Report: US, UK intelligence hacked into Israeli drones under operation 'Anarchist'

The UK's intelligence services, Governments Communication Headquarters (GCHQ), working in conjunction with the National Security Agency (NSA), systematically surveyed Israeli drones from Cyprus.

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January 29, 2016 09:29
3 minute read.
Hermes 900 drone

Hermes 900 drone. (photo credit: IDF)

 
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The United States and British intelligence services hacked into Israeli drones in order to monitor their activity under a classified program code-named "Anarchist," Internet publication The Intercept reported Friday.

The UK’s intelligence services, known as the Governments Communication Headquarters (GCHQ), working in conjunction with the US National Security Agency, systematically surveyed Israeli drones from Cyprus in order to collect information on military operations in Gaza, watch out for potential strikes on Iran, and monitor drone technology the Jewish state was exporting around the world.

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According to The Intercept, leaked documents provided by Edward Snowden show that under the auspices of the “Anarchist” program, UK and US intelligence services collected snapshot images from the Israeli drones, as well as data that mapped the paths taken by the unmanned aircraft devices.

These images were collected from 2009 to 2010, The Intercept noted. Intelligence reports stemming from GCHQ and the NSA extend from 2008 to 2012.

The “Anarchist” program was operated from the Troodos Mountains, a Royal Air Force military position located on the highest point in Cyprus, near Mount Olympus.

A 2008 GCHQ report, originating from the Snowden document cache, highlighted, “This access is indispensable for maintaining an understanding of Israeli military training and operations, and thus an insight to possible future developments in the region.”

The report added, “In times of crisis this access is critical and one of the only avenues to provide up to the minute information and support to US and Allied operations in the area.”



GCHQ files also show that the “Anarchist” program centered heavily on operations carried out by the IDF during military campaigns in Gaza, mainly throughout “Operation Cast Lead,” that lasted from December 2008 to January 2009.

During that period, GCHQ instructed analysts to gather intelligence on Israeli drones for the first time. They collected information on over 20 separate drone operations over the course of three weeks.

The first successful operation carried out by US intelligence occurred in January 2009, when NSA noted in a report that analysts had “collected video for the first time from the cockpit of an Israeli Air Force F-16 fighter jet,” which “showed a target on the ground being tracked,” according to The Intercept.

The Intercept also noted that one of the goals of the dual efforts to hack into Israeli Unmanned Aerial Vehicle’s [UAV] was to monitor potential conflagration between Israel and Iran, with one report explaining: “Our ability to collect and track and report this activity is important for the initial detection and tip-off for any potential, preemptive or retaliatory strike against Iran.”

The US and UK were additionally interested as to where Israel was allegedly selling its UAV technology, reportedly concerned with the export of such sophisticated merchandise across the globe.

In response to The Intercept report, National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz said in an interview with Army Radio on Friday: “We are not surprised, we know that the Americans are spying on the whole world, including their ‘friends.’ That is disappointing, because for decades we have not spied, collected intelligence or attempted to crack the encryption of the United States.”

“There doesn’t need to be implications for the sale of drones in other countries, and each country performs its own encryption,” Steinitz added.

The IDF did not respond to The Jerusalem Post’s inquiries, stating it does comment on foreign reports.

Israel neither confirms nor denies having armed drones, though one of its senior military officers was quoted as acknowledging them in a secret US diplomatic cable from 2010 that was published by WikiLeaks.

The US Embassy in Israel did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Snowden allegations.

A British Embassy spokeswoman said it did not comment on intelligence matters, and there was no immediate response from the Foreign Office in London.

Rosie Perper and Reuters contributed to this report.

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