U.S. and British intelligence cracked the codes of Israeli drone operations in the Middle East and monitored Israeli Air Force communications dating back to 1998, several media outlets reported Friday.
The investigative website The Intercept, the German magazine Der Spiegel, and Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth daily attributed the disclosures they published Friday to former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked millions of documents about U.S. government surveillance in 2013.
The Intercept, an online publication associated with journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has collaborated with Snowden, said the hacking gave intelligence agencies a “virtual seat in the cockpit'” as Israeli drones hit militant targets.
Yedioth Ahronoth said that the hacking operation, codenamed "Anarchist," began in 1998 at a British facility in the Troodos Mountains of Cyprus and an NSA site at Menwith Hill, in northern England.
Israel did not officially comment on the reports, but Israeli Minister of Energy Yuval Steinitz expressed disappointment.
Steinitz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet who previously held the post of minister of intelligence affairs, said Israelis were not surprised by the reports, adding that “the Americans spy on every country in the world and on us as well, on their friends.''
Steinitz told Israeli Army Radio the reported hacking is "disappointing" given that, in his words, “we haven't been spying or collecting intelligence or cracking codes in the United States for decades.''
The U.S. and Britain declined to comment on the issue. The spokespersons for the respective embassies in Tel Aviv said that they do not publicly discuss intelligence matters.