Two companies that bugged the U.S. telecommunications network for the National Security Agency (NSA) have extensive links to Israel’s intelligence service, James Bamford of Wired reports.NSA’s chief General Keith Alexander was called before Congress last week to testify about the $2 billion Utah spy centre the NSA is currently building, and he said that the NSA does not have the ability to spy on the confidential personal communications of Americans.
It seems that he wasn’t lying since the NSA hired secretive contractors with extensive ties to Israel to provide hardware and software for 10 to 20 wiretapping rooms in key telecommunication points throughout the country, according to Wired.
Thus the NSA has gained access to most of the domestic traffic flowing through the U.S. without actually doing it themselves.
“According to a former Verizon employee briefed on the program, Verint, owned by Comverse Technology, taps the communication lines at Verizon…
Both Verint and Narus were founded in Israel in the 1990s. Both provide monitoring and intercept capabilities to service providers and government organisations, promoting claims that their equipment can access and retain large amounts of information on a vast number of targets.
One of the founders of Verint, Jacob “Kobi” Alexander, is a former Israeli intelligence officer.
In 2007 a former commander of the highly secret Unit 8200 (i.e. Israel’s NSA) told Forbes that the technology of Comverse (i.e. the company that owns Verint) is based on Unit 8200 technology, Wired reported.
A co-founder and former chairmen of Narus, Ori Cohen, told Fortune in 2001 that his partners have done technology work for Israeli intelligence.
Another former chief of Unit 8200 acknowledged to the Israeli paper Ha’artez last year that high-tech firms around the world employ both Unit 8200 equipment and its veteran personnel.
“Cautious estimates indicate that in the past few years… Unit 8200 veterans have set up some 30 to 40 high-tech companies, including 5 to 10 that were floated on Wall Street.” Referred to only as “Brigadier General B,” he added, “This correlation between serving in the intelligence Unit 8200 and starting successful high-tech companies is not coincidental: Many of the technologies in use around the world and developed in Israel were originally military technologies and were developed and improved by Unit veterans.”
The NSA, whose official mission is to spy on foreign communications, began eavesdropping on the international communications of Americans after President Bush secretly authorised the practice in 2002 — without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying — to search for evidence of terrorist activity.
The highly secret U.S. eavesdropping net, code-named Stellar Wind, has not stopped expanding since President Bush gave the initial executive order.
Wired has reported on the numerous new NSA facilities:
- The $358 million CAPT Joseph J. Rochefort Building at NSA Hawaii was dedicated in January.
- The 604,000-square-foot John Whitelaw Building at NSA Georgia was dedicated in March.
- The NSA’s giant satellite listening post in Yorkshire, England — which has 33 giant dome-covered eavesdropping dishes — is expanding to accommodate a generator plant to provide power for new supercomputers (at $68 million) and a growing number of employees (many of whom are also employed by Lockhead Martin and Northrop Grumman).
- In May Fort Meade will undertake a $2 billion, 1.8-million-square-foot expansion of NSA headquarters that will include a cybercommand complex and a new supercomputer.
- Next year the NSA will open its 1-million-square-foot, $2 billion Utah Data centre that will be a code-breaking hub as well as a “cloud” that stores the trillions of millions of intercepted phone calls, e-mails and data trails so they can be analysed from long distances over highly encrypted fibre-optic links.
In response to the reports, the NSA told Wired that the agency is “proud of the work we do to protect the nation, and allegations implying that there is inappropriate monitoring of American communications are a disservice to the American public and to the NSA civilian and military personnel who are dedicated to serving their country.”