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IDF Unit 8200 Cyberwar Veterans Developed NSA Snooping Technology

A little known footnote to the brewing PRISM scandal, in which the NSA has for years harvested Americans’ personal data via eight of the largest social media and technology companies in the world, involves special technology developed by two Israeli companies founded by veterans of the IDF’s cyber-warfare Unit 8200:

If America’s tech giants didn’t ‘participate knowingly’ in the dragnet of electronic communication, how does the NSA get all of their data?

One theory: the NSA hired two secretive Israeli companies to wiretap the U.S. telecommunications network.

boeing narusVerint and Narus created programs which offered the NSA backdoors to all the major U.S. telecommuications and technology companies including Facebook, Microsoft, Google.  That’s how the companies could deny that they explicitly knew or approved of PRISM’s harvesting their data:

Both Verint and Narus were founded in Israel in the 1990s. Both provide monitoring and intercept capabilities to service providers and government organizations, promoting claims that their equipment can access and retain large amounts of information on a vast number of targets.

From Robert Poe of Wired:

Narus’ product, the Semantic Traffic Analyzer, is a software application that runs on standard IBM or Dell servers using the Linux operating system. It’s renowned within certain circles for its ability to inspect traffic in real time on high-bandwidth pipes, identifying packets of interest as they race by at up to 10 Gbps.

“*Anything that comes through (an internet protocol network), we can record,” Steve Bannerman, marketing vice president of Narus, a Mountain View, California company, said. “We can reconstruct all of their e-mails along with attachments, see what web pages they clicked on, we can reconstruct their (voice over internet protocol) calls.”

With a telecom wiretap the NSA only needs companies like Microsoft, Google, and Apple to passively participate while the agency to intercepts, stores, and analyzes their communication data. The indirect nature of the agreement would provide tech giants with plausible deniability.

And having a foreign contractor bug the telecom grid would mean that the NSA gained access to most of the domestic traffic flowing through the U.S. without technically doing it themselves.

This would provide the NSA, whose official mission is to spy on foreign communications, with plausible deniability regarding domestic snooping.

Thus, the arrangement is nifty for all those involved…except for those Americans who are victims of this intelligence shell game.

Let’s now get to Unit 8200 and its role: this IDF entity is responsible for Israel’s cyber-warfare capability. It developed Stuxnet and Flame along with its colleagues in the NSA, who also shared “credit.” Unit 8200 veterans have founded numerous start-ups that commercialize their military applications for security use by companies, intelligence agencies, and entire nations:

In 2007 a former commander of the highly secret Unit 8200 (i.e. Israel’s NSA) told Forbes that the technology of Comverse (i.e. the company that owns Verint) is based on Unit 8200 technology.

One of the founders of Verint, Jacob “Kobi” Alexander, is a former Israeli intelligence officer. [ed., this portrait of Alexander's alleged bank and stock fraud, which led him to seek refuge in Namibia, is instructive]

A co-founder and former chairmen [sic] of Narus, Ori Cohen, told Fortune in 2001 that his partners have done technology work for Israeli intelligence.

In 2011 another former chief of Unit 8200 acknowledged to the Israeli paper Haartez that high-tech firms around the world employ both Unit 8200 equipment and its veteran personnel.

From Bamford Wired (emphasis ours):

“Cautious estimates indicate that in the past few years… Unit 8200 veterans have set up some 30 to 40 high-tech companies, including 5 to 10 that were floated on Wall Street.” Referred to only as “Brigadier General B,” he added, “This correlation between serving in the intelligence Unit 8200 and starting successful high-tech companies is not coincidental: Many of the technologies in use around the world and developed in Israel were originally military technologies and were developed and improved by Unit veterans.”

Unfortunately, when it comes to riding roughshod over the rights of citizens, when it comes to developing and maintaining the national security state, it seems the IDF and its veterans are right in the thick of it. If the NSA ever needed any lessons taught, it had only to turn to Israeli cyber-warriors who’ve been given carte blanche in the war on terror to do whatever it takes to fight the “enemy,” whoever that may be.

The IDF has brought us targeted killings via drone and many other methods.  Another Unit 8200 veteran created the financial services company Payoneer, whose bank-card product was used by the Mossad Dubai assassins who murdered Mahmoud al-Mabouh.

Now they bring us the means to spy on our own citizens without leaving any fingerprints.  How convenient both for the NSA and companies involved.  They don’t do anything, at least not actively.  They are merely passive receptors for the dirty work done for them by our Israeli friends at Narus and Verint.

To which I say: if you want a society like Israel’s obsessed with national security and willing to pay any price for it, then don’t object to PRISM or the wholesale harvesting of virtually everything personal you might have (except your thoughts, which they haven’t figured out how to harvest yet).  If this is not your vision of what society should be, then yell your head off.

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{ 14 comments… add one }
  • dickerson3870 June 8, 2013, 10:49 AM

    The U.S. has finally become its very own “banana republic”!

  • Yashuv June 9, 2013, 7:24 PM

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/08/nsa-boundless-informant-global-datamining

    Map of level on national data mining. Israel and Egypt at highest levels.

    • Nimrod June 9, 2013, 11:34 PM

      You probably mixed up Israel and Jordan. look closer.

      • Yashuv June 10, 2013, 7:14 PM

        Nimrod
        You are correct about my mix up.

        25 years ago I had a situation in Israel.
        Stopped outside of Orient House for a minute when my Palestinian partner said hello to someone..
        The border patrol guy sitting under a tree wrote down my Israeli license plate number. I was living in Israel as a tourist at the time.. Within 24 hours I was under Shabak surveillance….. Was having problems with my partner and their was some unpleastness.. …… An Israeli friend referred me to a friend of his a lawyer who had served in the Shabak……he said if I thought I was under surveillance it was easier to intercept my cellphone and I should use my land lines…… Turned out everything was under surveillance cell,phones,fax….. My Shabak problem was cleared up over nite the buissness issue we’ll I just lost money there. ( I established my bona fides when I asked do you know Mr. X. , mr x was the Arabic Field agent name of my girlfriends Orthodox Jewish brother who I knew.)

        I have assumed since then that ultimately anything I say,fax and now on the Internet is recorded somewhere.

        • Nimrod June 11, 2013, 11:21 PM

          That sounds like an unpleasant experience.

          On the other hand you had a cellphone as a tourist in Israel in the 80’s. If I saw anyone using one back then, I’d think he’s a spy also.

  • Davey June 9, 2013, 8:35 PM

    Israel excels in technologies aimed at avoiding detection and avoiding accountability because this is precisely what it has undertaken all along, to avoid being “found out” and having to take responsibility for its crimes. Zionism may well succeed in creating its monstrous state out of such material, by such unacceptable means, but the Jewish people will likely not want that state in the end. The Bolsheviks did as much, just as earnestly, for the Russian people but were finally completely undone, weren’t they? And Americans may yet, maybe now, reject the security state. If PRISM doesn’t do it, however, nothing will.

  • Oui June 10, 2013, 2:54 AM

    Excellent links to articles in Wired who have written for many years about the development in domestic spying. Personally I have written about development during the Jeb/George Bush-Cheney years and the companies involved in 2000 Florida election voter purge and MATRIX datamining. The intrusion into privacy of citizens worldwide has been staggering. The Egyptian state used Narus software to spy on protesters. The government of Egypt’s attempted crackdown on mass protests has been aided by an American firm that sells telecommunications software that allows the authoritarian regime to spy on citizens’ emails and cell phone communications.

  • Oui June 10, 2013, 2:55 AM

    And of course a lot has been written about the Israeli ventures in Verint and Comverse. In The Netherlands an Israeli company does the official wiretapping for the Justice Department. The scale of the wiretaps are unrivaled: Dutch Are Champions with 26,435 Phone Taps per year.

    “The law in the Netherlands says that intercepted phone calls between attorneys and their clients must be destroyed. But the Dutch government has been keeping under wraps for years that no one has the foggiest clue how to delete them (Google translation). Now, an email (PDF) from the National Police Services Agency (KLPD) has surfaced, revealing that the working of the technology in question is a NetApp trade secret. The Dutch police are now trying to get their Israeli supplier Verint to tell them how to delete tapped calls and comply with the law. Meanwhile, attorneys in the Netherlands remain afraid to use their phones.”

    • Davey June 10, 2013, 10:19 AM

      This is incredible information. Thanks. And thanks Richard.

  • dickerson3870 June 10, 2013, 1:45 PM

    RE: “A little known footnote to the brewing PRISM scandal, in which the NSA has for years harvested Americans’ personal data via eight of the largest social media and technology companies in the world, involves special technology developed by two Israeli companies founded by veterans of the IDF’s cyber-warfare Unit 8200 . . .” ~ R.S.

    MY COMMENT: The migration of these types of “Big Brother” eavesdropping\spying technologies from Israel to the U.S. is yet another reason I fear that Revisionist Zionism and Likudnik Israel (specifically by virtue of their inordinate sway over the U.S.) might very well be an “existential threat” to the values of The Enlightenment [like "the right of free speech" and the "freedom of association"] ! ! !
    “Down, down, down we [the U.S.] go into the deep, dark abyss; hand in hand with Israel.”

    OTHER EXAMPLES OF ISRAEL’S VALUES TRUMPING (OVERRIDING) THE VALUES OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT HERE IN THE U.S.
    “How We Became Israel”, By Andrew J. Bacevich, The American Conservative, 9/10/12
    LINK – http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/how-we-became-israel/
    “America Adopts the Israel Paradigm”, by Philip Ghiraldi, Antiwar.com, 7/05/12
    LINK – http://original.antiwar.com/giraldi/2012/07/04/america-adopts-the-israel-paradigm/
    “Report: Israeli model underlies militarization of U.S. police”, By Muriel Kane, Raw Story, 12/04/11
    LINK – http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/12/04/report-israeli-model-underlies-militarization-of-u-s-police/
    From Occupation to “Occupy”: The Israelification of American Domestic Security, By Max Blumenthal, Al-akhbar, 12/02/11
    LINK – http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/2178 OR http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article29892.htm
    “Two Secretive Israeli Companies Reportedly Bugged The US Telecommunications Grid For The NSA”, By Michael Kelley, Business Insider, 6/07/13
    LINK – http://www.businessinsider.com/israelis-bugged-the-us-for-the-nsa-2013-6
    “IDF Unit 8200 Cyberwar Veterans Developed NSA Snooping Technology”, By Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam, 6/07/13
    LINK – http://www.businessinsider.com/israelis-bugged-the-us-for-the-nsa-2013-6#ixzz2VZ4JuSQE
    “What was the Israeli Involvement in Collecting U.S. Communications Intel for NSA? ~ By Haaretz, The Associated Press and Reuters, informationclearinghouse.info, 6/08/13
    LINK – http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article35215.htm
    “The Second Battle of Gaza: Israel’s Undermining Of International Law”, by Jeff Halper, mrzine.monthlyreview.org, 02/26/10
    LINK – http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2010/halper260210.html
    “The Trial of Israel’s Campus Critics”, by David Theo Goldberg & Saree Makdisi, Tikkun Magazine, September/October 2009
    LINK – http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/sept_oct_09_goldberg_makdisi
    “Brooklyn College’s academic freedom increasingly threatened over Israel event”, by Glenn Greenwald, guardian.co.uk, 2/02/13
    LINK – http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/02/brooklyn-college-bds-alan-dershowitz
    “Peter ‘Powder Keg’ Beinart is disinvited from gig at Atlanta Jewish book festival”, by Annie Robbins, Mondoweiss, 11/05/12
    LINK – http://mondoweiss.net/2012/11/peter-powder-keg-beinart-is-disinvited-from-gig-at-atlanta-jewish-book-festival.html
    ‘Israelis are helping write US laws, fund US campaigns, craft US war policy’, by Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss, 6/30/12
    LINK – http://mondoweiss.net/2012/06/israelis-are-helping-write-us-laws-fund-us-campaigns-craft-us-war-policy.html
    “David Yerushalmi, Islam-Hating White Supremacist Inspires Anti-Sharia Bills Sweeping Tea Party Nation”, by Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam, 3/02/11
    LINK – http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_olam/2011/03/02/david-yerushalmi-islam-hating-white-supremacist/
    “Boston airport security program rife with racial profiling has Israeli links”, by Alex Kane, Mondoweiss, 8/14/12
    LINK – http://mondoweiss.net/2012/08/boston-airport-security-program-rife-with-racial-profiling-has-israeli-links.html
    “Obama’s kill list policy compels US support for Israeli attacks on Gaza”, By Glenn Greenwald, guardian.co.uk, 11/15/12
    LINK – http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/15/israel-gaza-obama-assassinations

    ● P.P.S. AND HERE’S ANOTHER THREAT TO THE VALUES OF “THE ENLIGHTENMENT” BY ISRAEL’S “CHRISTIAN” ALLIES: “US Religious Right Propelling Homophobia in African Countries”, by Common Dreams, 7/24/12
    LINK – http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/07/24-7

  • bluto June 11, 2013, 5:55 AM

    The involvement of Israeli Tech companies in the NSA/Edward Snowden stories that are breaking?

    This in my opinion is a HUGE story and even bigger than the AIPAC/Rosen-Weissman spying scandal. Haaretz has been running DAILY ARTICLES regarding the ‘Israeli backdoor’ and red-handed involvement in spying on the US – citing James Bamford’s ‘Wired’ expose and others

    Today’s Haaretz has a choice article summing up Israeli concerns in this area – essentially about Israeli firms being outed and for Americans to realize that Israeli has been spying on them

    There’s an GOLDMINE article in today’s Haaretz that lays it all out:
    ‘In U.S. snooping affair, Israeli firms at risk’
    http://www.haaretz.com/business/in-u-s-snooping-affair-israeli-firms-at-risk.premium-1.528811

    or cached copy:

    http://74.6.116.71/search/srpcache?ei=UTF-8&p=In+U.S.+snooping+affair%2C+Israeli+firms+at+risk&fr=eyc&u=http://cc.bingj.com/cache.aspx?q=In+U.S.+snooping+affair%2c+Israeli+firms+at+risk&d=27024022583642375&mkt=en-US&setlang=en-US&w=BZRqYLK_jVuNOam2-hvUyci4a7iMA37u&icp=1&.intl=us&sig=rxkQ_x2RiIEhpPwh7yO5VQ–

    Here’s yesterday’s Haaretz on the NSA Spying Story and a couple of other links referred to in this Haaretz Article:

    Haaretz article:

    ‘What was the Israeli involvement in collecting U.S. communications intel for NSA?’

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/how-was-israel-involved-in-collecting-u-s-communications-intel-for-nsa-1.528529

    Here are the other Links:

    ‘Shady Companies With Ties to Israel Wiretap the U.S. for the NSA’

    http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/04/shady-companies-nsa/all/1

    ‘DID YOU KNOW?: Two Secretive Israeli Companies Reportedly Bugged The US Telecommunications Grid For The NSA’

    http://www.businessinsider.com/israelis-bugged-the-us-for-the-nsa-2013-6

  • freddie June 15, 2013, 3:28 AM

    lots of anti Israel stuff here. Back up for a moment. Suddenly it is Israel that is to blame for spying on Americans because they do that all the time at home?
    fact: if you google declassified NSA documents, housed at George Washington Univ, yo will see that NSA asked incoming presidient Bush to consider massive electonic tapping in light of the new world of electronisc and also noted how the 4th amendment sort of was outdated.

    that request was prior to 9/11 and prior to the Patriot Act

    The US has, then, seemingly called on its good ally for help in doing what the US wants to do. Perhaps outside nations ought not be used.But then perhaps contractors for intel ought also not be used…these are all important issues.
    Israel is, perhaps, more involved in spying upon its own citizens that is the US–though we seem to have caught up…but then (something that always is not noted at this place) Israel is surrounded by a zillion hate filled neighbors who would destroy them in an instant if they could.
    just noted the aboive linksP: shady companies! secretive companies! of course. they are dealing in intelligence work What do hyou think they should do? Put up billboards to announce what they do to the general public?

  • Davey June 15, 2013, 12:08 PM

    @Freddie: You don’t appear to understand the basic issue here, that privacy is protected by the constitution and no law can supersede the founding doc. Israel is complicit by virtue of its “expertise” however that experience has been garnered (and rationalized.) (BTW — if Israel is surrounded by hate, it is largely its own doing, so the dynamic was initiated by Israel.) Sure, a democracy pays a price for openness and for protected privacy, no question about it. But Americans were not asked if they were willing to forgo their phone and internet privacy to attempt to stop a handful of attacks. Rather the decision was made for them by government people who have careers and compensation tied to their findings and recommendations. (The operative word is “attempt.”)

  • Ellen June 30, 2013, 11:44 PM

    Why would the US place sensitive information in the hands of ANY foreign company or nation?

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