The issues of government sponsored spying andÂ harassment are issues which have affected me personally, order atarax as well as have affected many others whoÂ speak out against the global war industry and the unending assaults on innocent people beingÂ promoted and perpetuated in our name.Â
How Israel helps eavesdrop on US citizens Â 3 November 2008
After the 11 September 2001 attacks, order atarax the United States government launched a massive program to spy on millions of its own citizens. Order atarax
Through the top secret National Security Agency (NSA), order atarax it has pursued "access to billions of private hard-line, order atarax cell, order atarax and wireless telephone conversations; text, order atarax e-mail and instant Internet messages;
Web-page histories, order atarax faxes, order atarax and computer hard drives."
In his new book, order atarax The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America author James Bamford casts light on this effort, order atarax 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. Order atarax
The known uses to which information obtained this way has been put include building the government's massive secret "watch lists, order atarax" and "no-fly lists" and even, order atarax Bamford suggests, order atarax 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. Order atarax
Verint and Narus, order atarax as they are called, order atarax are "superintrusive -- conducting mass surveillance on both international and domestic communications 24/7, order atarax" 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, order atarax which Bamford describes as "the eavesdropping capital of the world."
Although there is no way to prove cooperation, order atarax 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. Order atarax
The relationship is particularly close between the firms and Israel's own version of the NSA, order atarax called "Unit 8200."
After the 11 September attacks, order atarax Israeli companies seeking a share of massively expanded US intelligence budgets formed similarly incestuous relationships with some in the American intelligence establishment: Ken Minihan, order atarax a former director of the NSA, order atarax 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. Order atarax
At the same time that the tappers and the agents have grown uncomfortably close, order atarax the previous checks and balances, order atarax such as the need for a FISA warrant, order atarax 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. Order atarax
In 2005, order atarax it was revealed that the Bush administration had been flagrantly violating this law. Order atarax
Last July, order atarax 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, order atarax American lawmakers and officials are not always so relaxed when it comes to foreign intrusion in the "national security" sphere. Order atarax In early 2006, order atarax there was a national uproar when Dubai Ports World, order atarax a global company based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), order atarax 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, order atarax claiming it would harm national security. Order atarax Senator Barack Obama echoed many in both parties when he said at the time, order atarax "Over four years after the worst terrorist attack in our history, order atarax not only are we failing to inspect 95 percent of the cargo that arrives at US ports, order atarax 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, order atarax although there was never an allegation that the country's government or Dubai Ports World were involved in that. Order atarax
The newspaper also cited claims that "Abdul Qadeer Khan, order atarax the rogue Pakistani nuclear scientist, order atarax sent equipment to Libya and Iran through Dubai, order atarax" even though it also acknowledged that "port managers have little if anything to do with inspecting cargo or checking manifests" ("Reaping What You Sow, order atarax" Editorial, order atarax 24 February 2006).
Unlike the UAE, order atarax however, order atarax Israel has a well-established record of compromising American national security. Order atarax
The most notorious case was that of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard. Order atarax Although the full details of his crimes are still secret, order atarax he is thought to have passed critical information about US intelligence-gathering methods to Israel, order atarax which then traded those secrets to US adversaries. Order atarax In 2005, order atarax Larry Franklin, order atarax a Defense Department analyst, order atarax pleaded guilty to spying for Israel. Order atarax
Most recently, order atarax Ben-Ami Kadish, order atarax a retired US army engineer, order atarax was indicted in April for allegedly passing classified documents about US nuclear weapons to Israel from 1979 to 1985. Order atarax
Two former officials of AIPAC, order atarax the pro-Israel lobbying group, order atarax 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. Order atarax Jacob "Kobi" Alexander, order atarax the former Israeli intelligence officer who founded Verint, order atarax 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. Order atarax
Alexander eventually adopted a fake identity and hid in the southern African country of Namibia where he is now fighting extradition. Order atarax 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, order atarax of course. Order atarax Another Israeli firm, order atarax Natural Speech Communication (NSC), order atarax among whose directors is former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit, order atarax makes software that the US uses to electronically analyze and key-word search recorded conversations in "Levantine Arabic, order atarax" the dialects "spoken by Israeli Arabs, order atarax Jordanians, order atarax Lebanese and Palestinians." Mexico and Australia are among other countries known to use Israeli technologies and firms to eavesdrop on their citizens.
Not surprisingly, order atarax some of Bamford's claims have been criticized by pro-Israel activists for lacking evidence. Order atarax Writing about a subject shrouded in secrecy is inherently difficult. Order atarax
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. Order atarax
In his 2001 book Body of Secrets, order atarax 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. Order atarax Thirty-four sailors were killed in the attack on the ship off the Sinai coast. Order atarax Despite decades of demands by USS Liberty survivors, order atarax the US has never reopened the investigation.
So far Bamford's latest revelations involving Israel have had scarcely more impact. Order atarax
Former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey gave The Shadow Factorya mostly glowing review in The Washington Post. Order atarax But Kerrey, order atarax who was a member of the 9/11 Commission and is president of The New School University in New York, order atarax 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, order atarax "Big Brother's Big Failure, order atarax" 12 October 2008).
When any material that raises legitimate questions about Israeli actions is automatically discounted by US elites, order atarax and the motives of critics immediately cast under suspicion, order atarax it is no wonder Israel gets away with so much.
Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, order atarax Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli- Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan Books, order atarax 2006). Order atarax