Trump tensions with own spy agencies won't impact intel ties with Israel

An Israeli intelligence expert believes US President Donald Trump's worldview is "even closer to the Israeli worldview" than to his own intelligence community.

October 4, 2017 09:15
3 minute read.
US President Donald Trump addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in

US President Donald Trump addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York. (photo credit: REUTERS/SHANNON STAPLETON)


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The ongoing disputes between US President Donald Trump and his own intelligence community are not negatively impacting Israel, retired Brig.-Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

In a magazine article published on Monday, Kuperwasser, a former top Military Intelligence official, summarized the wide-ranging problems between Trump and his own CIA and FBI.

“It is not true... that there is a negative impact also on Israel” from these issues as some have claimed, he said.

Kuperwasser said Israeli- US intelligence relations would remain strong not just because “we are so deeply connected and need each other,” but also because sometimes “Trump’s worldview is even closer to the Israeli worldview” than to his own intelligence community.

In the article, published in a magazine of the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Kuperwasser wrote that Trump and his intelligence community had been at odds over several issues.

Those issues included: Russia’s impact on the US presidential election; the firing of former FBI director James Comey; Trump’s leak of intelligence to Russia; and Trump’s feeling that Obama-era holdovers were out to get him.

Kuperwasser said that since Trump had appointed his own CIA director, Mike Pompeo, and his own director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, the US president had become more willing to rely on US intelligence regarding tactical issues, but seemed less inclined to adopt their views on strategic issues.

Regarding Trump’s infamous leak to Russia of what most reports, including Trump’s own statements, indicated was Israeli intelligence about an ISIS plot to blow up airplanes using laptop computers, Kuperwasser said, “Even if there were problems before, lessons are learned, changes are made” and the two close allies move on.

Kuperwasser said his perception of the incident was that Trump made a narrow leak to Russia and then “members of the intelligence community leaked more information afterwards to attack him.”

The Meir Amit Center magazine included several other articles by key intelligence officials.

Those included articles by the IDF’s current chief of intelligence, Maj.-Gen.

Herzi Halevi; “S.,” chief of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) Intelligence Research; and an article co-authored by IDF Lt.-Col.

“S.” (different from the Shin Bet official), head of Military Intelligence oversight; and ex-Military Intelligence oversight head “V.Y.”

Halevi wrote, “Struggling with new daily challenges expresses... the dilemma: How can we adapt fast enough to remain relevant without losing our professionalism?” He said that part of the answer is “to build bridges between disciplines... to allow remaining specialized as well as coordinated.”

In his article, top Shin Bet official “S.” described how his research department’s goals have evolved in recent years, from providing descriptions and predictions of the general strategic security horizon regarding Israel’s internal and nearby security, to focusing more on tactical operational intelligence.

He wrote that the speed of change and the need to support an exponentially increased number of regular ongoing operations had made the change in emphasis inevitable.

Current and former IDF oversight intelligence officials “S.” and “V.Y.” wrote that their jobs could vary, from simply writing a review of whether the intelligence apparatus followed procedure, to purposely offering opposite conclusions in order to combat “groupthink,” to purposely proposing some alternate – but not opposite – options from the apparatus.

They said that challenging the intelligence apparatus with alternate or opposite options was a more valuable role in helping the state avoid being blindsided by major events.

They added that after IDF intelligence had missed major developments, their department had been given greater resources and its head was promoted to the rank of colonel.

But as time passed, the department was often resented and had its resources cut.

The two officials said it was important to keep the department independent of the chief of the IDF’s intelligence research department so that it could provide a genuine challenge.

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