The US National Security Agency tracked “high priority Israeli military
targets,” a New York Times report said Sunday, citing classified files made
public by fugitive former NSA agent Edward Snowden.
The revelation came
in a comprehensive overview of thousands of NSA internal documents, mostly
dating from 2007 to 2012, which were taken by Snowden and shared with the Times
by the UK’s Guardian newspaper.
The Times report lists Israel as an
example of an ally that the NSA both spied on and shared intelligence
“The documents describe collaboration with the Israel
Sigint National Unit [The Military Intelligence’s Unit 8200], which gets raw NSA
eavesdropping material and provides it in return, but they also mention the
agency’s tracking of ‘high priority Israeli military targets,’ including drone
aircraft and the Black Sparrow missile system,” the Times
Caitlin Hayden, US National Security Council spokeswoman, told
The Jerusalem Post that the US continues to evaluate its surveillance methods,
as it began doing before the Snowden leaks.
“We are not going to comment
publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity, and as a matter of
policy we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of
the type gathered by all nations,” Hayden said. “As you know, we are undertaking
a review of our activities around the world.”
The new revelations come
after a tough week for the Obama administration, accused of spying on a host of
allies across Europe, including the German chancellor.
“That the United
States spies on Israel should be no surprise,” said Michael Rubin, a former
Pentagon official now with the American Enterprise Institute.
Israel may strike Iran without warning may motivate the surveillance, Rubin
Dr. Oded Eran, a senior research fellow at the Institute for
National Security Studies in Tel Aviv and a former deputy chief of the Israeli
embassy in Washington, said he would be “very surprised if they [the Americans]
didn’t do this. I don’t see it as unusual.”
Eran added that during his
past diplomatic roles, “it was always assumed that the US monitors and listens
on formal Israeli communications. This is the assumption within all Israeli
[state] bodies. I don’t think anyone fell from their chairs when this came
out...these are the rules of the game.”
This is the case despite
the demand of the US on Israel to cease all spying after the Jonathan Pollard
case, Eran noted.
He added that the IDF encrypts its communications, but
that it would require a “huge investment” to encrypt all forms of it, adding
that there might be a priority list of classified information systems in the
Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for
Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, told the Post, “Only very naive
persons are surprised by the news that the US is spying on its allies. In
contrast to most American allies, Israel has greater freedom of action and
Washington does not want to be surprised by unilateral Israeli military actions.
Therefore, Israel attracts probably more attention than other
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.