The Middle East, what once was a basis and strategic region for the western agencies to gather intelligence, has now become the Achilles Heel of counter terrorism and HUMINT operations globally.
During the Egyptian uprising the protesters stormed state security buildings, several premises of The Egyptian State Security Investigations Service (SSI) and the Egyptian Secret Service (Mukhabarat). Members of radical Islamic groups secured thousands of secret documents that have caused the state of highest alert within western undercover counter terror units globally.
After the 9/11 attacks, western intelligence agencies have intensified their cooperation with Middle Eastern intelligence agencies as part of the War On Terror. Joint intelligence operations and "rendition" projects were executed by US agencies in close cooperation with their middle eastern allies and the rendition programs were partly held in Egyptian secret service managed underground prison complexes.
Information gathered during these interrogation programs has led to very effective anti-terror operations varying from disruption of planned terror attacks on several western metropolises to the capture or killing of key terrorist. The effectiveness and increase of the US Drone Program is for a significant part due to information gathered by US and Arab intelligence operations.
With the raids on the premises of the Egyptian Secret services, Islamic terror groups not only obtained vital information on the modus operandi of US and Western agencies, but also a detailed list of names of undercover agents globally, their locations, upcoming operations and the specific locations of coordinated undercover hideouts for elite anti-terror teams. Also specific security measures taken by the US and Western agencies on key and vital locations have become available.
Crucial for Public Safety and Security
Late 2011 several interceptions by the NSA and other Interception units in Europe, indicated multiple, isolated, far advanced terror plans aiming to strike at European targets as well as US interests in Europe, Africa and the APAC region.
The high number of planned operations as well as the quality of preparations and the choice of targets are a clear indication that terror groups have access to classified and top secret information regarding the most effective way of carrying out a terror attack.
Investigations revealed that this information was shared with the Egyptian secret service agencies that have been raided during the Egyptian revolution.
European & US agencies started a task force with a wide mandate and a clear list of objectives:
- Assess the damaged caused by this event (both internal and external)
- Assessing the kind (quantity and quality) of information in possession of terror groups
- Infiltrating in terror groups who have access to US and Western Intelligence information
- Disruption of further progress of terror plans
- Secure and change the hideouts of special undercover units.
- Arresting as many suspects as possible in the eco systems of key terror figures ("I see you!" protocol)
- Rewriting engagement protocols for HUMINT operations
Upcoming projects were postponed. Ongoing covert operations were put on hold and international collaboration stagnated.
During hearings in Washington, intelligence officers have stated that although they are progressing in disruption, infiltration and pursuits of terror suspects, the chances are slim that they will be able to prevent all planned terror attacks.
Superficially the Arab spring intelligence leak has a global significance for recent and current counter terrorism operations and the task force was tuned to that.
However, the Egyptian leak is large and has a wider scope then only terrorism. It concerns intelligence gathered during decades of (military) cooperation and is devastating for intelligence networks around the world.
The months and years after the Arab spring turn out to be crucial for public safety and security.
The task force identified covert-operations, agents, "contractors", assets and specific locations that were no longer suitable, had become extremely vulnerable or "burned" due to the immense leak of intelligence during the Egyptian revolution.
Some of the hotspots for intelligence operatives like the Tripoli Corinthia Hotel in Libya or the annex and the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, were the "new" obvious sitting ducks that could also be identified by the targets themselves, or even by amateur outsiders.
Its uncertain if the task force either, did not identify and address all problems, or that the results were not shared as one could expect.
However the increasing number of killed agents, "contractors" and assets on specific locations, indicate that those did not receive a 'burn notice' nor were otherwise warned for the ensuing threats identified by the task force.