Does reading Debkafile make us smarter, or dumber?

For those who enjoy reading the output from skilled psy-ops experts, the Internet makes it easy to find. For those not careful where they get their information, they will learn that the Internet can make us dumber.

Then there is Debkafile (here is a brief Wikipedia entry). Whatever it is they do, nobody does it better. Let’s flip through their portfolio of warnings. These are in sequence, so their latest at at the end of the list (you cannot properly appreciate it without seeing what has come before).

Update:  Information Dissemination (a professional navy-centric blog) takes an expert’s look at Debkafile.

(1)  Debkafile, where war always looms in the foggy but near future

Iran’s Looming Missile-cum-Nuclear Threat Sparks Fresh Tensions“, Debkafile (8 August 2004) — Contains many ominous details, including reports of Israel’s submarines “lurking in waters just outside the Persian Gulf”.

The war started on April 6, at least according to this Debkafile article (31 March 2007) — Excerpt:

Intelligence sources in Moscow claim to have information that a US strike against Iranian nuclear installations has been scheduled for April 6 at 0040 hours. The Russian sources say the US operation, code-named “Bite,” will last no more than 12 hours and consist of missile and aerial strikes devastating enough to set Tehran’s nuclear program several years back.

Syrian and Iranian Generals in Intensive War Consultations“, Debkafile (9 June 2007) — Excerpt:

During most of last week, two high-ranking Iranian delegations spent time in Damascus. One was composed of generals who held talks with Syrian leaders on coordinated preparations for a Middle East war in the coming months.

Russians employed at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor suddenly depart in a body“, Debkafile (1 October 2007) — Excerpt:

The Khorramshar News Agency, which is published by the ethnic Arab underground of Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan, reported early Oct. 1 that the entire staff of Russian nuclear engineers and experts employed in building the nuclear reactor at Bushehr had abruptly packed their bags Friday, Sept. 28, and flew back to Russia. The agency’s one-liner offers no source or explanation. DEBKAfile have obtained no corroboration of its report from any other source. If true, DEBKAfile can offer three hypothetical scenarios to account for the Russians’ precipitate departure:

  1. Another crisis has cropped up in the patchy Russian-Iranian dealings over the Bushehr reactor. This is unlikely because …
  2. Moscow or Tehran has been tipped off that a US or Israeli attack is imminent on the Bushehr plant and Iran’s other nuclear installations and acted to whip Russian personnel out of harm’s way.
  3. Moscow has learned that an Iranian pre-emptive attack is imminent against American targets in Iraq and the Persian Gulf and/or Israel.

Olmert sounds alarm: Iran has crossed red line for developing a nuclear weapon. It’s too late for sanctions“, Debkafile (30 October 2007) — Excerpt:

This is the message prime minister Ehud Olmert is carrying urgently to French President Nicolas Sarkozy Monday and British premier Gordon Brown Tuesday, according to DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources. Last week, Olmert placed the Israeli intelligence warning of an Iranian nuclear breakthrough before Russian president Vladimir Putin, while Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak presented the updated intelligence on the advances Iran has made towards its goal of a nuclear weapon to American officials in Washington, including President Bush. Olmert will be telling Sarkozy and Brown that the moment for diplomacy or even tough sanctions has passed. Iran can only be stopped now from going all the way to its goal by direct, military action.

Information of the Iranian breakthrough prompted the latest spate of hard-hitting US statements. Sunday, Oct. 21, US vice president Cheney said: “Our country, and the entire international community, cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its grandest ambitions.” Friday, the incoming Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen said US forces are capable of operations against Iran’s nuclear facilities or other targets. At his first news conference, he said: “I don’t think we’re stretched in that regard.”

Iran and Israel Poised for Possible Military Clash over Mughniyeh’s Death“, Debkafile (16 March 2008)

Exclusive: Limited US attack on Iranian Revolutionary Guards bases in sight“, Debkafile (3 June 2008) — Excerpt:

Our Washington sources report that president George W. Bush is closer than ever before to ordering a limited missile-air bombardment of the IRGC-al Qods Brigade’s installations in Iran. It is planned to target training camps and the munitions factories pumping fighters, missiles and roadside bombs to the Iraqi insurgency, Lebanese Hizballah and Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza.

Exclusive: Flurry over possible Israeli attack on Iran galvanized by race to succeed Olmert“, Debkafile (6 June 2008) — Excerpt:

It is self-evident to every Israeli that Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear bomb would threaten the Jewish state’s existence and no government can afford to stand by and watch it happen. For Mofaz, who is campaigning to succeed Olmert as Kadima leader and next prime minister, a hawkish position on Iran has the best chance of garnering popular support.

This does not promise an attack on Iran is about to happen. So far, Olmert and Barak have been treading water on the Iran problem; they are even dragging their feet on the lingering Hamas missile offensive which is progressively depopulating southwestern Israel.

(2)  US Carriers, always on their way to attack Iran

The is an sizable group of geopolitical alarmists, whose behavior is much like those sheep that faint at the slightest scare. One story that consistently sets their pulses racing is news of US carrier movements. Since our carriers are almost always in motion, their adrenal glands get frequent exercise. Debkafile often feeds the flames of their fears, with mention of US carrier movements adding a menacing touch. Here are just a few of their “exclusive” alerts and alarms.

The American Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group joins US build-up opposite Iran“, Debkafile (30 October 2006) — Not a carrier, but makes the same point.

US aircraft carriers USS Eisenhower and USS Enterprise in the Red Sea off the Saudi Arabian coast“, Debkafile (7 November 2006) — Excerpt:

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower, and its accompanying carrier strike group, passed through the Suez Canal on Monday, Oct. 30, and arrived in the Red Sea on Tuesday, Oct. 31.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the USS Eisenhower is at sea off the Saudi Arabian coast, together with another aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise. The presence of the two US aircraft carriers, and their accompanying strike groups, in a body of water as small as the Red Sea is an extraordinary development.

… With the arrival of the USS Eisenhower in the region, there are now three US aircraft carriers in the Persion Gulf and surrounding waters, including the USS Iwo Jima. Accompanying the USS Eisenhower are the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio, the guided-missile destroyers USS Rampage and USS Mason and the nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine USS Newport.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that a fourth US aircraft carrier, the USS Boxer, will arrive on the scene by the beginning of next week, together with its carrier strike group.

Washington again ups the military stakes against Iran, plans deployment of 600 Patriot anti-missile missiles in Middle East“, Debkafile (19 January 2007)

Cheney Lines up Middle East Arab Allies for US Iraq Pull-out and Possible Iran Attack“, Debkafile (12 May 2007) — Excerpt:

US Vice President Dick Cheney arrived in Riyadh Sat. May 12, with a full caseload for his talks with Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz . He is seeking coordination with the Saudis in good time for the approaching winding-down of US military forces in Iraq. … Friday, aboard the USS John Stennis, one of two US air carrier strike groups deployed in Gulf waters, the vice president pledged the US would “stand with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region.”

A third US carrier, the nuclear-powered USS Enterprise Strike Group is speeding towards the Persian Gulf“, Debkafile (29 June 2007) — Excerpt:

According to DEBKAfile’s military sources, the US naval build-up off the shores of Iran marks rising military tensions in the region, accentuated by last week’s Hamas victory which has endowed Iran with a military foothold on Israel’s southwestern border.

Two US carrier-strike groups are bound for Persian Gulf region, bringing number back to three“, Debkafile (18 September 2007) — Excerpt:

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that from the third week of July, the only American strike force- carrier in the Persian Gulf-Arabian Sea region was the USS Enterprise. By the end of September, it will be joined by the USS Nimitz and the USS Truman Strike Groups. Our sources note that with their arrival, three American naval, air and marine forces will again confront Iranian shores at a time of crisis in the military and civilian leadership of Iran – signaled by the abrupt change of Revolutionary Guards Corps commanders, rising Israel-Syrian tensions and a troubled situation in Lebanon.

US Gulf armada built up again amid preparations for third round of Security Council sanctions against Iran“, Debkafile (4 December 2007) — Excerpt:

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that a third aircraft carrier, the USS Harry S. Truman , arrived in the Central Command area over the weekend to join the USS Enterprise and USS Nimitz . All three head mighty strike groups of assorted warships, aircraft, marine forces, amphibious craft and nuclear submarines. Our sources interpret the new build-up as signifying US preparedness for a possible military confrontation with Iran.

First frank talk of potential war on Iran from top US soldier“, Debkafile, 8 April 2008 — Excerpt:

DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources reported Friday that the USS Harry S. Truman Strike Group has just taken up position in Persian Gulf waters. It consists of 12 warships led by the giant LSD-41 class USS Whidby Island landing craft, submarines and eight assault squadrons. The legend on their banner is: Give ‘em Hell.

Another nuclear aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, will soon set out for the region from the South China Sea, along with two more US naval strike forces: the USS Kitty Hawk and the USS Nimitz attended by strike groups.

Three major US naval strike forces due this week in Persian Gulf“, 12 August 2008 — Disturbing news!  Or rather it would be, except that the USS Theodore Roosevelt is docked at Norfolk.  Excerpt:

DEBKAfile’s military sources note that the arrival of the three new American flotillas will raise to five the number of US strike forces in Middle East waters – an unprecedented build-up since the crisis erupted over Iran’s nuclear program.

This vast naval and air strength consists of more than 40 carriers, warships and submarines, some of the last nuclear-armed, opposite the Islamic Republic, a concentration last seen just before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

… DEBKAfile’s military sources name the three US strike forces en route to the Gulf as the USS Theodore Roosevelt , the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Iwo Jima . Already in place are the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea opposite Iranian shores and the USS Peleliu which is cruising in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

Arab world fears an Iran war may be impending“, Debkafile, 18 August 2008 —  Debkafile sticks by their story, despite the fact that the Roosevelt is still docked at Norfolk.  Excerpt:

The scare was fed by the impending arrival of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the USS Ronald Reagan, and the USS Iwo Jima in the Persian Gulf to reinforce the US strike forces in the region, as first revealed by DEBKAfile on August 11.   They are to join the USS Abraham Lincoln, which is patrolling the Arabian Sea opposite Iran, and the USS Peleliu, on beat in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. This deployment would be the largest naval task force the US and its allies had massed in the region since the 1991 Gulf War.

A US Pentagon spokesman last week denied that these forces were gathering to impose a partial naval blockade on Iran, but declined to disclose their mission. The denial apparently failed to convince the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Kuwait.

Three major US naval strike forces due this week in Persian Gulf“, 12 August 2008 — They ran multiple stories tracing the movement of this armada to the Persian Gulf. This fictional armada. The Roosevelt remained at its dock in Norfolk. Excerpt:

DEBKAfile’s military sources note that the arrival of the three new American flotillas will raise to five the number of US strike forces in Middle East waters – an unprecedented build-up since the crisis erupted over Iran’s nuclear program.

This vast naval and air strength consists of more than 40 carriers, warships and submarines, some of the last nuclear-armed, opposite the Islamic Republic, a concentration last seen just before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

… DEBKAfile’s military sources name the three US strike forces en route to the Gulf as the USS Theodore Roosevelt , the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Iwo Jima . Already in place are the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea opposite Iranian shores and the USS Peleliu which is cruising in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

(3)  Other posts about Debkafile

(4)  Posts about a strike at Iran by Israel (esp. note #2)

  1. Is Iran dangerous, or a paper tiger?   (13 November 2007)
  2. Will Israel commit suicide? More rumors of a strike at Iran  (22 December 2007)
  3. A new story about a possible war with Iran  (21 May 2008) — About the 20 May Jerusalem Post story, originally reported by Army Radio.
  4. “As things look, Israel may well attack Iran soon”  (3 June 2008) — About the Fischer story in the 30 May Daily Star.
  5. “Attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable”   (8 June 2008)  — War-talk by a former Defense Minster of Israel.
  6. Der Spiegel: “Israeli Ministers Mull Plans for Military Strike against Iran”  (17 June 2008) — Rumors in Der Spiegel of a strike by Israel on Iran.
  7. More rumors of a strike at Iran by Israel  (1 July 2008)
  8. Leaks about a possible strike at Iran (are there any hotter issues today?)  (7 July 2008)
  9. The most expensive psy-war campaign – ever!  (13 July 2008)

Here is the full archive of my posts about a possible strike at Iran by Israel or the US.

18 thoughts on “Does reading Debkafile make us smarter, or dumber?”

  1. Nicholas Weaver

    I have rather a different question: WHY do they want to beat the war drums??
    Fabius Maximus replies: A great question! The key to a great analysis is not who, what, where, when, or how — but why?

  2. I’m bookmarking this. Well done.

    For the record, I vote “not smarter” othterwise known as option Q in multiple choice.

  3. The author should debunk why reading MSM makes us dumber- starting with all the false WMD lies. We know Debka is a farce- like most of the establishment psyops, but must read it because the establishment takes it seriously- and rules OUR lives accordingly. Only a fool would ignore FOX,Debka, NYT… Not becaue they are true but to monitor what the criminals are up to and where they are leading us.

    {FM note: the following was edited due to excessive copying from their articles.}

    DEBKAfile sends NYC into frenzy with false terror alarm — Excerpt:

    New York authorities were taking extra counterterrorism precautions Friday in response to what they said was an unsubstantiated report on an Israeli Web site regarding a radiological threat to the city.
    Officials said Friday that they had not changed the city’s terror alert status in response to online chatter mentioning a truck packed with radioactive material.

    … He said an Israeli Web site reported that online posts were made following a video released Sunday featuring an American member of Al-Qaida threatening foreign diplomats and embassies across the Islamic world.

    Browne appeared to be referring to a report published on DEBKAfile, which stated that Al-Qaida communications had accused the U.S. of the “grave error of failing to take seriously the videotape released by the American Al-Qaida spokesman Adam Gaddahn last week.”

    According to the report, the communications said “the attacks would be carried out ‘by means of trucks loaded with radio-active material against America’s biggest city and financial nerve center.'”
    DEBKAfile added that another message “mentioned New York, Los Angeles and Miami as targets.”

    It gets funnier:

    DEBKAfile editor says New York at risk, Jonathan Weber, YNet, 08.11.07 — Excerpt:

    Illusions? Conspiracies? DEBKAfile editor refutes claims against his site in interview with Ynet following terror alert that put New York police in a panic; warns that Big Apple has much to fear

    Be it true or false, imaginary or realistic, DEBKAfile’s Giora Shamis can rest easy on Saturday, after having spun New York police into a frenzy following a Debka report that al-Qaeda might be plotting to detonate a dirty bomb in the city. Moments before updating his site with new information obtained from world-wide sources, Shamis talked with Ynet and refused to take full credit for the incident.
    “The New York Police didn’t have to take my information seriously,” he said. “They had other information, additional to ours.”

    Shamis offers all information he receives to the American authorities with open arms. “Anyone contacting us can receive the information. We have been contacted in the past and we are still contacted by US police departments and terror-investigating bodies,” he said.

    Claiming that New York City residents had much to fear, Shamis said, “There is always something to be afraid of, because the threat is an ongoing threat, and it’s a fact that the New York Police Department has taken it seriously. We never know if the threat is real or not, but if you follow these publications for years, you can get a feel for whether the threat is serious or not. This time this threat seemed – due to the intensiveness of the exchange of messages – to be more serious than others.”

    Despite the fact that Debka’s sources are not viewed as very credible by the Israeli reader, Shamis insisted, “Debka has a monitoring department and its main job is to follow al-Qaeda and other terror organizations’ online movement. We specialize in these areas and publish everything we find – videos, messages, announcements, and all other publications that appear on the web. Sometimes we find in these guides the location of their planned attack, and we follow them.”

    Shamis continued to shoot down claims that the site published false information, saying, “Sometimes, it is the publication of the alert that prevents the actual attack from being carried out.”

    Taking pride in the fact that a Debka publication from July 2001 predicted that one of al-Qaeda’s targets was the World Trade Center in New York City, Shamis said, “Our record speaks for itself. Of course there are people who are uncomfortable with this information, so they treat it as information that they don’t want to accept. Is this a conspiratory site? The whole

    Posted on Sun, Aug. 12, 2007: Terror threat Web site called unreliable, AP — excerpt:

    The reported threat of a dirty bomb attack in New York City that led to heightened security this weekend came from a Jerusalem-based Web site that claims more than a million daily readers, but is criticized by intelligence experts as unreliable.

    Giora Shamis and his wife, Diane Shalem, launched DEBKAfile ( in 2000 to focus on security, terrorist activities and military affairs in the Middle East. Shamis claims he and his wife predicted the al-Qaida attack on the World Trade Center.

    Shamis says Debka, which is financed by subscriptions and ad revenue, has a daily readership of 1.3 million. But its reports, published in English and Hebrew, rely on anonymous sourcing and often prove untrue.

    Last week, the site reported intercepting al-Qaida messages discussing possible radioactive attacks against American cities, identifying New York, Los Angeles and Miami as potential targets. “We have about four or five people that are sitting around the clock, 24-hours-a-day, tracking the different al-Qaida publications,” Shamis said. “For us, this kind of story is routine.”

    … “I don’t take Debka seriously as a reliable source … but there are people who take it seriously and that’s what makes it dangerous,” said Boaz Ganor, an Israeli anti-terror expert.

    1. DebkaFile is the voice of some Conservative Israelis, so there is propaganda there. There are also some facts there. You get smarter when you check out facts which come true, dumber if you accept all without question.

      1. (1) Can you cite some examples of Debkafile success? In my long experience reading Debkafile, the rumors they circulate are usually false (like those in this post, and the countless similar ones in the 4 years since). But the correct facts at Debkafile were usually also reported elsewhere. Over the years they’ve broken a small number of correct stories, and those mostly details. BTW, if they had a great record — they’d certain post it for all to see and marvel.

        Other posts about Debkafile:

  4. Pingback: The Middle East Conflict - News And Views - Page 3

  5. There are no corroborating reports in the UNITED STATES and European media regarding these war games. According to Israel’s DebkaFile, these exercises were ordered by President Obama. They include the US and Israeli Air Force, naval forces, as well as intelligence and ground forces.

  6. while Debka is certainly a propaganda outfit in many respects (or-at the least-it pushes the viewpoint of a very select and ultra conservative Israeli military-class view) there have been numerous times it has been correct in its reporting. Since the time of this post I can recall them breaking evrything from the absurd-I think they ‘scooped’ the Saudi ‘Mossad vulture’, They were ultimately correct about the Soviets sending their fleet to the Syrian coast. They were correct about the Israels failure to intercept an Hizbollah/Iran drone AND most recently they were the first that I recall to report that the FBI and CIA had known about the Boston bomb suspect Tamerlan at least a year or two before the bombing and-we may never know-if it does turn out that the FBI tried to utilize the older brother when the knew he returned to Dagastan.
    But-to be fair-they often as not print hysterical and sometimes ridiculous dis-info such as today-they report on the “new” Super-duper-DUPER US bunker buster bomb that I presume is supposed to make the Iranians quake in their boots. And then there was that report a few years ago about some super-smart missle that could be shot into a cave (tora-bora and/or fodor) and that it could blow up subsequent doors and barriers while twisting and turning corners on the way to its payload. SHEESH! That was my personal tipping point for the dumb/dumber aspect of Debka

    1. And…I can also add: Debka was absolutely correct in predicting the upheaval and downfall of the Arab regimes that followed the so-called Arab Spring. This was way back in 2001 that they reported the tensions within the Royal fam of SA would have tumultuous effects on egypt, and the rest of the Arab dictators which Debka claimed would not likely survive. Maybe that is too broad reaching to give them credit but it proves that they arent totally 100% BS. I think they may be appx-60% ok/30%hysteria and 10% outright bull

      1. You are missing my point.

        This post looks at Debka as a news source, their reporting about facts — which is their major claim to fame, undeservedly so due to the large amount of fiction they “report”.

        You are discussing their speculation about the future. Perhaps they have a good record. Perhaps, like astrogators, they get lucky on occasion. Discussion of this requires systematic analysis, not remembering a few examples.

        Also, I find your examples unconvincing, esp linking the problems in Saudi to the Arab Spring. While possible, I would to see analysis explaining the connection.

        “but it proves that they arent totally 100% BS”

        Please, no strawman. The point of this was NOT that everything they say was wrong, but much (not all) of their original content — why people read them instead of Reuters — was wrong.

    2. Perhaps you are right about these Debka scoops. I stopped reading them long ago — this post is five years old.

      More likely Debka was repeating speculation from other sources as their own, which they frequently did when I read them. Another good reason to not use them.

  7. Pingback: Does reading Debkafile make us smarter, or dumber? – Fabius Maximus (blog) | Information Operations News


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