I’ve chronicled over the past few months a serious promotional campaign on behalf of the IDF’s cyber-war Unit 8200. It includes a slew of flattering profiles of Israel’s top computer warriors which examine the Unit’s mission from various angles as to the benefits they offer to Israeli society. Matthew Kalman wrote this shameless puff piece for The Guardian that boasted of the technological innovation and business start-ups generated by 8200 veterans. Now Inbal Orpaz has generated yet another portrait that examines the career success stories of those who served there.
If you read her story, you won’t find a single fact that illuminates what Unit 8200 does. Not a whiff about its fearsome offensive capabilities in wiping out enemy enemy computer infrastructure or telecommunications capacity (as it plans to do should Israel attack Iran). Nothing about the most aggressive, destructive computer viruses ever unleashed on the world: Stuxnet and Flame. Nothing about the ongoing relationships between the Unit and its veterans in terms of ongoing intelligence operations which exploit civilian cover. Or the computer programs produced by Unit veterans which enable political repression in African dictatorial regimes; and the surveillance-monitoring activities of the NSA. Somehow, Inbal forgot about what is actually newsworthy about the Unit, focusing instead of the glossy Polaroid displaying its warm and fuzzy side.
There were several unintentionally astonishing admissions in the article. Among them that the chief scientist of the economics ministry, who not just admits, but proudly affirms that he continues recruiting for a “classified” division of 8200. His cooperation with his former comrades doesn’t stop there:
Hasson, the chief scientist…is involved in the classification process in the unit .
The former CEO of Israel’s Channel 2 News unironically informs the interviewer that Israeli army cyber-intelligence prepared him wonderfully for a media career:
Adin agrees that his service in the unit exercised a dramatic effect on his career. “Without a doubt, service in 8200 opens doors,” he says. “I never imagined that I would become the CEO of a news and media company, but the truth is that service in an intelligence unit prepared me optimally for work in a news company.
Neither of these individuals has the least awareness that serving in military intelligence, specially promoting Israel’s cyber-war capabilities, might compromise their independence and objectivity in their civilian jobs. In fact, there is no separation between the two in Israeli society. National security and civilian service bleed into each other. If you advance the former, you advance the latter.
Can you imagine the chief scientist in the Treasury Department recruiting NSA agents as part of his job? Or participating in debates about the mission of the agency or its classification of intelligence data? Can you imagine the chief of the CBS news division or Google chief technologist proudly noting his service in the NSA?
Inbal’s profile trumpets the wonderful alumni network that guarantees those departing from the cyber-intelligence service will have a “soft landing” in the civilian world. There is a Good Ol’ Boys network which relentlessly champions insiders. I’ve written about one such alum, Uri Leventer-Roberts, who is the Israel director of the UJA Federation of New York. As part of his job, he promotes both American Jewish philanthropy and business opportunities in Israel. One wonders whether he too may be recruiting from his lay leaders for those who may aid Israel’s cyber-intelligence gathering network.
The Network doesn’t include many Israelis from what the article euphemistically calls “the periphery” of the country, that is the north and south. In other words, 8200 recruits from the well-educated Ashkenazi elite living in Tel Aviv and environs. There are far fewer recruits from the disadvantaged regions where more Israeli Palestinians and Mizrahim reside. The reporter notes this as a social problem, but doesn’t call it by its real name: racism. Educational opportunities and infrastructure are far more developed in Tel Aviv, where the oligarchic elite, and the professional-entrepreneurial classes live. Few expect much of the poor and the outliers in Israel. That’s reflected in the social, economic and geographical background of those serving.
The IDF has established several technical high schools, which again reinforce this geographic-class-ethhnic bias, from which it does its technology recruiting.