Sunday, December 22

Beyond Top Secret: Israel Thwarts NSA

Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not 

frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at 

the passages of JordanJudges 12:6

Since October 2013, when the USA's NSA listening to the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel was disclosed, the violations of America refuse to leave the headlines.
This is to the extent that on December 17, British The Guardian published an article entitled "Merkel compared NSA to Stasi+ in heated encounter with Obama." The scandal hit also Israel.
In November, Hebrew media disclosed that Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak (PM and former PMs) were also being listened by the USA. Moreover, the USA rented a house next to Barak, who remains highly active in the weapons market. This affair was barely mentioned because everybody knew that this was the reality. On December 22, Israeli Intelligence hit back at the spies with a highly unusual article.
Sunday is the day when the Israeli Government holds its regular meetings. In today's meeting, Netanyahu disclosed that Israel had approached the USA and "expressed its opinion on the issue." In parallel, Colonel Ronen Cohen, who in the past was Deputy Commander of the IDF Intelligence Directorate AMAN's Research Department, gave an interview to the largest Hebrew newspaper, disclosing how this can be thwarted. The newspaper also interviewed other people related to the issue.
Veteran readers of this website will recognize the mentioned techniques (troubling twists are mentioned in Modern Molesand State Sponsored Terror).
"It is impossible to avoid surveillance, Israel's basic assumption is, and will remain, that it is being spied. Unluckily and sorrowfully this is the culture," were the colonels' opening words.
Distracting Readers
Telling anecdotes is a good way of distracting people. Long stories covering up core issues are highly effective, except in exact sciences faculties. Yet, in this case, tales from the 2000 Camp David meeting between the Israeli team, led by Ehud Barak, the Palestinian team led by Yasser Arafat and the Americans in an attempt to address the core issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and reach an agreement.
In its public answer to the USA Surveillance Affair, Israel brought out two of the lawyers who had participated in the Israeli team. Moti Crystal and Gilad Sher shared their surveillance experiences in the USA with the People.
"If we wanted to say anything, we went out to a walk in the forest," said Crystal and added, "the assumption was that the Americans thwarted all the data. Several times the Americans showed too much knowledge on the Israeli proposals."
Attorney Sher was Head of the Negotiation Team in Camp David, in the Taba talks with Egypt and the Peace Agreement with Jordan, and was the Director of the PM Bureau under Barak. He said "In all these places, we assumed that everything was being listened, if not by this side, then by the other. Thus, materials that you wanted to keep their exclusivity were never passed through any communication media. There are several classified and encrypted tools that allow that, but sometimes nothing compares to a quiet talk in the balcony. Some people add background music."

Gilad Sher Moti Crystal Ronen Cohen
Gilad Sher, Moti Crystal, Ronen Cohen
Did you know? Modern Moles Coffee Animation

Crystal explained that even while speaking in the forest, some issues were communicated through written notes that were difficult to intercept. "When we wanted to speak about strategy, things that touched the heart of the issue, we did that outside. We walked through the military base [Camp David]. We had a lot of written notes. We simply wrote notes. Every morning I gave Barak an envelope, all the materials were handwritten," he expanded.
"In American facilities it is very difficult to speak freely; one knows that it is not possible to speak in the hotel or in the negotiations room," he summarized.
Beyond framing these simple actions in a historical context, this words are of little use. Any old book by John le Carre is better than that. However, this was only the distraction step aimed at sending away nosy nobodies.
The extensive allusions to notes are related to the real topic, which was mentioned neither by Netanyahu nor the Hebrew article. Safety is in codes.
Distracting State Spooks
"The person being listened can send wrong messages in the sense of 'cast your bread'* or psywar. You speak with your peer in the team and say 'On this point we will be stubborn and never give up.' He answers in a loud voice 'Right, this is an important point.' The point is to have this written in the protocol. You use the fact that the Americans are listening to strengthen your negotiation tactic. You can get annoyed that they listen to everything, but you can also use it," Crystal said.
Also the Palestinians knew how to use the fact that they were being listened. "They spoke with each other knowing that Israel was listening and that Intelligence passed the interceptions to the negotiators."
This is so obvious and widely understood that a NSA memo obtained by the Guardian$ acknowledges that eavesdropping on the leaders numbers had produced "little reportable intelligence."
The USA runs a useless multi-billion dollar human rights violating program.
Dismissing Cryptography
The Israeli lawyer words contained misleading data. He mentioned "classified and encrypted tools," black magic boxes capable of achieving almost nothing.
Unlike codifying, encryption is based on the idea of replacing one string of characters by a different one. Given enough time this can be broken.
The best achievement of this discipline until now is Quantum Cryptography,& a method used at least in communications between the Pentagon and the White House. Even this super-encryption can be broken, but then the user knows that immediately. Another problem is that it demands solid lines of communications.
Laughing Beyond Top Secret
Encryption is not safe because by definition it creates patterns. It may be complex patterns that are almost impossible to break; yet, this is the starting point for any breaking attempt. Can this be bypassed?
Shark Fin
German Chancellor Angela Merkel furious with America for bugging her mobile phone
Stasi: The Untold Story Of The East German Secret Police
The answer is simple, though a successful implementation demands some knowledge and imagination. Codes are the answer. Unlike encryptions, words and languages are irrelevant in this case. One idea, regardless its length, is replaced by another one, in an almost random fashion.
Imagine that the lawyers mentioned above, Sher and Crystal, were speaking in Camp David using a carefully designed code. The Americans intercepted:
Sher: "I will choose shark fin for dinner."
Crystal: "Do you think that they will serve stingrays? I always wanted to taste one."
Somebody with experience in the topic will probably be suspicious that this is a code. Yet, if constructed carefully and used intelligently breaking it is impossible. Never use "coffee" to denote "heat." Never use codes that can be forgotten. The real messages could have been:
Sher: "The Americans are tricking us."
Crystal: "Let's rotate the codes. Don't use the seafood ones."
The amusing step arrives the day after. Anxious spooks will try to break the code. Yet, they have no leads. They will be shooting arrows while blindfolded. They will be shooting s-shaped arrows unable to reach their target. Sher and Crystal will continue to exchange odd words at strange times while chewing shark fins.
Amused, Sher and Crystal will soon find a lot of ridiculous uses of the codes "shark fin" and "stingray." They will be repeated ad nauseam way above their natural occurrence in spoken English. Instead of accurately answering the provocations, carefully designed misleads would be generously provided, the victims of the state laughing all the way beyond top secret, having locked the wrongdoers in a room where all the walls are mirrors.
President Obama, NSA, please stop wasting resources and annoying humanity. Is this code clear enough for you?

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