On 31 May 2019, when asked about the possibility of China using Huawei to spy on Malaysia, Dr Mahathir who was the Prime Minister then said, “What is there to spy in Malaysia? We are an open book.” (The Independent, 31 May 2019).
Recently, there was a newspaper report about an Israeli spy plane that flew over Malaysia. Many people ask me about this. Why was an Israeli spy plane allowed to fly over Malaysia?
Firstly, it is not a spy plane. It is a test bed. It is not a military plane. It is a civilian aircraft with civil registration, operated by civilians and not the military. It does not belong to the Israeli Armed Forces but to the IAI Elta Systems, and that company is a vendor of one of the systems being used by the Republic of Singapore Air Force. The Israeli Air Force operates 4 types of aircraft for airborne early warning and command, as well as for intelligence gathering. This Boeing 737-400 is not one of them.
Secondly, it flew over Malaysian airspace according to a flight plan approved by our Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM). You cannot simply fly anywhere. Like roads, the airspace has routes. It has a civilian registration. Like at sea, the air also has a Freedom of the Air concept, and overflying a country without landing to get to another country is the right of any civilian aircraft. This is all based on the concept of mare liberum.
Thirdly, if Israel wants to spy on Malaysia using an aircraft, it would be stupidly obvious to use a spy plane. They can always use one of their El Al flights to Melbourne to do it. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the USSR frequently used its Aeroflot flights flying into Subang to try and spy on our Butterworth Air Base. The use of civilian aircraft as spy planes is nothing new. The US is thought to have used Korean Airlines flight KAL007 to spy on Soviet installations before it was shot down.
Fourthly, the Israeli Armed Forces has 16 spy satellites in the skies above us. The latest was launched on 16 July 2020. Why bother send a spy plane to Malaysia? There are many sensitive information on Malaysia available on Google anyhow. Furthermore, what can the Israelis learn from a failed government by flying over Putrajaya, or from Malaysians who are hell-bent on spreading the COVID-19 virus to their parents during Hari Raya?
The CIA has been working with Google, Twitter and Facebook to spy on people and other government agencies through its technology investment arm In-Q-Tel.
The CIA has been working with one of the world’s largest ad agency network, WPP, to mine user data. The CIA and Google has been together since 2004 when Google bought a company called Keyhole that specialised in mapping technology. This has become Google Earth.
Israel companies produced apps such as Waze and WhatsApp that can be used to spy, not only on specific users, but also on what is where.
Not too long ago we had people who checked into sensitive buildings using Foursquare. They created new locations just by standing at the location and filled in the descriptions. One of the places on Foursquare that you could check in to is our Ministry of Defence’s Defence Operations Room, the heart of our defence operations. Through Foursquare they could monitor the movements of military users.
Then we had Pokemon Go, a seemingly innocent game being played anywhere and everywhere. But it not only utilises your location, every time you throw that red ball at a monster, it captures the background scenery as well, creating a virtual jigsaw puzzle of sceneries of one location provided by multiple users.
Stop watching too many Hollywood movies! Malaysian seem to fear Israeli spies compared to the COVID-19 virus!