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February 23, 2018

Where’s the Coverage? Israel Thwarts an ISIS Terror Plot in Australia

Unit 8200.jpg
Unit 8200 soldiers. Image courtesy of Ha'aretz

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that his country’s “intelligence services prevented an Australian plane from being shot down,” by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Many U.S. news outlets failed to report Netanyahu’s Feb. 2, 2018 remarks.

Netanyahu told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations that the terrorist attack “would also have caused a huge malfunction in global air traffic, and this is just one of dozens of attacks that we have thwarted around the world. [The intelligence services] deserve all the support we can give, not only for protecting the citizens of Israel, but for protecting people all over the world”

Israel’s Unit 8200, which is similar to the U.S. National Security Agency, intercepted encrypted communications between ISIS members in Syria and Australia. Unit 8200 specializes in collecting, deciphering and analyzing electronic communication, a field also known as signals intelligence.

Times of Israel correspondent Judah Ari Gross noted that the Israeli army “generally keeps mum on the operations” of the Unit (“IDF reveals it thwarted attempted Islamic State bombing of Australian flight,” Feb. 21, 2018). Although Netanyahu didn’t offer specifics about the foiled attack, Gross reported that two men were arrested in July 2017 for planning to place an improvised explosive device on an Etihad Airways flight out of Sydney. A senior ISIS operative sent the components of the device to Sydney from Turkey. The terrorists also planned to release highly toxic hydrogen sulfide gas in order to poison people.

Australian authorities called the plan “one of the most sophisticated plots that has ever been attempted on Australian soil.” The Times of Israel said that Australian police were unaware of the plot until July 26, 2017 when Israel notified them. The suspected ISIS operatives were arrested three days later.

The same day that Israel’s Prime Minister revealed the foiled plot, the country’s defense forces also revealed that they had “thwarted a recent Iranian cyber attack against Israeli public and private systems,” The Times of Israel reported.

The revelations about Israel preventing terror attacks, international and domestic, should have prompted widespread media coverage. It did not.

Although several Israeli outlets, as well as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and NBC News covered the story, most U.S. news outlets failed to do so. The Washington Post, USA Today, The Baltimore Sun, Politico and others, didn’t inform readers about Israel preventing the attack.

The Post’s failure is particularly noteworthy. The paper has filed several reports on ISIS operations and terror plots in Australia, with headlines like “Australia terror raids are a reminder of the jihadists Down Under" (Sept. 18, 2014), “Terrified of terror, Australia plans indefinite detention even after sentences are served” (Oct. 18, 2016), and others. Post opinion writer David Ignatius even filed an Aug. 18, 2016 dispatch from Canberra warning that “Southeast Asia could be a haven for displaced Islamic State fighters.” That article noted that governments in the region “have been working quietly with the United States…to monitor and try to disrupt radical Islamic groups, and they’ve had considerable success.”

Preventing a “sophisticated” mass casualty terror attack on Australian soil is also a “considerable” success—and one that deserves coverage.

Posted by SD at February 23, 2018 01:33 PM


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