The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Hamas's intelligence tour-de-force

I mean to post this days ago. For those who missed it or don't have a WSJ subscription, this Wall Street Journal piece on intelligence files seized from the Fatah security apparatus in Gaza by Hamas is a must-read. I am providing a PDF copy of it here. Excerpt:
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."
Within three-four days of the takeover, rumors emerged in the Arabic press that Hamas officials had presented contact in Egyptian intelligence officials with a bunch of dossiers detailing the Dahlan-run spying operations against Egypt. Some of that information may include all kinds of embarrassing material -- info on senior regime officials, documentation of military personnel's involvement in smuggling operations, who knows. One has to wonder (with the caveat that this is pure guesswork, I am not privy to any intelligence that is not in the public record) whether this contributed to the noticeable change of tone of Egyptian officials, including Hosni Mubarak, after the initial shock of the takeover. And to Dahlan's recent removal as Palestinian National Security Chief. Even if half of what is alleged by Hamas officials is true, then an important intelligence-gathering network has been blown (and the intelligence could end up in the hands of all kinds of people afterwards, starting with the Iranians.)