JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The United States instructed its Middle East diplomats in 2008 to gather data on encrypted Israeli communications and build financial and “biometric” profiles of Palestinian leaders, a leaked embassy cable shows.
The secret memorandum, signed by then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and published by Wikileaks, suggests the Bush administration fretted about lacking intelligence despite warm ties to Israel and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA).
Citing the needs of U.S. analysts, the October 31, 2008 cable presented envoys in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and several Arab states with an exhaustive and prioritized list of data regarding the “Palestinian Issues” being brokered by Washington.
These included “evidence of Government of Israel support for or opposition to actions to limit and/or reduce settlement and outpost growth” on occupied land where Palestinians want to establish a state.
Settlement growth has been one of the chief obstacles to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Written two months before Israel’s surprise offensive in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, the cable sought “details on Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operations underway or planned” against Palestinian militants, “including targeted assassinations and tactics/techniques used by ground and air units”.
Diplomats were asked for a comprehensive overview of Israel’s high-tech communications, from Internet and cellphones to state-run “information repositories associated with radio frequency identification (RFID)-enabled systems used for passports, government badges, and transportation systems”.
The cable sought updates on the movements and private contact details of Israeli civilian and military officials as well as “biographical, financial and biometric information on key PA and Hamas leaders and representatives, to include the young guard inside Gaza, the West Bank and outside”.
Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Ralph Boulton