In the shadow of the growing threat from Islamic State, a number of European states are in touch with Elta, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries, regarding the acquisition of a new intelligence and border security solution, a senior Elta official told The Jerusalem Post in recent days.
Amnon Sofrin, the homeland security projects manager at Elta, served in the defense establishment for 30 years, most of the time in intelligence roles. He set up and commanded the IDF Combat Intelligence Collection Corps from 2000 to 2003, which today is an integral part of all Ground Forces activities. Before that, he was head of the Intelligence Branch in the Mossad for five years.
Today, Sofrin is in the private sector, working with Elta, and he is in contact with Europeans who are looking for new ways to secure their borders in the face of new and unfamiliar security threats. The system Sofrin proposes is already being installed in Africa.
Sofrin cited the mass migration of refugees from Syria, sparked by the ongoing humanitarian disaster there, as a development that has caught Europe off guard, as well as the mounting threat of Islamic State mass casualty terrorist attacks.
Now, European security agencies are in a race to distinguish between the genuine refugees, who are fleeing danger and death. “They don’t know who is whom,” Sofrin said. “The threat within is also there, in the form of religious radicalization in Europe,” he added.
Sofrin is in talks with Europeans about a solution he called Virtual Border Patrol, which is made up of three components.
It starts with long-range monitoring of social media, using cyber intelligence. These tools can tell state security agencies “who is planning something, and who is involved in illegal activities,” Sofrin said.
Once suspects are identified online, the solution employs a second phase, that of intercepting cellular phone communications.
“You can monitor satellite [international] phone communications once you know their number. This allows you to narrow down who you are looking for,” Sofrin said.
Then, on the basis of intelligence gathered, hi-tech border security measures, such as radars and day and night electro-optical sensors, can be used to monitor the suspects as they approach a border. Such systems also require a suitable command and control system.
“Our approach covers everything,” Sofrin said. “It can be used alongside small, autonomous tactical drones” that fly out dozens of kilometers beyond borders to provide visual intelligence on the movement of suspects.
Cyber intelligence of the kind offered by Elta can be used to monitor suspects while they are in still in Syria.
“If I know how to enter covertly into social media networks, I can see someone in Syria communicating with someone in a Western city,” Sofrin said.
Cellular phone interceptions can allow intelligence or law enforcement agencies to eavesdrop on messages, such as those containing information on a group of terrorist operatives approaching a specific area.
“This means receiving an alert, and that I have to be prepared on the border at a certain date. I can use the radars, or electro-optical lookouts, to see where the infiltrators are coming from,” he added. “I can send a drone to monitor suspects beyond the border.”
Such solutions are particularly well suited to EU states located in the east of the union, on the periphery.
“If borders aren’t guarded, all of Europe will be under threat.
This is about building a concept and adapting it to the specifics of an area,” he added.
Sofrin acknowledged that the technique is based on years of experience and security knowhow.
Elta has begun deploying the solution in Africa, he added.
“Thousands of European volunteers are in Islamic State’s ranks,” Sofrin said, and they could try to return to set up local terrorist cells.
This is forcing EU states to reexamine the balance between individual rights and national security needs, he said.
“Eastern European Union states are building fences to secure borders. The EU set up a task force in southern states, to stem flow of migrants.
“Europe won’t have a choice” but to make tough choices in favor of security and “change the rules of the game,” he added.