“Trilateral” Meeting of NSA, GCHQ, Unit 8200 Tracked Iran’s Leadership, Spied on P5+1 Talks
Last week, Glenn Greenwald published (article) a new document from the Snowden trove, which describes a 2013 meeting between GCHQ, UK’s spy agency and the NSA. The agenda involved a discussion of the monitoring of Iranian intelligence and cyber-warfare activity. Among the past successful efforts mentioned are the Iranian attack on the British embassy in Tehran, Iran’s exposure of the Israeli-created Flame virus, and the P5+1 nuclear negotiations. Though Greenwald doesn’t note this, the latter indicates (at least to me) that both American and UK spies were monitoring the negotiations. My strong suspicion is that they were spying on the Iranian delegation so they would know what its positions would be, thus getting a leg up on the Iranians. The NSA has already been exposed in previous stories as performing such a function involving U.S. international trade negotiations. Since the stakes are infinitely higher in the Iran talks, it would be even more critical for us to know what Iran’s bargaining points would be.
Most interesting to me in the secret document is something Greenwald never touched at all (I’ll explain why a bit later). In today’s Haaretz, Amir Oren writes about this part of the memo. It notes the first-ever “trilateral analytic workshop” held in January 2013, between NSA, GCHQ, and Unit 8200 (referred to here as ISNU, Israeli SIGINT National Unit), which reviewed the intelligence-gathering efforts regarding the Iranian leadership. The published memo redacts the portion which indicates the specific purpose of the meeting. But one can assume that they were analyzing the various leaders, their strengths and weaknesses, and how best to take advantage of them for the interests of the three specific countries.
The memo also practically boasts about the good relations among the three agencies and indicates that each of them see such cooperation as advancing the political, military and intelligence interests of their respective countries. But it also indicates that the reason such cooperation hadn’t happen prior to this was the opposition of “SID,” which presumably refers to the Signals Intelligence Directorate, the largest unit within the NSA, to working together with the Israelis. The memo calls such opposition a “potential landmine” and clarifies that the workshop shouldn’t be considered a violation of this understanding.
I’m guessing Greenwald didn’t mention Unit 8200 in his report is that he has an agreement with Haaretz to publish the portions of the Snowden files dealing with Israel. Thus, reporting on this fell to Amir Oren.
The memo also acknowledges that not only did Iran prepare and execute its own counter-attack against U.S. and Israeli cyber-attacks on its nuclear installations, but it learned directly from these attacks how to defend against them and use them in its own offensive attacks. It implicitly warns that Iran could be expected to exploit any attacks against it in ways that in future may be far more damaging than anything it had mounted thus far. I warned against precisely this possibility in this post.
29 thoughts on ““Trilateral” Meeting of NSA, GCHQ, Unit 8200 Tracked Iran’s Leadership, Spied on P5+1 Talks – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Richard, thank you for a great article. It’s a big relief to know such cooperation are happening on a regular basis.
You’ve lost all credibility a long time ago … tri-lateral cooperation to wage war, coordinate assassinations, cyber attacks , war crimes and initiate illegal bombing campaigns. These countries fancy the use of torture, illegal detention and rendition of prisoners. A super bunch!
@Ariel: Considering 8200 & Israeli intelligence routinely snoop on U.S. assets I find it appalling as dies NSA SID (and for good reason). The fake bonhommie of your reply is revolting.
“It implicitly warns that Iran could be expected to exploit any attacks against it in ways that in future may be far more damaging than anything it had mounted thus far”
And it may also be the case that Western intelligence gathering and cyber attacks, have helped bring Teheran to the bargaining table.
@Victor: And the moon may be made of green cheese!
What do you do with dangerous bed partners? Ultimately you toss them out of bed:
Joel Stein in Newsweek, May 6 2014
“Whatever happened to honor among thieves? When the National Security Agency was caught eavesdropping on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone, it was considered a rude way to treat a friend. Now U.S. intelligence officials are saying—albeit very quietly, behind closed doors on Capitol Hill—that our Israeli “friends” have gone too far with their spying operations here.
According to classified briefings on legislation that would lower visa restrictions on Israeli citizens, Jerusalem’s efforts to steal U.S. secrets under the cover of trade missions and joint defense technology contracts have “crossed red lines.”
Israel’s espionage activities in America are unrivaled and unseemly, counterspies have told members of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees, going far beyond activities by other close allies, such as Germany, France, the U.K. and Japan. A congressional staffer familiar with a briefing last January called the testimony “very sobering…alarming…even terrifying.” Another staffer called it “damaging.”
The Jewish state’s primary target: America’s industrial and technical secrets.”
Read more: http://www.newsweek.com/israel-wont-stop-spying-us-249757
And the National Security Agency wasn’t caught eavesdropping on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone?
I seriously doubt that this was the NSA’s only incidence of spying for trade secrets, or that Germany was the only target.
“And the National Security Agency wasn’t caught eavesdropping on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone?”
Why ask what has already been stated in the article? But apparently even the professional American spies deem the Israeli activities in this regard “unrivalled”.
@Richard “It implicitly warns that Iran could be expected to exploit any attacks against it in ways that in future may be far more damaging than anything it had mounted thus far” – Armies invented different arms throughout history and as soon as it was revealed on the battle field, within years, decades or centuries (pace of life was different in the past), the enemy mimicked those weapons which made the advancement disappear and the battlefield bloodier. Hovitzer machine guns, tanks or catapults alike.
Stopping the advancement of a country which openly call to the distruction of Israel, justify this price.
,…except…. there is no “battlefield” here, no “different arms”, no “armies”.
Heck, there isn’t even a “war”, or haven’t you noticed?
The USA and Israel are attacking Iran’s civilian infrastructure, and doing so in ways that are not in any material manner different to teenage computer hackers.
They are, indeed, doing nothing more nor less than vandalizing a country’s ability to have a functioning economy for no other reason than that they can, and they don’t think that Iran can return the favour.
Sober minds (not you, obviously) might actually think to ask whether… you know… it might be a good idea to consider whether this is opening a can of worms that was best left unopened.
Because – as sober minds realize, but you apparently do not – the USA and Israel is doing all this as a new way of bringing a country to its knees *in* *lieu* *of* actually going to all that war-waging stuff.
You really don’t get it, do you? This isn’t just a different battlefield weapon, Ariel, because it isn’t even a battlefield weapon.
This is a whole different way of stuffing another country up, and it wouldn’t be such a bad idea for all the countries of the world to get together to consider banning it.
After all, is anyone is going to be hurt by having their computer systems crunched it’ll be the good ol’ USofA.
This is a lie. One that’s been discussed and rebutted here numerous times. Your repetition of this lie is a violation of comment rules. Though I’ve given you many such warnings and seriously contemplated moderating you right now, I’m going to make this your “last call.” One more violation and you’re moderated.
Assuming Iran has not called for the destruction of Israel, than what does Iran want?
“Our claim is freedom of Palestine, not part of Palestine. Any plan that partitions Palestine is totally rejected,” Khamenei told the gathering. “Palestine spans from the river [Jordan] to the [Mediterranean] sea, nothing less.”–Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
@ Victor: Stop heaping bulls(&t on a plate. You, I & the world know that Iran has said explicitly that it does not arrogate to itself the right to determine the future of Palestine. It specifically said it would be satisfied with whatever arrangement the Palestinians themselves worked out. Here is Zarif. There are many other examples as well
So quit with the nonsense. It’s tiring.
Al Jazeera is not known as a source friendly or even neutral toward Iran & the source of the story is a vaguely worded “Agencies.” I don’t know who or what that is. I don’t know who translated this. I don’t know anything about it. So it’s not credible till you prove it is by answering those questions.
The ‘agency’, was Reuters.
And lest we forget, Ali Khamenei is the Supreme ruler of Iran and answers to no one.
So where my ‘bullshit’?
I don’t give a crap whether it was Reuters or Torah l’Moshe mi’Sinai. Even the NYT mistranslated Khameini before. Many previous Iranian government statements have said they would abide by any referendum of the Palestinian people. Zarif’s statement which I quoted is the standard Iranian position.
Do you seriously believe that Khameini thinks he’s the leader of the Palestinian people as well as Iranian? Only Bibi is nutty enough to think he leads both Israel & the Jewish People.
You’re done in this thread. Move on.
@Richard – I have made that claim here before and you have answered here that the quote from PressTV cannot be trusted.
I would agree when it is a statement about Israel and I won’t trust it same way I would doubt anything Israel Hayom publishes about Iran. But talking about Israel Hayom, if they wrote there is a proof Bibi is a criminal, I will defiantly believe them.
PressTV is a major Iranian news company. I will trust them with such statements as well with the weather forecast. When it comes to settlers crimes etc’ I will check if any ‘trustworthy’ organizations such as Haaretz or Betzelem wrote on the issue.
@ Ariel: I’ve written here about false claims Press TV has made. ALso, on recommendations from Iranians I trust, I do not do interviews with Press TV though they have asked repeatedly. So no, they are not trustworthy on any topic, even the weather.
Take my warning very seriously btw.
The removal of the SID “landmine” opposition to intelligence sharing with Israel, may signify the passing of a generation of Signals Intelligence Directorate staff who remember the hundreds of their own on the NSA spy-ship, USS Liberty, who were killed, injured and muzzled for the sake of their ally’, Israel.
The removal of the “landmine” generation, should better be referred to as the “torpedo” opposition. They remember the deadly Israeli torpedo that killed so many US personnel and tried to sink the ship to disguise their crime. The only Liberty in all this, was for Israeli criminals.
The ‘landmine’ might simply be cyber failure resulting from the NSA and Unit 8200 unintentionally working at cross purposes with each other. To wit, ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’.
You may be projecting a bit here. Quite a bit.
“My strong suspicion is that they were spying on the Iranian delegation so they would know what its positions would be, thus getting a leg up on the Iranians.”
If that’s the case, they are either really bad at their jobs (interpreting/translating the intercepted info) or the P5 has terrible negotiators b/c the Iranians have essentially received everything they want up to this point while giving up nothing.
I think it is also worth noting that this is the sort of disclosure that strips Snowden of any sort of “whistleblower” protections. This disclosure has absolutely nothing to do w/ 4th Amendment protections or spying on US citizens. It is a program designed to be used against a foreign government designated as a state sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. State Dept.
@ Ari Greenfield:
Why not strip away the identity you claim for yourself & admit you’re a shill for the Bibi-Likud. You mouth his lies & platitudes. Your talking points come right from the PMO. Your claims are utter nonsense. If I wanted Eli Lake in the comment threads I’d invite him. But I don’t.
And now you show pretensions of being an expert on whistleblower-Constitutional law. How fascinating that you’re a man of so many skills. Unfortunately, they’re a mile wide and an inch deep. If it’s so important to the U.S. government that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism then why are we negotiating at the highest levels to resolve the nuclear issue & possibly resuming relations with them?
You’ll find that the vast majority of Americans have no problem with what Snowden did. Only GOP/Likud security hawk shills like you do.
Is the Associated Press a shill for Bibi-Lukid?
One doesn’t need to be an expert in whistleblower protections to understand that the disclosure of a programmed designed to spy on a foreign government has nothing to do with 4th Amendment protections of the U.S. Constitution. That’s common sense. It’s also common sense that a true whistleblower with support of a vast majority of U.S. citizens wouldn’t feel the need to escape U.S. jurisdiction and hideout in Russia.
I’ve never been disrespectful to you and I find it troubling that you decided to lash out at me for simply having a different viewpoint on this issue.
And here is a link to a NBC poll from summer 2014 that shows more Americans oppose Snowden’s actions than approve of them.
@ Ari Greenfield: Oops: Most Americans Think Snowden Did the Right Thing. Guess we’re at a draw…
@ Ari Greenfield: You claimed the future deal will be a “cave” to Iran giving them everything they want, while the very first sentence of the article you linked notes the restrictions to be placed on Iran’s nuclear program for at least TEN YEARS under this supposed sweetheart deal!! Do you take us for fools? Or are you the fool?
So you admit that you’re not an “expert on whistleblower protections.” Thank God for that. Some here were so impressed with your legal erudition they were clamoring for links to your scholarly oeuvre.
NSA programs violate not only the Constitution but the values of the American people. I don’t care whether bugging Angela Merkel’s phone or Zarif’s phone is unconstitutional or not. It’s disgusting and must be stopped and Edward Snowden, hero that he is, got us closer to doing so.
What’s wrong with Russia when the U.S. has threatened to shoot down planes carrying Snowden anywhere outside it? If I had a choice between life in prison and living in Russia I’d reluctantly accept life in Russia. And you would too.
I don’t lash out at people for “having a different viewpoint” than me. I lash out at people who are disingenuous. You are all here for a purpose. The rest of us understand your purpose. Yet you, with a straight face say: “poor little me. Why you always picking on me??” Forgive me. I thought you were a grown up. Next time you post, I’ll hand out lollipops and ice cream sodas then send you on your way with a nice pat on the head.
I’m not here to get into a back and forth over the opinion on Snowden but it’s pretty clear that support for his actions has been on the decline since the fall 2013. There is certainly nowhere near a vast majority of Americans that support his actions or that want him to receive some sort of pardon/non-prosecutioj agreement. Wikipedia has a pretty good summary of the various opinion polls here: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commentary_on_Edward_Snowden%27s_disclosure#Public_opinion_polls
As for the Iranian nuke deal, it includes restrictions for 10 years, yes, but at the end of that ten years it still leaves Iran with the ability to create a nuke. That’s hardly the deal Obama promised that would prevent Iran from ever obtaining a nuke.
This conversation apparently isn’t going to go anywhere constructive so this will be my last reply.
@ Ari Greenfield: Of course you’re here to “get into a back and forth.” That’s why people like you do in places like this. As for how “clear” it is that support for Snowden is declining, I think you’re wrong and you can find polls supporting my pt of view & yours which proves that the jury’s out on this. But that hardly matters to me. Snowden has served a tremendously important role in exposing the misdeeds of the national security state. His revelations are even more important than those of Daniel Ellsberg…& his were monumental in his day. I don’t need opinion polls to know this.
You said the nuclear deal was a total “cave” to the Iranians & that they go all they wanted. This is absolutely false. I note that when you’re caught in an error you change the terms of the argument. So now we’re arguing whether Obama kept his word or not. That may interest you, but not me. I don’t care whether Iran gets a nuke in 10 yrs. I presume within 10 yrs if Israel stops threatening war against it, that Iran won’t feel it needs a nuke & won’t develop one.
Rather than looking at polls gathering the opinions of a largely uninformed and divided public I would listen to the voice of the original Great Leaker, Daniel Ellsberg, whose release of the Pentagon Papers led to an earlier end to a war that could not be won that had cost 60, 000 American lives and that of approximately three million Vietnamese.
John Kerry pointed back to Ellsberg as a sort of role model for the leakers who should have the courage to face the American court system. Haha. Ellsberg himself has quite a different opinion on this. His America is not the America of today.
“Patriots don’t go to Russia, they don’t seek asylum in Cuba, they don’t seek asylum in Venezuela, they fight their cause here,” Kerry told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd. “There are many a patriot — you can go back the Pentagon Papers with Dan Ellsberg and others who stood and went to the court system of America and made their case. Edward Snowden is a coward, he is a traitor, and he has betrayed his country. And if he wants to come home tomorrow to face the music, he can do so.”
Ellsberg, however, told HuffPost Live’s Alyona Minkovski that Kerry’s remarks on Snowden are some of the most “despicable” he has ever heard. He also stated that if Snowden were to return to the U.S., as Kerry suggests, “We would not hear from [Snowden] for the rest of his life.” “
Ellsberg praised the whistleblowers. Michael Kazin had this to say about that in The New Republic:
“Still, the whistleblowers he praises are, in one sense, legitimate inheritors of the movement that inspired his rebellion and helped bring a deeply unpopular war to a close. In June 1971, one day after the Times began publishing the Pentagon Papers, H.R. Haldeman told his boss Richard Nixon what he thought the significance of the disclosures would be: “To the ordinary guy, all this is a bunch of gobbledygook. But out of the gobbledygook comes a very clear thing: You can’t trust the government; you can’t believe what they say; and you can’t rely on their judgment.” Snowden and Manning could not have put it better themselves.”
Incidentally I am looking forward to further details about Bibi’s deliberate exaggeration of the Iranian nuclear threat. This time it is leaked Mossad papers, courtesy of the South African Secret Service it seems. We live in interesting times.
@ Arie Brand: The other bit of disingenuousness about Kerry’s remarks about Ellsberg is that the latter was prosecuted by the federal government. The judge in the case ruled a mistrial and dismissed the case. Ellsberg himself told me that had it not been for this ruling there’s an excellent chance he would’ve served prison time. But in 1972 there was a powerful anti-war movement that hounded Nixon and even had the government won, Ellsberg sentence probably would’ve been a few years.
As Ellsberg noted in your comment, Snowden is going away for good if he returns. There is no pro-Constitution lobby here that would stand in the way of such a sentence.