‘Signals Intelligence’ (Electronic Spying): So Important that NSA has a Separate, Strong Relationship with Israel’s Military Intel Unit that Does It: Its Name in English Revealed — ISNU

ISNU — Welcome onto the stage.  The usually veiled collection of espionage agencies in Israel has a new set of initials.  It stands for “Israeli Sigint National Unit.”

To Israelis who are in the security and intelligence field, the electronic intercept team — among the top experts in the world in the use of computers to sort through unimaginable heaps of phone calls, e-mails, and other communications that are collected — is known as Unit 8200.

Emblem of the “Intelligence Corps” of Israel’s Military

In truth, the unit number — within the Israeli military’s Aman agency (Agaf HaModi’in, the Intelligence Department) — is changed from time to time, and Unit 8200 has subcategories specializing in narrow areas of listening to everything that Israel’s enemies and other relevant regional players are saying.

Just as the Mossad was revealed — only a few years ago — to be calling itself ISIS, the Israel Secret Intelligence Service — in letters, messages, and meetings with liaison partners including the CIA, we now learn that Unit 8200 has an English-language name for foreign consumption, too.

ISNU.  This was revealed only because Edward Snowden — in his massive leak of documents from his work at a National Security Agency installation — gave The Guardian a printed draft agreement between the NSA and the Israeli counterpart unit, ISNU.

The subject of this memorandum of understanding: how to protect against targeting “U.S. persons” — defined as United States citizens and foreigners with green cards (permanent residence permits to be in the U.S.).

It’s noteworthy that Israeli intelligence would be permitted to keep phone-call or e-mail intercepts for up to one year — and then supposedly the Israelis would have to destroy them — if they included U.S. persons. According to the agreement, Unit 8200 (the ISNU) was to inform a U.S. liaison officer immediately.

Gen. Michael Hayden (as CIA director under President George W. Bush)

America’s electronic intelligence structure — huge, global, and now newly controversial — obviously found tiny Israel to be a valuable ally for U.S. goals. In the Middle East, those would certainly include watching out for anti-American terrorism planning, but former officials of the NSA admit that their work also include much wider espionage “meant to keep America free and safe.”

A former director of the NSA and of the CIA, retired General Michael Hayden, recently said that other countries’ intelligence services (apparently including their own “signals intelligence” agencies) are used sometimes to make their nations richer: for economic purposes, which could include spying on industries. Hayden said U.S. intelligence doesn’t do that.


September 11, 2013

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