Unit 8200

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Unit 8200 (Hebrew: יחידה 8200‎, Yehida Shmoneh-Matayim) is an Israeli Intelligence Corps unit responsible for collecting signal intelligence (SIGINT) and code decryption. It also appears in military publications as the Central Collection Unit of the Intelligence Corps and is sometimes referred to as Israeli SIGINT National Unit (ISNU).[1]

History[edit]

Unit 8200 was established in 1952 using primitive surplus American military equipment. Originally, it was called the 2nd Intelligence Service Unit and then the 515th Intelligence Service Unit. In 1954, the unit moved from Jaffa to its current base at the Glilot junction.[2]

Structure[edit]

Unit 8200 is the largest unit in the Israel Defense Forces, comprising several thousand soldiers.[3] It is comparable in its function to the United States' National Security Agency and is a Ministry of Defense body just as the NSA is part of the United States Department of Defense. It is led by a Brigadier-General whose identity remains classified.

Subordinate to Unit 8200 is Unit Hatzav, {Hebrew name for Drimia (Hebrew: יחידת חצב‎)}, responsible for collecting OSINT intelligence. The unit monitors and collects military intelligence-related information from television, radio, newspapers, and the internet. The translation of various items accounts for part of what is termed "basic intelligence," which is collected by the units. According to media reports, the unit provides over half of the overall intelligence information for the Israeli Intelligence Community.[citation needed]

The IDF's most important signal intelligence-gathering installation is the Urim SIGINT Base, a part of Unit 8200. Urim is located in the Negev desert approximately 30 km from Beersheba.[4] In March 2004, the Commission to investigate the intelligence network following the War in Iraq recommended turning the unit into a civilian National SIGINT Agency, as is in other Western countries, but this proposal was not implemented.

Alleged activities[edit]

On 11 September 2013, The Guardian released a leaked document provided by Edward Snowden which reveals how Unit 8200, referred to as ISNU, receives raw, unfiltered data of U.S. citizens, as part of a secret agreement with the U.S. National Security Agency[5]

In 2010, the French newspaper Le Monde wrote that Unit 8200 operates a massive spying network. At the center is a large SIGINT base in the Negev, one of the largest listening bases in the world, capable of monitoring phone calls, emails, and other communications, throughout the Middle East, Europe, Asia, and Africa, as well as tracking ships. Unit 8200 also reportedly maintains covert listening posts in Israeli embassies abroad, taps undersea cables, maintains covert listening units in the Palestinian territories, and has Gulfstream jets equipped with electronic surveillance equipment.[6]

Ronen Bergman revealed in a 2009 book that a Hezbollah bomb, disguised as a cell phone, was picked up by agents, and taken for investigation to Unit 8200's headquarters in February 1999. Inside the laboratory the cell phone exploded. Two officers were injured.[7]

In 2010, the New York Times cited "a former member of the United States intelligence community" alleging that this unit used a secret kill switch to deactivate Syrian air defenses during Operation Orchard.[8]

Unit 8200 was speculated by many media reports to be responsible for the creation of Stuxnet computer worm that in 2010 infected industrial computers, including Iranian nuclear facilities.[9]

Alumni[edit]

Alumni of 8200 have gone on to found leading Israeli IT companies, among them Check Point, ICQ, Paloalto Networks, NICE, AudioCodes, Gilat, Leadspace and EZchip.[10]

Other[edit]

Havatzalot Program-The elite Military Intelligence Directorate (Israel) training program

References[edit]

  1. ^ "חשיפה: ארה"ב העבירה ל-8200 מידע סודי" (in Hebrew). Ynet. Retrieved 11 September 2013. 
  2. ^ Unit 8200 history
  3. ^ "IDF Record Book 2010". Bamahane (3052): p. 83. September 8, 2010.  (Hebrew)
  4. ^ Le Monde Diplomatique, 2010 September, "Israel’s Omniscient Ears: Israel’s Urim Base in the Negev Desert is among the most important and powerful intelligence gathering sites in the world. Yet, until now, its eavesdropping has gone entirely unmentioned," http://mondediplo.com/2010/09/04israelbase
  5. ^ Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill (September 11, 2013). "NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans' data with Israel". The Guardian. Retrieved September 14, 2013. 
  6. ^ http://mondediplo.com/2010/09/04israelbase
  7. ^ Book: Hezbollah got inside MI's inner sanctum Ynet, 13 Sept 2009
  8. ^ Stuxnet Worm is remarkable for its lack of subtlety, by John Markoff, New York Times 27 September 2010
  9. ^ "Stuxnet worm is the 'work of a national government agency'". The Guardian. 24 September 2010. 
  10. ^ The Unit – Forbes.com

External links[edit]