The Impending Intelligence Games

After the Israelis attacked a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid the other night, and particularly after the US quietly stated it would wait to learn all the details of the attack, I knew the US and Israel would claim to have had intelligence about the flotilla that would somehow “justify” violations of international law.

Sure enough, Israel told other countries that members of Hezbollah were on the flotilla.

Israeli officials are privately telling their international counterparts that they had intelligence that Hezbollah operatives were hidden among the crew and passengers of several ships. The initial plan was to board all the ships, separate the alleged terrorists, bring the flotilla to Ashdod, and then deal separately with the Gaza activists.  But the intelligence was apparently non-specific, the commandos were trigger-happy and tense (unusually so for the Israelis) and they did not anticipate that passengers and crew on one of the ships would turn against them. A cascade of failures, unclear rules of engagement and a climate of tension –> a tragedy. [emphasis Marc Ambinder’s]

And, as Max Blumenthal reports, they even tried to make–then backed off of–a claim that some flotilla participants were members of al Qaeda.

In a special meeting of the Security Cabinet it was disclosed that a group of 40 people on board the Mavi Mamara with no identification papers belong to Al Qaeda. The terrorists were equipped with bullet proof vests, night-vision goggles, and weapons.

Hey, Israel?!? You should check for those members of Hezbollah-I-mean-al-Qaeda inside those aluminum tubes over there. Right. Right over there, next to that fancy letter from Niger.

Mind you, I have absolutely zero doubt that the US, if not Israel itself, has detailed intelligence on the planning and make-up of the participants in the flotilla. The flotilla has been planned very publicly for months, flotilla members openly challenged Israel and its blockade of Gaza, and presumably planners used email and phones to plan the trip. The US government would require no warrant to wiretap all but the few American participants in the flotilla. Plus, the IDF has openly admitted it sabotaged five of the six ships in the flotilla (though I wonder whether they did this with some kind of electromagnetic pulse).

During his briefing on the operation to the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Colonel Itzik Turgeman hinted that the IDF had sabotaged the engines of the other five ships, saying that “they took care of them.”

But that’s why the described vagueness of the intelligence, the release of very limited, edited videos by Israel, and the immediate preference on the part of both the US and Israel for an Israeli-led, um, “investigation” stinks so much. If the evidence really justified killing civilians, Israel would state as much and show the proof it assuredly does have. But thus far, at least, rather than show proof, they’re making unsubstantiated and changing claims.

Maybe they have proof, but they’re not showing it.

Then again, if I were a Turkish activist hoping to incite Israel into doing something really stupid and I had reason to assume I was being wiretapped, I might plant a vague suggestion Israel (and the US, with its trigger-happy weak intelligence analysis) might overreact to.

Which is why I expect we’re in for some months of claims and counterclaims about intelligence relating to this flotilla.

53 replies
  1. harpie says:

    Thanks, EW.
    Only “months”? ;-)
    We’ve got to come up with another word for “intelligence”.

    • phred says:

      We’ve got to come up with another word for “intelligence”.

      How ’bout “lying”?

      What was it someone once said about the inability of some politicians to make the transition from campaigning to governing? We seem to have a political class that has abandoned all pretense of governance. When you lie to voters to get elected, then it becomes habit forming and at least initially it seems easier than doing your damn job.

      Whether it is lying about a war crime committed on the high seas or lying about what the government can and can’t do in the midst of an environmental catastrophe it is all the same. You simply lie because to actually address a problem requires effort and risks your popularity among those who fund your permanent campaigns.

  2. fatster says:

    Reports: Young U.S. Citizen Killed By IDF In Gaza Flotilla Raid


    It’s a little stickier than that. His parents were born in Turkey and moved back there when he was two.

    • Leen says:

      First I have heard of this death.

      This is such a tragedy. Completely unnecessary. Can you imagine if Israel had dealt with this differently. Had international officials come in and inspect the cargo (which I understand had all ready happened) dealt with it calmly, documented their calm interactions, discuss their concerns about arms etc. No they approach the ship violently and aggressively and then turn off communication outlets. So f—ing stupid ,insane, tragic. Its as if they have lost their ability to think.

      Emily Henochowicz loses eye in a protest…a protest!

  3. Leen says:

    “The flotilla has been planned very publicly for months, flotilla members openly challenged Israel and its blockade of Gaza, and presumably planners used email and phones to plan the trip.”

    This flotilla was publicly planned for months. Many of us have been hounding the MSM to cover the planning phase and the launch. Nothing in the MSM until there was violence…silence.

    Of course they had to justify Israel’s disproportionate and lethal response. Al Jazeera reporters were reporting 10 minutes or more before the Israeli soldiers hit the deck. Israel cut off all communications soon
    after hitting the deck. Eye witness testimonies over at Prof Cole’s. Important place for latest and in depth coverage of the middle east

    Eyewitness Account: ‘They began to fire machine guns …’
    Posted on June 2, 2010 by Juan

    “The Gaza Flotilla Massacre: An Eyewitness Account” from pan-Arab London daily,

    Cenk Uygar
    Israel Must Release the Full Raid Tapes

    If Israel believes that what they did was legal why block satellite reception and confiscate all of the activist recording devices, computers, phones? We all ready know that answer..but

    MV Rachel Corrie still headed for the Gaza

    Mondoweiss doing an amazing job
    New York Times’ fails to interview a single flotilla member about killings

    CNN even had former Ambassador Peck on for a few minutes
    Israel’s Explanation for Deadly Gaza Aid Attack “Full of Holes as a Window Screen”–Former US Ambassador Edward Peck

    Former US Ambassador Edward Peck was on the Gaza aid flotilla that came under attack by Israeli forces. At least nine people were killed and dozens wounded. Peck says Israel’s explanation for the attack is “twisting the truth” and is “as full of holes as a window screen.” [includes rush transcript]

    Ew so glad you brought up the Niger Documents and alleged sources. No one held accountable.

    • Leen says:


      Israel REJECTS International Prove Of Deadly Raid; Obama Administration Says It Urged Restraint
      “JERUSALEM – Israel on Thursday rejected calls from the United Nations and others for an international investigation of its deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla but left the door open to foreign involvement.

      Also on Thursday, the U.S. State Department said that Obama administration officials had warned Israel to use caution and restraint when dealing with the activists as their ships were heading toward Gaza.”

      We sure know our MSM used restraint. Not a whisper about the Flotilla anywhere in our MSM before there was violence. Silence..even though many had contacted them asking them to cover the plans and the launch. Not a whisper.

    • Leen says:

      Juan, Mondoweiss, Norman Finkelstein, Democracy now, Electronic Intifada, Washington Note, Race for Iran some of the best places to go for middle east issues

        • Minnesotachuck says:

          A commenter on a Patrick Lang post yesterday put up a link to this post by Murry who, according to the commenter is a recognized authority on international maritime law in addition to being a former UK diplomat. Here’s the money quote:

          There are therefore two clear legal possibilities.

          Possibility one is that the Israeli commandos were acting on behalf of the government of Israel in killing the activists on the ships. In that case Israel is in a position of war with Turkey, and the act falls under international jurisdiction as a war crime.

          Possibility two is that, if the killings were not authorised Israeli military action, they were acts of murder under Turkish jurisdiction. If Israel does not consider itself in a position of war with Turkey, then it must hand over the commandos involved for trial in Turkey under Turkish law.

          In brief, if Israel and Turkey are not at war, then it is Turkish law which is applicable to what happened on the ship. It is for Turkey, not Israel, to carry out any inquiry or investigation into events and to initiate any prosecutions. Israel is obliged to hand over indicted personnel for prosecution.

            • brendanx says:

              Possibility two is that, if the killings were not authorised Israeli military action, they were acts of murder under Turkish jurisdiction. If Israel does not consider itself in a position of war with Turkey, then it must hand over the commandos involved for trial in Turkey under Turkish law.

              It seems there’s a possibility three: that Turkey doesn’t consider itself in a poisition of war with Israel, either, but doesn’t ask for the commandos to be tried in Turkey. Has Turkey demanded it?

              • bmaz says:

                No, not that I am aware of; but i have not kept up as much as i would have liked; got about a million things going on right now, but need to look into that more if I get the time. My comment was based upon nothing more than the general principle that a state has jurisdiction in relation to any offence committed by any person on any ship or aircraft belonging to it. Same for US flagged airliners; if they are in the air and a crime is committed on one, the US has primary jurisdiction irrespective of where in the global airspace it is.

                That is certainly not to say that some other state with a proper nexus to a/the crime could not assert jurisdiction if Turkey did not claim it in the current situation of course.

                • harpie says:

                  New Info?
                  Why Was the Mavi Marmara Reflagged Just Before Sailing?; Craig Murray; 6/3/20

                  Contrary to virtually all media reports to date, it appears the Mavi Marmara was reflagged from Turkey to the Comoros Islands around 20 May, shortly before heading the peace flotilla.

                  This is very important. While the Israeli attack remains illegal, it means that the injured party – and the party with legal jurisdiction over the event – is the incapable Comoros Islands rather than the highly capable Turkey. It also greatly reduces the NATO angle, unless other attacked ships were flying the Turkish flag.

                  • harpie says:

                    harpie update: But from a comment by “Alex” at the article:

                    “According to the shipping register (which is updated daily) the Mavi Marmara is Turkish flagged. MV Rachel Corrie did not come up on search.”

                    • Mary says:

                      The Rachel Corrie is Irish flagged from what I’ve read, but this makes it a bit murkier:


                      The 1,200-tonne Rachel Corrie, registered in Cambodia but owned by the Free Gaza Movement in Ireland, was half way between Crete and Libya yesterday and still several days’ steaming distance from its destination

                      The re-flagging would dent the Turkish stance if that happened. OTOH, you would still have Israel kidnapping NATO nation citizens on the high seas.

                      One thing I thought was interesting but went almost unmentioned in the press was that NATO has, as an entity, called for the release of the vessels and kidnapped citizens.


                      The [UN] and NATO demanded the immediate release of all six vessels and the hundreds of Palestinian supporters who were on board.

                      NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen demanded the “immediate” release of civilians and boats held by Israel after the deadly operation

                      I don’t think Israel cared what the UN said, but up until this point they were making lots of noises about holding some of these people and trying them and making them sign off on statements that they were in Israel illegally to be released/deported, and it seems as if as soon as it was public (although not publicized) that NATO was demanding the release, suddenly that talked dropped and the Israeli AG said it would be counterproductive to Israel’s interests to press charges.

                      I’m also thinking they were happy to get the dual US citizenship teenager back into Turkey asap.

          • harpie says:

            Murray’s bio:

            1989-92 Head of Maritime Section, FCO, London
            Responsible for negotiation of the UK and Dependent Territory continental shelf and fisheries boundaries, for implementation of the Channel Tunnel treaty and for negotiations on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. From August 1990 to August 1991 he was also head of the FCO Section of the Embargo Surveillance Centre, responsible for intelligence analysis on Iraqi attempts at evading sanctions, particularly in the field of weapons procurement, and with providing information to UK military forces and to other governments to effect physical enforcement of the embargo.

            He was a “conscientious objector” against torture. From wiki:

            While at the embassy in Tashkent, he accused the Karimov administration of human rights abuses, a step which, he argued, was against the wishes of the British government and the reason for his removal. Murray complained to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in November 2002, January or early February 2003, and in June 2004 that intelligence linking the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan to al-Qaeda, suspected of being gained through torture, was unreliable, immoral, and illegal[4]. He described this as “selling our souls for dross”[5].

            Murray was subsequently removed from his ambassadorial post on October 14, 2004.

  4. Leen says:

    O.k. the wall is coming down at MSNBC. While many of us who tried were unsuccessful at getting MSNBC, NPR and other MSM outlets to cover the flotilla before the violence. This past Tuesday Spitzer (in for Dylan Ratigan) had Glenn on (Glenn wiped the deck with Spitzer), Ed was relatively balanced about the raid, Chris Matthews was clearly lop-sided (he showed the same f—king Israeli released clip of the Israeli soldiers hitting the deck and being hit with the metal rods 9 times in 7 minutes…9 times). That evening Rachel Maddow (who has never dipped her toes even close to these waters) actually covered this raid in a relatively for the MSM balanced way. She had clips from the Israeli government and another clip (not sure if it was the Al Jazeera clip or some other source) that showed a bit of the raid before the soldiers were on the ship. On Tuesday RAchel mentioned that there were other ships still headed for the Gaza. She said that she would keep the public updated on their movements. Did not cover the MV Rachel Corrie last night. Hope she keeps her word

    Keith Olbermann did not touch the issue on Tuesday night

    But last night he had former Ambassador Peck on. The MSM wall is coming down. Better late than never

    “ugly politics”

    Need to mention not one of these folks ever whispered about the Goldstone Report. Complete Silence.

    NPR’s Talk of the Nation Neil Conan has not touched the issue yet.
    NPR’s Fresh Air Host Terri Gross has not touched the issue yet.

    • emptywheel says:

      Some have taken the claim that the 5 other boats were sabotaged to mean that the group was infiltrated, though as I said, I think it might be electromagnetic pulse. But it is possible.

      • brendanx says:

        I was thinking: planting “known” Hezbollah operatives among the participants so they could be identified as such after the events.

      • BoxTurtle says:

        Why would Israel use a non public weapon of great power when they could simply swap a good part of a bad part or put chemicals in the gas?

        A localized EMP, powerful enough to take out a ship and yet directional enough that neither Italy nor Turkey nor Lebanon nor Cyprus reported effects would be quite a weapon indeed.

        If there had been any identifiable terrorists on those boats, Israel and America would have used that as a very public excuse to stop ’em. That didn’t happen. If there had been military supplies on those ships, ditto. That didn’t happen, either.

        Every country in the world was watching that area with every intelligence asset available. A real investigation wouldn’t take long, if it’s purpose was fact finding. But it’s purpose is delay, until the worlds attention span lapses in about a week or so.

        Boxturtle (The cash transfer to the Israeli treasury will take place as scheduled)

  5. Leen says:

    Former Chief of mission in Baghdad Peck on Olbermann “The Israeli’s came on in helmets and combat suits. They carried machine guns, pistols, stun grenades a couple of them had paint guns. Two of the paint balls hit one of the members of our party. A gentleman Joe Meaders who was a wounded veteran of the USS Liberty when the Israeli’s attacked the that in the 67 war if you remember. Killing an wounding over 200 American servicemen on a U.S. navy ship”

    Think folks are going to want to hear what Peck is saying. He has been on CNN, Democracy Now and MSNBC in the last two days. Wonder if he would come to FDL to a Salon to discuss what went on

  6. Leen says:

    When will any of the MSM try to make contact with the MV Rachel Corrie before we witness more violence. Put those damn spotlights on that ship/boat.

    Come on don’t wait for more violence. Come on Rachel keep your word on keeping the public informed about that ship before there is more violence. Try to make contact.

  7. b2020 says:

    “If I were a Turkish activist hoping to incite Israel into doing something really stupid [..], I might plant a vague suggestion Israel [..] might overreact to.”

    Let’s not forget that it is the duty and obligation of law enforcement and military to do due diligence, proportionality and all the other handicaps professionals and adults are burdened with. There is a very strong “obedience or pain” movement, expressed through multi-splendored moves such as taser deployment, waterboarding, “pruning by assassination”, big swinging dick moments on the high seas, and AUMFs. The world is not a playhouse where Bid Daddy gets to molest and discipline at leisure. Rappelling into an ill-prepared clusterfuck to claim you have been shot at with your own weapons is not an excuse for so-called “special” forces to randomly shoot up the place – this is not military olympics for cognitively disabled soldiers and their chain-and-balls of command.

    If these “pros” of the executive feel hamstrung by the various impediments of law, then I am sure they can easily find employment in some of the more honestly repressive governments out there, or just move on to the corporate world. The comprehensive whining of the bestest and bravestest has become an ear-splitting distraction, serving as an excuse for corrupt oligarchs to erode the rule of law. How that is compatible with the sworn duty to serve and protect land and constitution is beyond me.

    I am amazed nobody has brought up yet that this is an Israeli tradition?

    • Leen says:

      Let’s hope, pray, contact MSM outlets and everyone else we can trying to make sure that there is not another violent incident near the date of the attack on the USS Liberty as Edward Teller (who has a great idea) pointed out.

      Get those MSM spotlights on the MV Rachel Corrie.
      Here’s an idea:

      The MV Rachel Corrie should plan on reaching the exact point at which the USS Liberty was attacked by the Israeli Navy on June 8th 1967, on June 8th 2010.

      They should ask for permission to lay wreaths and garlands from the families of those killed at that site 43 years ago.

      They should ask that now, and continue to idle in the area north of Egypt.

      They should also ask the U.S. government and Navy if they would like to send a vessel to be at the site for the wreath laying ceremony.

      They should invite foreign dignitaries to charter vessels from Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and other countries to come to the site to witness the wreath laying.

      They should invite American congressional leaders to come honor the dead from a brutal battle that earned the skipper of the Liberty the Medal of Honor.

      They should invite rabbis, imams, ministers, priests, shamans and witches from all faiths to pray earnestly for peace. Atheists, too.

      And then,

      They should be allowed to proceed to the port of Gaza, unhindered.

  8. Leen says:

    Pray to the big electron that the MSM gets their cameras make contact with the MV Rachel Corrie (that is if Israel has not cut off all communications systems) before there is even more violence. Get those damn spotlights on that ship.

    Where is the MV Rachel Corrie and will the U.S. MSM continue to ignore this ship that is moving forward
    Irish aid boat holds course towards Gaza despite Israel warning

  9. bobschacht says:

    We’ve talked about American Exceptionalism on this website.
    We could also talk about Israeli Exceptionalism, the myth that Israel is a unique nation with a unique heritage and a unique mission, and therefore is exempt from the normal rules of diplomacy and international responsibilities. Israeli exceptionalism is, of course, based on Biblical claims, but it is also justified by a myth about the uniqueness of the Holocaust, which requires ignoring similar atrocities in Cambodia, Ruanda, and elsewhere. It is all of a piece: Jews have been singled out uniquely in history for unparalleled persecution, therefore they deserve their own nation in their historical homeland, and never mind the rights of anyone else who may get in the way.

    Bob in AZ

    • brendanx says:

      This is one of the worst arguments in criticism of Israel I’ve ever read. Aside from playing into the hands of cynical apologists for Israel, who will misuse the Holocaust every chance they can get, it elevates the very myth that Israeli rightists and particularly their cohorts in the U.S. perpetuate: the myth that Israel was founded as a kind of just compensation for the Holocaust when, if fact, the Zionists of the time would have won an independent Israel with or without the Holocaust; they were quite fierce in pursuit of that end already. The sins of the Israelis are on par with those other nationalists’…and at their worst with the sins of outright racist movements. Don’t take this “chosen” notion too far — it just tars all Jews with complicity in what the Israeli government does.

      For my part, I also find it a bit flippant to deny the “uniqueness” of the Holocaust. Every holocaust is unique, and every nation who’s suffered one has the right to give theirs pride of place in their collective consciousness.

  10. Arbusto says:

    Why worry about unjustified force or illegal blockade of humanitarian aide? No one gave a rats ass about Israel attacking the USS Liberty in 1967, during the six day war, killing 34 sailors and wounding 171 and will soon forget this transgression. Our media suffers from adult ADD, as does our society. That mingled with Congresses obsession with protecting Israel, at the cost of our best interests, coupled with the cynicism of the Obama Administration and the zealotry of the Israeli government, guaranty no resolution to this nor subsequent human rights violations from Israel.

    • Leen says:

      good point
      hell the majority of the American public do not give a rats ass about the hundreds of thousands dead in Iraq as a direct result of our invasion.

  11. klynn says:

    Hey, Israel?!? You should check for those members of Hezbollah-I-mean-al-Qaeda inside those aluminum tubes over there. Right. Right over there, next to that fancy letter from Niger.

    Looks like we are on the same train of thought!

      • Leen says:

        If Israel and the I lobby repeat this enough times as they all ready will not matter if it is true or not

        ““The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly – it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over”

        Ew “Which is why I expect we’re in for some months of claims and counterclaims about intelligence relating to this flotilla.”

        And when you confiscate all recording devices from the activist you simply wipe out evidence. Making it a he said she said thing

        • brendanx says:

          I was a little undiplomatic there. I was sort of trying to make the point that “Hamas, Hamas, Hamas!” is enough of a non-sequitur in the wake of this massacre without dragging the Holocaust into it.

        • brendanx says:

          I wouldn’t go far. He’s good about pointing out the inherent racism and callousness of Israel’s apologists here in the U.S., for one thing. But you’re right — I think the plain word “massacre” might stick in his throat.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      Israel isn’t fooling anyone. They know it. What they are doing is blowing enough smoke that the only force that matters to them (The US congress) has enough cover to keep the money flowing.

      Boxturtle (IMO the israelis are working harder than they need to, a note from Mom should suffice)

      • JThomason says:

        I think this is it. In a post Rovian world its just how the game is played: calling an attack “self-defense”, claiming Israel is the only party entitled to an investigation, etc. ad nauseam. This wasn’t even military preemption. Its a kind of material preemption which used to be called “an act of war”. Facts, standards, justice and law are irrelevant. What is crucial is security. See Global International Security State.(Remember the word map?)

        • Leen says:

          “In a post Rovian world”

          Where efforts to push for justice and accountability for serious crimes are referred to as “retribution, witch hunts, vengeance”

  12. harpie says:

    O/T but of general interest:
    At What Cost Intelligence?; Scott Horton; 6/3/10

    In an article just out in Military Review, (PDF) Major Douglas Pryer describes the struggle of the TF 1AD, an elite military intelligence unit serving in Iraq, with Bush-era torture techniques:[…]

    As Pryer notes, the intelligence officers managing the task force’s operations decided to take guidance from the standards laid out by General George Washington during the Revolutionary War, starting with his injunction to “treat prisoners with humanity.” […]

    At What Cost Intelligence” (pdf)

  13. browngregbrown says:

    “…the immediate preference on the part of both the US and Israel for an Israeli-led, um, “investigation” stinks so much”

    In a move to piggyback on this opportunity, other accused criminals around the world demanded the right to conduct the investigations of their conduct. ;-)

  14. rosalind says:

    ot: i may have to break down and actually watch a sunday show, just to see what markos & arianna put up against baby dick:

    RT @jaketapper And what could be a humdinger of a #ThisWeek roundtable: George Will, Liz Cheney, @ariannahuff and @markos

  15. YYSyd says:

    Listening to yesterday’s interviews from Democracy Now, just heard something that is interesting and possibly a real scandal. The satellite communications were apparently cut off just prior to the Israeli piracy (of civilian vessels in international waters including flags of those with treaties with US and US itself as well as US citizens). Now as competent (or used to be) as IDF is, I do not believe they can shut off satellite communications. And since satellite communications is from point on ground or sea straight up to the satellite, normal means of jamming (unless you jam your own comms as well) do not work. So someone had to at request of IDF, shut off the satellite access at that time. I believe the United States is probably the only entity capable of commanding the shut off. If the foregoing is plausible it would raise some nice questions about the obligations a government has to its citizens.

    • Hmmm says:

      I guess that may be one reason, but I’m reminded of ew’s hunch that EMP may have been used. IIUC, that would knock out locally rather than at the satellite level.

    • timbo says:

      Israel built many of those satellites or at least Israelis wrote and developed much of the software. It’s kind of like the US Congress’ cellphone nodes a few years back…where a bunch of Congressional dupes went ahead and got an Israeli company to install the nodes. Guess who was listening in?

      • YYSyd says:

        That would simply make the scandal larger would it not? If you’re making calls for help on your satellite phone, just make sure you’re running away from non Israeli bandits?

  16. YYSyd says:

    Under normal circumstances for civil riot control the kind of communications that are disabled would be cell phones and vhf/uhf transceivers and landlines last. Cell phones would be by the phone service and transceivers by generating RF interference. This will affect the communications of the “law” as well. Satellite would assume that kind of equipment is being used, which rules out civilians but would include press. As much as governments have shown taste for targeting the press, I think the targeting is more direct. I’d have to be convinced that satellite communication shut down is normal anti-riot measure.

    Now a likely explanation would simply be switch over between satellites with moving phone, but that would not be all that interesting.

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