Mossad ‘helped arrest’ alleged Hezbollah operative in Cyprus

Cyprus, Israel, Syria, Lebanon By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Israeli intelligence was directly involved in the recent arrest of an alleged member of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, who is said to have been planning a series of attacks against Israeli targets on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. Cypriot media quoted police spokesman Andreas Angelides, who confirmed that the 24-year-old man was arrested on July 7 during a raid on his hotel in the tourist resort of Limassol. He also said that the man, whose name has not been released, was arrested “on possible charges pertaining to terrorism laws” soon after entering Cyprus using a Swedish passport. According to local media, Cypriot authorities were tipped off as to the man’s alleged Hezbollah connections and plans by an unnamed “foreign intelligence agency”. However, several news reports suggested over the weekend that officers of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad have already been dispatched to Cyprus to aid local counterterrorist officials involved in the investigation. Several sources allege that the Swedish-passport holder has been collaborating with his interrogators, telling them that he traveled to Cyprus with the intent of launching an armed attack at the embassy of Israel in Cypriot capital Nicosia. He allegedly changed his mind after observing the heavy security measures in place at the embassy, and opted instead for a plan to blow up a commercial airplane belonging to El Al Airlines, Israel’s national air carrier. He also allegedly considered attacking a number of buses belonging to Israeli tour companies operating in Israel. Cypriot police said that a thorough search of the man’s hotel room netted information on Israeli bus tour companies on the island, detailed flight schedules of Israeli airline operators, as well as digital photographs of popular destinations among Israeli tourists holidaying in Cyprus. Read more of this post

US rejects calls to free Navy analyst who spied for Israel

Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack ObamaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The White House has rejected persistent calls by Israeli politicians and lobbyists to free a United States Navy intelligence analyst serving a life sentence for giving classified US government documents to Israel. Jonathan Jay Pollard was convicted in 1987 for selling classified information to the Israeli government. Ronald Olive, a former counterintelligence officer for the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service, who led the US Navy’s prosecution of Jonathan Pollard, has described Pollard’s spying activity as “one of the most devastating cases of espionage in US history”, involving the theft of over “one million classified documents”. Recently it emerged that, before spying for Israel, Pollard had attempted to spy on the US for the government of Australia. However, in Israel, Pollard, who is now an Israeli subject after renouncing his American citizenship, is widely considered a national hero. Last week, senior Israeli political figures renewed persistent calls to the administration of US President Barack Obama to free Pollard. According to the Israelis’ reasoning, the life sentence imposed on Pollard is too harsh considering that he spied for a US ally. Last week’s calls were led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who urged the White House to free the convicted spy “in the spirit of the Jewish Passover. Netanyahu said that “the Festival of Freedom of all the Jews should be turned into Pollard’s private one”. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s plea was echoed in a personal letter addressed to President Obama by Israeli President Shimon Peres, along with a petition signed by over 80 members of the Israeli Knesset. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #710

Jonathan PollardBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►MI6 officer murder inquest to be held in secret. Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague has ordered that key evidence in the inquest into the death of MI6 officer Gareth Williams is to be heard in secret. Williams, who was found dead in a padlocked sports bag in the bath of his London apartment 20 months ago, was on secondment to MI6 from GCHQ, the British government’s signals intelligence agency, and had worked closely with the American security services.
►►GCHQ warns it is losing terrorists on the internet. Speaking of the GCHQ, the organization says that modern internet technology has left them unable to intercept calls which use new technology instead of traditional phone systems. Britain’s Daily Telegraph quotes “senior intelligence sources with detail knowledge of the problem”, who say that GCHQ technical experts have seen their access to telephone intercept information “eroded” by the use of the technologies such as Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, which route telephone calls over the world wide web.
►►Israel pressures Obama to release Jewish spy. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has again called on the United States to release convicted spy Jonathan Pollard after the former US Navy intelligence analyst was hospitalized this week. Pollard, an American of Jewish descent, was sentenced to life in prison 25 years ago for leaking classified documents to Israel. Many Israelis believe the sentence was too harsh and officials often demand his release. But Democratic and Republican administrations in the US have repeatedly refused Israeli appeals to release the convicted spy.

Interview with ex-Mossad director Meir Dagan

Meir DaganBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The former director of Israel’s most revered intelligence agency has given an extensive interview on why he believes a military strike against the Iranian nuclear program “should be the last option” for Israel. In November 2010, Meir Dagan stepped down from his post as the head of the Mossad after having led the agency for over eight years —the longest tenure of any Mossad director. During his leadership, the Israeli intelligence agency augmented its notoriety by assassinating Imad Mughniyah, security chief of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, and allegedly killing Islamic Hamas weapons procurer Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. The Mossad is also said to have played a role in Operation ORCHARD, the 2007 Israeli air attack on what is thought to have been a secret nuclear reactor in Al-Kibar, Syria. However, when it comes to the Iranian nuclear program, the 67-year-old retired spy is adamant that the military option would be a strategic error of gigantic proportions. Last year, Dagan admonished calls by hawkish Israeli politicians to bomb Iran as “the stupidest idea” he had ever heard. In an interview with Reuters news agency published on Thursday, April 5, Dagan said the word “stupid” was “a harsh expression” and “not something [he is] very proud of”. But he insisted that the military option should be last on the table, and said that it would be a mistake for Israel to lead international action against the Iranian nuclear program. Instead, the “Iranian problem” should be “left in the hands of the international community”, said Dagan. The Mossad veteran went on to identify three main problems with the military option. To begin with, he said, military action, no matter how damaging in the physical sense, “cannot disarm the core factor of the Iranian program: knowledge” about how to build a nuclear device. Second, Dagan argued that, even if a military strike managed to eliminate a considerable portion of the Iranian nuclear program’s infrastructure —which is not at all assured— it would likely cause a significant backlash. That backlash would culminate in “a regional war” that would involve simultaneous actions by non-state forces allied with Iran, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah. Read more of this post

Israel ‘scales back covert operations in Iran’, says Time magazine

Israel and IranBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Israeli government has instructed the country’s intelligence services to “scale back” their covert operations in Iran, according to Time magazine. The American publication quotes anonymous “senior Israeli security officials”, who argue that the Jewish state’s covert activities in Iran have been scaled down by “dozens of percent” in recent months. The alleged reduction is said to include “a wide spectrum of operations”, but has mostly affected some of Israel’s most high-profile covert actions. The latter include regular assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists in Tehran and the alleged sabotage of Iranian missile bases. These are said to include a blast at an Iranian military base near the city of Isfahan, in central Iran, which is home to one of Iran’s most active nuclear facilities. They are also said to include a massive explosion in 2011 at an Iranian missile depot near Tehran, which killed at least 17 people, including Major General Hassan Moqqadam, described by Iran’s state media as the “founder of Iran’s missile program”. According to Time, the reduction in Israeli covert operations inside Iran was ordered by none other than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The magazine quotes a “senior security officer” in Israel who claims that the Israeli leader is “worried about the consequences of an [Israeli] covert operation being discovered by Iranian counterintelligence”. There is also a sense in Tel Aviv, says Time, citing “Israeli officials”, that Mossad intelligence planners have largely exhausted their major targets inside Iran at this stage. Nevertheless, the decision to scale back intelligence operations on Iranian territory has reportedly “caused increasing dissatisfaction” inside the Mossad, Israel’s premier external intelligence agency, according to an unnamed Israeli official quoted in Time. Read more of this post

Israel ‘has decided to attack Iran’, claims US intelligence source

Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack ObamaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
The consensus in the US intelligence community is that Israel has decided “on principle” to launch a military strike on Iran in order to halt its nuclear program, according to an American intelligence insider. The American source was quoted on Israel’s Channel 2 (Arutz 2) television on Monday as saying that most US intelligence analysts believe “the attack will go ahead”. The source also argued that the Israeli public remains unaware of the “catastrophic consequences” of such an attack, which, according to US intelligence analysts, will be met with thousands of missiles launched against Israel by Iran and several Arab states. The confrontation will most likely trigger a regional war and “possibly even World War III”, said the source, citing US intelligence reports on the subject. He also warned Israel that the decision to attack Iran would be “tantamount to suicide”. The Channel 2 report claimed that the American and Israeli governments are “deeply at odds” over the potential consequences of a military attack on Iran, but that Tel Aviv has already decided to authorize strikes. The latter will allegedly take place before summer, unless there is “a significant change in the Iranian nuclear program in the next few weeks”, said the report. However, sources close to the Office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the Channel 2 report as part of “scare tactics” employed by Washington. The sources dismissed the so-called “nightmare scenario” as a method employed by members in the administration of President Barack Obama, who “want to constrain Israel from contemplating an attack on Iran”. Meanwhile, British newspaper The Daily Telegraph effectively corroborates the Channel 2report, and adds that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu issued the US President with “an ultimatum” during their closed-door meeting in Washington on Monday. Read more of this post

Israel ‘not to warn US’ on Iran attack, says US intelligence official

White House National Security Adviser Tom DonilonBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Israeli government has reportedly decided not to forewarn the United States if and when it decides to launch military strikes against Iran’s nuclear energy program. Citing a US intelligence insider, the Associated Press reported on Monday that American officials have been given the message “in a series of private, top-level” meetings with senior Israeli leaders. Tel-Aviv’s decision not to notify Washington about a possible attack on Tehran has been allegedly communicated to US officials by none other than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak. The US intelligence official, who tipped off the Associated Press anonymously, said that the two men have been relaying the same message to a host of American officials who have visited Israel in the past several weeks. The officials include the US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, as well as several senior American lawmakers. The intelligence source told The Associated Press that Tel Aviv’s decision to keep its cards on Iran close to its chest was solidified following a series of meetings last week between the Israeli leadership and White House National Security Adviser Tom Donilon (pictured). The American official relayed to Netanyahu, Barak and others, the opinion of the White House that a military attack on Iran would be both dangerous and counterproductive. This appears to have further alarmed the Israeli leadership, which last week chastised the United States for voicing criticism of a possible Israeli military attack on Iran, arguing that this criticism effectively “served Iran’s interests”. Read more of this post

German spy helped facilitate Israel-Hamas prisoner exchange

BND seal

BND seal

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Amidst the ongoing media frenzy over the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by Hamas, in exchange for hundreds of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, few noticed that Germany was expressly thanked by the Israelis for its role in the deal. Speaking to journalists right after Shalit’s release, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his government was “grateful [to] German negotiators for helping facilitate the exchange. Commenting on Netanyahu’s statement, Germany’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Guido Westerwelle, said simply that he was pleased because the German government was “able to contribute to Shalit’s release”. But what exactly was Germany’s role in arranging the deal? The answer was given on Tuesday by Ernst Uhrlau, director of Germany’s intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND). Uhrlau hinted that BND officers had assisted Israel and Hamas in securing the unlikely agreement. Now Germany’s Suedeutsche Zeitung newspaper claims that it knows the identity of the BND officer who acted as the foremost mediator between Israel and Hamas. According to the paper, the officer’s name is Gerhard Konrad; he is 50 years old, six feet tall, and has a PhD in Islamic Studies from Germany’s prestigious Heidelberg University. He speaks fluently French, English and Arabic, which he perfected while working in the Middle East “for several years”. He began his career with BND by representing the agency in German embassies in countries such as Syria and Lebanon. It was there, says Suedeutsche Zeitung, that Konrad cultivated relationships of trust with Hamas and Palestine Liberation Organization-affiliated groups, such as Fatah. He also developed a strong reputation for negotiating with militant groups in adversary conditions. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #543 (CIA edition)

John Rizzo

John Rizzo

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Ex-CIA officer warns of Israeli attack on Iran. Few in the CIA are more knowledgeable about Shiite politics than Robert Baer, a veteran of the Agency’s National Clandestine Service, who spent over 20 years in the Middle East, notably in Lebanon. Last weekend, Baer spoke to Los Angeles radio station KPFK, and said that “[t]here is almost near certainty [in Israel] that Netanyahu is planning an attack [on Iran] and it will probably be in September before the vote on a Palestinian state. And he’s also hoping to draw the United States into the conflict”. Baer is not alone in issuing such warnings in recent months. Former Mossad director Meir Dagan has been echoing Baer’s concerns. ►►Campaigners seek arrest of ex-CIA legal chief. We have written before about John A. Rizzo, the CIA’s former Acting General Counsel, who has been termed “the most influential career lawyer in CIA history”. Some readers may remember that Rizzo retired hurriedly from his post in 2009, amidst fears that he could get in trouble for acting as what some observers termed “a legal enabler” of the CIA torture practices under the George W. Bush administration. Now a group of human rights campaigners in Britain and Pakistan are seeking Rizzo’s arrest for his role in justifying the CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, the legality of which is often questioned by experts. The CIA has refused to comment on the campaign to indict Rizzo. ►►Analysis: The fallout from the CIA’s vaccination ploy in Pakistan. We wrote on Monday that not everyone is amused by news that the CIA tried to collect DNA evidence on Osama bin Laden by running a phony vaccination program in Pakistan. Read more of this post

New Zealand investigates ‘suspicious’ Israeli spy activity [updated]

Ofer Benyamin Mizrahi

Ofer Mizrahi

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Authorities in New Zealand have confirmed that they investigated a series of suspicious actions by alleged Israeli intelligence operatives, in the days following last February’s earthquake in Christchurch. According to publicly available data, at least three of the 181 people who died in the February 22 earthquake were Israelis. Admittedly, the number of Israeli victims was relatively small, which is why New Zealand authorities were baffled by the Israeli government’s intense concern about the earthquake. On the day of the disaster, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the telephone no fewer than four times with his New Zealand counterpart, John Key, which some New Zealand officials found odd at the time. Even stranger was a subsequent encounter between an armed New Zealand security force and an unauthorized Israeli rescue squad, in the days following the earthquake. The Israeli squad was found roaming in Christchurch’s cordoned ‘red zone’, without an official rescue accreditation by either the United Nations or the New Zealand government. After a brief but tense exchange, the Israelis were escorted out of the ‘red zone’, and the episode led to “intense diplomatic exchanges” between Wellington and Tel Aviv, according to New Zealand media. A possible solution to the riddle came with the discovery in Christchurch of the dead body of an Israeli named Ofer Benyamin Mizrahi. Mizrahi, who died when part of a building fell on the van he was riding in, was found to be carrying at least five different passports bearing his photograph. Read more of this post

Ex-Mossad chief stripped of Israeli diplomatic passport

Meir Dagan

Meir Dagan

By IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
The former chief of Israel’s primary external intelligence agency has been told to return his diplomatic passport immediately, a move that has been described as “unusual” by Israeli media. According to news reports, Meir Dagan, who led the Mossad from 2002 until January of this year, had requested that he be allowed to use his diplomatic passport for a series of upcoming international trips. But the Israeli government turned down his request and ordered him instead to surrender his diplomatic passport, effective immediately. The move comes several weeks after Dagan launched a barrage of serious criticisms against Israel’s political leadership. Earlier this month, he told journalists that the country’s current government is led by “reckless and irresponsible” people, who will not hesitate to engage in military adventurism in Iran in order to ensure their political survival at home. In May, he warned that any military action against Iran would be “patently illegal under international law” and that it would probably not achieve its goals, since Iranian nuclear installations are deliberately dispersed in locations across that vast country.  Israel’s Channel 2 reported that it is usual practice to allow government officials to use their diplomatic passports until they expire, ever after they retire from their government positions. Read more of this post

Former Mossad chief calls Israeli leadership ‘reckless’

Meir Dagan

Meir Dagan

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The man who headed for eight years Israel’s most powerful spy agency has launched a new round of serious criticisms against the country’s political leadership. Meir Dagan, who led the Mossad from 2002 until January of this year, told Israeli newspapers that Israel’s current government is led by “reckless and irresponsible” people, who will not hesitate to engage in military adventurism abroad to ensure their political primacy at home. Israeli commentators interpret these comments as a reference to a reputed military attack by Tel Aviv against Iran’s nuclear energy program installations. Dagan’s comments follow similar criticisms he leveled against the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month. Speaking at a conference held at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, he warned that any military action against Iran would be “patently illegal under international law” and that it would probably not achieve its goals, since Iranian nuclear installations are deliberately dispersed in locations across that vast country. Consequently, the widespread nature of the attack could lead to a prolonged war, “the kind of thing where we know how it starts, but not how it will end”, he told conference participants. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #481

  • Who brought down the CIA website last Thursday? US Federal officials as of Monday afternoon were still investigating the cause of a Thursday cyber incident that knocked offline the public website of the CIA and its unclassified e-mail system. The interference was isolated to CIA networks. Some cyber experts say the disruption may have been caused by a denial of service attack perpetrated by pranksters to show off their skills, rather than an act committed by a foreign government.
  • Israeli cabinet minister to visit jailed spy in US. Israel’s Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon is to make a visit next week to see Jonathan Pollard, an American serving a life term in a US jail for spying on the US for Israel. Israeli media claim that Kahlon will give Pollard a “verbal message” from Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
  • Egypt’s spies dragged from shadows. New evidence of spying and torture by Egypt’s General Intelligence Services (GIS) has piled pressure on the country’s military rulers to abolish the agency. After breaking into the GIS Cairo headquarters and ransacking archives, activists posted videos showing a torture chamber with a bloodstained floor and equipped with chains.

Analysis: Spy Agencies Failed to Predict Egypt Uprising

Egypt uprising

Egypt uprising

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
It is becoming increasingly clear that the ongoing popular uprising in Egypt represents the most important geopolitical development in the Middle East since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. In light of this, it is remarkable how unprepared foreign intelligence agencies have proven in forecasting the crisis. Even the Israelis were caught completely unaware: on January 25, the day when massive protests first erupted across Egypt, Major General Aviv Kochavi, newly appointed head of Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate, told a Knesset committee that “there are no doubts about the stability of the regime in Egypt” and that “the Muslim Brotherhood is not organized enough to take over”. Instead, Kochavi focused on political volatility in Lebanon; ironically, the latter now seems like an oasis of tranquility compared to the explosive state of Egyptian politics. If the Israelis, whose very concept of national security is inextricably linked with developments in Cairo, were so unsuspecting of the popular wave of anger against the thirty-year dictatorship of President Hosni Mubarak, one can only imagine Washington’s surprise at the protests. Click here to read my article in Intelligent-Intelligence.com, a specialist publication edited by Kyle Cunliffe. Continue reading →

News you may have missed #461

  • London expels Russian diplomat for spying. Britain’s troubled relations with Moscow suffered another blow on Tuesday, when London announced the expulsion of an unnamed Russian diplomat in London following “clear evidence” of spying. The request was communicated to the Kremlin on December 10, and was reportedly countered by Russia with a tit-for-tat expulsion of a British diplomat from the country.
  • Syria saw Israel behind aide’s assassination, leaked cables show. Syria suspected Israel of carrying out the murder of Brigadier General Mohammed Sleiman, a top security aide of President Bashar al-Assad, who was assassinated by a sniper in August of 2008, according to US diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks. The killing empowered hardliners in Syria and put an end to moves by President al-Assad for rapprochement between Damascus and Tel Aviv, according to the cables.
  • Israel to publicly press for release of spy held in US. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to officially and publicly appeal to US President Barack Obama in the coming days for the release of Jonathan Jay Pollard, an American serving a life term in a US jail for spying on the US for Israel.