IDF Unit 8200 Counter-Offensive Begins

IDF chief intelligence spinmeister, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, at IDC Herzliya security conference

Those of you who remember back to the Bush presidency, will recall the controversy generated by the exposure of torture techniques used against Islamist prisoners at Guantanamo and at secret prison sites in Poland and elsewhere.  Among them were the notorious waterboarding which brought detainees to near drowning.  When this scandal erupted, the Bush-Cheney cabal went on a counter-offensive claiming that lives were saved and terror plots exposed by such torture.  In fact, the claim turned out to be hollow and those averted terror attacks were not exposed through torture.

Now, the IDF is going on a counter-offensive of its own after the reputation of the prestigious SIGINT Unit 8200 was sullied by charges of veterans that it engaged in tawdry, immoral acts attempting to exploit the weaknesses of Palestinians in order to compel them to collaborate with Israeli intelligence.  Strangely, this counter-offensive hasn’t torn a page from the Bush administration by claiming terror attacks were averted by Unit 8200.

Instead the IDF’s intelligence unit, Aman, has claimed that its technological capabilities have offered Israel unparalleled access to enemy computer systems.  If you ask me, the “sell” is rather pallid:

The source placed a significant emphasis on MI’s cyber division, which is able to mine data and combine it with visual and signals intelligence. It helped to create a digital map of Gaza so detailed that thousands of targets appeared on it, and every building in the Strip was shown from four different angles.

…The source discussed MI’s use of Trojan horses, some of which are so sophisticated they took 18 months to create.

“They bring back information on their ‘backs,’” the source said. “We learned about various threats through them. Some have to avoid cyber defenses.

Some have to destroy themselves if detected.”

In some cases, hordes of Trojan horses are released, where they proceed to sneak into enemy systems and return to Military Intelligence with valuable data. The source also discussed a new array of electronic sensors that have helped the IDF neutralize multiple threats recently.

Israeli media will never name a senior military or intelligence source.  But I have my own source who tells me the secret source of this report is none other than Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Aman’s chief.  There can be no doubt that this article is an exercise in damage control.  But as I said, it surely can’t convince anyone that IDF intelligence is engaged in righteous efforts to protect the homeland.  The only thing one can say is that Kochavi has put forward a vision of his unit that doesn’t do much more to embarrass it than already happened through the refusers’ letter.

Here’s more puffery from Kochavi:

During Operation Protective Edge, members of Unit 8200, the signals unit, sat in a control room and provided real-time instructions to field commanders, telling them where to turn and which buildings housed targets.

“This isn’t the Matrix [the movie],” the source said. “It happened during the war.”

You’re kidding me.  Unit 8200 breaks out its GPS devices and tells IDF commanders which way to turn in the streets of Gaza?  Something any decent GPS device could tell the soldiers themselves–and this is the Brave New World of Unit 8200?

But the puffery isn’t done yet:

In long term, Islamic State is one of top four strategic threats to Israel. If needed, Israel will pass on intelligence to members of a coalition that will strike it, the officer said.

Israeli intelligence officials have conceded that ISIS is not only not a threat to Israel, it’s never attacked a single Israeli target.  Even when it held an Israeli citizen and executed him, it never said he was Israeli (it’s unknown whether ISIS knew of his Israeli citizenship though I believe they would’ve had to have been stupid not to know).  ISIS has, if anything deliberately avoided engagement with Israel.  It holds a great deal of Syrian territory and could have confronted Israeli forces in the Golan and elsewhere had it wanted.  But it didn’t.

So now the IDF’s chief intelligence officer wants to sell us the ISIS used car.  Though the Jerusalem Post obviously is buying–I’m not.

Kochavi’s final affront to truth and reason is this comment:

Turkish-Iranian relations appear to be good on the outside, but beneath the surface, Turkey is deeply disturbed by the prospect of a nuclear Iran, according to assessments.

There is absolutely no confirmation for this claim.  In fact, Turkey and Brazil brokered a promising compromise the Obama administration initially accepted to resolve the Iranian nuclear impasse.  Turkey, if anything, if far more sympathetic to Iran than it is to Israel.  As far as I can tell, the claim Turkey is “deeply disturbed” by Iran’s nuclear program is a total fabrication.  But that doesn’t surprise us, does it?  Why should an officer who can spout to his heart’s content anonymously in the Israeli media be held to any standard of credulity?

On a related matter, Yossi Melman’s latest story in The Forward basically rehashes what we already know about the Unit 8200 refuser controversy.  But he does tell us that the highest ranking refuser to join those who protested against Unit 8200 offenses was a Major.  That’s an extraordinarily high rank for such rebellion.  It’s unheard of in the current IDF, which is far more right-wing than it was in previous decades.

Melman also adds to what I wrote in my recent post about the nexus between Unit 8200 and the NSA.  These guys are like peas in a pod.  If anyone needed proof that the NSA has in store for us precisely what Unit 8200 is doing to Palestinians, read this passage:

At a recent high-tech conference at Tel Aviv University, all eyes were on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon as they took their turns in the spotlight to stress how important it was for Israel to remain at the frontlines of science and technology. But less conspicuously, two middle-aged men were sitting next to each other in the first row reserved for VIPs, listening carefully to the speakers at “Cyber Innovation: The Next Generation.”

Gen. Keith Alexander, a former director of America’s National Security Agency, and Gen. Nadav Tsafrir, the former commander of Israel’s military intelligence Unit 8200, chatted with each other avidly, and from their smiles and body language it was clear they have known each other well and were happy to meet again.

Their familiarity is not surprising.

It sure isn’t.  That why we too should become more familiar with the depredations of Unit 8200.  They’re coming soon to an NSA near us.

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