How the U.S. Secret Presence in Israel Missed the Hamas Assault

Israeli intelligence didn’t warn of or avert final weekend’s Hamas strike from Gaza, however U.S. intelligence—with greater than 650,000 Americans and important navy property in danger on the bottom in Israel—additionally didn’t warn of potential threats.

“The USA and by extension the Biden administration is not chargeable for Israel’s intelligence failure,” says a senior intelligence official who requested anonymity with a purpose to communicate candidly with Newsweek. “However there are many explanation why, purely in our personal pursuits, we must always have been on high of this. That we did not detect the assaults should not come as a shock to anybody.”

Israel’s Iron Dome air defence system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip on October 11, 2023. Exchanges of fireplace are anticipated to proceed as Israel presses a brand new offensive into the Palestinian enclave.
BASHAR TALEB/AFP through Getty Photographs

The explanation, that official and others say, is that within the total listing of priorities, even within the Center East, Israel ranks behind international locations like Syria and Iraq the place American troops are already engaged in fight. Hamas specifically, officers say, is generally the accountability of Israeli intelligence, and the USA depends upon Israel for many of its inside info on the group. the place the USA depends. Third, the U.S. collects way over it is ready to analyze about Israel and elsewhere, an endemic downside, and one which has dogged the system for many years and is simply getting worse.

Clearly, Israel will not be some obscure nation to U.S. intelligence: The political scenario in Israel itself is a excessive precedence for the CIA and different companies. The Iranian menace to Israel and the area has grow to be certainly one of 4 nationwide intelligence priorities for the Pentagon, particularly because the navy alliance between the 2 international locations remodeled within the first two years of the Biden administration. The USA has tons of of troops and contractors within the nation and maintains a half dozen secret bases. And fixed navy deployments and high-level visits formalize the interior mission of “power safety,” the Pentagon’s time period used to seek advice from this system to safeguard U.S. personnel worldwide in opposition to potential terrorist assault.

“I might hate to say that we missed the assault due to Ukraine, as a result of I feel we’d have missed it anyway, however there are solely so many assets to go round and never solely is Ukraine taking over all that may be surged, however the Center East has additionally misplaced a lot of its elevated urgency in recent times in comparison with different priorities,” says a second navy intelligence officer. This official explains that a lot of the intelligence effort within the Center East is dominated by these different far-flung wars. “I am not saying the Center East or Israel is not a precedence,” the officer says, “however solely that whereas we’re engaged in a half-dozen counterterrorism operations from Afghanistan to Syria, they take up essentially the most.”

Joe Biden Israel Hamas Palestine
U.S. President Joe Biden confers along with his Nationwide Safety Advisor Jake Sullivan throughout a roundtable with Jewish neighborhood leaders within the Eisenhower Government Workplace Constructing October 11, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer/Getty Photographs

A safety briefing that did not point out Hamas

Nonetheless, the constant failure to sense a rising menace is placing. Over Memorial Day weekend this 12 months, U.S. and Israeli troopers got here collectively at Hatzor (Hatzerim) air power base, simply 17 miles (28 km) from Gaza, for a first-of-its-kind navy train. Codenamed Juniper Caracal, the coaching examined a brand new mortuary system for gathering and dealing with battlefield corpses.

“The U.S. and Israel are going to work extra collectively sooner or later,” Military Captain Amanda Longoria, the officer in command of the mortuary affairs staff instructed the Pentagon’s personal inner information group on the time.

As Longoria and different Military reservists from New York and Delaware ready for his or her journeys to Israel, they have been briefed on native safety, notably as a result of the Pentagon calls Israel a “excessive menace” space. A gaggle of companies contributed to portray the most recent terrorist image—Military and Nationwide Guard intelligence, Central Command, the Protection Intelligence Company, the State Division, and the American Embassy in Jerusalem.

In response to quite a few authorities and navy sources conversant in the intelligence, the briefings made no point out of something brewing with regard to Hamas.

Nor did U.S. intelligence system report any suspicions of Hamas’ preparation for a possible assault through the Intrepid Maven wargame held by U.S. Marines, after they landed on Israel’s shores earlier this 12 months. Nor did it report any unease throughout train Juniper Oak held in July, when some 6,400 Individuals deployed to Israel. Nor when the Missouri Nationwide Guard exercised with the Israeli Residence Entrance Command, training safety of the civilian inhabitants throughout wartime. Nor when the Center East air commander U.S. Air Drive Lt. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich visited Israel final month. Nor did intelligence detect something brewing regardless of infinite visits by White Home and senior cupboard officers and members of Congress.

“Hamas is simply not a precedence, not that sort of precedence,” the navy intelligence officer says. “However keeping track of the scenario inside Israel to guard our deployed troops,” he says, “I am guessing somebody dropped the ball.”

“As well as,” the officer says, “there are greater than a half-a-million U.S. residents in Israel at any time and their safety is paramount as properly.” The State Division says that there are some 650,000 U.S. residents residing in or visiting Israel, virtually 20 p.c of them in Gaza and the West Financial institution.

Whereas Washington largely will depend on Israel to offer the nitty gritty intelligence on the Palestinian scenario, its personal duties on the bottom ought to have supplied some tip offs.

The USA additionally quietly maintains a half-dozen bases in Israel, an important being Website 512 in Be’er Sheva, 23 miles (38 km) from Gaza. Residence to the American thirteenth Missile Protection Battery, the bottom is wholly targeted on potential Iranian long-range missile assault. Over 200 Individuals, three quarters of them contractors from firms like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon (RTX), function the missiles, radars and communications link-up with Israel. The U.S. has different bases in Israel, lots of which preserve arms and ammunition in gigantic warehouses, gear meant for U.S. navy forces, ought to they deploy to Israel in its protection. All of those bases are always on alert for potential terrorist assaults.

U.S. troops (at present the 56th Infantry Brigade Fight Staff of the Texas Nationwide Guard) are current on the Sinai Peninsula as a part of the Multinational Drive and Observers (MFO), a global group that maintains the treaty agreements between Egypt and Israel by offering a navy power buffer. And again in the USA, the forty second Infantry Division, centered on the New York Nationwide Guard, always assesses the safety scenario, being the first unit that’s earmarked in Israel warfare plans ought to the USA must put boots on the bottom.

Neither the MFO or the forty second Infantry detected or obtained any intelligence indicating a potential Hamas assault, in keeping with navy sources. The NSA, which additionally eavesdrops on Israeli and Palestinian communications, unilaterally and along with its Israeli companions, didn’t detect preparations for the assault, the officers say.

In response to a request for touch upon U.S. intelligence within the Mideast, a U.S. navy official mentioned it could not touch upon specifics of intelligence sharing. “At the moment, we’re targeted on offering our help to the folks of Israel. We have now a detailed partnership with Israel and at all times share well timed intelligence about threats within the area with our companions.”

The 9/11 sample

So why did U.S. intelligence fail to detect or predict the Hamas buildup and assault on Saturday? The reply is advanced, but it surely follows patterns traceable within the 9/11 assault and different crises: an excessive amount of info within the system, decrease precedence in comparison with different points, over reliance on what native companions know and report.

Israeli Merkava tank near Lebanon border
Israeli troopers trip on a Merkava tank because it drives to an undisclosed location in northern Israel close to the border with Lebanon on October 9, 2023. Israel is predicted to quickly launch a floor invasion of the Gaza Strip.
JALAA MAREY/AFP through Getty Photographs

The senior intelligence official explains: “We aren’t superb at forecasting, particularly when tanks aren’t sitting on the beginning line, and an excessive amount of of what we’re gathering is extremely minute, helpful principally for navy features like concentrating on. And although all of U.S. intelligence is at present gaga for monitoring social media and so-called ‘open sources,’ there’s a lot that may be missed, particularly when deception is concerned, which can have been the case with Hamas.”

This senior intelligence official and others say that it principally boils all the way down to priorities. Although the U.S. spends properly over $100 billion yearly on intelligence assortment and evaluation across the globe, there are nonetheless limits to what’s collected and the place the assets are allotted. When a number of wars are being fought by the USA—from Ukraine to Somalia—supporting these ongoing conflicts can be the primary precedence and takes up the overwhelming majority of all assets.

The USA can be a superpower, and although gathering intelligence on Malawi is of far lesser precedence than Israel, being in all places stresses and absorbs untold reserves. There are solely so many analysts, and far of what’s collected by the USA that may bear upon Hamas and its inner actions—from eavesdropping to social media—will not be essentially at all times curated by people, besides with regard to indicators of nuclear warfare and different indicators of rapid assault upon the USA.

Lastly, a number of authorities insiders level out, intelligence failure amongst even those that are Israel and Hamas usually comes from wanting within the unsuitable path. “Even the FBI has a Hamas cell,” the senior intelligence official says, “but it surely seems for potential Hamas assaults in the USA.”

“None of that is an excuse,” the official provides. “I can guarantee you we’re wanting now, now that it is grow to be a disaster. However will it will definitely come out that we missed one thing, or that we did not make Hamas a excessive sufficient precedence, or that we have been hampered by too many different issues that we have been ? Completely, however that additionally makes the Hamas failure humdrum somewhat than surprising.”