Breaking the Taboo on Israel's Spying Efforts on the United States
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AT&T and Verizon, which together manage as much as 90 percent of the nation’s communications traffic, contracted with Israeli firms in order to comply with CALEA. AT&T employed the services of Narus Inc., which was founded in Israel in 1997. It was Narus technology that AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein, a 22-year technician with the company, famously unveiled in a 2006 affidavit that described the operations in AT&T’s secret tapping room at its San Francisco facilities. (Klein’s affidavit formed the gravamen of a lawsuit against AT&T mounted by the Electronic Freedom Foundation, but the lawsuit died when Congress passed the telecom immunity bill last year.) According to Klein, the Narus supercomputer, the STA 6400, was "known to be used particularly by government intelligence agencies because of its ability to sift through large amounts of data looking for preprogrammed targets." The Narus system, which was maintained by Narus technicans, also provided a real-time mirror image of all data streaming through AT&T routers, an image to be rerouted into the computers of the NSA.
According to Jim Bamford, who cites knowledgeable sources, Verizon’s eavesdropping program is run by a competing Israeli firm called Verint, a subsidiary of Comverse Technology, which was founded by a former Israeli intelligence officer in 1984. Incorporated in New York and Tel Aviv, Comverse is effectively an arm of the Israeli government: 50 percent of its R&D costs are reimbursed by the Israeli Ministry of Industry and Trade. The Verint technology deployed throughout Verizon’s network, known as STAR-GATE, boasts an array of Orwellian capabilities. "With STAR-GATE, service providers can access communications on virtually any type of network," according to the company’s literature. "Designed to manage vast numbers of targets, concurrent sessions, call data records, and communications, STAR-GATE transparently accesses targeted communications without alerting subscribers or disrupting service." As with the Narus system, the point is to be able to tap into communications unobtrusively, in real time, all the time. A Verint spinoff firm, PerSay, takes the tap to the next stage, deploying "advanced voice mining," which singles out "a target’s voice within a large volume of intercepted calls, regardless of the conversation content or method of communication." Verint’s interception systems have gone global since the late 1990s, and sales in 2006 reached $374 million (a doubling of its revenues over 2003). More than 5,000 organizations -- mostly intelligence services and police units -- in at least 100 countries today use Verint technology.
What troubles Bamford is that executives and directors at companies like Narus and Verint formerly worked at or maintain close connections with the Israeli intelligence services, including Mossad; the internal security agency Shin Bet; and the Israeli version of the NSA, Unit 8200, an arm of the Israeli Defense Forces Intelligence Corps. Unit 8200, which Bamford describes as "hypersecret," is a key player in the eavesdropping industrial complex in Israel, its retired personnel dispersed throughout dozens of companies. According to Ha’aretz, the Israeli daily, "Many of the [eavesdropping] technologies in use around the world and developed in Israel were originally military technologies and were developed and improved by [Unit 8200] veterans." A former commander of Unit 8200, cited by Bamford, states that Verint technology was "directly influenced by 8200 technology….[Verint parent company] Comverse’s main product, the Logger, is based on the Unit’s technology." The implications for U.S. national security, writes Bamford, are "unnerving." "Virtually the entire American telecommunications system," he avers, "is bugged by [Israeli-formed] companies with possible ties to Israel’s eavesdropping agency." Congress, he says, maintains no oversight of these companies’ operations, and even their contracts with U.S. telecoms -- contracts pivotal to NSA surveillance -- are considered trade secrets and go undisclosed in company statements.