Libya intelligence failure needs answers
The Steinitz report's main flaw is that it lacks a single word indicating that what Israel most needs in the intelligence field is what was called "Net Assessment." That is, a body that would supplement the specific evaluations made by Israel's intelligence organizations by adding an assessment of Israel's capabilities.
"The troubling, insufferable failure" of Israeli intelligence, which did not discover in time that Libya had established a nuclear-military industry, represents perhaps the most interesting section of the report formulated by MK Yuval Steinitz's committee. Responding to events of last year's war in Iraq, the panel investigated the performance of Israel's intelligence community.
The conclusions regarding Libya are the most strongly worded passages in the report, and they point to the need to examine the Libyan case thoroughly. The review that I conducted brings up the following strange finding: in their appearances before the Steinitz committee, neither the IDF Chief of Staff, Moshe Ya'alon, nor the head of Military Intelligence, Major General Aharon Ze'evi, were asked about Libya. I heard a similar claim made by the former head of the Mossad, Eprhaim Halevy. Hard as it is to believe, Halevy was asked only about Iraq.
Investigation of the Libyan case will not disappear from the agenda since officials from both intelligence organizations, the Mossad and the IDF Military Intelligence, have proof of what the organizations knew, and when they knew it, sources from both relay; and there is also information pertaining to why both organizations acted as they did in the Libyan case.
One piece of evidence is an interview given by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2002, in which he made the surprising statement that Libya is liable to become a nuclear state before Iran. Israeli intelligence officials were not thrilled about this leak. Then quiet ensued until it became clear that Britain and the U.S. were conducting talks with Muammar Gadhafi without informing Israel (apparently due to concerns that Israel might upset the talks).
IDF officers have not responded to the Steinitz report because they do not want to come across as being in a dispute with the parliamentary-political sphere, and (more importantly) because they are waiting for the full, classified report, which for some reason was not the first thing written by the committee. Nonetheless, the intelligence division of the IDF General Staff cannot allow the accusations about Libya to be left without a response. Certainly Halevy, a private citizen, can say what's in his heart about the accusation, and it is important that he do so. If the committee made a mistake, it should correct the error in the classified report.
Nor can IDF Military Intelligence ignore other statements made in the public section of the Steinitz report. MI owes such a response both to the public at large, and to its hundreds of workers. The most problematic thing for MI is the hostile, contemptuous language that appears in various parts of the report. There is, for instance, an allusion to how MI might become again in the future a "broken reed," and a faulty source of information. And there is a warning that intelligence assessments might transmogrify from a "usable instrument to an empty instrument." Also, the report charges that the sea of documents which MI produces contains more questions than answers, and therefore lacks utility. The report also says that language in MI reports is obscure, arrogant and defective - the comparison to the modest accuracy of reports compiled by the Air Force's intelligence branch is not flattering, claims the panel. Given the use of such language, the report's overall conclusion that the intelligence community's work is reasonable, and that none of its officials should be penalized, appears peculiar.
The report's main flaw is that it lacks a single word indicating that what Israel most needs in the intelligence field is what was called "Net Assessment." That is, a body that would supplement the specific evaluations made by Israel's intelligence organizations by adding an assessment of Israel's capabilities. Only such a body can, for instance, recommend to the government that it should instruct the public to open, or not, gas mask kits. Net Assessment evaluations do not only take into account military matters, they incorporate a wider range of considerations than those evaluated by the IDF and other intelligence bodies.
While the issue of Net Assessment was overlooked, the Steinitz panel considered a number of factors concerning Iraq that have nothing to do with intelligence. For instance, the report contains the strange recommendations that intelligence officials should be barred from supplying personal reports and evaluations to journalists. It is worth remembering that out of ten security leaks, nine come from Knesset committees, particularly the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
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