Edward Snowden leaks showing UK and US spying on drones is 'worst breach in Israeli intelligence history'

Top secret documents have revealed an alleged espionage operation codenamed Anarchist, dating back to 1998

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The Independent Online

An official has called revelations that the UK and US have been monitoring Israel's drones and fighter jets the “worst leak in the history of Israeli intelligence”.

Material leaked by Edward Snowden appears to show spies hacking cameras and video feeds almost two decades.

Images obtained by The Intercept, German magazine Der Spiegel and Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth showed drones flying missions over Gaza and the West Bank, including some appearing to snow the aircraft armed with missiles.

The Intercept published a series of images from Israeli drones and fighter jets obtained by US and UK intelligence agencies

In 2008, an internal US National Security Agency memo even disclosed that officers had tapped a video from the cockpit of an F-16 fighter jet, showing it tracking targets on the ground.

On that same day, 3 January, Israeli air strikes and shelling reportedly killed nine people in the Gaza Strip.

The photos and stills, marked “top secret” are of varying quality because of difficulty descrambling encrypted communications between the aircraft, satellite and controllers on the ground.

The operation, codenamed “Anarchist”, was allegedly run from 1998 onwards from locations including Troodos, a Royal Air Force installation on Cyprus, and secretive communications station RAF Menwith Hill, in Yorkshire.


The revelations are expected to put pressure on UK-Israel relations

Iranian, Syrian, Turkish, Egyptian and Lebanese drones were also monitored, the leaks showed, but Israel’s activities appeared to be the main focus.

Objectives included monitoring military operations in Gaza and watching for a potential strike against Iran, The Intercept reported.

Despite exporting its drone technology around the world the Israeli government has never confirmed reports of armed drones.

A senior Israeli intelligence source described the revelation as an “earthquake” to Yedioth Ahronoth, telling the newspaper: “It means that they have forcibly stripped us, and, no less important, that probably none of our encrypted systems are safe from them. 

“This is the worst leak in the history of Israeli intelligence.”

But Israeli energy minister Yuval Steinitz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet, sought to play down its significance.

He told Israel's Army Radio: “I do not think that this is the deepest kingdom of secrets, but it is certainly something that should not happen, which is unpleasant. We will now have to look and consider changing the encryption, certainly.”

Mr Steinitz called the revelation that supposed allies of Israel had been spying on a friendly state “disappointing but not surprising”, claiming that Tel Aviv has not collected intelligence on the US for “decades”.

The Foreign Office said it would not comment on intelligence matters, while White House officials were quoted by Israeli media saying spying is only carried out for “specific, validated national security reasons”.

Additional reporting by PA