Home Edition., Los Angeles Times, 02-27-1998, pp A-16, top of page
Previous incidents involving the Israeli spy agency:
* Sept. 25, 1997: Mossad agents try but fail to assassinate Hamas official Khaled Meshaal in Amman, Jordan. Two agents are caught and released in a prisoner swap that forces Israel to release Sheik Ahmed Yassin, a key Hamas leader.
* April 24, 1991: Four Mossad agents are arrested for attempting to install listening devices in the Iranian Embassy in Nicosia, Cyprus. The agents are released shortly after standing trial.
* November 1987: The London newspaper the Mail on Sunday reveals the identity of a Mossad agent who had infiltrated a PLO cell in London. The agent is arrested on suspicion of murdering a Palestinian cartoonist and is banished from the country.
* July 1973: In an attempt to avenge the deaths of Israeli athletes slain during the 1972 Olympics, Mossad agents kill an innocent Moroccan waiter in Lillehammer, Norway. Five of the 15 agents involved in the operation serve sentences in Norwegian jails.
* 1963: Two Mossad agents are arrested in Bern, Switzerland, on charges of intimidating a family member of a German scientist who had been offered a job developing missiles for Egypt. The operatives are released a few months later. top of page
VICTOR OSTROVSKY MOSSAD BOOK CONTROVERSY:
A FORMER MOSSAD SPY SPILLS SOME DARK SECRETS OF THAT SHADOWY SERVICE
People, 10-01-1990, pp 105.
top of page
Although a high Israeli source insists the book is a fraud, Ostrovsky, 40, claims he has been under round-the-clock surveillance by Mossad for weeks and that the offices of the Canadian publisher of the book he co-authored with newspaperman Claire Hoy were illegally entered. The Israeli government also obtained a court order temporarily outlawing the book in Canada and -- briefly -- in the United States, arguing that its publication would endanger agents in the field. But a four-judge appeals panel in the U.S. quickly overturned the temporary restraining order that had been granted the Israelis after an unusual late-night legal petition, saying that Israel's argument was groundless. Since then By Way of Deception has been ''leaping off the shelves,'' according to Ostrovsky's American publisher. ''We've never experienced anything like this,'' says St. Martin's Press President Roy Gainsburg, who reports that 255,000 copies of the book are in print after a first printing of only 42,000 and that bookstores are clamoring for more.
Among Ostrovsky's more shocking allegations are that Mossad failed to share with the U.S. detailed intelligence that might have averted the 1983 suicide bombing of the Beirut Marine barracks that killed 241 U.S. servicemen; that Israeli agents in New York City bugged conversations between former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young and ambassadors from Syria and Kuwait; and that Mossad promiscuously assassinated enemy agents. ''What's striking is the wealth of detail,'' says David Ignatius, who covered the Middle East for the Wall Street Journal, of the book. ''He didn't make it all up.'' The U.S. government has not commented officially on these charges, though a spokesperson for the State Department said unofficially that the Israelis would have been smarter to ignore the book.
The author is inclined to agree. ''((Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak)) Shamir went against all his advisers when he ordered legal action against me,'' says Ostrovsky, who is living with his wife, Bella, 40, and his two daughters, Leeorah, 16, and Sharon, 20, in a rented house on the outskirts of Ottawa in his native Canada. ''If they wanted to give me publicity, they couldn't have planned it better.''
Israeli authorities have acknowledged that Ostrovsky -- a former naval commander and weapons specialist -- did work for the highly regarded Israeli secret service from 1984 until 1986 but downplay his importance and question his motives. ''He was very junior -- a clerk,'' says one Mossad source, adding that Ostrovsky was also ''very left-wing and very hungry for money.''
Ostrovsky shakes his head at such claims. ''It is an old story,'' he says. ''They want to destroy my reputation. But the fact is that last week, two ((Israeli)) agents showed up at my door and offered me any amount of money, any amount at all, if I would not publish the book. If I was interested in money, wouldn't I take it from them? I don't care about money. I wrote the book to attack a runaway organization. They ((Mossad)) are costing Israel friends, and more than any other weapon, Israel needs friends.''
Ostrovsky comes from prickly Zionist roots and spent his youth shuttling between Israel and his father's native Canada. His father, Syd Osten (anglicized from Ostrovsky), flew fighter planes during Israel's War of Independence; his mother, Mira, drove supply trucks for the Israeli Army. They divorced when Victor was a child, and both began to spend time back in North America, leaving their son in Israel in the care of his grandparents. ''My grandfather was an auditor,'' Ostrovsky recalls. ''Very honorable. He would not get me a job, although he knew many people in the labor unions. So I got a good job on my own. He made me quit because it might look like he got me the job. I got another job. They called me the Bobo, one of those dolls that keeps bouncing up when you knock it down.''
At 18, Ostrovsky became an officer in the Israeli Army. ''I was a Zionist and idealistic,'' he says. ''I was taught that we must have purity of arms, we must be clean.'' He was in and out of military service for the next 18 years before being recruited by Mossad. As part of his training, he learned of the great feats of Israeli intelligence -- foiling a plot by the PLO to kill Golda Meir in 1973, rescuing the hostages on a hijacked Air France plane at Entebbe in 1976. But he was offended, he says, by the corruption of Mossad's leaders -- men who he claims held orgies with young secretaries and ordered the slaughter of PLO suspects. He says he was horrified to discover that Israeli agents knew in advance specific details about the planned terrorist attack on the Beirut Marine barracks in 1983 but gave only vague warnings to their closest ally.
Ostrovsky's disenchantment was shared by his wife, Bella.
Childhood sweethearts, they have been married for 21 years. ''I read some books about how we treated Arabs, and it opened my eyes,'' says Bella. ''I spoke to Vickie and I told him, 'How could we do this?' ''
Ostrovsky left Mossad in 1986 under circumstances that are unclear. He claims he made enemies of important officials with his impertinent questions; a Mossad source says he was kicked out after bungling an assignment. Ostrovsky denies it. In any case he emigrated to Canada, where he convinced Hoy, author of the 1987 bestseller Friends in High Places, an expose of political intrigue in Canada, to tell his story. An accomplished artist, Ostrovsky, subsidized by book revenue's can now paint full-time. If he ever tried to return to Israel, he fears, he might be prosecuted for treason. Yet Ostrovsky insists he wrote his book out of loyalty to his early Zionist ideal. ''How could I remain silent?'' he asks. ''I am a patriot.'' top of page
Mossad Under Scrutiny All Things Considered (NPR), 10-09-1997, top of page
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST: A member of the government committee investigating Israel's actions against a Hamas leader in Jordan resigned today, just days after his appointment.
The former head of Israel's secret service, the Mossad, was accused of bias after he expressed support for the agency's botched assassination attempt.
And, Israeli foreign minister David Levy is considering resigning. Among other things, Levy said he was not consulted about the Mossad mission, and he was critical of that operation.
NPR's Linda Gradstein reports.
LINDA GRADSTEIN, NPR REPORTER: It sounds like the plot of a bad made- for-TV movie. Two Israeli agents using false passports target a radial Arab leader for assassination. They sneak up behind him and inject poison into his ear. But they fail to notice his bodyguard, who overcomes them. Four other agents involved in the operation flee to the Israeli embassy.
An embarrassed Israel rushes to Jordan a doctor who saves the life of the man they were trying to kill.
Israeli analysts differ over how much long-term damage there will be to the Mossad. Yosi Melman (ph), a commentator and author of a book on the Mossad, says the failed assassination was the biggest operational failure in the Mossad's history.
YOSI MELMAN, ANALYST, COMMENTATOR AND AUTHOR, ISRAEL: There is a damage to the prestige and to the public relations and the reputation of the Mossad, which is a serious damage. It deals more with the psychological effect of the organization, but psychology is very important in the field of intelligence.
GRADSTEIN: In addition to the psychological effects, there are practical implications. Melman says the Mossad has had to suspend many of its operations.
MELMAN: Many, many security services in the world, including in friendly countries, are now very suspicious of Israelis, of diplomats, of Israeli diplomats who are suspected of being agents, and they are on alert. And, the Mossad has to take in to consideration and has to lower its posture and its profile.
GRADSTEIN: But other Israeli intelligence experts say the botched operation will soon be forgotten.
Gidon Ezra (ph), Knesset member from the ruling Likud party, was until recently the deputy director of the Shin Bet, the Mossad's domestic counterpart.
GIDON EZRA, KNESSET MEMBER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF SHIN BET, ISRAEL: One good thing about failure, that you are more careful. You will be more careful in the future.
GRADSTEIN: Ezra also disagrees this is the Mossad's largest failure. He says the intelligence failure to predict the Yom Kippur War was a far more serious mistake. The Mossad has botched several other operations, including one in which they mistakenly killed a Moroccan waiter in Norway in the 1970s.
But there have also been some impressive successes, including the assassination two years ago of a senior Hamas activist in Gaza, killed when his cellular phone blew up.
Prime Minister Netanyahu brushed off allegations of serious failure, calling the operation a mishap. In a news conference this week, he said the war on terrorism sometimes has failures but it must continue.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: The distance between success, great success, and failure could be a centimeter. It could be the distance a bullet travels. It could be the speed in which an explosive is connected to a charge.
GRADSTEIN: Yosi Alfar (ph), a former senior Mossad official and currently the director of the American Jewish Committee in Israel, says that even though the operation failed, it can still act as a deterrent.
YOSI ALFAR, FORMER SENIOR MOSSAD OFFICIAL, DIRECTOR OF AMERICAN JEWISH COMMITTEE, ISRAEL: Precisely because its operation failed and was publicized and they've been put on notice that Israel's -- the long arm of Israeli intelligence -- is looking for them, and using some very interesting technological innovations.
GRADSTEIN: Israeli commentators are predicting a shakeup in the Mossad as the result of the botched operation. The big question is whether Mossad head Danny Yatom will be forced to resign.
Linda Gradstein, NPR News, Jerusalem.
Transcribed by Federal Document Clearing House, Inc. under license from National Public Radio, Inc.
Formatting copyright (c) 1997 Federal Document Clearing House, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to National Public Radio, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
For further information please contact NPR's Business Affairs at (202) 414-2954, top of page
Yossi Melman, Out of the Cold, top of page
What is a spy to do when the world around him has changed?
It's time to re-invent intelligence work
Los Angeles Times, 10-12-1997, pp M-1. TEL AVIV--Gen. Danny Yatom's days as head of the Mossad, Israel's foreign-espionage agency, are numbered. His boss, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, rejected his first offer to resign following the botched assassination of a Hamas leader in Amman, Jordan. The next time, Netanyahu may have no choice but to let him go.
Yatom, upon his nomination, was regarded by some, including Netanyahu, as too cautious, too unimaginative to run the Mossad. Ironically, he may have approved the operation against the Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, to show that he could be as daring and imaginative as any of his predecessors. Yatom, in short, wanted to be more Mossad than the Mossad itself.
But the Mossad is no longer the agency of legend. Terrorism, and the fear and sudden death associated with it, have created the impression that the Mossad is merely a kind of hit team that tracks, hunts down and executes Palestinian terrorists. Its intelligence-gathering skills have accordingly suffered. The question is whether today's Israel needs to reinvent the Mossad or reclaim its original mission.
Israel, on the eve of its 50th anniversary as an independent state, is a totally different society from what it was as recently as two decades ago, when the Mossad was more intelligence gatherer than terrorist hunter. Israelis walk a thin line between secularism and a religious orthodoxy that seeks to thrust them back in time and history. They are a strange mixture of liberalism and fierce narrow-mindedness. The effort to maintain democratic values is increasingly difficult when continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and counterterrorism require security measures that restrict personal freedom and contradict the rule of law.
That conflict has affected the Mossad, whose Hebrew name helps reveal the nature of the problem: Institute for Intelligence and Special Roles.
The Mossad has two assignments, then: to collect information on the military, economic and political capabilities of Israel's enemies and their preparedness for war, and to carry out, on occasion, special missions, including kidnapping and assassinations.
...With the rise of Palestinian political aspirations on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Mossad's assignments have shifted toward fighting the war against Palestinian guerrillas and terrorism. The results have been painful and traumatic. The intelligence community, for example, failed to anticipate the surprise attack, in October 1973, by Syria and Egypt. Since the late 1970s, moreover, the agency has been slow to grasp the significant accumulation of weapons of mass destructions by Iraq, Syria and Iran.
Instead, the Mossad, reflecting the prevailing mood of Israeli governments and society, has become obsessive about the war against terrorism. Its special units and its departments of operation, code-named Caesaris and Kidon (bayonet), which handles assassinations, have been correspondingly strengthened at the expense of the collection (code-named Tsomet) and research departments.
This shift of emphasis is not the result of any fundamental change in Israel's security situation. Rather, it has more to do with psychology.
Israelis are impatient and hedonistic. They look for short-cuts, quick satisfaction and immediate results; they desire almost magical solutions to complex political and military problems. The Mossad's assassination attempt in Jordan was, in part, a response to these societal dynamics.
Yet, by pursuing terrorists, the Mossad has magnified the importance of terrorism--and further whetted Israelis' desire for easy and fast answers.
Within Mossad, the trend toward special operations has not gone unchallenged. Some Mossad operatives opposed the hunt, ordered by Prime Minister Golda Meir, for the terrorists who murdered 11 Israeli athletes during the 1972 Munich Olympic games. "Eliminations and assassinations have nothing to do with intelligence work," the dissenters contended. "If these methods are needed in order to create a balance of terror between us and them, to spread fear, to take revenge and obstruct terrorist structures, let's have the army's special forces do the job, not the Mossad."
These officials were muffled, and embarrassing consequences soon followed. In July 1973, in Lillehammer, Norway, six Mossad agents, under various non-Israeli covers, were arrested in connection with the slaying of Ahmed Bouchikhi, a Moroccan waiter mistakenly identified as a master terrorist of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The fiasco was one reason why the Mossad's pursuit of Palestinian terrorists came to a halt.
But in 1977, Prime Minister Menachem Begin ordered the Mossad back on the terrorist track.
Since then, successive Israeli governments, right and left, have reflexively reacted to terrorist attacks by condoning, if not ordering, the liquidation of terrorist leaders and activists. But Palestinian terrorist organizations have remained undeterred. Only rarely, when the target was a "one-man organization," did assassination benefit Israel.
The most recent example of this involved Dr. Fathi Shikaki, the leader of a small Islamic Jihad organization believed responsible for several suicidal attacks against Israeli citizens between 1994-96. He was killed by Mossad agents in October 1995, on orders from Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin.
Israel is the only democratic nation to accept the legitimacy of assassination as a tactic to deal with terrorists. The nearly instinctive Israeli proclivity to retaliate to terrorist attacks is the main reason behind the blunder in Jordan, the worst failure in the history of the Mossad. The lack of judgment and sensibility displayed by both Netanyahu and the Mossad in carrying out the attack have exposed the weakness of Israel's most celebrated agency. Far graver is the possibility that the Mossad, by using poison in its attempt to kill the Hamas leader, has let the world know that Israel is involved in the research and production of biological and chemical weapons at a time when most nations are trying to eliminate them.
The failed assassination attempt also says something about how Israelis have changed. They are different from the Zionist founding fathers and their followers, with their pioneering spirit, idealism, sacrifices and asceticism. The Mossad has always epitomized the prevailing spirit of Israeli society. It still does today: tired, clumsy, less motivated, self-righteousness and complacent.
The surest--and quickest--way to rehabilitate the Mossad is to restore its mission as an intelligence-gathering agency. Chasing terrorists around Europe and the Middle East with exotic means of extermination will not make Israel more secure, nor prepare it for real military threats posed by Syria and Iran.
But Israel will have to change. Israelis must trust the reality that Israel has the strongest military force in the region, that they no longer need to behave like little David. Only then can the Mossad begin to repair the damage to its reputation--and rediscover its purpose--that the assassination attempt in Jordan has produced. top of page
Mossad agent said held by Swiss Yatom did not report incident to parliamentary subcommittee, top of page
Copyright 1998 Jerusalem Post.
All Rights Reserved
EITAN RABIN, JAY BUSHINSKY, and news agencies, Jerusalem Post, 02-26-1998, pp 01.
At least one Mossad agent was recently arrested in Switzerland in a bugging operation gone awry, Swiss television reported last night.
"The suspect is accused of having conducted espionage with eavesdropping devices," the report said.
It quoted reliable sources in Berne as saying at least one Mossad operative had been taken into custody last week.
Swiss officials were not available to comment on the report, which did not give any other details.
Swiss Federal Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte's office said she and Foreign Ministry State Secretary Jakob Kellenberger would brief reporters this morning.
"All I can say is that it involves an espionage case," a spokesman for Del Ponte said.
Agence France Presse quoted a diplomatic source in Berne as saying that according to one version of events, Mossad agents were caught taking photographs, while another version said that electronic surveillance equipment had been planted in an Iranian mission at the UN center in Geneva.
The source alleged that several agents were arrested and that "the issue of their release is under negotiation between Israel and Switzerland."
The Mossad was shocked by the foul-up, which is what actually led to Danny Yatom's resignation as head of Mossad, a government source here said.
The Knesset subcommittee on intelligence heard a report about the foul-up on Monday.
Sources in the committee were angry that Yatom did not report the incident of his own initiative and that the panel's chairman Uzi Landau (Likud) learned about it from a security source and then asked Yatom, who confirmed the information. Landau disagreed with the critics and accused political and Mossad elements of deliberately leaking the information to try and damage state security.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu learned immediately of the foul- up last week, while the Ciechanover Committee report was on his desk, sources said.
They said that he asked the Mossad to investigate.
Netanyahu denied yesterday that he had forced Yatom to step down.
Speaking in the Knesset, Netanyahu said he has not finished reading the Ciechanover report and therefore could not have made up his mind on this issue.
"I gave Danny Yatom my full backing and all the appreciation which I really have for him," he said. "The decision was his and his alone.
He came to me with a firm decision and I respected it."
Netanyahu would not comment on the reports of the latest operational failure of the Mossad.
He said he hopes to choose a new director within a few days and does not intend to come out with any "interim announcements" about candidates.
Netanyahu said the director of the Mossad must be "a man who will assure its efficient, successful and secret functioning."
He said it was important that the Mossad not be damaged because it is central to our existence. "We must avoid creating a situation in which these people, who undertake fateful missions for the sake of our security will take into consideration - the personnel and their commanders - what will happen to them in case of a mishap.
"There are slip-ups and successes the scope of which is impossible to imagine and it is impossible to imagine the contribution made by these successes to our security."
Local media broadcasts yesterday gave few details about the latest foul-up but made reference to a case in 1991 when four Israelis were arrested during an attempt to bug the Iranian embassy in Nicosia in the dead of night.
The four, widely reported to be Mossad agents, claimed they had been looking for a lavatory. They were released on payment of $1,000 fines.
The Mossad was exposed to further embarrassment last December when one of its former officials, Yehuda Gil, was arrested on suspicion of feeding the agency false information and pocketing money intended for informers.top of page
Swiss foul-up highlights crisis in Israel's Mossad
By Paul Holmes, Reuters, February 27, 1998, top of page JERUSALEM, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Depression, infighting and insanity are not words usually associated with an intelligence agency more frequently famed for ruthless efficiency. But when news trickled out in Israel this week that a spy from the Mossad had been arrested in Switzerland in an illegal bugging attempt, those were terms used to describe symptoms of a deep crisis that is gripping the agency.
Demoralised by a flood of unaccustomed publicity over a swift succession of bungles and now leaderless, the Mossad is ripe for restructuring, Israeli security experts say. They say that whoever succeeds former army general Danny Yatom, who resigned as head of the Mossad on Tuesday, will also have to stem leaks from inside the organisation itself that reflect the foul mood.
"Apparently we have more holes than a Swiss cheese," Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper quoted a security official as saying. Yatom's successor has yet to be named but newspapers reported on Friday that Major-General Aviram Levine, the army's northern commander, was the leading contender. They said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who served under Levine in an elite commando unit 25 years ago, could present his choice to the cabinet on Sunday.
The Swiss mishap, in which police discovered a suspected Mossad team attempting to wiretap a private house in Berne on February 19, might have been resolved quietly and never come to light if the Mossad had been a happy ship, the experts say.
Switzerland, which has close intelligence ties with Israel, went public with the case only on Thursday after sparse details of the affair, carefully worded to avoid breaking censorship, broke in the Israeli media.
The conventional wisdom in Israel is that a disgruntled source in the Mossad leaked the incident to force out Yatom, who had resisted resignation despite criticism by an official inquiry of his role in a botched attempt to kill a leading Palestinian militant, Khaled Meshal, in Jordan last September.
Four members of the Berne bugging team were released but one remains in custody, his case the focus of news reports around the world and his fate seemingly linked to Swiss demands for an apology Israel is reluctant to offer in public.
"You can't even begin to assess the damage that has been caused by the leaks regarding this latest affair and it points to the insanity that has recently gripped the Mossad," a senior diplomatic source told Yedioth Ahronoth. The Meshal fiasco, revelations that a Mossad officer had fed the agency for years with bogus intelligence on Syria and the Swiss bungle, all in the space of six months, have tarnished the Mossad's image as a chillingly effective espionage machine.
Experts say that renown, founded on the 1960 kidnapping of Nazi fugitive Adolf Eichmann and daring killings of Palestinian guerrillas, is part myth established in times when foul-ups went unreported by a far less intrusive media.
"The Mossad doesn't need a reputation. It needs to get its job done and if people want to laugh, let them," said Joseph Alpher, a former senior Mossad official. He argued that news of the Swiss slip-up may even enhance the Mossad's standing with a public that by and large accepts the philosophy that the agency has a right to act where it wants and how it wants in the interests of Israeli security. "I think it (publicity) reassures the public that our security services are indeed doing their best to protect us. We're talking about genuine villains out there," Alpher said. But he said it was "obviously distressing when you have three successive embarrassments" and troubling that the agency appeared to riddled with leaks. "That's an indication that there's some kind of distress among the people who are doing the leaks.
Clearly that is something that the next head of the Mossad should make a high priority," he said. Yatom, an outsider, took over the agency in mid-1996 and, according to news reports, was unpopular from the start. He alienated seasoned department heads by trying to micro-manage operations, generating a command vacuum that filtered down through the ranks, critics say. Two senior Mossad officials, known only as "R" and "H," recently resigned. Yossi Melman, an expert on the Mossad, wrote in Ha'aretz newspaper this week that Yatom's successor would now have to reorganise the agency and possibly scale back its global reach. But Melman also suggested in an interview with Reuters that Yatom' s successor may fare no better in a country rent by deep divisions over everything from the peace process with Palestinians to defining who is a Jew. "It's true that the Mossad is in a crisis, there are problems facing the organisation, structural problems, problems of leadership, " Melman said. "After all, the Mossad is just a reflection of Israeli society. It's no better than the rest of the society and if there are problems facing Israeli society at large obviously it is going to be reflected in the Mossad." top of page
Swiss say no early release for jailed Mossad man; six took part
Marcus Kabel, 03-05-1998 top of page BERN, Switzerland (Reuters) - An alleged Israeli Mossad agent detained in Switzerland after a bungled wiretapping bid would remain in custody while investigators probed the case, the country's top prosecutor said Thursday. Federal Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte also denied Israeli media speculation that Switzerland would free the unnamed man quickly in return for official Israeli assurances that he would return for trial. "There is no question of releasing the detained agent before the investigation is completed and there are no agreements of any kind, "
Del Ponte said in a statement. Del Ponte said she had met Israeli Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein in Bern on Wednesday to brief him on Swiss procedure but did not discuss details of the investigation. Rubinstein returned to Israel on Thursday, telling reporters there: "We will continue talking to them (Swiss officials) with the hope for a solution as soon as possible." Diplomatic sources said Rubinstein hoped to arrange for the release of the agent, whose arrest in the late-night spy fiasco at an apartment in Bern on Feb. 19 battered both the name of the once-vaunted Mossad and the usually friendly Israeli-Swiss ties. Del Ponte's statement said it was too early to tell when her probe would end. "On the basis of the investigation so far, it is certain that six Israeli agents took part in the Mossad action," it said. De Ponte did not provide any more details about why the number of agents had been raised by one after her previous accounts had referred to five men, all Israelis.
The case unfolded when police, alerted by a watchful neighbor, seized the Israelis as they installed sophisticated wiretapping equipment in the basement of an apartment building. All but one agent were quickly released. The head of a key Swiss parliamentary committee questioned whether the incident was a genuine eavesdropping mission or deliberately staged to end in fiasco. Bernhard Seiler, chairman of the committee that supervises intelligence matters, said his committee wondered whether the flop may have been staged in order to embarrass Mossad chief Danny Yatom, who resigned as a result.
"Was this something serious or was it a game aimed at scoring a point at home in Israel, in other words to get rid of the boss?" Seiler told Reuters. "If so, were any Swiss nationals involved?"
Yatom quit Mossad after the Bern case gave the agency another black eye, its second botched operation on foreign soil following a bungled attempt to kill an Islamist leader in Jordan last year.
Efraim Halevy was named the new Mossad head Wednesday. Seiler said two points of the case made him question whether it had been an authentic exercise. One, he said, was that five agents seemed like an unusually large number to set up a wiretap and another was that one of the possible targets named in media reports -- a Lebanese man married to a Swiss woman and registered as living in the building -- had not in fact lived there for two or three years. "To put it bluntly, do you need so many people to eavesdrop on somebody who has obviously not lived there for a couple of years?" he said.
Neither Swiss nor Israeli officials have identified the target of the suspected eavesdropping attempt. top of page
The Mossad's CIA Spy, Michael Pollard, top of page
Pollard Revisited: Is Mr. X Spying Again in Washington?
Yossi Melman, Yossi Melman, a journalist for the Daily Ha'aretz, specializes in intelligence and terror affairs. He is coauthor of "Every Spy a Prince: The Complete History of Israel's Intelligence Community."
Los Angeles Times, Sunday May 18, 1997, Home Edition, Opinion, Page 2
TEL AVIV--What do they mean when they say "Mega"? Is it an innocent code word used by the Israeli Mossad to describe the CIA? Or is it a sinister cipher referring to an American traitor who works for Israeli intelligence? Since last January, these uncertainties have poisoned the usually good and collaborative relations between the intelligence communities of United States and Israel. They have also revived bad memories of the Pollard affair.
Ironically, the latest espionage scandal began when U.S.-Israeli relations seemed to be back on track. In January, Benjamin Netanyahu's Cabinet signed off on a U.S.-brokered agreement with the Palestinian Authority. Israeli troops withdrew from Hebron, and handed most of the city over to Yasser Arafat's police and security forces. As a guarantor, Secretary of State Warren Christopher gave the two sides two different letters spelling out the U.S. commitments. The Clinton administration revealed the content of the two letters in only general terms.
Eager to see the exact wording of the letter given to the Palestinians, Netanyahu asked Israeli Ambassador Eliahu Ben-Elissar to get him a copy. Newly arrived in Washington and lacking good contacts in the capital, Ben-Elissar turned to the chief of the Mossad station at the Israeli Embassy. The chief, whose name Israeli censors refuse to reveal, was reluctant to comply with his request. He called his immediate superior, a senior official and head of the Tevel (universe) unit at Mossad headquarters. Their short conversation was intercepted by listening posts of the National Security Agency. According to the Washington Post, the station chief said: "The ambassador wants me to use Mega to get the letter." His superior replied: "We do not use Mega for this."
As a matter of procedure, a translated transcript of the intercepted communication was disseminated by the NSA to the other U.S. intelligence agencies. FBI counterintelligence experts suspected that Mega was a code word for a senior and well-connected administration official with access to the letters, as well as to other Middle East top secrets.
For more than a decade, the bureau and officials at the Department of Justice have been obsessed with the suspicion that Israeli intelligence is running a mole inside the administration. This conviction originated in November 1986, following the arrest of Jonathan J. Pollard at the gates of the Israeli Embassy. Pollard, a U.S. citizen of Jewish origins, worked as an analyst at the counterterrorism center of U.S. Navy intelligence. He was sentenced to life in prison for spying on behalf of a secret Israeli intelligence unit called Lakam, a Hebrew acronym for Scientific Liaison Bureau.
U.S. prosecutors and investigators believed that Pollard and his Israeli handlers were helped by another American, referred to as Mr. X, who probably was a senior administration official. Mr. X provided the reference numbers that helped Pollard pull out requested files from America's most-secret intelligence computers. But the investigators could not uncover Mr. X. Now, the FBI is eager to determine whether the old Mr.
X of the Pollard affair is Mega.
Israeli officials have denied all. The Mossad has explained to the CIA that Mega is a code word it uses to describe its formal liaison relations with the spy agency. According to Rafi Eitan, a former senior Mossad official and former head of the disbanded Lakam, and who personally handled Pollard, the word Mega was derived from Megawatt. During the '70s and '80s, it was the name of an international gathering of representatives from a dozen Western intelligence organizations, including the Mossad and CIA, who exchanged information and assessments of Soviet capabilities and intentions. That body no longer exists.
Yet, the Clinton administration refuses to accept Israeli explanations at face value. Nor does it rule out the possibility that Israeli agents are involved in illegal activities on U.S. soil. The Pollard affair sowed the seeds of this mistrust.
In defense, Israeli officials claim they have learned the lessons of the Pollard case. "We shall never again run agents in the U.S.A." vows Eitan. He and other intelligence experts also point out that it was not a coincidence that Pollard was handled by Lakam, not the Mossad. The Mossad and the CIA have long enjoyed warm and cordial relations. Mossad operatives are stationed, under diplomatic cover, at the Israeli Embassy in Washington as liaison officers to the CIA. U.S. spies posing as diplomats maintain their contacts with their Israeli counterparts through the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.
In the United States, Mossad has not only avoided spying on American targets, but has also refrained from operations against third parties, mainly Arab installations. Nevertheless, Nahum Admoni, the Mossad chief during the '80s, must have known that Lakam was running Pollard. So must have Israeli Prime Ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres and Defense Ministers Moshe Arens and Yitzhak Rabin.
On the other hand, since the CIA is reluctant to operate against Israel on Israeli soil, it uses other intelligence agencies to obtain information it wants. The late Yitzhak Rabin told me after Pollard's arrest that Israel had uncovered five American spies operating in sensitive nuclear and industrial facilities in the late '70s and early '80s. The spies were questioned but Israel's flexible legal system made it possible for the government to release and expel them, thereby avoiding conflict with its best ally.
"It is clear to us," admits a former senior intelligence official, "that both countries, despite their friendship and strategic cooperation, are constantly involved in espionage against each other. The big difference between the U.S. and Israel is in the methods of information gathering." While Israel has relied more on "humint" (operating agents), the United States has mainly used "sigint" and "comint" (intercepting communication of all sorts and electronic signals). This operational difference is a result of capabilities and priorities.
The aerial forest on the roof of the four-story U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv is evidence of the NSA's capabilities and intentions. These antennas intercept virtually every single phone call, fax transmission and other means of communication originating in Israel. But the most impressive coup by the NSA was, probably unwittingly, revealed during the Mega crisis.
All Israeli diplomats and intelligence officers assigned abroad, and especially to the United States, are briefed to act as if their communication was intercepted. But now Israel knows for sure that the United States broke the Mossad code. Israeli code breakers, operating on "worst-case analysis," assume that other codes, including those of the military and foreign ministry, have also been broken. In such circumstances, concludes an Israeli Cabinet minister, the damage to our national security is far greater than Pollard or maybe other Israeli operations might have wrought in the United States. top of page
Associated Press Story
Norway wants Mike Harari probed in botched Mossad killing
Jerusalem Post, 11-25-1997, pp 02.
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an innocent Moroccan waiter, Ahmed Bouchikhi, in Lillehammer in July 1973.
The agents apparently mistook the victim for Hassan Salameh, a PLO intelligence chief suspected of masterminding the killing of 11 athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Five Mossad agents served brief prison terms in connection with the shooting and were pardoned.
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Norway reopens Mossad case of mistaken identity top of page Patrick Cockburn, Norway reopens Mossad case of mistaken identity.
Independent, 11-26-1997, pp 12.
Almost a quarter of a century ago, Israel's intelligence agency killed a Moroccan waiter in Norway in the belief that he was a Palestinian leader. Now Norway wants Israel to interrogate the chief suspect.
Patrick Cockburn in Jerusalem examines why thecase has been reopened.
The chief suspect, Mike Harari, was a Mossad veteran who went on to an inglorious career as arms dealer in Latin America and confidant of General Noriega, the dictator of Panama.
It was in July 1973 that a team of Mossad agents arrived in the town of Lillehammer in Norway, believing they had finally tracked down Ali Hassan Salameh, the "Red Prince", whom Israel held responsible for planning the killing of 11 Israeli athletes inMunich a year earlier.
The gunmen followed the supposed Palestinian leader around Lillehammer for several hours on 21 July and then shot him dead in front of a pregnant woman as he returned home from a film. Only later did they learn that the dead man was, in fact, a Moroccanwaiter called Ahmad Bouchiki, and the woman was his Norwegian wife.
The leader of the assassination squad was Mike Harari, according to Israeli books on the attack, now aged 70 and living in Tel Aviv. Norway reopened the investigation into the Bouchiki's death last month. They made little effort at the time to locate MrHarari, who went on to enjoy a lucrative career as an arms dealer.
Why it has taken Norway so long to act is unclear. The Mossad operation was the most disastrous in the organisation's history until September this year, when two of its men were arrested in Jordan as they tried to assassinate Khalid Meshal, a leader ofthe Hamas Islamic militants.
Two of those involved in killing Bouchiki in Lillehammer had rented cars under their own names, Dan Ert and Marianne Gladnikoff. They were arrested when they returned them at Oslo airport. Once they had provided the address of an flat used by Mossad,six other agents were arrested. Mr Ert turned out to suffer from claustrophobia and confessed everything to the Norwegian police in return for a larger cell.
The Israeli government paid compensation to the Bouchiki family two years ago, but without admitting responsibility for the killing. Five of the Mossad agents served short terms in prison and were pardoned. Mr Harari and his fellow agent and girlfriendwere almost alone in escaping. Another of the Mossad agents married her Norwegian lawyer. Mr Harari later sold Israeli arms worth about $500m to Latin America in the 1980s.
Now, seeing the statute of limitations running out, the Norwegian police have decided they would like Israel to ask him about what happened in Lillehammer in 1973. top of page
A HIGHLY PRIZED DOCUMENT: Mossad Spies love Canadian passports
Barry Came, World: , Maclean's, 10-13-1997, pp 28.
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There is no mystery about the reasons. "Canadians are the good guys, " says Alex Morrison, executive director of the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies. "We've never been a colonial power, never declared war on anybody. We're noted for inventing peacekeeping, for our foreign aid, for our objectivity. It's all helped to make us one of the world' s most attractive nationalities, welcome just about anywhere." Just as importantly, Canada is a nation of immigrants, populated by people of virtually every race and creed. "Our passport's color-blind," says Morrison. "Everybody's got a cousin somewhere."
Not least in Israel. The bungled assassination attempt in Jordan is not the first time that Israel's secret service has been caught manipulating Canadian passports. In 1973, Israeli agents travelling on doctored Canadian passports botched another execution attempt in Lillehammer, Norway. A team from Mossad, the Jewish state's external security service, killed Ahmed Bouchiki, mistaking the Moroccan-born waiter for the Palestinian who planned the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. One member of that hit squad, arrested by Norwegian police, was found to be using the identity of Canadian Patricia Roxborough, a legal secretary whose passport had been stolen months earlier from the desk of her Montreal office.
The following year, 50 blank passports were stolen from the vault of the Canadian Embassy in Vienna.
One of those documents, traced by the registration number, turned up a year later in Nicosia, Cyprus.
It was left behind by a member of a Mossad team that had detonated explosives under the hotel bed of a sleeping Palestinian guerrilla leader, killing him instantly.
In addition to outright theft, Israel's clandestine services have other means to obtain Canadian documents. It is an open secret that new immigrants to the Jewish state, especially from Canada, are sometimes encouraged to donate passports, both valid and expired, to unidentified bureaucrats in the interests of what is euphemistically known as " the security of the state."
There also appears to be a thriving black market in Canadian passports, both genuine and faked.
Canadian officials have no inkling of how large the illicit traffic might be in the 1.3 million passports that are issued annually, but they privately acknowledge that it is happening. As for the forgeries, Mossad defector Victor Ostrovsky, in the 1991 book he co-authored with Canadian journalist Claire Hoy, By Way of Deception, described a secret Israeli factory engaged in the manufacture of forged passports, including a batch of more than 1,000 Canadian documents. Israel's spies might be embarrassed by the revelation. But, as events in Jordan have clearly demonstrated, not enough to forgo the benefits of posing as the world's nice guy.
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Last November, Frogue received a bigger endorsement than any other candidate in the district, garnering 128,361 votes in a reelection bid for a decisive 61% to 39% win over his opponent.
Frogue ... said during an interview last fall that he believed the Anti-Defamation League played a key role in killing Kennedy.
Calling the Anti-Defamation League "a group of spies that actively keeps files on people . . . people like me," Frogue added, "I believe Lee Harvey Oswald worked for the ADL. That's right. . . . I believe the ADL was behind it."
The author of "Final Judgment: The Missing Link in the JFK Assassination Conspiracy," Piper explained his views.
The assassination, he said, "was a joint enterprise conducted on the highest levels of the American CIA, in collaboration with organized crime--and most specifically, with direct and profound involvement by the Israeli intelligence service, the Mossad."
Piper assessed Israel's motive as having evolved from a dispute between Kennedy and the late David Ben-Gurion, the former Israeli prime minister.
"They were involved in a heated dispute just months before the assassination," Piper said, "over Kennedy's refusal to support Israel in its drive to build a nuclear weapon. Other authors have documented that this dispute, as much as anything, caused Ben-Gurion to resign."
Skolnick said he had written about what he called "an apparent plot" against JFK 2 1/2 weeks before the assassination, in which he claimed Oswald and "an Oswald look-alike" had intended to assassinate the president as he rode in a parade en route to a football game in Chicago. top of page
Syria says Israeli agents kill nine in bomb blast Reuters, 01-02-1997
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Mossad Caught in Pack of Intelligence Lies
Including Course Called "The Lie As Art" Israel's dissembling spook is hardly unique...
The CIA for years was awash in mendacity.
By ALEXANDER COCKBURN, Alexander Cockburn writes for the Nation and other publications Los Angeles Times Thursday December 18, 1997, Home Edition, Metro, Page 9
The uproar overshadowed the peace process, then being even further discredited by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and suggested that Israel's suspicions of any process involving the word "peace" might be well-founded. Time's long story on Dec. 9, 1996, stressed the ill-preparedness and underbudgeted state of Israel's armed forces, thus furnishing ammunition for increased U.S. aid.
The whole crisis, as ultimately relayed by Time, was fomented by a Mossad officer who was a member of Moledet, a right-wing party hostile to anything resembling a peace process. The 63-year-old officer, Yehuda Gil, retired in 1989 but was still filing intelligence reports to the spy agency because his longtime Syrian mole was regarded as critically important. But there was no such highly placed Syrian source. Gil, noted for his Mossad training course titled "The Lie as Art," was making everything up and pocketing the money he was meant to be handing over to his agent.
At some point, Gil aroused suspicions, if not in the bosom of his credulous or complicit overseers in Mossad then among other intelligence agencies chided for lacking the superb Damascus contacts of the legendary Mossad.
Gil was finally placed under surveillance by his Mossad colleagues and confronted; he soon confessed and now faces trial. The case has been covered extensively in the Israeli press, but was a one-day item in U.S.
media. In some Israeli papers, heroic efforts were made to put as much space as possible between Gil and his employer, and between Gil and any political agenda.
Like many career officers in intelligence, Gil was certainly a diligent liar. In retirement he volunteered to serve on the water board of his village, Gadara. Not long thereafter, the Gadara water board, wearied by his unceasing deceptions even in this picayune function, gave him the boot. But here was no pensioner who started to crack up only in retirement. By some Israeli press accounts, Gil was drafting politically explosive intelligence assessments a decade before he retired to the semiofficial status that still had him handling Mossad's "top agent" in Syria.
Prominent in the program of damage control has been the assertion of Mossad's allies in Israel that this was somehow a unique blot. "In the 46 years of the Mossad's work, there has never been an instance in which its officials defrauded in terms of the intelligence reports which they conveyed," wrote Ron Ben-Yishai, a military reporter for Yediot Aharonot.
It's impossible to read this sort of stuff without laughing, since Mossad's violent mendacities from its earliest days are by now well-known. As perhaps the most famous example, we have only to read the recent historical excavations of the Lavon affair of the 1950s, in which Mossad undertook an extensive program of provocations against Egypt.
Mossad's role has always been to misrepresent and exaggerate the threats to Israel's security and to head off, often by assassination, any human threats to its preferred image of Arab intransigence. Years ago, when he was director of U.S. central intelligence, Adm. Stansfield Turner underwrote an agency report that denounced Mossad's achievements and reputation as vastly overblown.
As the CIA headed into the Reagan years it was freighted with Yehuda Gils by the hundred, all lying their heads off in the collective effort to inflate the terrible Soviet threat (and of course the Arab threat, too), to be beaten back only by vast new U.S. military expenditures.
Gil is a far more useful emblem of the nature of spying than someone out of Le Carre. In Gil, you have the paradigm of all those intelligence officers whispering their fantasies into eager journalists' ears down the decades, insisting--to take the latest bout--that Moammar Kadafi's irrigation scheme in Libya is in fact a sinister military plot, as the New York Times reported. Of course, Kadafi has twice hosted Nelson Mandela and has been mustering increasing international support. Time to take him down a peg or two and reassert his mad-dog status. That's the function of the Yehuda Gils of this world, and the secret agencies they work for, helped along by the Fourth Estate.
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