of spying stories, revelations
about targeting foreign leaders is the least important, since that is
the most justifiable type of espionage. Whether the U.S. should be
surveilling the private conversations of officials of allied democracies
is certainly worth debating, but, as I argued in my 2014 book, those
"revelations … are less significant than the agency’s warrantless mass
surveillance of whole populations" since "countries have spied on heads
of state for centuries, including allies."

But here, the NSA did not merely listen to the conversations of
Netanyahu and his top aides, but also members of the U.S. Congress as
they spoke with him. And not for the first time: "In one previously
undisclosed episode, the NSA tried to wiretap a member of Congress
without a warrant," the New York Times reported in 2009.

The NSA justifies such warrantless eavesdropping on Americans as
"incidental collection." That is the term used when it spies on the
conversations of American citizens without warrants, but claims those
Americans weren’t "targeted," but rather just so happened to be speaking
to one of the agency’s foreign targets (warrants are needed only to
target U.S. persons, not foreign nationals outside of the U.S.).

This claim of "incidental collection" has always been deceitful,
designed to mask the fact that the NSA does indeed frequently spy on the
conversations of American citizens without warrants of any kind. Indeed,
as I detailed here, the 2008 FISA law enacted by Congress had as one of
its principal, explicit purposes allowing the NSA to eavesdrop on
Americans’ conversations without warrants of any kind. "The principal
purpose of the 2008 law was to make it possible for the government to
collect Americans’ international communications — and to collect those
communications without reference to whether any party to those
communications was doing anything illegal," the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer
said.  "And a lot of the government’s advocacy is meant to obscure this
fact, but it’s a crucial one: The government doesn’t need to ‘target’
Americans in order to collect huge volumes of their communications."

Whatever one’s views on that might be — i.e., even if you’re someone who
is convinced that there’s nothing wrong with the NSA eavesdropping on
the private communications even of American citizens, even members of
Congress, without warrants — this sudden, self-interested embrace of the
value of privacy should be revolting indeed. Warrantless eavesdropping
on people who have done nothing wrong — the largest system of
suspicionless mass surveillance ever created — is inherently abusive and
unjustified, and one shouldn’t need a report that this was done to the
Benjamin Netanyahus and Pete Hoekstras of the world to realize that.

(5) Israeli Drone Feeds Hacked By British and American Intelligence

Cora Currier, Henrik Moltke

Jan. 29 2016, 1:08 p.m.

AMERICAN AND BRITISH INTELLIGENCE secretly tapped into live video feeds
from Israeli drones and fighter jets, monitoring military operations in
Gaza, watching for a potential strike against Iran, and keeping tabs on
the drone technology Israel exports around the world.

Under a classified program code-named "Anarchist," the U.K.’s Government
Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, working with the National Security
Agency, systematically targeted Israeli drones from a mountaintop on the
Mediterranean island of Cyprus. GCHQ files provided by former NSA
contractor Edward Snowden include a series of "Anarchist snapshots" —
thumbnail images from videos recorded by drone cameras. The files also
show location data mapping the flight paths of the aircraft. In essence,
U.S. and British agencies stole a bird’s-eye view from the drones.

See hacked images from Israel’s drone fleet.

Several of the snapshots, a subset collected in 2009 and 2010, appear to
show drones carrying missiles. Although they are not clear enough to be
conclusive, the images offer rare visual evidence to support reports
that Israel flies attack drones — an open secret that the Israeli
government won’t acknowledge.

"There’s a good chance that we are looking at the first images of an
armed Israeli drone in the public domain," said Chris Woods, author of
Sudden Justice, a history of drone warfare. "They’ve gone to
extraordinary lengths to suppress information on weaponized drones."

The Intercept is publishing a selection of the drone snapshots in an
accompanying article.

Additionally, in 2012, a GCHQ analyst reported "regular collects of
Heron TP carrying weapons," referring to a giant drone made by the
state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, known as IAI.

Anarchist operated from a Royal Air Force installation in the Troodos
Mountains, near Mount Olympus, the highest point on Cyprus. The Troodos
site "has long been regarded as a ‘Jewel in the Crown’ by NSA as it
offers unique access to the Levant, North Africa, and Turkey," according
to an article from GCHQ’s internal wiki. Last August, The Intercept
published a portion of a GCHQ document that revealed that NSA and GCHQ
tracked weapons signals from Troodos, and earlier reporting on the
Snowden documents indicated that the NSA targeted Israeli drones and an
Israeli missile system for tracking, but the details of the operations
have not been previously disclosed.

"This access is indispensable for maintaining an understanding of
Israeli military training and operations and thus an insight to possible
future developments in the region," a GCHQ report from 2008 enthused.
"In times of crisis this access is critical and one of the only avenues
to provide up to the minute information and support to U.S. and Allied
operations in the area."

GCHQ documents state that analysts first collected encrypted video
signals at Troodos in 1998, and also describe efforts against drones
used by Syria and by Hezbollah in Lebanon.

A 2009 document notes that "no tip-off exists for Hezbollah UAV
[Unmanned Aerial Vehicle] activity;" apparently the spies had few
signals that they were sure were associated with Hezbollah’s drone
program. Another report recounts that Troodos had captured video from an
Iranian-made drone flying out of a Syrian air force base in March 2012,
resulting in "presidential interest in further samples of the Regime
launching attacks upon the general populous [sic]," presumably referring
to U.S. President Barack Obama, whose administration had first called
for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down the year before, a few
months after his regime began a crackdown on Arab Spring protests.
Indeed, also in March 2012, unnamed U.S. officials told the press that
Assad had been supplied with Iranian drones.

But much of Anarchist’s focus was on Israel. The drone-watching
documented in the GCHQ files covered periods of Israeli military
offensives in Palestine, and also indicates that the intelligence
agencies monitored drones for a potential strike against Iran.

The documents highlight the conflicted relationship between the United
States and Israel and U.S. concerns about Israel’s potentially
destabilizing actions in the region. The two nations are close
counterterrorism partners, and have a memorandum of understanding,
dating back to 2009, that allows Israel access to raw communications
data collected by the NSA. Yet they are nonetheless constantly engaged
in a game of spy versus spy. Last month, the Wall Street Journal
reported that, although President Obama had pledged to stop spying on
friendly heads of state, the White House carved out an exception for
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Israeli
officials. Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and NSA, told the
Journal that the intelligence relationship with Israel was "the most
combustible mixture of intimacy and caution that we have."

GCHQ and the Israel Defense Forces declined to comment. The NSA
acknowledged receipt of an inquiry but did not respond to questions by
the time of publication.

On January 3, 2008, as Israel launched airstrikes against Palestinian
militants in Gaza, U.S. and British spies had a virtual seat in the cockpit.

Satellite surveillance operators at Menwith Hill, an important NSA site
in England, had been tasked with looking at drones as the Israeli
military stepped up attacks in Gaza in response to rockets fired by
Palestinian militants, according to a 2008 year-end summary from GCHQ.
In all, Menwith Hill gathered over 20 separate drone videos by
intercepting signals traveling between Israeli drones and orbiting
satellites. The NSA’s internal newsletter, SIDToday, enthusiastically
reported the effort, noting that on January 3, analysts had also
"collected video for the first time from the cockpit of an Israeli Air
Force F-16 fighter jet," which "showed a target on the ground being
tracked." Menwith Hill had worked "closely with a GCHQ site in Cyprus
for tip-offs."

In July 2008, GCHQ ordered Anarchist technicians to look for drones
flying over a number of "areas of interest," including the Golan Heights
(a region of southwest Syria seized by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War),
the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip,
and Israel’s borders with Lebanon and Syria.

"Due to the political situation of the region there is a requirement for
Israeli UAV operations in certain areas to be intercepted and exploited
so that assessments can be made on what possible actions maybe [sic]
taking place," read the request, dated July 29, 2008. The memo asked for
analysts to record and send video to GCHQ, along with ground plots
showing where the drones had flown, and information about the signal.

Anarchist operators were able to snag the feeds of several different
types of Israeli drones, according to an Intercept analysis of the
snapshots and presentations from GCHQ summarizing Troodos achievements.
The 20 snapshots identified by The Intercept in GCHQ files include
several video stills clearly taken from Israeli drones, dating between
February 2009 and June 2010.

According to one GCHQ presentation, technicians first collected signals
from a Heron TP in February 2009. Intercepted images indicate that they
also picked up video from other models and configurations of the Heron,
and from the IAI Searcher drone. Another GCHQ presentation shows that by
2009, technicians had tapped into data from Hermes drones, manufactured
by the Israeli company Elbit systems. In January 2010, Troodos reported
that in the previous six months they had collected data from the
Aerostar tactical drone and the Orbiter mini-drone, both made by the
Israeli company Aeronautics.

In several snapshots of the Heron TP, there are objects under the wings
that appear to be mounts for missiles or for other equipment such as
sensors. In one image, from January 2010, a missile-shaped object is
clearly visible on the left wing, while the mount on the right appears
to be missing its load.

The Heron TP, which the Jerusalem Post described as "the drone that can
reach Iran," has an 85-foot wingspan — larger than that of the Reaper,
the largest armed drone flown by the United States Air Force — and can
carry a 1-ton payload. Israel recently reached an agreement to sell
armed versions of the TP to India.

Pieter Wezeman, a senior researcher on arms transfers with the Stockholm
International Peace Research Institute, told The Intercept that the
items visible under the wings in the snapshots "appear to have the kind
of fins such missiles have," but noted that "there could be other
payloads that could be fitted in the same position." Chris Woods, the
drone history author, said that they could be sensor pods for
intelligence gathering.

It has been widely reported that Israel launches attacks from the
smaller Hermes 450s, although the GCHQ documents do not specify whether
the Hermes drones recorded at Troodos were armed.

Reports surfaced of Israel launching missiles from drones in Gaza as far
back as 2004, and more than a decade later, drones have become a fact of
life for residents. Chris Cobb-Smith, a former British army officer who
has investigated drone strikes in Gaza for human rights groups, said
that "during periods of tension, you can seldom go outside without the
buzz of drones overhead." A Gaza City bar owner complained to the
Washington Post in 2011 that drone patrols often interfered with his
satellite TV signals. In 2014, the London Telegraph reported that 65
percent of Israel’s air combat operations were conducted by drones.
Yotam Feldman, an Israeli filmmaker who made a documentary about
Israel’s drone industry for Al Jazeera last year, said that he has been
told the figure is even higher.

During Operation Cast Lead, a three-week Israeli offensive that began in
December 2008, Human Rights Watch reported dozens of Palestinian
civilian deaths from drone strikes. In diplomatic cables released by
WikiLeaks, an Israeli commander told a U.S. State Department official
that a "UAV fired two missiles" against militant operatives outside a
mosque, and that shrapnel from the strike hit civilians.

Yet the Israeli government still maintains an official stance of secrecy
(a tactic akin to the United States’ refusal to formally acknowledge its
drone program until 2013, despite years of reporting and commentary on
it). In sanctioned interviews, Israeli military personnel are careful to
describe the drones they fly as being used for surveillance and marking
targets for manned warplanes to strike. Aviation and defense bloggers
are left speculating about blurred photos and industry rumors about how
drones might be equipped with missiles. The Israeli media is subject to
a strict censorship regime, and the military does not allow mention of
armed Israeli drones, unless quoting foreign sources.

"Releasing full details about which munitions were used and how they
were used can raise many other questions about these attacks — about the
targets, about what the army calls collateral damage, about the command
chain," said Feldman, the Israeli filmmaker. "I think it is really the
Israeli military throwing sand in the eyes of outside observers on
Israeli strikes."

The Anarchist images don’t show any drone strikes in action. It is not
always clear from the images precisely where the drones were located,
and it is thus impossible to tie the intercepts to specific attacks. A
note on January 12, 2009, in the midst of Cast Lead, directs technicians
"with the current situation … to keep a watch and report on where the
majority of UAV flights are being conducted." But the snapshots
identified by The Intercept date from after Israel withdrew from Gaza in
January 2009.

In several cases, the images were taken on the same day or just before
reported Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, which continued after the
ceasefire. For instance, on August 25, 2009, after months of relative
quiet in the border area between Gaza and Egypt, Israel bombed a tunnel
on the border, killing three Palestinians and wounding seven. That same
day, Anarchist technicians at Troodos captured an Israeli drone signal.

Decoding the Drone

Drones communicate with their controllers on the ground via satellite;
the transmission to the home station is known as the "downlink." The
antennas at Troodos grabbed that downlink by finding the right frequency
for each drone.

Drone feeds are vulnerable to interception not just from the NSA — even
cheap, commercially available equipment can be used to get the downlink.
In a 2009 article in Wired, a U.S. military official likened such
interception to "criminals using radio scanners to pick up police

Indeed, in 2009, U.S. forces in Iraq discovered laptops with video from
Predator drones in the hands of insurgents. It couldn’t have come as a
total surprise — military officials had noted the vulnerability as far
back as 1999, and a 2005 CIA report stated that one of Saddam Hussein’s
technicians had likely "located and downloaded … unencrypted satellite
feed from U.S. military UAVs."

In 1997, Hezbollah killed 12 Israeli commandos in an ambush in Lebanon.
It emerged years later that Hezbollah had plotted the ambush after
intercepting unencrypted drone video. The revelation caused a scandal,
and led the Israeli military and drone industry to invest "significant
efforts to encrypt the transmission of UAVs to their ground bases," said
Ronen Bergman, an investigative journalist with the paper Yedioth
Ahronoth, who is currently writing a book on Israel’s intelligence
service, Mossad.

"The broadcast was supposed to be completely secure," said Bergman. "If
the NSA and GCHQ were able to crack that, it would come as a big
surprise, and might well lead to the launch of an inquiry."

Israel appears to have since expanded encryption across its drone fleet,
and many of the feeds grabbed by the Troodos analysts were encrypted or
scrambled, showing up like the black-and-white snow on a TV screen.

According to GCHQ Anarchist training manuals from 2008, analysts took
snapshots of live signals and would process them for "poor quality
signals, or for scrambled video."

The manuals stated that video feeds were scrambled using a method
similar to that used to protect the signals of subscriber-only TV
channels. Analysts decoded the images using open-source code "freely
available on the internet" — a program known as AntiSky. The attack
reconstructed the image by brute force, allowing intelligence agents to
crack the encryption without knowing the algorithm that had been used to
scramble the video.

Even when fully decoded, the images are of varying quality, often
grainy, and often showing nothing but the sky or sun or the drone’s own
landing gear nearing the runway.

The aim of the snapshots seemed to be simply to identify which signals
belonged with which aircraft, weapon, or radar, and to demonstrate that
the intelligence agencies had the capability to grab such snapshots if
needed. "The computing power needed to descramble the images in near
real time is considerable," the Anarchist manual notes, but "it is still
possible to descramble individual frames to determine the image content
without too much effort."

The GCHQ documents describe the mission against Israeli drones in broad
terms. An "outbreak of hostilities between Israel and Hamas" occasioned
the intelligence agency’s interest, and so did tension with Tehran. In
reporting on flights of an armed Heron TP, a Troodos employee noted that
"our ability to collect and track and report this activity is important
for the initial detection and tip-off for any potential pre-emptive or
retaliatory strike against Iran."

A 2008 Anarchist memo also notes that "interest by the weapons community
in Israeli UAV’s [sic] remains high," because Israel "provide[s] many
countries with their UAV’s" and is "developing large UAV’s capable of
being deployed for a variety of purposes." Another, also from 2008,
describes the hunt to confirm whether a specific type of radar "has been
mounted on any UAV platforms." A GCHQ presentation listing "successes in
2009" at Troodos includes "UAV development Israel/India."

Israel leads the world in drone exports, and capabilities Israel
developed would soon be passed to other countries. Its companies
aggressively market the potential attack capabilities of their aircraft.
In September, India made arrangements to buy 10 armed Heron TPs. This
month, Germany’s defense minister, Ursula von der Leyen, announced that
the country would lease several TPs, citing the aircraft’s attack

"This will be the standard in the future," von der Leyen said.

By most accounts, Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom, and
Pakistan are the only countries known to have used drones for deadly
attacks. But dozens of countries are believed to be developing armed
drones, so that club likely won’t stay small for long.

Israeli Drone Feeds Hacked By British and American Intelligence

(6) Is America is still an ally of Israel? Is Israel still an ally of America?

Is the US a threat to Israel?

US efforts to crack the Israeli drone encryption system have caused some
to question whether or not America is still an ally of Israel.

Author Ben Caspit

Posted February 1, 2016

Translator Sandy Bloom

The Intercept published Jan. 29 information about Operation Anarchist,
an extensive spying initiative of the United States and the United
Kingdom against Israel’s covert aerial activities. The article generated
an enormous storm in Israel’s security circles and also in its highest
political echelons. According to the report that was drawn from Edward
Snowden’s documents, the national wiretapping services of both the
United States and the United Kingdom — the National Security Agency and
Government Communications Headquarters, respectively — set up secret
spying facilities atop Cyprus’ Troodos Mountains. For 18 years, they
have been tracking Israeli activities of fighter jets, unmanned aerial
vehicles (UCAVs or combat drones) and Israel’s entire aerial deployment.
According to the documents, the Americans succeeded in breaking the code
encryption of Israel’s drone alignment including the Israeli Heron. The
leaked documents claim that this is an unmanned aircraft capable of
attacking deep in enemy territory. According to the published
information, even the operating code of the Arrow project's Black
Sparrow target missile was breached by the superpowers. The Black
Sparrow is a missile launched by Israeli fighter planes from a very high
altitude; it resembles the Iranian Shahab missile that the Arrow is
supposed to intercept and damage at high altitude.

The official Israeli response to these publications was "expressions of
disappointment." Official Israeli speakers tried not to inflate the
crisis. Israel’s working assumption is that the United States listens to
every word uttered by the state’s leaders. Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu is convinced that he is under surveillance even in his office
and his private home in Caesarea. He has asked the Shin Bet — more than
once — to try to install wiretap disrupters in his private home. When
Netanyahu is in the United States, he does not talk about classified
matters while at Blair House, the official guesthouse. Instead,
Netanyahu confines all his private talks to the embassy in Washington.
When Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin used to travel to the United States,
his entourage always picked a last-minute, random apartment in
Washington as the place for transmitting important security updates. The
premise was that the Americans would not have time to install
wiretapping equipment in an apartment at such short notice.

Behind the scenes, however, the drama is far greater than Israel’s
laconic "disappointment" response outlined here. Ephraim Sneh, former
deputy defense minister and brigadier general in the reserves who is
still well connected to the country’s top brass, bitterly castigated the
American-British espionage setup this week. "Israel and the US have the
same enemies," he told Al-Monitor. "Instead of working together
positively, it turns out the Americans are investing tremendous energy
in an attempt to breach Israel’s codes. Operationally that means that
whoever knows where you are today can also know where you plan to be
tomorrow. And technologically what we see is a conscious decision to
invest much energy and resources in breaching Israel’s encryption
system. They use America’s cutting-edge technology against Israel’s.
That should worry us."

Sneh’s words reveal only the tip of the iceberg of the new suspicions
that threaten the already-fragile intimate security relations between
Israel and the United States in the Obama era. "The Americans are our
partners in the development of the Arrow," said another Israeli source,
on condition of anonymity, who is still active in the security system.
"Why are they investing all this effort to breaking the code
[encryption] of the 'target missile'? All they have to do is ask nicely
and we will involve them; Israel passes on to the US everything it
reveals and decodes. I personally participated in meetings in which
Israeli security sources met with the US national adviser. Our side
would spread out satellite photographs and classified material regarding
covert activities of Iran, Hezbollah or other dangerous operatives in
the region. The fact that they invest so many resources in the attempt
to breach the operations of the unmanned squadron is simply disappointing."

Behind closed Israeli doors, there are others who raise additional
worrisome thoughts: If the Americans succeeded in cracking the codes of
the combat drones, then perhaps they are also breaching the codes of
most undercover units such as the General Staff reconnaissance platoon,
and keeping tabs even on the activities of this elite unit. If that is
indeed true, then the situation is far worse than we thought. Another
Israeli military contact told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, "All
this time, we were convinced that America is our ally, and they never
appeared on our list of threats. Now it is not clear at all that we were

More calming voices oppose this approach. "Israel is a world power in
the cyberfield, codes and their operation, and electronic warfare," said
an Israel Defense Forces source, who asked that his name not be
published. "It is hard to believe that the Americans succeeded in
breaching the codes of these sophisticated drones."

Until about 10 years ago, Israeli drone codes were not encrypted at all.
The policy change was prompted by the Naval Commando Disaster in
September 1997 in which 12 Israeli naval commandos were killed in
Ansariya, Lebanon. According to one of the accounts, Hezbollah succeeded
in cracking the code of an Israeli combat drone that carried out a
number of spying missions over the territory in which the commandos were
going to operate. This foreknowledge caused Hezbollah to place ambushes
on the site and inflict much harm on the Israeli forces.

Israel’s Signal and Electronics Corps is responsible for the code
encryption of combat drones, which is graduated or phased: The level of
encryption rises with the level of stealth and combat danger faced by
the UCAV. An Israeli security expert also speaking on condition of
anonymity told Al-Monitor, "With regard to these code encryptions, even
if an external source cracks the code, these codes change all the time
and are replaced very frequently." But this statement does not mollify
the Israelis. "It is absolutely possible that a world power like the US
with its tremendous super computers, unlimited manpower and resources
has attained impressive code-breaking abilities that supersede Israel’s
code encryption abilities. And if that is the way things look, then we
need to worry," he added.

The assessment is that the spying project under discussion reached its
climax from 2009 to 2013, when talk about an Israeli assault on Iran was
at its peak. In those tense years, the Americans demanded that Israel
"not surprise us" with anything connected to an attack on Iran, but the
Americans came up empty-handed from this request. American tracking of
aerial activity of Israel’s combat UCAVs could have given President
Barack Obama a ''safety margin'' of several hours'  warning before an
Israeli attack. That would have allowed Obama to make a quick phone call
to Netanyahu to try to block the whole process.

In 2010, Israel carried out a large-scale aerial maneuver over the
Mediterranean Sea, involving more than 100 fighter jets. Even before all
the planes returned to their bases, then-US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen called his Israeli counterpart, Gabi
Ashkenazi, to find out what was going on. "It’s no secret that the
Americans know when anything from this area goes into the air," said a
former high-ranking Israeli air force officer this week. "Now we
understand that in addition to being able to detect aerial activity,
they also can figure out the targets and trajectories in advance. We
need to learn how to live with this."

Peter Myers