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A Syrian general dies and the NSA spies

Snowden leaked earth-shattering, top-secret intel on US spying on Israel and the world said 'so what'

It was probably a fantastic party. When one of the most powerful figures of the pre civil war Assad regime, General Muhammad Suleiman, threw a party by the beach he probably pulled out all the stops. I can imagine the clink of cocktail glasses, the aroma of meat on the grill, the chatter of polite conversation between members of the Assad regime’s elite and a yacht just offshore.

Then commandos emerged from the water, their wetsuits a stark contrast to the elegant attire of the wealthy guests. They fired several bullets into the host’s face and returned back into the ocean and to the yacht waiting to spirit them away.

Details of the assassination were scarce, the rumour mill went wild with speculation on who carried out the attack. Although Israel was named much of the speculation fell on Assad himself.

When the intercept revealed that this was indeed an Israeli operation it should have made headlines across Israel with significant coverage around the world. Actually the news was at the fore only briefly before being joining old news stories and puff pieces that start with the words “the top 10 celebrities who…” in the nether regions of the internet. Here is the Times of Israel’s piece on it.

The story was buried because it was released so close to the announcement of a deal between Iran and the most powerful countries of the world. No one wanted to know and the government’s concerned had a bigger crisis to occupy themselves with.

But it’s worth pausing to look at this affair a little more closely. The only reason the world now knows definitively that Israel assassinated General Mohammad Suleiman is because Edward Snowden leaked it. The only reason Snowden was able to leak it was because America’s communications intelligence body, the National Security Agency (NSA) successfully intercepted and cracked Israeli signals.

So what we have is evidence of not one but two governments, allies, conducting nefarious activities neither would wish ever saw the light of day. Israel for assassinating a ranking officer in a foreign army and the United States for spying on Israel.

I’m sure the revelation won’t have passed Tehran by. Then again they probably knew already.

The current US administration has publicly attacked Israel for espionage activities carried out in the United States. This and other documents unveiled by Snowden prove that, ironically, the only reason the United States is aware of Israeli activities in this regard is because they have been intercepting Israeli signals and decoding them, apparently on a regular basis.

But that’s not the only revelation to have come from The Intercept regarding the bizarro world of US Israeli intelligence ties. Another article from the intercept, published in March this year, argued Israeli espionage efforts against the USA are considered a greater threat than those by any other country with the exception of Russia and China. The article however also inadvertently reveals that the CIA mounted aggressive operations inside Israel in order to “gain greater insight into adversary technical and HUMINT (Human Intelligence) fieldcraft.”

The confirmation of the activities of the Central Intelligence Agency within Israel itself also went by without being picked up by anyone at all.

So what do we take from all of this?

The first is that perhaps Israelis can sleep a little safer in their beds at night with the knowledge that their government has the resolve to attack the enemy wherever she finds them, with boots on the ground as well as using more standoffish aircraft and drones. Though it’s hardly something they didn’t know already.

The second is that their government is spying on the United States and that the United States is spying on their government. It would appear the United States is having considerable success. Again, hardly something people didn’t know already.

But perhaps the biggest revelation is just how little anyone actually cares about the clandestine world going on around us. Had Snowden known that his revelations would have been greeted with so much apathy I can’t help but wonder whether he would still be a part of the intelligence machine he exposed rather than living in fear in Russia. Spies gonna spy, soldiers gonna fight and the rest of us will get on with our lives regardless.

About the Author
Marc Goldberg is the author of Beyond the Green Line, a story his service in the IDF fighting through the al Aqsa Intifada