The continuing proliferation of conflicting and contradictory stories leaked by U.S. intelligence services regarding what they knew—and, more importantly, didn’t know—about the planning for Hamas’ assault on Israel, is more than just a D.C. bureaucratic comedy act. Taken together, the profusion of leaks suggests there are people in offices and agencies across the Beltway who are worried they’ll be blamed for missing signals and human intelligence outlining plans for the largest one-day massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.
The gaps in U.S. knowledge of the attacks and Iran’s role must also be understood in the context of a separate but related intelligence scandal. As Tablet reported six days before the attacks, the Biden administration’s former Iran envoy Robert Malley supported and facilitated an Iranian spy ring and brought one of the clerical regime’s assets, Ariane Tabatabai, into the government. She is still at the Pentagon, where as chief of staff to the assistant director of defense for special operations, Christopher Maier, she holds top secret clearances. It’s hardly surprising then that the administration is eager to conceal Iran’s supporting role in the Hamas operation and clear the American spy services of any foreknowledge of the murderous incursion of the Iranian-backed terrorist group into southern Israel, no matter how unlikely such claims are in reality.
“We were not tracking this,” a senior U.S. military official told NBC News the day of the attacks. “There’s no particular reason why the U.S. would be training enormous intelligence assets on Hamas, which has never been a threat to us,” former U.S. diplomat Dennis Ross insisted. “It’s pretty hard to say this was a failure on our part. But I think it’s unmistakable that it’s an Israeli intelligence failure.”
Indeed, Israel’s own failures are plain and glaring. At least 1,400 Israelis were killed within Israel’s borders, and the country’s intelligence officials will have to answer to the Israeli public, and investigators, for the massive intelligence and operational failures that led to the slaughter of civilians on a massive scale.
But Ross is wrong: Hamas has long been an obvious threat to the United States and to American lives. Indeed, Hamas violence against Americans is why Congress passed the 2018 Taylor Force Act to prevent the United States from funding the “Pay for Slay” program by which hundreds of Hamas terrorists and their families benefited directly from over half a billion American taxpayer dollars that the United States funnels to the Palestinian Authority.
And the Palestinian terror group has killed Americans before the 30 it slaughtered on Oct. 7, including 3-month-old Chaya Zissel Braun who was murdered at a Jerusalem light rail stop in October 2014 when a Hamas member drove a car into the stroller pushed by the child’s mother.
It’s also not true the United States doesn’t train enormous intelligence assets on Hamas. As everyone now knows, the NSA collects on virtually everyone in the world. Further, the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East is in Qatar at Al Udeid Air Base, which is also the forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command. The Gulf emirate hosts Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh, and former chief Khaled Mashal, to the consternation of many who wonder why Washington lets Qatar get away with its double game. U.S. intelligence officials believe that it’s easier to keep tabs on Haniyeh in Qatar where they have plenty of visibility into what he’s doing. And yet according to U.S. officials, they weren’t tracking Hamas?
So what about the claims that the United States knew nothing about the attack—but that U.S. allies like Egypt were indeed aware, and warned Israel?
None of those stories add up, either.
Egypt is a U.S. listening post, which is why it was strange to hear that the Cairo government had given a heads-up about the attack to Jerusalem but not Washington. Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said he was briefed on the Egyptian intelligence story. But if the account were true, he might have asked what the United States is getting in exchange for a $2 billion annual aid package if not previews of every piece of intelligence the Egyptian military and intelligence services collect. Obviously if the Egyptians did have something on a major Hamas operation designed to murder hundreds of Israelis, especially while Washington was in the midst of trying to broker peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia, they’d have given it to the Americans immediately. No, the purpose of that Egypt story was simple and obvious: to keep the media’s focus on Jerusalem’s failures, not Washington’s.
Yet ad hoc ass-covering by U.S. intelligence bureaucrats raises a larger complication: If the United States was really blindsided by the attack, as Biden administration officials claimed, why are they out there arguing against the idea that the Iranians played an operational role? “We have not yet seen evidence that Iran directed or was behind this particular attack,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that the administration was going to take another look at its collection to see what they had, suggesting that new information could turn up in the coming days and weeks.
They don’t have to bother looking. Open-source reporting shows that Biden officials knew for at least half a year that the Iranians were in planning sessions with their terror assets, Hamas and Hezbollah. Back in April, The Wall Street Journal reported that Esmail Qaani, commander of the Quds Force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ foreign terror unit, was meeting in Beirut with Haniyeh and Hezbollah General Secretary Hassan Nasrallah. Hezbollah then fired off a round of missiles from the north, Hamas fired from the south, and another barrage sailed in from across the Syrian border. The Iranians could have sent a courier to tell its allies to fire off a few missiles at the Israelis. But with the Quds Force chief on the ground meeting with the heads of Hamas and Hezbollah, something bigger was in the works.
The United States can’t possibly have not known about this meeting, and could have easily followed up directly on the purpose of it, given its capacities inside Lebanon. The Biden administration has allocated $72 million to pay the salaries of both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the country’s Internal Security Forces (ISF). One of the ISF’s big tasks is to target Israeli spy networks inside Lebanon. In 2022, the ISF rolled up no less than 17 Israeli networks based in Lebanon.
Here’s another bizarre fact. According to an Oct. 13 New York Times article, Hamas fighters who flew paragliders into Israel to massacre Jews did their training in Lebanon. It seems highly unlikely that the United States, with intense intelligence operations right there, somehow missed the hordes of paragliders all of sudden randomly flocking to do training in Lebanon at the same time—not least because the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, Dorothy Shea, is a paragliding enthusiast who posted videos of her own airborne adventures as recently as mid-August.
Moreover, sources for the Times piece claimed that for over a year Iran helped plan the Hamas attack in coordination with Hezbollah, using Lebanon and Syria as training grounds. The Times piece corroborated an Oct. 8 Wall Street Journal article that reported that Iran had planned the invasion and greenlighted it the Monday before. But reporters at the Journal’s Washington, D.C., bureau, who had no access to the Journal’s foreign sources, were dead set against their Middle East-based colleagues publishing a piece based on their own reporting that made Iran’s role clear. Their interest was in protecting their official sources in Washington, who continued to deny any Iranian role in the attack.
The Biden administration has no plans to confront a regime that it is keen to arm with a nuclear bomb. Since the Obama administration first began negotiations with the Iranians over their nuclear program, the United States has given Iran tens of billions of dollars and made available to the clerical regime additional hundreds of billions. Iran, in the eyes of the Biden team, is not a potential belligerent but a prospective partner.
According to an Oct. 13 CNN report, U.S. intelligence agencies produced assessments of Hamas’ activities in the days leading up to the attacks that were based on what the Israelis told them. But “it is unclear if any of these U.S. assessments were shared with Israel.” It appears, then, that the United States had a separate reporting stream it didn’t pass on to the Israelis.
And that’s what concerns the White House. Not the prospect of a war with a terror state the United States has lavishly funded, but the PR mess that will ensue as it becomes clear—as it partly has from the Journal and the Times reports—what exactly Washington withheld from Jerusalem about what the Americans knew about the coming attack, and Iran’s role in sponsoring, planning, and approving it.
As one intelligence source told CNN: “I think what happened is everyone saw these reports and were like, ‘Yeah of course. But we know what this will look like.’” Sure, Hamas kidnaps an Israeli soldier every now and again. Maybe this time, the embarrassment will finally topple Netanyahu, like the White House has been trying to do since he returned to the prime minister’s office.
But hundreds of hostages, including infants—with U.S. citizens among them? Executing children in front of their parents then killing them, too? Incinerating entire families? Chopping the heads off babies? Shooting mothers and leaving their booby-trapped corpses at the foot of their infants’ cribs so anyone trying to move the deceased would kill everyone in the room? No one expected that. So now everyone is attempting to shift blame for the miscalculation of how messy the result would be, while leaving U.S. sponsorship for the author of the attack untouched.