The United States and British intelligence services hacked into Israeli drones in order to monitor their activity under a classified program code-named “Anarchist,” Internet publication The Intercept reported Friday.
The UK’s intelligence services known as the Governments Communication Headquarters (GCHQ), working in conjunction with the National Security Agency (NSA), systematically surveyed Israeli drones from Cyprus in order to collect information on military operations in Gaza, watch out for potential strikes on Iran, and monitor drone technology the Jewish State was exporting around the world.
According to The Intercept, leaked documents provided by Edward Snowden show that under the auspices of the “Anarchist” program, UK and US intelligence services collected snapshot images from the Israeli drones and data mapping pinpointing the paths taken by the unmanned aircraft devices.
These images were collected in 2009 through 2010, The Intercept noted. Intelligence reports stemming from GCHQ and the NSA extend from 2008 to 2012.
The “Anarchist” program was operated from a Royal Air Force military position located on the highest point in Cyprus, near Mount Olympus called the Troodos Mountains.
“This access is indispensable for maintaining an understanding of Israeli military training and operations and thus an insight to possible future developments in the region,” a GCHQ report, originating from the Snowden document cache, highlighted in 2008.
“In times of crisis this access is critical and one of the only avenues to provide up to the minute information and support to US and Allied operations in the area,” the report added.
GCHQ files also show that “Anarchist” program centered heavily on operations carried out by the IDF during military campaigns in Gaza, mainly 2008’s “Operation Cast Lead.”
During that period, GCHQ had instructed analysts to gather intelligence on Israeli drones for the first time, collecting information on over 20 separate drone operations over the course of three weeks.
The first successful operation carried out by US intelligence occurred in January of that year, when NSA noted in a report that analyst had “collected video for the first time from the cockpit of an Israeli Air Force F-16 fighter jet,” which “showed a target on the ground being tracked,” according to The Intercept.
The Intercept also noted that the dual efforts to hack into Israeli Unmanned Aerial Vehicle’s [UAV] is to monitor potential conflagration between Israel and Iran, with one report explaining: “Our ability to collect and track and report this activity is important for the initial detection and tip-off for any potential pre-emptive or retaliatory strike against Iran.”
The US and UK were additionally interested where Israel was allegedly selling its UAV technology, reportedly concerned with the export of such sophisticated merchandise across the globe.
In response to The Intercept report, National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz said in an interview with Army Radio Friday: “We are not surprised, we know that the Americans are spying on the whole world, including their ‘friends’. That is disappointing, because for decades we have not spied, collected intelligence or attempted to crack the encryption of the United States.”
“There doesn’t need to be implications for the sale of drones in other countries, and each country performs its own encryption,” Steinitz added.
The IDF did not respond the inquiries, stating it does comment on foreign reports.
Israel neither confirms nor denies having armed drones, though one of its senior military officers was quoted as acknowledging them in a secret US diplomatic cable from 2010 that was published by Wikileaks.
The US embassy in Israel did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Snowden allegations.
A British embassy spokeswoman said it did not comment on intelligence matters, and there was no immediate response from the Foreign Office in London.