IDF drone (illustration)
IDF drone (illustration)Flash 90

A shocking revelation on Friday morning shows that the US and Britain have infiltrated Israeli intelligence for the last 18 years, spying on imagery sent by drones on sensitive missions in the Middle East back to their home bases in Israel.

The revelation comes from documents and images exposed by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden and published for the first time on Friday by Yedioth Aharonoth.

The infiltration of Israeli intelligence has been going on for the past 18 years from a fortified base in Cyprus, according to the documents.

In the breach, Israeli coding was cracked by the US and Britain, allowing them direct access to imagery broadcast by a large fleet of Israeli UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) flying sensitive missions in Gaza, Judea and Samaria, as well as throughout the Middle East back to their home bases including Tel Nof, Palmachim and Ein Shemer.

According to the revelations, the Israeli drones even flew missions to gather information so as to plan a bombing of Iran's nuclear program. Two of the drones were revealed to be armed with missiles and bombs, allowing them to be used in precise assassination missions against terrorists.

Thanks to the hacking, the US and UK were able to see Israel's targets, preferences and abilities, all from the eyes of Israel's own drones.

A senior Israeli intelligence official exposed to the revelation told the paper that "this is an earthquake."

"Apparently none of our encoded communications processes are secure from them," he said. "This is the most serious leak in the history of Israeli intelligence."

The revelation casts the case of Jonathan Pollard in a light of even greater hypocrisy. Pollard was jailed by the US for 30 years - half his life - on charges of spying for Israel after he passed information about regional threats to the Jewish state. Even after recently being paroled, he continues to suffer unprecedented draconian parole conditions.

Israel the main target

The infiltration mission, entitled "Anarchist," has been up and running since 1998. Its goal was to crack and intercept the broadcasts of major armies in the Middle East, along with their air forces and advanced weapon systems and radars.

In the framework of the mission, the codes of advanced combat and tracking systems of Hezbollah, Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Syria were cracked.

However, at the center of the operation was one state which the majority of the resources and efforts were invested in - Israel, the supposed ally of the US and UK.

"Anarchy" was operated by the American NSA and the British GCHQ from two bases. One was a base in Menwith Hill, in northern England, that is jointly run with the US, and the other a British base located on the peak of the Troodos Mountains, the highest point in Cyprus. The base is massive, full of antennas, receivers and decoding equipment, with portions of the base dug underground.

The Snowden files include screenshots from intercepted broadcasts from Israeli drones in the midst of their operations. All that the powerful cameras of the UAVs picked up was transmitted to the American and British spies.

Also in the files were presentations prepared for internal lectures and training, including reports apparently addressed to senior commanders about the progress of the infiltration operation.

Members of the "Anarchist" operation were also able to locate where the drone footage was shot in a portion of the instances, whether by identifying the landscape such as that of an Arab village near the security barrier in Judea and Samaria, or else by cracking a special part of the broadcast in which the UAV updated its base regarding its location.

In one instance on June 24, 2009, the members of the base in Cyprus documented the movement of Israeli drones near Shechem (Nablus) in Samaria. In April 2010, they were able to figure out that the drones were near Atil in northwestern Samaria, not far from the 1949 Armistice line and Netanya.

"Critical access"

A British intelligence document from 2008 notes that "this access is irreplaceable in order to understand the Israeli army and its operations, and therefore it gives us the ability to understand future developments in the region."

The document further stated that "in times of crisis, this access is critical, and at times may be the only way to provide information and support to the operations of the United States and its allies in this arena."

Not mentioned in the document is the fact that Israel is itself a declared ally of the US and the UK.

The US invested serious resources in tracking Israeli preparations for a strike on Iran, as revealed by the documents which also showed great American concerns that Israel would conduct significant military actions in the region without coordination with the US causing instability.

The documents and pictures, published for the first time Friday in Yedioth Aharonoth as well as The Intercept and the German Der Spiegel, include images showing missiles that are said to be able to weigh up to a ton hanging from the wings of the Eitan drone. The images likewise show the takeoff and landing of the drone, also known as the Heron.