New York Times piles on the 8200 scandal
You will recall that last weekend, I reported on the letter written by 43 (hopefully former) members of Unit 8200 in which they decried their unit's 'harming innocent Palestinians.'
Wednesday's New York Times has an op-ed from James Bamford, who spent a considerable amount of time this summer interviewing Edward Snowden for Wired Magazine. Bamford claims that Snowden told him that information about 'Palestinian Americans' was routinely shared with the IDF's Unit 8200.
Among his most shocking discoveries, he told me, was the fact that the N.S.A. was routinely passing along the private communications of Americans to a large and very secretive Israeli military organization known as Unit 8200. This transfer of intercepts, he said, included the contents of the communications as well as metadata such as who was calling whom.
Typically, when such sensitive information is transferred to another country, it would first be “minimized,” meaning that names and other personally identifiable information would be removed. But when sharing with Israel, the N.S.A. evidently did not ensure that the data was modified in this way.
Bamford goes on to tie Snowden's 'revelations' into the 8200 scandal.Mr. Snowden stressed that the transfer of intercepts to Israel contained the communications — email as well as phone calls — of countless Arab- and Palestinian-Americans whose relatives in Israel and the Palestinian territories could become targets based on the communications. “I think that’s amazing,” he told me. “It’s one of the biggest abuses we’ve seen.”
It appears that Mr. Snowden’s fears were warranted. Last week, 43 veterans of Unit 8200 — many still serving in the reserves — accused the organization of startling abuses. In a letter to their commanders, to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to the head of the Israeli army, they charged that Israel used information collected against innocent Palestinians for “political persecution.” In testimonies and interviews given to the media, they specified that data were gathered on Palestinians’ sexual orientations, infidelities, money problems, family medical conditions and other private matters that could be used to coerce Palestinians into becoming collaborators or create divisions in their society.
The data was transferred pursuant to an agreement between the NSA and the government of Israel.The veterans of Unit 8200 declared that they had a “moral duty” to no longer “take part in the state’s actions against Palestinians.” An Israeli military spokesman disputed the letter’s overall drift but said the charges would be examined.
Read the whole thing.
I'm not in favor of - and I don't believe that the information was used - just to harass people. On the other hand, if it's used to fight terrorism, I don't really have a problem with allies sharing information that way. Obviously, it's not admissible in court. But it can be used to stop terror attacks before they happen.
When you don't share information, the result is that people like the Tsarnaev brothers, about whom the governments of Russia and Saudi Arabia both claimed to have 'warned' the United States, but about whom no one had any solid evidence until after the Boston Marathon terror attack.