Lots o’ tips coming in about this ABC News scoop, which was even more of a scoop two weeks ago when the Times of London first reported it. Remember? Israeli commandos daringly infiltrating the suspected Syrian nuke site and escaping with hard evidence to reassure jittery American intelligence officials? From ToL:

Israel had been surveying the site for months, according to Washington and Israeli sources. President George W Bush was told during the summer that Israeli intelligence suggested North Korean personnel and nuclear-related material were at the Syrian site…

But Washington was not satisfied. It demanded clear evidence of nuclear-related activities before giving the operation its blessing. The task of the commandos was to provide it.

ABC claims the raid was originally set for the week of July 14, a little less than a month after Ehud Barak was sworn in as the new defense minister, and adds two new wrinkles: not only had U.S. intelligence overlooked the site completely but Condi Rice, learning nothing from the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, apparently convinced the Israelis to warn Assad before the raid that they knew about the site.

In early July the Israelis presented the United States with satellite imagery that they said showed a nuclear facility in Syria. They had additional evidence that they said showed that some of the technology was supplied by North Korea.

One U.S. official told ABC’s Martha Raddatz the material was “jaw dropping” because it raised questions as to why U.S. intelligence had not previously picked up on the facility.

Officials said that the facility had likely been there for months if not years

Some in the administration supported the Israeli action [earlier in the summer], but others, notably Sect. of State Condoleeza Rice did not. One senior official said the U.S. convinced the Israelis to “confront Syria before attacking.”

Unless Assad is even more of an idiot than he’s reputed to be, if there was any nuclear material there when the Israelis “confronted” him it was long gone by the time of the raid on September 6.

Grasping-at-straws exit question: Is there any positive spin at all to be put on the claim that U.S. intel didn’t know about the Syrian site? Playing possum, maybe, to make Iran think we’re not hip to their own secret nuke sites in advance of a possible bombing run? Help a brother out here.

Tags: Israel