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GCHQ and the NSA spied on Israeli drone video feeds

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

Newly released documents from Edward Snowden show that the NSA and GCHQ coordinated to hack into, decrypt, and track live video feeds of Israeli drones and fighter jets. The documents, published by The Intercept, show how effective the operation — dubbed "Anarchist" — was at keeping tabs on the Israeli military. The agencies were able to capture live video screenshots, as well as map flight paths, despite Israel's work to keep its drone communications secure. The Intercept reports that the leaked images may reveal the existence of a secret armed drones, though so far Israel has said its drones are used for surveillance and to mark future targets of manned aircraft operations.

GCHQ’s efforts to pick up on Israel’s video signals began in 1998, the documents show, and continued until at least 2010. Although many screenshots from the feeds were encrypted, Britain’s national security agency was able to decrypt them through the use of open-source code. However, most images are grainy or show nothing more than drones in flight.

most images are grainy or show nothing more than drones in flight

Beyond the screenshots, the documents also expose how the Troodos Mountains served as an essential location for monitoring Israel’s drone operations. The area, which contains the highest points on Cyprus, offers access to the Levant, North Africa, and Turkey, The Intercept reports. It’s an ideal place to scope out and launch drone missions, as well as to intercept video feeds. The US has had its own live drone feeds intercepted, as well. In that case, Iraqi militants used $26 off-the-shelf software to capture feeds over-the-air.