Every day, tens of millions of pieces of information flow into the various divisions of Military Intelligence, including phone calls, electronic messages, photographs and other forms of data, a senior military source who is authorized to discuss the matter said Wednesday.
The officer described how, over the past 18 months, Military Intelligence revolutionized its technological capabilities, creating its own internal and heavily secured portal, which leads members to various “applications.”
These include MI’s own version of Facebook, allowing personnel from different units, who in the past had never been in direct communication, to speak to one another, sharing and debating the latest intelligence developments and thereby creating a common language.
MI has its own news website, called “i net,” which places the latest classified intelligence data on the website, and its own version of Google, allowing personnel to search for millions of entries on any topic. For example, one can type in the name of a second-generation Iranian centrifuge and get back all available intelligence as separate entries. This, the source said, allows MI to function in a less regimented and more integrated fashion, which better suits the chaotic nature of the Middle East.
“Today, the head of the Syria Arena knows about Hezbollah forces in his area of coverage.
Once, Hezbollah was only monitored by the head of the Lebanon Arena,” the source said.
“We had to create a whole unit to organize and format tens of millions of data entries.”
The source placed a significant emphasis on MI’s cyber division, which is able to mine data and combine it with visual and signals intelligence. It helped to create a digital map of Gaza so detailed that thousands of targets appeared on it, and every building in the Strip was shown from four different angles.
Half of the cyber unit’s personnel is made up of serving MI soldiers, and the other half is made up of recruits from the IDF.
The source discussed MI’s use of Trojan horses, some of which are so sophisticated they took 18 months to create.
“They bring back information on their ‘backs,’” the source said. “We learned about various threats through them. Some have to avoid cyber defenses.
Some have to destroy themselves if detected.”
In some cases, hordes of Trojan horses are released, where they proceed to sneak into enemy systems and return to Military Intelligence with valuable data. The source also discussed a new array of electronic sensors that have helped the IDF neutralize multiple threats recently.
One of Military Intelligence’s flagship projects is intelligence- based combat, in which field commanders receive information on enemy targets throughout the course of fighting. This occurred “on an unprecedented level” during the Gaza war, the officer said.
Data was also constantly transmitted to the air force.
The same digital network- based combat can be used in any combat arena, near or far, he added, whether the information takes the form of visual, signals or cyber intelligence.
During Operation Protective Edge, members of Unit 8200, the signals unit, sat in a control room and provided real-time instructions to field commanders, telling them where to turn and which buildings housed targets.
“This isn’t the Matrix [the movie],” the source said. “It happened during the war.”
All of these changes have allowed Military Intelligence to collect much more information on threats such as Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic State, Muslim Brotherhood, and more.
Additionally, MI created a special command center to intercept illicit weapons transfers among Israel’s enemies.
The interceptions either take the form of “soft” action, such as naming banks used to pay for weapons and getting them blacklisted, or “kinetic” attacks – interceptions of weapons transfers.
Looking ahead, the officer said regional upheaval is “here to stay.”
Military intelligence estimates that Islamic State has 30,000 members in Iraq and Syria, and that the organization is preparing itself for Western attack, lowering its profile, with some forces going underground and digging bunkers.
“This isn’t an organization that plans on disappearing,” the source said.
In long term, Islamic State is one of top four strategic threats to Israel. If needed, Israel will pass on intelligence to members of a coalition that will strike it, the officer said.
The region’s future isn’t all gloomy, though, he argued.
The source pointed to a strong block of moderate states, led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia. These, together with the Gulf states, have given Qatar an ultimatum to stop backing the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
The moderate bloc of states may be able to achieve some regional stability, allowing better conditions for a Israeli-PLO peace agreement in the future, the source said.
Turkish-Iranian relations appear to be good on the outside, but beneath the surface, Turkey is deeply disturbed by the prospect of a nuclear Iran, according to assessments.
Turkey continues to try and become an Islamist power in the region.
Egypt is not yet a regional power, though it is seeking to become one, he said. To that end, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is buying weapons from Russia, he added.