Washington Post: U.S. Conducted Counterintelligence Operations on Israel

Top-secret files leaked by Snowden show U.S. spy agencies devoted considerable attention not only to America's foes, but also to one of its closest allies.

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The United States conducted counterintelligence operations against Iran, China and Cuba, but also against Israel, classified documents obtained by the Washington Post revealed on Thursday.

The top secret 178-page summary for the U.S. government's National Intelligence Program, which was leaked by former CIA contractor Edward Snowden, maps a bureaucratic and operational landscape that has never been subject to public scrutiny. Although the government has annually released its overall level of intelligence spending since 2007, it has not divulged how it uses the money or how it performs against the goals set by the president and Congress.

The summary shows that a total of $52.6 billion of the American government’s budget for 2013 was allocated for espionage and intelligence activities. The U.S. has 16 espionage and intelligence agencies, with a total number of 107,035 employees. The summary provides details on that community’s cutting-edge technologies, agent recruiting and ongoing operations.

According to the Post, U.S. intelligence officials displayed an active interest in America’s friends and foes alike. In the summary, Pakistan is described as an “intractable target,” and it is stated that counterintelligence operations “are strategically focused against priority targets of China, Russia, Iran, Cuba and Israel.”

The summary provides detailed information on U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts to rebuild itself after the 9/11 terrorist attacks through the additional allocation of resources. Since 9/11, more than $500 billion was spent on intelligence.

All in all, the U.S. allocates to its spy agencies ten times the amount it allocates to its defense establishment. The “black budget” provides an initial glimpse into the immense expenditures incurred by the U.S. government in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2013, America’s espionage and intelligence agencies are expected to spend $4.9 billion on ongoing operations overseas.

Whereas the summary refers to the governments of Iran, China and Russia as difficult to penetrate, North Korea’s appears to be the most opaque. The summary lists five “critical” gaps in U.S. intelligence evaluations of Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, while there is not a single intelligence assessment as for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s intentions.

A section on North Korea demonstrates how the U.S. has almost completely surrounded that country with surveillance platforms: distant ground sensors monitor seismic activity, scanning North Korean territory for signs that might attest to the construction of new nuclear sites. In Iran, according to the report, new surveillance techniques and technologies allow analysts to identify and document suspected nuclear sites not detected by satellites. Meanwhile, in Syria, National Security Agency listening posts monitored unencrypted communications among senior Syrian military officials when the civil war there began.

An additional budget item funds intelligence activities intended to protect the U.S. from the leaking of insider information from within its agencies, as well as American spies who decide to betray their country.

Last month, it was reported that the U.S. monitors the embassies and consulates of 38 foreign countries on American soil; the embassies and consulates are termed “targets.” In the documents leaked by Snowden, detailed descriptions are given of the various intelligence techniques used in this surveillance operation, ranging from the use of listening devices attached to electronic communication equipment, to the employment of special transmission antennas. The Washington Post report on the black budget dovetails with previous reports on American surveillance of European Union offices in Brussels and Germany.

NSA headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland.Credit: Reuters
American whistle-blower Edward Snowden. Credit: The Guardian

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