By Yossi Melman
Well-informed Israeli security and intelligence officials responded with a smile and a pinch of verbal salt, when asked about Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power the book coming out (this coming week) by David Sanger, The New York Times reporter.
In his book Sanger argues that it was an American idea to attack Iranian nuclear installations with sophisticated and clandestine cyberspace warfare – planting viruses and worms in Iran’s computers. According to the writer, the operation — code-named “Olympic Games” — was initiated in 2007 by the Bush administration and sped up under President Obama. In an excerpt adapted from his book by the Times, Sanger wrote that only at a later stage were Israeli intelligence experts and computer wizards were brought in and joined forces.
The Israeli officials actually told me a different version. They said that it was Israeli intelligence that began, a few years earlier, a cyberspace campaign to damage and slow down Iran’s nuclear intentions. And only later they managed to convince the USA to consider a joint operation — which, at the time, was unheard of. Even friendly nations are hesitant to share their technological and intelligence resources against a common enemy. In our book, Spies Against Armageddon, we will reveal much more about the special strategic relations and cooperation between the CIA and the Mossad and the importance given by the Aman (military intelligence) to cyberspace warfare.
Yet my Israeli sources understand the sensitivity and the timing of the issue and are not going to be dragged into a battle over taking credit. “We know that it is the presidential election season,” one Israeli added, “and don’t want to spoil the party for President Obama and his officials, who shared in a twisted and manipulated way some of the behind-the-scenes secrets of the success of cyberwar.”