[News] Fatah operated intelligence network in Gaza established under the CIA

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jul 30 16:04:32 EDT 2007

Hamas to Show an Improved Hand


Organization Aims to Capitalize
On Intelligence Gains From Gaza Takeover

By CAM SIMPSON in Jerusalem and NEIL KING JR. in Washington
July 30, 2007; Page A4

When the Islamist group Hamas conquered the Gaza 
Strip in June it seized an 
intelligence-and-military infrastructure created 
with U.S. help by the security chiefs of the 
Palestinian territory's former ruler.

According to current and former Israeli 
intelligence officials, former U.S. intelligence 
personnel and Palestinian officials, Hamas has 
increased its inventory of arms since the 
takeover of Gaza and picked up technical 
expertise -- such as espionage techniques -- that 
could assist the group in its fight against 
Israel or Washington's Palestinian allies, the 
Fatah movement founded by Yasser Arafat.

Hamas leaders say they acquired thousands of 
paper files, computer records, videos, 
photographs and audio recordings containing 
valuable and potentially embarrassing 
intelligence information gathered by Fatah. For 
more than a decade, Fatah operated a vast 
intelligence network in Gaza established under 
the tutelage of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Hamas leaders are expected as early as tomorrow 
to go public with some of the documents and the secrets they hold.

The exact nature of the threat posed by the 
intelligence grab in Gaza -- including any damage 
to U.S. intelligence operations in the 
Palestinian territories and the broader Middle 
East -- is difficult to ascertain. U.S. and 
Israeli officials generally tried to play down 
any losses, saying any intelligence damage is likely minimal.

But a number of former U.S. intelligence 
officials, including some who have worked closely 
with the Palestinians, said there was ample 
reason to worry that Hamas has acquired access to 
important spying technology as well as 
intelligence information that could be helpful to 
Hamas in countering Israeli and U.S. efforts against the group.

"People are worried, and reasonably so, about 
what kind of intelligence losses we may have 
suffered," said one former U.S. intelligence 
official with extensive experience in Gaza.

A U.S. government official said he doubted 
serious secrets were compromised in the Gaza 
takeover. Other officials said they had no reason 
to believe that U.S. spying operations elsewhere 
in the Arab world had been compromised.

Close ties between Hamas and the governments of 
Iran and Syria also mean that 
intelligence-and-spying techniques could be 
shared with the main Middle East rivals of the 
Bush administration. As the White House prepares 
to lead an international effort to bolster 
Fatah's security apparatus in the West Bank, the 
losses in Gaza stand as an example of how efforts to help Fatah can backfire.

The compromised intelligence Hamas says it now 
has ranges widely. The group alleges it has 
videos used in a sexual-blackmail operation run 
by Washington's allies inside Fatah's security 
apparatus. But the group also says it has 
uncovered detailed evidence of Fatah-controlled 
spying operations carried out in Arab and Muslim 
countries for the benefit of the U.S. and other 
foreign governments. Hamas also alleges that 
Fatah intelligence operatives cooperated with 
Israeli intelligence officials to target Islamist leaders for assassination.

"What we have is good enough for us to completely 
reveal the practices [of Fatah-controlled 
security services], both locally and throughout 
the region," said Khalil al Hayya, a senior Hamas 
official in Gaza, who has assumed a leading role 
on the intelligence issue for the Islamist group.

Michael Scheuer, a former top CIA 
counterterrorism analyst who left the agency in 
2004, said the U.S. had provided the 
Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority with 
"substantial help" in training as well as 
computers, other equipment and analytical tools. 
Other former intelligence officials confirmed 
that the U.S. gave Fatah-controlled services 
sophisticated intelligence-gathering equipment, 
including eavesdropping technology, though these 
officials wouldn't provide more precise details about the technology.

This kind of technology, along with the knowledge 
it yields, is broadly known in intelligence 
circles as "Sigint," which is shorthand for 
"signals intelligence." It can include 
eavesdropping equipment, devices used for 
intercepting radio, microwave and telephone 
communications and telemetry technology that 
allows the user to pinpoint the location of 
someone holding a communication device, such as a cellphone.

"The United States invested a lot of effort in 
setting up this system in Gaza -- construction, 
equipment, training
 filings, the logistics, the 
transportation. It was a big operation, and it's 
now in the hands of the other side," said Efraim 
Halevy, who formerly headed both the Mossad, 
which is Israel's foreign-intelligence agency, 
and Israel's National Security Council. Mr. 
Halevy said, however, that he didn't want to 
overemphasize the value of Hamas's potential intelligence gains.

Avi Dichter, Israel's public-security minister 
and the former head of Shin Bet, the domestic 
intelligence-and-counterterrorism agency, also 
said he didn't want to overemphasize the 
potential benefits to Hamas. But he confirmed 
that the Islamist group seized Sigint technology 
and expertise during its Gaza sweep. He declined 
to provide specifics, but said it had been 
provided by the Americans, the British and the French.

Mr. Dichter, who left the Shin Bet when his 
five-year term as its chief ended in 2005, also 
said the potential damage goes beyond Hamas's 
ability to turn the technology against its 
enemies. Now, he said, the militants could gain 
an understanding of how such technology is used 
against them, allowing them to adopt more sophisticated counter measures.

"It's not only the tools. It's also the 
philosophy that's behind them," he said.

Hamas leaders are being vague about the equipment 
and technological know-how they captured. Mr. 
Hayya said some important former Fatah operatives 
in Gaza, all of whom were granted amnesty after 
Hamas took over, were now cooperating with the group on intelligence matters.

Easier to assess is the threat posed by the 
military hardware Hamas picked up after the 
takeover. The militant group seized an arsenal of 
arms and munitions captured from U.S.-backed 
security forces loyal to Fatah and its leader, 
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr. Dichter said Hamas gained roughly the same 
number of weapons during a few days that it would 
have taken the group nearly a year to amass from smuggling operations.

Hamas says it is using the armaments to build a 
popular army in Gaza. Israeli intelligence and 
security officials estimate the Islamist group 
has some 13,000 armed men in Gaza.

As for Fatah's secrets, Hamas leaders say they 
grabbed intelligence stashes from three 
locations: the headquarters in Gaza City of the 
Preventive Security Force; the Palestinian 
Authority intelligence headquarters, which were 
housed in a Gaza City office known as "Il 
Safina," or "the ship"; and a nearby 
satellite-intelligence office dubbed, "Il Mashtal," or "the nursery."

As Hamas fighters moved in during their June 
sweep across Gaza, Fatah officials burned some 
papers and stripped data from computers. But the 
Hamas conquest was so quick that significant 
caches remained for the taking, according to the militant group.

All three sites were long under the sway of Fatah 
strongman Mohammed Dahlan, who first became an 
important CIA ally in Gaza in 1996. At the time, 
then-CIA director George Tenet began working 
openly with Mr. Dahlan and other Palestinian 
officials to build up security services aimed at 
combating the rise of Hamas and like-minded 
extremist groups that rejected the Oslo peace accords.

Through a spokesman, Mr. Tenet declined to 
comment on the CIA-Fatah cooperation, his 
relationship with Mr. Dahlan or Hamas's gains. 
Mr. Dahlan on Thursday formally resigned his 
Palestinian Authority post. Mr. Dahlan hasn't 
commented publicly since resigning and he 
couldn't be located for comment. Associates in 
the West Bank said he was abroad.

Mr. Hayya, the senior Hamas leader, said hundreds 
of the group's Hamas's operatives have been 
culling through and analyzing the intelligence 
troves since their seizure, with specialists in 
security, forensic accounting and administration 
conducting detailed assessments. Significant 
portions of these assessments are close to completion, Mr. Hayya said.

Some of the most potentially explosive claims 
from Hamas center on the alleged activities 
beyond the Gaza Strip of Palestinian agents loyal 
to Fatah. Mr. Hayya alleged the CIA utilized 
Palestinian agents for covert intelligence 
operations in other Middle Eastern countries. 
Hamas, he said, now possesses a roadmap detailing 
the names and actions of "those men whom thought 
were going to continue to be their hand across the region."

Some former U.S. intelligence officials who 
worked closely with the Palestinian Authority 
confirmed that such overseas spying arrangements 
beyond Gaza existed with the Palestinians in the 
past and said they likely continued, bolstering 
the credibility of Hamas's claims.

Whitley Bruner, a longtime CIA officer in the 
Middle East, recalled that "some of our first 
really good information on [Osama] bin Laden in 
Sudan" in the early 1990s "came from Palestinian 
sources." Before leaving the agency in 1997, Mr. 
Bruner participated in many of the first 
cooperative sessions organized by Mr. Tenet 
between the CIA and the Palestinians.

"It's not unlikely that continued to do things 
for the U.S. well beyond the territories," Mr. 
Bruner said. "Palestinians are embedded all over 
the place, so they have access to things that the U.S. doesn't."

Others are more circumspect. Bruce Reidel, who 
worked for nearly 30 years as a U.S. Middle East 
specialist, both as a CIA intelligence officer 
and as an adviser to Presidents Clinton and Bush, 
said there is sure to be "quite a treasure trove 
of materials that would document relationship 
with the CIA." Mr. Reidel said during his time in 
government, which ended in 2005, "the 
Palestinians were always trying to prove that 
they had unique access and information," but he 
said he was skeptical of Hamas's claims that such 
operations ventured far beyond Gaza and the West Bank.

Mr. Hayya alleges that while many officials from 
Arab and Muslim nations knew Mr. Dahlan was 
cooperating with U.S. intelligence agencies 
inside the Palestinian territories, many of those 
same leaders "are going to be amazed and 
surprised when they discover had actually worked 
against them for the Americans." He wouldn't 
directly answer a question about which nations 
were allegedly being spied on, but he said Egypt, 
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had the 
most to be concerned about from potential disclosures.

Jabril Rajoub, a Fatah rival to Mr. Dahlan who 
was long his West Bank counterpart and most 
recently served as Mr. Abbas's national security 
adviser, said he was aware of the alleged 
outlines of these operations, though he said he 
was unaware of their details. He called the 
Gaza-based network a "for-hire" intelligence 
operation, adding that it was active around the 
Middle East and provided information to the Americans, the British and others.

Mr. Hayya also said there is a substantial amount 
of evidence detailing cooperation between Fatah 
and Israel. There is evidence several militant 
leaders were targeted as a result of such 
cooperation, he alleged. This includes 
circumstantial evidence that he was personally 
targeted in an Israeli assassination attempt 
after he was fingered by Fatah intelligence officers as a top security threat.

After taking over Gaza, Mr. Hayya said Hamas 
recovered notes from a meeting of senior 
Palestinian Authority intelligence officials in 
which they discussed Mr. Hayya's value to the 
Islamist group. On May 20, less than a week after 
the meeting, an Israeli missile was fired into 
his home, killing eight people. Mr. Hayya was en 
route at the time, but says the strike came about 
five minutes after his 35-year-old cousin, 
Ibrahim, entered the home. The Hamas leader said 
he and his cousin look very similar.

"They thought it was me," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Shin Bet declined to comment.

Write to Cam Simpson at 
<mailto:cam.simpson at wsj.com>cam.simpson at wsj.com 
and Neil King Jr. at <mailto:neil.king at wsj.com>neil.king at wsj.com

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