Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Israel Fanning The Flames Behind The Scenes

Israel Fanning The Flames Behind The Scenes

Just going by the papers, it's been a busy couple of months for the Mossad, the Israeli spy agency. Saudi Arabia nabbed a vulture wearing a transmitter from Tel Aviv University, hard evidence not of avian research but of a "Zionist plot." The mangled body of an elderly German woman washed up off an Egyptian resort bearing bite marks from a shark. But whose shark? "What is being said about the Mossad throwing the deadly shark in to hit tourism in Egypt is not out of the question," the South Sinai governor was quoted as saying. "But it needs time to confirm." The half-baked always does.

No one was laughing, however, at the report in Sunday's New York Times, a 2,800-word assessment of Israeli involvement in Stuxnet, the computer worm that wreaked havoc with Iran's nuclear program, sending centrifuges into wild gyrations that brought down perhaps 1,000 of the contraptions whose spinning enriches uranium that Israel fears will end up in atomic weapons that would be pointed its way. The newspaper said Israel, in cooperation with Washington, tested the worm on the exact same centrifuge model, known as P-1, that Israeli intelligence had set up at its own Dimona nuclear facility in the Negev Desert in the country's south. (Is the Mossad targeting Iran's scientists?)

"It's good that the Iranians think we have these capabilities," a senior Israeli intelligence official told TIME, taking care not to confirm the specific deployment of capabilities that Israel is widely known to, in fact, possess.

The Jewish state has a robust high-tech research industry, a private sector nourished on the financial side by global venture capital and on the far more important human side by a stream of veterans of elite units of the Israel Defense Forces. The units are devoted to computer science and warfare, and bear dashingly nerdy names like 8200 and 8153, the latter known simply as Eight One to members of the other government security bodies it brings together in joint operations.

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