Thursday, April 11, 2013

Israel's silent defenders

The Israeli intelligence agencies, Mossad and Shin Bet, are world famous and considered to be among the most effective in the world.  Much larger countries with terrorist threats now come to Israel for advice and training in order to deal with this ubiquitous problem.  Thus said Brigadier Gen. (res) Ephraim Lapid at his presentation at Netanya AACI on Thurs last week, entitled "Israel's silent defender," which is also the name of the book he co-authored with Brig. Gen. (res) Amos Gilboa. 
After sketching the outline of Israel's history, in which he delineated the changes that have taken place in Israel's security situation, Gen. Lapid discussed some specific examples of Israeli intelligence activities.  He described how the Israeli situation has changed drastically from the time when we were threatened by large armies, to the time now when cyber attacks are of grave concern.  We went from classic military intelligence (how many tanks are deployed and where are they located?), to anti-terrorist intelligence (where will the next terrorist attack come from and what organization is involved), to cyber defence and attack (where are the computers located that are being used to attack our systems and how can we disable them).  One major change has been the use of drones that can provide detailed pictures of the battleground and can also follow the movements of individual terrorists, allowing pin-point targeting of any terrorist who can be identified. Also, the IDF must develop weapons against the enemies drones, and with the US has developed laser guns that can target small objects in the sky or elsewhere. 
Finally, collecting intelligence on such topics as the locations of Iran's nuclear facilities and their progress towards developing nuclear enrichment requires many kinds of information, including humint (the use of spies).  For example, even though Syria tried to keep the location of the nuclear facility they were building in a remote desert region top secret, Israel was able to find out about it and then destroy it.  But, before it did it was necessary to obtain detailed specific information to confirm the function of the facility. Although Israel did this, Iran is a much different situation where there are ca. 70 facilities rather than just one!  Israel has established a cyber warfare unit within the IDF consisting of hundreds of soldiers that has its own command and training programs.  It may take a year of training to have a young draftee work for 2 years and so there is a tremendous turnover of staff, but this is also good for the country. 
Regarding the cases that one hears about, such as that of the Australian Ben Zygier, who commited suicide in his cell, they are the exception.  In contrast, there are hundreds of foreigners holding foreign passports who are willing to work for Israeli intelligence and one does not hear anything about the important job they do in providing information on foreign threats.  In most cases they are beyond suspicion.  


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