US-Israeli agreement shows co-operation – and some competition – on intel
September 12th, 2013
10:26 AM ET

US-Israeli agreement shows co-operation – and some competition – on intel

By Jim Clancy and Tim Lister

The revelation that the US National Security Agency (NSA) allows Israel to see raw intelligence data it gathers has angered privacy and civil liberties activists, but surprised few security analysts.

The agreement was disclosed by the Guardian newspaper Wednesday, based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who has provided the newspaper with reams of classified information.

An undated Memorandum of Understanding between the US and Israel sets out the ground-rules by which the NSA 'routinely' provides raw intelligence data to the Israelis. It defines raw ‘Sigint’ as including “unevaluated and unminimized transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence metadata and content."

The Memorandum includes provisions designed to protect the privacy of Americans whose data might be shared with the Israeli SIGINT National Unit (ISNU). It opens with a preamble that the sharing of information must be “consistent with the requirements placed upon NSA by US law and Executive Order to establish safeguards protecting the rights of US persons under the Fourth Amendment” of the US Constitution guaranteeing individual privacy.

The NSA in a statement to CNN said: "We are not going to comment on any specific information sharing arrangements, or the authority under which any such information is collected. The fact that intelligence services work together under specific and regulated conditions mutually strengthens the security of both nations.

“Whenever we share intelligence information, we comply with all applicable rules, including the rules to protect U.S. person information,” the NSA added.

The Memorandum says that after a meeting in March 2009 it was determined that more formalized training for ISNU was needed to ensure that raw data which includes personal information is handled properly. It also says that the Israelis should consult the NSA’s local liaison officer when such information is found and ensure ‘appropriate management controls’ are in place.

But the memorandum also allows the Israelis to retain any files containing the identities of US persons for up to a year. And just what procedures exist for monitoring the Israelis’ use and distribution of NSA data is unclear, beyond a clause that says the NSA will "regularly review a sample of files transferred to ISNU to validate the absence of US persons' identities.”

It notes that the US already had agreements with Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand to protect information that identified their citizens. The group is known as the ‘Five Eyes’ inside the intelligence community.

Nimrod Kozlovski, head of Tel Aviv University’s program for cyber studies says the extent and depth of co-operation should not be seen as a surprise.

A 20-year veteran of the IT industry in Israel, Kozlovski told CNN that the nature of intelligence-gathering had been transformed. Gone were the days when an individual would be pinpointed and information developed.

“Now they try to collect as much data as they can…and try to apply algorithms to be able to analyze patterns, identify anomalies or track profiles.” Kozlovski describes this as ‘predictive security,’ heavily reliant on such techniques as anomaly detection engines. Using redacted data would not be sufficient for this approach, he says.

For the US – with its written constitutional protections – this can be problematic, but there are ways to identify an individual, by assigning a unique number for example, without sharing their personal information.

In Washington, Rep Mike Rodgers, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, criticized the way the US-Israeli understanding had been portrayed.

“This notion that the agency is collecting on U.S. persons and giving it to any foreign intelligence agency in the way it was described is completely wrong,” he said.

“ That's not what is happening. I can't go into a lot of other detail, but I can guarantee you the privacy of Americans are protected in the way we operate, Rep. Rogers added.

The Guardian also reports on other documents provided by Snowden, which purport to show that the US-Israel relationship is not always so co-operative. It quotes one NSA official as writing in 2008: "On the one hand, the Israelis are extraordinarily good Sigint partners for us, but on the other, they target us to learn our positions on Middle East problems.”

"A NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] ranked them as the third most aggressive intelligence service against the US," the official wrote, according to the Guardian.

“There are parameters on what NSA shares with them, but the exchange is so robust, we sometimes share more than we intended," the official added.

News of the agreement has made the front pages of some Israeli newspapers, but unnamed officials here have spoken of a 'reciprocal process in intelligence sharing. One unnamed security official was quoted on the website Walla News as saying: “Ever since the Twin Tower disaster, the walls between the countries have come down and the understanding was reached that terrorism needs to be fought together, and that the more we exchange intelligence, the more effective the war on terrorism.”

According to Israeli experts, the department that leads the country’s collection and analysis of intelligence data is called Unit 8200, one of the largest in the Isreali Defense Forces. Kozlovski says this elite unit has made many breakthroughs in how intelligence gathered by technical means is structured and assessed, which has made it an attractive partner for allied governments. It has also provided Israel’s thriving cyber businesses with a pool of highly-qualified expertise.

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Filed under: Edward Snowden • Intelligence • Israel • NSA
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. bitty31985

    Why aren't you reporting about the 34 members of 8200 refusing to keep working bc of the totalitarian surveillance of Palestinians?

    September 14, 2014 at 6:37 pm | Reply
  2. Traidenis

    We can now save billions of $ by shuttung down our intelligence services and outsourcing all surveillance activities to Israel!

    September 17, 2013 at 6:39 am | Reply
  3. aradin

    US has the same intelligence exchange with Britain, Israel, Canada and other friendly countries.
    What is wrong with these pathological Israel haters? There is one decent country where people, unlike
    their Arab neighbors, do not kill each other, where democracy is real, where hundreds of wounded Syrians treated
    in hospitals absolutely free ( do not look for that in CNN or BBC). Merely existence of Israel makes life unbearable and painful for a lot Muslims and Israeli haters.

    September 15, 2013 at 3:08 am | Reply
    • ajota1966

      Treatment in Israeli hospitals is NOT free. American tax payers dish out over 6 billion year to Israel, much of which is used for military and infrastructural programs like hospitals. Of course its always free money when your on welfare.

      September 17, 2013 at 3:40 pm | Reply
      • janric

        It's actually $3M in strictly military aid that doesn't go to a single Israeli hospital, but don't let facts get in the way of your argument.

        September 17, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
  4. seymour

    the US is a Christian country.
    The trolls above & their muslim masters sweep the burning of Christian churches & killing of Christians under the rug.
    I suspect all of the troll posters are muslems with American sounding names.
    I was in the US Army.
    How many of the posters were?
    Time for your meds.

    September 14, 2013 at 8:54 am | Reply
    • Blake

      Actually, you're wrong.

      "the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion"
      — Treaty of Tripoli, 1797

      I hate when people think this great country was founded on Christian values, especially when many of the colonists left Britain to escape religious persecution, and the frontier experience lent to a very egalitarian, almost-secular society in most areas.

      September 16, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Reply
      • Blake

        Oh, and I forgot to add, being in the US Army gives your opinion no additional credibility in this respect in relation to everyone else's. While I respect your service, it does not grant you any special treatment here, or almost anywhere; nor does it make your opinion any stronger. In fact, trying to use the fact that you served in the Army as a tool to increase your credibility actually goes against the very ideals the United States was founded upon. In addition, it goes against the statements in the Uniform Code of Military Justice that you realistically should be familiar with, seymour.

        September 16, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
  5. John Smith

    America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
    In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
    During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
    In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
    Now America is a failed state with huge debt. Its debt will be 22 trillion by 2015.

    September 13, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Reply
  6. Eric Cartman

    Hey Kyle! How's your Concentration? What do you expect from a nation that created Narus.com – the IP packet scanner and recorder that the NSA uses to capture data? The Syria attack being lobbied for by Obama? Requested by Bibi and Israel so we do their dirty work for them. Maybe Washington needs to stop taking orders from Tel Aviv and Goldman Sachs. Nuke it and we'd ALL be better off.

    September 13, 2013 at 9:44 am | Reply
    • StanCalif

      Agree! Our elected government serves Israel first, we just don't matter! Also, our banks are making money today like never before. Borrow for 0% and demand 19% or more on our credit cards!!! We wonder why our economy doesn't grow!

      September 14, 2013 at 10:14 pm | Reply
  7. Working to finance the Middle East military welfare machine

    This really just grinds my gears! Israel has nukes, a battle hardened Army, Navy & Air Force (which by the way they used against a US ship USS Liberty in 1967 with NO Repercussions) and plenty of money. They need to be removed from the pedestal that America has placed them on. They can stand on their own, and proved it against Egypt and others. (America's super secret help not withstanding) I just think it's time for Israel to fend for Israel.

    September 13, 2013 at 8:41 am | Reply
  8. bfreeman03

    This should be on the front page, and on your TV broadcasts.

    This is a big deal.

    I've already contacted by reps/senators in congress. Have you?

    September 13, 2013 at 12:34 am | Reply
    • janric

      Don't forget to write them about the intelligence sharing agreement we've had with the UK for the past 70 years...

      September 13, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Reply
  9. giggig

    We got Reagan class Aircraft carrier battle groups and next higher(in regards of fire power and Intel) to that =Israel.

    September 13, 2013 at 12:33 am | Reply
  10. StanCalif

    Why? Who really controls most of our media, all of Hollywood and most of our "elected" members of Congress?
    I will give you one guess! It is NOT Christians, not Catholics, not "red necks", not the Mormons! We, the "exceptional people" of the USA are controlled by an evil empire we have not yet named! Who is this? One guess! No, it is not Iran!

    September 12, 2013 at 10:02 pm | Reply
    • janric

      Zoroastrians?

      September 13, 2013 at 5:03 pm | Reply
      • StanCalif

        Wrong answer! Another hint: The country's name begins with "I" and they claim to be Jews!
        Russia has a policy of permitting any Jew to freely leave Russia. If you think Putin hates gays, which he does, he hates Jews even more! This is engrained in Russian minds!

        September 14, 2013 at 9:50 am |
      • janric

        The antisemitism in the comments here is kind of impressive...

        September 14, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • stan miller

      this is your other half, Stan and i know. It is Vulcans and a Jew played the one we know.

      September 14, 2013 at 10:39 pm | Reply
  11. mainstream media letting us down

    Please stand up and do the right thing, CNN. teh mainstream media is on the wrong side of things with this, has been burying stories and NOT living up to the level of integrity required in order to be considered "Journalism."
    One of the KEY roles of the media is to inform us of our government's misdeeds- not comp licitly bury the stories.

    the cat is out of the bag. this is not going away, and will only grow. Please get on the side of the American people instead of the powerful and rich. Im getting kind of sick of having to go to Berlin, London, and Moscow to read coverage of the US national Security Administration's illegal actions.

    shame on you.

    September 12, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Reply
    • StanCalif

      I agree! Our media AND our whole Congress is controlled by Israel, for Israel. Israel could care less about all us "gentiles and heathens" who happen to populate the USA! Isn't it very interesting that Israel has remained extremely quiet about this Syrian mess? Bebe even told his gov. people to "stay quiet". What he means is that all the Israeli lobbyists in DC will handle this situation. After all, if we can bomb Syria, we can surely bomb Iran – Israel's ultimate goal! Don't let a good opportunity go to waste!
      Surely, the CNN censors won't permit my comment to be posted. They never do when I write my opinions about Israel.

      September 12, 2013 at 9:46 pm | Reply
      • janric

        My favorite thing about ZOG conspiracy mongers is that nobody will ever take them seriously.

        September 14, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
  12. voiceoftruthusa

    Treason

    September 12, 2013 at 1:18 pm | Reply
  13. sfghsh34523456

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    September 12, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Reply
  14. pa2013

    This is a betrayal of the American people by our government. This should be on CNN's broadcasts and on the front page of CNN.com!

    September 12, 2013 at 11:56 am | Reply
    • My Name

      Why is the American government sharing information on US citizens with other countries? Because most of us find this unbelievable, a report like this should be front page news. But it isn't. Why?

      September 12, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Reply
      • StanCalif

        Why? Who really controls most of our media, all of Hollywood and most of our "elected" members of Congress?
        I will give you one guess! It is NOT Christians, not Catholics, not "red necks", not the Mormons! We, the "exceptional people" of the USA are controlled by an evil empire we have not yet named! Who is this? One guess!

        September 12, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
      • janric

        Because intelligence sharing agreements are not new. We've had a similar one with the UK and Australia for 70 years now.

        September 14, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
  15. whispersd

    Shouldn't this be a front-page story?

    There are serious questions about how intelligence is being handled. It's far from clear that Americans' rights are being protected under this arrangement with Israel. We know that the CIA has historically used "rendition" to get other countries to conduct interrogations in a manner that would be illegal under US law. Assurances from the intelligence community that nothing similar is going on here need to be viewed with extreme skepticism. Recent revelations of literally thousands of violations by the NSA should, at the very least, require the media to bit more adversarial than the current coverage has been.

    September 12, 2013 at 11:39 am | Reply
    • StanCalif

      Our media be adversarial when Israel is involved? This will never happen!
      Israel is free to do whatever they want (as far as our gov. and media are concerned). Why is DC filled with Israeli lobbyists?
      We can hold Syria's feet to the fire for violations of international rules, but Israel can do whatever they want, no questions asked! Hypocritical, absolutely! Go bulldoze some more people out of their livelihood, drop white phosphorous shells, attack humanitarian cargo ships . . . just doesn't matter!

      September 12, 2013 at 10:21 pm | Reply

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