Shin Bet deputy chief R: Mossad, Shin Bet, IDF borders may need redo

Sharing intel so crucial, could even justify exposing assets.

IDF gets ready for Hezbollah along the Israeli-Lebanese border (photo credit: IDF)
IDF gets ready for Hezbollah along the Israeli-Lebanese border
(photo credit: IDF)
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) deputy chief known as “R” has written that the boundaries of security responsibilities between his agency, the Mossad and the IDF may need to be redrawn in light of evolving challenges.
In a just released article in the journal of the Institute for the Research of the Methodology of Intelligence, “R” wrote that geographic boundaries and assigning certain countries to one of the three major wings of Israeli security no longer always makes the most sense.
“To the extent that the threat is more state based, the dominant answer will be from the IDF and to the extent that the threat is more from an individual or a non-state organization, the capabilities of the intelligence and counterintelligence organizations will be more dominant,” he wrote.
Explaining the distinction further, he said that mere general and traditional coordination or assistance from the Mossad and the Shin Bet to the IDF could be sufficient with state-based threats.
However, when dealing with guerilla fighters or proxies of states, the level of integration of the three relevant security and intelligence forces needs to greatly expand to include agreements on strategy, policy, tactics and even the joint building of the right long-term human and technological resources to handle the threat.
Presently, Israel sometimes deals with direct state-based threats, but often is dealing with Shi’ite militias sponsored by Iran in Syria or Iraq as well as the complications from Hezbollah and Hamas which sometimes operate as armies, but sometimes as more decentralized terror groups.
Traditionally, responsibility for security was divided often by country, but this has gotten more complex as multiple threat actors may operate within one country and across borders.
“R” addressed specific challenges to upping the level of integration.
“The gap between a main focus on thwarting terror versus preventing the outbreak of wars creates tensions and holes in responsibility regarding the mission and operative steps needed to be taken,” he wrote.
Moreover, he said that, “these tensions increase to the extent the following trends are in play: If the threat is not something which can be seen with the naked eye, but rather a potential rising danger or trend which needs to be analyzed. If the enemy is neither an organization nor a nation.”
Next, he noted that to the extent that the priorities of the different organizations diverge, how much or how little of their resources and attention they are willing to invest in a given issue could also create conflict, given that resources are not unlimited.
In order to advance this goal, he recommended that the committee of the heads of Israel’s three intelligence agencies be empowered to not only share intelligence and coordinate specific tactical operations, but also to establish some joint long-term budgets and hiring goals.
He said that the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee would need to adjust to a more complex form of budgeting and approvals.
One specific area where coordination may be the most challenging is in the cyber realm.
“R” wrote that attempts to divide responsibility for national-cybersecurity issues “in parallel to how it is done in the physical world are bound to fail.”
Geographic responsibility is meaningless to cyberattackers who jump around on servers all over the world, he said.
Further, when third party suppliers and other interconnected parties can be side entranced into secure intelligence agency networks, it becomes difficult to completely separate cyber defense efforts of the Israeli defense agencies, he noted.
In order to warn counterpart Israeli intelligence agencies of a breach at the necessary light speed, so that it does not infect them as well, new interconnected warning procedures setting a common language must be established, “R” stated.
One of the most radical sounding statements by “R” is regarding the sharing of intelligence information between the different security organizations.
Since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, there has been a trend in the US, Israel and elsewhere to increase information sharing between the rival intelligence agencies of a country.
However, there are still limits and even when sharing takes place, it is often slowed by each organization taking time to redact aspects of the original primary intelligence material before it is shared so that the sources and methods are not leaked to their counterparts.
According to “R”, this redaction process takes valuable time and could cost lives.
He wrote that when balancing the values of information sharing integration versus those of guarding assets and human lives [spies], “it is reasonable that we will find that even with the appropriate vetting mechanisms, that we will need to be ready to pay a price in this area.”
In other words, “R” is ready to take on some additional risk of losing assets (regarding which there is always a certain level of risk) in order to share information faster because he believes that without this new speed, given in the current ultra-fast-moving era, the broader security missions will be threatened.