Report: US monitored high-priority Israeli military targets

According to the New York Times report, the NSA both spied on and shared "raw intelligence data" with Israel.

November 4, 2013 01:38
2 minute read.
IDF Chief Benny Gantz gets the Legion of Merit from American counterpart Martin Dempsey, Feb. 2013

Gantz receiving US Legion of Merit from Dempsey 370. (photo credit: IDF Spokesman)


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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 information with.

“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 reported.

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.

Fears that Israel may strike Iran without warning may motivate the surveillance, Rubin said.

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 military.

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 allies.”

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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