Urim SIGINT Base
Urim SIGINT Base is an Israeli intelligence-gathering installation, supposedly part of the Unit 8200. Urim is located in the Negev desert approximately 30 km from Beersheba, a couple of kilometres north of the kibbutz of Urim. Until articles were published about the base in 2010, it was not known to the outside world.
Equivalents of Unit 8200 are the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) of Britain and the National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States. Each of these signals interception spy agencies is far bigger in size than the traditional intelligence agencies of their respective countries.
Created decades ago to monitor Intelsat satellites that relay international telephone calls, Urim was expanded to cover maritime communications (Inmarsat), and continued being expanded to intercept more communications satellites. Duncan Campbell, an intelligence specialist speculated that Urim is "akin to the UK-USA pact's Echelon satellite interception ground stations." The Echelon system was established by the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as a global network of signal interception stations.
The base has a row of satellite dishes that are allegedly able to intercept phone calls, emails, and other communications from anywhere in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and Asia, as well as antennas that can monitor shipping. There are also numerous barracks and operations buildings lined along the road that leads to the base, which is protected by high security gates, fences, and guard dogs.
It is said that computers at Urim detect words and phone numbers of interest from intercepted phone calls, e-mails, etc. which are then transferred to Unit 8200's headquarters at Herzliya. At the HQ, the information is translated and submitted as necessary to IDF headquarters or to Israel's intelligence agencies, such as the Mossad.
- Hager, Nicky (September 2010). "Israel's Omniscient Ears: Israel's Urim Base in the Negev Desert is among the world's most important intelligence gathering sites. Until now, its eavesdropping has gone unmentioned". Le Monde Diplomatique.
- Big Ears: 'Largest' secret spy hub uncovered in Israel, RT, 20 January 2011
- Google (2011-01-22). "Urim SIGINT Base" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved 2011-01-22. Note installations can be seen on the satellite image, but do not appear in map view.