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Unit 8200 Intelligence Reservists Boycott “Intrusive” Spying On Palestinians

From the IB Times… Israeli Unit 8200 Intelligence Reservists Boycott “Intrusive” Spying On Palestinians

Dozens of Israeli reservists with an elite intelligence unit have refused to take part in spying activities on Palestinians, denouncing the military’s intrusive security policies in an open letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and armed forces chiefs.

Extracts from the letter were published by Ynet newspaper, signed by 43 reserve soldiers and officers of Israel’s largest signals intelligence gathering unit, known as Unit 8200 or Yehida Shmoneh-Matayim in Hebrew.

“We refuse to take part in actions against Palestinians and refuse to continue serving as a tool for deepening military rule in the occupied territories,” the servicemen wrote.

“The Palestinian population is subject to military rule, completely exposed to espionage and to being tracked by Israeli intelligence.”

The signatories said that, different to Israeli citizens who can be spied upon only with a court’s authorisation, Palestinians were subject to intrusive monitoring without oversight, “regardless if they are connected to violence or not.”

“Intelligence allows ongoing control over millions of people, thorough and intrusive monitoring and invasion into most aspects of life,” the letter read.

“All of this does not allow for normal living, fuels more violence and puts off any end to the conflict.”

From the Guardian…

‘Any Palestinian is exposed to monitoring by the Israeli Big Brother’

Testimonies from people who worked in the Israeli Intelligence Corps tell of a system where there were no boundaries

‘Our work has serious impact on the lives of many people’

I enlisted in the Intelligence Corps with a clear understanding that regarding anything that involves the Palestinian arena, I will engage in self-defence. Throughout my service in my unit I did and encountered things that seemed irrelevant from a security standpoint, and I did not have a clear conscience participating in such activities. Contrary to my expectations, our database included not only security-related intelligence but also personal and political information. That is to say, on a personal level, there is no respect for Palestinian privacy.

From a political standpoint, information is collected that can serve to manipulate Israeli, Palestinian and international politics.

Although ours is not actual field work, it has serious impact on the lives of many people, and this is something that I think soldiers in the unit forget when everyone just does their part. Since we’re so focused on not missing any important developments, we always prefer to assume the worst. For example, if anyone is suspected, even very faintly, it is possible that the stain will never fade, and that person will suffer sanctions as a result.

Our daily service dulls everyone’s sensitivity and this is reflected, for example, in running jokes about very personal things that come up in our intelligence material. Or, for instance, in the expression “blood on the headset”, or X’s marked on our headsets after assassinations.

‘I realised the job I had done was that of the oppressor’

After my discharge from the Intelligence Corps, I had a moment of shock while watching the film The Lives of Others, about the secret police in East Germany.

More from the Guardian… Israel’s Unit 8200 refuseniks: ‘you can’t run from responsibility’

As Tikun Olam’s Richard Silverstein wrote today…

IDF Unit 8200 Officers Refuse to Fight Palestinians

…Activists who’ve paid attention to Israeli military affairs over the past decade or more know that hundreds of soldiers and inductees have similarly refused military service in the West Bank. But this group is different. Unit 8200 is the equivalent of the NSA. It is one of the most critical weapons in the IDF arsenal to defend the nation’s security. It participates in myriad ways supporting, and even initiating IDF operations. It is the biggest intelligence unit in the Israeli army. This is the first time any such officers have publicly protested.

These refusers are not Edward Snowden. They are not spilling secrets or naming names. But their motivation for protesting against Israeli intelligence operations is almost the same as Snowden’s. They claim that there is virtually no oversight or restraint against spying on Palestinians. That there is no distinction made between innocent and guilty Palestinians. That their goal as intelligence operatives was to subvert Palestinian society from within…

Activists who’ve paid attention to Israeli military affairs over the past decade or more know that hundreds of soldiers and inductees have similarly refused military service in the West Bank. But this group is different. Unit 8200 is the equivalent of the NSA. It is one of the most critical weapons in the IDF arsenal to defend the nation’s security. It participates in myriad ways supporting, and even initiating IDF operations. It is the biggest intelligence unit in the Israeli army. This is the first time any such officers have publicly protested.

These refusers are not Edward Snowden. They are not spilling secrets or naming names. But their motivation for protesting against Israeli intelligence operations is almost the same as Snowden’s. They claim that there is virtually no oversight or restraint against spying on Palestinians. That there is no distinction made between innocent and guilty Palestinians. That their goal as intelligence operatives was to subvert Palestinian society from within…

Now, let’s reflect back on this Ali Abunimah article from 2008…

How Israel helps eavesdrop on US citizens

…What is less well-known is that AT&T and Verizon handed “the bugging of their entire networks — carrying billions of American communications every day” to two companies founded in Israel. Verint and Narus, as they are called, are “superintrusive — conducting mass surveillance on both international and domestic communications 24/7,” and sifting traffic at “key Internet gateways” around the US.

Virtually all US voice and data communications and much from the rest of the world can be remotely accessed by these companies in Israel, which Bamford describes as “the eavesdropping capital of the world.” Although there is no way to prove cooperation, Bamford writes that “the greatest potential beneficiaries of this marriage between the Israeli eavesdroppers and America’s increasingly centralized telecom grid are Israel’s intelligence agencies.”

Israel’s spy agencies have long had a revolving-door relationship with Verint and Narus and other Israeli military-security firms. The relationship is particularly close between the firms and Israel’s own version of the NSA, called “Unit 8200.” After the 11 September attacks, Israeli companies seeking a share of massively expanded US intelligence budgets formed similarly incestuous relationships with some in the American intelligence establishment: Ken Minihan, a former director of the NSA, served on Verint’s “security committee” and the former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) official responsible for liaison with the telecom industry became head of the Verint unit that sold eavesdropping equipment to the FBI and NSA…

And, from the current issue of Forbes Magazine…Meet The Ex-NSA And Ex-Unit 8200 Spies Cashing In On Security Fears

Wrapping up…

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