All the way back in November 21 of 2012, in “Government Peeping Allows Every Peeping Tom to Spy on Us,” I used some examples to persuade readers that:
“This is an illustration and an instance of a principle we need to learn. When the government insists on making us vulnerable to its own probing eyes, it makes us visible to the eyes of many others.”
A Sunday Wired Magazine story made me think about that post because it raises a similar issue. The article ended with the suggestion that, “someone might want to ask the question no one in Congress seems willing to ask: Who’s listening to the listeners?”
I had forgotten when I looked into my archives for my story that one of my examples had been about Israeli companies contracted for security in the US. Suddenly law enforcement found that, when they got a warrant and began tapping criminal suspects related to Israel, the suspects would mysteriously stop using their phones. This mysterious behavior naturally led some to question if it was wise to contract with an Israeli company for the wiretap technology and service.
But if Wired’s story is right, we are revisiting the same sort of mystery. In “Shady Companies With Ties to Israel Wiretap the U.S. for the NSA,” James Bamford writes,
“In a rare and candid admission to Forbes, Retired Brig. Gen. Hanan Gefen, a former commander of the highly secret Unit 8200, Israel’s NSA, noted his former organization’s influence on Comverse, which owns Verint, as well as other Israeli companies that dominate the U.S. eavesdropping and surveillance market. “Take NICE, Comverse and Check Point for example, three of the largest high-tech companies, which were all directly influenced by 8200 technology,” said Gefen. “Check Point was founded by Unit alumni. Comverse’s main product, the Logger, is based on the Unit’s technology.”
To what extent do the people running these companies have divided loyalties? They certainly seem to be less than stable:
“Equally troubling is the issue of corruption. Kobi Alexander, the founder and former chairman of Verint, is now a fugitive, wanted by the FBI on nearly three dozen charges of fraud, theft, lying, bribery, money laundering and other crimes. And two of his top associates at Comverse, Chief Financial Officer David Kreinberg and former General Counsel William F. Sorin, were also indicted in the scheme and later pleaded guilty, with both serving time in prison and paying millions of dollars in fines and penalties.”
Why would our NSA be willing to work with a foreign government’s spies to build eavesdropping technology? I think the spiritual answer can be found in 1 Samuel 15 and 1 Kings 20, in both of which Israel’s king, after being given a great victory, spared the life of the enemy king. They didn’t seem to get upset that their “commoners” got killed in battle, but felt a natural affinity to a fellow ruler. Rather than avenging the blood of their people whom the enemy king had caused to be shed, the kings felt that the other kings were part of their social group. I take from this that it is possible for governments to feel like they have a mutual interest in spying on and controlling their populations.
They don’t get too upset if the spying is being spied by another government.