Greenwald: US Intelligence Enables Israeli Attacks
Glenn Greenwald tells Paul Jay that new Snowden documents show that American hands are in every war launched by Israel against Palestinians
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay.
In Gaza, more than 1,900 people have now been killed by Israeli attacks. Four hundred and sixty of those were children. Well, new evidence or information has been released by journalist Glenn Greenwald, based on more Snowden document revelations, that some of those children and some of those people may well have been targeted with information supplied to them by U.S. intelligence agencies.
Now joining us to discuss his latest piece in The Intercept is Glenn Greenwald. Glenn’s in Brazil. He’s an award-winning journalist, a constitutional lawyer, and author of four New York Times best-selling books on politics and law, including his most recent book, No Place to Hide. Glenn is founding editor of The Intercept, which just published his piece, entitled “Cash, Weapons and Surveillance: the U.S. Is a Key Party to Every Israeli Attack”.
Thanks for joining us, Glenn.
GLENN GREENWALD, AWARD-WINNING JOURNALIST, THE INTERCEPT: Great to be with you.
JAY: So what do we know about this targeting? If I understand it correctly, the documents that Snowden released aren’t about this particular attack or this specific attack on Gaza, but in the past there’s evidence not only of intelligence sharing, but the word that leaked off the page to me when I was reading your piece was targeting. What do we know about that?
GREENWALD: It’s no secret that the U.S. is the key party enabling Israeli militarism and aggression. In general, it provides, obviously, huge amounts of cash to the Israelis, even in an ongoing attack, such as the one currently taking place in Gaza. The U.S. just in the last week has furnished arms and munitions and grenades to the Israelis that they’re using in the attack.
So our piece focused on the role that the NSA and the intelligence apparatus that the United States has built plays in enabling the Israeli attack. And we revealed some documents showing that the relationship has grown substantially over the last decade between the NSA on the one hand and the Israeli counterpart, the SIGINT National Unit, on the other, in which the NSA provides the Israelis with all kinds of surveillance technology, training, but also lots of data that they collect in the course of doing surveillance that the Israelis then use to target people in Gaza, in the West Bank, and throughout the region, first for surveillance, but then, obviously, also for targeting with violence. And so the U.S. really is at the center of every form of Israeli aggression that takes place in that region.
JAY: Now, we’re led to believe that the American satellites have the capability of actually seeing faces on streets. I mean, one, I guess, do we know whether that’s true? And two, if that level of technology is being transferred, that would mean active, real-time involvement of the U.S. intelligence or U.S. army in Israeli warfare.
GREENWALD: I mean, the Americans share the vast bulk of their surveillance technology and surveillance activities in the region with the Israelis. It’s a very close cooperative sharing arrangement.
I don’t think there’s any question that the Israelis are being reckless and more or less indiscriminate in the violence they’re wreaking on Gaza. I mean, there are Israeli generals who have inadvertently acknowledged, essentially, that they are attacking heavily civilian areas and with their knowledge that lots of civilians are going to be killed. They have targeted UN schools that they knew and that coordinates for which had been provided to them many, many times. And so I don’t think there’s a lot of efforts being undertaken by the Israelis to be very precise or careful in the kinds of people that they’re killing.
JAY: So it’s not so much that they need these real-time face pictures on streets, ’cause they’re bombing all over the place.
GREENWALD: Yeah. I mean, I think they’re interested in knowing the whereabouts of people who are of greatest interest to them. And certainly the sharing arrangement with the U.S. helps them to know where people are, and it helps them to geo-locate them. And use of that technology by both the Israelis and the Americans is something that we’ve been able to document by virtue of the Snowden reporting.
But I think the important point is this is not a careful and precise operation, where they’re targeting people very carefully and then killing only them. They’re engaged in the destruction of entire blocks, blowing up huge apartment buildings and homes. And that’s why the death toll of innocent people has been so high.
JAY: Is there any limits on what type of technology the United States gives to Israel that you’re aware of? Are they getting the same kind of technology that the American Armed Forces has itself?
GREENWALD: A lot of it, yeah. I mean, one of the first reports I did on the NSA relationship with Israel was last September in The Guardian, when I was still at The Guardian, in which there was an agreement whereby the NSA agreed to provide raw communication, even of U.S. citizens, to the Israelis without first even minimizing–meaning safeguarding the identity of the American citizens to whom that communication pertained. And so, yeah, there are some limits. I mean, it isn’t that the NSA just wholesale hands over everything to Israel. But in some cases the NSA cooperates more aggressively with the Israelis than they do even with their closest surveillance partners in the U.K., Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. I mean, it’s just reflective of this overall policy that the U.S. government has to be incredibly loyal to the Israelis when it comes to providing pretty much anything the Israelis want.
JAY: Now, you’ve written previously that in terms of the professional opinion or professional intelligence community, one of the places they’re most concerned about getting spied upon–meaning the U.S. getting spied on by others–is in fact Israeli intelligence.
GREENWALD: That’s one of the things that’s most interesting to me about the archive when it comes to Israel. If you listen to American politicians or British politicians, they talk about Israel as though it’s some kind of super-trustworthy, stalwart ally who is really crucial to American interests in the region, and yet privately the security and military apparatuses of both countries think about and speak about the Israelis much differently than the public pronouncements. They’d talk about Israel as being a great threat, a threat to the cyber security of the United States, a threat, one of the top three threats posed to the U.S. intelligence community when it comes to foreign spying. And in the case of the British documents, even they see Israel as the greatest threat are one of the greatest threats to regional stability and peace. And so oftentimes what becomes apparent is that the political branches of the American government are forced by political realities and political pressures to declare Israel to be this stalwart ally. But the people who are in the intelligence and military circles who speak what they thought would be privately see the Israelis at best as a mixed bag, and often as one of their greatest menaces. And there have been lots of cases where the Israelis got caught spying directly on some of the most sensitive secrets of the United States. And in the case of the British officials, they view Israel as responsible for a lot of the conflict and tension in that region.
JAY: Yeah, I mean, and the attempts of Netanyahu and his administration to try to push the United States into a more aggressive position with Iran. You had sometimes very senior people from the Pentagon coming out and kind of issuing a somewhat of a shot across the bow to Israel that we’re not fighting on a third front and you’re not going to push us into this, whereas the American political administration was far more reticent to, at least directly, confront the Israelis on this.
But this split you’re talking about, what you’re essentially saying, if I take it correctly, is that the political side of the American administration’s essentially driven by domestic politics. But as we’ve covered on The Real News before, this is more about big money than it is about Jewish voters.
GREENWALD: Right. I mean, what’s interesting is there’s this sort of taboo on how you’re supposed to talk about the role that domestic politics plays in our policy toward Israel, because it touches on longstanding anti-Semitic tropes about Jewish money controlling foreign policy for the benefit of Israel and at the expense of the United States or other countries. But if you look at what political consultants and the like say when they’re speaking candidly, I mean, that’s more or less what they say. I mean, Hank Sheinkopf is one of the most sort of savvy and experienced political operatives. He was a high-level aid to the Clintons. He helped run Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaigns in New York. And there’s this fascinating New York Sun article from 2007 that talks about how all of the Democratic presidential candidates, like John Edwards and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and the like, are parading before AIPAC and speaking very, very aggressively and militaristically about Iran. And they asked Hank Sheinkopf why that is. And he said, well, it’s very simple to understand: it’s because Jewish voters are essentially the ATM of American politics–in New York.
But I think it’s not just Jewish voters. I mean, I think it’s really important to understand that one of the biggest factions supporting Israel, probably in a more aggressive way than a lot of Jewish voters, are evangelicals, who for religious reasons believe that it’s really crucial that Israel occupy not only Israel but sort of what they view as greater Israel, which includes the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, because they believe God wanted Israel to possess that land and that a unified Israel, as they see it, is necessary for the return of Jesus and for the rapture. And so you have not just Jewish voters, but evangelical Christians who are very fervent in their demands that the U.S. government support Israel, even at the expense of American interest. And that definitely is a big part of the domestic pressures.
JAY: Yeah. The investigative work we did found that the real money’s coming from a handful of Jewish billionaires. Jewish voters often–when asked what are their priorities, Israel is not very high on the list. It’s sometimes four, five, and six in terms of the priority. But you get people like Abelson and Saban and a handful of very wealthy Jewish, pro-Zionist billionaires that have enormous influence.
But the other issue is is do you not think that much of the foreign-policy elite, professional and political, share this vision of Israel as this necessary outpost for America in a sea of oil with angry Arabs the don’t like Americans very much, so it’s not just about the potential money in American elections, it’s also a convergence of interest and seeing that Israel, for better or worse, is absolutely essential to American hegemony in the Middle East?
GREENWALD: Yeah, I think it’s an important point.
I mean, first of all, I just want to be clear. I mean, I don’t think that the issue with Israel is different in terms of domestic politics than pretty much every other issue, which is that money dominates, and there’s much more money on the side of pro-Israel or support for Israel than there is, say, support for the Palestinians, which is why it’s so lopsided. I don’t think it’s particularly different in that regard. But I think you’re right. The average American Jewish voter is just like every other voter that cares about all sorts of other issues before they care about Israel.
But the point you make is an important one, which is sometimes it gets depicted that Israel is this kind of domineering force that kind of commandeers American politics for its own interest at the expense of the United States. I think you’re right, though– it’s much more of a two-way street than that. The Americans definitely look at Israel as an important weapon that they use to advance their interests in the Middle East, just like they look at support for the dictatorial regimes that are their allies as well, in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrain. You know, these are just ways that the United States kind of dominates that region in order to secure their energy and oil interests. And Israel is an important weapon in the eyes of a lot of American policymakers. It’s not just that they’re forced to do so because of domestic political constraints.
JAY: And this relationship with the Saudis is kind of an interesting piece of this puzzle, because from other pieces you’ve written is that the Saudis are also in on this intelligence sharing. So you have both Israel and Saudi Arabia within the American intelligence confidence circle. Supposedly, the Saudis are so in support of the Palestinians. But sort of at a deeper level, you almost have a kind of quasi-alliance between the Saudis and the Israelis to help manage the region under this American intelligence and military umbrella.
GREENWALD: Oh, there’s definitely a de facto alliance, or at least a coalition, between the U.S., the Saudis, and Israel. Especially since the Saudis began viewing Iran as their great rival in the region, they viewed working cooperatively with the Israelis as something that was very much in their interest. And, of course, they made kind of meaningless pronouncements in support of the Palestinians because they need to do so for political consumption. I mean, even the Saudi tyrants care a little bit about the public not viewing them as partners of the Israelis.
But that is one of the most undercovered and underexamined issues in U.S. foreign policy is the unbelievably close relationship between the U.S. and the Saudis, and now increasingly the Israelis. I mean, we did do an article a week ago publishing the documents showing very close intelligence sharing between the Saudis and the Americans. I mean, we actually give the Saudis training and technology that bolster their surveillance, one of the most repressive regimes in the world, at the very same time that we pretend to be campaigning for democracy.
But the thing that’s even more amazing about that is we’ve had this 12 year period of running around trying to pin the blame of 9/11 on all sorts of parties, from Saddam Hussein to Iran to whoever the sort of enemy du jour is, and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and yet the country that probably bears most of the blame, if anyone does, is Saudi Arabia. I mean, 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi. You have people in the Saudi government who at the very least were close to some of the people who were helping to plan the 9/11 attack, probably financing the people who were responsible. And yet they become our closest allies. It’s just one of those ironies that underscores how propagandistic the war on terror has become.
JAY: Yeah. We did an interview with Senator Bob Graham a few months ago, and as you know, he was the cochair of the congressional investigation into 9/11, where they specifically, in 27 pages, I believe, name names of members of the Saudi government that we know from at least a couple of reports in The New York Times and the L.A. Times actually directly helped finance and facilitate the 9/11 attacks. In the interview, Bob Graham essentially confirmed that, and maybe even went a little further, ’cause there had been a suggestion these were kind of rogue princes that had done this. And I asked Graham, and he said, no, this was–according to their investigation, this was Saudi government policy. He even went further. Actually, I asked him about all the evidence of American intelligence agencies that had come up with information that in theory could have prevented the attacks, and that information in one way or the other never surfaced, as far as we know, to the highest levels, or was blocked or ignored. And I asked him directly, do you think there was a deliberate culture of not wanting to know? And his answer was, well, if all the players on a football field are running in one direction, you’ve got to figure there’s a coach somewhere, which kind of goes as far as I’ve ever heard a senior person implicate Bush-Cheney in some way or another in this thing.
Whatever you make of what he said, we emailed this and tried to contact every major newspaper in the country that we could get hold of and let them know we had this, they were welcome to the information. Not a single person response from anybody.
This is all kind of a lead-in to a question of, in terms of your investigative work–and, I mean, you’ve got global profile–how much is mainstream media paying attention to the some of the kind of stuff you’re breaking?
GREENWALD: I mean, I think they’re paying attention in several different respects. I mean, the stories that we’ve broken, the Snowden revelations in general, have made a big impact on the media landscape. I think part of that is just the drama of it all, the sort of spycraft, the drama about where Snowden can go or where he would get asylum, all of that.
JAY: I guess, Glenn, I think I’m mostly more referring to post-Snowden and since you’ve left The Guardian.
GREENWALD: Yeah. No, I understand. I mean, I think that the stories themselves get some media attention. But I do think that some get more attention than others based upon not what’s actually newsworthy, but based upon the kinds of things the American media likes to systematically ignore.
I mean, I do agree with you that–and it’s not just Bob Graham, but, I mean, Bob Graham in particular, he’s not, you know, Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich. I mean, Bob Graham was sort of the prototypical establishment senator, a conservative Democrat from Florida, highly respected, chair of important foreign affairs and foreign relations committees in the Senate. And he’s been saying this stuff for years about Saudi involvement in 9/11 and the U.S. government’s concerted effort to suppress it or to overlook it. And it is amazing how the media just decides to systematically ignore it because it’s so uncomfortable.
And I think some of the revelations that we published about spying with Saudi Arabia, about spying with Israel, have been more or less ignored by the American media for the same reason, that it’s just so contrary to the narrative that we like to sustain about what the role of the U.S. government in the world is, and any kind of attention to that sort of stuff would require a whole lot of digging and further investigation that American media outlets in general like to avoid because of how uncomfortable it makes people.
JAY: Yeah, it makes you question the official narrative at a more profound level, which is something the mainstream media is not very enthusiastic about.
GREENWALD: Yeah, absolutely. They like to propagate that narrative and avoid things that call any of it into question. And I think that’s actually one of the reasons why people have lost faith in established media outlets is because it doesn’t really seem to serve any real purpose if all they’re doing is bolstering and propagating what the government is saying instead of questioning and investigating it.
JAY: Right. Alright, Glenn, I know you need to run, so thank you very much for joining us.
GREENWALD: Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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