Israel’s Intelligence Failure Joins Long List of Blunders, Including By Our Own Government

by lgadmin

Daily Caller

The deadly strike into Israel by the terror group Hamas on Oct. 7 represents a monumental failure of Israeli intelligence. But it is neither the first such mistake by governments in the modern world, nor will it be the last.

Governments are by their very nature fallible institutions. Whether dictatorship, monarchy, or democracy, all are composed of human beings and ultimately subject to the range of prejudices, egos, and preconceived notions that sooner or later push individuals to misjudge situations and make bad choices.

Warning signs had been clearly visible for many months before Hamas terrorists burst into Israel on Oct. 7. Israeli intelligence services, however, failed to see the evidence for what it was – concrete preparation for a multi-faceted terrorist strike into Israel.

Perhaps Mossad and IDF leaders were blinded to the evidence before them because they believed themselves invulnerable based on past successes. Perhaps it simply illustrates the more typical shortcomings of government intelligence services, with competing bureaucracies stovepiping their resources and intelligence so that key data is not shared on a timely basis.

Regardless of why this major failure of intelligence occurred, Israel joins a lengthy list of sometimes catastrophic intelligence blunders that have befallen nations from East to West since the advent of modern intelligence gathering capabilities in the 1940s.

One of the first and deadliest such blunders was by Soviet Union leader Josef Stalin in June 1941, when he adamantly refused to believe numerous reports, including from American intelligence services, that Hitler was readying a massive attack against Russia from the west. While Stalin’s Red Army eventually beat back the Nazi invasion, his refusal to believe accurate, pre-attack intelligence warnings cost millions of civilian and military casualties.

Later in 1941, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor caught the Americans by surprise, despite numerous and reliable intelligence reports that the Imperial Japanese military was planning a sneak attack. Bureaucratic and inter-service rivalries, however, prevented coordinated and timely analyses.

Despite America’s eventual victory in the Pacific, that early intelligence failure cost thousands of American lives and severely limited the availability of heavy surface ships for our Navy in the early stages of the ensuing conflict.

The creation of the CIA in the immediate aftermath of WWII failed to prevent recurrent problems of intelligence agency hubris and egocentric leadership. These issues led to the Bay of Pigs debacle in 1961, and several years later manifested themselves in the failure to heed intelligence warnings of an imminent and multi-front attack by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong during the Tet holiday in early 1968.

Five years later, in Oct. 1973, reliable intelligence was provided by our CIA to Israeli services that Egyptian and Syrian forces were poised to attack Israel on two fronts during the Jewish Yom Kippur holiday. Israel, however, believing its adversaries knew its defensive forces to be sufficiently strong to repeal any attacks, refused to take steps based on that intelligence and were caught unprepared.

The list of failures by intelligence services to render coordinated and timely analysis of evidence, or the refusal of policymakers to believe or act on it, is long — the failure to foresee the fall of the pro-U.S. Shah of Iran to extremist Muslim forces in 1979, the failure to predict the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that same year, the final collapse of the seemingly mighty Soviet Union in 1991, and most notably, our failure to piece together intelligence that very well could have prevented the Sept. 11 attacks.

Even domestic law enforcement can fall victim to misevaluation of evidence or locking onto false predictive models. Police investigating the 2002 “D.C. Sniper” shootings fixated on a lead that a “white panel truck” was the vehicle being used by the deadly snipers. Ignoring evidence not fitting that narrative needlessly prolonged the string of murders.

Any solution to such recurrent missteps must, at a minimum, include three basic ingredients — 1) consistently good, apolitical intelligence that is gathered, analyzed, and presented to policy makers, who then 2) make national security decisions based on that product, and 3) are not punished politically for doing so.

Sadly, only rarely have we enjoyed administrations exhibiting that combination.

“Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad” may have worked for Meatloaf in his 1977 hit song, but in the real world defending against terrorists and other deadly adversaries, there is nothing good about such an equation.

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.

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