Israel-Gaza conflict: New Snowden leak reveals extent of US intelligence co-operation with Israel

Top secret NSA document lists 'Palestinian terrorism' among Israeli targets

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The Independent Online

Israel could be using US intelligence and equipment in its offensive in the Gaza Strip, according to leaked document.

A top secret report by the American National Security Agency (NSA) provided by Edward Snowden was published on Monday by The Intercept.

The document, dated 13 April 2013, describes the NSA’s “far-reaching technical and analytic relationship with the Israeli SIGINT National Unit (ISNU) sharing information on access, intercept, targeting, language, analysis and reporting”.

It says the co-operation has expanded to include other Israeli and US intelligence organisations including the CIA, American Special Operations Division and Israeli intelligence agency Mossad.

Targets for both America and Israel are listed as “the countries of North Africa, the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, South Asia, and the Islamic republics of the former Soviet Union”.

Among Israel’s particular priorities, the document mentions Iran and Syria’s nuclear programmes, Hezbollah’s activities in Lebanon and “Palestinian terrorism”.

It adds: “The Israeli side enjoys the benefits of expanded geographic access to world-class NSA cryptanalytic and SIGINT engineering expertise, and also gains controlled access to advanced US technology and equipment via accommodation buys and foreign military sales.”

An accompanying report by Glenn Greenwald, a former Guardian journalist who hit headlines last year when his partner was detained at Heathrow Airport, claims Britain’s electronic surveillance agency GCHQ and its Canadian equivalent also co-operate with Israel.

The US also supplies arms to Israel, including radar systems, missiles and V-22 planes for the Air Force listed in a Times of Israel report.

Last year, the US Secretary of Defence, Chuck Hagel, said the weapons would ensure country’s “military superiority over any enemy state, non-state or coalition”.

Britain’s role in arming the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) was revealed by The Independent last week.

Documents showed that arms export licences worth £42m have been granted to 130 British defence manufacturers since 2010 to sell Israel military equipment ranging  from weapons control and targeting systems to ammunition, drones and armoured vehicles.

Two UK companies supplying components for the Hermes drone, described by the Israeli air force as the “backbone” of its targeting and reconnaissance missions and widely used in Operation Protective Edge, was on the list, and another supplied tank parts.

More than 1,800 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed in so far in the offensive according to Palestinian health authorities, and an Israeli air strike on a UN school provoked fresh condemnation on Sunday.

The Government said it would review all outstanding export licences to Israel as politicians and campaigners called on ministers to establish whether UK-manufactured parts are being used in the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

A top secret “memorandum of understanding” between the NSA and Israeli intelligence services was published by the Guardian in September last year and co-operation is known to date back to at least the 1960s, with an agreement between US Lyndon Johnson and Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol.

Chuck Hagel said US weapons would ensure Israel's military superiority

But according to the latest document, Israel wants even wider access to American intelligence from the NSA.

It says the ICNU has raised concerns about the American agency’s alleged “reluctance” to share on technology not directly related to specified targets, a perceived reduction in co-operation in “certain areas” and the time taken to approve ISNU proposals.

A spokesman for the NSA told The Independent it would not comment on “specific intelligence activities and relationships”.

He added: “The fact that intelligence services sometimes co-operate in a lawful and appropriate manner mutually strengthens the security of both nations. 

“Whenever NSA shares intelligence information or technology, we comply with all applicable laws and rules.”

A spokesman for GCHQ said that it did not comment on intelligence matters according to "longstanding policy".

She added: "All of GCHQ's work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework, which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the Secretary of State, the Interception and Intelligence Services Commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee."