Monday, August 25, 2014

The Cosy Relationship Between the NSA and Israel

Updated June 2015

The long history of hostilities in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas reminded me of something that I had read some months back, particularly because it concerns the United States, Israel and the privacy of Americans.

As we all recall, last year, Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden and the British newspaper, the Guardian, released a great deal of information about the National Security Agency and its infringements on our privacy.  Acting in conjunction with the United Kingdom's GCHQ and Canada's CSEC, the NSA supplies Israel with signals intelligence (SIGINT) that it can use to help it when it attacks its enemies, particularly the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.  The NSA supplies data to the Israeli SIGINT National Unit (ISNU) also known as Unit 8200, part of Israel's Intelligence Corps, that allows Israel to monitor its Palestinian neighbours.  This sharing is done under a top secret Memo of Understanding between ISNU and the NSA as you can see here:

 While much of the document is unreadable legalese, there is one important sentence right at the beginning of the document:

"This agreement between NSA and The Israeli SIGINT National Unit (ISNU) prescribes procedures and responsibilities for ensure that ISNU handling of materials provided by NSA - including, but not limited to, Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) technology and equipment and raw SIGINT data (i.e. signals information that has not been reviewed for foreign intelligence purposes or minimized)..." (my bold)

Note the use of the word "minimized".  As we've been reminded again and again, the NSA and  the communications security establishments of America's Five Eyes partners (Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand) are not allowed to spy on their own citizens.  This means that any data gathered by the NSA, for example, should technically be stripped of any communications between Americans (i.e. minimized) in order for the NSA to be operating within its supposed legal bounds, that is, protecting the privacy of American citizens.  According to this agreement, however, we can see that the raw data that the NSA supplies to Israel's ISNU is NOT minimized.  In other words, it is entirely possible that our personal information that is collaterally collected by the NSA (and its fellow Five Eyes partners) in its sweeping of data from the internet, telephone and cell phones, is shared with Israel.  In fact, the agreement states that the raw SIGINT includes, but is not limited to "...unevaluated and unminimized transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence (DNI) metadata and content.".  Not only is the NSA sharing American's metadata with Israel, they are providing them with the content of our communications.

This document also proves that the Obama Administration's stance of "standing with its hands in its pockets" while thousands are injured and killed in the Gaza are disingenuous at best, particularly in light of this 2013 document from the Central Security Service at the NSA which outlines the exchanging of information between the NSA and Israel's ISNU:

Notice that the second paragraph outlines the potential strategic threats to the United States and Israel; these include the countries of North Africa, the Persian Gulf, South Asia, the Islamic republics of the former Soviet Union and the Middle East.  A "dedicated line between NSA and ISNU supports the exchange of raw material as well as daily analytic and technical correspondence.".  Once again, note the use of the words "raw material".

Here is a page outlining the "Success Stories" of this data exchange:

The next time you hear about another targeted attack on the Gaza, perhaps you'll keep the very cozy relationship between the NSA and Israel's ISNU in mind...and worry a bit more about your  own lack of privacy.

1 comment:

  1. "your own lack of privacy"... Yeah, especially since the NSA is essentially getting around the "We don't spy on our own citizens..." thing by collecting the raw data and letting our other four eyes partners do that part of job for us.