Israel and the NSA: Partners in Crime

Documents hint Israelis behind attempt to eavesdrop on France – but America takes the blame

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It wasn’t the US government breaking into the private communications of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, according to top secret documents unearthed by Edward Snowden and published in Le Monde – it was the Israelis.

A four-page internal précis regarding a visit to Washington by two top French intelligence officials denies the NSA or any US intelligence agency was behind the May 2012 attempted break-in – which sought to implant a monitoring device inside the Elysee Palace’s communications system – but instead fingers the Israelis, albeit indirectly:

The visit by Barnard Barbier, head of the DGSE’s technical division, and Patrick Pailloux, a top official with France’s National Information Systems Security, was intended to elicit an explanation for the break-in, which the French media blamed on the Americans. The NSA’s inquiries to the British, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, and other US allies all turned up negative. However, one such close ally wasn’t asked.

As Glenn Greenwald and Jacques Follorou, citing the NSA document, put it in their Le Monde piece: the NSA “’intentionally did not ask either the Mossad or the ISNU (the technical administration of the Israeli services) whether they were involved’ in this espionage operation against the head of the French government.”

An interesting omission, to say the least, one justified by the author of the memo with some odd phraseology: “France is not an approved target for joint discussion by Israel and the United States.” Meaning – exactly what? This is a job for Marcy Wheeler! But I’ll hazard a guess: the US is well aware of Israeli spying on France and wants nothing to do with it, and/or the author of the memo is simply invoking some obscure protocol in order to justify going any farther.

In any case, the Israeli connection to the NSA’s global spying network – including its all-pervasive surveillance inside the US – has been well-established by Greenwald’s previous reporting on the subject: a September 11 article detailing how the NSA shares raw intercepts from its data-dragnet with Israeli intelligence, scooping up purloined emails and other data – in effect giving the Mossad a “back door” into a treasure trove of information on the private lives and activities of American citizens.

The Guardian published a five-page memorandum of understanding between Tel Aviv and Washington, provided to Greenwald by Snowden: rife with references to the legal and constitutional constraints “pertaining to the protection of US persons,” it goes on to state forthrightly that the Israelis are permitted access to “raw Sigint” – unredacted and unreviewed transcripts, Internet metadata, and the content of emails and telephonic communications. While the Israelis supposedly solemnly swear to not “deliberately” target any American citizen, the agreement explicitly rules out a legal obligation on the part of the Israelis to follow the rules:

This agreement is not intended to create any legally enforceable rights and shall not be construed to be either an international agreement or a legally binding instrument according to international law.”

The Israelis are allowed to retain raw NSA data on American citizens for up to a year, as long as they inform the NSA, but when it comes to US government communications – those must be destroyed “upon recognition.” This interdict presumably covers the internal communications of our law enforcement officers, but as both James Bamford and Fox News’s Carl Cameron have reported, Israeli penetration of this vital sector is already an accomplished fact.

In his book, The Shadow Factory, and a 2012 Wired piece, Bamford details the NSA’s connections to “secretive contractors with questionable histories and little oversight” which were used “to do the actual bugging of the entire U.S. telecommunications network.”

According to Bamford, who cites a former Verizon employee, Verint/Comverse Technology – a company with direct ties to the Israeli government and founded by former Israeli intelligence officers – “taps the communication lines at Verizon.” Over at AT&T, “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.” As Bamford puts it:

“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 US.

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