Israel won't stop spying on US, which won't stop it

Some interesting reporting on Israel's extensive spying on the US in two pieces by Newsweek's Jeff Stein this week - Israel Won’t Stop Spying on the U.S. and Israel’s Aggressive Spying in the U.S. Mostly Hushed Up. From the first piece:

“I don’t think anyone was surprised by these revelations,” the former aide said. “But when you step back and hear…that there are no other countries taking advantage of our security relationship the way the Israelis are for espionage purposes, it is quite shocking. I mean, it shouldn’t be lost on anyone that after all the hand-wringing over [Jonathan] Pollard, it’s still going on.”

And this anecdote from the second, follow-up report:

When White House national security advisor Susan Rice’s security detail cleared her Jerusalem hotel suite for bugs and intruders Tuesday night, they might’ve had in mind a surprise visitor to Vice President Al Gore’s room 16 years ago this week: a spy in an air duct.

According to a senior former U.S. intelligence operative, a Secret Service agent who was enjoying a moment of solitude in Gore’s bathroom before the Veep arrived heard a metallic scraping sound. “The Secret Service had secured [Gore’s] room in advance and they all left except for one agent, who decided to take a long, slow time on the pot,” the operative recalled for Newsweek. “So the room was all quiet, he was just meditating on his toes, and he hears a noise in the vent. And he sees the vent clips being moved from the inside. And then he sees a guy starting to exit the vent into the room.”

Did the agent scramble for his gun? No, the former operative said with a chuckle. “He kind of coughed and the guy went back into the vents.”

To some, the incident stands as an apt metaphor for the behind-closed-doors relations between Israel and America, “frenemies” even in the best of times. The brazen air-duct caper “crossed the line” of acceptable behavior between friendly intelligence services – but because it was done by Israel, it was quickly hushed up by U.S. officials.

And the reason it goes on unchecked, of course, is that American lawmakers are protecting Israel:

Always lurking, former intelligence officials say, was the powerful “Israeli lobby,” the network of Israel’s friends in Congress, industry and successive administrations, Republican and Democratic, ready to protest any perceived slight on the part of U.S. security officials. A former counterintelligence specialist told Newsweek he risked Israel’s wrath merely by providing routine security briefings to American officials, businessmen and scientists heading to Israel for meetings and conferences.

“We had to be very careful how we warned American officials,” he said. “We regularly got calls from members of Congress outraged by security warnings about going to Israel. And they had our budget. When ... the director of the CIA gets a call from an outraged congressman–’What are these security briefings you're giving? What are these high-level threat warnings about travel to Tel Aviv you're giving? This is outrageous’ – he has to pay close attention. There was always this political delicacy that you had to be aware of.”

NYT calls Snowden "whistle-blower", urges clemency

New York Times editorial, today, in the face of the avalanche of revelations that have came out through Snowden:

Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service. It is time for the United States to offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistle-blower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community.

See also Ryan Lizza's incredibly long New Yorker piece on systematic NSA law-breaking and dissimulation over the last decade, and Obama's enablement of it.

Morsi and the deep state, cont.

Egypt: The president, the army and the police - Egypt - Ahram Online

This is a new line of attack in the anti-Morsi media — apparently grounded in some truth — regarding changes to regulations on buying land in Sinai. The conspiracy theory version is that there is a grand scheme to allow Palestinians from Gaza to resettle in Sinai or render permanent Gaza's division from the West Bank and turn Sinai into Gaza's hinterland. The more interesting aspect of this, however, are the lingering signs of tension between the military and the Morsi administration. As this report shows, on some issues it's clear who calls the shots:

A recent decree issued by Minister of Defence Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi restricting the right to buy property in Sinai to second-generation Egyptian citizens had come against the wish of the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to a military source.

The decree, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity, was issued after the minister became aware of a Palestinian-Qatari scheme to buy territory in Sinai “supposedly for tourism related projects."

The source added that the minister “informed” the president before taking he took the decision “with  unprecedented support from within the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the wider military community.

"Many of us [officers and soldiers] died to retrieve this land; we did so not knowing that Morsi would one day compromise the country's right to Sinai - for whatever reason. Whatever the reason, Sinai is a red line. We will support our Palestinian brothers in every way possible but Sinai is not for sale," the source said.

Of course the presidency is denying this, saying the new orders came from Morsi. Read on from some acid quotes on intelligence and security from a presidential aide.

Cook: Tales of Omar Suleiman

Tales of Omar Suleiman - By Steven A. Cook | Foreign Policy:

The last time I saw Omar Pasha was on Jan. 24, 2011 -- on the eve of the Egyptian revolution. I was with a group of foreign-policy experts, business leaders, and philanthropists and we met in an auditorium at the GIS headquarters. It was hard not to notice the freaky, yoga studio-like music that was playing over the sound system. When Suleiman arrived, he sat alone on a dais and spoke into a microphone, even though the delegation numbered only about 25 people seated in the second row of the auditorium, behind a gaggle of GIS courtiers. During the meeting, we learned that the United States had supplied Egypt with the technology to turn off the Internet -- something the Egyptians would employ in earnest, though not terribly effectively, less than 24 hours later.

By Jan. 24, Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali had already fallen and a wave of self-immolations in Egypt had led to widespread speculation about whether the revolution was headed east. Naturally, therefore, someone in our delegation asked Suleiman whether the Tunisian revolt could happen in his country. But even at this late hour, he was as contemptuous of change as he had been six years ago, when he slammed his first down on the Washington conference table. "No," he responded. "The police have a strategy and the president is strong." Even at the time, the hubris was astonishing.

One of my big regrets, never meeting Omar Pasha. I do have some insight accrued over years of keeping notes on him and talking to people who dealt with him — mostly foreigner diplomats and spies and some Egyptian ones too. The takeaway is that he was actually fairly mediocre behind all the bluster and powersuits and Cuban cigars, and there is no better illustration of this than his handling of the Hamas issue in Gaza. Suleiman's declared policy of ultimately crushing Hamas failed all the way, to the extent that people who dealt with him on this issue would joke about the "three-point plan" (engage, contain, crush) he would systematically trot out. Suleiman (unlike some of his predecessors when Egypt was at war with Israel) was ultimately the product of a system that only sought to maintain itself, showed little initiative or daring in foreign policy, and — being so concerned with status-quo and so-called "stability" — appeared to mostly keep busy by keeping everyone going around in circles (exhibit A: Egypt's handling of Palestinian reconciliation talks).

I find it pretty outrageous he was given a state funeral and am surprised people did not try to disrupt it. One day, US archives of Suleiman's handywork, especially on the rendition program, might be open and we'll find out the full extent of complicity in his shenanigans. 

Meanwhile in Juba...

A former Cairene friend writes from South Sudan:
I'm pretty sure I just recognized a (current? former?) Amn al-Dawla [State Security] officer eating lunch at one of the fanciest hotels in Juba (which is not saying much). He was talking to an older fat man about a whore. I relayed this information to the friend I was having lunch with, who said, "There are a lot of them here." Me: "A lot of foreign secret police, or a lot of whores?" Him: "Both."
I can't speak about the prostitution situation, but it's pretty established that Juba has been awash in Egyptian mukhabarat since the Egyptians, two or three years ago, made their peace with the inevitability of secession in Sudan. No doubt it's still a good place to assign officers whose faces are too recognizable at home.

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Post-uprising: what to do with secret police files?

This year’s uprisings have, in several countries, defeated the domestic spying apparatus, but there is yet little idea of how not only to reform these agencies, but what to do with all the data they collected (or indeed reveal the extent of this data collection).

In Libya, the chaos and sudden fall of Tripoli allowed, temporarily, access to files that revealed not only surveillance but collaboration with Western intelligence on various issues. The state of the intelligence apparatus in unknown, but it is likely that much of it collapsed alongside the Qadhafi state.

In Egypt, the very first days of the uprisings saw security agencies move to destroy many documents and recordings (this was seen in safehouses in different parts of Cairo, as well as in the offices of State Security), some capture of documents by protestors during the (possibly manipulated) break-in into State Security HQ in Nasr City, but no fundamental reform — indeed it appears that not only State Security is still operating as National Security (and lately returning to the streets), but General Intelligence is now at the peak of its powers, even without Omar Suleiman.

In Tunisia, in-depth police reform has yet to begin but the surveillance state has been partly dismantled already. They are now beginning to deal with the many years of work full accountability will take, as this fascinating post at Unredacted on the Tunisian debate of what to do with the former regime’s secret police files shows:

Operating out of the Interior Ministry and other federal agencies, the intelligence and security forces known collectively as the secret police, or political police, excelled in spying on citizens, infiltrating civil society groups, trolling emails and social media sites for information, and harassing, intimidating and torturing suspected opponents of Ben Ali’s regime. Conference participants agreed that no space, public or private, was safe from the surveillance state. As Farah Hachad, a lawyer and president of Le Labo’, recalled at the start of the conference, “Since I was born, even conversations inside our house would be silenced because of the fear inside our hearts that we would be heard and punished.”

Presenters at the conference and audience members had their own memories of the repressive power wielded by the political police. One man recounted how an agent showed up at his door to detain him, “And when I asked, do you have an arrest warrant?, he pulled twenty blank arrest warrants from his pocket, all signed by the Interior Minister, and said, I can have as many as I want.” Taieb Baccouche, the interim Minister of Education and president of the Arab Institute of Human Rights, remembered signing his name to a petition for democracy in the late 1960s along with dozens of other activists, artists and scholars. “That was the beginning of surveillance: they controlled my phone, my mail and all my movements from then on.” Everyone agreed that the political police still existed and still posed a danger to democratic change, despite the advances of the revolution.

More than the issue of disbanding the secret police, however, the conference was focused on how to seize their archives as a way of preserving collective memory and permitting informed public debate about the repressive past. There were strong differences of opinion about how to manage the archives. Some feared the impact on people’s lives of the release of personal information, whether true or invented by the regime. Others felt that Tunisia’s democratic transition could not be complete without access to the archives. As artist and activist Zeyneb Farhat put it, “These political archives were designed to devalue and damage the credibility of activists by spreading lies about them… They have to be opened now in order to create a justice-based relationship between police and citizens and to build trust, so that people understand the police are for protecting security, not for undermining change.”

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Colonel Qadhafi's Tech Support

This is a guest post by Paul Mutter. 

Reporting from Tripoli, The Wall Street Journal’s Paul Sonne and Margaret Coker reveal the depths of collusion between Colonel Qadhafi’s spooks and their foreign tech support:

The recently abandoned room is lined with posters and English-language training manuals stamped with the name Amesys, a unit of French technology firm Bull SA, which installed the monitoring center. A warning by the door bears the Amesys logo. The sign reads: "Help keep our classified business secret. Don't discuss classified information out of the HQ."

Amesys of Bull SA was just one of those whose wares were on display. Narus, a subsidiary of Boeing, the ZTE Corporation of China and a small (but apparently important) South African firm called VASTech SA (Pty) were all represented. Other names will likely follow. But so far, they all are following the warning on the Amesys sign, offering limp responses to the WSJ’s inquiries, or just declining to comment.

But the HQ records speak for themselves: the government recorded thousands of online conversations, phone calls and web histories, from regular citizens to human rights activists (those who had overseas contacts were priority targets, of course).

In the end, Colonel Qadhafi’s tech support was a waste of money, even after his government killed the internet in March to try and cut off Libyans from each other and the outside world. Libya’s uprising has apparently succeeded in toppling Qadhafi’s government, and his IT department is nowhere to be found.

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10000% worth it

With regards to Michael Scheuer's complaint that the Arab uprisings may have benefited al-Qaeda (via Angry Arab):

Speaking at the Edinburgh international book festival, Michael Scheuer said: "The help we were getting from the Egyptian intelligence service, less so from the Tunisians but certainly from the Libyans and Lebanese, has dried up – either because of resentment at our governments stabbing their political leaders in the back, or because those who worked for the services have taken off in fear of being incarcerated or worse.

"The amount of work that has devolved on US and British services is enormous, and the result is blindness in our ability to watch what's going on among militants."

The Arab spring, he said, was "an intelligence disaster for the US and for Britain, and other European services".

[. . .]

He said: "The rendition programme must come back – the people we have in custody now are pretty long in the tooth, in terms of the information they can provide in interrogations.

"The Arab spring has been a disaster for us in terms of intelligence gathering, and we now are blind both because of the Arab spring and because there is nothing with which to replace the rendition programme."

Quite aside that I won't really miss intelligence cooperation on rendition, torture and the training of security and intelligence officers (all things that should be investigated — for instance FBI access to the Ministry of Interior in Egypt, or the training that State Security officers received at FBI tranining facilities in Virginia), the bigger picture makes this so irrelevant I find it hardly worth bringing up.

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Links for Dec.26.09 to Dec.28.09

Get Elected; or, al-Baradei Tryin’ (Part 1 of ???) « THE BOURSA EXCHANGE | TBE translates that ElBaradei interview from al-Shorouq. ✪ Could the Mullahs Fall This Time? - The Daily Beast | Interesting ruminations on whether Iran is near a revolution and the importance of Ashura as a symbol of the fight for justice. ✪ Op-Ed Columnist - The Big Zero - NYTimes.com | Economically, the decade produced nothing. ✪ The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب: Saudi Wahhabi Physiognomy: this man should be teaching at KAUST | Funny. ✪ Rasheed el-Enany on modern Arabic lit: not quite a Renaissance | Al-Masry Al-Youm | "I think the status of translated Arabic literature is better than it's ever been." ✪ Two Hamas members killed in Beirut explosion | Unusual... this attack was in a safe, Hizbullah-controlled area. ✪ Activists appeal to Mubarak over entry into Gaza - Yahoo! News |
Egypt said it would prevent their passage because of the "sensitive situation" in Gaza and warned Monday of legal repercussions for anyone defying the ban. Around 1,300 international delegates from 42 countries have signed up to join the Gaza Freedom March which was due to enter Gaza via Egypt during the last week of December.
Exclusive excerpt from Joe Sacco’s groundbreaking new book: Footnotes in Gaza | I'm awaiting my copy of this book from this great cartoonist. ✪ Sic Semper Tyrannis : Men on Horseback | Pat Lang on the Afghan policy war inside the Obama administration. ✪ Ardebili's laptop - Laura Rozen - POLITICO.com | Iran holding hikers and others because US holding Iranians? ✪ Anis Sayigh: and Israeli history of letter bombs | Angry Arab has an interesting post on the Israeli use of letter bombs against civilians. ✪ Officials Point to Suspect’s Claim of Qaeda Ties in Yemen - NYTimes.com | Rather suspicious, this Yemen angle at a time when people are trying to confuse the Huthis and al-Qaeda... ✪ The Lives They Lived - Ben Ali - The Chili That Shaped a Family - NYTimes.com | Sausages and chilli, served to Obama by an Indian Muslim Trinidadian. ✪ Mainstreaming the Mad Iran Bombers | Marc Lynch | Lynch on NYT op-ed's call for war. ✪ The Nevada gambler, al-Qaida, the CIA and the mother of all cons | The Guardian | "Playboy magazine has revealed that the CIA fell victim to an elaborate con by a compulsive gambler who claimed to have developed software that discovered al-Jazeera broadcasts were being used to transmit messages to terrorists buried deep in America."
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Links for Dec.13.09 to Dec.16.09

â�© Egypt puts archives on Web to boost Arabic content | But what's the address? â�© Muslims in Europe: A Report on 11 EU Cities | Open Society Institute | Tons of interesting questions raised by this ground-breaking poll. â�© Abkhazia Is Recognized by Even Smaller Nauru - NYTimes.com | Sharqeya next? â�© Pro-Israel Lobby Group’s Iran Petition Features Lots of Questionable Names « The Washington Independent | Such as "Porn Sex Video" and Comfylovely". â�© LedgerGermane: Karzai Says Afghan Army Will Need Help Until 2024 | Yikes. â�© Future of US-Egypt Relations: A View from the Next Generation | Notes on another POMED event. â�© POMED Event: U.S. Military Assistance: Obstacle or Opportunity for Reform? | Steven Cook, Emile Hokayem, etc. some discussion of Egypt-US military relations. â�© Mideastwire.com | Zaitout: reports about Algeria-US agreement over temporary military bases | Handle with care. â�© British court issued Gaza arrest warrant for former Israeli minister Tzipi Livni | The Guardian | More of this please. â�© Nights to remember - The National Newspaper | Arabian Nights conference in NYU Abu Dhabi. â�© Obama's Big Sellout : Rolling Stone | Must-read Matt Taibbi story on Obama's bailout of Wall Street. â�© Al-Masry Al-Youm | Police raid home of prominent blogger | Wael Abbas sentenced to six months of prison in absentia for stealing his neighbors' internet??!?! â�© We will not bow to this Moroccan king | Paul Laverty and Ken Loach | Comment is free | The Guardian | Strongly worded op-ed for Aminatou Haidar. â�© David Ignatius - Jordan's ex-spy chief wasn't too good to be true | On former GID chief Saad Kheir - a dubious tribute. â�© Orientalism in Reverse | Brian Whitaker critiques Joseph Massad's "Gsy International" theory.
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Links for 11.19.09 to 11.24.09

Middle East Report 253: Beyond Compare by Julie Peteet | On the similarities of the Israeli occupation to Apartheid, its differences, and a call for a new advocacy strategy. ✪ Newsweek Reporter's Ordeal in Iran | Newsweek International | Newsweek.com | Maziar Bahari's story. ✪ The sixth war - The National Newspaper | Greg Johnsen on the Huthi-Saudi-Yemeni war(s), and their socio-political underpinnings. ✪ Daily News Egypt - Shalit Release Imminent, Claim Egyptian And Israeli Press | Heard that before - who will be the spoiler for prisoner exchanges now? ✪ Morocco: Endangered 'Model'? | Human Rights Watch | HRW's Eric Goldstein on Morocco's slide to more and more rights abuses. ✪ MEI - Middle East International | Another new issue. ✪ Saudi Arabia goes to war | Mai Yamani | On Riyadh's attack on Huthis marks the first solo military venture for the Saudi army. ✪ Hey, preacher – leave those kids alone | Ariane Sherine | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk | I'm a rabid atheist and even I think this goes too far. People can choose sooner or later anyway, parents have rights over their kids. But of course religious schools should get no state funding. ✪ Syria's crusade for tourism | Travel | The Guardian | Damascus wants to double the number of tourists that visit it. Quick, get there before the country is ruined... ✪ Homeland Security Today - preparedness and security news - Obama Dilutes Power of Top Intel Officer; Elevates DCI | Interesting piece on failed attempts to restructure US intelligence community, caused by fight between CIA and DNI. ✪ International Journal of Žižek Studies | It would be funny if this was satire, but it's not. ✪ Interview / Reporter Helen Thomas criticizes Obama's Mideast peace efforts - Haaretz | "I don't think they are working very hard for peace." ✪ Will Turkey benefit from Ergenekon? - Le Monde diplomatique | Remnants of Turkey's deep state and Cold War networks. ✪ Le Figaro - La lutte des princes saoudiens pour succéder au roi Abdallah | As Sarkozy visits, creepy old geezer princes fight for kingdom. ✪ Little behind Obama's tough Mideast talk: analysts - Yahoo! News | In foreign as in domestic policy, Obama has no balls.
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Israel's Lebanese Spy Ring

To my knowledge there's been little coverage of the recent Lebanese spy scandal in the English-language press (although the Arabic press has talked about it plenty), but Le Figaro has a long piece on the arrests, labeling them as one of the most important reverses in the (long) history of Israeli espionage:
Dans cette guerre de l'ombre, les services de renseignements israéliens ont subi, cette année au Liban, l'un des plus importants revers de leur histoire. Comme il se doit, ils n'ont pas commenté le démantèlement de leur plus grand réseau d'espionnage dans un pays arabe. Les chiffres sont pourtant sans précédents. Plus de soixante-dix Libanais ont été inculpés d'espionnage au profit d'Israël ces derniers mois. Une quarantaine de suspects ont été placés en détention. Une trentaine d'autres agents supposés sont toujours recherchés par les autorités libanaises. Certains ont réussi à fuir, prenant l'avion vers une destination inconnue, ou ont franchi la frontière entre les deux pays, toujours techniquement en guerre depuis 1949. D'autres ont cessé leurs activités. À la différence des maîtres espions des romans, les membres de ces réseaux appartiennent à l'univers moins glamour du renseignement de terrain. Celui des petites mains, des cellules anonymes chargées de glaner des informations fragmentaires, de préparer des dossiers d'objectif ou de suivre les mouvements quotidiens de l'adversaire. Parmi ces agents, certains dormants depuis des années, toutes les communautés libanaises sont représentées : chrétiens, sunnites, chiites, originaires du Sud-Liban, de la Bekaa ou de Beyrouth. «Certains travaillaient pour Israël depuis des années, parfois depuis les années 1980», explique le général Achraf Rifi, directeur général des Forces de sécurité intérieures libanaises, qui ont effectué une bonne partie des arrestations. «Ils ont été recrutés, ajoute-t-il, pour des motifs variés : financiers, idéologiques ou psychologiques. On a même des cas de chantage, sexuels ou autres. Mais le principal facteur de ce recrutement a été la longue occupation israélienne du Sud-Liban, qui a mis en contact des Libanais avec les Israéliens, et qui a, d'une certaine façon, rendu acceptable les relations avec eux». «Une chose est sûre, c'est un beau coup de filet, commente une source diplomatique occidentale à Beyrouth. Il est possible que, depuis leur semi-échec pendant la guerre de 2006, où ils s'étaient appuyés sur leurs renseignements aériens et technologiques, les Israéliens aient un peu trop demandé à leurs réseaux, leur faisant prendre plus de risques pour reconstituer leurs listes de cibles. Mais ces arrestations sont surtout le fruit d'un travail sans précédent des forces de sécurité libanaises.»
My translation:
In this shadow war, the Israeli intelligence services have gone through, this year in Lebanon, one of the most important setbacks in their history. As expected, they have not commented on the dismantling of their largest espionage network in an Arab country. The numbers are however unprecedented. Over 70 Lebanese have been accused of espionage for Israel in recent months. About 40 suspects are currently held. Another 30 are currently being sought by Lebanese authorities. Some have managed to flee, or crossed the border between the two countries, which have been technically at war since 1949. Others have ceased their activities. As opposed to spymasters in novels, the members of these networks belong to the less glamorous universe of ground-level intelligence gathering. That of small hands, of anonymous cells tasked with gathering fragments of intelligence, of preparing objective dossiers or follow the movements of the enemy. Among these agents, some of which have been asleep for years, all Lebanese communities are represented: Christians, Sunnis, Shias, South Lebanese, from the Bekaa or Beirut. "Some have worked for Israel for years, sometimes since the 1980s," explains General Ashraf Rifi, director of the Internal Security Forces, which carried out most of the arrests. "They've been recruited through various motives: financial, ideological, or psychological. Or even a few cases of blackmail, sexual or otherwise. But the most important factor for recruitment was the long Israeli occupation of South Lebanon, which put Lebanese in touch with Israelis, and which, in a way, made relationships with them acceptable." "One thing is certain, it's a major catch," commented a Western diplomat in Beirut. "It is possible that, since its semi-failure during the 2006 war, when they heavily relied on technological and aerial intelligence, the Israelis asked for too much of their networks, making them take risks to draft their target lists. But these arrests have also been the result of unprecedented work by the Lebanese security forces."
I'm not sure what this means in terms of internal politics -- the ISF are supposed to be pro-March 14, but it certainly gives some more national security kudos to the government, an area where Hizbullah and its allies have had the upper hand since the liberation of the South. The article has a lot more detail on the arrests, for instance on the arrest of Lebanese Army Colonel Mansour Diab, who had been a leading figure in the 2007 Nahr al-Bared attacks. He was allegedly recruited in the US during a training seminar (which begs all sorts of questions.) Le Figaro also highlights the use of phone-listening equipment and software capable of processing thousands of calls as being instrumental in catching the spies. Ironically, the equipment had been provided to the ISF by Western intelligence agencies in the aftermath of the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, and that was originally probably targeted at monitoring Hizbullah. The officer running this program, Captain Wissam Eid, died in a car bombing in early 2008. Hizbullah is said to have been behind the attack, but the listening system has since been turned to other uses, leading to the dismantling of the Israeli networks.
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Prominent Democrat Rep. sought influence for AIPAC in Rosen affair

Great story from Congressional Quarterly on a secret probe into Congresswoman Jane Harman, a Democrat with longstanding interests in intelligence issues, who promised a suspected Israeli agent involved in the Steve Rosen AIPAC scandal that she would try to intervene on AIPAC's behalf:
Rep. Jane Harman , the California Democrat with a longtime involvement in intelligence issues, was overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel organization in Washington. Harman was recorded saying she would “waddle into” the AIPAC case “if you think it’ll make a difference,” according to two former senior national security officials familiar with the NSA transcript. In exchange for Harman’s help, the sources said, the suspected Israeli agent pledged to help lobby Nancy Pelosi , D-Calif., then-House minority leader, to appoint Harman chair of the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections, which the Democrats were heavily favored to win. Seemingly wary of what she had just agreed to, according to an official who read the NSA transcript, Harman hung up after saying, “This conversation doesn’t exist.” . . . But according to the former officials familiar with the transcripts, the alleged Israeli agent asked Harman if she could use any influence she had with Gonzales, who became attorney general in 2005, to get the charges against the AIPAC officials reduced to lesser felonies. Rosen had been charged with two counts of conspiring to communicate, and commnicating national defense information to people not entitled to receive it. Weissman was charged with conspiracy. AIPAC dismissed the two in May 2005, about five months before the events here unfolded. . . . But that’s when, according to knowledgeable officials, Attorney General Gonzales intervened. According to two officials privy to the events, Gonzales said he “needed Jane” to help support the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, which was about to be exposed by the New York Times. Harman, he told Goss, had helped persuade the newspaper to hold the wiretap story before, on the eve of the 2004 elections. And although it was too late to stop the Times from publishing now, she could be counted on again to help defend the program He was right. On Dec. 21, 2005, in the midst of a firestorm of criticism about the wiretaps, Harman issued a statement defending the operation and slamming the Times, saying, “I believe it essential to U.S. national security, and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities.” Pelosi and Hastert never did get the briefing. And thanks to grateful Bush administration officials, the investigation of Harman was effectively dead. Many people want to keep it that way. . . . Harman dodged a bullet, say disgusted former officials who have pursued the AIPAC case for years. She was protected by an administration desperate for help. “It’s the deepest kind of corruption,” said a recently retired longtime national security official who was closely involved in AIPAC investigation, “which was years in the making. “It’s a story about the corruption of government — not legal corruption necessarily, but ethical corruption.”
In other words, deep infiltration of the US political system by Israel and a supine Bush administration who could not take this on because it needed the AIPAC bunch's support.
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Links for January 6th

Automatically posted links for January 6th:

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Links for 12 December

Automatically posted links for December 9th through December 12th:

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