Snowden Leak: NSA Flagged Israel as Leading Espionage Threat
The National Security Agency listed Israel among a handful of nations considered to pose the “greatest threat” to American government, military and industrial secrets, classified documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveal.
Snowden’s latest revelations were published on Glenn Greenwald’s site, The Intercept, on Monday, just one day after the German newsweekly Der Spiegel reported that Israeli intelligence spied on US Secretary of State John Kerry during recent Middle East peace talks.
A leaked 2007 NSA mission list identifying priorities for surveillance targeting repeatedly lists Israel as a leading threat in numerous areas, including “combating the threat of development of weapons of mass destruction” and “delivery methods (particularly ballistic and nuclear-capable cruise missiles).”
Israel is also considered a leading perpetrator of “espionage/intelligence collection operations and manipulation/influence operations… against US government, military, science and technology and [the] intelligence community.”
“Manipulation/influence operations” refers to covert Israeli efforts to influence US public perception in Israel’s favor.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has previously boasted that “America is a thing you can move very easily.”
Other nations considered top threats in this area include friend and foe alike: China, Russia, Cuba, Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, France, Venezuela and South Korea are all listed along with Israel.
Israel, along with North Korea, Cuba and India, is also considered an espionage threat to the US banking and financial system, as stated in a section titled “Mastering Cyberspace and Preventing an Attack on US Critical Information Systems.”
NSA documents previously leaked by Snowden and published in the Guardian state that “one of the NSA’s biggest threats is actually from friendly intelligence services, like Israel.”
Indeed, the National Intelligence Estimate, the consensus of all US spy agencies, ranked Israel “the third-most aggressive intelligence service against the US.”
For its part, Israel vehemently denies spying on the United States.
“Israel has not conducted any espionage operations in the United States, period. Full stop,” Netanyahu said in a May interview with Bloomberg.
Other Israeli officials claim the Jewish state stopped spying on the US in the wake of the Jonathan Pollard affair in the 1980s.
In addition to posing a serious espionage threat, leaked classified British intelligence documents have also described Israel as a “very real threat to regional stability.” A top-secret Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) planning document from 2008 states “policy makers remain deeply concerned over the potential threat that Israel poses to a peaceful resolution of the Iran problem, and to some of Israel’s less desirable activities in the region.”
“Israel’s thinking on the long-term threat offered by Iran to its fundamental foreign policy strategy of armed deterrence may create very real threats to regional stability in 2009,” GCHQ warned.
The newly-leaked documents also reveal “far-reaching” NSA collaboration with Israeli intelligence, despite Israel’s alleged snooping on America. Documents, some as recent as 2013, prove the NSA provided funding, data and analysis to the Israeli SIGINT National Unit.
An NSA document dated last April states the agency “maintains a far-reaching technical and analytical relationship” with its Israeli counterparts, “sharing information on access, intercept, targeting, language, analysis and reporting.”
The documents show that in 2003 and 2004, the US considered a “massively expanded intelligence sharing relationship [with Israel] called ‘Gladiator,'” but Washington balked at the high price demanded by the Israelis.
US intelligence assistance has been a crucial element of recent Israeli military operations against Hamas and other militant resistance groups in Gaza and the occupied West Bank. During Israel’s 2008-2009 Cast Lead invasion of Gaza, US, UK and Canadian intelligence aided their Israeli counterparts as Israeli forces killed nearly 1,000 innocent civilians.
The new Snowden documents illustrate a crucial fact: Israeli aggression would be impossible without the constant, lavish support and protection of the US government, which is anything but a neutral, peace-brokering party in these attacks. And the relationship between the NSA and its partners on the one hand, and the Israeli spying agency on the other, is at the center of that enabling.
Indeed, even while the State Department blasted Israel’s recent killing of 1,800 Palestinians, mostly innocent civilians, in Gaza as “appalling” and “disgraceful,” Congress has rushed to approve hundreds of millions of dollars in additional military aid — on top of the $3 billion per year Israel already gets, and the US has resupplied Israel with the very same munitions it is using to ferociously bombard Palestinian homes, schools, hospitals, clinics, mosques, playgrounds and UN refugee camps.