Information

Israeli Transport System - History


Israel


number of registered air carriers: 6 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 64

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 7,404,373 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 994.54 million mt-km (2018)
Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

4X (2016)
Airports

total: 42 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 100
Airports - with paved runways

total: 33 (2019)

over 3,047 m: 3

2,438 to 3,047 m: 5

1,524 to 2,437 m: 5

914 to 1,523 m: 12

under 914 m: 8
Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 9 (2020)

914 to 1,523 m: 3

under 914 m: 6
Heliports

3 (2013)
Pipelines

763 km gas, 442 km oil, 261 km refined products (2013)


Railways

total: 1,384 km (2014)

standard gauge: 1,384 km 1.435-m gauge (2014)

country comparison to the world: 83
Roadways

total: 19,555 km (2017)

paved: 19,555 km (includes 449 km of expressways) (2017)

country comparison to the world: 116
Merchant marine

total: 41

by type: container ship 6, general cargo 3, oil tanker 3, other 29 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 123
Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Ashdod, Elat (Eilat), Hadera, Haifa

container port(s) (TEUs): Ashdod (1,443,000) (2016)


Bus travel in Israel

Buses are the most common form of public transportation for Israelis and travellers alike.

There are several bus companies in Israel, but all routes and schedules are mandated by the ministry of transportation. The ministry issues tenders on bus routes, so that most bus routes typically change operator roughly every 10 years. The bus transport system has undergone changes since about 2000, as Egged and Dan were phased out of many of their former routes to be replaced by other companies. The quality of service of the new companies varies from very good to poor, not only between companies but also between regions of the same company.

Some of the bus companies are:

  • Egged [1] (pronounced "Egg-ed"), the largest company in Israel and the world's second largest bus company. It operates intercity and urban bus service in many parts of the country. Despite a reduction in its network in recent years, it still operates about 60% of bus service in Israel.
  • Dan [2], the principal operator within metropolitan Tel Aviv area (Gush Dan)
  • Metropoline [3]
  • Egged Ta'avura [4]
  • Superbus [5]
  • Nateev Express [6]
  • Kavim [7]
  • Nazareth United Bus Services [8] and Nazareth Travel and Tourism both operate routes in Nazareth region.

The Israeli Technological Eco-system

We are lucky to be sitting in one of the hottest innovation and technology hubs in the world. With over 6,000 active startups and an economy dominated by industrial high-tech and entrepreneurship, Israel certainly earned its nickname 'The Startup Nation'. Our goal here at Deloitte is to scale up the local ecosystem, both within Deloitte and to our global clients.

Disruptive innovation across various industries is rapidly changing the global corporate landscape, creating new challenges and opportunities for businesses. Traditional business models are running the risk of becoming obsolete if they do not evolve at the same pace. Israel's unique ecosystem are very successful at catering to the needs brought up by these constant changes.

Israel is an entrepreneurial powerhouse and a hotbed for pioneering technologies, profitable business opportunities, and high investment returns. For these reasons, it is no surprise that the world's leading multinational companies have all choose israel: Microsoft, Motorola, Google, Apple (three R&D centers), Facebook, Berkshire-Hathaway, Intel, HP, Siemens, GE, IBM, Philips, Lucent, AOL, Cisco, Applied Materials, IBM, J&J, EMC, and Toshiba are just some of the names in a long list of over 200 MNCs who realized that Israel is their Ideal investment opportunity

Furthermore, many multinational corporates such as Tata, Kodak, Citi bank, and many others have established innovation centers in Israel

So how does Israel manage to stay on top of technology in a variety of sectors? Moreover, what makes it so unique that so many international players come and seek the next innovation here?

Israel's unique society and culture, strong economy, government support, and "global-first" market approach are just a few of the factors that make Israel's innovation ecosystem one of the most successful in the world. In 2016 alone, Israeli startups raised a record $4.8 billion from investors, while high-tech and startup companies were sold for $10.02 billion through acquisitions or IPO's. Israel is also home to the highest number of engineers per capita and has the world's 2nd highest R&D expenditure as percent of GDP (4.3%).

Additional attributes of the Israeli ecosystem include:

Highly innovative - Israel is world renowned as being the “start-up nation” and is the world leader for number of start-ups per capita—with 2,000 startups founded in the past decade, another 3,000 small and medium-sized startup and high-tech companies, 30 growth companies, 50 large technology companies, and 300 multinational corporations R&D centers. Profit-driven Israeli innovations include a long list of market firsts such as disk-on-key technology, IP telephony, ZIP compression, the ingestible pill-size camera, and many more.

Strong R&D capabilities - Israel ranked second in the world in R&D expenditure per capita. Israel invests about 4.1% of its GDP in R&D, the average among the OECD is 2%.

Educated and skilled workforce - Israel enjoys the highest percentage of engineers and scientists per capita in the world, and one of the highest ratios of university degrees and academic publications per capita. Israel has a high quality educational system and is among the most educated societies in the world.

Due to the mandatory military service, young people already receive advanced technical training during their military service and acquire a high sense of responsibility and success orientation. On top of it, Israel has experienced several immigration waves of academics from all over the world. Israel's creative, skilled, and ambitious workforce is one of the most obvious reasons leading executives turn to Israel to do business. In fact, Israel boasts one of the most highly educated, entrepreneurial, and multi-cultural workforces in the world, producing technologies, innovations, and research products adopted around the globe and across sectors.

Government Support -The Israeli government founded the Technology Incubator program in the early 1990s. Today there are over 25 incubators across the country, all of which have been privatized. The incubators offer government funding of up to 85% of early stage project costs for two years. They nurture companies from seed to early stage, thus minimizing the risk to the investor. More than 1100 projects have so far graduated from the incubators, with over 45% successfully attracting additional investments from different investors.

Moreover, the Israel Innovation Authority provides a variety of support programs, on an annual budget of about 400 million dollars. The main program is the R&D Fund, that offers R&D grants of up to 40% of the approved R&D program cost.

Other programs operated by the IIA include bi-national funds (joint R&D programs with foreign counterpart such as China, Canada, USA, etc.), which are entitled to financial assistance of 50% of the Israeli company’s R&D costs.

Investment Support - The Investment Law enables foreign companies to benefit from a reduced company tax rate and investment grants. Another incentive program offered by the government provides employment grants for R&D centers and large enterprises. The program offers a 4-year grant scheme covering on average 25% of the employer's cost of salaries for each new employee.

VC Industry - Israel's thriving start-up industry is complimented by a flourishing venture capital market. Israel’s venture capital industry has approximately 70 active venture capital funds, 14 of which are international VCs with offices in Israel. By far outperforming any other country in VC volume per capita, Israel's venture capital availability is a symbol of the breath of its innovative industries and of the highly efficient financial sector underpinning them.

A Flexible, Creative Economy - Flexibility and adaptability to change are widely considered primary factors affecting business performance. In fact, IMD's world competitiveness index places this attribute among the leading indexes of economic competitiveness. Creativity and flexibility are the fuel of innovation, and a high degree of responsiveness to changing business environments is crucial to thriving enterprises in today's dynamic global market. Israel's ability to swiftly translate market demands into organizational action accounts for its consistently strong performance in the flexibility index and its broad acceptance as an innovation capital.


Israel: Health System Review

Israel is a small country, with just over 8 million citizens and a modern market-based economy with a comparable level of gross domestic product per capita to the average in the European Union. It has had universal health coverage since the introduction of a progressively financed statutory health insurance system in 1995. All citizens can choose from among four competing, non-profit-making health plans, which are charged with providing a broad package of benefits stipulated by the government. Overall, the Israeli health care system is quite efficient. Health status levels are comparable to those of other developed countries, even though Israel spends a relatively low proportion of its gross domestic product on health care (less than 8%) and nearly 40% of that is privately financed. Factors contributing to system efficiency include regulated competition among the health plans, tight regulatory controls on the supply of hospital beds, accessible and professional primary care and a well-developed system of electronic health records. Israeli health care has also demonstrated a remarkable capacity to innovate, improve, establish goals, be tenacious and prioritize. Israel is in the midst of numerous health reform efforts. The health insurance benefits package has been extended to include mental health care and dental care for children. A multipronged effort is underway to reduce health inequalities. National projects have been launched to measure and improve the quality of hospital care and reduce surgical waiting times, along with greater public dissemination of comparative performance data. Major steps are also being taken to address projected shortages of physicians and nurses. One of the major challenges currently facing Israeli health care is the growing reliance on private financing, with potentially deleterious effects for equity and efficiency. Efforts are currently underway to expand public financing, improve the efficiency of the public system and constrain the growth of the private sector.

World Health Organization 2015 (acting as the host organization for, and secretariat of, the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies).


Israel Is Building a Futuristic Transit System of Magnetic Pods

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Israel's biggest defense contractor is getting into mass transit, building the world's first aerial maglev to carry people in egg-like pods around its campus at 44 mph. If all goes according to plan, you may soon see it in Tel Aviv.

SkyTran is a personal rapid transit system that features two-person pods hanging from elevated maglev tracks. As futuristic as that sounds (and looks), the idea has been around since 1990. It's been suggested in cities ranging from Tempe, Arizona to Kuala Lampur, but the idea never got off the, er, ground.

Until now. Israel Aerospace Industries is working with the California company to bring skyTran to its corporate campus in Tel Aviv. SkyTran told us construction will start in three months and be finished within a year. It's a pilot program that could be expanded throughout the city, which has been looking at adopting skyTran for awhile now. SkyTran CEO Jerry Saunders says that the test track will be a 12-mile loop with a max speed of 70 kilometers per hour (44 mph). Saunders told Reuters that a broader system could hit 240 km/hr (150 mph) and carry as many as 12,000 people per track per hour.

A congested city like Tel Aviv is an ideal place for transit pods that float above crowded streets. The small pods and fixed route place the system somewhere between a car and light rail. The system is automated passengers will summon a pod on their phone, have it meet them at a specific destination and carry them where they need to go. "Israelis love technology and we don't foresee a problem of people not wanting to use the system. Israel is a perfect test site," Sanders told Reuters.

The low-maintenance tracks move the cars with “passive” magnetic levitation, so there's no power required to keep the pods elevated and mobile. An initial burst of electricity sends each pod to 10 to 15 mph, and it carries onward to 44 mph while gliding inside the track with the attachment levitating one centimeter above the rails.


Kibbutz Economy

Kibbutzim were initially almost universally agricultural settlements. Not economically motivated, the residents of the communes shared everything and worked as members of a collective. In the early days, times were tough, everything was shared and life was hard. The members all had different jobs in the community, either in agriculture and elsewhere. Some were in the kitchen, the kindergarten or in the children’s house. Members lived in modest accommodation, and children lived in ‘children’s houses’ along with their peers, seeing their parents only for a few hours each day. All meals were eaten in the dining hall and the sense of community was great.

Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev, Southern Israel

The influence of the kibbutz in the establishment of Israel is unquestionably great. In the 1960’s, only 4% of Israelis lived in kibbutzim. Today, kibbutzniks make up 15% of the members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. Following his retirement, Israel’s first Prime Minister, moved to Kibbutz Sde Boker. David Ben Gurion did this to express his admiration for the work the pioneers were doing to develop the Negev Desert.


Justifications for massacre

Peled-Elhanan concludes: “The books studied here present Israeli-Jewish culture as superior to the Arab-Palestinian one, Israeli-Jewish concepts of progress as superior to Palestinian-Arab way of life and Israeli-Jewish behavior as aligning with universal values” (230).

While Israeli war crimes are not entirely ignored, the textbooks do their best to downplay or justify massacres and ethnic cleansing. “[T]he Israeli version of events are stated as objective facts, while the Palestinian-Arab versions are stated as possibility, realized in openings such as ‘According to the Arab version’ … [or] ‘Dier [sic.] Yassin became a myth in the Palestinian narrative … a horrifying negative image of the Jewish conqueror in the eyes of Israel’s Arabs’ ” (50-1).

Deir Yassin was a Palestinian village where, in 1948, a notorious massacre of around 100 persons by terrorists from the Zionist militias Irgun, Lehi and Hagana took place. Yet note in the example above that is is only the negative image of Israel that is “horrifying.” The massacre of unarmed men, women and children is otherwise not a cause for concern.


FACT SHEET: Memorandum of Understanding Reached with Israel

Under President Obama’s leadership, the multifaceted cooperation between the United States and Israel has reached unprecedented levels. This is particularly true with regard to the security of Israel. The new 10-year security assistance Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to Israel is the most recent reflection of President Obama’s unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.

Under the new MOU with Israel, the Obama Administration has made the largest single pledge of military assistance in U.S. history:

  • The total value of the new MOU, which covers FY2019- FY2028, is $38 billion ($3.8 billion per year). It will succeed the current $30 billion MOU signed in 2007, which will expire at the end of FY2018.
  • This amount represents a significant increase over the current MOU by every measure, and will enable Israel to acquire additional advanced military capabilities from the United States.
  • It includes $33 billion in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) funds and an unprecedented $5 billion commitment in missile defense assistance. This funding will be disbursed in equal increments of $3.3 billion in FMF and $500 million in missile defense funding each year for the duration of the understanding.
  • In practical terms, the level of funding specified in the MOU will permit Israel to update the lion’s share of its fighter aircraft fleet - including through the acquisition of additional F-35s - increase its missile defense, and acquire other defense capabilities needed to meet its threat environment.
  • The multi-year missile defense commitment in the MOU will greatly facilitate long-term planning rather than missile defense assistance levels continuing to be appropriated year-to-year.
  • The $500 million in annual missile defense funding under the MOU exceeds the average level of non-emergency support the United States has provided to Israel for missile defense over the last five years.
  • Moreover, our decision with Israel to discontinue two anomalies in the defense relationship that no longer serve our mutual interests - Off Shore Procurement (the arrangement under the current MOU through which Israel has been uniquely permitted to spend 26.3 percent of its annual FMF package within Israel on non-U.S. products) and Israel’s use of FMF funds to purchase fuel – means that Israel will spend more funding, as much as $1.2 billion per year, on the advanced military capabilities that only the United States can provide. The acquisition of additional U.S.-produced capabilities and technology provide the best means to ensure Israel preserves its Qualitative Military Edge (QME).

Under President Obama to date, Israel has received a record amount of Foreign Military Financing (FMF) funds:

  • Israel remains the leading recipient worldwide of U.S. FMF. Since President Obama took office, the United States has provided Israel over $23.5 billion in FMF assistance (from 2009-2016).
  • In FY2016, the United States provided Israel $3.1 billion in FMF assistance to support Israel’s ability to defend against threats. This is in line with assistance provided in FY2014 and FY2015 and represented approximately 51.4% of the U.S. global FMF account in FY2016.
  • For FY2017, which marks the ninth year of the current 10-year, $30 billion MOU between the United States and Israel, the Administration has requested $3.1 billion in FMF for Israel.
  • This amounts to $8.5 million in FMF funding alone provided to Israel each day, helping it bolster its security and maintain its QME.

President Obama has also provided Israel with unprecedented levels of missile defense funding:

  • In addition to FMF funding, under President Obama’s leadership, the United States has provided over $3 billion in missile defense funding for programs and systems for Israel.
  • Since 2011, the United States has provided Israel with over $1.3 billion for the Iron Dome system alone. Iron Dome batteries and interceptors have saved an untold number of Israeli lives, particularly during the conflict with Hamas in 2014.
  • During that conflict, when Israeli civilians were subjected to rocket fire, the President worked with Congress to successfully provide $225 million in short-fuse funding for the Iron Dome system above the $504 million that had already been provided to Israel in FY2014 for missile defense support.
  • In addition to Iron Dome, the United States has invested significantly in the co-development of longer range defense systems such as David’s Sling and Arrow-3.
  • In FY2016 Israel received $487 million in missile defense support, including for David’s Sling. Arrow-3, and Iron Dome.
  • After successful joint tests of David’s Sling and Arrow-3 last year, FY16 is the first year in which missile defense funding for Israel also included funding for coproduction of these systems– further deepening our missile defense cooperation with Israel.

With over $26 billion in total assistance during President Obama’s tenure in office, Israel has been able to acquire new advanced capabilities to bolster its security:

  • The United States provides Israel with unparalleled access to some of the most advanced military equipment in the world, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Using FMF, Israel is scheduled to receive 33 F-35 aircraft, the first two of which will be delivered to Israel in December 2016.
  • Israel will be the first foreign partner to take delivery of this fifth-generation fighter aircraft.
  • The United States has also provided Israel with several C-130 heavy-lift cargo planes four SAAR 6 Corvettes ten additional F-15 aircraft Merkava tanks and Namer Armored Personnel Carriers Hellfire missiles the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and other Precision Guided Munitions.
  • In terms of missile defense, the United States has paid for the majority of the production costs for the Iron Dome system since 2011, the centerpiece of Israel’s missile defense architecture.

In addition to FMF and missile defense funds, the United States under President Obama has provided other forms of valuable support to Israel:


Districts of Israel Map

Israel (officially, State of Israel) is divided into 6 administrative districts (mehozot, sing. mehoz). In alphabetical order these districts are: Central, Haifa, Jerusalem, Northern, Southern and Tel Aviv. The districts are further divided into 15 subdistricts (nafot) and a number of smaller subdivisions.

Located on a plateau in the Judaen Mountains, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea, is Jerusalem – the capital and largest city of Israel. Jerusalem is regarded as a sacred city by the Christians, Jews and Muslims. Tel Aviv, located in central Israel, is the country’s economic and technological center.


Richard Clarke on Who Was Behind the Stuxnet Attack

The story Richard Clarke spins has all the suspense of a postmodern geopolitical thriller. The tale involves a ghostly cyberworm created to attack the nuclear centrifuges of a rogue nation—which then escapes from the target country, replicating itself in thousands of computers throughout the world. It may be lurking in yours right now. Harmlessly inactive. or awaiting further orders.

Related Content

A great story, right? In fact, the world-changing “weaponized malware” computer worm called Stuxnet is very real. It seems to have been launched in mid-2009, done terrific damage to Iran’s nuclear program in 2010 and then spread to computers all over the world. Stuxnet may have averted a nuclear conflagration by diminishing Israel’s perception of a need for an imminent attack on Iran. And yet it might end up starting one someday soon, if its replications are manipulated maliciously. And at the heart of the story is a mystery: Who made and launched Stuxnet in the first place?

Richard Clarke tells me he knows the answer.

Clarke, who served three presidents as counterterrorism czar, now operates a cybersecurity consultancy called Good Harbor, located in one of those anonymous office towers in Arlington, Virginia, that triangulate the Pentagon and the Capitol in more ways than one. I had come to talk to him about what’s been done since the urgent alarm he’d sounded in his recent book, Cyber War. The book’s central argument is that, while the United States has developed the capability to conduct an offensive cyberwar, we have virtually no defense against the cyberattacks that he says are targeting us now, and will be in the future.

Richard Clarke’s warnings may sound overly dramatic until you remember that he was the man, in September of 2001, who tried to get the White House to act on his warnings that Al Qaeda was preparing a spectacular attack on American soil.

Clarke later delivered a famous apology to the American people in his testimony to the 9/11 Commission: “Your government failed you.”

Clarke now wants to warn us, urgently, that we are being failed again, being left defenseless against a cyberattack that could bring down our nation’s entire electronic infrastructure, including the power grid, banking and telecommunications, and even our military command system.

“Are we as a nation living in denial about the danger we’re in?” I asked Clarke as we sat across a conference table in his office suite.

“I think we’re living in the world of non-response. Where you know that there’s a problem, but you don’t do anything about it. If that’s denial, then that’s denial.”

As Clarke stood next to a window inserting coffee capsules into a Nespresso machine, I was reminded of the opening of one of the great espionage films of all time, Funeral in Berlin, in which Michael Caine silently, precisely, grinds and brews his morning coffee. High-tech java seems to go with the job.

But saying Clarke was a spy doesn’t do him justice. He was a meta-spy, a master counterespionage, counter­terrorism savant, the central node where all the most secret, stolen, security-encrypted bits of information gathered by our trillion-dollar human, electronic and satellite intelligence network eventually converged. Clarke has probably been privy to as much “above top secret”- grade espionage intelligence as anyone at Langley, NSA or the White House. So I was intrigued when he chose to talk to me about the mysteries of Stuxnet.

“The picture you paint in your book,” I said to Clarke, “is of a U.S. totally vulnerable to cyberattack. But there is no defense, really, is there?” There are billions of portals, trapdoors, “exploits,” as the cybersecurity guys call them, ready to be hacked.

“There isn’t today,” he agrees. Worse, he continues, catastrophic consequences may result from using our cyber­offense without having a cyberdefense: blowback, revenge beyond our imaginings.

“The U.S. government is involved in espionage against other governments,” he says flatly. “There’s a big difference, however, between the kind of cyberespionage the United States government does and China. The U.S. government doesn’t hack its way into Airbus and give Airbus the secrets to Boeing [many believe that Chinese hackers gave Boeing secrets to Airbus]. We don’t hack our way into a Chinese computer company like Huawei and provide the secrets of Huawei technology to their American competitor Cisco. [He believes Microsoft, too, was a victim of a Chinese cyber con game.] We don’t do that.”

“We hack our way into foreign governments and collect the information off their networks. The same kind of information a CIA agent in the old days would try to buy from a spy.”

“So you’re talking about diplomatic stuff?”

“Diplomatic, military stuff but not commercial competitor stuff.”

As Clarke continued, he disclosed a belief we’re engaged in a very different, very dramatic new way of using our cyberoffense capability—the story of the legendary cyberworm, Stuxnet.

Stuxnet is a digital ghost, countless lines of code crafted with such genius that it was able to worm its way into Iran’s nuclear fuel enrichment facility in Natanz, Iran, where gas centrifuges spin like whirling dervishes, separating bomb-grade uranium-235 isotopes from the more plentiful U-238. Stuxnet seized the controls of the machine running the centrifuges and in a delicate, invisible operation, desynchronized the speeds at which the centrifuges spun, causing nearly a thousand of them to seize up, crash and otherwise self-destruct. The Natanz facility was temporarily shut down, and Iran’s attempt to obtain enough U-235 to build a nuclear weapon was delayed by what experts estimate was months or even years.

The question of who made Stuxnet and who targeted it on Natanz is still a much-debated mystery in the IT and espionage community. But from the beginning, the prime suspect has been Israel, which is known to be open to using unconventional tactics to defend itself against what it regards as an existential threat. The New York Times published a story that pointed to U.S.-Israeli cooperation on Stuxnet, but with Israel’s role highlighted by the assertion that a file buried within the Stuxnet worm contained an indirect reference to “Esther,” the biblical heroine in the struggle against the genocidal Persians.

Would the Israelis have been foolish enough to leave such a blatant signature of their authorship? Cyberweapons are usually cleansed of any identifying marks—the virtual equivalent of the terrorist’s “bomb with no return address”—so there is no sure place on which to inflict retaliatory consequences. Why would Israel put its signature on a cybervirus?

On the other hand, was the signature an attempt to frame the Israelis? On the other, other hand, was it possible the Israelis had indeed planted it hoping that it would lead to the conclusion that someone else had built it and was trying to pin it on them?

When you’re dealing with virtual espionage, there is really no way to know for sure who did what.

Unless you’re Richard Clarke.

“I think it’s pretty clear that the United States government did the Stuxnet attack,” he said calmly.

This is a fairly astonishing statement from someone in his position.

“Alone or with Israel?” I asked.

“I think there was some minor Israeli role in it. Israel might have provided a test bed, for example. But I think that the U.S. government did the attack and I think that the attack proved what I was saying in the book [which came out before the attack was known], which is that you can cause real devices—real hardware in the world, in real space, not cyberspace—to blow up.”

Isn’t Clarke coming right out and saying we committed an act of undeclared war?

“If we went in with a drone and knocked out a thousand centrifuges, that’s an act of war,” I said. “But if we go in with Stuxnet and knock out a thousand centrifuges, what’s that?”

“Well,” Clarke replied evenly, “it’s a covert action. And the U.S. government has, ever since the end of World War II, before then, engaged in covert action. If the United States government did Stuxnet, it was under a covert action, I think, issued by the president under his powers under the Intelligence Act. Now when is an act of war an act of war and when is it a covert action?

“That’s a legal issue. In U.S. law, it’s a covert action when the president says it’s a covert action. I think if you’re on the receiving end of the covert action, it’s an act of war.”

When I e-mailed the White House for comment, I received this reply: “You are probably aware that we don’t comment on classified intelligence matters.” Not a denial. But certainly not a confirmation. So what does Clarke base his conclusion on?

One reason to believe the Stuxnet attack was made in the USA, Clarke says, “was that it very much had the feel to it of having been written by or governed by a team of Washington lawyers.”

“What makes you say that?” I asked.

“Well, first of all, I’ve sat through a lot of meetings with Washington [government/Pentagon/CIA/NSA-type] lawyers going over covert action proposals. And I know what lawyers do.

“The lawyers want to make sure that they very much limit the effects of the action. So that there’s no collateral damage.” He is referring to legal concerns about the Law of Armed Conflict, an international code designed to minimize civilian casualties that U.S. government lawyers seek to follow in most cases.

Clarke illustrates by walking me through the way Stuxnet took down the Iranian centrifuges.

“What does this incredible Stuxnet thing do? As soon as it gets into the network and wakes up, it verifies it’s in the right network by saying, ‘Am I in a network that’s running a SCADA [Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition] software control system?’ ‘Yes.’ Second question: ‘Is it running Siemens [the German manufacturer of the Iranian plant controls]?’ ‘Yes.’ Third question: ‘Is it running Siemens 7 [a genre of software control package]?’ ‘Yes.’ Fourth question: ‘Is this software contacting an electrical motor made by one of two companies?’” He pauses.

“Well, if the answer to that was ‘yes,’ there was only one place it could be. Natanz.”

“There are reports that it’s gotten loose, though,” I said, reports of Stuxnet worms showing up all over the cyberworld. To which Clarke has a fascinating answer:

“It got loose because there was a mistake,” he says. “It’s clear to me that lawyers went over it and gave it what’s called, in the IT business, a TTL.”

“If you saw Blade Runner [in which artificial intelligence androids were given a limited life span—a “time to die”], it’s a ‘Time to Live.’” Do the job, commit suicide and disappear. No more damage, collateral or otherwise.

“So there was a TTL built into Stuxnet,” he says [to avoid violating international law against collateral damage, say to the Iranian electrical grid]. And somehow it didn’t work.”

“Why wouldn’t it have worked?”

“TTL operates off of a date on your computer. Well, if you are in China or Iran or someplace where you’re running bootleg software that you haven’t paid for, your date on your computer might be 1998 or something because otherwise the bootleg 30-day trial TTL software would expire.

“So that’s one theory,” Clarke continues. “But in any event, you’re right, it got out. And it ran around the world and infected lots of things but didn’t do any damage, because every time it woke up in a computer it asked itself those four questions. Unless you were running uranium nuclear centrifuges, it wasn’t going to hurt you.”

“So it’s not a threat anymore?”

“But you now have it, and if you’re a computer whiz you can take it apart and you can say, ‘Oh, let’s change this over here, let’s change that over there.’ Now I’ve got a really sophisticated weapon. So thousands of people around the world have it and are playing with it. And if I’m right, the best cyberweapon the United States has ever developed, it then gave the world for free.”

The vision Clarke has is of a modern technological nightmare, casting the United States as Dr. Frankenstein, whose scientific genius has created millions of potential monsters all over the world. But Clarke is even more concerned about “official” hackers such as those believed to be employed by China.

“I’m about to say something that people think is an exaggeration, but I think the evidence is pretty strong,” he tells me. “Every major company in the United States has already been penetrated by China.”

“The British government actually said [something similar] about their own country. ”

Clarke claims, for instance, that the manufacturer of the F-35, our next-generation fighter bomber, has been penetrated and F-35 details stolen. And don’t get him started on our supply chain of chips, routers and hardware we import from Chinese and other foreign suppliers and what may be implanted in them—“logic bombs,” trapdoors and “Trojan horses,” all ready to be activated on command so we won’t know what hit us. Or what’s already hitting us.

“My greatest fear,” Clarke says, “is that, rather than having a cyber-Pearl Harbor event, we will instead have this death of a thousand cuts. Where we lose our competitiveness by having all of our research and development stolen by the Chinese. And we never really see the single event that makes us do something about it. That it’s always just below our pain threshold. That company after company in the United States spends millions, hundreds of millions, in some cases billions of dollars on R&D and that information goes free to China. After a while you can’t compete.”

But Clarke’s concerns reach beyond the cost of lost intellectual property. He foresees the loss of military power. Say there was another confrontation, such as the one in 1996 when President Clinton rushed two carrier battle fleets to the Taiwan Strait to warn China against an invasion of Taiwan. Clarke, who says there have been war games on precisely such a revived confrontation, now believes that we might be forced to give up playing such a role for fear that our carrier group defenses could be blinded and paralyzed by Chinese cyberintervention. (He cites a recent war game published in an influential military strategy journal called Orbis titled “How the U.S. Lost the Naval War of 2015.”)

Talking to Clarke provides a glimpse into the brand-new game of geopolitics, a dangerous and frightening new paradigm. With the advent of “weaponized malware” like Stuxnet, all previous military and much diplomatic strategy has to be comprehensively reconceived—and time is running out.

I left Clarke’s office feeling that we are at a moment very much like the summer of 2001, when Clarke made his last dire warning. “A couple people have labeled me a Cassandra,” Clarke says. “And I’ve gone back and read my mythology about Cassandra. And the way I read the mythology, it’s pretty clear that Cassandra was right.”

Editors Note, March 23, 2012: This story has been modified to clarify that the Natanz facility was only temporarily shut down and that the name “Esther” was only indirectly referenced in the Stuxnet worm.


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