The British government has been hacking into Israeli military jets and drones for 18 years after bypassing their security, secret documents have revealed.
The UK eavesdropping centre GCHQ, together with America’s NSA, snooped on the Israelis during military operations over Gaza and Lebanon after accessing its supposedly-secure aircraft, according to leaked documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
A senior Israeli intelligence source reportedly told Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that the revelations were an “earthquake” and “the biggest breach in the history of Israeli intelligence”.
Under a top-secret programme called ‘Anarchist,’ the British and Americans tapped into Israeli live feeds from an RAF listening centre in Cyprus, hacking the video cameras of the jets and drones and tracking their flight paths.
“In essence, U.S. and British agencies stole a bird’s-eye view,” said Cora Currier and Henrik Moltke, analysts with The Intercept, an online news agency through which Snowden’s files are being leaked.
Through Anarchist, the Americans and British kept tabs on the Israelis for years, monitoring their drone technology, watching their conduct over Gaza and even analysing their activity vis-a-vis Iranian nuclear sites and personnel.
Several grainy images also appear to show Israeli drones flying armed with missiles, despite the Israeli army never having acknowledged carrying out drone attacks.
The British listening centre in Cyprus captures conversations and data from across the Middle East and North Africa, and the site has been used for weapons tracking, including the tracking of Israeli missile systems.
A GCHQ document from 2008 reads: “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. In times of crisis this access is critical and one of the only avenues to provide up to the minute information and support to U.S. and Allied operations in the area.”
Analysts say the revelations underscore a level of mutual mistrust between Israel, the U.K and the U.S, despite Israel and the U.S having signed a 2009 Memorandum of Understanding granting Israel access to raw NSA data.