Created on 03 July 2013
The latest revelations from Edward Snowden that the NSA is spying on the European Union is Der Spiegel’s current cover story.
“If it is true that EU representations in Brussels and Washington were indeed tapped by the American Secret Service, it can hardly be explained with the argument of fighting terrorism.” – German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger
A current report in Der Spiegel says that the National Security Agency (NSA) has bugged European Union (EU) offices and gained access to its internal computer networks. It also reports that the U.S. spy agency taps half a billion phone calls, emails, and text messages in Germany in a typical month.
“If the media reports are correct, this brings to memory actions among enemies during the Cold War. It goes beyond any imagination that our friends in the United States view the Europeans as enemies,” German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said. As the German justice minister said, such spying “can hardly be explained with the argument of fighting terrorism.”
To understand how and why the NSA spies on Europeans and Americans I recommend reading The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America (2008) by James Bamford. The chapter that I found most interesting was “Wiretappers” in which Bamford discusses the Israeli connections to the NSA. This chapter describes how two Israeli companies are at the center of the illegal tapping of our phone calls and email and focuses on Jacob “Kobi” Alexander, the Israeli criminal behind one of them.
It is amazing that patriotic Americans like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are hounded to the end of the Earth and prosecuted for their whistle-blowing actions to shed light on illegal activity, while the Israeli criminals, like Kobi Alexander, who are actually behind the criminal activity, are allowed to flee with their ill-gotten gains.
Kobi Alexander, the Israeli criminal behind Verint, is tied to the terror attacks of 9-11. Why did the FBI allow him to send $57 million of stolen money to Israel and flee from justice while he was under investigation in June 2006? How does one wire $57 million to a foreign bank without the federal government knowing?
Alexander, wanted by the FBI for a long list of serious crimes, was the former head of Verint, the Israeli company behind the snooping at Verizon. He was also part owner of Odigo, the Israeli text messaging company that was used to send warning messages to Israelis telling them to avoid the World Trade Center on 9-11. Alexander’s father, Zvi, who helped him acquire tens of millions of dollars illegally, is a former business partner of the late Marc Rich, the senior Mossad operative who sent two of his Belgian-Israeli agents to New York City to manage the shipping of steel from the World Trade Center to Asia – where it was destroyed.
What is most telling about the bizarre relationship between Israel and the NSA (and FBI) is that those who expose the criminal activity are treated as criminals while the foreign intelligence service that is spying on Americans is completely ignored. The fact that Israeli intelligence has secret access to all our private communications means that it is able to use blackmail and other methods to control our politicians. Such criminal tactics may explain why criticism of Israel is so rare in Washington, D.C.
It is important to understand how the Israeli connection to the NSA gives the Israeli secret service access to all of the data that comes through the massive collection of our private phone calls and email. The Israeli hardware and software at the center of this spying give the Israelis access to all of this data in the same way that having an Israeli security company working at our airports gives them the keys to the back-doors.
As James Bamford wrote in a 2012 article for Wired.com:
According to a former Verizon employee briefed on the program, Verint, owned by Comverse Technology, taps the communication lines at Verizon, which I first reported in my book The Shadow Factory in 2008… At AT&T the wiretapping rooms are powered by software and hardware from Narus, now owned by Boeing, a discovery made by AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein in 2004… What is especially troubling is that both companies have had extensive ties to Israel, as well as links to that country’s intelligence service, a country with a long and aggressive history of spying on the U.S.
In fact, according to Binney, the advanced analytical and data mining software the NSA had developed for both its worldwide and international eavesdropping operations was secretly passed to Israel by a mid-level employee, apparently with close connections to the country. The employee, a technical director in the Operations Directorate, “who was a very strong supporter of Israel,” said Binney, “gave, unbeknownst to us, he gave the software that we had, doing these fast rates, to the Israelis.”
… But Binney now suspects that Israeli intelligence in turn passed the technology on to Israeli companies who operate in countries around the world, including the U.S. In return, the companies could act as extensions of Israeli intelligence and pass critical military, economic and diplomatic information back to them. “And then five years later, four or five years later, you see a Narus device,” he said. “I think there’s a connection there, we don’t know for sure.”
– James Bamford, “Shady Companies with Ties to Israel Wiretap the U.S. for the NSA,” Wired.com, April 3, 2012
The following extracts are from the chapter “Wiretappers” from The Shadow Factory, Bamford’s 2008 book. The chapter explains how the Israelis have access to the stored data that has been collected by the NSA and describes some of the things they can do with it, such as using our digital voice-print to find all of our recorded telephone calls:
While such tools as DCS-1000 [Carnivore] and CIPAV are used on a small number of select targets, Verint and Narus are superintrusive – conducting mass surveillance on both international and domestic communications 24/7. What is especially troubling, but little known, is that both companies have extensive ties to a foreign country, Israel, as well as links to that country’s intelligence service – a service with a long history of aggressive spying against the U.S.
Equally troubling, the founder and former chairman of one of the companies is now a fugitive, wanted by the FBI on nearly three dozen charges of fraud, theft, lying, bribery, money laundering, and other crimes. Although there has long been Congressional oversight of the telecom industry, there is virtually no oversight of the companies hired to do the bugging.
Verint was founded by a former Israeli intelligence officer, Jacob Alexander, who often goes by the nickname “Kobi.” His father, Zvi Alexander, was a wealthy Israeli oil baron and an international wheeler-dealer who ended up running the country’s state-owned oil company. To win drilling franchises, he would make political payments to African cabinet ministers, often in partnership with the U.S. tax cheat Marc Rich, who became a fugitive and was given sanctuary in Israel. (p. 238)
Thus, by 2004, a large percentage of America’s – and the world’s – voice and data communications were passing through wiretaps built, installed, and maintained by a small, secretive Israeli company run by former Israeli military and intelligence officers. Even more unnerving is the fact that Verint can automatically access the mega-terabytes of stored and real-time data secretly and remotely from anywhere, including Israel. (p. 241)
While Verint can provide mass interception of data and phone calls, one of its Israeli spinoffs, PerSay, can go one step further and offer “advanced voice mining.” The company, based in Tel Aviv, employs a system “that efficiently searches for a target’s voice within a large volume of intercepted calls, regardless of the conversation content or method of communication.” Thus, with remote access to the internal and international voice and data communications of over one hundred countries around the world, including the United States, Verint’s headquarters in Tel Aviv has a capability rivaled only by the NSA’s, if not greater, especially when coupled with PerSay’s voice-mining capability. (p. 242)
The agency responsible for worldwide eavesdropping in Israel is the hypersecret Unit 8200, that country’s NSA… Having both trained alumni of the organization and sophisticated eavesdropping equipment developed by Unit 8200 in foreign countries would be an enormous intelligence windfall, should Israel be able to harness it. Retired Brigadier General Hanan Gefen, a former commander of Unit 8200, noted his former organization’s influence on Comverse, which owns Verint, as well as the other Israeli companies that dominate the U.S. eavesdropping and surveillance market. (p. 243)
Nevertheless, despite the fact that many of the NSA’s and the Pentagon’s sensitive communications – like those of the rest of the country – travel across the tapping equipment of Verint and Narus, their links to Israel seem to have slipped below the radar. (p. 244)
Thus, virtually the entire American telecommunications system is bugged by two Israeli-formed companies with possible ties to Israel’s eavesdropping agency – with no oversight by Congress.
Also troubling are Verint’s extremely close ties to the FBI’s central wiretapping office, known as the CALEA Implementation Section (CIS). (p. 246)
Unknown to the public, an entire national telecom network was channeled through a powerful foreign-made bug controlled by a corrupt foreign-based company with close links to a foreign electronic spy agency. As of 2008, the bug was still there and the only thing that had changed was a reshuffling of the company’s top management. (p. 252)
Sources and Recommended Reading:
“How the NSA Targets Germany and Europe,” Der Spiegel, July 1, 2013
“Shady Companies with Ties to Israel Wiretap the U.S. for the NSA” by James Bamford, Wired.com, April 3, 2012
“The Israeli Criminals Behind the NSA Spy Scandal” by Christopher Bollyn, Bollyn.com, June 13, 2013
The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America by James Bamford, Doubleday, 2008
This article was first published on bollyn.com.