Israeli intelligence unit claims responsibility for foiling ISIS plot
WASHINGTON — CBS News learned details Wednesday of an ISIS plot to blow up a passenger jet last year. The attack never happened because Israeli cyber spies broke it up.
Australian police raided several homes in summer 2017 linked to the plot and the arrests followed. On Wednesday, Israeli investigators, in a rare description of an intelligence operation, said the elite 8200 intelligence unit, was responsible for the tip that led to the end of the plot. They also disclosed that the target was an Etihad jetliner flying from Sydney to Abu Dhabi.
A senior ISIS commander ordered the attack with a homemade bomb disguised as a meat grinder. At the time, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull celebrated the work of his investigators.
“The tight cooperation and collaboration between our intelligence and security agencies is the key to keeping Australians safe from terrorism,” Turnbull said.
Wednesday, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, publicly claimed credit.
“I can tell you that this is one of many, many such actions that we did preventing terrorism around the world,” he said.
The secretive 8200 intelligence unit is part of the Israeli military. The unit scans threats online and has been keeping an eye on ISIS fighters who have been forced from the battlefield and into countries around the world. The Israelis did not reveal the specific intelligence that led to the foiled plot.
“They’re good because they have a lot of practice, they live in a tough neighborhood,” said Frank Cilluffo, associate vice president and director at the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University.
Cilluffo, who studies terror groups, says the 8200 unit is among the best.
“Israel punches well above its weight on cyber related issues,” he said. “Their cyber intelligence capabilities are parallel to even the United States, and 8200 is the elite of the elite.”
It’s unclear why the Israelis chose to reveal the information now — seven months after the arrests in Australia. The announcement comes at a time Prime Minister Netanyahu faces mounting legal and political problems stemming from alleged corruption.
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