By  Jeff Stein, Spy Talk,  Oct 21,2023
Oct 23, 2023 - 9:33:22 AM

 THERE WAS A TIME many years ago that I’d drive past a soccer stadium  in South Vietnam looking for a chalk scratch on the wall. Horizontal meant that my net of spies had reports for me. Posing as farmers, rice  peddlers and the like, my spies eyeballed and engaged communist  soldiers and units and reported back the essentials: names, numbers,  weapons, uniforms, morale and so forth.
 This was old-timey military espionage for sure, a legacy of the OSS  and its allied spy services in World War Two, who depended on the  French underground and other partisans to track and subvert the Nazis.  By the end of the century, though, advances in technology had eclipsed  much of battlefield HUMINT, as human-based spying efforts are called.

 In the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. field commanders  increasingly came to favor electronic intercepts and
 “overhead”—eavesdropping spy planes, satellites and eventually  drones—to locate the enemy and suss out its plans. HUMINT was just  too hard, too time-consuming and too unreliable against the likes of  Al Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban. Better to just trace the insurgents’  cell phone calls.
 Two weeks ago, however, Hamas put old-timey intelligence methods to  good use against the Israelis. Documents taken from the bodies of its  savage raiders showed they had carried “detailed maps of the towns  and military bases that they targeted. Some also carried tactical  guides identifying weak spots on Israeli army armored vehicles,” the  Wall Street Journal reported. Other captured documents showed that  “Hamas had been systematically gathering intelligence on each  kibbutz bordering Gaza and creating specific plans of attack for each  village that included the intentional targeting of women and children,”according to NBC News. "The dental office, the  supermarket, the dining hall," an Israel Defense Forces source told
 NBC. "The level of specificity would cause anyone in the intelligence  field's jaw to drop."
 That source had to have been born yesterday, so to speak—and/or  arrogant to the point of incompetence, evidently unable to comprehend  that the benighted Palestinian militants couldn't possibly mount the  kind of spy ops that Israeli intelligence had practiced against them  for decades.
 As it turns out, Hamas had advanced intelligence capabilities that  have generally gone unrecognized. Years ago it had “established  electronic warfare units that sought to neutralize Israel’s Iron  Dome missile defense system and disrupt IDF communications,” an Israeli think tank reported in 2021. To that end, it had a “server  farm” of “hundreds or thousands of computers” running around the  clock, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs reported.
 Brigadier Gen. Nati Cohen, former chief of the IDF’s C4I (command,  control, communications, computers, and intelligence) unit, was quoted as saying that “Hamas sought to disrupt the IDF’s cybernetic  superiority and established elite units for that purpose.” In May  2021, the IDF targeted at least 10 Hamas C4I and electronic warfare targets, the center said. It didn’t say whether it was able to  obliterate the “server farms.” Whatever, Hamas engineers have not  been able to neutralize Israeli air defenses.
 But none of that explains how Hamas was able to equip its fighters  with detailed maps, right down to the layouts and  manpower of Israeli  police stations and the location of safe rooms in kibbutzim homes.
 That could only come from old fashioned HUMINT—eyes and ears (and  cell phone cameras, no doubt) inside those settlements.
 In 2022, Jerusalem authorities issued some 17,000 permits for  Palestinians in Gaza to work in Israel, The Guardian reported last  January. “Most were given to married men over the age of 25 to work  in agriculture and construction,” it said. The permits, of course,  provided Hamas with a potential army of spies to float in and around  the Jewish settlements, not to mention IDF units and tanks.
 No doubt a number of Palestinians were eager to enlist in the  espionage corps, but many others, including—or particularly—those   who had forged friendships with their more ecumenically minded Jewish hosts could well have been threatened with harm to their families if  they refused.
 After work in Israel their Hamas case officers would have debriefed  them, extracting details on their targets: names, numbers, weapons,  uniforms, morale and so forth, just like I had in Vietnam decades  back. The reports I provided U.S. Marine units in my area enabled them  to disrupt communist attacks. Israeli counterterrorism units, likewise, have planted many a spy in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.
 Still, Hamas shocked Israel with the depth and expertise of its  murderous campaign. Likewise, despite ubiquitous and overlapping U.S.  intelligence efforts, the Vietnamese communists surprised U.S. commanders again and again, no more so than in January 1968, when they  unleashed their legendary T?t holiday attacks on Saigon and  provincial capitals across South Vietnam. In the end, T?t was a  tactical disaster for the communists—U.S. and Saigon troops  decimated the insurgents—but a monumental psychological victory for  them, belying Washington’s optimism about the war’s progress and
 cratering fragile U.S. domestic support for it.
 It remains to be seen whether Hamas is having its own T?t. U.S. backing for Israel is rock solid, President Biden has said again and  again. “So, in this moment, we must be crystal clear,” he said at  the White House on Oct. 10, three days after the attacks. “We stand with Israel. We stand with Israel And we will make sure Israel has what it needs to take care of its citizens, defend itself, and respond to this attack.”
 And that stance is reflected in U.S. opinion polls.—with caveats.  “At this point, more Americans, but not a majority, think Israel's response has been appropriate, though an overwhelming number of respondents are worried the war will spill over into a broader regional conflict,” NPR reported last weekend, citing the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.
 Hamas is no Viet Cong, which is to say, it enjoys a fraction of the  respect, even enthusiasm, that many Western elites showered on the  Vietnamese revolutionaries over their decades of struggle to oust the  French and then the U.S., which had propped up a succession of corrupt  Saigon regimes with ruthless free-fire zones, napalm and carpet  bombing.
 Following its barbaric slaughter of Israeli innocents, Hamas has even  less claim on the West’s sympathy, even on the hearts of those who  have supported Palestinian rights to statehood.
 But Israel’s next steps could dramatically alter that equation. Already, Arab capitals are beset by seething popular support for
 Hamas, no matter—or even because of— its slaughter of Jews. Iran  and its proxies in Syria and Lebanon are no doubt sorely tempted to  intervene, especially if an Israeli invasion of Gaza gets bogged down while killing thousands of innocent Palestinians. There is mounting fear that Muslim militants in Europe, Africa and the U.S. may well join the fray with more terrorist attacks on local Jewish targets. Innocent Muslims here, too, have been victimized. Mutual fears and
 loathing are ascendent.
 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ultra-nationalist regime, meanwhile, was already held in contempt by the majority of Israelis, not to mention much of the world, _before_ the Hamas attacks. Its  pathetically weak response to the Oct. 7 attacks and beyond has served  only to deepen popular disdain for the regime. Support for its  national unity government is fragile, and could deteriorate, depending  on what happens next.
 The Middle East is wobbling on its axis. And for that, Hamas’s  old-fashioned spymasters can take credit.

Source: Ocnus.net 2022