Saturday, March 31, 2012

Rupert's Raiders 2

The Australian Financial Review's investigation into Murdoch's raiders continues in today's edition:

"From Latin America, the United States and Canada, across Europe and Asia down to Australia and New Zealand. In every country, in every market, it was game on. They were on a mission and they had no rules - or rather, no one to call them to account. They were undercover. They would use funny code names and false money trails, secret informants, 'honey pots' and deep cover agents. They spoke of 'burning' the people they targeted. They called them 'flammable'. They had scorn for everybody who stood in their way and they expressed that scorn freely in encrypted emails to each other, secure that no one from outside their tight group would ever read them. There was no moral quality to doing this; it was a necessary part of the operation. It was part of the business. And what was that business? It's not terrorism, it's not suicide bombing, it's not weapons of mass destruction', says Jan Saggiori, a Swiss-Italian hacker who became a target of the underground operatives. 'It's pay television'." (Murdoch's inside job, Neil Chenoweth)

Hm... sounds like something out of the rogue entity that touts itself as the Middle East's only democracy and casually talks of 'lawn maintenance'* in Gaza. Maybe that's because it is:

"News Databank Systems (NDS) was an accident of history. In February 1998 an Australian technology consultant, Bruce Hundertmark, badgered Murdoch into shelling out $3.6 million to found a start-up company in Israel called News Datacom Research based on encryption technology developed by the Weizmann Institute, which took a 20% stake. (The details of the early history are airbrushed out of many accounts.)" (ibid)

According to Chenoweth, NDS went on to set up a special unit, staffed by former police and intelligence operatives, called Operational Security (OS) to fight the piracy of NDS pay TV smartcards. Based in Haifa, OS is led by Reuven Hasak, a former deputy head of Israel's domestic secret service, Shin Bet, and includes former US police and army intelligence operatives. Although working closely with law enforcement agencies to fight pay TV pirates, OS was also engaged in "recruit[ing] top hackers, turning them into informants and then using their expertise to learn how to reverse engineer or deconstruct the smartcards of their rivals." (ibid)

For the dirt on NDS/OS operations you'll need to consult Chenoweth's report. For our purposes, however, his backgrounder on Reuven Hasak makes interesting reading:

"Hasak had been slated for the top job at Shin Bet but his career was destroyed by revelations of perjury and cover-up over the murder of two Palestinian hijackers after they were captured in April 1984. They were killed by a Shin Bet agent, allegedly on the orders of Shin Bet chief Avraham Shalom. But, over 18 months of investigations, Hasak helped orchestrate a false story, coaching a string of Shin Bet agents to give sworn evidence that an army officer, Brigadier-General Yitzhak Mordechai, was the killer. Shortly afterwards the Landau Commission reported that perjured evidence and the torture of suspects had been a regular part of Shin Bet procedure, and introduced reforms. In October 1985 Hasak and two other senior Shin Bet officers went to then-prime minister Shimon Peres to reveal the cover-up and ask for Shalom to be replaced. Peres dismissed their concerns: 'Why did you just remember today? If wrongs were done, why didn't you prevent it a long time ago?' The three Shin Bet officers were forced to resign, and formed a security firm, Shafran. Ten years later, as three of Israel's most experienced spies, they were the logical choice when News Corp's general council, Arthur Siskind, needed to investigate a fraud at NDS."

[*See my 17/3/12 post Israel's Similes & Ours.]

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