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Israeli and US Counterintelligence and Covert Operations Research Paper

Background Information

Widely used definitions refer to counter intelligence as the collected information, and actions taken in defense against espionage and other intelligence activities, including sabotage or assassinations carried out by other states. It should be noted that these activities are similar in most settings, although glaring differences have been cited in methodologies adopted by various states. The leadership hierarchy and command execution techniques may also vary slightly to suit the agencies specifications (Davies, 2002).

In the past, most societies were mono ethnic, with rigid structures in place to ensure their conformity to nature. Most of them were characterized by cultural hierarchies, despite being cosmopolitan in nature. Some rulers established models based on oriental tyranny. All these domains were centralized systems of government with imperial centers of power.

Intelligence collected in such realms was for the benefit of the king, who had no trust in his family or lieutenants. Provincial leaders were least trusted and viewed in the same light with principals of the surrounding chieftains. They used the information to identify and exterminate disquiet among the family members and his subjects (Godson, 2000).

It also came in handy when they needed to influence the loyalty of their neighboring chiefs, their assistants or military commanding officers. It should be noted that these societies mentioned little about counterintelligence as applied in the modern society. Most of the information collected was consumed locally, with targets being persons in proximity with the leadership and foreign persons captured in that territory.

Modern-day practices have evolved substantially as a result of technological advancement. Currently, agents are able to spy on their targets from the comfort of their offices. The advent of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and enhanced applications of information systems have facilitated this.

It is commonplace that similar technology is available to foes; although, employing the same makes it easy to track down their locations due to beams emitted from the devices. With double agents in adversary agencies, essential information on weaponry, military and economic strategy among others can be collected and used effectively for security and to plan offence in case of combat (Godson, 2000).


It is commonplace that properly functional counter intelligence systems are requisite in the modern-day society. Taking an example of America in the course the cold war, complacency was the main undoing. All agencies tasked with ensuring security had been permeated by double agents. Normally, it is difficult to uncover their identity and that of their employer (Godson, 2000).

It is suspected that established foes of America were joined by new adversaries during the infiltration. The aftermath saw momentous secrets being compromised to the great detriment of the populace. This information included government policies, military strategies, information on private citizens and much more. The introduction of counterintelligence is of immense importance to Americans since their shores have been invaded in addition, to threats on their allies and other citizens worldwide.

These occurrences instigated a move by the government to establish a counter intelligence policy board, led by a counterintelligence executive. It draws membership from different departments in American leadership hierarchy. Some of these include the Justice Department (Federal Bureau of Investigation); Central Intelligence Agency; Homeland security; Department of Defense; among others.

The board is solely tasked with engaging both public and private sector elements to attend to threats posed by foreign operatives and groups, in addition, to protecting national secrets and methods employed in obtaining them. This is achieved by the provision of conduct guidance by counterintelligence programs and other government operations. All this can only be achieved with a presidential assent (Davies, 2002).

The post 9/11era has ushered in an epoch where counter intelligence agencies have developed the ability to integrate their findings with national security matters. Legislation passed on the same in 2002 and 2004 further enhanced the turn around, charging the counterintelligence executive with the formulation of a strategy before availing information on implementation of the same to the president (Godson, 2000).

Structure and Mandate

There exists a national counterintelligence policy board, which is overseen by the national counterintelligence executive. It draws its membership from the arms of government, which are essential for security and welfare of civilians.

These departments are; Justice Department and the Federal Investigation Bureau; Defense, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Homeland Security and the Central Intelligence Agency, not forgetting the State and Energy departments. This board serves as the principal strategy creation body (Godson, 2000).

The Director of National Intelligence and his counterpart in the Counterintelligence department will review this policy yearly, making adjustments as they deem fit. Pundits warn that constant change in the approach may be detrimental to the whole course, since consistency is essential.

After it had been noted that these institutions were acting individually, calls were made for the harmonization of their operations. This happened because it was difficult to manage the individual agencies when they worked against each other.

Instances of redundancy, coupled with the overlapping of roles were commonplace and defined the order of operation among the agencies and their affiliates. After the counter productivity had been revealed publicly, measures to harmonize their operations were instituted. The move had several positives, since it also resulted in reduced expenditure due to data sharing (Sims & Gerber, 2009).

Agencies would share the information they had among themselves, and set out only when they lacked particular feeds (Sims & Gerber, 2009). Division of labor was also introduced, with several agencies specializing in different aspects and stages of the procedure. It should not be forgotten that although their roles overlap at times, they have established a mode of operation that ensures an agency steps in only after another has exhausted all options at its disposal.

Sometimes, agencies have undertaken parallel missions when faced with challenges. It was concluded that all counterintelligence agencies should synchronize their activities, operating as a unit when orchestrating offensive operations, or securing their agencies against infiltration.

The most significant responsibility they are tasked with is securing the homeland and guarding the bureaus against permeation by a foreign representative. These adversaries include terrorist organizations and other rivals interested inn toppling American military and economic interests overseas (Davies, 2002). The agencies identify and classify the magnitude of threats.

Forays will also be made into cyberspace, since they present unprecedented challenges due to the nations over reliance information systems. It is imperative to have a well protected information infrastructure, which is essential to guarantee all aspects of national security.

Trusted persons are, therefore, entrusted with investigatory roles, to establish their resources, strategies and modes of operation. All this will be carried out in addition, to establishing their identities and that of their collaborators. This will reveal their capabilities and limitations, thereby enabling the commencement of campaigns to neutralize their impact (Sims & Gerber, 2009).

These agencies are required to defend the veracity of the American intelligence system. This will be achieved by the provision of reliable information to the government and its agencies. In order to preserve the effectiveness of the itinerary, it is obligatory to thwart infiltration at all levels.

In order to initiate proper counter measures, the relevant forces need precise information on the artillery possessed by the adversary and their exact location (Davies, 2002). It should be remembered that no agency is capable of insuring itself against penetration, hence the need for cooperation among them. Recommendations will include mitigation measures that can be enforced to avert crises.

Their knowledge of American operations has been propagated by openness and commendable transparency in the running of society. This can be countered by mastering their skills, in addition to finding out information they have and that which they do not. This can be used as leverage in frustrating their progress. It is noteworthy that the efficacy of these dealings is entirely reliant on America’s ability to infiltrate their agencies.

Civic education forms an essential method of creating awareness. This agency will coordinate the dissemination of educative literature through the media. This will be carried out in both the print and electronic media after extensive consultation with the private sector and media owners. Academic institutions will also be incorporated into the scheme (Davies, 2002). With this knowledge, the amount of people used as soft targets by foreign bureaus will reduce considerably, making America a safer place to be.

Summarily, American counterintelligence is largely run by internal agencies established in the constitution. Their roles are clearly defined by parliament; although most of them require parliamentary or presidential approval before they are executed. They rarely share intelligence with foreign agencies, unless it is necessary.

In case, this happens they limit this pool to their most trusted allies. Americans are known to treat spies harshly, with overstretched jail sentences being their favored method. At times, they have been forced to trade these spies with others of American descent captured in other states performing the same roles (Sims & Gerber, 2009).

In spite of all this, the Director of National Intelligence has limited powers during formulation of the counterintelligence strategy, most of which are bureaucratic. Critics of the agency have referred to the Iraqi invasion, which was instigated by erroneous information from German agencies.

Traditionally, most American policies give prominence to intelligence activities as opposed to counterintelligence. Existing laws governing civil liberties make it difficult for the director to establish policies and strategies that are in tandem and guarantee efficiency simultaneously.

Research on past wars has revealed that victory was only achieved when intelligence and counterintelligence agencies combined forces. The effectiveness of the Britons in the course of the First World War was due to efficient double agents who supplied information on strategies used by adversaries. When these agencies work separately they present a weaker front, hence, they become easy targets for attack by adversaries, best illustrated during the twin bomb attacks on America in 2001 (Davies, 2002).


The Mossad shoulders all responsibilities for external state operations, like spying for intelligence, assassinations, and paramilitary engagements among others. It also shoulders responsibility for repatriation of Israeli nationals in foreign territories, in conjunction with the military intelligence and other bureaus (Godson, 2000). It was constituted in 1949 to enhance coordination between existing security forces, and was later moved to the premier’s office after it was restructured in 1951.

Structure and Mandate

In comparison to American systems, Israelis are better organized, with clearly defined leadership structures and established codes of conduct to oversee their operations. Previously, they had a policy of hiding the identity of their director. This was revoked after several botched operations in the 80s (Sims & Gerber, 2009).

It is widely believed that the agency has approximately 2500 agents, with the cast majority having served in the military. This is partly due to Israel’s policy of compulsory service, while others were recruited after being dispatched or their retirement from the military. Initially, their slogan for operation was drawn from the Bible, in the book of Proverbs, “Only with plenty wisdom should one engage in battle.”

This was later changed to another text from the same book, “Without wisdom failure is guaranteed, but the abundance of wisdom guarantees safety.” This embodies the principles, beliefs and strategies of this agency, and their commitment to utilize every available resource in service to their nation (Godson, 2000).

To ensure efficiency, agency operations have been split into divisions, with each section being tasked with a unique set of responsibilities. The largest of all departments, which also has connections abroad in their foreign missions both openly and under cover, is the collections department.

It bears the duty execute surveillance operations abroad and internally. It has several desks, with each bearing responsibility for a geographical locality. This is done based on demarcations they have established for effectiveness. Every desk handles operations of officers in stations they preside over, and agents under their jurisdiction (Sims & Gerber, 2009).

A liaison department, which incorporates political action, also exists. This branch undertakes political actions, in collaboration with foreign intelligence bureaus. This is arrangement may also extend to nations which are hostile to Israelis, thereby lacking ambassadorial dealings. In large stations, the state commissioned two undercover agents under the embassy guise, with each attached either the collection or liaison department (Godson, 2000).

Also, referred to as Metsada, a Special Operations Dissection is in existence. This wing is tasked with high-profile executions for political, economic and social security of the Israeli people. This section also performs sabotage and paramilitary undertakings (Godson, 2000). As has been noted before, their expertise may be called for in the course of psychological warfare operations.

The Lohaman Psichlogit (LAP) segment is another section of the agency, which has a mandate that bears close semblance to that of the Metsada. It is mainly tasked with the execution of and oversight over psychological warfare. This is defined to include operations that require misinformation and trickery as part of the arsenal. It is mostly effective in distracting adversaries and luring them into traps, with the hope that they will reveal important information or make a mistake that will expose their soft underbelly.

The last major segment of the bureau is the research department. This wing is tasked with the assembly of intelligence. This is done at frequent intervals with compilations including daily succinct and weekly digests. The department also churns out meticulous monthly reports on various aspects of the known and unknown security concerns.

The desk has also established special resource centers, with every one of them handling a specific region of particular interest to them. A nuclear desk has been created to deal with special weapons and those of mass destruction (Godson, 2000). The department of technology is in existence too. It is specifically charged with the responsibility of technological inventions and innovation to facilitate Mossad operations both locally and on the global front.


As can be deduced from the cases sighted afore, it is evident that both countries have adopted diverse approaches to a similar subject. The Israelis come across as more organized, with clearly defined hierarchical systems, as oppose to their American counterparts.

Their set up allows the counterintelligence brigade to complement efforts of other service men. In the American case, the existence of over sixteen agencies, which are tasked with the same roles, is detrimental to their cause. As observed previously, there is a great tendency of inter-agency rivalry, which may compromise the integrity of several missions (Davies, 2002).

Structurally, the Israeli model is better placed to achieve results on short notice as compared to the American system. This agency has a director who is accountable to the premier. Incase of threats, the onus is placed on these people to initiate counter measures. This enhances decision making, because it is easy for the two to find consensus.

Americans have a model which is led by a director who is accountable to the president (Godson, 2000). Every agency has an independent director. Depending on the leadership level someone finds himself in, numerous councils exist, which should be summoned and allowed to deliberate before a stance is adopted. The resulting bureaucracy is also unhelpful, since it slows down the reflex action of agencies incase threats are detected. The whole process may suffer incase of misinformation by disgruntled agents.

On the flip side, chances of making mistakes are greatly minimized, since a diverse perspective is represented during the deliberation sessions. The model American model allows ample time for research and other development oriented activities, because the high-level delegations are rarely called to attend to emergencies. Rather, they are briefed on the goings on at regular intervals (Davies, 2002).


Davies, P. H. J. (2002). Intelligence, information technology, and information warfare. Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 36: 312 – 352.

Godson, R. (2000). Dirty tricks or trump cards: U.S. covert action & counterintelligence. New Jersey: Transaction publishers.

Sims, J. E. and Gerber, B. L. (2009). Vaults, mirrors, and masks: rediscovering U.S. counterintelligence. Washington: Georgetown University Press.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Israeli and US Counterintelligence and Covert Operations'. 1 September.

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