Will the US Share Intelligence with Israel’s New Left Wing Intelligence Initiative?

Ha’aretz reports that Israel’s Military Intelligence set up a group several months ago dedicated to collecting intelligence on non-Israeli leftist organizations that criticize Israel.

Military Intelligence is collecting information about left-wing organizations abroad that the army sees as aiming to delegitimize Israel, according to senior Israeli officials and Israel Defense Forces officers.

The sources said MI’s research division created a department several months ago that is dedicated to monitoring left-wing groups and will work closely with government ministries.


Military Intelligence officials said the initiative reflects an upsurge in worldwide efforts to delegitimize Israel and question its right to exist.

“The enemy changes, as does the nature of the struggle, and we have to boost activity in this sphere,” an MI official said. “Work on this topic proceeds on the basis of a clear distinction between legitimate criticism of the State of Israel on the one hand, and efforts to harm it and undermine its right to exist on the other.”

The new MI unit will monitor Western groups involved in boycotting Israel, divesting from it or imposing sanctions on it. The unit will also collect information about groups that attempt to bring war crime or other charges against high-ranking Israeli officials, and examine possible links between such organizations and terror groups.

Now aside from thinking generally that this is a bad idea, I’m particularly concerned about whether or not the US will share intelligence with Israel on such issues.

For example, the initiative says it will look for ties between groups critical of Israel and terrorist groups. How is that different from the investigation of a bunch of peace activists’ ties with humanitarian organizations which has suggested the peace activists have ties to Hezbollah? And since we know OLC gave the President and certain Federal Officials the green light to ignore privacy protections on the sharing of grand jury information in the PATRIOT Act, does that mean our government will readily share the information they’re collecting in that grand jury with the Israelis?

And to some degree, the Israelis wouldn’t even have to rely on intelligence sharing, per se. In his book The Shadow Factory, James Bamford spent some time detailing the Israeli ties to key companies in our electronic surveillance, companies like Verint, which intercepts and stores communication, PerSay, which does voice mining, NICE, which does voice content analysis, and Narus, which enables real-time surveillance on telecom lines. Between Verint and Narus, Bamford writes,

Thus, virtually the entire American telecommunications system is bugged by two Israeli-formed companies with possible ties to Israel’s eavesdropping agency–with no oversight by Congress.

And we can find such ties closer to home, too. The company that had been paid by Pennsylvania to track potential threats to critical infrastructure which ended up tracking First Amendment protected speech, the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response, is an Israeli company. Among other groups it tracked (one key focus was anti-fracking groups) were peace organizations–precisely the kind of group that might oppose Israel’s actions in Gaza.

The concern that federal and state entities have been paying companies with Israeli ties to collect information on groups that might include the same peace groups targeted by this new initiative in Israel is one thing.

But think of the other logical possibility. Our federal and state governments usually show some embarrassment when they get caught collecting intelligence on peace groups (though that doesn’t seem to stop it from happening over and over again). What will stop those same government entities from asking Israel to collect such information?

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Our federal and state governments usually show some embarrassment when they get caught collecting intelligence on peace groups (though that doesn’t seem to stop it from happening over and over again). What will stop those same government entities from asking Israel to collect such information?


  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    left-wing organizations abroad that the army sees as aiming to delegitimize Israel

    The armies of most states are already comprised of conservatives and those with right of center or far right of center political views. General Boykin here, for example, was religiously promoted despite his vehement christianist, crusading, proselytizing and political activity. That concentration grows as one moves up the ranks.

    When the standard is what the “army” thinks, the standard for what’s “left” is based on a goalpost already shifted to the right.

    Note that the threshhold is not a “threat” to Israel’s national security. It is views that would “delegitimize” Israel. The extreme version of that is the belief that the state of Israel has no right to exist, a belief that might equate with a threat to its national security.

    What about the middle and other extreme, views that might disdain a particular sect or political party or major policy in Israel, such as its expansion of settlements in the Occupied West Bank? The latter are the warp and weft of political debate – here, in Israel, in Europe, the democratizing Arab world. Did the US collect intel data for the Shah, the Czar, Communist China, Dreyfus’s Paris?

    Do we live in a national surveillance state or surveillance world?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Interesting assumption in that quote: There is no such thing as a rightwing group that, in the IDF’s opinion, might seek to delegitimize the state of Israel.

      Refresh my recollection, please. Which end of the political spectrum was occupied by those troublesome European governments in the 1930’s and ’40’s?

  3. merkwurdiglieber says:

    This was the ultimate destination for the dual citizenship status in

    the 1965 immigration reforms. Now all must adhere to an omerta standard

    for Israeli actions and US policy regarding same. The miracle of ’67

    mindset has been ingrained into US policy teaching so that there is no

    institutional credibility available to critics of the status quo. J Street

    is a weak effort at best if not a front for intelligence gathering.

    James Jesus Angleton made this deal with Teddy Kollek in the 1940’s, so

    I guess we had better get used to it.

    • lysias says:

      John M. Newman makes a persuasive case in the final chapter of the second, paperback edition of his Oswald and the CIA: The Documented Truth About the Unknown Relationship Between the U.S. Government and the Alleged Killer of JFK that Angleton played a central role in organizing the JFK assassination.

      The nuclear reactor at Dimona went critical on Dec. 26, 1963.

      • merkwurdiglieber says:

        Lansky’s boy LBJ was waiting in the wings, Operation Cyanide is how

        they trimmed him afterward.

  4. lysias says:

    I wonder if the reason the national security state and the military-industrial complex are such firm supporters of Israel is that Israel is an essential part of the mechanisms they use to establish their control over the U.S.

  5. BoxTurtle says:

    I’m assuming that by ‘non-Israeli leftist organizations that criticize Israel’, they mean us.

    Boxturtle (Attn Mossad: I love kosher pickles. That should count for something!)

    • emptywheel says:

      They’d probably first go after the folks whose sole purpose was to protest war crimes in Gaza (for example, they’re focusing on those with ties to aid flotillas to Gaza). But I doubt it’d take long for them to get to us.

      • BoxTurtle says:

        If Siun isn’t first on their list, their list is worthless. :-)

        Boxturtle (Attn Mossad: I firmly believe there were no war crimes committed in Gaza. You believe me, don’t you?)

  6. alabama says:

    Is this really a matter of “intelligence”? Are there any secrets to be learned? All protest movements are always infiltrated, we know this for sure. And we also know that when something really happens, the intelligence people will be the last to know. Because it happens without warning, and these folks can’t think without being “warned” ahead of time (in other words they can’t think).

    Consider Mohamad Bouazizi, a man well enough known to the local police, and for no particular reason (finally, the police know everyone). He was not an interesting person, and certainly not a secret; least of all was he a threat to any regime. Then came the moment when he’d had enough and set himself on fire. Suddenly the whole Arab world was on the march. No one expected this. Notwithstanding the trillions of dollars spent on “intelligence” over the decades, no one foresaw this development (and certainly no one noticed the spark that set it off in the first place).

    No, this intelligence thing is a matter of employment, of paying salaries for folks who can’t farm, fix cars, or do other useful things.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      this intelligence thing is a matter of employment

      I disagree. I think it is another move in a public relations war. Israel’s likely goal is to “ACORN” anybody who publically disagrees with their position.

      Which implies to me that Israel is starting to feel public pressure, as unlikely as that may be.

      My bet is that they will concentrate on AMERICAN groups that dare to disagree. They know full well that as long as congress throws money to them, they need not care what France thinks. However, if enough pressure is applied to reduce or end that cash transfer, they’re dead and they know it.

      Personally, I think we should cut off their allowence until they end the seige of Gaza and stop building in the West Bank.

      Boxturtle (Attn Mossad: Yeah, yeah, I know. I just got on your list anyway, didn’t I?)

  7. alabama says:

    Boxturtle, I know at least a few Israelis who’d say that their country can’t do it any other way–that it lost its vision and imagination several decades ago. Surprises happen in places like Tunisia, not Israel.

    • lysias says:

      Apartheid South Africa had lost its vision and imagination for a few decades before the fall of apartheid.

      Eventually, though, surprises did happen there.

      • alabama says:

        Life is unfair, lysias: support apartheid, and you’re denounced as a racist; oppose the settlements on the West Bank, and you’re denounced as an anti-semite. Israeli racism, unlike South African racism, is a taboo that cannot be addressed or amended, and hence the despair of my Israeli friends, as mentioned above.

        • Gitcheegumee says:

          I have always personally thought this was for the benfefit of corporations..in many ways… most particularly to monitor individuals who are inclined to be actively,as well as verbally,pro labor.

          USA,uh uh, UCA–United Corporation of America

  8. pajarito says:

    I am opposed to “fracking” as a practice that damages groundwater and surface water.

    I frequent this site, and others, guess that makes me left wing.

    Damn, and I thought all I had to worry about was the US unconstitutional spying…now Israel too?

  9. shekissesfrogs says:

    Justin Raimondo wrote a piece about a wiki leaks cable, the convergence of the Israeli government and the Israeli mafia, and how they have no problem coming into the U.S

    Gen. Ronen is listed as the Chairman of H.A.Sh Security Group, with Mr. Ben Shabat, variously described [pdf] as the President, Vice-President, and Director. So why is one of Israel’s former top cops in a business relationship with a known member of the Israeli Mafia? 

    Ominously, the cable goes on to bemoan the fact that Israeli organized crime figures are no longer automatically prevented from entering the US due to a change in the rules. As the author, someone named Cunningham, notes in an appended comment entitled “OC [Organized Crime] Slipping Through the Consular Cracks”: 

    Apparently the securiy firm Ed Rendell hired to spy on environmental groups was not only Israeli, they were also linked to the I.mafia. (AKA Russian mafia)

  10. howard says:

    Another step on the road to picking up Judge Goldstone and throwing him into solitary at Quantico or wherever.

  11. tjallen says:

    Bamford’s book The Puzzle Palace: Inside the National Security Agency details years of cooperation with Britain in gathering signals and communications from one another. Both countries have laws stating the gov’t will not collect communications from their own public. So the US allows Britain to operate receiver stations nearby central communications and microwave centers all over the US. The US in the same way has receivers next to Britain’s com hubs. Each country then shares with the other the communications which it cannot itself legally gather. Bamford’s book gives all the details, the locations the laws being flaunted, and everything.

    As you know recently there was that US-UK flareup about secret communications, and the US cut off the UK from certain types of communications (and the UK must have done the return favor). Seems clear the answer for the US has been to offer a similar deal to the Israelis, to gather the US communications that it is illegal for the US to gather themselves, and then share it with US.

    Good topic for Bamford’s next book.