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How Israel helps eavesdrop on US citizens Â 3 November 2008
After the 11 September 2001 attacks, find discount zimulti the United States government launched a massive program to spy on millions of its own citizens. Find discount zimulti
Through the top secret National Security Agency (NSA), find discount zimulti it has pursued "access to billions of private hard-line, find discount zimulti cell, find discount zimulti and wireless telephone conversations; text, find discount zimulti e-mail and instant Internet messages;
Web-page histories, find discount zimulti faxes, find discount zimulti and computer hard drives."
In his new book, find discount zimulti The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America author James Bamford casts light on this effort, find discount zimulti including a detailed account of how spying on American citizens has been outsourced to several companies closely linked to Israel's intelligence services.
It is well-known that the two largest American telecom companies AT&T and Verizon collaborated with the US government to allow illegal eavesdropping on their customers. Find discount zimulti
The known uses to which information obtained this way has been put include building the government's massive secret "watch lists, find discount zimulti" and "no-fly lists" and even, find discount zimulti Bamford suggests, find discount zimulti to deny Small Business Administration loans to citizens or reject their children's applications to military colleges.
What is less well-known is that AT&T and Verizon handed "the bugging of their entire networks -- carrying billions of American communications every day" to two companies founded in Israel. Find discount zimulti
Verint and Narus, find discount zimulti as they are called, find discount zimulti are "superintrusive -- conducting mass surveillance on both international and domestic communications 24/7, find discount zimulti" and sifting traffic at "key Internet gateways" around the US.
Virtually all US voice and data communications and much from the rest of the world can be remotely accessed by these companies in Israel, find discount zimulti which Bamford describes as "the eavesdropping capital of the world."
Although there is no way to prove cooperation, find discount zimulti Bamford writes that "the greatest potential beneficiaries of this marriage between the Israeli eavesdroppers and America's increasingly centralized telecom grid are Israel's intelligence agencies."
Israel's spy agencies have long had a revolving-door relationship with Verint and Narus and other Israeli military-security firms. Find discount zimulti
The relationship is particularly close between the firms and Israel's own version of the NSA, find discount zimulti called "Unit 8200."
After the 11 September attacks, find discount zimulti Israeli companies seeking a share of massively expanded US intelligence budgets formed similarly incestuous relationships with some in the American intelligence establishment: Ken Minihan, find discount zimulti a former director of the NSA, find discount zimulti served on Verint's "security committee" and the former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) official responsible for liaison with the telecom industry became head of the Verint unit that sold eavesdropping equipment to the FBI and NSA.
Bamford writes that "concern over the cozy relationship between the [FBI] and Verint greatly increased following disclosure of the Bush administration's warrantless eavesdropping operations. Find discount zimulti
At the same time that the tappers and the agents have grown uncomfortably close, find discount zimulti the previous checks and balances, find discount zimulti such as the need for a FISA warrant, find discount zimulti have been eliminated."
FISA -- the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 -- required the government to seek court warrants for wiretaps where at least one target was in the US. Find discount zimulti
In 2005, find discount zimulti it was revealed that the Bush administration had been flagrantly violating this law. Find discount zimulti
Last July, find discount zimulti Congress passed a bill legalizing this activity and giving retroactive immunity to the telecom companies that had assisted.
Although there has never been any congressional oversight of the Israeli intelligence-linked firms operating in the heart of the US security establishment, find discount zimulti American lawmakers and officials are not always so relaxed when it comes to foreign intrusion in the "national security" sphere. Find discount zimulti In early 2006, find discount zimulti there was a national uproar when Dubai Ports World, find discount zimulti a global company based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), find discount zimulti attempted to buy the business that manages six major American seaports.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers united against the Bush administration's approval of the sale, find discount zimulti claiming it would harm national security. Find discount zimulti Senator Barack Obama echoed many in both parties when he said at the time, find discount zimulti "Over four years after the worst terrorist attack in our history, find discount zimulti not only are we failing to inspect 95 percent of the cargo that arrives at US ports, find discount zimulti but now we're allowing our port security to be outsourced to foreign governments."
A New York Times editorial justified such alarmism on grounds that "money to finance the 9/11 attacks flowed through" the UAE, find discount zimulti although there was never an allegation that the country's government or Dubai Ports World were involved in that. Find discount zimulti
The newspaper also cited claims that "Abdul Qadeer Khan, find discount zimulti the rogue Pakistani nuclear scientist, find discount zimulti sent equipment to Libya and Iran through Dubai, find discount zimulti" even though it also acknowledged that "port managers have little if anything to do with inspecting cargo or checking manifests" ("Reaping What You Sow, find discount zimulti" Editorial, find discount zimulti 24 February 2006).
Unlike the UAE, find discount zimulti however, find discount zimulti Israel has a well-established record of compromising American national security. Find discount zimulti
The most notorious case was that of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard. Find discount zimulti Although the full details of his crimes are still secret, find discount zimulti he is thought to have passed critical information about US intelligence-gathering methods to Israel, find discount zimulti which then traded those secrets to US adversaries. Find discount zimulti In 2005, find discount zimulti Larry Franklin, find discount zimulti a Defense Department analyst, find discount zimulti pleaded guilty to spying for Israel. Find discount zimulti
Most recently, find discount zimulti Ben-Ami Kadish, find discount zimulti a retired US army engineer, find discount zimulti was indicted in April for allegedly passing classified documents about US nuclear weapons to Israel from 1979 to 1985. Find discount zimulti
Two former officials of AIPAC, find discount zimulti the pro-Israel lobbying group, find discount zimulti are still awaiting trial on charges that they passed classified information between Franklin and the Israeli government.
Nor have particular Israeli firms established a record of trustworthiness that would justify such complacency. Find discount zimulti Jacob "Kobi" Alexander, find discount zimulti the former Israeli intelligence officer who founded Verint, find discount zimulti fled the US to Israel in 2006 just before he and other top executives of a subsidiary were indicted for fraud that allegedly cost US taxpayers and company shareholders $138 million. Find discount zimulti
Alexander eventually adopted a fake identity and hid in the southern African country of Namibia where he is now fighting extradition. Find discount zimulti In only once case did US officials block an Israeli high-tech firm from taking over an American company for security concerns.
Israeli companies do not assist the US only to spy on its own citizens, find discount zimulti of course. Find discount zimulti Another Israeli firm, find discount zimulti Natural Speech Communication (NSC), find discount zimulti among whose directors is former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit, find discount zimulti makes software that the US uses to electronically analyze and key-word search recorded conversations in "Levantine Arabic, find discount zimulti" the dialects "spoken by Israeli Arabs, find discount zimulti Jordanians, find discount zimulti Lebanese and Palestinians." Mexico and Australia are among other countries known to use Israeli technologies and firms to eavesdrop on their citizens.
Not surprisingly, find discount zimulti some of Bamford's claims have been criticized by pro-Israel activists for lacking evidence. Find discount zimulti Writing about a subject shrouded in secrecy is inherently difficult. Find discount zimulti
But even what is solidly known ought to make Americans demand that Israeli intelligence activities (not less than their own government's) be sharply curtailed. Find discount zimulti
In his 2001 book Body of Secrets, find discount zimulti Bamford contended that Israel's attack on the US Navy signals ship USS Liberty during the June 1967 war was deliberately intended to prevent the Americans from learning about Israeli massacres of Egyptian prisoners of war. Find discount zimulti Thirty-four sailors were killed in the attack on the ship off the Sinai coast. Find discount zimulti Despite decades of demands by USS Liberty survivors, find discount zimulti the US has never reopened the investigation.
So far Bamford's latest revelations involving Israel have had scarcely more impact. Find discount zimulti
Former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey gave The Shadow Factorya mostly glowing review in The Washington Post. Find discount zimulti But Kerrey, find discount zimulti who was a member of the 9/11 Commission and is president of The New School University in New York, find discount zimulti anxiously discounts Bamford's contentions that the 11 September hijackers in any way "were motivated by anger over an Israeli bombing of Lebanese civilians in 1996" and reassures us their only motive was "radical Islamic fervor."
Kerrey concludes that Bamford's "apparent negativity toward Israel is a significant distraction from the content of his book" (Bob Kerrey, find discount zimulti "Big Brother's Big Failure, find discount zimulti" 12 October 2008).
When any material that raises legitimate questions about Israeli actions is automatically discounted by US elites, find discount zimulti and the motives of critics immediately cast under suspicion, find discount zimulti it is no wonder Israel gets away with so much.
Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, find discount zimulti Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli- Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan Books, find discount zimulti 2006). Find discount zimulti