Israeli Trojan Horse

Seymour Hersh, writing in The New Yorker, relates this exchange with Alexander “I’m in charge here” Haig during the Watergate imbroglio:

“It was late in the evening on May 16, 1973, and I was in the Washington bureau of the Times, immersed in yet another story about Watergate. The paper had been overwhelmed by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s reporting for the Washington Post the previous year, and I was trying to catch up. The subject this time was Henry Kissinger, President Richard Nixon’s national-security adviser. I had called Kissinger to get his comment on a report, which the Times was planning to run, that he had been involved in wiretapping reporters, fellow Administration officials, and even his own aides on the National Security Council. At first, he had indignantly denied the story. When I told him that I had information from sources in the Justice Department that he had personally forwarded the wiretap requests to the F.B.I., he was silent, and then said that he might have to resign.

“… Alexander Haig, Kissinger’s sometimes loyal deputy, had called a few times during the day to beat back the story. At around seven o’clock, there was a final call. ‘You’re Jewish, aren’t you, Seymour?’ In all our previous conversations, I’d been ‘Sy.’ I said yes. ‘Let me ask you one question, then,’ Haig said. ‘Do you honestly believe that Henry Kissinger, a Jewish refugee from Germany who lost thirteen members of his family to the Nazis, could engage in such police-state tactics as wiretapping his own aides? If there is any doubt, you owe it to yourself, your beliefs, and your nation to give us one day to prove that your story is wrong.’ That was Watergate, circa 1973. The Times printed the story the next day, and Kissinger did not resign.”

This supposed ethno-religious-historical resistance to bugging is apparently something that never occurred to the Israelis, who blithely have been bugging each other’s computers, according to this fascinating story: apparently it all came out when a mystery writer, Ammon Jacont, and his co-author wife noticed that sections of their new as-yet-unpublished novel were appearing on the internet. An investigation unraveled a case of industrial espionage involving “spyware” — software that infiltrates computers, steals information, and records every keystroke — that involves at least three Israeli “private” investigating outfits, as well as the executives of major Israeli companies. As one account describes it:

“The full extent of the industrial spying operation has yet to be discovered, Peal Liat, superintendent at Tel Aviv police headquarters, told Computer Weekly: ‘Right now it is a very sophisticated investigation. We have something like 150 different computers that were taken by the investigators. Every computer they open, they discover more. Every day it gets us more companies that ordered the information and more companies that were infected,’ she said.

“Israeli police are investigating the role of 15 senior executives from top Israeli companies, after they allegedly hired detective agencies to obtain confidential information from their competitors’ computer systems. Telecoms companies, advertising agencies and public relations firms are among more than 20 organisations known to have been targeted. Twenty-two staff from Israel’s three leading private investigation firms have been arrested.”

Just how “private” these “private investigators” are is an open question, however, especially when we take the following news item into consideration:

“The personal computer of Syria’s British-born first lady was bugged by Israeli military intelligence to build up a profile of her husband, President Bashar al-Assad, it emerged last week. The Israelis used ‘Trojan horse’ spy software to record her messages, including e-mail exchanges with her husband, and forward them to a server computer.”

Were “private” investigators spying on the First Lady of Syria? I dont think so. With the Larry Franklin spy scandal now breaking into the headlines, in which a spy nest in the Pentagon and within the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has been caught stealing U.S. secrets on behalf of Israel, the question of how the Israelis are using this technology in the U.S. becomes pertinent. The extent of Israeli “Trojan horse” spy tactics is perhaps even bigger than anyone now imagines, if we take this report by Carl Cameron of Fox News from 2001 into account. An excerpt:

“Most directory assistance calls, and virtually all call records and billing in the U.S. are done for the phone companies by Amdocs Ltd., an Israeli-based private elecommunications company.

“Amdocs has contracts with the 25 biggest phone companies in America, and more worldwide. The White House and other secure government phone lines are protected, but it is virtually impossible to make a call on normal phones without generating an Amdocs record of it.

“In recent years, the FBI and other government agencies have investigated Amdocs more than once. The firm has repeatedly and adamantly denied any security breaches or wrongdoing. But sources tell Fox News that in 1999, the super secret national security agency, headquartered in northern Maryland, issued what’s called a Top Secret sensitive compartmentalized information report, TS/SCI, warning that records of calls in the United States were getting into foreign hands – in Israel, in particular.

“Investigators don’t believe calls are being listened to, but the data about who is calling whom and when is plenty valuable in itself. An internal Amdocs memo to senior company executives suggests just how Amdocs generated call records could be used. ‘Widespread data mining techniques and algorithms…. combining both the properties of the customer (e.g., credit rating) and properties of the specific ‘behavior….’ Specific behavior, such as who the customers are calling.

“The Amdocs memo says the system should be used to prevent phone fraud. But U.S. counterintelligence analysts say it could also be used to spy through the phone system. Fox News has learned that the N.S.A has held numerous classified conferences to warn the F.B.I. and C.I.A. how Amdocs records could be used. At one NSA briefing, a diagram by the Argon national lab was used to show that if the phone records are not secure, major security breaches are possible.

“Another briefing document said, ‘It has become increasingly apparent that systems and networks are vulnerable.…Such crimes always involve unauthorized persons, or persons who exceed their authorization…citing on exploitable vulnerabilities.'”

In this context, Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland’s comment that “the FBI’s attempts to break and then use Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin in national security sting operations look to be truly Nixonian in character and method” has it exactly backwards (but what else do you expect from a dolt like Hoagland?). It is the Israeli government’s inclination to spy on everyone and everything that is “truly Nixonian in character.”

Paraphrasing Haig: ‘Do you honestly believe that the Israelis, a nation of Jewish refugees who lost at least 6 million to the Nazis, could engage in such police-state tactics as wiretapping (and otherwise spying) on their own allies?’

An honest answer: Absolutely positively yes.