How did Israeli intelligence miss Hamas’ preparations to assault? A US counterterrorism knowledgeable explains how Israeli intelligence works

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How did Israeli intelligence miss Hamas’ preparations to assault? A US counterterrorism knowledgeable explains how Israeli intelligence works

Israel is well known as having extremely refined intelligence capabilities, each by way of its means to gather details about potential threats inside its personal nation and outdoors of it. And in order particulars unfold concerning the full extent of Hamas’ unprecedented and shock assault on 20 Israeli cities and several other military bases on Oct. 7, 2023, the query lingers: How did Israel fail to piece collectively clues about this large-scale and extremely advanced plot prematurely?

Israeli intelligence did detect some suspicious exercise on Hamas militant networks earlier than the assault, The New York Instances reported on Oct. 10, 2023. However the warning wasn’t acted upon or absolutely understood in its entirety – just like what occurred in the USA shortly earlier than the terrorist assaults on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Intelligence evaluation is like placing a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle collectively from particular person items of intelligence each day and attempting to make judgments for policymakers to truly do one thing with these insights,” mentioned Javed Ali, a counterterrorism and intelligence scholar who spent years working in U.S. intelligence.

We spoke with Ali to attempt to higher perceive how Israeli intelligence works and the potential gaps within the system that paved the way in which for the Hamas incursion.

1. What questions did you have got as you watched the assaults unfold?

This took an infinite quantity of deliberate and cautious planning, and Hamas will need to have gone to nice lengths to hide the plotting from Israeli intelligence. This plotting might certainly have been hidden because the plot was being coordinated.

Due to the assault’s superior options, I additionally thought that Iran nearly definitely performed a job in supporting the operation – though some U.S. officers have to date mentioned they don’t have intelligence proof of that occuring.

Lastly, Hamas is on Israel’s doorstep. One would assume Israel might higher perceive what is occurring in Gaza and the West Financial institution, versus 1,000 miles away in Iran. How did Israel not see one thing this superior proper subsequent door? Some Israeli officers have mentioned they believed Hamas was already deterred by current Israeli counterterrorism operations, and that the group lacked the aptitude to launch an assault on the scope and scale of what occurred.

2. How does Israeli intelligence work, and the way is it regarded internationally?

Israel has probably the most succesful and complex intelligence enterprises on the worldwide degree. The present design and functioning of Israel’s intelligence system broadly mirrors that within the U.S., with respect to roles and duties.

In Israel, Shin Wager is the Israeli home safety service, so the equal of the FBI, which screens threats throughout the nation. On the overseas safety aspect, Israel has Mossad, which is equal to the CIA. Third, there may be an Israeli navy intelligence company, just like the U.S. Protection Intelligence Company – and there are different, smaller organizations inside navy intelligence which might be centered on totally different intelligence points.

Like most Western nations, Israel depends on a mixture of various intelligence sources. This contains recruiting folks to supply intelligence businesses with the delicate info they’ve direct entry to, which is called human intelligence – assume spies. There may be what is named indicators intelligence, which might be totally different types of digital communications like telephone calls, emails or texts that the Israelis acquire entry to. Then there may be imagery intelligence, which might be a satellite tv for pc, for instance, that captures pictures of, say, militant coaching camps or tools.

A fourth type of intelligence is open supply, or publicly out there info that’s already on the market for anybody to get, reminiscent of web chat boards. Whereas I used to be winding down my work in intelligence a couple of years in the past, there was a shift to seeing far more publicly out there intelligence than other forms of conventional intelligence.

David Barnea, the director of Israel’s Mossad, reveals a video that depicts Iranian intelligence operatives throughout a counterterrorism summit in September 2023.
Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP through Getty Pictures

3. How does Israel’s intelligence system differ from the US system?

Not like the U.S., one factor that Israel doesn’t have is an general intelligence coordinator, a single consultant who is aware of about and oversees all the totally different intelligence parts.

The U.S. system has a director of nationwide intelligence place, who runs the Workplace of the Director of Nationwide Intelligence, which was created in 2004. These have been each suggestions of the 9/11 Fee, after it discovered that the U.S. method to intelligence was too fragmented throughout totally different businesses and workplaces.

So, when there are robust points that nobody company might resolve by itself, or analytic variations in intelligence, you want an unbiased workplace of specialists to assist work by way of these points. That’s what this workplace does.

I spent a number of years working throughout the Workplace of the Director of Nationwide Intelligence. In certainly one of my jobs there, I reported to the director of nationwide intelligence.

There isn’t a equal to that central workplace and performance in Israel. For my part, Israel may think about down the highway how a complete intelligence coordinator might assist keep away from this problem sooner or later.

Several bodies covered in white cloths are seen on the ground.

Our bodies of Israelis lie on the bottom following Hamas’ assault in Sderot, Israel, on Oct. 7, 2023.
Ilia Yefimovich/image alliance through Getty Pictures

4. What function does the US have in monitoring threats to Israel, if any?

The U.S. and Israel have a really sturdy intelligence relationship. That partnership is bilateral, which means it’s simply between the 2 nations. It’s not a part of a bigger worldwide group of nations that share intelligence.

The U.S. additionally has a broader intelligence partnership, generally known as “5 Eyes,” with Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. However, the final rule in these sturdy bilateral relationships is that when one aspect picks up intelligence about threats to the opposite, it ought to mechanically get handed on.

This can be a case the place the U.S. is shifting its intelligence priorities to different components of the world, like Ukraine, Russia and China. In consequence, we might not have had important intelligence on this specific Hamas plot, and so there was nothing to move to Israel to warn them.


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