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US intel relations skewed in favour of Israel

May 19, 2014 at 8:23 am

The publication of Glenn Greenwald’s new book this week has been eagerly awaited – not least by myself. Giving the inside story of how he broke one of the most important stories of our time, Greenwald discusses how Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, leaked thousands of classified documents.

The documents revealed that the NSA is essentially spying on the entire world. In their quest to “collect it all,” they scoop up emails, metadata, phone calls, Facebook messages, Skype calls and much more.

As well as giving an overview of the revelations to date, the book reportedly contains multiple new revelations. One of them, about Israel, is a pretty significant.

Since I began this column almost a year ago, I have been following the Snowden revelations with interest. The story broke around the same time. In fact, my very Inquiry looked at the revelations about PRISM (the NSA’s system to intercept and collect the world’s internet communications) and the possibility of Israeli involvement.

Since June, as Greenwald and other journalists have slowly and steadily released more from Snowden’s huge cache of NSA documents, more has come to light about Israeli spying, and the complicated relationship between US and Israeli spy agencies.

In September, Greenwald revealed an NSA-Israel memorandum of understanding which showed that the US shared “unminimised” (or raw) intelligence data with Israel.

Minimisation is the process by which the US removes personal information about citizens of the US and its closest allies (the UK, New Zealand, Canada and Australia) before sharing intelligence data with other states. So some raw US intelligence is being sent to Israeli spook agencies without even being checked.

Other documents revealed by the Washington Post around the same time showed that Israel spies on America extensively – more than most other states in the world. And US counterintelligence agencies are well are of this, with Israeli spying being one of their primary concerns.

Then in November, further revelations showed the complicated nature of the relations between US and Israeli spooks. Both states spy on each other, in fact.

There is a long history of Israeli spying on the US, with the notorious case of Jonathan Pollard being the most famous, only because he was caught and sentenced to a long jail sentence. But there have been other cases, such as those involving AIPAC staffers.

Earlier this month, the newest pieces of the puzzle came to light, this time thanks to Newsweek‘s Jeff Stein. His high-level Washington sources (he did not draw on Snowden’s documents) stated that Israeli spying continues to be extensive up to this day, and is often focused on obtaining American industrial secrets, especially from the weapons and high-tech sectors.

By now, hardly anyone believes the denials of Israeli ministers.

Now, in Greenwald’s new book, new documents from the Snowden cache are revealed. They state that Israel is ranked by one National Intelligence Estimate as “the third most aggressive intelligence service against the US.”

They also show that there are grumblings about this situation from some sectors of the US intelligence establishment: “Balancing the SIGINT [signals intelligence] exchange equally between US and Israeli needs has been a constant challenge in the last decade, it arguably tilted heavily in favour of Israeli security concerns. 9/11 came, and went, with NSA’s only true Third Party CT [counter-terror] relationship being driven almost totally by the needs of the partner.”

Should the day come when shifting geopolitical realities compel the US the ditch Israel as an unconditional friend, along with the concomitant billions in military aid, you can bet that these inconvenient little facts will be suddenly rediscovered by the mainstream media.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.