A. Principal Findings.
Intelligence assessments available to the National Command authorities and the military chain of command, and produced in support of this Commission, divide the spectrum of threat to the USMNF into two broad categories: conventional military action, and terrorist tactics. These assessments highlight the complexity of the threat environment confronting U.S. military units in Lebanon.
The potential use of terrorist tactics against American targets in Beirut -- the USMNF, U.S. Embassy offices in the Duraffourd Building and co-located with the British Embassy, the U.S. Ambassador's Residence, apartments housing U.. military and Embassy personnel, hotels housing U.S. officials, and even American University Beirut -- is not the exclusive province of Iranian-backed Shiite terrorists. Radical Palestinian and Lebanese groups, some in conjunction with or with the support of Syria, could also employ terrorist tactics against the USMNF or other American targets. Stockpiles of explosives, built up over a decade prior to the Israeli invasion of June 1982, are reportedly still in place and available for future terrorist operations in and around Beirut.
The Commission believes it important to recognize that the "threat" to the USMNF, as described above, did not exist in that form when the USMNF was inserted into Lebanon in the wake of Sabra-Shatila refugee camp massacre by Christian militia forces. A good many Lebanese Shiites were among the victims of that massacre, and American Marines arriving to position themselves between the largely Shiite populace of the southern Beirut suburbs and the IDF were initially welcomed by that populace as heroes and protectors. Clearly, important segments of that citizenry no longer regard them as such, to say nothing of the hostility manifested toward the USMNF by Iranian-inspired fanatics and Syrian-supported Druze gunners. in the view of the Commission, the threat confronting the USMNF evolved incrementally to its present alarming state, and reflects the fact that internally, Lebanon continues to suffer from violent political competition among the number f domestic sectarian groups, some of whom consider the MNF troops to be less peace-keepers than supporters of the Maronite Christian faction of the Lebanese ethnic fabric.
The warmth of the reception first accorded the USMNF did not, however, reflect the U.S. intelligence community's estimation of the likely pitfalls that awaited American peace-keepers in Lebanon. The Commission considers the following passage from a study dated 23 July 198 (weeks before the first insertion of U.S. Marines) to be particularly instructive:
"If a peacekeeping force is to avoid the problems of divining the intentions of armed elements and avoiding entrapment in Lebanese internal conflicts, it will be essential for the question of extralegal armed presence in the area to be settled before its deployment. multinational force is to be used, basic issues affecting its ability accomplish its mission must be settled in advance. if these issues are not clarified and resolved during a predeployment phase, no one should be surprised if the peacekeeping force encounters intractable political and military problems on the ground (as was the case with UNIFIL)."
In short, the experience of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) demonstrated that a peace-keeping force requires certain conditions to be present if it is to operate effectively. In the context of Lebanon, this meant that extralegal militias could not be allowed to operate in or near the MNF area of responsibility. There was, however, no force in being to prevent them from doing so.
An abundance of open-source statements by Syrian and Druze spokesmen makes it clear that there is a widespread belief among its adversaries that the key actors within the Government of Lebanon -- the President of the Republic and the Commander in Chief of Lebanese Armed Forces -- are Maronite Phalangists first and foremost, and that Muslim and Druze officials and soldiers in the government or serving in the LAF are either traitors, opportunists, or unwitting dupes of the Maronite establishment. The factual basis of this perception is moot. What counts is that certain measures undertaken by the USMNF, such as training the LAF and providing naval gunfire support to the defenders of Suq-Al-Gharb, has -- in the eyes of the LAF's opponents -- confirmed their belief that by 23 October 1983, the USMNF had long since abandoned its peace-keeping/presence position.
A number of watershed political/military events marked the steady evolution of the threat form the relatively benign environment of August-September 1982 to that which confronted the USMNF on 23 October 1983. Lebanon's current military predicament began during the last week of June 1982, when the Maronite-dominated Lebanese Forces (LF) militia began to move steadily up the Beirut-Damascus highway toward Alayh, where is engaged militia elements of the Druze Progressive Socialist Party (PSP). The LF, in an effort to establish its presence in new areas, moved into Saida and the western fringes of the Shuf by the end of the month. It was in the Shuf, under the watchful eyes of the IDF occupation force, that the LF and PSP maneuvered toward an inevitable confrontation. The significance of the LF advance is that it rekindled the Lebanese civil war.
Political lines within Lebanon were hardened considerably by the Israel-Lebanon Agreement of 17 May 1983. The agreement, had, among other things, established Lebanese-Israeli security arrangements for southern Lebanon, and made provision for the withdrawal of the IDF. Yet the IDF predicated its own withdrawal upon that of two parties not included in the negotiations: Syria and the PLO.
Israel began in July 1982 to plan for the withdrawal of
As the LAF struggled to establish control over the Shiite neighborhoods (a process which eventually failed) the IDF prepared to evacuate Alayh and the Shuf. On 4 September 1983, the IDF withdrew to the Awwali River and the Lebanese civil war resumed in earnest in the hills overlooking BIA.
On 5 September 1983, the LF began to feel the full impact of its ill-considered move into the Alayh District over a year before, as its forces were routed in Bhamdun. The disaster was later extended to the Shuf, as an estimated 1,000 LF fighters were trapped in Dayr-Al-Qamar.
These then were the events that led to the LAF's stand at Suq-Al-Gharb. In the view of the Commission, U.S. support of the LAF in that operation, timely and effective though it was, nevertheless confirmed definitely, in the eyes of the LAF's enemies, the belligerent status of the USMNF.
The Commission recognizes that there was abundant evidence that Syrian, Druze, and some Shiite leaders had come to consider the USMNF partisan participant on the Lebanese scene well before Suq-Al-Gharb. CINCUSNAVEUR advised the Commission that "by mid-to-late August 1983, Druze, Shia, and Syrian leaders had begun making statements to the effect that the Multinational Forces, especially the U.S. element, was one of 'the enemy'." On 25 August PSP leader Walid Jumblatt claimed that "the Marines have bluntly and directly threatened us. This proof of the U.S. alliance with the Phalange Party."
The Conventional threat to the USMNF -- land, sea, and air -- is largely a function of the progress (or lack thereof) toward an internal Lebanese political settlement acceptable to Syria. All data available to the Commission suggest that a strong relationship exists between Lebanon's
The Commission views Lebanon as an ideal environment for the planning and execution of terrorist operations. For over eight years, Beirut has been an armed camp featuring indiscriminate killing, seemingly random acts of terror, and massive stockpiling of weapons and ammunition. We are told that it is difficult, if not impossible, to find a Lebanese household which does not possess firearms. Notwithstanding the opportunity presented the Government f Lebanon by the evacuation of the PLO and the dispersal of LNM militias in September 1982, there are still neighborhoods in and around Beirut's southern suburbs which the LAF dare not enter.
The Iranian connection introduces a particularly ominous element to the terrorist threat in that the incidence of Iranian-inspired terrorism need not be connected directly with the reconciliation process in Lebanon. Iranian operatives in Lebanon are in the business of killing Americans. They are in that business whether or not the USMNF trains the LAF or provides indirect fire support to the defenders of Suq-Al-Gharb. If the reconciliation process succeeds in restoring
In the wake of the 23 October 1983 bombing, intelligence reporting continues to be voluminous regarding the plans of various groups to use terrorist tactics against the USMNF. None of the reports specify the date or time of the purported operations. moreover, most individual reports cannot be independently verified. It is difficult to state the magnitude of the intelligence problem in a milieu where high casualty terrorist acts are relatively easy to perpetrate yet hard to stop. The types of attacks mounted thus far in Beirut -- and those most likely to be attempted, according to available reporting -- require little in the way of material resources or manpower, making them particularly difficult to intercept in the planning stage. The fact that political and sectarian affinity is reinforced by family and clan solidarity, particularly among radical Shiites, makes timely intelligence penetration problematical at best.
As noted above, the entire spectrum of threat -- conventional and terrorist -- is further complicated by something which, over the pat eight years, has assumed the character of a national pastime in Lebanon: covert provocation. "X" hidden from view, hits "Y" with the expectation that "Y" will lash out at "Z", who is the mortal enemy of "X". The USMNF and other American personnel in Lebanon are ideal targets for this sort of activity. The USMNF is well aware of this prospect, which constitutes yet another threat multiplier in what amounts veritable jungle of threats.
II. INTELLIGENCE SUPPORT
A. Principal Findings.
Intelligence provided over 100 warnings of car bombings between May and 23 October 1983, but like most of the warning information received by the USMNF, specific threats seldom materialized. Seldom did the U.S. have a mechanism at its disposal which would allow a follow up on these leads and a further refinement of the information into intelligence which served for other than warning.
The National Command Authorities and the chain of command received regular updates on the broadening threat to the USMNF.
Although intelligence was provided at all levels that present a great deal of general information on the threat, there was no specific intelligence on the where, how and when of the 23 October bombing.
It should be noted that the FBI report on the 18 April 1983 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, a report which described the use of explosive-activated bottle bombs in that incident, stayed within FBI, CIA, and Department of State channels. The report demonstrated that the gas-enhancement process, which requires only small amounts of explosives to activate the explosion of ordinary gas bottles, introduces a sizeable blast multiplier effect, and is relatively simple to employ. The necessary materials are readily available throughout the world and are relatively easy to deliver to the target. Indeed, oxygen, propane and similar gas bottles are common in most parts of the world. With regard to the BLT Headquarters bombing, FBI forensic experts have stated that it was the largest non-nuclear blast that they have ever examined; perhaps six to nine times the magnitude of the Embassy bombing.
Intelligence support to conventional, tactical military requirements received praise form many in the administrative and operational chains of command. The ability to locate hostile artillery positions, tanks, and militia strong-holds was considered excellent.
At the direction of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, the DOD conducted a survey from 13 to 27 May 1983 to determine whether there was a need to improve military intelligence or counterintelligence support to the USMNF.
Intelligence provided a good picture of the broad threat facing the USMNF in Lebanon. Every intelligence agency in the national community and throughout the chain of command disseminated a great amount of analysis and raw data. Key Defense officials and the military chain of command ere alert to, and concerned with, the insights it provided them. There was an awareness of the existing dangerous situation at every level, but no one had specific information on how, where and when the threat would be carried out. Throughout the period of the USMNF presence in Lebanon, intelligence sources were unable to provide proven, accurate, definitive information on terrorist tactics against our forces. This shortcoming held to be the case on 23 October 1983. The terrorist threat was just one among many threats facing the USMNF from the many factions armed with artillery, crew served weapons and small arms.
Technical intelligence was responsive to the USMNF Commander's conventional tactical needs. Organic CTF 61/62 intelligence,
The intelligence staffs at various echelons within the European Command initiated some innovative measures and, in general, tried to improve U.S. intelligence capabilities against adversaries in the region. The situation as of 30 November 1983, shows improvement as a result of the chain of command's efforts.
The USMNF was operating in an urban environment surrounded by hostile forces without any way of pursuing the accuracy of data in order to head off attack. The intelligence structure should be reviewed from both a design and capabilities standpoint. We need to establish ourselves early in a potential trouble spot and find new techniques to isolate and penetrate our potential enemies. Once established, our military forces (and especially ground forces) need to have aggressive, specific intelligence to give the commander the hard information he needs to counter the threats against his force. U.S. intelligence is primarily geared for the support of air and naval forces engaged in nuclear and conventional warfare. Significant attention must be given by the entire U.S. intelligence structure to purging and refining of masses of generalized information into intelligence analysis useful to small unit ground commanders.
It is also essential that all government agencies develop a heightened awareness of the potential intelligence significance to the USMNF commander of information they develop or hold for their own needs. If DOD elements had been provided the relevant data pertaining to the characteristics of the explosive device employed against the U.S. Embassy in Beirut on 18 April 1983, specifically with regard to the capacity terrorists have to greatly enhance destructive effects through relatively simple means, the USMNF Commander may have acquired a better appreciation of the catastrophic potentialities arrayed against him.
In summary, the U.S. did not have the specific intelligence, force disposition or institutional capabilities sufficient to thwart the attack on the BLT Headquarters building on 23 October 1983. The USMNF commander received volumes of intelligence information, but none specific enough to have enabled the prevention of the attack or provide him other than general warning. There was no institutionalized process for the fusion of intelligence disciplines into an all-source support mechanism.
The Commission concludes that although the USMNF commander received a large volume of intelligence warnings concerning potential terrorist threats prior to 23 October 1983, he was not provided with the timely intelligence, tailored to his specific operational needs, that was necessary to defend against the broad spectrum of threats he faced.
The Commission further concludes that the HUMINT support to the USMNF commander was ineffective, being neither precise nor tailored to his needs.. The Commission believes that the paucity of U.S. controlled HUMINT provided to the USMNF commander is in large part due to policy decisions which have resulted in a U.S. HUMINT capability commensurate with the resources and time that have been spent to acquire it.
The Commission recommends that the Secretary of Defense establish an all-source fusion center, which would tailor and focus all-source intelligence support to U.S. military commanders involved in military operations in areas of high threat, conflict or crisis.
The Commission further recommends that the Secretary of Defense take steps to establish a joint CIA/DOD examination of policy and resource alternatives to immediately improve HUMINT support to the USMNF contingent in Lebanon and other areas of potential conflict which would involve U.S. military operating forces.