The US/NSA transfer of American citizens’ intercepts to Israel: What Gives?

mai abdul rahman                                   October 3, 2014

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Last week James Bamford of the New York Times revealed that the US government is engaged in one of the biggest abuses “ever reported.” Bamford’s New York Times article was not the first to reveal US/NSA assault on the rights of American citizens. In fact this was first reported by The Guardian, and soon after other international and national outlets reported extensively on this long-standing US abusive practice. They collectively suggest that the US government has sanctioned the NSA to routinely pass the private communications of Americans to Israeli military intelligence services and Israel’s secretive Unit 8200.

The NSA transfer of metadata intercepts includes the contents of communications and the personal data of American citizens snagged by NSA’s surveillance dragnet that by most accounts is irrelevant to US intelligence or national security. In short, the NSA is routinely sharing with Israel the personal information of law abiding American citizens simply to provide Israel with surveillance data the NSA collects here at home that is inconsequential to US domestic policies and interests. Perplexingly the US allows Israel to release US citizens’ identities and their information to “outside parties.”

Why Israel and not China? In Bomfard’s words the NSA is engaged in this massive abuse to help “Israel pursue (its) political agendas” here at home, in Palestine and Israel. The NSA transmits American citizen’s information based on their ethnicity, and selectively spies and collects information on unsuspecting law abiding citizens’ to help Israel advance its occupation and settlement expansion policy that the US has declared is in contradiction to its regional and national interests.

Why is the NSA engaging in such abusive practices of US citizens? To satisfy Israel’s keen interest in following the activities and opinions of American Palestinians on the Israeli occupation, Israel’s illegal settlement policies, its Gaza Siege, and wars. Simply stated, the NSA is assisting Israel to keep an eye and monitor the US domestic debate on Israel’s military occupation of Palestine.

The NSA publicly states and assures Americans that if and when the NSA transfers sensitive personal information of American citizens to another country, the information passed is “minimized,” meaning the names and other personally identifiable information are removed. Interestingly evidence suggests that the NSA and US officials do not modify or conceal the private data of American Palestinians. Without any filtration the NSA has transferred to its Israeli counterpart the personal data and information of American citizens’ on virtually every form of communications they use, “transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence metadata and content.”  In fact, the NSA Israeli memorandum of agreement stipulates that NSA transfers of collected material on American citizens is divulged without the minimum protections offered by US legal rights, international law, or customarily observed US procedures. In addition, the US gives Israel the right to pass the information the NSA collects on American citizens to other foreign agencies and countries.

Intentionally or unintentionally, the NSA is violating Americans’ First Amendment guaranteed freedoms. These freedoms afford Americans the right to speak freely on all matters that concern them including the right to speak on the merits of Israel’s military policies, and the right to engage with other Americans to end the Israeli occupation and Siege of Palestinians- whether Israel agrees with their views, or not. Furthermore, Article IV, (section 2) clearly designates all citizens with the same privileges and constitutional immunities regardless of their national origin or affinity. In fact, the US Constitution clearly refutes assigning any cohort of law abiding American citizen a second-class status with limited legal and human rights. So what gives?

Meanwhile, 43 Israeli IDF reservists and veterans of Israel’s secretive Unit 8200, accused the Israeli Intelligence of “startling abuses”. In an open letter they charged that Israel has used information collected against innocent Palestinians for “political persecution.” In testimonies and interviews given to the media, they specified that while working at Israel’s Unit 8200 they were engaged in collecting information of Palestinians’ personal data and private matters that Israel used to create divisions within the Palestinian community, and to intimidate, threaten, harass, and coerce Palestinians.

Since 2009 the US government as a matter of standard procedure has submitted the private information it collects on law abiding American citizens to advance Israel’s political agenda and interests without regard to the safety and privacy of Americans. Moreover, the NSA is transferring American citizens’ information well aware that innocent Americans, their families, relatives, friends, neighbors, colleagues, personal and professional networks in the US, Israel, and Palestine could be harmed and targeted by Israel’s intelligence services. Why is the NSA engaging in activities that Israeli intelligence operatives find objectionable?

American history is littered with stories of government abusive practices. Today, Dr. Martin Luther King is hailed as an American national hero and a committed peace advocate. Nevertheless, from 1963 until his death Dr. King suffered every possible intrusion on the hands of US government officials charged with protecting him and upholding his privacy rights. In fact, US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy authorized Edgar Hoover the Director of the FBI to wiretap Dr. King. The US government used every means to eavesdrop on his personal communications referring to him as the most dangerous “Negro” leader in the country. The FBI broke into Dr. King’s office, wiretapped his phone, bugged his home, and recorded the conversations of his friends and associates. Understandably, based on his personal knowledge and experience Dr. King said, “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”

Agreements and policies do not develop and morph from ether, they are the result of deliberate thinking by average Americans who happen to serve in an official capacity and are involved in drafting, negotiating, and signing these agreements. US agreements are the product of the conceptual thoughts and beliefs held by those Americans involved in setting US policies. What rational justification did the US and NSA officials use to sanction and engage in such highly abusive practice that has no relevance to US domestic policies, while intentionally exposing US law abiding citizens to retribution by foreign intelligence services? As it stands, the NSA Israeli memorandum of agreement is irresponsible and reflects US flagrant disregard of the security and safety of American citizens.

Past and present government violations of American citizens’ privacy and constitutional rights are egregious and extensive. Nonetheless, NSA’s intrusive and reckless abuse of American Palestinians’ human and privacy rights and safety pales in comparison, are blatantly unconstitutional. It is never too late to correct course and in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King “the time is always right to do the right thing.”

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3 thoughts on “The US/NSA transfer of American citizens’ intercepts to Israel: What Gives?

  1. Pingback: The Shuddering Influence of the US War on Terror | Peace for friend and foe

  2. Pingback: Arab American Women and the US Gender Discourse | Peace for friend and foe

  3. Pingback: What to Make of the US Femenist Movement and Arab American Women? | American-Palestinian Women's Association

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