Intelligence: Preaching To The Media


February 22, 2015: In late January the Israeli government announced that it had removed several reserve soldiers from Unit 8200 because of their open criticism of how the unit operates. In September 2013 an open letter to the government and the Israeli public by 43 current or former members of the top secret Israeli intelligence Unit 8200 denounced tactics (eavesdropping, blackmail) used to recruit Palestinian informants. Shortly after the open letter appeared the Israeli Defense Minister was ordered to charge the 43 members of intelligence Unit 8200 with a criminal offense for disclosing details of intelligence operations. Now that has been dialed back to a reprimand and removal from any contact with classified security work.

Most of those who signed had either never worked on those operations while at Unit 8200 or had but were not currently doing so. The only ones recently dismissed where those few who were still liable for mobilization. Those techniques criticized were no secret, but the open letter brought forth an overwhelming reaction, mostly negative, against the 43 reservists. In response to the open letter hundreds of other Unit 8200 members issued their own open letter denouncing the 43 for being attention seeking political opportunists who did not know what they were talking about, or didn’t care.

In was only in 2011 that Israel first revealed many details of Unit 8200, which has long handled cryptography, computer hacking and electronic warfare in general. Formed in 1952 Unit 8200 first in cracking codes for the government. Many thousands of soldiers have served in Unit 8200 and were all sworn to secrecy. Despite that it did become known that Unit 8200 existed and was involved in some very secret stuff. Eventually it was assumed that Unit 8200 had something to do with communications and security. This came about because so many men who had served in Unit 8200 went on to start companies specializing in cryptography (coding information so that no unauthorized personnel can know what the data is) and other aspects of high tech.

Unit 8200 is crucial for supplying information about planned attacks on Israel, especially terror attacks on Israeli territory or Israelis in other countries. These counter-terror efforts rely on fresh intelligence and lots of speed in carrying out raids and attacks against terrorists. The objective is simple; catch the terrorists before they can attack Israelis. A key source of intelligence is an extensive informant network in Gaza, the West Bank and many Arab countries. Israel was able to build and maintain such a network in Arab areas because they have so many police and military intelligence personnel who speak Arabic and often work for Unit 8200. A large segment of the Israeli population even looks like Arabs, because they are descendants of the half a million Jews expelled from Arab countries in the late 1940s. These Israelis can easily pass as Palestinians and often do when collecting intelligence. The methods Unit 8200 was criticized for employing have been in common use for centuries, if not millennia. The revelations were no surprise to most Israelis, or Arabs.



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