Haaretz reports: The death of Hassan al-Laqis, a senior Hezbollah commander who was killed on Tuesday in what looks like a clean and especially professional assassination in Dahieh, the Shi’ite quarter of Beirut, is the biggest operational blow to the Lebanese organization since the death of Imad Mughniyeh. Mughniyeh, who was described as the Hezbollah chief-of-staff, was assassinated in Damascus in February 2008. At the time Hezbollah blamed Israel, which refrained from responding. On Wednesday morning the organization blamed Israel for the assassination of Laqis as well.
Laqis, one of Hezbollah’s veteran military leaders, has been familiar to Western intelligence services since the 1980s. Intelligence officials have described him in the past as a “brilliant mind” who played a combined role in the Shi’ite organization, which could be compared to the head of Israel Defense Forces’ research and development as well as technology and logistics branch.
Laqis was knowledgeable of and involved in all the organization’s operational secrets – from the acquisition and development of advanced weapons to the establishment of classified communication systems to Hezbollah’s operative plans. His death strips Hezbollah of a “intelligence source” – a person whose experience and widespread connections to Syrian and Iranian intelligence organizations served Hezbollah well for almost three decades. [Continue reading...]
The Jerusalem Post reports: The Mossad is working with Saudi officials on contingency plans for a potential attack on Iran in the event that Tehran’s nuclear program is not sufficiently curbed in the deal that may be concluded between Iran and world powers in Geneva this week, The Sunday Times reported.
Both Jerusalem and Riyadh have expressed displeasure at the deal being formulated between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers that they see as doing little to stop Tehran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon.
According to the Times, Riyadh has already given its consent for Israel to use Saudi airspace for a potential attack on Iran.
The paper quoted a diplomatic source as saying the Saudis were willing to assist an Israeli attack by cooperating on the use of drones, rescue helicopters and tanker planes.
“Once the Geneva agreement is signed, the military option will be back on the table. The Saudis are furious and are willing to give Israel all the help it needs,” the Times quoted the source as saying. [Continue reading...]
Probably the most salient detail here is that the report appeared in The Sunday Times — that alone may be sufficient reason why it can be ignored.
But just suppose an Israeli-Saudi operation was in the works, this much we can reasonably assume: its existence and every detail about it, would be guarded with the highest possible secrecy.
Netanyahu has already milked verbal threats for all they are worth. If he actually has any military cards he can play (such as one facilitated by the Saudis), he’s going to keep quiet about it. More likely though is that this “leak” is just more bluster and it’s intended to threaten the P5+1 more than Iran.
AFP reports: France believed the United States attempted to hack into its president’s communications network, a leaked US intelligence document published on Friday suggests.
US agents denied having anything to do with a May 2012 cyber attack on the Elysee Palace, the official residence of French presidents, and appeared to hint at the possible involvement of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, a classified internal note from the US National Security Agency suggests.
Extracts from the document, the latest to emerge from the NSA via former contractor Edward Snowden, were published by Le Monde newspaper alongside an article jointly authored by Glenn Greenwald, the US journalist who has been principally responsible for a still-unravelling scandal over large-scale US snooping on individuals and political leaders all over the world.
The document is a briefing note prepared in April this year for NSA officials who were due to meet two senior figures from France’s external intelligence agency, the DGSE. The French agents had travelled to Washington to demand explanations over their discovery in May 2012 of attempts to compromise the Elysee’s communications systems.
The note says that the branch of the NSA which handles cyber attacks, Tailored Access Operations (TAO), had confirmed that it had not carried out the attack and says that most of its closest allies (Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand) had also denied involvement.
It goes on to note: “TAO intentionally did not ask either Mossad or (Israel’s cyber intelligence unit) ISNU whether they were involved as France is not an approved target for joint discussions.” [Continue reading...]
David Ignatius writes: The Turkish-Israeli relationship became so poisonous early last year that the Turkish government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is said to have disclosed to Iranian intelligence the identities of up to 10 Iranians who had been meeting inside Turkey with their Mossad case officers.
Knowledgeable sources describe the Turkish action as a “significant” loss of intelligence and “an effort to slap the Israelis.” The incident, disclosed here for the first time, illustrates the bitter, multi-dimensional spy wars that lie behind the current negotiations between Iran and Western nations over a deal to limit the Iranian nuclear program. A Turkish Embassy spokesman had no comment.
Israeli anger at the deliberate compromise of its agents may help explain why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became so entrenched in his refusal to apologize to Erdogan about the May 2010 Gaza flotilla incident. In that confrontation at sea, Israeli commandos boarded a Turkish-organized convoy of ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza. Nine Turks were killed.
Netanyahu finally apologized to Erdogan by phone in March after President Obama negotiated a compromise formula. But for more than a year before that, the Israeli leader had resisted entreaties from Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to heal the feud.
Top Israeli officials believe that, despite the apology, the severe strain with Erdogan continues. The Turkish intelligence chief, Hakan Fidan, is also suspect in Israel because of what are seen as friendly links with Tehran; several years ago, Israeli intelligence officers are said to have described him facetiously to CIA officials as “the MOIS station chief in Ankara,” a reference to Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security. The United States continued to deal with Fidan on sensitive matters, however.
Though U.S. officials regarded exposure of the Israeli network as an unfortunate intelligence loss, they didn’t protest directly to Turkish officials. Instead, Turkish-American relations continued warming last year to the point that Erdogan was among Obama’s key confidants. This practice of separating intelligence issues from broader policymaking is said to be a long-standing U.S. approach. [Continue reading...]
Like many of Washington’s leading op-ed writers, Ignatius has a habit of parroting his sources — part of the long-standing gentleman’s agreement that the privilege to talk to high officials tends to be reserved for the most sycophantic members of the press. Thus this piece raises no questions about the operations that Israel’s Iranian agents would have been conducting — most likely acts of terrorism targeting civilian Iranian nuclear scientists — nor acknowledges that Turkey might have perfectly legitimate political reasons for not wanting to be complicit in Israel’s secret war against Iran.
Suppose that an Israeli commander from the IDF’s Electronic Warfare (EW) Section was assassinated outside Tel Aviv. However terrorism might be defined legally, there’s little doubt that the press inside and outside Israel would describe such an event as an act of terrorism and likewise any country suspected of directing the attack would be described as a state-sponsor of terrorism.
At a time when Israel clearly feels threatened by an unprecedented diplomatic opening between the United States and Iran, there are strong grounds to suspect that the killing of an Iranian cyber warfare commander outside Tehran in the last few days should be viewed in the context of an ongoing secret war that Israel has been conducting against Iran for several years. Given the timing of the killing, it’s purpose appears quite transparent: to place President Rouhani in a more difficult negotiating position. Given, however, that the interests of the Israelis and the hardliners inside Iran are so closely aligned right now, it’s premature to conclude who was responsible.
The Telegraph reports: Mojtaba Ahmadi, who served as commander of the Cyber War Headquarters, was found dead in a wooded area near the town of Karaj, north-west of the capital, Tehran. Five Iranian nuclear scientists and the head of the country’s ballistic missile programme have been killed since 2007. The regime has accused Israel’s external intelligence agency, the Mossad, of carrying out these assassinations.
Ahmadi was last seen leaving his home for work on Saturday. He was later found with two bullets in the heart, according to Alborz, a website linked to the Revolutionary Guard Corps. “I could see two bullet wounds on his body and the extent of his injuries indicated that he had been assassinated from a close range with a pistol,” an eyewitness told the website.
The commander of the local police said that two people on a motorbike had been involved in the assassination. [Continue reading...]
An investigation by Der Spiegel reveals that Ben Zygier aka “Prisoner X”, who committed suicide while being held in solitary confinement in December 2010, had divulged to Hezbollah the identities of Mossad’s top two informants in Lebanon. As a field agent Zygier had been “neither especially good nor especially bad, just mediocre,” and was thus assigned to a desk job. The story is complicated, but this is what landed the Australian in jail:
Zygier, frustrated by the setbacks and what he felt was a demotion, tried to find new sources — presumably in an effort to rehabilitate himself and prove how valuable he was. According to the investigation, Zygier admitted during several interrogations that, prior to his departure for Australia, he had without authorization met with a Hezbollah associate in Eastern Europe to recruit him as a source.
What Zygier didn’t know: The Hezbollah associate reported the meeting to Beirut and began playing a double game. He persuaded Zygier that he was interested in working with him, but he coordinated every step he took with the Hezbollah intelligence service. Even [Hezbollah's chief, Hassan] Nasrallah himself was informed.
The contact between Zygier and Hezbollah went on for months, and at some point it was no longer clear who was managing whom as a source. The Lebanese official lured Zygier, and he asked for proof that the Australian was indeed working for the Mossad. The investigation report indicates that Zygier began supplying the Lebanese with intelligence information from Tel Aviv, including information relating to the spy ring of Ziad al-Homsi and Mustafa Ali Awadeh, the Mossad’s two top informants in Lebanon, who were exposed as a result.
When he was arrested, the agents found a CD with additional classified information that was apparently from the Tsomet department [which manages sources and analyses information], say Israeli officials with access to the investigation. Zygier never managed to deliver the CD.
Tel Aviv, early March 2013. “Zygier wanted to achieve something that he didn’t end up getting,” says a senior government official who is familiar with the investigation. “And then he ended up on a precipitous path. He crossed paths with someone who was much more professional than he was.” At some point, says the Israeli, Zygier crossed a red line and went to the dark side.
The Australian government also launched an investigation. If it was true that Zygier had used his passport “for the work of the Israeli intelligence service,” it would raise “significant questions,” a report by the Australian Foreign Ministry reads.
Israeli informants have certainly changed sides in the past. But a regular Mossad employee has never done what Zygier did. It is a bitter defeat for Israel, but for Hezbollah it is one of the rare instances in which an Arab intelligence service prevailed over its Jewish counterpart. Zygier’s betrayal is also a heavy blow to the Mossad because it raises doubts as to the integrity of the agency’s own people — and the manner in which it recruits employees.
TechFleece: Anonymous has joined forces with Sector404 in its latest attacks against Israeli forces resulting in the disclosure of over 30,000 records related to Mossad agents.
The operation with was carried out earlier today under the banner #OpIsrael and was initiated by Sector404 who began a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack, which then allowed Anonymous to hack the weakened Mossad website (
www.mossad.gov.il) accessing the personal information which allegedly corresponds to Israeli politicians, IDF officers, and even Mossad agents.
— Anonymous Operations (@Anon_Central) March 22, 2013
In total, there are 34,161 records (separated into sections of 5,000 via 2 databases) containing the ID numbers, email addresses and geographic information linking various people from within Israeli security. The data that was obtained was released via the hacking team RedHack (@TheRedHack) via multiple social networks and outlets including Google Docs. #OpIsreal is an operation involving various groups and individuals which is set take place on the 7th April 2013, meaning that today’s breach could just be the tip of the iceberg….
Sefi Rachlevsky writes: Ben Zygier didn’t betray his country. Ben Zygier was betrayed. Between his two home countries, he was placed in a situation he couldn’t deal with. Those who know the facts can attest to this. From the outset of this affair, Israeli contempt for the feeble Jews of the Diaspora knew no boundaries. According to foreign sources, the desire to make use of Ben Zygier’s identity and passport overrode the fact that he was screamingly incompatible for the mission.
The story is a simple one, really. According to foreign sources, Israel allowed itself to cross three boundaries: a Mossad man was asked to retain Australian citizenship – leading to a dual-loyalty dilemma; the identity that he was instructed to use as a cover was his real Australian identity; and, worst of all, he was sent to operate in his homeland.
According to foreign sources, after he was told to change his name in his home country multiple times, an entirely foreseeable problem arose. Zygier’s activities raised suspicions in Australia and its security services called him in for interrogation. He didn’t cooperate with the enemy. Not on his own initiative, nor voluntarily. He was forced to talk to his country’s security services, who threatened to harm his father’s honor, and who sent journalists to speak to him.
Israel is the one that placed him in an impossible dilemma. And then, despite the furor over passports, according to foreign sources, Israel used dozens of them not against the main enemy, Iran – but against Hamas targets, which was probably not a worthy reason to risk these passports’ use. Only then did Australia retaliate by exposing its citizen.
The crass Israeli habit of concealing its misdeeds lost all proportion. Instead of achieving, after a brief inquiry, silence and good will (silence from a man who broke after being left to deal with his identity issues alone, silence obtained for instance even by bringing his father and whole family to Israel to care for them here) – Israel abandoned an Israel-Australian patriot to a fate worse than death.
Those who were raised in Kfar Yehoshua as I did were exposed to a practice whereby chickens that were suspected of carrying diseases were killed before they could infect the others. At the age of eight, I couldn’t bring myself to kill them with my bare hands like my father did. So I found a "humane" solution. Next to the coops were pits full of the rotting corpses of dead birds. I threw the birds that were suspected of being ill into these pits. And Ben Zygier was thrown into such a pit.
The cell in which Ben Zygier died had been built for a prime minister’s murderer. Ben Zygier is that man’s polar opposite. The prime minister’s murderer is the worst traitor in Israel. He was not caught between the dilemmas of dual nationalities. For the murderer, the messianic-religious dilemma superseded his Israeli identity. He was not placed under brutal pressure in his cell to reveal the identities of rabbis who influenced him. He remained smiling and victorious. He was not subjected to suffocating pressure.
During the existential days of the War of Independence, one Meir Tobianski was shot. He was suspected of treason, sentenced in a lightning-quick trial, and was eliminated. His widow, who was not sentenced to silence, fought to restore his honor. A year later, Ben Gurion exonerated him and wrote to her: "Your husband was innocent."
Two things must come out of the Zygier affair. One is clear: the establishment of a quasi-secret state commission of inquiry. The commission must examine the links between Zygier’s death and his identity. But it must also do more than that. There must be genuine examination of how Israel exploits the goodwill of its Jewish supporters, and a clear demarcation of its boundaries.
AFP reports: Israeli guards supposedly keeping a round-the-clock watch on a mystery dual nationality prisoner held in isolation failed to notice his suicide for a full hour, a newspaper reported on Thursday.
Although his cell was fitted with four CCTV cameras, the guards did not see Ben Zygier, identified by media as an Australian-Israeli Mossad agent, remove a sheet from his bed and take it with him into the shower cubicle.
“For an unknown reason, none of the guards discerned him doing that,” the Yediot Aharonot newspaper reported.
It said that one camera covered the shower “in a way that allowed for the prisoner’s head to be visible without invading his more intimate privacy.”
“It was only after an entire hour had passed that (the guards) realised that the prisoner was nowhere to be seen in any of the areas picked up by the four cameras, at which point they rushed to his cell, where they discovered his body dangling in the shower stall,” it said.
“They were busy with something else,” an prisons service official told the paper.
“The bottom line is that the prisoner died, and we failed in our job of keeping him alive.”
Ben Saul, professor of international law at the University of Sydney, writes: Israel and Australia are indeed good friends, but they are not always on the same page. For a start, there is a gulf in values. Australian security services do not assassinate people, including civilian scientists driving to work in nearby countries. Australia does not torture prisoners. Australia has not militarily occupied a foreign people’s land for more than 40 years, or built illegal colonies on their lands. Australia does not believe in nuclear weapons or hide their existence.
When it comes to the crunch, most Australians would expect Australian Jews to choose loyalty to Australia over Israel, or even hope that the Australians in Mossad are our double agents. Undoubtedly Israelis would wish them to side with Israel. Spying will continue because every country has an interest in it. The trick is to be better at it than others, and better at catching others’ spies than they are at catching yours.
But the case of Ben Zygier shows that it is not easy to have it both ways. Conscience can get in the way. There comes a point where a Jewish person cannot faithfully be both Australian and Israeli. One has to choose. The same goes for Australians who are also Americans or Chinese.
Israel’s apparent willingness to abuse the trust and confidence of Australia also suggests that no country can take its friends for granted. All countries understandably put themselves first. But Israel might question whether its long-term security interests are best served by alienating its closest friends.
Der Spiegel reports: The Milan office building exudes elegance with its stucco facade, brass name plate, concierge service and expensive wooden furniture inside. There’s nothing to suggest that the firm based here, which specializes in the sale of satellite communications technology, is a front for the Israel foreign intelligence service Mossad.
But the Milan company is reported to have hired Israeli agents who needed legends for their operations in enemy territory. One of them was Ben Zygier, an Australian Jew and a committed Zionist who emigrated to Israel as a young man. The company is reported to have vouched as Zygier’s employer when he applied for a work visa at the Italian consulate in Melbourne in 2005. That, at least, is what Australian intelligence agents claim.
Ben Zygier died aged 34, just four days after the birth of his second child, on December 15, 2010, in a solitary confinement cell in the Ayalon high-security prison near Tel Aviv. He was reported to have hanged himself, even though he was the country’s best-guarded prisoner, monitored by four cameras. His lawyer had met him one or two days beforehand and said Zygier had seemed normal.
His case made headlines last week after an Australian news program identified Zygier as Israel’s mysterious “Prisoner X.” What crime can the agent have committed to prevent even his guards from knowing his identity?
Israeli officials said he had been a danger to national security. His lawyer said the accusations against him were “serious.” When Zygier died, Israel issued a gag order preventing media from covering the case.
The agent was arrested in February 2010, shortly after the Mossad had murdered the weapons dealer of Hamas in Dubai. Now there’s speculation that Zygier was involved in that killing, and that he may have divulged secrets. Or did he have something to do with the killings of Iranian scientists or software attacks against Iran’s nuclear program?
There are no answers, but Zygier and two other Australian Jews who also worked for the Milan firm were reported to have been successful agents. “The nature of their business gave them access to military and secret installations,” said an Austrialian intelligence source.
Zygier’s case provides insight into the methods of Mossad. It shows how the service recruits agents and masks operations.
As a young man, Zygier got involved with the “Community Security Group” in Melbourne, a kind of Jewish citizens’ defense league. These groups often have links to Mossad and are instructed by agents. Ben Zygier was probably recruited in this way. At around the same time, Paul Y. and David Z. were recruited. [Continue reading...]
ABC News reports: Israel has denied that a man identified by the ABC as an Australian-Israeli Mossad agent who committed suicide in jail had any contact with Australia’s security services, as a court backed its government’s claims that he hanged himself.
The man, identified by the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent as Australian citizen Ben Zygier, died in top-secret conditions in Ayalon prison, near Tel Aviv, in December 2010.
Sources told the ABC that Zygier was arrested by his own spymasters after they believed he told the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) about every aspect of his work with the Israelis.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, which oversees Israel’s intelligence services, denies this.
“Following recent publications, the prime minister’s office stresses that the late Mr Zygier had no contact with the Australian security services and organisations,” the office said, in Israel’s first mention of Zygier by name. [Continue reading...]
Following Bulgaria’s announcement that suspects involved in the Burgas bombing which killed five Israeli tourists last July, have been linked to Hezbollah, Tom Donilon, national security adviser to President Obama, has written an op-ed for the New York Times. Predictably, he calls on the EU to add the Lebanese organization to its terrorist list. No doubt this will help the White House score points with Israel and also win favor with Iran hawks. However, a larger story is being obscured.
Let’s assume that the bombers were indeed linked to Hezbollah. That doesn’t necessarily make this a Hezbollah operation or an operation serving Hezbollah’s interests. A more likely scenario is that the attack was conducted on behalf of Iran in retaliation for a string of terrorist attacks launched by Israel against civilian targets in Iran.
If the EU goes ahead and lists Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and they want to be even-handed, they should also list Mossad — especially at a time when there is rather compelling evidence that Mossad is even willing to murder Israelis.