A friend just pointed out to me something that sits in one of the U.S. diplomatic cables clear as day and which I missed entirely. There is an inordinate interest placed on Israel’s telecommunications systems by U.S. diplomats. They are called upon to report back to Foggy Bottom about anything they learn inside Israel on that score. Why? Because the U.S. wants to do to Israel what Israel does to us: that is, snoop on everything from Congress to the White House.
It could also be said that the U.S. has interest in such matters because it wants to be better able to combat Israeli penetration of the U.S. (counter espionage). Read the following information requested from U.S. diplomats stationed in Israel, with the above in mind:
G. Information Infrastructure and Telecommunications Systems (INFR-3).
–Current specifications, vulnerabilities, capabilities, and planned upgrades to national telecommunications infrastructure, networks, and technologies used by government and military authorities, intelligence and security services, and the public sector.
–Details about command, control, and communications systems and facilities.
–National leadership use of and dependencies on a dedicated telecommunications infrastructure.
–Details about national and regional telecommunications policies, programs, regulations, and training.
–Information about current and planned upgrades to public sector communications systems and technologies used by government, military personnel, and the civil sector, including cellular phone networks, mobile satellite phones, very small aperture terminals (VSAT), trunked and mobile radios, pagers, prepaid calling cards, firewalls, encryption, international connectivity, use of electronic data interchange, and cable and fiber networks.
–Information about wireless infrastructure, cellular communications capabilities and makes and models of cellular phones and their operating systems, to include second generation and third generation systems.
–Details about the use of satellites for telecommunication purposes, including planned system upgrades. –Details about internet and intranet use and infrastructure, including government oversight.
–Details about foreign and domestic telecommunications service providers and vendors.
–Plans and efforts to acquire US export-controlled telecommunications equipment and technology.
–Plans and efforts to export or transfer state-of-the art telecommunications equipment and technology.
–Details about information repositories associated with radio frequency identification (RFID)-enabled systems used for passports, government badges, and transportation systems.
Gene Schulman says
C’mon, Richard, what is so surprising about this? The U.S. gov’t spies on everyone – France, GB, Germany, Switzerland, everyone. Even it’s own citizens abroad! There is nothing new, or surprising, in the Wiki Leaks leaks that any well informed reader doesn’t already know or suspect. Welcome to the Orwellian world.
But now we have confirmation; and those who knew it all along can’t be called wingnuts and conspiracy theorists.
Nothing is really surprising. I don’t know why Richard refers to this as “counter-espionage”, as if the US wouldn’t spy on Israel if the latter didn’t do so on the former.
The US doesn’t want to “do to Israel what Israel does to us”. If you think the US only started gathering intel on Israel after Israeli spies got caught – you are extremely naive.
Yet another black day for the people of Iran, Gene, when we find out that those crazy leftist students who took over the embassy were 30 years ahead of everyone else when they said the US embassy is a “nest of spies”. It gives more legitimacy to a revolution we all wish we could take back for something else entirely, like reform.
Gene Schulman says
I’m not quite sure why this is addressed specifically to Gene, but, yes, I agree that U.S. bungling in that affair caused unnecessary “blowback” and gave legitimacy to the revolution. Not only did it confirm the Mullahs, but it also gave us Reagan and all things thereunto pertaining (and following). Threats of attack and sanctions continue to strengthen the Mullah’s position. The best way to accomplish regime change is to let the Iranian people do it themselves. It will happen, if only only the U.S. hegemon (Great Satan) would call off its dogs.
Gene Schulman says
PS – We should not forget, they did it once before when they overturned the Shah and democratically replaced him with Mossadegh. Only for one shining moment, until the CIA undid that. Alas.
I was addressing you, Mr. Schulman. Sorry for that, I’ll keep it to e-mails. Looking forward to hearing from you.
This leak might change everything, and not just US-Israeli relations; every embarrasing rumor, nasty comment, and social critique (like their comments about Thatcher’s Britain in 1981) written by embassy staff since the 1960s is now out in the open, and it pretty much paints a picture of a superpower which distrusts its allies (especially Turkey, Germany, and Israel) a great deal.
What I found most interesting, so far, apart from the fact that the US Government’s “secret” database is so poorly safeguarded that a local council in England would be prosecuted by the Data Commissioner if it ran its affairs so slackly, is that Israel’s real concern about the Iranian nuclear programme is that Jews might emigrate from Israel (North Ilford, you know it makes sense) and leave the Palestinians in control.
Could it be that the whole state of Israel amounts to a property developer’s bluff?
I am sure there are one or two bits in the prophets which suggest that sort of thing in times past…
It’s also interesting to note that Foggy Bottom thought it appropriate to make a private interview with the Saudi king available to three million servicemen around the world.
Okay, so we know what’s been leaked to Wikileaks out of principle, how much more and how much more damaging stuff has been leaked directly to the FSB, SVR and GRU, for money?
I cannot believe that the person who sent his stuff to wikileaks, was the first of the three million soldiers and civil servants with access to the system to spot the flaws!
@medawar: ” is that Israel’s real concern about the Iranian nuclear programme is that Jews might emigrate from Israel (North Ilford, you know it makes sense) and leave the Palestinians in control.”
Where did you get this idea from? As far as I know, as an Israeli, the subject has never been broached. I, for one, can’t think of a foreign country I’d feel safer in than Israel, my Anglo-saxon former country left me scarred physically and mentally from wanton anti-semetic attacks by yobs who didn’t approve of my wearing a skull-cap in “their” country.
Also, what’s the meaning of the “North Ilford” jibe – I was born there and didn’t understand it, so I safely assume no one else here did!
One of the cables reveals that Israeli ministers fear, not an Iranian attack, but massive emigration from Israel once Iran is confirmed as having nuclear weapons.
One of The Guardian’s non-wikileaks articles of the day reveals that Israel plans to recruit 1,000 new Hasbara in each of several key countries, too. I hadn’t noticed a shortage, but still.
Richard Silverstein says
The emigration is already happening w/o an Iranian bomb. Highly skilled workers in critical industries are leaving the country either for higher education or professional positions so they can raise their families w/o the specter of perpetual war over their heads. Prof. Ian Lustick has written extensively about this.
Gene Schulman says
I have Israeli friends who are leaving, not because of fear of the bomb, rather because of disgust over what their country has become. And how it treats its neighbors. They just don’t wish to live in such a milieu. Many of them have dual passports and chosen the U.S. as their place of refuge. For me, an ironic choice – out of the frying pan into the fire.
Richard Silverstein says
Medawar can at times be a bit obscure. How about a little more simplicity & directness Medawar?
I just thought that so many of the Hasbara had elaborate Hebrew names and were nit-picking at your alleged incomplete command of the language, so I thought: “wouldn’t it be funny if they were actually from North Ilford” -and one them was! Perhaps I watch too much of Jeremy Clarkson.
It’s pretty clear that it’s the psychological effect of nuclear weapons that the Iranian leadership is seeking: if their objective was simply to wipe Israel off the map, as they say it is, and the Chinese are selling them VX precursor already made (as the US State Department protests they are) then they really do not need nuclear weapons to do that. But VX is a difficult WMD to threaten with, because hardly anyone really understands what it will do.
So, it seems to me that the Iranian leadership actually wants the confrontation to end with an exodus and not an extermination, so it wants frightening weapons rather than cost-effective ones.
Just as North Korea already has enough conventional artillery within range of Seoul to destroy the city in half a day, and yet invests billions in making relatively low-yield nuclear weapons that might take a suburb or industrial district or two. They need a bogeyman on the table.
Having contact with several victims of organized crime in the United States, I see Gene’s point completely, too.
(NB: re: the search for WMD. To turn VX precursor into VX, you add isomol propanol alcohol and mix, at ambient temperature, but under some sort of containment (or in the shell on firing). Selling the precursor is therefore tantamount to selling the finished product and obviates all need for the customer to have an identifiable WMD factory. The bit about the Chinese selling the stuff, to Iran or anywhere else, is by far the most important thing in the wikileaks material so far, and it’s being ignored by journalists who are surprised that Prince Andrew thinks the SFO are a thundering pain in the arse.)
I spoke with some very informed sources (People who know the people mentioned in the docs, such as Corzine aides, etc.) and it’s very obvious now that WikiLeaks is an intentional and controlled leak. Some clues:
(1) Instead of using Alternative Sources of Media that are increasingly popular, internet “hacker”, Julian Assange, COORDINATED the release with STATE CONTROLLED PRESS OUTLETS;
(2) Meir Dagan’s conference with Corzine fails to mention Iranian sourced Iraqi insurgents and calls out Bibi for being a shyster. The leak was meant to provide the US wiggle room vis a vis Iran. In other words, now everyone knows for fact that Bibi is bloviating in hyperbole. At one point, Dagan is quoted as saying the Iranians were taking sanctions for an enrichment cycle they lied about completing (“paying a heavy political price for something they didn’t accomplish”). While the leaks create a sense that regional US puppets in the Middle East have a “fear” of Iran, the actual black letter reveals something else entirely: there is no substance behind those fears;
(3) Conveniently placed article on “Iranian Egoism”, our inability to negotiate (they should know that’s ALL I do for a living! LOL), our lack of manners, etiquette, protocol and diplomatic finesse (mind you, read the history books and you will see where protocol; diplomacy; ceremony; and etiquette all really comes from) right before the Nuclear P5+1 talks. How you will know this is a hit piece: when the NY Times, Der Spiegel, Guardian, et. al. all link this document to those negotiations to create a prejudice that Iran is not a negotiating partner; and,
(4) lack of real juicy stuff.
People don’t realize it, but Iran was overthrown TWICE in less than one month. All it takes is one good trick to overcome your opponent, particularly when you are much more media savvy than them. That is why Iran is more media savvy now, with their own press outlet.
I just am wondering why the US chose to throw Abbas under the bus. Was he not playing the “script” in the peace negotiations?
You know, one has to wonder whether the Obama administration is the master of this or whether these leaks were deliberate so as to counter any potential for 2012
Gene Schulman says
Oh, indeed, the administration is the master of this. But not Obama. He’s out of here before 2012. Counter any potential what? Competition, or challenger? Hah!
It’s hard to form a thesis at this juncture. What is somewhat telling is that when you try to check all of this GOSSIP against Neocon/AIPAC interests, you fall terribly short and without exception. Obama’s inaction scares me and reminds me of when Ron Paul was pretty much sidelined during one of the debates for the mainstream candidates. The two option system of Democracy may not lend to justice for those who seek to whistle blow on something heavy. 😉 In other words, you can’t put lipstick on a pig.
I’d question why these documents, dating back to the Bush Administration, show nothing terribly damning of an administration we pretty much saw render no “diplomatic” face on the outside and, instead, opt for Cowboy/Shotgunism. Why aren’t there cables relevant to policy decisions that led us into Iraq? We know, for sure, we were lied to via News clips (Rice, Cheney, Bush all saying Saddam had Al Qaeda links/WMDs) and the events that unfolded in real time.
You’d think an “ethical hacker” would behave differently.
Gene Schulman says
So, what are we looking at with these leaks? A conspiracy? Nah, I think Assange is straight – he’s got a cause.
Read Israel Shamir’s article on this today at http://www.counterpunch.org
BTW, PersianAdvocate, you’ve already heard from me, unless Richard gave a wrong email address.
You’re right it looks like you did. I am updating that domain name at the current moment and my clients are e-mailing another address, so I did not bother checking it. I will reply. Sorry about that!
One thing that I’ve learned about life is that more credence should be given to first impressions, particularly ones where you feel as though something is just not right (see Maxwell Gladwell’s “Blink” for more information). I cannot pinpoint for you exactly what that is at this juncture. Stelnikov makes an equally plausible point below. I suppose I am less interested in Jullian Assange than I am the source of the leaks and the source’s intention in leaking them. I am also very interested in finding out if these are the COMPLETE set of cables between 1966-2010. Why were others left out? Like I said below, selected excerpts make me highly suspect. It looks like someone is trying to create a narrative.
Israel Shamir brought up a great WikiLeak find: “The files reveal some brazen cases of interference. Many of the most recent are connected to Iran, which has become an obsession within the US leadership. For instance, just before the speech of President Ahmadinejad at the UN General Assembly, the State Department ordered the Europeans to leave the room at a certain cue. In fact, the European powers did jump to the US whistle that day, just as the obedient soviet satellites once leapt to Stalin’s tune. There was only one country that violated the order: Sweden. The terrified representative had accidentally missed the cue and frantically sent distressed signals to the Americans for further instruction.” I am literally laughing out loud picturing this. So many dim bulbs… when did world politics become the career of the dumb? Am I just coming of age now? I’ll tell you what you do once you realize your mistake, Sweden, you walk out. It’s a DUH moment captured for all to see.
Overall, he’s right. the United States appears to be now battling a popular front, led by Assange, under the banner of truth and disclosure for the betterment of democracy that is in major part composed of its own electorate. When US voters start siding with people like that, from the State Administration point of view, it is a very, very bad thing.
Richard Silverstein says
“The rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated.” When I make a prediction, Gene, I like to at least have some prospect it will come true. You’ll be proven wrong. You make the mistake of thinking that because you hate Obama he is unelectable, which is patently wrong. The world doesn’t necessarily conform to our wishes. We’d only like it to.
Gene Schulman says
Mine is not a case of hating Obama, Richard. Rather a case of observation. He has done the job he was selected to do, ie, convince the progressives who placed hope in his message of change that their wishes had come true. Of course, everyone can now see that the emperor has no clothes and he has disappointed his base. Thus, he is no longer useful to the oligarchy who groomed him. He is a one-term president, and like Johnson before him, will choose not to run. Or rather, not chosen. There is no chance anyone would vote for him again, not that such votes have meaning today.
Richard Silverstein says
Wrong, wrong, completely wrong & I say this as someone who no longer has any starry-eyed vision of his potential as a president or leader.
Completely agree and it was before I even started learning about JFK. 😉 It’s almost common knowledge amongst kids today, you’d be surprised.
You don’t need to be a scholar to figure it out, just a little kid who can point out funny things when they see it. Why are all of the Presidents/Vice Presidents/Cabinet the same people?? Hmmm….
I suppose I might be fortunate having learned the whole of world history after it and not actually having lived through it.
John Yorke says
Are these ‘wikileaks’ a good thing or not?
Insofar as they shed new light on the forces that shape current opinion and positions on political, military and economic thinking, then these, indeed, may be of some substantial worth.
However, such gains can have unintended consequences. While some may be of great benefit, others will not be quite so welcome.
A deeper understanding of the mindsets and concerns that reside in so much of the world’s power politics must lead to an improved appreciation of the overall situation. This, in turn, may give rise to the formulation of plans better suited to accommodate the majority of such interests. In other words, a definite plus.
But it could also be argued that the abrupt, global dissemination of so much sensitive material can seriously inhibit solutions to many of the world’s worst problems. A large degree of confidentiality is desirable when certain matters must be discussed. To have everything out there in the open for all to see may easily forestall whatever progress is taking place behind the scenes. Therefore, something of a definite minus.
In this instance, the cat appears well and truly out of the bag and, presumably, will never be persuaded to go back in.
From now on, future negotiations on any substantive issue may need to cater for the intense glare of public scrutiny at some point down the line. Or, even prior to any discussions taking place. This could amount to a significant loss of ‘wriggle room’ in all these undertakings.
Of course, it is conceivable that this type of publicity opens up any such debate to a much bigger audience, thereby conferring a more inclusive mandate on whatever decisions are reached.
Swings and roundabouts. Is the glass half empty or half full?
I guess it all depends on how we want to see things. Positively or negatively.
As long as that much of a choice still remains, there is some hope left for the future.
I did not know it was possible to use so many words and still say nothing.
I don’t mean to insult, but what exactly is your point? That you have no idea what will happen next?
John Yorke says
The point is we don’t necessarily have to sit on our collective posterior where many of the world’s problems are concerned. Although I sometimes have the feeling most of us would like to do exactly that.
We need a formula, a program, a technique for addressing all the various injustices in this world. We’ve had more than enough words. Far too many and all much too late.
Yes, as the title of this blog would indicate, we need to repair the world. And, as an engineer who has repaired thousands of machines in a lifetime of work, I can honestly say this. They very rarely fix themselves. Anything made by Man can and does eventually break down. And anything made by Man can be repaired by Man. Even Woman. Eventually.
But it does help having the correct workshop manual to hand.
And if there isn’t one to be had, then the whole thing may just have to written out from scratch.
And afterwards, the world will forgive us even if we still manage to get it wrong. What it won’t forgive is not making a sufficient attempt in the first place.
That is to assume that this is a legitimate splinter group that obtained classified documents from a 19 year old that nearly anyone with Security Clearance at a near-nominal level could possess.
Why doesn’t anyone ask WikiLeaks why the hacker didn’t give them the ENTIRE set of cables from 1996 to 2010? Select excerpts make minds suspect…
John Yorke says
Yes, that is a good point to keep in mind.
Why the entire set is not available can indicate a motive other than the one currently in the headlines.
Or it could be that the bulk of such material is being held in reserve, a hedge against future ‘developements.’
Or there is some other reason, of which none of us will be aware until it surfaces.
I suppose all we can do is wait and see. At the very least, what has so far been revealed does make for some interesting comparisons with what we knew (or didn’t know) beforehand.
“But it could also be argued that the abrupt, global dissemination of so much sensitive material can seriously inhibit solutions to many of the world’s worst problems. A large degree of confidentiality is desirable when certain matters must be discussed. To have everything out there in the open for all to see may easily forestall whatever progress is taking place behind the scenes. ”
Arthur Silber has a good response to that–
And speaking for myself, I’m deeply suspicious of solutions arrived at behind closed doors–it’s one reason why I don’t expect much from negotiations between the PA and the Israelis, not even if the Israeli government were run by a center-left coalition.
John Yorke says
That’s why I would also like to have everything here out in the open; just so long as such openness has the desired effect. At the moment, with Wikileaks, everything seems shot to hell, too many skeletons coming out of the cupboards. And more on the way. So much ‘transparency’ can complicate matters that progress becomes too glacial for any beneficial result. If so, then it’s good for neither man nor beast.
So, what to do?
Richard’s Tikun Olam here has been running for approx 7 years. In that time he’s flagged up an awful lot that’s wrong in the world. And not just in the Middle East, although I think it’s fair to say the bulk of his blog’s content is resident there.
To me, however, it’s all about focus, the need to pinpoint that one special log in this sixty-year-old logjam that has held Israeli and Palestinian at loggerheads for generations (no pun intended).
The next topic that Richard posts will probably be about ‘Wikileaks.’ It does, after all, represent a quite fascinating treasure trove of information and speculation. Later, some other subject may come to dominate and so on and so forth.
Now this may be fine so far as reportage and opinion are concerned. But the effect of so much content tends to dissipate, even distract the reader’s attention from what should be the prime motivation in this matter. What, where, when, and who are all important facts to have on record. But ‘how’ must take top billing.
How to end this conflict? Six decades has demonstrated that we haven’t got there yet. And, with Wikileaks and whatever next the future has in store, getting there still looks to be a long, long way off.
My comments here have, almost exclusively, focused on that one thing: How?
I don’t care who is to blame; I’m not interested in the mistakes, the brutality, the aftershocks of so much misery and pain, when this happened or that, what took place, where and why. Leave all that for another day. ‘How’ is what concerns me.
How does it get done? What buttons need to be pressed? What course of action has to be taken?
Figure that out first and the rest can follow as and when the need arises. Debate, discuss, inform and clarify by all means but the priority must be this; to resolve the problem with some finality and urgency. Everything else remains secondary to that one purpose.
uncle joe mccarthy says
and boom goes the myth that only israel spies on its allies
Richard Silverstein says
What myth? Who ever made such a claim? What utter nonsense.
“I think that it should not be a surprise that Iran is a source of great concern, not only in the U.S.,” Clinton said, adding that “the comments reported in the cables prove that Iran poses a serious threat in the eyes of its neighbors, and beyond the region.”
Oh realllllly? You mean she just found out about these cables, too?
PersianAdvocate, I get the feeling that they are slowly working towards the really incriminating stuff because of the damage it will do to US-World relations; already there are articles where certain politicians are trying to laugh this off (Silvio Burlusconi), but I’m sure people will be crying by the time all of these cables are released (somewhere around Christmas.)
good point. See my discussion above. I think we’re all right at this juncture! 🙂
I think what we will see throughout this affair is that the European newspapers will do a better job of covering the story than their American counterparts because it’s a grand humiliation for the US mainstream media. Already, many of these cables concern issues that were reported in some depth in the US alternative media but were given little or no mention in the Grey Lady or even the Wall Street Journal. The problem is that reporters are dragooned into becoming stenographers for government offices because if the reporting is critical, the information dries up. In foreign affairs the MSM flops again because they have to be unbiased, so a story about a bombing of a Palestinean village always has to have hasbara from the Israeli government or some hamfisted crud from the US State Department*. The glory of Wikileaks are that this is the raw information directly from the source, so any cluelessness from the diplomat isn’t spun by the government or the reporter. Of course, all of this will destroy the rules of diplomatic security, and reporters covering anything governmental will be kept at arm’s distance, but this is the price that we pay for this information.
* Robert Fisk brought this up in a talk recently broadcast on Link TV; his paper could have a Palestinean reporter relate the life and death of the reporter’s father during Operation Cast Lead with no comment from the IDF while Fisk’s American collegues would have their stories adulterated with quotes from Tel-Aviv or Washington.
For the whole gory tale of how the American war correspondents were lead by the nose through WW I, WW II, and the Korean War, check out Philip Knightley’s work “The First Casualty”; I haven’t read the recently revised version, but I own an original from 1975. The book tells how war was reported from the Crimean War to Vietnam, and it isn’t a pretty sight.