The Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) Unit 8200 is infamous for surveilling the indigenous Palestinian population, amassing kompromat on individuals for the purposes of blackmail and extortion.
Spying on the world’s rich and famous, Unit 8200 hit the headlines last year, after the Pegasus scandal broke.
Former Unit 8200 officers designed and implemented software that spied on tens of thousands of politicians and likely aided in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
According to employment website LinkedIn, there are currently at least 99 former Unit 8200 veterans currently working for Google.
This number almost certainly underestimates the scale of the collaboration between the two organizations, however.
For one, this does not count former Google employees.
Nor does it include those without a public LinkedIn account, or those who do have an account, but have not disclosed their previous affiliations with the high-tech Israeli surveillance unit.
This is likely to be a considerable number, as agents are expressly prohibited from ever revealing their affiliation to Unit 8200.
Thus, the figure of 99 only represents the number of current (or extremely recent) Google employees who are brazenly flouting Israeli military law by including the organization in their profiles.
Among these include:
Gavriel Goidel: Between 2010 and 2016, Goidel served in Unit 8200, rising to become Head of Learning at the organization, leading a large team of operatives who sifted through intelligence data to “understand patterns of hostile activists”, in his own words, transmitting that information to superiors.
Whether this included any of the over 1000 Gazan civilians Israel killed during their 2014 bombardment of Gaza is unknown. Goidel was recently appointed Head of Strategy and Operations at Google.
Jonathan Cohen: Cohen was a team leader during his time in Unit 8200 (2000-2003).
He has since spent more than 13 years working for Google in various senior positions, and is currently Head of Insights, Data and Measurement.
Ori Daniel: Between 2003 and 2006, Daniel was a technical operations specialist with Unit 8200. After a stint with Palantir, he joined Google in 2018, rising to become Head of Global Self-Service for Google Waze.
Ben Bariach: For nearly five years between 2007 and 2011, Bariach served as a cyber intelligence officer, where he “commanded strategic teams of elite officers and professionals.”
Since 2016, he has worked for Google. Between 2018 and 2020, he concentrated on tackling “controversial content, disinformation and cyber-security”.
Today, he is a product partnership manager for Google in London.
Notably, Google appears to not only accept former Unit 8200 agents with open arms, but to actively recruit current members of the controversial organization. For example, in October 2020, Gai Gutherz left his job as a project leader at Unit 8200 and walked into a full time job at Google as a software engineer. In 2018, Lior Liberman appears to have done the same thing, taking a position as a program manager at Google after 4 years in military intelligence. Earlier this year, she left Google and now works at Microsoft.
SPYING ON PALESTINIANS
Some might contend that all Israelis are compelled to complete military service, and so, therefore, what is the problem with young people using the tech skills they learned in the IDF in civilian life.
In short, why is this Unit 8200-to-Silicon-Valley-pipeline a problem?
To begin with, Unit 8200 is not a run-of-the-mill regiment.
Described as “Israel’s NSA” and located on a gigantic base near Beer Sheva in the Negev desert, Unit 8200 is the IDF’s largest unit – and one of its most exclusive.
Although military service is compulsory for Jewish Israelis, Arab citizens are strongly discouraged from joining the military and are effectively blocked from Unit 8200.
Indeed, they are the prime targets of the apartheid state’s surveillance operations.
TheFinancial Timescalled Unit 8200 “Israel at its best and worst” – the centerpiece of both its burgeoning high-tech industry and of its repressive state apparatus.
Unit 8200 veterans have gone on to produce many of the world’s most downloaded apps, including maps service Waze, and communications app Viber.
But in 2014, 43 reservists, including several officers, sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, informing him they would no longer serve in its ranks due to its involvement in the political persecution of Palestinians.
This consisted of using big data to compile dossiers on huge numbers of the indigenous domestic population, including their medical history, sex lives, and search histories, in order that it could be used for extortion later.
If a certain individual needed to travel across checkpoints for crucial medical treatment, permission could be suspended until they complied.
Information, such as if a person was cheating on their spouse or was homosexual, is also used as bait for blackmail.
One former Unit 8200 man said that as part of his training, he was assigned to memorize different Arabic words for “gay” so that he could listen out for them in conversations.