US, UK hacked Israeli drone video feeds, Snowden leaks reveal
‘This is the worst leak in the history of Israeli intelligence,’ says senior security source
US and British intelligence cracked the codes of Israeli drones operating in the Middle East and monitored their surveillance feeds for almost 20 years, according to documents leaked by an American whistleblower and published in international media on Friday. Photograph: AP Photo/Dusan Vranic
The United States and Britain have hacked the video feeds from Israeli drones in an operation dating back to 1998, according to documents attributed to leaks by former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.
The tracking, from a Royal Air Force installation in the Troodos mountains in Cyprus, enabled London and Washington to observe in real time Israeli actions in Gaza, the West Bank and along Israel’s volatile northern border and monitor Israel’s plans for a possible military strike against Iran’s nuclear installations.
“This is an earthquake,” a senior security source – who spoke on condition of anonymity – told the Ynet news website. “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.”
Sima Shein, a former director general of the strategic affairs ministry, said the key question was if other powers can disrupt Israeli capabilities.
“I assume that if they have the capability to decode transmissions, then a power like the US most likely also has the capability to disrupt them. That doesn’t mean that it uses it, it only means that it has very significant capability over Israel’s strategic arm.”
Codenamed “Anarchist”, the operation systematically targeted Israeli drones and also fighter aircraft, and some of the images obtained in 2009 and 2010 appear to show drones carrying missiles.
Israel, one of the world-leaders in drone technology and exports, has never publicly admitted to having armed drones, although a senior military officer was quoted as acknowledging them in a secret US diplomatic cable from 2010, published by WikiLeaks.
According to a British GCHQ document, Anarchist offered “indispensable access . . . for maintaining an understanding of Israeli military training and operations, and thus an insight to possible future developments . . .”
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“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,” he told Army radio. “We know that the Americans spy on the whole world, and also on us, also on their friends.”