Israel beefs up protection of its senior spies, as proxy war with Iran intensifies

Iran UAV droneISRAELI AUTHORITIES HAVE STEPPED up measures to protect its senior intelligence and security figures, over concerns they may be targeted by agents of the Iranian state, according to news reports. The news comes amidst widespread concerns that the ongoing shadow conflict between Israel and Iran is escalating in the shadow of the Russo-Ukrainian war.

On Thursday, Israel’s state-owned broadcaster and news agency, Kan, reported that  the government of Israel had implemented additional security measures to protect current and former members of its security and intelligence agencies. The report added that the measures are focused largely on current and former members of Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, the Mossad, as well as those associated with Israel’s intelligence and security apparatus that are living abroad.

The report comes amidst concerns among security observers that a clandestine war between Israel and Iran is growing in intensity. To a notable extent, this growth is being fueled by the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian conflict. Iran’s supply of cheap and reliable attack drones appears to be enabling Moscow to subvert and outright destroy Ukraine’s national infrastructure. In what seems like a direct response to Iran’s actions, Israel war materiel is now flowing into Ukraine, reportedly through a NATO country.

There are indications that this proxy conflict between Israel and Iran is spreading in Europe and the Middle East. Seeing the success of the use of Iranian drones, some European countries with limited airstrike capabilities, like Serbia and Armenia, are reportedly considering purchasing drone attack systems from Tehran. Meanwhile, Israeli weapons exports to Arab states have skyrocketed since the normalization of Israel’s relations with a number Arab countries in recent years. According to a recent report, last year marked a historic record for the volume of Israeli military and security exports, which increased by 30 percent from 2020. Much of that increase is due to Israeli weapons exports to Arab states, such as Morocco, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 28 November 2022 | Permalink

Probing the intelligence failure behind the assassination of Israeli PM Yitzchak Rabin

Rabin ArafatLAST WEEK, THE CHAIRMAN of the Israeli Religious Zionist Party, Bezalel Smotrich, who will soon be appointed as a cabinet minister, alleged that the Israel Security Agency (ISA) encouraged the killer of the late Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin. Smotrich’s allegation shocked many Israelis, because of the unfortunate timing —it was uttered close to the annual Remembrance Day for Prime Minister Rabin, who was assassinated by radical rightwing activist Yigal Amir 27 years ago. But also because of the unacceptable content, which echoes conspiracy theories that have accompanied Rabin’s assassination for many years. To counter these conspiracy theories, it is fitting to discuss the failure to defend Rabin that did occur under the responsibility of the ISA.

The failure that caused Rabin’s assassination was investigated by a National Inquiry Commission (known as the Shamgar Commission), which found the ISA responsible. In fact, it was deemed a double failure: the first by the personnel of the VIP Security Unit of the ISA, and the second by the intelligence personnel of the ISA, whose job it was to thwart in advance murderous intentions by extreme rightwing elements in Israel. The intelligence failure was not investigated in depth by the Shamgar Committee. It dealt mainly with the security failure and only partially with the intelligence failure. Its investigation focused on the activities of ISA agent Avishi Raviv (code name CHAMPAGNE) who was tasked by the ISA to infiltrate extreme rightwing groups. The Committee did not ask: could the ISA’s intelligence have prevented the murder?

It is also possible to ask: why was the mandate of the Shamgar Committee limited to investigating the area of security, and not intelligence? And why did its members refrain from extending their investigation to the issue of the intelligence failure? There are no answers to this question, even in the autobiographical book of the Committee’s chairman, the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Meir Shamgar.

A Key Piece of Intelligence

Smotrich referred to agent Raviv, who was indeed run in a deficient and unprofessional manner. Yet no malicious intentions can be attributed to the ISA. In any case, Raviv’s defense attorney convinced the court that Raviv did not know about the assassin’s intentions before the murder. The key piece of intelligence, which the ISA had received six months before Rabin’s murder, regarding Amir’s intentions, was handled extremely poorly: an asset of the IDF Central Command’s intelligence department told his commander that he had heard “a small, rotund and armed Yemeni” speaking at a bus stop about his intention to assassinate Rabin. The intelligence was immediately passed on to the head of the appropriate department in the ISA. Unfortunately, however, instead of the source being interrogated by trained ISA personnel, a police investigation was conducted that did not reveal any significant additional information. Read more of this post

A dramatic kidnap case in Malaysia may point to changes in Mossad’s tactics

Kuala Lumpur MalaysiaREPORTS FROM KUALA LUMPUR SUGGEST that Malaysian agents operating in the service of Israeli intelligence carried out the kidnapping of a Palestinian engineer, Omar al-Balbaisi, on September 28. According to the Malaysian newspaper The Straits Times, the kidnap operation was orchestrated by the Israeli external intelligence agency, the Mossad.

Omar al-Balbaisi completed a bachelor’s degree in computer science at the Islamic University in Gaza, where he allegedly joined the Izz-ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, specializing in hacking mobile phones. In or around 2020, al-Balbaisi left the Gaza Strip for Istanbul, where, according to reports, a Hamas secret intelligence and cyber unit was established in 2020. The unit allegedly operated on instructions from the Hamas leadership in Gaza, without the knowledge of the Turkish authorities.

When al-Balbaisi was kidnapped, he was reportedly returning from lunch with another Palestinian expatriate. According to the report, a white van drove toward the two men. Four people emerged from the van, grabbed al-Balbaisi and dragged him into the vehicle, while yelling at him: “our boss wants to talk to you”. The other Palestinian tried to help al-Balbaisi, but was warned to stay away from the scene. He subsequently filed a report at a police station, reportedly about 40 minutes after his friend was kidnapped.

According to the reports, the kidnapped Palestinian was taken bound and blindfolded to a safe house, where his Malaysian captors tied him to a chair. They then called two men, allegedly Israelis, who told the abductee: “you know why you are here”. According to another report, al-Balbaisi was interrogated, allegedly by two Israelis, believed to be Mossad agents, via a video call. However, the video call was disconnected when Malaysian police officers broke into the safe house.

Upon receiving the information about the kidnapping, Malaysian police immediately sought to locate al-Balbaisi. They subsequently managed to raid the house where the Palestinian was being held, while his interrogation was underway. A source told the Malaysian newspaper that “the Israelis wanted to know about [al-Balbaisi’s] experience in the field of software, about the strengths of Hamas in this field, and the members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades that he knew”. Read more of this post

Study assesses Hamas’ double-agent operations against Israeli intelligence

HamasA NEW STUDY SHEDS light on the little-studied topic of counterintelligence operations launched against Israel by the Islamic Resistance Movement, better known as Hamas. Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni Islamist and nationalist organization with a 35-year history, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007. As is typically the case with Middle Eastern non-state actors, Hamas is a complex umbrella organization that combines social-service and administrative functions with armed elements. The latter include internal policing components and a full-time military wing, as well as reserve armed forces.

Although much research has focused on Hamas’ military and non-military components, the organization’s intelligence functions remain under-studied. For this reason, a new article that assesses Hamas’ double-agent operations against Israeli intelligence deserves attention. The article is titled “An Asymmetric Doubling”: A Nonstate Actor Using the Method of Doubling Sources —Hamas against Israeli Intelligence”, and was authored by Netanel Flamer, a lecturer in Middle Eastern Studies at Bar-Ilan University and postdoctoral fellow at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. It was published last week by the International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence.

In his article, Flamer explains the usefulness of double-agent operations for non-state actors engaged in asymmetric conflicts against opponents with superior resources. Non-state actors tend to place tremendous value in double-agent operations, because they offer them the opportunity to “generate achievements of the greatest impact using the most efficient means”. They can do so despite the relative poverty of their resources, as compared to their adversaries. These types of operations employ human intelligence (HUMINT) sources, who work with two opposing intelligence services, only one of which is privy to their dual role. Such sources are known in intelligence parlance as “double agents”.

Hamas’ Early Counterintelligence Efforts

Interestingly, Hamas’ first counterintelligence outfit preceded its own establishment. Upon its founding in 1987, at the peak of the First Intifada, Hamas was immediately able to rely on al-Majd, a counterintelligence apparatus that had been established a year earlier by Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. The mission of al-Majd was to uncover suspected Israeli collaborators among Palestinian communities in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The organization was also known for deploying varying levels of torture against suspected collaborators, or against their relatives.

By the early 1990s, al-Majd was in a position to launch a number of confirmed counterintelligence operations. A notable early case is that of Maher Abu Srur, a Hamas member who had been recruited by the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service. At the culmination of this double-agent operation, Srur actually murdered his Israeli handler at a Shin Bet safe house in Jerusalem. According to Flamer, al-Majd is known to have launched several other double-agent operations against the Shin Bet, with varying levels of success. Importantly, it often is difficult to determine whether al-Majd double agents were deployed after they were first recruited by the Shin Bet, or whether they were originally deployed by al-Majd as “dangles”. Read more of this post

Many see Israel behind May 22 killing of Iranian paramilitary leader in Tehran

IRGC IranA GROWING NUMBER OF security observers point to Israel as the most likely culprit behind the assassination of a leading member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s powerful paramilitary force. Brigadier General Hassan Sayyad Khodaei, who was killed in broad daylight in Tehran on May 22, served as deputy director of the Quds Force, a major branch of the IRGC. The mission of the Quds Force is to carry out unconventional warfare, especially in support of IRGC operations against adversaries abroad.

Observers regularly describe the IRGC as a ‘praetorian guard’ that operates inside Iran’s governing apparatus. Today the IRGC is a military force with a command structure that is distinct from Iran’s regular Armed Forces. It maintains its own army, navy and air force, has its own paramilitary and political protection units, and oversees Iran’s nuclear program. The IRGC’s weapons development falls under the duties of the Quds Force, in which Khodaei was a leading figure. He was also known to have been closely mentored by IRGC Commander Qasem Soleimani, who was assassinated by the United States in 2020.

Kodaei was assassinated in broad daylight on May 22, as he was heading home from his office in downtown Tehran, located a few blocks from the main building of Iran’s Consultative Assembly. According to eyewitness reports, Kodaei’s vehicle was rapidly approached by two individuals riding on a motorbike. They sped away seconds after shooting Kodaei five times, killing him almost instantly. The entrance to the street where Kodaei was attacked was allegedly blocked by a white van, which also sped away following the shooting.

Israel is known for carrying out assassinations of Iranian officials using motorbikes, which can move with relative ease in the congested streets of Tehran. IntelNews regulars will recall that Israeli intelligence claimed last month to have detained and interrogated an alleged Iranian assassin named Mansour Rasouli. A video of his alleged testimony emerged, which was reportedly filmed at a Mossad safehouse somewhere in Iran. Meanwhile, Kodaei’s assassins remain at large.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 25 May 2022 | Permalink

In rare move, Israel identifies special operations officer killed in Gaza Strip raid

IDF Gaza Strip HamasIN A RARE MOVE, Israel released the identity last weekend of a special operations officer who was killed by Islamic Hamas during a 2018 covert mission in the Gaza Strip. As intelNews reported at the time, an undercover team of Israeli operatives was exfiltrated by helicopter from Gaza on November 11, 2018. The exfiltration took place after the Israelis were spotted by members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, which is part of Hamas’ armed wing.

The incident was followed by a barrage of nearly 500 rockets and mortars fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel. The Israelis responded by firing more than 160 missiles that fell throughout the Palestinian enclave. Hostilities were halted on November 13, when Hamas declared a unilateral ceasefire brokered by Egypt. The incident prompted the resignation of Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor Liberman. At the time, the Israel Defense Forces, which were behind the botched operation, refused to comment on the team’s mission, admitting only that its troops “operated […] in the Gaza Strip”.

It was said at the time that the members of the undercover team were dressed in civilian clothes and that at least two of them were disguised as women. After entering Gaza in a civilian Volkswagen vehicle, they drove to Khan Yunis, a city in the south of the Strip, near the Egyptian border. It was there that they were discovered by the al-Qassam Brigades, who stopped them at a checkpoint, asking for identification. The Israeli team opened fire using a silenced gun. Following a high-speed car chase, the Israelis left via helicopter. Their abandoned Volkswagen car was then blown up by an Israeli fighter jet.

On Sunday, the IDF declassified the name of the fallen officer. It also released a photograph of the man, who has been identified as Lt. Col. Mahmoud Kheir el-Din, 41, from Galilee. A member of Israel’s Druze community, el-Din served in the Mista’arvim, a counter-terrorism unit of the IDF’s Special Operations division that is trained to capture or assassinate targets in enemy territory. El-Din joined the IDF’s Special Operations division in 2002, after having served as a platoon commander.

The IDF also provided limited details about the botched operation that led to el-Din’s death. It claims that el-Din “physically confronted” one of the Hamas operatives, thus giving another one of the Israeli soldiers the opportunity to open fire and kill seven Hamas members. El-Din was killed during the shootout, according to the IDF. The Israeli government said the decision to release el-Din’s identity was coordinated with his family. It added, however, that it does not plan to release further details about the botched operation.

Author: Ian Alen | Date: 17 May 2022 | Permalink

West German intelligence infiltrated Adolf Eichmann trial in Israel, documents show

BND GermanyWEST GERMAN SPIES INFILTRATED the trial of Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Holocaust, in order to limit its damage on the reputation of senior West German politicians who had a Nazi past. Eichmann was the lead author of the system of mass deportation of Jews from ghettos in Nazi-occupied Europe to extermination camps, where millions of them were brutally killed. In 1960, after years of hiding, he was captured in Argentina by agents of the Mossad, Israel’s covert-action agency, and secretly transported to Israel, where he was put to trial and eventually hanged.

Since 2011, new files on the West German response to Eichmann’s abduction and trial have been uncovered by the Independent Commission of Historians to Research the History of the Federal Intelligence Service, 1945-1968. The Independent Commission consists of professional historians, who have been granted near-complete access into the archives of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND). Known as Bundesnachrichtendienst, the BND conducts foreign intelligence, making it Germany’s equivalent of the United States Central Intelligence Agency. The project has been praised as a rare case of openness and transparency in historical research into the activities and operations of a still-functioning intelligence agency.

Led by Professor Klaus-Dietmar Henke, the Independent Commission has published 15 volumes of research on the BND. The latest release concerns (among other things) Hans Globke, a senior official in Germany’s Nazi-era Ministry of the Interior, who was eventually appointed to the Office for Jewish Affairs. From that post, Globke helped draft the legislation, known as the Nuremberg Race Laws of 1935. These laws gave legal sanctuary to the exclusion of Germany’s Jewish population from political, commercial and other social activity. The same laws were eventually used to confiscate assets belonging to Jewish German citizens.

After the war, Globke closely aligned himself with the British forces and became testified as a witness in the prosecution of senior Nazi war criminals. He rebuilt his political career, initially on the local level, and eventually as Chief of Staff to the Office of the Chancellor of West Germany. He also served as West Germany’s Secretary of State, promoting a pro-Atlanticist foreign policy that closely aligned Western Germany with the United States.

According to the latest release by the Independent Commission, Globke tasked the BND with infiltrating Eichmann’s trial, in order to limit the details exposed about the Nazi government during the trial proceedings. The primary goal of the operation, according to the new information, was to prevent even the mention of Globke’s name during Eichmann’s trial. If that was not achieved, the aim was to protect Globke’s reputation and shield the public from details about his Nazi past, especially relating to the Holocaust.

When asked about the revelation, a spokesperson for the BND refused to comment on it, saying only that “the draft results of the independent historical commission speak for themselves”. A spokesperson for the German federal government appeared to reject a call to withdraw a number of civilian medals and other honors that Globke was bestowed prior to his death. According to the spokesperson, German law does not have provisions for “posthumous withdrawal” of awards.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 16 May 2022 | Permalink

Mossad allegedly uncovered Iranian plot to kill Israeli, American officials abroad

Israeli consulate Istanbul TurkeyISRAEL’S MOSSAD INTELLIGENCE AGENCY allegedly foiled a plot by Iranian intelligence to send assassins abroad and kill an Israeli diplomat, an American military official and a French reporter, according to reports. The information about the alleged plot first surfaced late last week in the Iran International News Channel, a British-based Iranian news agency, which is opposed to the government in Tehran. The news agency claimed that the plot had been organized by the Quds Force, the paramilitary wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Shortly after news of the alleged plot emerged, Israeli media reported the existence of a video of an Iranian man who identifies himself as Mansour Rasouli (or Rassouli). In the video, the man claims to be a member of Unit 840, the part of the Quds Force that plans and executes operations overseas. He also claims that he was paid $150,000 to plan the assassination of an Israeli consular official in Istanbul, Turkey, as well as an American military general stationed in Turkey. A third target for assassination was a Jewish French journalist. The names of the alleged targets are not known. He adds that he had planned to carry out the assassinations with the use of networks of drug smugglers.

Rasouli then claims that the Quds Force had promised to pay him an additional $1 million following the successful conclusion of the assassinations. Toward the end of his statement, Rasouli says he had made an “error of judgment” in agreeing to participate in the operation, and promises to refrain from targeting individuals for assassination in the future. According to Iran International, Rasouli’s interview was filmed by officers of the Mossad in Turkey, where he was allegedly captured before he was able to execute the first of the planned assassinations. However, Israeli media later claimed that the Mossad officers filmed the interview in Iran, during a covert operation that resulted in the capture and interrogation of Rasouli.

IntelNews readers will recall that, in October of last year, Israel accused Iran of being behind a plot to kill Israeli citizens in Cyprus. The accusation came after the arrest of an Azeri national, who was reportedly found carrying a gun fitted with a silencer in the Cypriot capital Nicosia. A year earlier, it was reported that American intelligence agencies had uncovered an Iranian plot to kill the United States’ ambassador to South Africa, in an effort to avenge the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani by the United States in January of 2020.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 02 May 2022 | Permalink

Mossad targeted cell phones ‘unofficially’ with Pegasus software, report alleges

NSO GroupISRAEL’S EXTERNAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY, the Mossad, made unofficial use of the Pegasus spyware, whose developer has been sanctioned by the United States government, according to a report from Israel. NSO Group Technologies was one of two Israeli firms that were placed on a US Department of Commerce sanctions list last November. According to a statement issued by the US Department of Commerce, the two firms engaged “in activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States”.

The move followed revelations about a spy software known as Pegasus, which is marketed by NSO Group. Pegasus is able to install itself on targeted telephones without requiring their users to click a link or download an application. Upon installation, the software provides the spying party with near-complete control of a targeted telephone. This includes the ability to browse through the device’s contents, such as photographs and videos, record conversations, as well as activate the telephone’s built-in microphone and camera at any time, without its user’s consent or knowledge.

Now a report by Haaretz, one of Israel’s leading newspapers, alleges that, under its previous director, Yossi Cohen, the Mossad worked closely with NSO Group Technologies. Citing NSO Group “employees, who asked to remain anonymous”, Haaretz alleges that Mossad officials “frequently visited the company headquarters in Herzliya”, in the northern outskirts of Tel Aviv. Initially, the Mossad officials sought to learn about the uses and capabilities of the spy software, according to Haaretz. Later, however, they began to bring with them foreign officials from countries like Saudi Arabia and Angola, whose governments were interested in acquiring the software.

On “several occasions”, the Mossad officials asked NSO Group to make use Pegasus in order to “hack certain phones” on behalf of the Mossad. It is not known whether this was because NSO Group’s spyware was more advanced than the Mossad’s spyware, or whether the spy agency was engaged in “unofficial intelligence gathering”, says Haaretz. The paper adds that, under its current director, David Barnea, the Mossad has distanced itself from NSO Technologies.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 14 February 2022 | Permalink

Iranian websites use fake Israeli contact data to lure spies, researchers claim

Computer hackingA NUMBER OF WEBSITES sponsored through Google Ads, which seek to hire Iran and Hezbollah experts for “research and consultancies” in Israel, are part of an Iranian counterintelligence program, according to observers. The investigative news website Daily Beast said on Monday it discovered at least 16 such websites, all of which appear to employ the same language, visuals, as well as telephone numbers with Israeli area codes.

The websites’ stated purpose is to employ individuals with inside knowledge of Iranian intelligence and security, as well as individuals with a background in Lebanon’s Hezbollah. The prospective employers claim to be Israeli “consultancy” firms, with names such as “VIP Human Solutions”. The latter describes itself as a “VIP center for recruitment of the most distinguished in the military and security services of Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon”, according to the Daily Beast.

The websites feature Israeli flag visuals, and claim to be associated with recognizable think-tanks and media organizations, including the Gatestone Institute, the Begin-Sadat Center, the Jerusalem Post and Business Insider. However, these purported connections appear to be fictitious and to be designed to give those websites an air of legitimacy. In reality they appear to be hosted by an obscure Bulgarian web hosting company. At times they disappear, but then reappear under a different title and domain name. The oldest among them has been active for just over four years.

The Daily Beast cites a number of Iran observers, as well as intelligence insiders in the United States and elsewhere, who claim that the websites are part of a sting operation by Iranian counterintelligence. They share a number of “behavioral similarities” to prior phishing campaigns perpetrated by hacker groups with documented links to Iranian intelligence agencies, according to the Daily Beast. The purpose of the websites is to lure unsuspecting Iranian and Lebanese nationals who aspire to provide information to Israel in exchange for money, according to the report.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 25 January 2022 | Permalink

Israel busts alleged Iranian spy ring made up of middle-aged women

Shin BetAUTHORITIES IN ISRAEL CLAIM they busted a ring of spies for Iran, which was composed solely of middle-aged Jewish women. The Israel Security Agency, known as Shin Bet, said on Thursday that it had arrested four Jewish women, all of them Iranian-born Israeli citizens. The four women were charged with espionage against the state of Israel. The Shin Bet described the case as “serious” and as part of a broader plan by Iran to build a sophisticated espionage network inside the Jewish state.

According to news reports, the women were recruited via the Facebook social networking platform by a user using the name Rambod Namdar. Namdar claimed to be a Jewish man living in Iran. After recruiting the women, Namdar operated as their handler, and provided them with regular payments in exchange for taking photographs of sensitive military sites and civilian government buildings. According to the Shin Bet, these included the buildings of the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs. The women were allegedly also asked to take photographs of the embassy of the United States, as well as commercial facilities, including shopping malls.

At least two of the women were asked to befriend Israeli politicians and government officials, according to the Shin Bet. The agency also claims that the women were asked to convince their sons to serve their mandatory military service by joining military intelligence units. In one case, according to the indictment, the son of one of the women did serve in an intelligence post in the Israeli military, which allowed his mother to pass a number of military documents to her Iranian handler.

Reports in the Israeli media and the BBC mention that Namdar communicated with the four women “for several years” using the encrypted messaging service WhatsApp. WhatsApp is owned by Meta, the same company that owns Facebook and Instagram.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 14 January 2022 | Permalink

Israel likely behind 1981 bombings of German, Swiss engineering firms, expert claims

MossadISRAEL’S PRIMARY EXTERNAL INTELLIGENCE agency, the Mossad, was likely behind a series of mysterious bombings in 1981, which targeted German and Swiss engineering firms believed to be aiding the Pakistani nuclear program, according to new exposé by a leading Swiss newspaper. Several bomb attacks targeted a number of engineering firms in Switzerland and what was then West Germany in 1981. Alongside these attacks, there were threatening telephone calls that targeted West German and Swiss engineers.

A previously unknown militant group calling itself the Organization for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in South Asia took responsibility for these actions. Its members mailed a number of political manifestos to the German and Swiss press, and repeatedly issue proclamations via telephone in broken German or English, according to contemporary accounts. Interestingly, the Organization for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in South Asia has never been heard of since.

Now, however, one of Switzerland’s leading newspapers, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), claims in a new report that the violent actions against German and Swiss scientists and engineering firms were likely undertaken by the Israeli Mossad. In a leading article published on Saturday, the Swiss daily cited “new, previously unseen documents from archives” in Switzerland and the United States, which allegedly shed light on these mysterious attacks.

The report rests partly on the work of Swiss historian Adrian Hänni, who argues that Israeli intelligence was eager to prevent Pakistan from acquiring access to nuclear energy. The prospect of Pakistan becoming the first Muslim-majority nuclear state was viewed by Israel as an “existential threat”, according to Hänni. Additionally, the Mossad had credible information that senior officials in Islamabad worked closely with the Islamic Republic of Iran, one of Israel’s mortal regional enemies. These factors convinced the Israeli leadership of the time to authorize a covert operation against a number of European firms and scientists who were allegedly aiding Islamabad’s pursuit of a nuclear arsenal, according to the NZZ.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 05 January 2022 | Permalink

Cell phones of leading Polish opposition figures hacked by government, group claims

Civic Coalition PolandCENTRAL FIGURES OF POLAND’S opposition coalition, which narrowly lost the 2019 parliamentary election, had their cell phones hacked with a surveillance software used by the country’s spy services, according to a new report. A major target of the hacks was Krzysztof Brejza, a member of the lower chamber of the Polish parliament and campaign director of the Civic Coalition, a centrist-liberal alliance. In the parliamentary election of 2019, the Civic Coalition challenged the all-powerful Law and Justice Party (PiS), which has ruled Poland for much of the past decade.

The PiS is a populist pro-Russian party that opposes many of the core policies of the European Union, of which Poland is a member. In contrast, the Civil Coalition is pro-Western and supports Poland’s integration into the European Union. In 2019, while the two parties were competing in a feverish electoral campaign, Poland’s state-owned television aired a number of texts acquired from Brejza’s phone, in what the opposition decried as a “smear campaign”. Eventually, the PiS won the election with a narrow majority.

The information about Brejza’s cell phone hack was revealed last week by Citizen Lab, a research unit of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, which focuses on information technology, international security and human rights. According to the report, at least three senior figures in the Civil Coalition were under telephonic surveillance throughout the election campaign. Brejza’s cell phone was breached over 30 times between April and October of 2019, according to Citizen Lab. The other two victims of the surveillance operation were Ewa Wrzosek, a public prosecutor and leading critic of the PiS, as well as Roman Giertych, an attorney who represents leading members of the Civic Coalition.

The report claims that the surveillance against the Civil Coalition members was facilitated by Pegasus, a controversial spyware that is sold to governments around the world by NSO Group Technologies, an Israeli digital surveillance company based near Tel Aviv. Earlier this year, the United States government blacklisted NSO Group Technologies, in a move that surprised many in Israel and beyond. Meanwhile, on December 24, the Polish government denied it had any role in the phone hacking affair. Poland’s Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, dismissed the Citizen Lab revelations as “fake news”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 27 December 2021 | Permalink

Israeli ex-intelligence chief claims Israel had role in top Iranian general’s killing

Qasem SoleimaniTHE RECENTLY RETIRED DIRECTOR of Israel’s military intelligence agency has claimed in an interview that Israel had a role in the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, who led Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Soleimani was arguably Iran’s most revered military official. He was killed by an American targeted drone strike on January 3, 2020, in Baghdad, Iraq. The same missile strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who commanded the Popular Mobilization Committee, an umbrella organization composed of around 40 pro-Iranian militias in Iraq. The then-American president, Donald Trump, claimed responsibility for the attack.

In the months that followed Soleimani’s assassination, Iranian state media claimed that the operation that targeted the IRGC had been aided with intelligence and logistical support by the governments of several countries, including Germany, the United Kingdom, Qatar, Kuwait and Lebanon. Meanwhile, reports by Western media alleged that “[i]ntelligence from Israel helped confirm the details” of Soleimani’s whereabouts shortly before he was assassinated. There has been no independent confirmation of these claims.

Now, however, it appears that a recently retired Israeli general, who headed the country’s military intelligence agency during Soleimani’s assassination, has claimed partial responsibility for his killing. According to the Associated Press, Major General Tamir Heyman, who until October of this year headed the Israel Defense Forces’ Military Intelligence Directorate, has become “the first official to confirm Israel’s involvement” in the controversial assassination.

Heyman is believed to have given an interview in late September to Mabalat Malam, the Hebrew-language magazine of the Israeli Intelligence Heritage Center, which is seen as closely affiliated with the Israeli intelligence community. In the interview, which is available in the current issue of the magazine, Heyman says that “Assassinating Soleimani was an achievement, since our main enemy, in my eyes, are the Iranians”. He adds that Soleimani’s killing was one of “two significant and important assassinations during my term” as head of army intelligence.

The Associated Press is among a number of news agencies that reached out to the IDF for clarification about Heyman’s comments. As of Tuesday night, the IDF had not responded to several requests for comment.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 22 December 2021 | Permalink

Israeli television channel to air details of ex-Mossad chief’s alleged affair

Yossi Cohen and Benjamin NetnayahuAN ISRAELI TELEVISION CHANNEL has said it will be airing details about an alleged extramarital affair involving the former director of the Mossad intelligence agency, Yossi Cohen. Cohen, 59, who has four children, served as director of the Mossad from 2015 until earlier this year. Last summer, the privately owned Channel 13 television reported that Cohen had “a close relationship” for the past two years with a woman who was not his wife, and who was believed to be a flight attendant. The report added that a complaint about the affair had been handed over to Israel’s Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit, who was reviewing it.

At the time Cohen denied he had an extramarital affair, saying: “there is no flight attendant [and] there is no close relationship”. The former Mossad chief added that he had not been contacted by Attorney General Mandelblit about the complaint, or for any other reason. In its report back in the summer, the television station gave no further information about the alleged complaint, the identity of the flight attendant, or the state of the Attorney General Mandelblit’s investigation.

Now, however, Channel 13 says it will be airing a detailed report about the alleged extramarital affair, on Tuesday, December 21. According to preview clips, the channel’s investigative program, HaMakor, will claim that the affair began in 2018, while Cohen was director of the Mossad. What is more, the program will feature an interview with Guy Shiker, a well-known Israeli financier, who is allegedly the husband of the flight attendant.

In his interview, Shiker tells HaMakor that Cohen bragged to him and his wife about Mossad operations, and shared with them details of spy programs that were almost certainly classified. In a written response, Cohen told the television channel that he never shared any classified information with the couple or with anyone else, and that he did not divulge any operational details that he was not authorized to disclose during his tenure in the Mossad.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 20 December 2021 | Permalink

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