Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Al-Quds al-Arabi reports on the Gaza intelligence bonanza

Hamas sources told Al-Quds al-Arabi that the treasure-trove of intelligence documents that fell into their hands, with the takeover of the Gaza headquarters of Palestinian Preventive Security and General Intelligence, are in the custody of the Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. But Hamid al-Raqt, Hamas spokesman in Khan Yunis, said there is an agreement with the Hamas political leadership not to use these in any way that would denigrate any Palestinian official or Arab or foreign intelligence agency, so as not to worsen tensions with the outside world. However:
He stressed that it will be possible to disclose some of this to specific sectors of the Palestinian people in order to give them a clear picture of what was going on in the preventive security and the intelligence operations in Gaza... And in spite of his insistence that these documents would not be used to denigrate any Palestinian official or foreign agency, so as to avoid increasing tensions with the outside world, he did say that the documents in the control of Hamas show conclusively that the Palestinian security [organizations] were not subordinated to the [Palestinian] Authority in the way that they were subordinated to foreign Mukhabarat agencies. He refused to name the foreign agencies except to mention British intelligence.
The Al-Quds al-Arabi reporter then refers to the Debkafile article (scroll to June 17) for a description of the scope of the foreign connections, noting they referred to cooperation with US, British and Israeli intelligence. The reporter notes that the connection of that website to Israeli intelligence, and the fact that the article appeared 48 hours after Hamas had taken control of all of the Gaza Strip. And he conveys to his Arab readers the gist of the Debkafile cry of alarm over this intelligence "debacle", stressing its unprecedented scope, and the fact that in major turnovers like this in history, for instance at the end of WWII and the fall of Communism, at least there was some attempt by the custodians of the files to destroy some of them, while in this case it appears that no such attempt was made, and the whole archive is in the hands of Hamas, thus potentially in the hands of Iran and Syria too.

And apart from the Debka article, this Al-Quds reporter says,
...people are talking about the capture by Hamas of an advanced American setup for wiretapping and surveillance operating out of those two headquarters in Gaza, and it is possible that Hamas will be able to use this in the very near future. And they could transfer it to Syria or Iran who are prepared to buy it for a lot of money in order to understand what has gone on in the past and what is going on at the present time. And in addition to that, Hamas took possession of an advanced American-British intelligence-apparatus system that Palestinian intelligence was using, in addition to millions of documents...
And so on and so forth. I think the significance of this Al-Quds al-Arabi piece is that first of all it provides some confirmation from the Hamas side that there was in fact a very significant intelligence coup for Hamas; secondly that Hamas apparently intends to make very selective use of it (the Hamas person talked about using it to educate Palestinians about what was going on; the reference to possible marketing to Syria or Iran is apparently from the Debka side of the story); and finally that this involves not only documents but also sophisticated electronic surveillance equipment and systems.

9 Comments:

Anonymous dan said...

Whilst the speculation is fun and all.. I suspect that if even a fraction of the Debka assertion were true then we would have seen the application of standard operating procedures - ie the buildings housing the archives and hi-tech goodies being demolished via 2000lb bombs; it's not as if the IAF don't know the locations of the buildings, or as if such an action would have attracted much in the way of international opprobrium. So it's likely that the "value" of the Hamas seizures are being exaggerated so as to play into the over-arching Iran-as-nemesis narrative.

Now, I suspect that if you're Hamas, then having access to some reasonably decent hi-tech surveillance and eavesdropping kit might be a bonus - but it's not as if Syria and Iran don't already have this sort of equipment to play with.

8:36 AM  
Blogger Randal said...

"But Hamid al-Raqt, Hamas spokesman in Khan Yunis, said there is an agreement with the Hamas political leadership not to use these in any way that would denigrate any Palestinian official or Arab or foreign intelligence agency, so as not to worsen tensions with the outside world."

This seems to me to be somewhat surprisingly and, one would have thought, needlessly and pointlessly conciliatory.

Tends to make me suspect that Hamas might not have as much as is being implied.

Needless to say, one should assume that anything from Debka is released primarily for its disinformation value, and any real information is there purely coincidentally, or to serve the primary objective.

9:05 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Good points. But on the other hand: (1) Dahlan is being accused (by Suleiman in Cairo and by Fatah people in Ramallah) of having deceived people about what was going on, so it's possible the Israelis didn't understand that everything was still there and nothing had been destroyed. And (2) not disclosing stuff to the world at large can also mean using it as bargaining pieces in "diplomacy" and/or operationally in their own intelligence activities.

Certainly the Debka piece by itelf was exaggerated, but note also that the main theme was to point the finger at the Palestinians who didn't do anything to minimize the damage, said to be very broad in terms of time and number of countries involved, suggesting the possibility that there was damage and that the Israelis were anxious to avoid blame. This is not my area however...

9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Hamas folks were really smart they would put up all documents they gathered on the web as picture scan, as well as in Arabic and in English translations.

As for equipment - if you have a lab to analyse it do so. If not sell it to the highest bidder (how about this on ebay?) and feed the people.

b.

12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This strikes me as implausible on its face and more likely to be laying the groundwork to justify future bombings/invasions of Gaza by Israel (as well as casting serious aspersion on reliability of Palestinians as intelligence sources/partners) rather than having much basis in truth. Really, do you think the US would have given so much invaluable information to someone like Dahlan? I mean maybe there is a reason why there was no attempt to destroy it... because it wasn't in fact worth that much!

1:11 PM  
Blogger badger said...

Dahlan is seen as a buffoon now, but he was a full partner with the US and Israel. This is from the February "Action Plan":

The security component of this Plan is in accordance with the security obligations that were earlier agreed upon between the Palestinians and the Israelis (Dayton -- Dahlan), and the agreements that were arrived at with the "Arab quartet" and the United States.

1:43 PM  
Blogger badger said...

What I mean is, while it's correct to be skeptical, the arguments given so far (Israel would have bombed it if it was valuable and in tact; or alternatively everyone knew Dahlan was unreliable so there was likely nothing of value there in the first place)leave something to be desired. And on the other argument, it's hard to see how Israel felt they needed anything like this as an excuse for further bombing...

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Alamet said...

Earlier tonight, an analyst on a local TV station mentioned that yesterday Hizbullah criticized Hamas for being divisive and heavyhanded. That was a surprise to me, but the person who said this is always very credible. I am guessing Hizbullah's word must carry a lot of weight with Hamas. So that may be one of the reasons why they are trying to be conciliatory now...

5:20 PM  
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7:06 PM  

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