Did compromised laptop prompt Israel to bomb Syrian nuclear reactor?

Al-Kibar reactor

Al-Kibar reactor

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
One of the Middle East’s biggest mysteries in recent years concerns Operation ORCHARD, the September 6, 2007, attack by Israeli fighter jets on a site deep in the Syro-Arabian Desert. Many observers, including former CIA Director, General Michael Hayden, have called for the secrecy surrounding the covert operation to be finally lifted. But it has been more-or-less confirmed that the attack targeted a plutonium production reactor, which was part of Syria’s secret nuclear weapons program. And officials in Tel Aviv have repeatedly hinted that Israel was behind the operation. The burning question, however, is how did Israel learn of the existence of Syria’s nuclear reactor at Al-Kibar, a secret and isolated site deep in the Syro-Arabian Desert? The authoritative account of the operation, which appeared in German newsmagazine Der Spiegel in 2009, suggested that the initial tip came from the US National Security Agency, which “detected a suspiciously high number of telephone calls between Syria and North Korea”. But it also alleged that the Mossad managed to acquire vital clues about the Al-Kibar building site by installing a stealth “Trojan horse” program on the laptop of a Syrian government official, while the latter was visiting Britain. This last suggestion is echoed in a new book by Yaakov Katz and Yoaz Hendel, entitled Israel vs. Iran: The Shadow War. In it, the authors claim that a team of ten Mossad agents had been tasked with assassinating the official, during his visit to London in late 2006. But, while he was out shopping, several agents broke into his hotel room and gained access to his laptop computer. They allegedly duplicated the computer’s entire hard drive in 15 minutes, and sent the contents to Mossad’s headquarters for examination. The discovery of blueprints and photographs from the al-Kibar plutonium production reactor prompted the Israeli intelligence agency to change the scope of the intelligence mission, choosing instead to compromise the Syrian official’s laptop with the help of key-logging software, instead of killing him. According to the book, the information gathered from the Syrian official’s compromised laptop led directly to Operation ORCHARD, less than a year later.

About intelNews
Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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