News you may have missed #783

Uri SaguyBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►Israeli ex-intel chief says warns of ‘hysteria’ over Iran. Major General Uri Saguy (a.k.a. Uri Sagi), who was head of the IDF’s Operations Directorate during the 1982 Lebanon war, and Military Intelligence chief from 1991 to 1995, has warned of an “orchestrated and purposely timed hysteria that puts the country into a state of anxiety, artificial or not”, regarding the Iranian nuclear issue. Saguy, who resigned from the IDF in 1995 due to a conflict between him and the Chief of General Staff, added that “it would be a mistake if Israel uses force, certainly now, in order to thwart the Iranian nuclear potential”. The essence of Saguy’s message, notes Ha’aretz‘s Amir Oren, is that Israel’s citizens cannot trust Defense Minister Ehud Barak or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
►►Australian spy chief warns of economic espionage. The director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, David Irvine, has warned that the online revolution has left Australian companies increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks and commercial espionage. Speaking to a business audience in Canberra, Irvine said that most online attacks in the business world go undetected, despite growing awareness of the threat. Asked how much commercial cyber crime went undetected, he said: “I would be very surprised if we who are active in this area are picking up the greater proportion of it, in fact, quite the reverse”.
►►Top US military official objects to attack on Iran. As Israeli officials are telling local reporters that they’re really, really ready to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, and they mean it this time, the top US military officer is saying what a terrible idea that would be. “I may not know about all of [Israel’s] capabilities”, said General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “But I think that it’s a fair characterization to say that they could delay but not destroy Iran’s nuclear capabilities”. Left unsaid: in a few years, the US and Israel would be back to the same standoff with Iran —except this time it might do so amidst a proxy terrorist war to avenge the Iranians.

Intelligence wars heat up in Lebanon amid regional instability

Lebanese-Israeli-Syrian borderBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
As the security situation in Syria and Egypt deteriorates, Lebanon is rapidly emerging as a major intelligence hub in the wider geopolitical power-struggle currently unfolding in the Middle East. On Monday, Lebanon’s leading Arabic-language newspaper, An-Nahar, reported the discovery last month of a foreign espionage network allegedly operating in Lebanese capital Beirut. The paper said that the clandestine network was spying on behalf of “a major Western country”, and was unearthed by forces loyal to Hezbollah, the Shiite group that controls large parts of southern Lebanon. The network allegedly consisted of at least three men, all Lebanese citizens, who lived in close proximity to each other in Beirut’s southern suburbs —a traditional Hezbollah stronghold. The three men were not Hezbollah members, said An-Nahar, but one was stoutly religious and all had good relations with local Hezbollah cells operating in their respective neighborhoods. The alleged head of the spy ring was an unnamed Lebanese citizen who had lived in the Ukraine for several years, where he operated a human smuggling network transporting Arab men into Europe. However, he was eventually arrested by French authorities in Paris and spent two years in prison. According to An-Nahar, the man was able to secure a deal with his captors, under which he would be allowed to return to Lebanon in exchange for informing them about the activities of a senior Hezbollah official wanted by Interpol. His ultimate mission was allegedly to lure the Hezbollah official, with whom he was friends, to Europe, where he could be arrested. Hezbollah has refused to comment on the newspaper’s claims. But the militant Shiite group did confirm on Tuesday the reported explosions of three alleged Israeli spy devices found in Southern Lebanon. Read more of this post

New Israeli special forces command escalates covert action

In recent months, intelNews has paid particular attention to senior Israeli security officials, or former officials, who routinely caution against plans for an Israeli military attack on Iran. These include Amos Yadlin, former head of Israel’s Military Intelligence directorate, and former Mossad Directors Meir Dagan and Tamir Pardo, who believes that a nuclear-armed Iran “would not be an existential threat to Israel”. But such current or former Israeli officials, who view a possible Israeli military attack on Iran as catastrophic, should not be seen as advocating pacifist views. On the contrary, they caution against an open Israeli military attack on Iran, favoring instead a covert-action approach. There are now signs that, under pressure by the United States, the Israeli administration of Benjamin Netanyahu is gradually heeding such advice. One such indication is to be found in the increasingly instrumental role played by Benny Gantz, the Chief of General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces. Lieutenant-General Gantz, who rose to the position of Israel’s most powerful soldier in February of 2011, arguably represents the most hawkish wing of the Israeli military. He is also one of the most vocal adherents of Israeli military supremacy in the Middle East ‘by any means necessary’. In April, he spoke publicly to confirm that, under his leadership, the Israeli military has “escalated special operations beyond the country’s borders”. Since then, he has refused to provide details of such operations, which he has described as “highly classified”. But an article published earlier this month in The Jerusalem Post discusses the rise in Israeli covert operations in the context of a new Israeli special forces command called Deep Corps. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #734

Aviv KochaviBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►Australian spy agency in rent dispute. The Australian government insists there is no dispute over the lease of the new, state-of-the-art headquarters of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, which cost nearly A$589 to build. But according to a number of government sources, the property has become the subject of a standoff between the ASIO and Australia’s Department of Finance and Deregulation. The Canberra Times reports that the Finance Department has told ASIO it will have to hand over more money than anticipated because of a blowout to building costs and timing. But the ASIO is refusing to pay more than initially agreed.
►►US unveils spy model of bin Laden compound. The United States intelligence community has unveiled a scale model of the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden spent the last few years of his life in hiding. The model was built by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGIA) and used by military and intelligence leaders to plan the daring night raid on May 2, 2011, that killed the al Qaeda founder. Its scale is an exact 1:84; every tree, bush, wall, animal pen, trash can and physical structure in the model existed at one time at the original compound in Abbottabad.
►►Israel military intelligence head in secret US visit. Israeli military intelligence chief Aviv Kochavi made a “secret visit” to Washington earlier this month to discuss the upcoming talks between world powers and Iran. An Israeli security official confirmed the visit, which was reported in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, but could not provide further details. Meanwhile, three senior IDF intelligence officers resigned recently, following what they called “questionable” appointments to key positions. The three colonels held some of the most senior and classified positions in the Israeli military intelligence community.

News you may have missed #550

Sukhoi-27 jets

Sukhoi-27 jets

►►Chinese fighters chased US spy plane into Taiwan. It has been revealed that, late last June, The Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense sent two F-16 fighters to intercept a two Chinese Sukhoi-27 jets that crossed into its airspace, while pursuing an American U-2 reconnaissance plane. It was the first time that Chinese jets breached Taiwan’s airspace since 1999. The Pentagon declined to confirm the report, but some in Washington must have had flashbacks of the 2001 Hainan Island incident.
►►Israel arrests four of its soldiers for sabotaging spy gear. This story is interesting on numerous levels: according to a statement by the IDF’s Northern Command, Israeli military authorities plan to prosecute four Israeli female soldiers for repeatedly shutting off unspecified surveillance equipment designed to collect intelligence from neighboring Lebanon. When faced with the accusations, the soldiers apparently told their commanders that “they worked under very difficult conditions and couldn’t bear the pressure”.
►►Turkish national convicted for spying in Ukraine. Ukrainian prosecutors say Read more of this post

Location of massive Israeli eavesdropping site uncovered

Nicky Hager

Nicky Hager

An author and investigative journalist from New Zealand has uncovered one of the world’s biggest government-sponsored eavesdropping sites in a desert in Israel. Writing in French monthly review Le Monde Diplomatique, Nicky Hager reveals that the site acts as a base for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Central Collection Unit of the Intelligence Corps, also known as Unit 8200, which is responsible for collecting and decrypting signals intelligence. In his article, written in French, Hager describes the base as one of the world’s largest, and says it is located near the Urim kibbutz, about 30 kilometers west of Beersheba, in Israel’s Negev desert region. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #386 (Israel edition)

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Analysis: Israel Suffers Strategic Blowback in Flotilla Raid

Gaza Freedom Flotilla raid

Flotilla raid

Speaking before a parliamentary committee about last month’s Israeli raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which killed nine and injured over 60 international volunteers, a senior Israeli intelligence official warned  that “[e]vents [like this] are likely to go out of control and the situation could deteriorate to extreme scenarios”. The official was no other than Meir Dagan, director of the Mossad, Israel’s foremost external intelligence agency. As I explain in an article published yesterday in Daily News Corner, to some extent, Dagan’s “extreme scenario” has already materialized. The raid’s outrageous death toll has further-worsened Israel’s deteriorating relations with Australia and has caused the outright termination of the Jewish state’s diplomatic contacts with several non-Western countries that used to be among its closest international friends, such as Turkey, South Africa, Ecuador and Nicaragua. More importantly, the flotilla attack has even stigmatized Israel’s relations with the United States, a development that fits into the broader pattern of steadily worsening US-Israeli relations in recent years. It is no coincidence that, on the day after the raid, Mossad chief Dagan said that “Israel is gradually turning from an asset to the United States to a burden”. Read article →

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Israeli Navy insiders deplore Gaza flotilla raid

Mike Eldar

Mike Eldar

A day after a former Mossad officer described last week’s Israeli raid on a fleet of Gaza-bound aid ships as “stupid”, former and current Israeli Navy insiders have strongly criticized the bloody operation. Speaking from Israel, Mike Eldar, a 20-year veteran of an elite Israeli Navy special missions unit, said the only explanation for the Israel Defense Forces’ attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla was “stupidity [and] super egos”. He was echoing the words of former Mossad case officer Victor Ostrovsky, who last week described the raid as an act that was “so stupid it is stupefying”. The operation, carried by the IDF’s elite Shayetet 13 amphibious unit, resulted in the deaths of nine and the injuries of over 60 flotilla passengers. Elgar added that the botched raid’s result “made no sense”, considering that there must have been Mossad agents on board the ships, and that the IDF “had at least two weeks to prepare, with lots of practice”. Read more of this post

Analysis: Israel’s Flotilla Raid Involved Espionage, Sabotage

MV Mavi Marmara

Mavi Marmara

The intense worldwide debate about last Monday’s Israeli raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla has concentrated relatively little on the operation’s intelligence facets. As I explain in an article published yesterday at Daily News Corner, this is puzzling, considering that the intelligence aspects of the attack are largely responsible for its bloody outcome. The Gaza-bound ships had drawn minor international attention prior to the first media reports of the raid in international waters by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). But the effort by the Israeli security services to prevent the flotilla from reaching its intended destination did not begin in the Mediterranean Sea. It started several months before the fleet of ten vessels was even chartered by the Humanitarian Aid Foundation (ÍHH). Indeed, despite the revered image that is often projected by the Israeli security services, faulty intelligence may be at the root of the debacle on the MV Mavi Marmara, the Gaza Freedom Flotilla’s largest ship, where IDF commandos killed nine and injured over 60 passengers and crew. Read article →

Comment: Aussie ex-spies comment on Israeli forged passports affair

Australian passport

Australia passport

Regular IntelNews readers are aware of the current crisis in Israeli-Australian relations, which broke out as a result of the use of several forged Australian passports by the Israeli intelligence services. The passports were among several Western identity documents employed by Israeli Mossad agents in targeting Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who was assassinated in a luxury Dubai hotel last January. The revelation prompted Canberra to announce the expulsion of Israel’s senior Mossad representative in the country. The dust has yet to settle, and the recent shooting of an Australian citizen onboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla during last Monday’s bloody raid by the Israeli Defense Forces has the potential to worsen Australian-Israeli relations even further. What is the view of all this from Australia? IntelNews asked two Australian former intelligence officers, who offered their input on an anonymous basis. Read more of this post

Israel becoming a burden to the US, says Mossad chief

Meir Dagan

Meir Dagan

The director of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad has publicly stated the agency’s concerns that Israel is gradually turning from an asset to a burden for American foreign policy. Speaking before the Israeli Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Meir Dagan said it was obvious to him that “Israel is gradually turning from an asset to the United States to a burden”. The former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) commander, who has led the Mossad since 2002, remarked that every year since the end of the Cold War there are progressively “fewer Israeli assets in the US”. The importance of Israel in US foreign policy was “greater when there was conflict between the blocs”, said the Mossad chief, “while this year there has [again] been a decrease” in Israel’s significance. He went on to lament the 2008 election success of US President Barack Obama, which was “a declaration that [the US] was adopting a softer approach and did not want to use force to solve conflicts”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #366 (Gaza flotilla edition III)

  • Israel insists Hezbollah members were on flotilla. Israeli officials are privately saying that they had intelligence that Hezbollah operatives were hidden among the crew and passengers of several Gaza Freedom Flotilla ships. The plan, they say, was to board all the ships, bring the flotilla to Ashdod, and then deal separately with the Gaza activists and alleged Hezbollah members.
  • Analysis: Flotillas and the wars of public opinion. In the aftermath of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla massacre, “[t]he Israeli threats against Iran will be seen in a different context, and Israeli portrayal of Iran will hold less sway over the world”, says StratFor.
  • Turkey compares flotilla massacre to 9-11. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu drew a parallel between the Israeli raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and September 11, 2001. “Psychologically this attack is like 9/11 for Turkey,” he said. Meanwhile, as two more aid ships are approaching Gaza, an anonymous senior Israeli Navy commander told The Jerusalem Post that Israel will “use more force next time”.

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Former Mossad officer calls Israel’s flotilla raid ‘stupid’

Victor Ostrovsky

Victor Ostrovsky

A former officer in Israeli intelligence agency Mossad has criticized Monday’s raid by Israeli forces on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla as a failure “on every level”. Victor Ostrovsky, who worked as a case officer for the Mossad during the 1980s, described the raid as an act that was “so stupid it is stupefying”. Speaking to The Washington Post’s Jeff Stein, the former Mossad operative suggested that the early-morning operation, which killed at least 10 and wounded nearly 100 aid volunteers of various nationalities, was probably carried out by Shayetet 13, an elite commando unit of the Israeli Navy. He described Shayetet 13 as “one of the top units in the Israeli military”, which nevertheless failed in its mission to take over the ship convoy without resorting to a bloody mayhem. Read more of this post

Could Turkey invoke NATO clause over Israeli attack on flotilla? [updated]

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Tayyip Erdoğan

IntelNews hears there is some speculation in diplomatic circles that the government of Turkey may try to involve the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in its dispute with Israel, which began after Israeli commandos killed several Turkish citizens in international waters yesterday. Up to 19 civilians are thought to have been killed during an early dawn raid by Israeli Defense Forces commandos on a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza in defiance of the four-year-old Israeli blockade. The fact that the deadly raid took place in international waters prompted Ankara to call for an emergency meeting of NATO’s 28 member states. A NATO spokesperson confirmed that ambassadors from all 28 member states, Turkey included, will be attending an emergency meeting today in Brussels, Belgium. Read more of this post

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