Israel Defense Forces Secret Intelligence Commander Named
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UPDATE: I am concerned that the source who offered me the information conveyed in this post may face some jeopardy for his actions. Neither he nor I know precisely what that means at this time. I put on notice anyone who might cause him jeopardy: I will fight on his behalf, not just for his sake, but for Israel’s sake.
Unit 8200 is the IDF’s signals intelligence (SIGINT) division and part of the army’s AMAN intelligence service. It is the U.S. equivalent of the NSA, the jewel in the crown of the Israeli army, only slightly lower in status than the famed Sayeret Matkal, Special Forces division. 8200 monitors and intercepts communications of Israel’s enemies and serves as the eyes and ears of Israel’s military and intelligence agencies. It is the one of the most powerful and sophisticated cyber-warfare players in the world, and was jointly responsible (with the NSA) for creating some of the most powerful malware attacks the world has seen. Additionally, Edward Snowden’s NSA leak confirmed that the U.S. spy agency shared unfiltered data with 8200 about U.S. and Israeli citizens who were targets of spying.
The NSA-8200 computer worms, known by names like Stuxnet and Flame, were designed to attack Iran’s nuclear program and delay its purported pursuit of a nuclear weapon. This cyber-sabotage caused substantial damage, in one of the most successful cyber-attacks ever waged by a nation state. In turn, it generated a number of powerful and damaging retaliatory attacks by presumed Iranian cyber-warriors against targets like the Saudi oil company Aramco, American banks, and Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands gambling empire.
Unit 8200’s profile is even more prominent due to the latest in a long line of cyber-attacks, this one confronting the major Hollywood film studio, Sony. Its comedy film, The Interview, portraying the assassination of North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un, so angered that nation, it appears to have mounted a successful penetration of Sony’s computer systems. The attack exposed huge masses of data, including embarrassing e-mails among studio executives, actors, directors, agents, and producers. Personal data of company employees and corporate financial information has been compromised as well.
Technology experts have warned for a number of years that such cyber-attacks could pose similar threats to society as conventional weapons do. Additionally, the response of nations to such attacks could escalate into conventional armed conflict. President Obama himself warned North Korea, somewhat ominously that the U.S. would mount a “proportional response” to the assault against Sony. This is the first time that any major leader has warned that an attack on an individual company would result in an official attack by a nation on another. It seems like we’re headed into dangerous and uncharted waters.
Israel is a national security state in which the functions of the intelligence services, including the primary agencies (Shin Bet, Mossad, and Aman), are veiled in secrecy. Israeli media are routinely censored or faced with judicial gags which prohibit them from reporting stories that are ostensibly damaging to national security, but which may only be embarrassing to the top brass.
The names of all officers and agents (except the three chiefs of the services named above) are secret and may not be reported. Even years after military or intelligence service has ended personnel may not be identified. In other western nations, while the identities of covert operatives are secret, those of the chiefs, unit heads and even lower-level personnel of intelligence agencies are widely known and reported. There’s no reason Israel shouldn’t be the same, especially as it considers itself (though some would dispute this) a western-oriented democracy.
The opacity of Israel’s national security apparatus poses a major obstacle to journalists, activists and ordinary citizens who want to know what is done in their names. There is no way to hold intelligence personnel accountable for their actions without knowing who they are and what they’re doing. For that reason, Israeli security affairs are perhaps the most shrouded of all western nations.
The only individuals legally entitled to strike blows for Israeli accountability and transparency are, unfortunately, foreigners. That is why I’ve served as a conduit for brave Israelis willing to buck the tide against the secrecy monolith, by naming names like those of Israel’s intelligence chiefs before they were appointed to their positions; and the name of the IDF commander of Israel’s WMD force.
For that reason, I will name the current commander of Unit 8200: Brig. Gen. Ehud Schneerson. Schneerson, a distant relation to the Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Schneerson, worked his way up the ranks from within 8200.
My confidential Israeli source tells me that commanders are appointed in a very particular order that alternates between a khnoon (Hebrew slang for ‘computer geek’) and someone who worked his way up in a combat role. Schneerson is considered a khnoon while the previous head, Nadav Zafrir, was a combat officer who served in the Sayeret Matkal.
The confidential source explained his/her motivation for exposing Schneerson’s identity:
“There’s absolutely no justification for the identity of the commander of the largest unit in IDF, which is involved in controversial activities, and in which one of its senior officers is a suspected pedophile, being kept a secret from the Israeli public. Unit 8200 “swallows” billions of Shekels annually from taxpayers, and it fields a force of 10,000 – more than the Shabak (6000) and Mossad (3000) combined! The identities of the chiefs of the Mossad and Shabak have been made public for almost two decades, and the sky didn’t fall. Accountability is a very important principle, just like in the US – where NSA chief makes public statements and participates in public congressional hearings.
The importance of this revelation is further amplified by the recent revolt of seventy Unit 8200 veterans, some of whom still performed reserve duty, who protested against the immoral and destructive role they’d played. Their statement revealed they’d intercepted private communications of Palestinians political leaders in order to probe and identify weaknesses like homosexuality and marital infidelity, which might be exploited for Israel’s advantage:
We…veterans of Unit 8200…refuse to take part in activities against the Palestinians and refuse to…enable the deepening of military rule in the Occupied Territories.
There is a view that service in IDF intelligence is devoid of moral dilemmas and…only…prevent[s] violence and injury to the innocent. However…intelligence is a inseparable part of military rule in the Territories. The Palestinian population…is completely exposed to spying and surveillance of Israeli intelligence. As opposed to Israeli citizens and citizens of other nations, there is no oversight of methods of gathering, tracking or using intelligence information related to the Palestinians, whether they are involved in violence or not. Information gathered damages the innocent and is used for political persecution and creating divisions within Palestinian society through recruitment of collaborators and turning of Palestinian society against itself…Intelligence enables continuing rule over millions of people, authority that is deep and penetrates into every facet of daily life. These things prevent normal life and spark further violence and further distance any end of the conflict.
…We who served in Unit 8200 have a responsibility for this situation and a responsibility to act. Our consciences do not permit us to continue serving this system, which damages the rights of millions of human beings. Therefore…we will refuse to take part in operations against Palestinians. We call upon intelligence officers, currently and in future, and all Israeli citizens, to make their voices heard against these injustices and to act to bring them to an end. We believe that Israel’s future depends on it.
What motivated my source’s dashing brace of candor is Glenn Greenwald’s new report exposing the identity of the CIA’s prime cheerleader for torture. She was the model for the “Maya” character in Zero Dark Thirty. But the real operative, Alfreda Bikowsky, is considerably more troubling and problematic than Jessica Chastain’s movie version.
The CIA has waged a full court press begging U.S. media not to reveal her identity. It claimed she would be placed in danger of retaliation from Islamists who she helped capture or torture. But Greenwald decided to go forward because he believed that the CIA’s primary motivation was to protect itself from further scandal related to the torture report recently released by Congress:
Naming Bikowsky allows people to piece together these puzzles and hold American officials accountable. The CIA’s arguments for suppression of her name are vague and unpersuasive, alluding generally to the possibility that she could be the target of retaliation.
The CIA’s arguments focus on an undefined threat to her safety. “We would strongly object to attaching anyone’s name given the current environment,” a CIA spokesperson, Ryan Trapani, told The Intercept…he added: “There are crazy people in this world and we are trying to mitigate those threats.”
Whatever danger exposure poses to individuals must be mitigated by the even greater danger posed by secrecy. Informed citizens cannot weigh in on these important matters of state without knowing what their government is doing and who is doing it.
Israel is even more opaque than the U.S. and other western nations in these matters. But it is critical to expose this secret world to the disinfectant of sunlight. It is the only way to hold a nation’s servants accountable for their actions. That is a principle that trumps individual safety.
22 thoughts on “Israel Defense Forces Secret Intelligence Commander Named – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Nadav Zafrir – Former commander of 8200 intelligence unit, IDF & Co-Founder of Team 8, Israel. He has joined Argus Cyber Security Ltd.
Alfreda Frances Bikowsky head of CIA Darkside?
Several recent news reports claim the new head of CIA clandestine service is a woman, first female to head the darkside division. None publicly name her, although her identity is said to be known to journalists. She is said to be a formerly top member of the CIA bin Laden hunt team, former COS in New York City and London, an advocate of destroying CIA torture tapes as assistant to Deuce Martinez and an esteemed briefer of Presidents of the United States.
○ First Female Head of CIA’s Clandestine Service Signed Off on Destruction of Torture Tapes | FDL Kevin Gosztola |
CIA says “…There are crazy people in this world and we are trying to mitigate those threats.” But this is precisely what RS is trying to do and Greenwald and others. Besides, democracy requires exposure except under very unusual circumstances.
Thanks, RS for keeping the flame lit.
Glenn Greenwald named Bikowsky because ‘of her key role in misleading Congress about the agency’s use of torture, and her active participation in the torture program’.
This guy you’re outing hasn’t even had his first day on the job.
Figg – You are exactly right. This is not about outing or moral but rather prestige. Paparazzi!
@ Ariel: Thanks for your vacuous, false comment. It’s much appreciated. When I’m dissed by you, everyone else understands they should think just the opposite of the way you do.
@ Figg: That’s not my understanding. Schneerson is the current commander. THe whole point of referring to the protest statement was to show the heinous, immoral acts of Unit 8200. They are no different than the torture Bikowsky advocates. In fact, Unit 8200 helps identify victims & targets for the Shabak to torture.
Uhh…..when was the last time Shabak tortured anyone?
I thought that was all behind us. Names and dates please, if possible.
@ Figg: You “thought?” Are you sure? Shabak continues routinely torturing Palestinian security suspects. It does so with impunity. Visit Public Committee to Stop Torture in Israel. It documents such practices which are rampant despite Supreme Court ruling which outlaws torture except in certain limited circumstances. Israeli military & intelligence services routinely ignore Supreme Court rulings, which aren’t generally enforceable.
Leah Tsemel’s quote is at least three years old. My ‘cherry picked’ PCATI quote is weeks old and speaks directly to the detention of West Bank Palestinians arrested as a consequence of the kidnap/murder of the three Jewish youths this past spring.
You would think that as a consequence of Israel’s ‘West Bank pogrom’ (your words), there would be many, many petitions and reports of torture from ‘necessity interrogations’. I haven’t seen them on the PCATI website. So where are they than?
@ Figg: Leah Tsemel’s quote was only one part of the longer passage. The entire passage was not three years old. And even if it was 3 yrs old that’s far more recent than the original Supreme Court ruling that banned torture. So what justifies continuing torture, except Shabak’s refusal to honor judicial authority when it suits it to do so?
You cherry-picked one quotation which doesn’t even fully support what you claim, ignoring the entire rest of the website which affirms ongoing torture. The plain truth of the matter is that PCATI says Shabak continues routinely torturing Palestinians.
There ARE many petitions claiming torture. But the reason there aren’t thousands is because Palestinian victims are smarter than you. They know the entire process is fixed against them: either they have to hire a lawyer to prosecute their case & can’t find or afford one; or they do hire a lawyer but are prevented from getting to court by goons at checkpoints so their case dies; or they succeed in all those other matters but are ruled against by the judicial system which automatically discounts almost all Palestinian testimony in favor of the torturers. So why bother?
I warn you: if you make me spend any time researching this site to disprove your claims and I do, then I will ban you for acting in bad faith. Don’t f(^k around with me because I’m not in the mood for your bulls(^t.
I have assiduously reviewed the PCATI website, including it’s latest filing with the UN Human Rights Committee.
There is little to substantiate the claim that Palestinian detainees are ‘routinely tortured’.
In their own words, “PCATI has so far only had limited access to a small number of those interrogated by ISA. However, based on testimonies from victims and on information gathered from lawyers, human rights activists and other sources we believe that ISA interrogators may have used legally-sanctioned torture (“necessity interrogations”) against dozens of Palestinian detainees.”
Where are the petitions? Where are the victims statements and the corroborating evidence?
Are ‘necessity interrogations’ being conducted? Yes. Do they amount to torture? I don’t believe so.
@ Figg: You’ve haven’t reviewed the PCATI site assiduously or otherwise. You’ve cherry-picked one passage which doesn’t even support your claims. Overall, PCATI B’Tselem & other human rights NGOs document ongoing torture.
There is no such thing as “legally sanctioned torture.” The Supreme Court stupidly approved torture of ticking bombs and Shabak tortures all Palestinian security prisoners whether ticking bombs or not. In fact, almost every post I write about the secret arrest of Palestinian security detainees (none of whom are ticking bombs) documents torture as does this blog post by a national security journalist. Since you seem a bit dense (deliberately so I’m sure), I’ll quote from it extensively. You’ll note it makes reference to PCATI confirmation of ongoing torture:
I’m not gonna get into a pissing contest with you over this. If you want to believe hasbara talking pts be my guest. But don’t regurgitate them here.
““while he was being humiliated and handcuffed painfully”. GSS officers threatened his family, told him that his twin babies would not have a father – and then told him that his father had been arrested. He was knocked about a bit. This is ‘adi.”
Sorry. ‘Adi’ isn’t torture in my book.
@ Figg: Then you’re a liar & fraud. This is torture under any international standard. But of course it’s not “torture” by Israeli standards because Palestinians aren’t the same as the rest of us. Shabak would never treat a Jew this way, even a Jewish terrorist. They’d never torture them. Never. You make me sick.
Bikowsky is married to a David Silverstein. Any relation to Larry Silverstein…?
Bikowsky is all over the internet now. Names, dates, colleges, even the Bikowsky’s street address is now public information. I’m very sorry Richard, but things have gone too far. Does Bikowsky have to go into hiding now because she fucked up once or twice trying to protect her country from psychos like Bin Laden?
She did a massive disservice to this country. She & the CIA are accountable for what she did. And if u think the CIA’s not capable of protecting her you’re nuts. That’s what they do for a living. BTW, David Lange published my home address & phone as did someone on aTwitter. When i hear a little outrage on my behalf you’ll be more credible.
Foundation for the Defense of Democracies
Live from the Headlines (06/19/2003)
Q&A With Jim Clancy (06/18/2003)
The Larry Korb Show – Clinton Military and their Mideast Performance (05/20/2003)
CNN Saturday Morning News – Saudi Arabia, Iraq (05/16/2003)
Money and Markets – Topic: War on Terrorism (05/13/2003)
G. Gordon Liddy Show (03/27/2003)
Michael Dresser Show (03/25/2003)
CNN Sunday (03/09/2003)
Take Syria at Its Word (02/13/2003)
From the Amnesty International Annual Report 2013:
“Torture and other ill-treatment
Palestinian detainees reported being tortured and otherwise ill-treated during interrogation by the Israel Security Agency (ISA), including being subjected to painful shackling or binding of the limbs, immobilization in stress positions, sleep deprivation, threats and verbal abuse. Detainees were denied access to lawyers while under interrogation for days and occasionally weeks. Detainees on prolonged hunger strikes were repeatedly denied access to independent doctors and ill-treated by Israel Prison Service (IPS) staff. The authorities failed to independently investigate allegations of torture of detainees by the ISA, fuelling a climate of impunity. Investigations were the responsibility of the Interrogee Complaints Comptroller, an ISA employee, despite a November 2010 decision by the Attorney General to place the Comptroller under the Ministry of Justice. A law exempting the Israeli police and ISA from recording interrogations of “security” detainees, almost all of whom are Palestinian, was extended, helping to perpetuate impunity for torture and other ill-treatment”
With all due respect to your confidential sources calling Ehud a “Khnoon” is a like calling Frank Underwood a “Nerd”.
You’ll have to take it up with my source who has quite an awareness of matters related to this subject. I had no idea what a khnoon was till he told me, and how he used it in the context of Unit 8200.