‘Post 9/11, US spied on Israel as a priority target’

Newly revealed information published by the Washington Post via whistle-blower Edward Snowden outlines US intelligence efforts

Edward Snowden, a former contract employee at the US National Security Agency. (AP/The Guardian/File)
Edward Snowden, a former contract employee at the US National Security Agency. (AP/The Guardian/File)

Newly published information reveals that US intelligence, with its expanded reach in the post 9/11 era, included Israel as a “priority target” for intelligence gathering, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.

The 178-page classified budget summary of the US National Intelligence Program, released by fugitive whistle-blower Edward Snowden, reveals that intelligence efforts “are strategically focused against [the] priority targets of China, Russia, Iran, Cuba and Israel,” according to the report.

The document details a “$52.6 billion ‘black budget,'” which shows a “bureaucratic and operational landscape that has never been subject to public scrutiny,” the report said.

The budget summary reveals, among other things, a vastly increased budget for the CIA, increased focus and technology and Internet surveillance techniques, the “intelligence burden” agencies faced during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the difficulties found in obtaining intelligence on Iran, China, Russia, Pakistan and, especially, North Korea.

James R. Clapper Jr., Director of National Intelligence, in response to a Washington Post query on the new information, said that “the United States has made a considerable investment in the Intelligence community since the terror attacks of 9/11, a time which includes wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Arab Spring, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction technology, and asymmetric threats in such areas as cyber-warfare.”

The budget files show that the surveillance agency warned in 2012 that it planned to investigate up to 4,000 reports of possible internal security breaches. The NSA’s concerns about insider threats were aimed at “anomalous behavior” of agency employees with access to top secret data. The account cited NSA concerns about “trusted insiders who seek to exploit their authorized access to sensitive information to harm US interests.”

The NSA concerns were outlined in top-secret documents provided to the Senate and House intelligence committees in February 2012, well before Snowden emerged this summer as the sole source of massive new disclosures about the agency’s surveillance operations. The Post released only 17 pages of the entire 178-page budget document, citing conversations with Obama administration officials who voiced alarm about disclosures that could compromise intelligence sources and methods.

Shawn Turner, director of public affairs for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, who has taken the lead in responding to the Snowden disclosures, did not immediately respond to a request to discuss the budget figures.

The latest revelations disclosed limited details about the highly classified 2013 intelligence “black budget,” which previously only provided a topline of nearly $53 billion. The $52.6 billion intelligence budget described by the Post discloses that the NSA’s portion was $10.5 billion in 2013 — outstripped only by the CIA’s $14.7 billion.

Steven Aftergood, head of a project on government secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, said the CIA’s budget growth from $3 billion in the 1990s to nearly $15 billion likely reflects its post-September 11 push into drone warfare and paramilitary operations overseas.

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