Leitura para o fim-de-semana: a ciberguerra já é uma realidade. Só não damos por ela

Neste preciso momento há uma batalha a ser travada. De um lado um país que quer desenvolver um programa nuclear. Do outro, um grupo de Estados que o querem impedir. Esta guerra já provocou danos elevados. E pode ter levado o conflito para um nível totalmente novo. Mas nós não sabemos dela. Ela é travada por funcionários altamente especializados, reunidos em salas, bunkers ou simples cibercafés. Esta é uma guerra electrónica. Cibernética. As bombas são virus criados propositadamente para sabotar os avanços do inimigo. Os tanques assumem a forma de computadores poderosos. Os soldados são hackers. Só uma coisa se mantém em relação a um conflito tradicional. Os civis. Nós. Este artigo da Vanity Fair já é de Julho. Mas mantém toda uma actualidade, sobretudo se pensarmos no recente escândalo das intercepções electrónicas da NSA. Que mais haverá para divulgar?



Silent War

On the hidden battlefields of history’s first known cyber-war, the casualties are piling up. In the U.S., many banks have been hit, and the telecommunications industry seriously damaged, likely in retaliation for several major attacks on Iran. Washington and Tehran are ramping up their cyber-arsenals, built on a black-market digital arms bazaar, enmeshing such high-tech giants as Microsoft, Google, and Apple. With the help of highly placed government and private-sector sources, Michael Joseph Gross describes the outbreak of the conflict, its escalation, and its startling paradox: that America’s bid to stop nuclear proliferation may have unleashed a greater threat.

ByMichael Joseph GrossConstruction byStephen DoyleIllustration byChris Mueller


I. Battlespace

Their eyeballs felt it first. A wall of 104-degree air hit the cyber-security analysts as they descended from the jets that had fetched them, on a few hours’ notice, from Europe and the United States. They were in Dhahran, in eastern Saudi Arabia, a small, isolated city that is the headquarters of the world’s largest oil company, Saudi aramco. The group included representatives of Oracle, IBM, CrowdStrike, Red Hat, McAfee, Microsoft, and several smaller private firms—a SWAT dream team for the virtual realm. They came to investigate a computer-network attack that had occurred on August 15, 2012, on the eve of a Muslim holy day called Lailat al Qadr, “the Night of Power.” Technically the attack was crude, but its geopolitical implications would soon become alarming.

The data on three-quarters of the machines on the main computer network of Saudi aramco had been destroyed. Hackers who identified themselves as Islamic and called themselves the Cutting Sword of Justice executed a full wipe of the hard drives of 30,000 aramco personal computers. For good measure, as a kind of calling card, the hackers lit up the screen of each machine they wiped with a single image, of an American flag on fire.

A few technical details of the attack eventually emerged into the press. Aboard the U.S.S.Intrepid, in New York Harbor, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told a group of C.E.O.’s that thearamco hack was “probably the most destructive attack that the private sector has seen to date.” Technical experts conceded the attack’s effectiveness but scorned its primitive technique. “It wrote over memory five, six times,” one hacker told me. “O.K., it works, but it’s notsophisticated.” Even so, many current and former government officials took account of the brute force on display and shuddered to think what might have happened if the target had been different: the Port of Los Angeles, say, or the Social Security Administration, or O’Hare International Airport. Holy shit, one former national-security official recalls thinking—pick any network you want, and they could do this to it. Just wipe it clean.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, as forensic analysts began work in Dhahran, U.S. officials half a world away gathered in the White House Situation Room, where heads of agencies speculated about who had attacked aramco and why, and what the attackers might do next. Cutting Sword claimed that it acted in revenge for the Saudi government’s support of “crimes and atrocities” in countries such as Bahrain and Syria. But officials gathered at the White House could not help wondering if the attack was payback from Iran, using America’s Saudi ally as a proxy, for the ongoing program of cyber-warfare waged by the U.S. and Israel, and probably other Western governments, against the Iranian nuclear program.

When the history of cyber-warfare comes to be written, its first sentence may go something like this: “Israel gave the United States an ultimatum.” For a number of years, intelligence reports intermittently indicated that Iran was getting closer to building a nuclear bomb, which the Israeli leadership views as an existential threat. In 2004, Israel gave Washington a wish list of weapons and other capabilities it wanted to acquire. The list—for various kinds of hardware but also for items such as aerial transmission codes, so that Israeli jets could overfly Iraq without having to worry about being shot down by U.S. warplanes—left little doubt that Israel was planning a military attack to stop Iran’s nuclear progress. President George W. Bush regarded such action as unacceptable, while acknowledging that diplomacy and economic sanctions had failed to change Iran’s mind.

Intelligence and defense officials offered him a possible third way—a program of cyber-operations, mounted with the help of Israel and perhaps other allies, that would attack Iran’s nuclear program surreptitiously and at the very least buy some time. As with the drone program, the Obama administration inherited this plan, embraced it, and has followed through in a major way. Significant cyber-operations have been launched against Iran, and the Iranians have certainly noticed. It may be that these operations will eventually change minds in Tehran. But the aramco attack suggests that, for the moment, the target may be more interested in shooting back, and with weapons of a similar kind.

Cyberspace is now a battlespace. But it’s a battlespace you cannot see, and whose engagements are rarely deduced or described publicly until long after the fact, like events in distant galaxies. Knowledge of cyber-warfare is intensely restricted: almost all information about these events becomes classified as soon as it is discovered. The commanding generals of the war have little to say. Michael Hayden, who was director of the C.I.A. when some of the U.S. cyber-attacks on Iran reportedly occurred, declined an interview request with a one-line e-mail: “Don’t know what I would have to say beyond what I read in the papers.” But with the help of highly placed hackers in the private sector, and of current and former officials in the military and intelligence establishments and the White House, it is possible to describe the outbreak of the world’s first known cyber-war and some of the key battles fought so far.

II. Flame, Mahdi, Gauss

‘Ineeded to come up with something cool for self-promotion at conferences,” Wes Brown recalls. The year was 2005, and Brown, a hacker who is deaf and has cerebral palsy, started a business called Ephemeral Security with a colleague named Scott Dunlop. Banks and other corporations hired Ephemeral to hack their networks and steal information, then tell them how to keep bad guys from doing the same thing. So Brown and Dunlop spent a lot of time dreaming up ingenious break-ins. Sometimes they used those ideas to boost their street cred and advertise their business by making presentations at elite hacker conferences—elaborate festivals of one-upmanship involving some of the greatest technical minds in the world.

At a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee shop in Maine, Brown and Dunlop started brainstorming, and what they produced was a tool for attacking networks and gathering information in penetration tests—which also amounted to a revolutionary model for espionage. By July of that year, the two men completed writing a program called Mosquito. Not only did Mosquito hide the fact that it was stealing information, but its spy methods could be updated, switched out, and re-programmed remotely through an encrypted connection back to a command-and-control server—“the equivalent of in-flight drone repair,” Brown explains. In 2005 the unveiling of Mosquito was one of the most popular presentations at the prestigious hacker conference known as Def Con, in Las Vegas.

Many U.S. military and intelligence officials attend Def Con and have been doing so for years. As early as the 1990s, the U.S. government was openly discussing cyber-war. Reportedly, in 2003, during the second Gulf War, the Pentagon proposed freezing Saddam Hussein’s bank accounts, but the Treasury secretary, John W. Snow, vetoed the cyber-strike, arguing that it would set a dangerous precedent that could result in similar attacks on the U.S. and de-stabilize the world economy. (To this day, the Treasury Department participates in decisions concerning offensive cyber-warfare operations that could have an impact on U.S. financial institutions or the broader economy.) After 9/11, when counterterrorism efforts and intelligence became increasingly reliant on cyber-operations, the pressure to militarize those capabilities, and to keep them secret, increased. As Iran seemed to move closer to building a nuclear weapon, the pressure increased even more.

As Wes Brown recalls, none of the government types in the audience said a word to him after his Mosquito presentation at Def Con. “None that I could identify as government types, at least,” he adds, with a chuckle. But about two years later, probably in 2007, malware now known as Flame appeared in Europe and eventually spread to thousands of machines in the Middle East, mostly in Iran. Like Mosquito, Flame included modules that could, through an encrypted connection to a command-and-control server, be updated, switched out, and re-programmed remotely—just like in-flight drone repair. The Flame software offered a very full bag of tricks. One module secretly turned on the victim’s microphone and recorded everything it could hear. Another collected architectural plans and design schematics, looking for the inner workings of industrial installations. Still other Flame modules took screenshots of victims’ computers; logged keyboard activity, including passwords; recorded Skype conversations; and forced infected computers to connect via Bluetooth to any nearby Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as cell phones, and then vacuumed up their data as well.”

O artigo completo está aqui.

Leitura para o fim-de-semana: escândalo nas redes sociais israelitas

O serviço militar é uma etapa obrigatória para os jovens israelitas. É assim há décadas. No entanto, a explosão das redes sociais tem revelado uma realidade em que os soldados israelitas se fazem fotografar com prisioneiros palestinianos em posições humilhantes. Uma espécie de Abu Graib em pequena escala. As revelações fazem parte do livro Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, do jornalista Max Blumenthal. Este é um excerto publicado pelo Salon.

Foto: Reuters/Ammar Awad

Foto: Reuters/Ammar Awad

For Israeli soldiers, social media has become a showcase of horrors

“In the summer of 2010, a chubby-cheeked twenty-year-old girl from Ashdod named Eden Abergil posted on her Facebook page. Nestled among the photos of Abergil and her friends during their army service and labeled “The army . . . best time of my life” were shocking trophy shots depicting Abergil mocking blindfolded Palestinian detainees during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

In one photo, a uniformed but heavily made-up and coiffed Abergil pouts for the camera while three older Palestinian men sit behind her on concrete blocks, their eyes blindfolded and their hands bound with plastic ties. One of the prisoners appears to be straining with discomfort, as his hands are tied behind his back.

Abergil’s best army buddy, a young woman named Shani Cohen, commented on the photo: “LOL all my loves in one picture!!! My heart is pumping hard!!!” In another shot, Abergil appears seated inches from the man whose hands were bound behind his back. He is a pathetic sight, rail thin, slumped forward, and completely unaware that Abergil was blowing mocking kisses at him. A comment thread below the photo read:

Adi Tal: You’re the sexiest like that . . .
Eden Abergil: Yeah I know lol mummy what a day it was look how he
completes my picture, I wonder if he’s got Facebook! I have to tag him in the picture! lol
Shani Cohen: LOL you psycho. . . . I wonder who’s the photographerrrrr
Shani Cohen: Eden . . . he’s got a hard-on for you . . . lol for sure!!!
Eden Abergil: Lol no honey he’s got a hard-on for youuu this is why you took that picture lol you took my picture!!!!

Hours after a blogger discovered the photos, Abergil’s name appeared in headlines across the Israeli and international media. The Israeli Army Spokesperson’s Unit attempted to dismiss Abergil as an isolated bad apple, whose actions represented “a serious violation of our ethics and moral code.” In her initial reaction, Abergil played down her behavior, claiming, “There’s no violence. . . . There’s no contempt.” But former soldiers knew that such sadism was common across the ranks of the military. After all, what did anyone expect heavily armed teenagers to do when placed in control of a largely defenseless population that had been presented to them throughout their lives as a murderous enemy?

Abergil’s photos prompted the editor-in-chief of Ha’aretz, Aluf Benn, to detail his own military experience for the first time. “The photographs of the female soldier Eden Abergil on Facebook with the young, bound Palestinians did not ‘shock’ me, as did the automatic responses of people on the left who complained, as usual, about the corrupting occupation and our moral deterioration,” Benn wrote. “Instead, the photos brought back memories from my military service. Once, I was also Eden Abergil: I served in a Military Police unit in Lebanon whose mission was to take prisoners from the Shin Bet’s interrogation rooms to the large holding camp of Ansar. I covered many eyes with pieces of cloth, I bound many wrists with plastic cuffs.”

Despite having knowingly shuttled men from Shin Bet torture chambers to a prison notorious for its brutal conditions, Benn insisted that he and members of his unit emerged with their liberal, democratic values intact: “The occupation did not ‘corrupt’ me or any of my colleagues in the unit. We didn’t return home and run wild in the streets and abuse helpless people. Coming-of-age problems preoccupied us a lot more than our prisoners’ discomfort. Our political views were also not affected.”

The editor-in-chief ’s remarkable claim shocked his colleague, Gideon Levy, who many Israeli leftists regarded as the conscience of Ha’aretz. In an editorial response, Levy accused Benn of having lost his moral bearings as soon as he joined the invasion of Lebanon. “You didn’t return home to riot in the streets and abuse innocent people, you write, and that’s all very well. But you were silent,” he wrote. “You were a complete accomplice to the crime, and you don’t even have a guilty conscience.”

Breaking the Silence, the Israeli veterans’ organization that published harrowing testimonies from the soldiers who maintained Israel’s occupation, echoed Levy, insisting that army culture had corrupted an entire generation. “This norm is wide-ranging and was created as result of the occupation and the daily control over the civilian population,” Breaking the Silence cofounder Yehuda Shaul remarked. “Every soldier becomes used to seeing cuffed and blindfolded Palestinians as a matter of routine, and by seeing it so often, these troops become blind to the fact these are human beings.”

In 2007, well before Israeli society was forced to reckon with the phenomenon of trophy photos, Breaking the Silence collaborated with filmmaker Tamar Yarom in the production of a documentary film about the experiences of six female Israeli soldiers who served in the occupation. Entitled “To See If I’m Smiling,” the film opened with one of the ex-soldiers, Meytal Sandler, peering into an album of photos she took during her service in the West Bank during the Second Intifada. The contents of the album are not revealed until the documentary’s final scene, when Sandler returns to find a photo she had avoided gazing at for years, drowning her memories of the army in alcohol abuse and chain smoking. In the photo, she is seen posing next to the nude corpse of a Palestinian man with an erection brought on by rigor mortis. And she is smiling from ear to ear. “How the hell did I think I’d ever be able to forget about it?” Sandler muttered in horror.

In the days after the Abergil scandal, Breaking the Silence and a handful of Israeli bloggers released dozens of Facebook photos that depicted scenarios at least as shocking as anything that appeared on Abergil’s page. Among the disturbing shots culled from Facebook pages belonging to young Israelis was a photo of four smiling troops towering over a blindfolded preadolescent Palestinian girl kneeling at the point of their machine guns; a pretty female soldier smiling winsomely beside a blindfolded Palestinian man cuffed to a plastic chair; two soldiers posing triumphantly above a disheveled corpse lying in the street like a piece of discarded trash; a soldier pumping his rifle in the air directly behind an older Palestinian woman tending to pots on her kitchen stove; a soldier defacing the walls of a home in Gaza by spray-painting a star of David and the phrase, “Be Right Back”; troops in the Gaza Strip playing with and posing beside corpses stripped half nude in acts of post-mortem humiliation; a young soldier mockingly applying makeup from a Palestinian woman’s dresser. The Facebook pages were so replete with documents of humiliation, domination, and violence it seemed that army basic training had been led by Marquis de Sade.

Graphic trophy photos are, of course, a common feature of modern military conflict. But the images of fresh-faced Israeli kids smiling beside corpses reflected much more than the dehumanization of the enemy in the “fog of war.” These photos were documents of a colonial culture in which Jewish Israeli youth became conditioned to act as sadistic overlords toward their Palestinian neighbors, and of a perpetual conquest that demanded indoctrination begin at an early age and continue perpetually throughout their lives. The young soldiers provided a perfect example of cognitive dissonance, in which chants of “Am Yisrael Chai!” (“The People of Israel Live!”) alternated easily with “Death to Arabs!”

In March 2011, months after her photos drew international attention and widespread condemnation, Abergil began uploading other soldiers’ trophy shots to her Facebook page. She captioned one upload with the increasingly common refrain:

Beside the next photo, Abergil wrote: “Fuck you, stinking Arabs!!!”

Later, Abergil mustered a few thoughts about her role in the scandal, though she was incapable of recognizing the moral conundrum. “I can’t allow Arab lovers to ruin the perfect life I lead. I am not sorry and I don’t regret it.” She added, “I am in favor of a Jewish-Zionist State. I defend what has been rightfully mine for ages.”

Not only was Abergil unable to recognize any wrong in her actions, she also believed with all her heart, and with apparently considerable peer encouragement, that she had acted heroically in the name of the Jewish state and its mythical claim to “Eretz Yisrael.” And she would do it again.

“I would gladly kill Arabs—even slaughter them,” she declared.

Abergil never got the chance to fulfill her fantasies. Having generated international headlines that embarrassed the army, she was promptly dismissed from reserve duty. But there were others aching to kill Arabs for sport. Maxim Vinogradov, an immigrant from Russia who joined the Border Police, was one of them. On a social media site, the young Vinogradov described himself as follows:

Favorite food: Arabs
Things that you love to do: To hit, violence
Hobbies: Hitting and destroying things
Favorite sports: Beating Palestinian wetbacks
What turns me on: Violence
I belong to: Extreme Right
Things I am looking for: Red Headed Arabs

Vinogradov’s friend and fellow soldier, Avi Yakobov, was of a similar mindset. In December 2007, Yakobov arrested Ihsan Dababseh, a thirty-five-year-old woman accused of belonging to the militant group Islamic Jihad. After binding Dababseh and blindfolding her at an Israeli prison near Bethlehem, Yakobov decided to stage what he believed was a jocular prank. Gathering his army buddies around, he turned the veiled woman against a wall, blasted some Arab pop music, and performed a parodic belly dance just inches away from her backside, mocking her with gyrating, overtly sexual hip motions. His friends laughed hysterically, filming as they reveled in the humiliation. The video of the incident lingered on YouTube until it surfaced on a Hebrew blog in October 2010, leading to more international media attention and embarrassment for the army. “A disgusting picture of the diseased mentality of the occupier,” is how a spokesman from the Palestinian Authority described the video.

While the new scandal gathered momentum, Yakobov was away on a rowdy beer bust at Berlin’s Oktoberfest. On his Facebook page, he posted a photo of himself in Berlin affectionately wrapping his arms around a huge, inflatable Jagermeister bottle. In the comment thread that followed, he and Vinogradov joked about killing prostitutes, screwing MILF’s (Mothers I’d Like to Fuck), and drinking to the point that they were sick from alcohol poisoning.

In an earlier comment provoked apparently by the massacre by Israeli commandos of activists on the Mavi Marmara ship, Yakobov proclaimed, “Destroy Turkey and all the Arabs from the world.”

Vinogradov replied, “I’m with you, bro, and with God’s help I’ll start it”

“Haha and you are capable of it, with no intervention from the evil eye,” Yakobov posted.

Less than two weeks after that exchange, Vinogradov and his Border Police unit barreled into the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Joz for a routine Friday deployment. There, they encountered a forty-one-year-old Palestinian man named Ziad Jilani returning from Friday prayers to his home in nearby Shufat, where he lived with his American wife, Moira, and their three daughters. Jilani owned a profitable business importing massage chairs from Switzerland and had no record of political activity. That afternoon, he and his family planned on taking an excursion to the beach. But he never made it home. Instead, as he drove through the winding and crowded streets of Wadi Joz, a group of boys allegedly rained down a hail of rocks on his car, apparently aiming at the Border Policemen stationed nearby. Jilani swerved suddenly, accidentally striking three members of Vinogradov’s unit and badly wounding two. Chaos immediately ensued.

As the Border Policemen fired wildly around the streets, riddling parked cars, shattering windows, and wounding a little girl, Jilani took off running down an alley toward a family member’s house. Vinogradov’s commander, a Druze police superintendent named Shad Hir al Din, fired a volley of bullets at Jilani, striking him in the back and immobilizing him. With the wounded Jilani lying on the ground, Vinogradov approached and fired a short burst into the back of his head. It was, by all accounts, an execution-style killing.

An eyewitness described the scene: “The policeman was yelling at Ziad [Jilani] and talking to him in Hebrew . . . and he was holding his rifle and aiming at Ziad with his foot on Ziad’s neck. . . . Suddenly he shot Ziad two or three times. . . . Then he kicked Ziad in the face with his foot.” For his part, Vinogradov claimed Jilani was in fact a “terrorist” who “lay there scaring me,” so he executed him in self-defense. But the young tough who described Arabs as his “favorite food” had never expressed such fears before.

Jilani joined the more than sixty-four hundred Palestinians killed by Israeli forces since the beginning of the Second Intifada. And like all who had killed Palestinians while in army uniform, Vinogradov was immune from prosecution. Indeed, since 2000, not one member of the Israeli army has been charged with a capital offense. “I just want the two men that shot him, with the bullets that my friends and my family’s taxpayer dollars paid for, behind bars,” Jilani’s widow, Moira, told journalist Jillian Kestler D’Amours. “I’m an American, and they shot him with [American] taxpayers’ money.”

In interviews after the shooting became news, Vinogradov sought to downplay the racist diatribes he posted on various social media sites by claiming his perspective was typical of the culture of frontline Border Police units. His defense was that everybody was guilty and therefore he was innocent. “Go to any Border Policeman’s Facebook profile and you will see more or less what I wrote,” Vinogradov said. Instead of punishing him or his belly dancing friend, Yakobov, or even publicly chastising them for what they had done wrong, the army initiated a new program instructing soldiers on how to best avoid embarrassing the State of Israel when using social media.

While the abuses piled up and the army stifled efforts at accountability, the military occasionally invited a few trained human rights facilitators onto its bases to lead seminars for the young Border Policemen. By accompanying one of those trainers, I managed to gain entry to Beit Horon, an army base in the West Bank that serves as a key staging point for raids on Palestinian villages and cities. There, I got to know the members of a frontline Border Police unit while they were led through an exercise in human rights education. Over the course of the day, I gained an intimate look at a group of young men who yearned to be unfettered from all legal and moral limitations so they could, as one said, “finish the job” once and for all.


Excerpted from the book “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel” by Max Blumenthal. Excerpted by arrangement with Nation Books, a member of The Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2013.

Leitura para o fim-de-semana: os espiões israelitas em Damasco

O conselho de segurança da ONU já acordou uma resolução para a Síria. O regime comprometeu-se a entregar as armas químicas. Mas para isso foi preciso utilizá-las e matar milhares de pessoas. No meio de todo este processo, um país manteve-se nos atento e influente nos bastidores: Israel, que há anos lida com a possibilidade de a Síria usar armas químicas e fornecê-las ao Hezbollah. A história já tem umas semanas e foi publicada na Foreign Policy. Mas continua a valer a pena ler.


The Spies Inside Damascus

The Mossad’s secret war on the Syrian WMD machine.


On Aug. 20, 2012, U.S. President Barack Obama declared that if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began shifting around or using his chemical weapons, Obama would consider that “a red line.” The implication was that such a move would lead to American intervention in Syria. Some officials from the Israeli Foreign Ministry believed that Obama drew the line because he believed it would never be crossed. If that was his assumption, he made it based, in part, on assessments received from the Israeli intelligence services, which have waged a multidecade clandestine campaign to strip Assad of his deadliest weapons — and which also have emerged as the United States’ primary partners in collecting information on Middle Eastern regimes.

According to two former high-ranking military intelligence officials with whom I had spoken recently, Israeli intelligence agencies believed at the time that Assad would not use weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and would keep his chemical arsenal as a bargaining chip to be traded in exchange for political asylum for himself, his loyal wife, and his close associates, if necessary. Israel was wrong.

On March 10, 2013, Israeli intelligence sources began reporting that the Syrian regime had made use of chemical weapons. A number of different and cross-checked sources produced this information. Among them: sources that eavesdropped on the Syrian army’s tactical frequencies and surveillance satellites that monitored movement out of a bunker known to protect chemical weapons.

Israel shared its findings with the United States, but Washington would not acknowledge those findings’ veracity. It was clear to the Israelis that the Americans saw those findings as a hot potato that the president was in no mood to hold. Without grasping the deep political significance of publicizing this material (or perhaps doing so intentionally to put pressure on Washington), Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, the head of the Aman, the Israeli military intelligence corps’ research division, stated clearly in an April 23 speech at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons on its citizens.

This utterance angered and embarrassed the U.S. administration. Washington stuttered for a few days and demanded clarifications from Israel. In the end, and following areport submitted to the United Nations by Britain and France, the Obama administration had to admit that the informationwas in fact correct. Since then, to avoid similar commotions, Aman officers are forbidden to appear in public conferences.

Either way, the intelligence coordination between Israel and the United States has not suffered, and Israel continues to share the vast amounts of information that it has about Syria with the United States. Published reports credit Israel with giving the CIA, as the Wall Street Journal put it, “intelligence from inside an elite special Syrian unit that oversees Mr. Assad’s chemical weapons” after the massive Aug. 21 sarin attack outside Damascus.

“We have a very extensive knowledge of what is happening in Syria. Our ability to collect information there is profound. Israel is the eyes and ears, sometimes exclusively, sometimes as complementary aid, to what the U.S. intelligence is able or unable to collect itself,” Maj. Gen. Uri Sagi, Israel’s former chief of military intelligence, told me on Sept. 19. While the threat of an American attack on Syria — and a possible Syrian counterattack on Israel — has subsided for the moment, the Israeli-American efforts to penetrate the Assad regime continue. This is a history of those efforts.

American and Israeli spies have long been partners. “Information we collected, especially by Unit 8200 [Israel’s eavesdropping corps], has always been of the highest value to the NSA [U.S. National Security Agency] and other U.S. intelligence agencies,” Sagi noted. A top-secret memorandum, recently revealed by theGuardian, shows that the NSA passes along raw intercepts to Unit 8200. But the partnership hasn’t always produced results. Regarding the 1990-1991 Gulf War, for instance, “one must honestly admit that when it came to Iraq back then, both Americans and Israelis had very little information to share,” Sagi said.

At the time, the joint effort to spy on Syria’s weapons of mass destruction wasn’t much better.

In March 1990, North Korea’s premier visited Damascus, and the two states signed a secret deal for military and technological cooperation that centered on the supply of Scud C missiles and launchers to Syria. In early February 1991, the first consignment of some 30 missiles was shipped to the Syrian port of Latakia. The NSA, Israeli intelligence later learned, was aware that something was going on, but Washington refrained from informing Tel Aviv because the Americans feared that the Israelis would try to intercept the shipment and start yet another Middle Eastern brawl.

However, Israel had sources of its own. The Mossad — Israel’s national intelligence agency — was keeping an eye on the ship. Agents of the Mossad’s Caesarea division, who are trained to penetrate Arab countries, were waiting in Morocco for the vessel that had set sail from North Korea and had docked in a number of African ports en route to the Mediterranean Sea and Latakia. Two Mossad operatives, working undercover as tourists, successfully dove under the ship and attached a powerful transponder to it. An Israeli F-15 fighter jet was supposed to launch a missile to hone in on the beacon signal on the ship and blow the vessel to smithereens. In the end, however, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir decided to call the operation off out of a fear that it would spark a major conflagration in the Middle East due to the fact that the Gulf War was under way.

In retrospect, two former Israeli intelligence officials with whom I spoke in early September — one from the Mossad and one from the Aman — expressed regret at Shamir’s decision.

“If we were to make a point at that time,” one of them said, “that we will not allow Syria to further develop missiles to deliver WMD, we might not be threatened today by a huge arsenal of missiles able to strike any place in Israel with chemical agents.”

For now, the Israeli assessment is that Assad will not attack Israel, even if he is attacked by U.S. forces. Israel, however, is preparing for a counterstrike. To some degree, Israel is already involved, as it is helping the United States to collect intelligence on Syria.

O artigo completo está aqui.

A obrigação de servir um país sempre em guerra

Em Israel, o serviço militar é obrigatório. Para todos. A partir dos 18 anos, os homens servem três anos o exército. Para as mulheres a duração é de dois anos. E não é como cá: podem ser atacados por bombistas suicidas, raptados ou chamados a lutar efectivamente. Por isso, é quase uma tradição os jovens israelitas tirarem um tempo para viajar. Vão para a Índia ou para a Europa onde se divertem sem os constrangimentos impostos pela terra natal. Muitos não voltam. Outros regressam – mas não são os mesmos. Os traumas psicológicos provocados pelo serviço militar estão a levantar o debate sobre a necessidade de manter ou não o serviço militar obrigatório. A reportagem chama-se The Pain Inside e tem o selo de qualidade da Al Jazeera.

A Catástrofe

Em 1799 o exército de Napoleão cercou a cidade de Acra, na Palestina controlada pelos Otomanos. O objectivo era estabelecer uma presença francesa na região para contrariar o poderio britânico. Na sua busca de aliados, Napoleão ofereceu a Palestina como um refúgio para os judeus sob protecção francesa. Pediu-lhes para se rebelarem contra os opressores. O líder francês acabou por ser derrotado. No entanto, o seu plano de criação de um protectorado judeu foi recuperada pelos britânicos. Agora, a Al Jazeera começou a emitir uma série documental – dividida em quatro partes – sobre a “Al-Nakba”. Ou seja, a catástrofe, a história do êxodo palestiniano que levou à primeira guerra israelo-árabe em 1948 e à criação de Israel. E começa dois séculos antes, precisamente em 1799. Exibida pela primeira vez em árabe 2008, esta série recebeu inúmeros prémios internacionais. Feita com base em documentos, depoimentos de historiadores e depoimentos oculares, tenta explicar os acontecimentos do passado que continuam a moldar o presente.

Um discurso histórico pela paz no Médio Oriente

Há 25 anos, o presidente do Egipto fez uma viagem histórica: tornou-se o primeiro líder árabe a visitar Israel. A decisão de Anwar al-Sadat foi uma surpresa. No início de Novembro de 1977, mostrou-se disponível para ir a Israel, contrariando a política árabe de não ter qualquer relação com o Estado judaico. Ninguém o levou a sério. Tal como poucos acreditaram que iria aceitar o convite, feito poucos dias depois, do primeiro-ministro israelita, Menachim Begin. No entanto, Sadat aceitou. E a 19 de Novembro aterrou no aeroporto Ben Gurion para uma visita de 36 horas. Foi a Jerusalem, discursou no Knesset, o parlamento israelita, onde disse as palavras históricas: “Nos damos-vos as boas vindas a viver entre nós em paz e segurança”. O presidente manteve-se indiferente às manifestações contra a visita. E foi nas reuniões que teve em Jerusalém que começaram as conversações que levaram aos acordos de Camp David, de 1979. Pelo meio, Menachim Begin e Anwar al-Sadat receberam o prémio Nobel da Paz de 1978. Com a escalada da tensão na Faixa de Gaza nos últimos dias, é importante recordar estes momentos – apesar de Sadat ter sido assassinado em 1981.

O discurso em inglês está aqui.