a straightforward introduction to the archimedes group (distinct from the also israeli NSO/whatsapp affair)

Facebook bans major fake news operation run from Israel
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, May 17 2019

Is Israel’s Archimedes Group involved in Pindo-backed regime change effort in Venezuela?

Facebook has uncovered a major Israeli campaign to influence politics and elections in countries around the world. The social media giant announced on Thursday that it had removed 265 Facebook and Instagram accounts with a combined following of 2.8 million users for engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” Facebook stated:

This activity originated in Israel and focused on Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger and Tunisia along with some activity in Latin America and south-east Asia. The individuals behind this network represented themselves as locals, including local news organizations, and published allegedly leaked information about politicians, elections in various countries, candidate views and criticism of political opponents. The individuals attempted to conceal their identities.

The company’s investigation linked some back to “an Israeli commercial entity” called the Archimedes Group. The Archimedes Group is a Tel Aviv-based consultancy that boasts on its website of “winning campaigns worldwide,” but reveals little other information about itself. Interestingly, one of the visuals on its website appears to show a demonstration in Venezuela, suggesting a covert Israeli role in the Pindo-led effort to overthrow the government of Pres Maduro. The Times of Israel identifies the CEO of the Archimedes Group as Elinadav Heymann, citing Swiss consultancy Negotiations. CH which listed him as a consultant, and writes:

A biography posted to the company’s website describes him as the former director of the Brussels-based European Friends of Israel, a former political adviser to the Knesset and an ex-air force intelligence agent.

However since that reporting, Negotiations.CH appears to have removed Heymann’s biography from its website. Heymann appears to be making efforts to cover his tracks:

An archived copy of the biography is still visible online. Heymann was one of the key pro-Israel lobbyists in Brussels earlier this decade. The organization he headed, European Friends of Israel, was a cross-party alliance for politicians hostile to Palestinian rights. Apparently inactive at the moment, European Friends of Israel was modelled on similar groups operating in Faschingstein. Heymann has also worked as a foreign policy adviser to Britain’s Conservative Party representatives in the European Parliament.

According to Facebook, the Israeli influence campaign spent more than $800k on fake ads since 2012, eight times more than what a Russian troll farm is said to have spent on social media ads to affect the 2016 Pindo election, mostly after the event, an insignificant intervention that Pindo politicians and pundits who supported Hillary Clinton hyped as equivalent to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Yet it is certain that the latest evidence of subterfuge originating from Israel will attract a fraction of the attention of the fruitless search for supposed Russian interference and collusion that has obsessed Pindo media and political elites for the last three years. But this operation is far from the only covert Israeli effort to influence and sabotage politics and activism around the world. Facebook’s announcement that it shut down the Archimedes operation comes just days after Facebook-owned WhatsApp revealed that it had patched a critical vulnerability that Israeli espionage firm NSO Group was using to install spyware on people’s smartphones. The undercover Al Jazeera documentary on the Israel lobby, released last year by EI in spite of efforts to censor it, revealed how several Pindostan-based lobby groups are working secretly in coordination with Israel’s ministry of strategic affairs to spy on and monitor Pindo citizens engaged in lawful advocacy. The documentary exposed how one of those lobby groups, The Israel Project, has been running a major covert influence campaign on Facebook. But in contrast to its swift action in shutting down the Archimedes operation, Facebook told EI that it saw no violation in how The Israel Project was covertly using its platform.

WhatsApp fixes Israeli spyware breach
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, May 14 2019

Users of the messaging service WhatsApp are being urged to immediately update to the latest version of the app. WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, released the update to fix a critical vulnerability that allowed Israeli spyware to be installed on a user’s smartphone simply by ringing it up. The Financial Times reports:

The malicious code, developed by the secretive Israeli company NSO Group, could be transmitted even if users did not answer their phones, and the calls often disappeared from call logs.

The newspaper reported that a UK-based human rights lawyer’s phone was targeted using the vulnerability on Sunday, even as WhatsApp engineers raced to close it. John Scott-Railton, a researcher at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, told told the FT:

We believe that the measures that WhatsApp put in place in the last several days prevented the attacks from being successful.

It has been long known that NSO Group made a system called Pegasus that allowed operators to install powerful spyware on a user’s phone by sending them a deceptive text message and inducing them to click on a link. The system has been sold to governments around the world. It installs sophisticated malware on the targeted device that can go undetected and send a frightening amount of data to those doing the spying. This includes locations, recordings, screenshots, email and text messages, passwords and photographs. It was reported last year that NSO Group had developed an even more invasive system that allows spies to take control of a phone without the targeted user having to click on a link. NSO Group demonstrated the system to Toad boxtops who expressed an interest in buying it. According to AI, NSO Group spyware has been used to target at least 24 human rights defenders, journalists and MPs in Mexico; activists from Peninsular Arabia Omar Abdulaziz, Yahya Assiri, Ghanem al-Masarir; award-winning Emirati human rights campaigner and political prisoner Ahmed Mansoor; and, allegedly, Jamal Khashoggi. The UAE used NSO Group technology in attempts to spy on Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Lebanese PM Saad Hariri and a Toad prince. Amnesty, whose own staff has been targeted using NSO Group spyware, is supporting a legal action in Israel this week to force the defense ministry to cancel NSO Group’s expert license. Danna Ingleton, a tech specialist for Amnesty who is providing supporting testimony in the case, said:

NSO Group sells its products to governments who are known for outrageous human rights abuses, giving them the tools to track activists and critics. It’s time to stop the use of NSO Group’s tools to infiltrate, intimidate and silence civil society. The Israeli defense ministry has ignored mounting evidence linking NSO Group to attacks on human rights defenders, which is why we are supporting this case. As long as products like Pegasus are marketed without proper control and oversight, the rights and safety of Amnesty International’s staff and that of other activists, journalists and dissidents around the world is at risk.

The case is being brought jointly with New York University School of Law’s Bernstein Institute for Human Rights and Global Justice Clinic. In one of the latest instances uncovered in March by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, Griselda Triana, a journalist and the wife of slain journalist Javier Valdez, was targeted in Mexico with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware following his assassination. The Citizen Lab has played a critical role in tracking how NSO Group’s spyware has been used against journalists and human rights defenders around the world. In January, the organization revealed that two of its researchers had been approached by suspicious individuals in what it believed was “an attempt to compromise our work” on monitoring the use of NSO Group’s spyware. Mexican and Saudi citizens targeted with NSO Group spyware are also suing the company, and their lawyers, in turn, “have been approached by people pretending to be potential clients or donors, who then try to obtain information about the ongoing lawsuits,” according to the Financial Times. Alaa Mahajne, a Jerusalem lawyer representing the Mexican and Toad citizens, said:

It’s upsetting but not surprising that my team has been targeted with the very technology that we are raising concerns about in our lawsuits.

While that may be true, and legal action may be justified, expecting Israel’s defense ministry to protect human rights is like putting the proverbial fox in charge of the hen house.

3 Comments

  1. lobro
    Posted May 18, 2019 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    are bears evil?
    do jews shit in the woods?

  2. niqnaq
    Posted May 19, 2019 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    is the pope catholic?

  3. lobro
    Posted May 19, 2019 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    nope:
    let’s split the difference and call him (“call me jorge”) a zioholic.
    he’d be in confusion who to brown-nose first, the bears or the jews, i’d suggest to go for the freshness.

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