US and UK have spied on Israeli army for 18 years


U.S. and British intelligence services have reportedly spied on Israel for 18 years after cracking its army’s encryption for communication between fighter jets, drones and army bases.

The information was reported Friday by The Intercept and the German newspaper Der Spiegel based on documents that came into the possession of Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who worked for U.S. intelligence before publishing classified material and fleeing to Russia.

Britain and the United States have reportedly used this access to monitor Israel Defense Forces operations in the Gaza Strip, watch for a potential strike on Iran and keep tabs on the drone technology that Israel exports.

Israel said later Friday it was disappointed but not surprised by the revelations.

“This is an earthquake,” an anonymous senior security source told Ynet. “It means that they have forcibly stripped us, and, no less important, that probably none of our encrypted systems are safe from them. This is the worst leak in the history of Israeli intelligence.”

According to the reports, the breaking of the drone encryption allowed Britain and the United States to view images and videos broadcast to Israel Defense Forces commands during drone operations in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and near the Jewish state’s northern border.

The tracking has been done from a Royal Air Force installation in the Troodos Mountains, near Mount Olympus, the highest point on the island of Cyprus.

The IDF encryption code was cracked as part of a major intelligence operation conducted by the U.S. National Security Agency, or NSA, and its British counterpart, the GCHQ, since 1998, according to Ynet.

In the photos leaked by Snowden, shots from video recordings taken by Israeli aircraft can been seen in detail, as well as slides prepared by members of the U.S. and British intelligence organizations explaining the significance of the findings.

“This access is indispensable for maintaining an understanding of Israeli military training and operations and thus an insight to possible future developments in the region,” The Intercept quoted a GCHQ report from 2008 as stating. “In times of crisis this access is critical and one of the only avenues to provide up to the minute information and support to U.S. and Allied operations in the area.”

That year, NSA analysts had “collected video for the first time from the cockpit of an Israeli Air Force F-16 fighter jet,” which “showed a target on the ground being tracked,” The Intercept reported.

Although Israeli drone strikes have been widely reported, officially the government refuses to confirm the use of armed drones.

Israel shows off its drones


This article originally appeared on The Media Line.

Switzerland this week voted to buy six Israeli surveillance drones made by Elbit in a deal worth $256 million. The deal went through despite a campaign by protestors not to buy Israeli-made products because of alleged human rights abused against Palestinians.

The deal came the same week that an exhibition in Rishon Letzion showed off the latest in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, also known as drones. Israel has long been in the forefront of manufacturing drones.

“This is a vertical takeoff and landing aircraft which can fly for three times the time as a multi-copter and is resistant to wind while hovering,” Amit Regev the CEO of Colugo said of his prototype the Arcopter. “We are aiming at many markets including precision agriculture and first responders. What we have here is the next generation.”

He spent many years flying drones in the Israeli army, but said his start-up is aimed at civilian applications. In China, he says, drones are already delivering packages, a move which saves time and money, and does not add to the carbon footprint, as a truck delivering a package would.

He has come to this exhibition in Rishon Letzion, near Tel Aviv, looking for investors and partners. It is the third time that iHLS, a website that deals with homeland security has sponsored the exhibition.

“Israel is a major power in unmanned systems,” Arie Egozi, the conference organizer told The Media Line. “Israel needed them for its survival. It’s not that the US doesn’t have the capability to do this, but they fight in Afghanistan, far away. Israel needed this system to fight wars and that is why it is so advanced.”

Among the items on display were the Heron, developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). It can fly for 52 hours continuously and can be fully autonomous from takeoff to landing. It can carry the most sophisticated payloads and cameras, and is used in at least 20 countries, said IAI officials.

Also used for surveillance is the RT Skystar Systems which look like large white nylon balloons. These were used during last summer’s fighting between Israel and the Islamist Hamas in the Gaza Strip, says Taly Kosberg Shmueli, the Vice President of RT.

“We do all kinds of missions including protecting the border, intelligence and aiding special forces,” she told The Media Line. “Last summer we had 13 systems around Gaza and we are now working on the Egyptian border as well as Jerusalem.”

Dozens of governments sent representatives including China, India and Albania. Israel’s defense exports totaled $5.6 billion in 2014, including drones. The businessmen declined to be interviewed.

There were also exhibits from companies that make parts for aircraft. One that received a lot of attention was Su-Pad, a company that uses 3-D printers to make plastic parts for drones and other planes.

“The users are adopting the technology in a way that is getting better and better,” Ziv Sadeh, the Sales Manager for Su-Pad told The Media Line. “We supplied a big printer to the Israeli air force. They use a polymer called ultem, and it is able to make parts for the aerospace industry. We are able to print very complex parts and we don’t need a tool to do it. The price is much smaller than traditional methods.”

Organizer Egozi says that what is on display is only what is not classified.

“There are many many other drones that are still classified and will be so for many years,” he said. “What you see here is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Letters to the editor: Purim alert, Limmud and more


Purim Alert: Send Us Your Funny Headlines!

Every year, the Jewish Journal’s Purim issue features a tabloid-style gloss cover with fake headlines that shock, upset and sometimes even entertain our readers. This year, we’d like to invite you to contribute one or two of your best ideas for fake Purim headlines.

We credit contributors in the Table of Contents and will post all entries online. Send your ideas to editor@jewishjournal.com by Monday, Feb. 16.

Remember, the best headlines play off big news items and personalities, or the quirks of Jewish life. Don’t pull punches — it’s Purim!


Take a Picture …

As I usually disagree with Rob Eshman’s columns on national and world affairs, I was shocked to my foundations to read his column (“Drones, Jews and Morality,” Jan. 30) several times (it was that good) with great respect.  If he is going to write such well-reasoned, rational, thoughtful columns with no detectable left-wing drivel, how am I going to be able to rage against him? His proactive stance against the mainstream at a bastion of left-wing radicals (Princeton) blew me away. I even learned something new that I found very useful. What’s this world coming to?  But please, keep up the good work.

Warren Scheinin, Redondo Beach


LimmudLA and Sustaining Support 

I commend David Suissa for shining a light on one of the most expansive and inspirational Jewish engagement programs launched locally (“Whatever Happened to Limmud in LA?” Feb. 6), as well as the considerable challenge facing social entrepreneurs and philanthropists everywhere: sustainability of these dynamic initiatives.

The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles was instrumental in launching LimmudLA in 2007 with $250,000 awarded over three years through its Cutting Edge Grants Initiative. Additionally, The Foundation’s own donors have provided over $100,000 in additional grants to support LimmudLA.

Since establishing our Cutting Edge Grants in 2006, The Foundation has provided financial support of nearly $10.5 million to launch 53 groundbreaking programs.  Proudly, about 90 percent of these initiatives — including LimmudLA — continue to operate during and beyond their grant periods.

The fact that LimmudLA today operates with a different model and capacity from when originally launched reflects the sustainability challenge confronting even the best initiatives and start-up nonprofits. Long-term success entails more than just securing support through a seed funder like The Foundation; it takes a veritable “Jewish village” of resources. Regrettably, not all programs will take root longer term.

This underscores the vital need for second-stage funding, to support promising initiatives as they grow, adapt and become truly sustainable into the future. The Foundation continues to be committed to exploring how we, in partnership with like-minded funders, can play a leadership role in enabling the community’s most viable programs to flourish beyond our grant-making support.

Marvin Schotland, Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, President and CEO


Artistic Integrity

In reference to Ellie Heman’s piece about the Oscars (“Why I Don’t Want to Watch the [White] Oscars This Year,” Jan. 30), I am sick to death of hearing the term “white” being used as a racial invective. Herman, secure in her limited little bubble of academia, feels free to toss the word around as if skin color exempts white Academy members from any serious ability to think for themselves, forgetting that voting members come from all racial and religious backgrounds.  In all fairness to Herman, perhaps she does not realize that “Hollywood” operates as a meritocracy, and that films are not nominated for racial or ethnic consideration, but for any number of reasons, including artistic merit. Let’s face it: “Selma” was a bore, cast with British actors whose American accents at times seemed somewhat labored. If Herman, even dimly, recognizes her own bigotry, then perhaps she will be able to understand what meritocracy is all about.

Ron Southart, Marina Del Rey

Letters to the editor: Running Springs, Mel Brooks and Sun City


We Report, You Decide

Thanks for telling a complicated story so well (“The Rebirth of Running Springs,” Jan. 30). Bravo to the Journal for reporting the facts for all to see. To those who criticize the story, it could have been far more damaging to Chabad by reporting other issues like this in Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin’s business dealings. But the writer let the facts speak for themselves, without inuendo and implied guilt.

Jim Ruxin via jewishjournal.com

While I’m a big fan of Chabad, this article has soured me toward them. It appears that Chabad purchased a quite expensive campground, stopped making mortgage payments soon thereafter and also stiffed an elderly lady out of her estate. There are more sickening aspects of the article. Cunin and his sidekicks have some chutzpah.

A. Joans, Los Angeles


Necessary Evil

Rob Eshman rightly fears the misuse of drone technology if it gets into the wrong hands  (“Drones, Jews and Morality,” Jan. 30). However, he does not share the pride that small Israel, who has been battling against Islamic terror decades before the rest of the Western world, has been a frontline technological innovator in the fight against today’s evil.  

He does not appreciate the value and purpose of the drone — to minimize not only casualties of our own soldiers, but the innocents on the enemy side as well. 

There is simply no question that if drones did not exist, the percentage of enemy innocents caught in the vicinity of the targeted bad guys would grow exponentially.

Richard Friedman, Culver City


Thank You, Mel!

I want to respond to Danielle Berrin’s wonderful and insightful interview with Mel Brooks (“Shmoozing With Mel,” Jan. 30). A few summers ago, my wife and I were visiting Cordoba, Spain, and while wandering the alleyways, we heard the sounds of Gregorian chants wafting into the street. Following the lovely music, we found ourselves in the Museum of the Inquisition, which consists of several gloomy chambers filled with instruments of torture, accompanied by descriptions of how they were used. 

The only way I could counteract these disturbing images and regain my equilibrium was to replay in my head the “Spanish Inquisition” song from Brooks’ movie “History of the World Part 1,” which is performed in the style of a grandiose Busby Berkeley production.

I don’t mean to minimize the suffering of Inquisition victims, nor, I’m sure, did Brooks. On the contrary, we should all be aware of what happened in order to prevent such a horrific event from occurring again. But we also need to recognize that humor can be a potent remedy for the paralyzing darkness and negativity that can ensue from such encounters.

Joel Stern, Los Angeles

Mel, we love you, but seriously, you must not leave this world before trying our original Hungarian kosher stuffed cabbage. The best in the world, I won’t let you down. Call me!

Balazs Tibor via jewishjournal.com


Bibi Butts in

With typical eloquence, Michael Berenbaum has clearly made the case that Benjamin Netanyahu’s agreement to address a joint session of Congress is a profound insult and, ultimately, a mistake (“Boehner Invitation to Bibi Signals Congress, White House Showdown,” Jan. 30). Americans of all political persuasions should take offense at the attempts of a foreign prime minister to interfere in American policy matters, Netanyahu clearly intended to stick a thumb in the eye of the president of the United States, and I for one am outraged. I now must work to separate my support for Israel from my disgust with its leader.

Barbara H. Bergen via email


From City of Angels to City in the Sun

Congratulations to Tess Cutler for the wonderful and beautifully written column on her one-month visit to Sun City in Palm Desert (My Life as a Retired Millennial,” Jan. 30). Although she didn’t love the Sun City lifestyle as a 21-year-old, we are here to report that, as seniors who have been residing in Sun City for three years, it is a fabulous community with lots of activities, friends and things to do. When we receive the Jewish Journal delivered to our door, we reconnect with Los Angeles Jewish life and enjoy reading every column. However, we turn the pages first to read the article written by Cutler. Hers are the best!

Sydney and Hale Porter via email


correction

In a Jan. 30 letter to the editor about school endowments (“With Help, Local Schools Grow Their Endowments, Jan. 16), an incorrect title was listed for Arlene Agress. She is the director of the Jim Joseph Foundation High School Affordability Initiative at BJE (Builders of Jewish Education), Los Angeles.

Religious community skeptical of lethal drones


This post originally appeared at HuffingtonPost and is reprinted with permission

Since 2004, the United States, through the CIA, has conducted an estimated 400 or more drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Four of those strikes occurred just last month. Thousands of people have been killed, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, including hundreds of civilians and at least four U.S. citizens. These are targeted killings with collateral consequences conducted remotely in countries against which we have not declared war. The religious community is asking whether the use of such drone warfare is legal or moral.

For more than a year, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace studied the use of drones and targeted killings. In May 2013, Bishop Richard Pates, chair of the International Justice and Peace Committee, wrote to National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, raising moral questions about the use of drones for targeted killings. He asked that the U.S. be more transparent in its policies and exercise leadership in advancing international agreements on their use.

In an op-ed originally published in the Washington Post, Bishop Pates shared the Catholic bishops' concerns about drone warfare, raising the point that “The distance many people feel from this issue doesn't reduce the ethical concerns involved, nor does it make the negative impact of drone usage any less severe.” Similar concerns have been raised by other denominations and faith groups as well.

In an effort to address the serious questions that have emerged about lethal drones, in January, a diverse group of denominations, faith groups and religious organizations will gather for the first ever religions gathering on this issue, the Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare.

The conference will seek to examine why the issue of drone warfare is an urgent moral issue today — more than 10 years since the first people were killed by U.S. drones as part of the war on terror. The religious community will look at the technology used, the impact on innocent civilians, the disparity in risk between the target and the operator, and the fact that using drones may make the decision to go to war easier.

It is time to examine the nature and use of drones, as well as their advantages and disadvantages, the possibility of more nations and non-state actors acquiring them and how they are unique and different from other weapons.

There are important domestic and international legal concerns: What current laws, if any, either domestic or international, govern the use of drones? Are these laws being applied and obeyed?

Legal questions about the U.S. use of drones remain unanswered: What is the specific authorization for the Administration's use of drones? If it is the Authorization for Use of Military Force, adopted by Congress in September 2001 that provides blanket authority for the use of “all necessary and appropriate force” against those responsible for the 9/11 attacks and affiliated forces, should that authorization be repealed or amended to be more limited and specific? The conference will examine if Congress should have a greater role in the authorization and oversight of lethal drones and targeted killings.

Why do people of faith care about the use of lethal drones? Within the interfaith community, there are several positions about war and peace: Just War, Just Peace and Pacifism. The conference will explore how each of these would approach drone warfare.

We will discuss if and when the assassination of people on a targeted list is legal and moral. What criteria should be used to be put someone on the list and who determines who should be on the target list?

We will also examine how governments that cause such killings should respond to civilian casualties including paying reparations to the families of those killed or wounded by drones.

An important question for all of us is whether or not lethal drones advance the U.S. war against the violence of non-state actors. Are U.S. drone strikes actually inciting further anti-American sentiment and encouraging more recruits for Al-Qaeda and other non-state actors? What are the effects on drone operators?

Currently, the CIA is engaged in the military operations of drone warfare as well as collecting intelligence about how they might be used. The conference will consider if the CIA should only collect intelligence and not actually be involved in carrying out drone warfare.

What should we do instead? We will consider other steps that the U.S. could take to stop the violence by non-state and state actors.

The goal of the Princeton conference is to bring denominations and religious organizations together to honestly consider the use of lethal drones and then make policy recommendations to the U.S. government. We will seek to determine what the religious community can do about lethal drones at each level: congregations, regional bodies, ecumenical and interfaith bodies and national bodies.

Rev. Richard L. Killmer  is Project Director, Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare.   All people of faith are invited to participate in this unprecedented conference on lethal drones. The conference will be held January 23-25 at Princeton Theological Seminary. Inquiries can be directed to rkillmer@richardkillmer.org.

LAPD scopes out Israeli drones, ‘Big Data’ solutions


For the first nine days of February, eight of the Los Angeles Police Department’s top brass were 7,500 miles away from home, being shuttled around Israel in a minibus.

“They complained because it was like in the army — they went from place to place to place, and they needed some rest,” joked Arie Egozi, a partner at i-HLS, the Israeli homeland-security news site that organized the LAPD tour. “You know, the Israelis want to push everything.”

LAPD Deputy Chief Jose Perez, a good-natured 30-year veteran of the department who oversees its central bureau, tweeted updates at nearly every stop. On Feb. 2, he shared a group photo of the Los Angeles delegation visiting the corporate headquarters of Nice Systems, an Israeli security and cyber intelligence company that can intercept and instantly analyze video, audio and text-based communications. (A seemingly tongue-in-cheek inspirational poster on the wall behind them reads: “Every voice deserves to be heard.”) A couple days later, Perez posed for a photo with Samuel Bashan, whom he called “Israel’s premier bomb expert,” at a fancy group dinner.

The group visited private security firms and drone manufacturers, as well as the terror-prone Ashdod Port, a museum in Sderot full of old rockets shot from nearby Gaza (the same one United States President Barack Obama visited on his 2008 campaign trip to Israel), and a “safe city” underground control center in the large suburb of Rishon LeZion, which receives live streams from more than 1,000 cameras with license plate recognition installed throughout the city.

Meanwhile, the tour attracted some skepticism back home. Max Blumenthal, a journalist and critic of Israel with a hefty online following, tweeted: “LAPD delegation heads to Israel to learn lessons in control, domination and exclusion.” Another Twitter user, @JustBadre, tweeted asking Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti: “why is #lapd in Israel on taxpayer $? Should #lapd be training with forces that have human rights violations?”

As of press time, LAPD media relations had not responded to a request for the total cost of the trip and the source of the funds. However, a previous trip to Israel by four members of the LAPD bomb squad reportedly cost $18,000.

The LAPD-Israel bond was in large part fused by former LAPD Chief William Bratton, who made official trips to Israel to learn about the country’s advanced counter-terrorism tactics during his chiefdom from 2002 to 2009. At a town hall meeting in Los Angeles near the end of his term, Bratton said of Israeli intelligence experts: “They are our allies. They are some of the best at what they do in the world, and that close relationship has been one of growing strength and importance.”

The most recent visit was organized by Deputy Chief Michael Downing, commander of the Counter-Terrorism and Special Operations Bureau, and led by Horace Frank, commander of the LAPD Information Technology (IT) Bureau. “We had this grant funding that was available for us to look at emergency technologies and best practices,” Frank explained to the Journal while in Israel. “Normally we do send people here [to Israel], but not at that level. So this was an opportunity to really bring some high-level command decision makers to take a look at what’s going on.”

Frank was joined by seven of his fellow command staff at the Big Data Intelligence Conference hosted by i-HLS in the beach town of Herzliya, Israel, on Feb. 6.

“On behalf of my chief of police, Chief Charlie Beck, and the 13,000-plus sworn and non-sworn members of the Los Angeles Police Department, a very heartfelt thanks to all of you for having me here,” Frank said in an opening statement for the conference, which brought together some of Israel’s — and the world’s — top cyber security and intelligence experts.

The LAPD’s head IT guy continued: “Now let’s be honest … This whole idea of best practices is just a euphemism for: We’re here to steal some of your great ideas. And a lot of great ideas and technology, indeed, you do have here in Israel. I would hope that you do not view this as a negative, because in this day and age of globalization, our needs are truly similar. In fact, we are much more alike than dis-alike. As civilized nations, we are all confronted with, in many cases, the same enemy: The ever-growing threat of terrorism and other major criminal elements.”

At the conference’s coffee break, Frank and a few of his colleagues spoke to the Journal about the highlights of their nine-day tour.

Frank said he was especially impressed by what he saw while visiting Israeli companies Nice Systems (as tweeted by Perez) and Verint, one of the companies whose services the National Security Administration (NSA) reportedly used in the infamous United States wiretapping scandal. Both companies already count the LAPD as a client. But, Frank said, “we’re looking at some of their additional solutions … They have a lot of new technologies that we are very much interested in.”

Nice System’s  president of security, Yaron Tchwella, spoke at the conference about the company’s ability to help government agencies capture and store the billions of calls, emails, messages and social media posts that their populations generate each day, then analyze it in real time to detect potential threats. Tchwella projected an image of Albert Einstein onto the overhead, explaining that Einstein’s dream was to store data dynamically, so that it mimics the capabilities of the human brain — tying incoming information to the vast amounts already stored, thus recontextualizing the big picture. 

For example, Tchwella said, “the connection between IDF [Israel Defense Forces] databases provides us with a grasp on reality, and allows for the connectivity between things that change between time, geography … and semantics. This is what we do every day in our brains.” 

Perez said he hoped the LAPD, too, would eventually be able to “use technology to incorporate all the systems that we have. That’s the wave of the future. We’re definitely looking at the ability to get that information out to the officers on the beat with a handheld. Something happens, and you’re looking at the handheld — almost like ‘The Bourne Supremacy’ — here’s a picture of the guy you’re looking for.”

LAPD watchdog Hamid Khan expressed concern, however, that emerging technologies such as Nice’s would give new legs to questionable LAPD policies.

“For us, it’s not only about the type of technology, but how this technology further enhances the existing capacity of any of these agencies to gather more information,” Khan said.

Khan, 53, a Pakistani native and former commercial airline pilot, formed the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition two years ago. The coalition has since been campaigning against a series of federal “fusion centers” created by the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11 — including one in the Los Angeles. area utilized by the LAPD. The centers allow federal, state and local agencies to share information about civilians, in hopes of detecting potential terrorists.

Also in Khan’s crosshairs is Special Order 1, an LAPD policy that allows officers to document any otherwise lawful activity that they, or other members of the community, deem suspicious. (Including, for example, the photographing of certain government sites.) And new LAPD intel collection methods or surveillance drones, said Khan, would only be “adding more to their toolbox of being highly militarized in counterinsurgency forces” against protesters and movements such as Occupy. “Yet it is wrapped in this whole language of community policing.”

Two separate L.A. Weekly investigations in 2012 found that the LAPD uses expensive StingRay devices, which can locate cellphones (and their users) by acting like cellphone towers, and license-plate recognition cameras that track millions of drivers. Although both devices technically require a warrant to be used in a police investigation, there is little way to know whether police are always complying with the rules.

Peter Bibring, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California, said the coupling of spy technology with watered-down police guidelines “represents a step backward to the [1970s-era] collection of information about individuals and their whereabouts without reasonable suspicion that they’re involved in criminal activities.”

And that, he said, “is very troubling.”

Surveillance drones manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Sky Sapience were also hot items on the LAPD tour. Both Frank and Perez lit up when talking about the HoverMast, a new tethered drone from Sky Sapience that was just released to the IDF late last year.

“There are several things on the wish list, but we did like Sky Sapience — that was incredible,” Perez said. “For me personally, just for my command, which is five stations, and all the special events that I have, crowd control and being able to see everything would be some technology that is needed immediately.”

However, Frank added, the HoverMast “has its challenges: from a political standpoint, convincing our political leaders, and from a community standpoint, convincing the community that it’s not Big Brother watching over you.”

A spokeswoman for Sky Sapience said the HoverMast can intercept wireless communications, and its cameras are capable of facial recognition. A spokeswoman for IAI said that while showing LAPD officers their drones, the company “wanted to emphasize the fact that drones can be very helpful in giving intelligence in urban scenarios… you need it now, you need it quick, you need to see what’s inside a window, and what’s behind this building.”

Nimrod Kozlovski, co-founder of Tel Aviv University’s cyber security program and a leading expert in the industry, argued that the Fourth Amendment would limit police in the United States from using Israeli technology to spy without a warrant. “But if you relax these standards or create too many exemptions,” he said, “there is certainly a risk that [civilians] will be subject to ongoing monitoring and interception by law enforcement agencies, which is certainly not the proper balance between government and individual.”

Many of the companies attracting LAPD interest have one thing in common: They were formed by veterans of the IDF’s elite, top-secret 8200 Unit, better known as Israel’s version of the NSA. 

“This notion that you collect mass amounts of intelligence in order to sort and analyze it has been known and expected in Israel for years,” Kozlovski said. “It wasn’t known and well-taught in the U.S. that secret services don’t operate on probable cause, so this mass collection took them by surprise. We [Israelis] tend to give more permission to counter-terror operations to use a technology that will be able to predict a potential terrorist. It’s more socially acceptable.”

Perez emphasized that as a local police agency, the LAPD has much tighter legal constraints than federal agencies to adhere to when adopting army-born surveillance and “big data” technologies. 

But critics worry that as federal and local agencies continue to collaborate, and constitutional law races to catch up with high-tech security solutions, lines will blur. “Now people are starting to realize, now that the NSA piece is out there, that this is very local, this is everyday 24/7 policing … not a science fiction movie,” Khan said. 

Letters to the editor: Drones, Tea Party lunches and the right to bear arms


Drone Issue Complicated Yet Simple: It’s About Ethics and Morality

Thank you for the great article “The Torah of Drones” (Nov. 8). It’s extremely important and well written.

My only concern is that the question regarding the morality of deciding who shall live and who shall die is mentioned at the end of the article, but not really explored at all. My suggestion would be for a follow-up article on why Israel takes the high road with no capital punishment for citizens yet why is “drone capital punishment” acceptable without trial? More simply, why is it acceptable to kill fellow neighbors (even if sometimes hostile) without trial, which Torah commands?

Again, thank you for a magazine as thought provoking as The Economist.

David Schlosberg via e-mail

If you consider that thousands of innocent people had been killed in wars in past decades, millions if you want to go back to World War II, killing 29 innocent people while taking out 45 bad guys in highly concentrated population areas during a 20-month period is an excellent result for reducing collateral damage. That’s a little more than one person every two strikes statistically. Any independent researcher of this data would conclude that the United States, Europe and Israel have gotten very good at limiting collateral damage.

Furthermore, not one American or Israeli battlefield soldier operating this type of weapon has ever been hurt or killed. That is just simply unheard of in warfare. How many U.S. soldiers do you think we would have sacrificed sending those 45 guys to meet Allah in standard special-ops missions into Pakistan?

Of course, despite Rob Eshman’s oversights, you can still make the case that one innocent death is one too many, but then you would have to be against war in general. It is virtually impossible to fight a war without some collateral damage. But then if you advocate getting out of this war and all wars in the future, how do you stop jihadists from killing infidels (us). For those of you who take that stand, I leave it to you to figure that one out.

Larry Hart, West Hills

If you were sitting in the left-hand seat of a Lancaster or B-17 bomber in the ’40s, you did not see the civilians. Your mission was to bomb the ball bearing factories in Schweinfurt. If your mission was a failure, you had to go back a second time, and you knew, in the back of your mind, that civilians were collateral damage. 

Here are your choices: 1) Don’t join the Air Force. 2) Don’t follow orders. 3) Don’t think too hard about the ethical issues, because war is not an ethical undertaking. In battle, decisions are instantaneous. Wars are won when your side has the least [number] of bloody noses. 

I only hope the leaders in Gaza have the same moral debates we have. 

Brian Freed via jewishjournal.com

One has to see the drones as just another step in the evolution of the tools of war. The morality of using catapults, gunpowder, arrows, bayonets, tanks, bombers, human spies or drones is on the same level as the morality of wars themselves. In many cases these are evil necessities, sometimes necessary for the survival of one side against another evil side.

Nahum Gat via jewishjournal.com


Tea Party Interview Not His Cup of Tea

What I find disturbing about your discourse with Mark Sonnenklar was your utter lack of engagement with the objectives and tactics of the Tea Party and its base of financial support (“The Tea Partier,” Oct. 25).  Why did you not challenge any of the many leading actions and objectives of the Tea Party, including shutting down the government, great financial cost to our citizens and trying to prevent paying debts we’ve already incurred by refusing to agree to raise the debt ceiling? The Tea Party promotes minority rule, through its actions in Congress, to its blatantly obvious attempt to disenfranchise citizens by requiring voters to prove their identity, while at the same time making it increasingly difficult for them to obtain the documents of proof they would require.  

I generally respect your writing, and perhaps it is unfair that I write to you only in criticism. But I find it especially disturbing that you would write such a kind article about someone, who despite his personal charm, supports a party that doesn’t just represent, but actually is a great threat to our democracy. I hope you will follow up with a piece that actually reveals the actual behavior of the Tea Party and the elected officials it supports that undermine our most precious values and our Constitution.

Jeffrey Ellis via e-mail 


Armed With Facts — and Anger

I disagree (“My Family’s Terror at the N.J. Garden State Mall,” Nov. 8). The right to bear arms is a fundamental right, and for a good reason. The founding fathers and mothers wanted to ensure that Americans would not live in tyranny as Europeans were doing. We have the right to overthrow a tyrannical government. We should not give that right away because there are nuts among us. There will always be mentally ill people. Just quit selling them guns!

Paula Bojsen via jewishjournal.com