Did Aussies ‘burn’ Israel’s Prisoner X and was he also a British citizen?

Ben ZygierBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
As intriguing questions continue to mount about the case of Israel’s so-called ‘Prisoner X’, the flow of verifiable information from official channels in Australia and Israel has slowed to a trickle. However, two important analyses appeared over the weekend, which could potentially place the incarceration and subsequent death of Ben Zygier under new light. One claims that the Australian-born Israeli was a low-level Mossad operative who did not commit any serious crime —let along high treason. The other suggests that Zygier might have held British citizenship, in addition to being a dual Australian and Israeli citizen, and that the British government might have been privy to the information regarding his arrest and subsequent incarceration in Israel’s Ayalon prison. In an article for Ynet, the online outlet for Israel’s high-selling newspaper Yediot Ahronot, veteran security correspondent Ron Ben-Yishai posits that Zygier was simply a “support operative” for the Mossad, adding that he “did not commit treason”. Instead, says Ben-Yishai, Zygier was probably arrested by the Israelis because they suspected he might have given, or might consider giving, information about forged Australian passports to Canberra. The Mossad decided to detain him after he told them he had been contacted by Australian journalist Jason Koutskoukis in late 2009 and asked whether he was a Mossad operative. Koutsoukis was tipped-off by Australian counterintelligence, which suspected Zygier of supplying the Mossad with Australian passports in his possession. It was the stigma of being considered a traitor by his own people that drove Zygier —a passionate Zionist— to suicide, claims Ben-Yishai. In his article, he seems to reprimand Australian intelligence for “burning” an Australian citizen by leaking information about him to the Australian press, and then remaining conspicuously silent when Zygier ended up in solitary confinement inside a maximum-security Israeli prison. Another interesting piece, by Al-Monitor’s Laura Rozen, asks the question whether Zygier also held British citizenship at the time of his death. Rozen notes that Koutsoukis, the Australian journalist who contacted Zygier in late 2009, had been told by his Australian intelligence sources that Zygier “had also previously come on the radar of British intelligence for taking out a passport in a new name”. Does that mean, she asks, that the Mossad operative also held British citizenship? And if so, does this mean that the British government —or at least British intelligence— knew of Zygier’s fate following his detention in Israel? Could it be, therefore, that a third country, after Australia and Israel, may be turn out to be involved in this macabre episode before too long?

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

5 Responses to Did Aussies ‘burn’ Israel’s Prisoner X and was he also a British citizen?

  1. MountainGoat says:

    This doesn’t seem to make sense. Aren’t intelligence operations, agents, and officers blown all time (relatively speaking?)
    Why treat this man with such special attention, to detain him in this way with such extreme secrecy that even his guards don’t know his name? We need to evaluate the Israel’s actions and ask why they would act the way they are, and who benefits.
    Even if Zygier was helping the Mossad obtain counterfeit passports, burning Zygier and the the associated affect of foreign relations does not seem to warrant locking up Zygier and throwing away the key. All nations conduct espionage and all intelligence agencies know their counterparts in other nations; everyone knows passports and counterfeited for the purpose of cover. Disclosing Zygier’s role in obtaining passports isn’t really that consequential, it’s not like the Australians and Canadians didn’t know their passports were popular to counterfeit and someone or some people must be involved. This is a flap that would have passed with time. I just don’t think it justifies the Israelis locking up Zygier that way.
    Whatever Zygier’s perceived offense or threat was, it had to be significant enough for the Mossad to feel they had to treat him in such an *extraordinary* way.

  2. Kidd says:

    ABC Foreign Correspondents News via BBC has shed some possible light on his reasons for being jailed.

  3. Pete says:


    Maybe not just passports:

    “The ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program understands that Zygier met with [Australian Security Intelligence Organisation] ASIO officers in Australia and gave comprehensive detail about a number of Mossad operations, including plans for a top-secret mission in Italy that had been years in the making.”

    see the rest at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-02-18/zygier-arrested-after-leaking-mossad-work-to-asio-sources/4525640

  4. Praetor Frayne says:

    Zygier was not the Man in the Iron Mask. The disturbing details of his incarceration were likely an operational contingency, and not necessarily what we’ve been told. He was on ice until the next phase, if you will? Of course, that might not be what he was led to believe. But if true, it certainly means that he knew something(?)…
    I wonder if Italy was a connection point for the transfer of infected hardware (USB sticks?) or other information regarding the various Stuxnet related malware, or if it’s now being made to seem that way, to certain players. But then again, Italy may not mean Italy at all…

  5. Pete says:


    Yes Mossad is eternally cunning and not a little evil. The very act of locking Ben up, leading to his photo and real name being splashed around the world this month may have been a ruse. Like bin Laden might Ben be actually alive and serving Israel in some distant vista?

    We’ll never, never know…but then again your post and mine might be part of the great deception ;-)

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