Interview with Brigadier General Dubi Yung, recently retired Commander of the Special Forces Division of the Israeli National Police, by Des Chymeftos, a graduate research assistant with the Mackenzie institute ,
First off, I would like to thank you General for taking the time to do this interview with me. I am very honoured and privileged to be interviewing a person who has seen and had to deal with situations that most people cannot even dream of. After more than 35 years of service in the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and the Israeli National Police (INP), you are hanging up your uniforms and setting towards new career in the private sector. We are truly losing a unique and exceptional man in the public sector.
Brigadier General Yung was born in 1950 in Israel. In 1968, he enrolled in the Israel Defence Force (IDF) for his mandatory military service where he was a sniper and, later, an instructor in the snipers and sharpshooters course. He was been discharged in 1971, having served his three years, when he got a job in a private computer company. In 1977, he joined the highly specialised Israel Police Counter-Terrorism Unit, the YAMAM, as Commander of their snipers company, having been approached by the Israel Police Commissioner and the Commander of the Border Guard. In his service to the YAMAM, which lasted five years, he was responsible for developing and writing up Counter-Terrorism combat doctrines and tactics, many of which are still being used today 25 years on, by the YAMAM and similar units the world over.
From 1991-1993, he attended Bar-Ilan University completing an Honours BA degree in Criminology, Sociology, and Anthropology.
1993, he was promoted in rank to Colonel and given command of the Border Guard Combat Training Base. Here, he held responsibility for the training and instruction of thousands of combat Border Guard soldiers and commissioned officers. He moved on again in 1996, having attended the Senior CRT course in Louisiana USA in that year, becoming Commander of the Border Guard Hebron Brigade until 1999. In very complex, unique and sensitive situations, he made special efforts to differentiate between the innocent Israeli and Palestinians living in his command territory and those engaged in terrorist and criminal activities. For five months, Dubi attended and successfully completed the Senior Command and Management Course of the Israel Police.
In 1999, Dubi left the Border Guard and transferred to the Israel Police and, until 2000, served as Chief Operations Officer in the Tel Aviv Police District. Here, he had total responsibility for all police operations in that district, both terror- and criminal-related, and direct command over 890 police officers.
In 2000, Dubi was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and given the position of Chief Education and Training Officer in Police HQ in Jerusalem. A year later, in 2001, he was summoned by the Minister of Public Security, Dr. Uzi Landau and the Israel Police Chief Commissioner, Insp. Gen. Shlomo Aharonishky, and given the mission of establishing a Special Forces Division which he did and which he commands up to 2006.
Brig. Gen. Dubi Yung is responsible in this position for giving professional guidelines for 23 special units, numbering over 1,400 officers, in routine and special crisis situations and for every single debriefing session after every terrorist attack and special operation. He established Joint special operation task forces, for dealing with riot control, disaster events and special operations of over 3700 police officers,
He is well-known as a team player and is well-respected and, indeed, liked, by those he comes into contact with. He was on site at every terrorist attack in Israel over the last five years, commanding his special units.
He was the chief advisor in Counter-terrorism to the Israel Police Commissioner and Minister of Public Security. During his service,
He has been asked to assist other Israeli and foreign security agencies in making threat and situation assessments, as well as giving advice on forming Special Forces and counter-terrorism infrastructure and dealing with hostage and kidnapping situations.
Dubi has shared these fields of his expertise with the Israel Security Agency (ISA), NYPD and other police forces in the USA and Canada.
He has been asked on numerous occasions to give lectures on the Israel Police experience in Counter-Terrorism in international conferences the world over and to foreign visitors to Israel, such as to the professors and students who attended Foundation for Defence of Democracy meeting in Tel Aviv over the last few years.
He has received countless letters of recognition and appreciation from Police Chiefs, Commissioners, Ministers, Senior Army Officers and conference participants in recognition of his achievements. His career has seen a rich and varied counter-terrorism experience, encompassing initiative, creativity and flexibility.
Thank you again for doing this Brigadier General. Let’s begin.
DC: How is the populace of Tel Aviv or even Israel as a state prepared in its planning and supporting of counter-terrorist measures? Do you think there is much to learn from Israel’s experience for western nation’s such as the US and Canada?
DY: In Israel, the citizens are a strategic component of the security of the country. Every boy and girl, when they reach the age of 18 is serving in the I.D.F, for 2- 3 years. Therefore, almost everyone in the population has a sense of security. We share partnerships, responsibilities and tasks. We help the individual to help himself. We continually implement the concept of “safeguard your home”., and we share ongoing information, public relations and dialogue- as much as we can- without risking the mission.
You cannot get use to terror; you cannot accept the danger of sending your children to school and not get them back home safely. In my opinion, western nations can learn from the Israeli experience; but not by copying from the Israeli strategy, but by matching the lessons learned, the tactics and the strategy to the nature, regime, culture and size of the country.
DC: What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? What factors make decisions difficult regarding disarming or preventing an attack of any sort.
DY: The main concept is to deal with a terrorist threat as far as we can from the citizens and crowded places. The difficult decision is when there a danger to innocent people; we will not (counter) attack if there is a danger to innocents, even if we will have the terrorist on site. In addition, in such intensive times you make mistakes too. Another difficult decision is to make is the balance between civil rights and the security of the public; making the right decision without putting innocent civilian’s lives in danger. Dealing with a conflict has to take into consideration the nation, the culture, laws of the country, etc.
DC: Can you tell me of a time when you tried to prevent a suicide bomber and failed? What was the consequence? How was it dealt with? Were mistakes learned? How were they fixed?
DY: I will not tell you about specific failed preventions, as I do not want the families to go back to the nightmare they have suffered. However, we had some failures, only 2 as I can recall. You have to know that usually when we have accurate intelligence, we had successful preventions of terrorist attacks. Most of the successful terror attacks happen when we do not have accurate intelligence, or when the intelligence did not reach the operation forces in time to prevent it. Building the security fence among other things was one of the answers we recommended in our debriefing, in order to close the gap in preventing a significant amount of terror attacks and suicide bombings.
I had the responsibility for lessons learned and debriefing after terror incidents. My unit distributed more than 450 after-action reports and lessons learned briefings. Due to the lessons learned, we developed all the doctrines and operational guidelines for terror attacks that were and are needed to prevent such horrible acts.
I have to tell you that many terror groups or cells are taking advantage of democratize rights. They know to walk on the edge of the law, they will use civil rights, the freedom of religion, the culture and the freedom of travelling, using books and internet for their purposes. I read in a newspaper that more than 20% of London Muslims citizens, after the multi-pronged attack “could understand” the motivations of the terrorists. For example in Israel, with regards to civil rights issues, we try to ease the security control at checkpoints to prevent hours of waiting and suffering, but terrorists will use this gap in security to get into a zone and attempt something. I remember one time we gave medical assistance to a young women from Gaza; taking her to an Israeli hospital because she could not have the treatment she needed in Gaza. In return, when she was invited back for a check-up, she was caught on the way to the Israeli hospital wearing a bomb. In the same mode of thinking, it was learned, with regards to the terror attacks in Spain, Egypt, U.K, etc. that some second and third generation immigrants use their citizenship to help or operate terror attacks on civilians within their host country
DC: Countries, such as Greece, in the past have had trouble with false passports, false identifications, etc. by ‘refugees’ who have come from countries such as Israel where they are viewed/ labelled criminals/ terrorists. Do many possess people possess false identification? How is that being controlled or dealt with? Do these people move freely within the Middle East or the rest of the world?
DY: False identification is one of the oldest crimes in the history books. Most of the countries are not ready to invest "very big money" to overpower this problem and again it is a matter of human rights too.
DC: Is there still as substantial and sizable a threat in the capability or willingness to carry out acts of terrorism now that the wall/ fence is up in certain regions of Israel? Has the actual number of acts gone down? Or is it just to have people feel safe without them being secure? Do people feel safer?
DY: The fence is a security obstacle, the motivation is very high, but it is less easy to get in. It is not a 100% foolproof, but its doing the job. Before the fence, we did not have a border with the Palestinians at all, only a line on maps. The amount of suicide attacks has decreased dramatically. The Palestinians exploit every opportunity to attack; they arm themselves, and improve the weapons and missiles that they possess. When suicide attacks reduce and missiles launching decreases, people in Israel feel secure and safe with the fence.
DC: Would you explain the different roles of the police, army, and security forces in Israel? And how the effectively work on different levels and together?
DY: Every organization has its typical sensitivities, rules, culture, missions, and objectives; we have to honour it. Every organization has its main, its core responsibility. No organization, even the largest most powerful one can defeat terrorism or the threat it brings single handed. It is important to find a way to cooperate and work together in countering terrorism, ensuring homeland security, and effectively dealing with disasters. We have to give a country’s full umbrella against the terrorist threat to all the organizations; a nation has to gain the professional advantage of the units or the organization to do the job. I mean that you have to give the particular job to the best unit in the country that is available at the time, no matter which organization or agency they belong to.
Therefore, the unity of command is crucial; everyone has to know and practice their role on the task flawlessly, you have to know your partners, the forces, and the chain of command. If you will have shared protocols and orders, mutual language must exist in order to communicate more effectively, that will do then.
DC: How often were you really able to anticipate potential problems and develop effective preventive measures?
DY: Thank god in hundreds of cases. The "trick" is to prepare your forces for the next attack and not the last one. One of the most important things is it to be trained to the best of the forces’ ability, and beyond; to push them beyond their limits. They must be prepared to react and respond if need be; but our first act is to prevent the attack(s), and if it cannot be done, then react and response accordingly. Much to my regret, sometimes we are unable to prevent the terror attack, then we are forced to act to minimize the damage the attack will cause.
DC: First hand experience can be a forceful teacher, but what methods did you and your colleagues use to maximize lessons learned to stay ahead of the ‘other side’?
DY: we found it advisable to learn from experience of course as well as form the training on varied scenarios and to produce lessons learned even before an event. The fact that all the time we drilled ourselves with varied scenarios with all our partners helped. Of course, you do make mistakes along the way, but it is not clever to make the same mistake twice or repeatedly. The nature of the debriefing between the partners was not to blame anyone, but only to find a better way of doing the job. The main problem is transferring intelligence in real time to the forces in the field. The main issue is to cooperate, to have a link a connection between intelligence and operations. Another issue is to have cooperation in the stage of preparations, the training, as a routine with all the organizations that will operate in terror or disaster situation.
DC: Have you ever been threatened or have there been attempts of violence towards you personally?
DY: Yes, when I served in Gaza strip more than 10 years ago. I was very lucky. Another attempt happened many years ago from an individual who had a criminal background. In the last few years all the high ranking officers are taking precautions and safety measures because of the escalated threats and attempts of violence.
DC: Having visited and consulted with a number of agencies and police forces in the USA, is the USA up to a top standard with counter terrorist efforts? Or are there factors that have to be addressed, gaps which have been overlooked? Can you help address them?
DY: DHS, the Department of Homeland Security is a great model. Terrorists are inventive. Every agency needs to be thinking ahead of them, so there are always ways to improve plans. I will be more than happy to share my experience with friendly countries and organizations, share the tactics and strategy we use, and assist with adopting them to the specific country that needs them. Counter terrorism and homeland security has many faces as do the terrorist's mindset and creativity. We have to match them; we need to improve ourselves all the time, we must keep developing and improving our skills; deployment of our preferences, building forces and joint forces for necessary missions. It is an ongoing learning process in which it improves our response to unpredictable and inconsistent situations.
DC: Preventing terrorism is very difficult; yet there is a way to do it, as seen with Israel. Do you think that the US’s or other Allied countries’ approach to preventing terrorism or acts of terrorism will be successful or are their techniques not as developed as they should be?
DY: The only way to beat terrorism is to share and fight it together; countries have to cut the flow of terrorist funds drastically. We have to fight the "suicide bombers who live among us"; while having a basic global demand of loyalty from immigrant minorities, as well as having civil rights among us. Immigrants have the right to live in democracies, but they also have to respect the necessity of the security and safety of the public. No one has the right to take lives for any cause, crime or terror purpose.
DC: How difficult or effortless is it for terrorists to smuggle or raise funds for terrorist activities? How effortless is it for them to acquire weaponry? What is being done to prevent them from acquiring both funds and weapons? Is drug trafficking or money laundering used to also raise funds?
DY: Your question is excellent; the path of crime is the same as it is for terrorism. Every means that is available is used for terror use. Immigration, borders, posts, banks, smuggling weapons for money and not only for beliefs, and more are all used. It is easy to buy weapons all over the world; illegally crossing borders can be used for smuggling people, drugs, cars, etc. Using "charity foundations," the flow of millions of dollars used to pay suicide bombers’ families, encouraging weak people to kill themselves, sometimes for an incredible cause. Some want to become famous in the village where they are from and as a consequence his/her picture will be on the walls of buildings and idolized by people of the village.
DC: How is Israel dealing with front organizations that supply funds to terrorist organizations? Has it hindered them? How?
DY: Most of the money comes from abroad; this is a subject for global coordination. In the era of computer transactions, tracking terror money is not easy, but it can be done- through intelligence, cooperation between countries, setting financial laws, and utilizing tracking organizations and money laundering traps that serve organized crime as aid to terrorist organizations.
DC: In this age of widespread international travel, how can the authorities become aware of a potential terrorist who has received training in a camp in another country?
DY: It is a matter of coordination between immigration, all intelligence agencies, operations, border guards, and more must include global tracking and operations. But to do this and I stress it; there must be dedication, coordination, and cooperation by all countries. Bureaucratic infighting and jockeying for position within or among agencies, works against effective security and in favour of the terrorist.
But it is the job of the politicians to consider civil rights vs. public security; immigration legislation; customs and more. There must be a demand for loyalty and severer punishment system to those who harbour or aid terrorists in any way.
DC: How did the Israel military/authorities deal with the lack of sympathy, in fact expressed joy of Arabs towards the events of 9/11 as well as other terrorist acts in neighbouring countries?
DY: The truth is that it is some relief to Israelis in a way to that reaction. For years, Israel has been warning the western world, claiming that there is a global threat of extremist Muslims and it is not only an armed conflict between Palestinians and Israel. Hopefully the reality can now be better understood. A real start to understanding was achieved only when terrorism struck western countries by mixed groups of extremists; Muslims from the entire Muslim world involved with extremists movements. Moreover, it is important that we do not forget terror attacks by local terrorists; in many countries they claim to be "freedom fighters"; some groups joined alternatively, copying terror strategies. The support of Arabs towards terror attacks is not unanimous, it's done usually by those who did not understand that this type of crime that is being executed; terror attacks will not solve and not serve their goals, on the contrary it only hinders them.
DC: How is it that Arabs advocate this type of violence? How do they recruit young men and women to engage in violent acts, i.e. suicide bombings, etc.?
DY: Israel lives in the shadow of terror and wars, but it is because it more than anything wants to exist as a nation. Some Arab countries internally accept the existence of Israel. Palestinians still believe that they can achieve political achievements by using terror tactics. So far, they failed. The problem however, starts when you want to become a nation and you have conflicts between armed groups among themselves who have claims and they used to using arms force to get what they want. They know the legal authorities have a hard time to trying to explain to the organizations that from now we have to use political discussion and diplomacy to gain there goals, but they refuse. They then convince young people do commit acts of violence convincing them it is the only way.
DC: before we finish the interview, let me get personal again. What kinds of situations during your career stressed you the most and how did you cope with them?
DY: I cannot find a single moment during more then 35 years of service, where I was involved in less than one stressful situation. Counter terrorism is a long stressful track from the moment you take the mission and the stress is building up until the "d" day and the end of the operation. You want to bring your entire unit back safely, while not having unnecessary casualties.
A stressful situation can be an ongoing terror attack when you try to stop the terrorists before they get to their target and attack. However, nothing can be compare to the site of the civilians’ casualties at a suicide scene.
I coped by trying to reduce the chances of it happening again. We were not always successful, but thank God, we were much more successful than the terrorists. That is where I find my satisfaction.
DC: Is there anything you would like to add that you think people in the field of security or the general public is not aware of or should be cleared up for them with regards to terrorism or the measures authorities should and must take to prevent these acts?
DY: Homeland security and counterterrorism in our era is getting more and more complicated. I believe that today no reasonable country thinks that they are out of the range of attacks and of that of the threat of global terror. I will do my best to contribute from my experience, as I am capable and allowed.
DC: Thank you very much for you time General Yung, it is truly appreciated. We wish you well in your future endeavours to share your experience and knowledge with the many organizations worldwide that could benefit from listening to you.