Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Suspicions surround supposed "suicide" of Israeli SIGINT service officer

Israeli military police are investigating the reported suicide death by an alleged self-inflicted gun shot wound to the head of Israeli Military Intelligence Unit 8200 department head 43-year old Major Aviya Moshe.

Major Aviya Moshe, a department head in Military Intelligence's 8200 unit, was found dead in his office at Unit 8200 headquarters in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv, early Sunday morning. Moshe committed suicide, shooting himself with his personal handgun. Ha'aretz reported there were no indications that Moshe was exhibiting behavior that would prompt him to commit suicide.

There has been some speculation in the Lebanese press that Moshe's death could be linked to the roundup of Israeli spies in the Lebanese military. Lebanese authorities have, to date, charged 21 people, including two Lebanese Army colonels. An additional nine people have been detained on suspicions of spying for Israel.

The latest colonel arrested, Shahid Toumieh, was described by As Safar newspaper as a "signal code" officer, a position similar to that of Moshe in Israeli military intelligence. Lebanon says three of those charged with spying for Israel have fled across the border to Israel. It is believed that all the Lebanese charged with spying for Israel were providing intelligence on Lebanese Hezbollah to Israeli intelligence. Some of those detained by Lebanon were found with sophisticated communications equipment that may have originated with Israel's Unit 8200, the Israeli equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) that conducts electronic and signals intelligence (SIGINT) gathering. Unit 8200 is also known as the Central Collection Unit of the Intelligence Corps.

In 2003, a Unit 8200 officer, identified only as "Lieutenant A," was court-martialed for refusing to carry out the targeting of a civilian target in the West Bank city of Nablus. The lieutenant believed that by carrying out the order, innocent civilians would be killed in an Israeli aerial attack against the target and he believed that following such an order that would cause random casualties would be a violation of international law.

Many Herzliya officers have gone on to founding Israel's major telecommunications and software high-tech surveillance companies, including Check Point, ICQ, Amdocs, and Comverse Infosys.