Crucial Warning Goes Unheeded – The Story of a Forgotten Intelligence Episode, October 5, 1973

Crucial Warning Goes Unheeded


Brigadier General (res.) Amos Gilboa has served in a variety of senior intelligence positions, one of which was head of the Research Division of Aman (Military Intelligence) (1982-1984). He has conducted many studies on intelligence issues (some of them still classified), some of which deal with the Yom Kippur War.

In this publication Gilboa takes a new look at a very old episode from the difficult period that preceded the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

Even though those turbulent days have little in common with our own, the lessons to be learned from what happened are relevant to any period and are worth noting by those who work in intelligence and by decision-makers of all ranks.

As Gilboa points out, the episode illustrates “how vital it is that the head of Aman and the chief of staff conduct an ongoing dialogue…without such a dialogue the highest quality intelligence will come to nothing.”

The evening in honor of the late Lieutenant General Amnon Lipkin Shahak, which was devoted to the subject of “Leadership in Intelligence,” also focused on the topic of relations between the head of Aman and the chief of staff.

Dialogue does not cost a penny; it only requires goodwill, understanding, and attentiveness. Perhaps, even in our frenetic days, that is not too much to hope for?

Amos Gilboa concludes:

The cornerstone of intelligence assessment is that one must never settle…for any one course of action by the enemy. Assessment requires choosing two or more basic possibilities…examining them…and selecting one of them. That will be the possibility that is chosen. This possibility will be examined all the time…. Meanwhile the other possibilities that “competed” with it must be examined as well.

Brigadier General (res.) Ron Kitri

Head of the Institute


The great debates about the intelligence failure in the Yom Kippur War have highlighted the episode of the “special means.” Important as it is, it offers no particular lesson for intelligence. Another episode, however, was overshadowed, and many in the intelligence community are not aware of it. Known as the “roebuck item,” it occurred during the afternoon of Friday, October 5, 22 hours before the war broke out. It constituted a crucial warning of a very rare kind. Everything that occurred with regard to this warning reflects very clearly and painfully what happens when the intelligence research is under an “entrenched conception,” and what is likely to happen when there is no ongoing, intensive, intimate intelligence discourse between the intelligence leadership and the top decision-maker.

This event occurred over 40 years ago amid security, political, and technological circumstances that were completely different from those of today. Its lessons, however, are relevant both now and in the future because it concerns the essence of intelligence work, where nothing has yet changed: the mind of the human being and its tendencies. I saw fit, then, to expound on the episode and to try and make it as interesting to readers as possible. For our purposes, readers comprise anyone working in an intelligence capacity, anyone interested in the subject of intelligence, decision-makers, and academics dealing with the intelligence and decision-making field. 

I would like to thank those who contributed and helped me, and particularly Pesach Meluvani and Reuven Yardor, who worked in Unit 8200 at the time the event occurred.