Art of the Con: Israel-Style
Much of what I do here is based on trust. Trust with my sources. Trust between you, the reader, and me. Your trust in my judgment as a researcher and blogger. This, as I’ve written in the past, is a very delicate dance. Like with any complex dance, it’s easy to get the steps wrong. When you do you may look awfully awkward. Something like that happened in my recent reporting on Israel’s drone failures.
As readers will know, I’ve reported over the past two years about at least four failures of Israeli drones. My reports were based on a highly-placed and trusted source I use regularly. Those reports indicated that an external agent (likely Hezbollah or Iran or both) had hacked the navigation system of Israel’s drone fleet causing IAF controllers to lose the ability to steer the craft. The result was that the drones were deliberately crashed by the IAF so they would not fall into enemy hands.
After the latest crash, I received an anonymous e-mail from someone purporting to be an insider who knew about the crashes and the reasons for them. You can read those messages which I published here, here, and here. This was a new source for me and anonymous and this did raise a flag. He also used a fictious e mail address Irathernot@gmail.com. Though he likely spoofed his email so he couldn’t be tracked, this was the message header. If anyone can ferret out useful technical information from this, let me know:
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Subject: few more anecdotes
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Because of these concerns, I vetted the information with my trusted source and others as I could, and they deemed the information as credible enough to be worth reporting, which I did.
The Israeli security forum, Fresh, began to post material about the story with a link to my post. At a later point, a forum Admin posted a notice that I had received an e-mail from a source they knew and they predicted what the message said and what I would write in my post. If I had seen that Fresh posting I would’ve known of the fraud earlier and stopped using this source. But I didn’t find out about it until after I posted a final post.
This is what I believe happened, which is based on my knowledge of facts and some guesswork based on the pattern of events and other judgments I’ve made: my earlier reporting on Israeli drone failures derives from a trusted source, as I noted. In order to dampen the potential for scandal of a major military system facing repeated failures, the IAF or others involved with Israeli intelligence wanted to discredit those reports. That would mean any subsequent reporting by me or others on this theme would be immediately brought into question. It would also tend to discredit any future reporting I did on any subject involving Israeli national security or intelligence.
The Israeli hoaxster contacted Fresh at some point during the process of contriving the fraud. I don’t know whether the hoaxster revealed his true intention or merely used Fresh as a conduit for his plan. At any rate, he told Fresh about his messages to me and that they were frauds. This allowed Fresh to do the rest of the dirty work.
As with any good con, there has to be an element of truth in order to fool the mark. So I believe that a good deal of what the con man source told me was indeed true. In other words, he confirmed the drones were hacked by Iranians (I had speculated this myself though my trusted source had said he didn’t know who specifically was hacking the drones). The con source said that the hacking of the drones rendered the fleet unable to perform critical functions as part of any Israeli attack on Iran, such as disabling its air defense system. This too is plausible.
But any con will also contain falsehood known only to the con man and co-conspirators. So part of the story I was fed appears on second thought to be contrived. As I review my decisions and judgment, that’s where I should’ve had second thoughts. The con said that because the drone fleet was disabled it rendered Israel unable to mount a conventional attack on Iran. This would mean Bibi Netanyahu and the IDF would have to mount a nuclear attack on Iran. This is the part of the story that is likely bogus.
All this being said, this has taught me lessons and also ‘enriched’ my view of Israel’s intelligence apparatus and its methods. First, no stories will be published here from anonymous sources. No stories will be published when I have no means of contacting the source. If sources wish to contact me securely/anonymously I can offer encrypted protocols providing such security.
When dealing with Israeli sources who face the prospect of violating both Israeli censorship and gag orders (and all that this entails in terms of personal risk), it’s tempting to relax one’s level of skepticism and trust someone who may be making more personal sacrifices than you. But one of the victims of such cons is trust and I can no longer afford that level of openness, unfortunately.
Second, I want to put this con into proper context. There are two forms of fraud that Israelis have used here. One is an official con: an example of this is the Fordo sabotage story which Israeli intelligence put out just before it bombed a Hezbollah-bound arms convoy in Syria. It leaked this fake story in order to distract from its planned controversial raid (the first of several which followed), which violated Syrian sovereignty and also killed Iran’s commanding general in that country. The second type of con is the private one perpetrated by Israeli wanna-be security mavens. People who fly the flag of Israel and believe they’re doing God and Zionism’s work by proving how gullible I may be. The Fresh site is a perfect example of this as is David Lange and others. They’re classic gotcha hasbarists aiming to discredit political narratives that tarnish Israel’s military-security establishment.
The art of the con involves theft. Stealing something from a victim. In the usual case, it’s money. In this case, it’s reputation. The goal of this con is to steal my reputation. It’s essentially an act of cruelty. Once again it speaks far more about the character of the con men than it does about me. In a good many ways it matches the cruelty of the policies of the Israeli government and its Occupation (which in the minds of the hoaxsters, they are protecting).
Another thing to keep in mind: this con is built on a lie since a con is an act of deceit. If those who perpetrated this fraud lied to me they will lie to anyone to advance their goals. Anyone who places any degree of trust in any of them is waiting to be ambushed by the dirty reality in which they live.
There is an American equivalent to this phenomenon. It’s James O’Keefe, the Tea Party guerilla videographer who single-handedly destroyed the ACORN community action organization and who tried unsuccessfully to do the same to Planned Parenthood. He too used fraud and deception in the form of hidden video cameras and actors posing as prostitutes or worse. Instead of engaging in a political debate he can sustain, O’Keefe, like these con men, uses the slash and burn tactics of reality TV. They reflect more on the desperation of the hoaxsters than the integrity of the victim.
Returning to the nature of this particular con: it may’ve been a hybrid that involved official channels and private. The source who sent me the drone e-mails colluded in some way with Fresh. I don’t know to what extent he revealed himself to Fresh. But he clearly either is directly involved with Israeli intelligence or is collaborating with it.
In summary, the goals are two-fold: to blunt the impact of any scandal that might ensue from the failures of Israel’s drone fleet and discredit any future scoops I might publish on this or other security-related subjects. Most importantly, the only times my stories have been wrong has been the few instances when either official Israeli channels or private Israeli citizens have deliberately sought to perpetrate a hoax for ideological purposes.
Further proof of this agenda is that I was just contacted by a reporter for the Mako online news portal who wrote he would be publishing a story about this in two hours (as of when I read his message to me) and that if I wanted to comment I had to do so by then (after further consideration, the reporter has given me a longer deadline so that I might complete this post). This means that Israeli intelligence sources or private operatives (like Fresh) have put the story out to Israeli media. Most of you know that Israeli media often dutifully do the bidding of the security state. In this sense, the leak to Mako fits in perfectly. Get Israeli journalists to do the work for you of discrediting enemies of the security apparatus.
I would ask that any report on this story delve into the question of why Israelis, whether official or unofficial, would use such deceit in this manner. Those reading that resulting Mako story should note whether the reporter does his homework and notes the myriad scoops I’ve reported which were true and reported by such leading international media outlets as the BBC World Service (twice), Der Spiegel, the Daily Telegraph, and the New York Times.
Finally, I want to remind readers that my scoops mostly derive from one trusted source (even though this source has himself been fooled twice by official Israeli intelligence officials in stories reported to me). He has offered me more than a score of scoops that have proven the test of time as dead-on accurate. Stories that derive from him are trustworthy.
The problem has derived from the few instances when I’ve published stories from anonymous sources or sources I didn’t know previously. I’ve published two stories from such sources and both proved to be cons. This has taught me a lesson I won’t forget.
Readers ought to give some thought to why Israelis feel the need to perpetrate hoaxes. They need to put up a smokescreen that conceals truths that are perceived as damaging to Israeli interests. One of the ways they deem effective is to engage in deception that discredits an enemy. But the use of deception on as wide a scale as Israel uses officially, forces outsiders to discount anything they hear from such sources.
One of the most common themes of this blog is the endless uses of lies and half-truths in reporting about the Occupation from the IDF and Israeli intelligence. There are endless levels of secrecy and deceit involved in maintaining the Israeli security state. One of them happens to have impacted me.
Readers who understand all of these things will place this con in that context and know what happened and why. Others will jump for joy and shout from the rooftops about this victory of Israeli ‘ingenuity’ (i.e. trickery) over the enemies of the State. I trust that those who matter can distinguish between the two.
The fact of the matter is that when I’m fooled, I admit it. If any of the con men involved in this project were hoaxed they would never do so. It reminds me of Walter Mondale’s famous line during a debate with Ronald Reagan:
He won’t admit he’s going to raise your taxes. I just did.
The hoaxsters probably never report any story, even truthful ones, that have the impact and importance of the ones I’ve reported. That’s why I called them above frustrated security-wannabes.
I want to thank especially Dena Shunra for her support and counsel in this and other matters. Also, I’d like to thank a certain Israeli for providing incalculable help in doing what I do.
43 thoughts on “Art of the Con: Israel-Style – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
Comments are published at the sole discretion of the owner.
In my comments I used news articles which proofed the reverse engineering by Iran of downed drones and have designed their own, Shahed-129 UCAV. Israeli drones were downed in Georgia and above Nagorno Karabakh Republic. The US stealth drone Sentinel RQ-170 was also downed by Iran through spoofing.
What is the practical joke? The performance of the Elbit Systems’ Hermes-450 is worse than Israeli “experts” admit. Looks to me Elbit Systems has some tooling up to do or some wars will be on hold.
See my comments here and here.
Thank you for your outstanding work!
You are right Qui about the compromised hermes-450. I’ve heard (through business, not security channels) that the rumors about the hermes 9and other israaeli systems) vulnerability have already put a bit of a chill on Elbit’s ultra-aggressive sales and marketing campaign. In the shadow world where drones and other such instruments of war are procured and sold to the highest bidders, disclosures such as Richard’s will not just be duly noted, but trumpeted and magnified. They fit well into an assortment of other rumors, and also into the well known interest from America’s DoD in “hardening” of drones. Some solicitations are open for all to view, others are classified. But the issue, based on what I’ve been hearing through technical channels, have been known for some time, certainly in the US.
therefore, attempts by professional con-men to cast doubts on such disclosures, as Richard tells here, are just pin-pricks in the mill, or worse, serve as proof positive that there iIS a problem that needs to be covered up. If anything, it proves that some sources (perhaps even tied to Elbit) are getting desperate enough to resort to childish means in a last ditch attempt to discredit the rapidly spreading – and evolving – story about drones’ Achiles heel.
An aside: hardening against navigation system hacking can, of course, be done, as it is for any number of other navigation systems. The problem is that sometimes the means to “fix” the problem add enough unacceptable complexity and/or weight/power/size to the drone that it compromises its other mission and flight parameters. real estate on drones is at a premium, and that’s the systemic vulnerability that Iranians must have discovered through unrelenting trial and error effort.
I think that way too little is said about what these apparently successful efforts of drone hacking say about Iranians’ computing and engineering capabilities. As well as creativity. Sometimes, extreme sanctions can achieve results other than those intended – far from choking a country’s capability, it spurs resourcefulness in designing affordable and practically executable counter-measures.
In this case a childish attempt (practical joke) to discredit RS for his writings about the Israeli security state, Shin Bet intelligence failures and IDF/settlers human rights abuse. His harsh attacks on the hasbarists must be felt too as an affront on BN personally and his close advisers.
Your anonymous UAV source did not claim to be an Israeli or to have inside information. He/she did not provide any credentials whatsoever. You didn’t have a scoop. If you look at it honestly, you were taken in because you WANTED to believe the email. You WANTED to have a scoop.
There is still no reason to believe you were conned by an Israeli. Again, if you look at it honestly, the only reason you say it was an Israeli is because you WANT to believe it was an Israeli who fooled you. There is no evidence.
The ‘return path’, ‘received from’ and other information in the email you display above provide no evidence about where the sender came from. Those pieces of information are provided by the sender. A grade-school boy with a little technical talent can easily be set them to any value he wants. In the email above, the sender appears to be from Pennsylvania, not Israel, but that really doesn’t prove anything.
Your lesson should be: don’t be so quick to slam Israel without any good evidence.
Don’t be an idiot. I cleaned up the English in the messages I published. No native English speaker could make the mistakes this guy made. He was Israeli. And yes, he did claim to have inside information among which was that he had colleagues who’d been to Saudi Arabia & involved in Israel’s drones stationed there.
As for the “lesson” you offer: I take away far different lessons & the ones I’ve learned will be far more useful than the dubious one you offered.
[Comment deleted–Ed.: I’m sure you’d love to continue this line of attack as long as possible. But I’m not interested. Move on to another thread.]
OK. You read it, though. It was a sincere warning, not a threat or an attack. Bloggers, pranksters and others will be after you for the foreseeable future. They will be testing you. Anonymous messages can’t be trusted.
I don’t agree with anything you have to say, and you called me an idiot for no reason, but have a good Shabbos anyhow. I won’t bother you again.
He said ‘don’t BE an idiot.’ & you ignored him.
Keep up the good work, Mr. Silverstein.
I am surprised that you have not commented on Ignatius’s column in the Washington Post about the Turks informing Iran about Israeli Mossad agents in spite of 50 years of intelligence cooperation between Israel and Turkey. I would have thought you would have been thrilled about it, since you love posting items about Israeli failures and setbacks and you are distressed about any good news about Israel, for instance the poll tht showed Israelis are among the happiest people in the world.
Thank you for reporting on this.
Yeah, Mossad’s close relationship with the Shah’s Savak was abruptly ended in 1979.
The Ignatius article is actually why I came her today and decided to join the comments. I didn’t realize a decent sized poo poo storm (forgive my language) had erupted over the drone articles so perhaps Mr. S has a little too much on his plate at this time to address the matter. Anyway, like you all, I’d love to get his take on this issue. Here’s to hoping for something soon!
I was hoping to see Richard’s take on this as well.
@ Ari Greenfield: Now you can. The latest post…
Thank you! BTW; I sent you an email via the contact tab
introducing myself. I hope it found you.
@ Ari Greenfield: Could you send again.
Richard- I can no longer reply below you…. Nonetheless, resent per your request.
I have not received it. Perhaps my contact form isn’t working. Could you contact me via Facebook or Twitter?
I don’t have
Whoops… I don’t have Facebook or Twitter, sorry… I was basically just introducing myself and thanking you for providing this blog. I’m a lawyer from the US; travel a lot and hope to contribute to the discussion in a positive manner. I also hope to learn from those I disagree with- all the while remaining civil and treating others with respect!
A wise decision as expected from a lawyer. Are you the Ari Dov Greenfield educated at Brandeis U.?
Sadly, I am not THE Ari from Brandeis :-(.
Thanks Ari. You helped me discover that my contact form hasn’t been working for some time. I’m trying to investigate why this happened and fix it. I don’t give out my personal e mail in the threads for obvious reasons. But I should have this fixed and if you like you can send me some further details then.
It depends on what is meant by “happiness.” It may be that extorting funds from US taxpayer and oppressing literally a million plus people could make Israelis happy. It may be that invading Lebanon and killing thousands of civilians or, in Gaza, over 1400 in one operation is the stuff of dreams — the Israeli “Good Life.” I think there’s something to this.
Thank you, Richard for doing such a great job. There will always be con artists and mean-spirited folk out there trying to sabotage what you do. When all’s said and done, they are the losers. Keep up the good work.
Maybe the people who sent you these messages were from Iran? Isn’t it also their interest to show there is a problem with the drones? Or maybe it was sent from a business rival in order to humiliate Elbit before a big deal? (There is nothing important you can tell from the message header)
You have completely failed this time! Even tough my views on Israel are far different from yours, I thought that at least we can argue based on facts.
All you have is your credibility and if you continue to guess you will be wrong something (and something for a blogger/reporter is a big no-no).
(This is comment #2 this month so I owe you $2)
@ Nir Katz: No, sorry I didn’t completely fail. Everything I’ve reported about drones being hacked remains true & that still remains the heart of the story. Four Israeli drones have crashed by being hacked by Hezbollah or Iran. Everything else offered in those faked messages was wrong, but nothing that was wrong detracts in any way from the key point about the failure of Israel’s drone fleet.
It is a reflection of RS’s integrity that he has reported the problem very completely. The fact is that RS is widely regarded as a unique source on IP and the drone reports are the proof in the pudding. RS — keep a’ going despite how these poor mistreated little Israel guys malign this work.
Isn’t an Iran possessing nuclear weapons a greater threat, an unstable factor in middle east more than Israel can be with its Jerichos and dolphin subs Mr Silverstein?
Israel has no territorial claims in neighbouring countries.
Iran plays dangerous games with the Shiah minorities in Arabian Peninsula,in Southern Iraq.
Many analysts see in the foreseeable future the creation of a Kurdistan state with Iranian Iraqi Syrian and Turkish Kurdistan uniting.15-20 million Kurds only reside in Turkey.
An Iran with nuclear weapons would lead to a nuclear armament race Saudi Arabia and Turkey.The Salafis are dangerous and their regime very fragile,Turkey is on a path of disintegration ( mainly from the Kurdish matter and also from the suppression of the Alevi minority, 10+ millions).
Israel besides its current leadership’s paranoia isn’t a threat to the region.
Of course diplomacy is the first option to be sought on the Iranian nuclear program issue.
Is the Samson Option a reality?Would Israel in a vital threat – from a nuclear Iran or an Arabian nuclear state – nuke European capitals?eg Rome,Zurich,Lisbon?
I wonder if an attack on Iran could derail things more than a stupid Turkish standoff ( provoking Russia to attack Turkey) will.
In your opinion how would a Kurdish state change things for Israel?
Tal Inbar, one of the Fresh military forum Experts, claims your famous war story was a hoax as well.
And this is what Mr. Inbar claims:
“ומכיוון שהנ”ל בונה את תהילתו על פרסום “תרחיש המלחמה הסודי” עם איראן, אולי קרב הזמן להסיר את המסווה גם בעניין זה”
Since the above – Richard Silvertein – builds his fame, on publishing the “secret war story” with Iran, maybe the time is near to remove the veil of secrecy from this matter as well.
@ Cyrus: That’s a battle that was fought long ago. Not to mention I’ve mentioned it & my refutation of their garbage twice in the past week in posts. Go find that, read it, and let’s move on.
Oh & calling anyone at Fresh an “expert” both gives away your prejudices & reveals how little you know about the quality of their work.
“calling anyone at Fresh an “expert” both gives away your prejudices & reveals how little you know about the quality of their work.”
Wow, what a snarky uncalled for comment. Expert = he was designated as an expert by Fresh forum admin. Log into fresh you will see he has a yellow start next to his name, that means that he was designated as an expert by the forum admin. Tal Inbar, One of the forum many experts, raised a whole new argument (or at least hinted towards) one : The source who provided you the Iran war story belongs to the Fresh Forum( or received the information through from them)
As for your statement Re: the Fresh Forum quality of work : I do not have the ability to judge , i’m far from being a military expert. However, with that being said, last week events made me realize that when the Fresh Forum members claim they have mislead you, they have the proof to back it up.
@ Cyrus: That isn’t a “whole new argument” & it’s bullshit. And pure unadulterated bullshit I might add. Just like everything else published by Sirpad & his pals. As I commented to Sirpad here, he & I both know who gave us both the Iran battle plan document. Although it’s possible Sirpad doesn’t know the source who gave it to him. But I know that whoever gave it to him gave it to me. THe difference between Sirpad & me is that I know & tell you it is an official cabinet/PMO document. Sirpad lied and called it fictitious which it isn’t. And I know the bona fides of the person who gave it to me. And that source knows, btw that I’ll give him a red card if he ever tries to peddle a story to me he’s peddled to Fresh.
And I’ll tell you something: the Fresh folk lie & con & I don’t do either. I may be fooled, but I will never fool someone else including even you, or the rest of my readers. I wouldn’t even try to con Fresh, because they’re not worth the time. And that’s another difference bet. them & me.
As for whether they fooled me or not…I could give a shit. If you think that’s important I suggest you get your news & yellow journalism there. This site may not be what you’re looking for.
Thank you for the detailed reply
1. It is my understanding that you were given an actual document – you are referring to a briefing paper for Bibi in your other post, am i right ? If you did, that changes everything.
2. Out of curiosity, If Sirpad knows who gave both You and him the detailed war plans, and the plans are “Top Secret” , what is stopping Sirpad, whom you defined as security-obsessed Israeli rightist, from going to the police or contacting the shabak ? It doesn’t really add up.
3. Thank you.
I’m not sure whether the plan was secret or not. It was used, I surmise, to brief cabinet ministers who opposed the attack. So I could imagine it might not be secret since those opposed to the attack read it and might leak it (as someone did).
Sirpad knows this source, as the Israeli who conveyed this document to me knows him. The leaker is someone with a military-security role. I surmise again someone opposed to Bibi’s plan to attack, as are almost all the leaders of the Israeli security apparatus. For Sirpad to turn his source in would be like killing the goose that layed the golden eggs. Why would anyone turn in a source? You know you’re likely to get more scoops from him in the future. What’s the benefit to doing this? Besides, if the police were to investigate every security official who leaked a document to a journalist half of the general staff would be under investigation. Almost all of them leak at one time or another to one journalist or another.
At any rate, I’m getting very tired of this who line of discussion and want to close it now. Feel free to comment in other threads. I don’t have more to say about this (nor do you–hint, stronger hint).
I thank you for the time and effort you have invested in answering my questions. All is have to say on the subject – after reading your excellent written post dated 08/15/2012: If you are not sure the plan was secret (as you wrote above) , you shouldn’t title it “Bibi’s Secret War Plan”.
I will take you up on your suggestion and will go and “get your news & yellow journalism there”.
I won’t bother you again.
So Tal Inbar was surprised by the Iranian ability to reverse-engineer US and Israeli drones which were “lost” above enemy territory. Info about the Shahed-129 was readily available fron open source.
US military complex welcomes the hostilities in the Gulf region as another contract for 1,500 bunker-buster bombs GBU-39 can be delivered to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in 2014. Enjoy your joke.
I’m not too sophisticated or informed. I read your postings, knowing I can trust you are writing with integrity, seeking out facts.
Strange things happen on the internet. It can catch one off guard. If I were to see something dubious, I would instantly delete, but I don’t have a post like you. One must be vigilant.
Thanks for being candid and forthright. I share the sentiments of Davey and Mary Thompson, keep up the good work! It is appreciated.
“I read your postings, knowing I can trust you are writing with integrity, seeking out facts.”‘
I agree 100%..
@ Elisabeth: Thanks to all those who’ve been supportive on this subject. It’s much appreciated!
@ Any Comment: When did you stop beating your wife? Any comment?
BTW, if I wasn’t attacked in that right wing turd fest known as Allegemeiner, I’d know I was doing something very wrong!