Television program about the Mossad prompts controversy, strong denials in Israel

Tamir PardoIsraeli officials have denied reports that the head of the country’s internal security service was asked by the prime minister to spy on the director of the Mossad intelligence agency and the head of the military. The denials were prompted by allegations that will be made in full on Thursday, when the latest installment of the investigative news program Uvda (Fact) will be aired on Israel’s Channel 12 television channel. According to the program, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested that the personal phones of senior Israeli security officials, including those of the heads of the Mossad and the military, be wiretapped for security reasons.

The investigative news program reported on May 31 that the “unprecedented” request has its roots in a “major secret program” that was launched by the Israeli government in 2012. The program required a major transformation of the country’s intelligence budget, staffing and resources. Although numerous individuals from nearly every facet of the Israeli intelligence community had been briefed on the project, the Israeli prime minister was concerned about leaks to the media. He therefore kept his cabinet in the dark about the program, and did not consult with the Knesset, or even the members of the Knesset’s Subcommittee on Intelligence and Secret Services, which is required by law to be kept fully informed about Israeli intelligence operations.

Uvda further alleges that in 2013 Netanyahu convened an extraordinary meeting of senior officials, which included the participation of the attorney general, the head of the Shin Bet (Israel’s domestic security service) and others. It was during that meeting, according to Uvda, when Netanyahu allegedly approached Yora Cohen, the then-director of the Shin Bet, and asked him to “monitor the partners of the secret project”. When asked what he meant, Netanyahu allegedly said that the directors of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the Mossad should have their telephones monitored for possible unauthorized leaks to the media. Two names mentioned during that meeting, according to Uvda: Tamir Pardo, head of the Mossad, and Benny Gantz, the IDF’s chief of staff. Both men were new at their posts. Eventually, however, when Cohen took Netanyahu’s request to senior officials at the Ministry of Defense, “they were shocked and rejected it”, Uvda reports.

On Sunday, Cohen took the unusual step of issuing a denial of Uvda’s allegations, calling “reports in the media” about the prime minister having instructed him to “specifically wiretap Gantz and Pardo […] untrue”. The Office of the Prime Minister also denied the Uvda report, describing it in a statement as “utterly baseless”. The statement went on to say that Uvda’s allegations represented “a total distortion of systemic efforts that are made from time to time to safeguard sensitive information related to Israel’s security”. Also on Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu directly criticized comments made by Pardo on the same program, which the Israeli leader saw as damaging to the reputation of the Mossad. Pardo told Uvda that “the fun part” about working for the Mossad was that the agency is “basically a crime syndicate with a license”. Netanyahu took exception to those comments on Sunday, saying that “the Mossad is not a criminal organization. It is a superb organization that does sacred work in the fight against terrorism and other threats to the state of Israel. We all salute it”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 04 June 2018 | Permalink

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Speculation ends as Israeli prime minister appoints new Mossad chief

Yossi Cohen and Benjamin NetnayahuMonday brought an end to weeks of speculation in Israel, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed the new director of the Mossad, the Jewish state’s national intelligence agency. At a hastily announced press conference in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said he had chosen Yossi Cohen for the post. A 30-year veteran of the Mossad, Cohen left the intelligence agency in 2013 to chair Israel’s National Security Council and advise the prime minister. Cohen, 54, who has four children, grew up in Jerusalem and became a fighter pilot before joining the Mossad. He gradually rose through the ranks to become deputy director at the agency. Prior to that, he led for several years the Mossad’s Department of Collections, which handles operations officers around the world.

More recently, Cohen led the agency’s Political Action and Liaison Department, which is tasked with facilitating cooperation between the Mossad and foreign intelligence agencies. From that position, he witnessed the worsening relations between Israel and the United States, as Washington struck closer relations with Iran despite Tel Aviv’s strong objections. That unprecedented development sparked a fierce internal debate between the Israeli intelligence community and the executive. The debate culminated when the Mossad’s outgoing Director, Tamir Pardo, objected to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s hardline stance on Iran. In 2011, Pardo, who will be stepping down from his post in January after 5 years at the helm, opined that the Iranian nuclear program was not an existential threat to Israel and that the Jewish state should concentrate instead on its dispute with the Palestinians.

Cohen, who is one of Netanyahu’s most trusted advisers, is expected to bring the Mossad closer to the prime minister’s office. He was reputedly one several candidates for the post, and was chosen from a list that included the Mossad’s former Deputy Director Rami Ben-Barak —currently at the helm of Israel’s Ministry of Intelligence Affairs— and the agency’s second-in-command, who is known publicly only as “N”. Following Monday’s announcement by Netanyahu, which came after an unexplained hour-long delay, there were rumors of last-minute complications with Cohen’s appointment. But The Times of Israel quoted an unnamed “senior diplomatic official” as saying that there had been “no last minute drama [or] pressures” prior to Netanyahu’s announcement.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 08 December 2015 | Permalink

CIA chief paid secret visit to Israel ahead of Iran nuclear deal

John BrennanThe director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency visited Israel in secret last week to discuss the Jewish state’s refusal to endorse an emerging deal with Iran over its nuclear program. Citing “two senior Israeli officials”, the Tel Aviv-based Israeli newspaper Haaretz said on Tuesday that CIA Director John Brennan arrived in Israel last Thursday. Although he was officially hosted by Tamir Pardo, director of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, Brennan used the opportunity to hold secret meetings with several senior Israeli officials, said Haaretz. Among them were Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen, as well as Major General Hartzl Halevi, who heads Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate.

According to Haaretz, Brennan’s visit to Israel had been planned “long ahead of time”, and should not be interpreted as a sudden diplomatic move from Washington. However, it came just weeks ahead of a deadline for a far-reaching settlement next month between Iran and six world powers over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. If successful, the much-heralded deal will mark the conclusion of ongoing negotiations between the Islamic Republic and a group of nations that have come to be known as P5+1, representing the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. Israel, however, has strongly criticized the negotiations, referred to as ‘the Geneva pact’. Last year, the Israeli Prime Minister called the pact a “historic mistake” that would enable “the most dangerous regime in the world” to get closer to “attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world”.

It is not known whether Brennan brought with him a message from US President Barack Obama addressed to the Israeli Prime Minister, said Haaretz. On Monday, just 72 hours after Brennan’s departure, another senior American official landed in Tel Aviv —openly this time. It was General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was hosted by his Israeli counterpart, General Gadi Eisenkot. Like Brennan before him, General Dempsey met with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon. Haaretz contacted the CIA about Brennan’s secret visit to Israel, but an Agency spokesperson refused to comment.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 10 June 2015 | Permalink: https://intelnews.org/2015/06/10/01-1712/

News you may have missed #773

Tamir PardoBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Conflicting reports on CIA-ISI meeting. Lieutenant General Zahir ul-Islam, who heads Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, the ISI, held talks in Washington with his CIA counterpart General David Petraeus, between August 1 and 3. It was the first time in a year that the chief of the ISI made the trip to the US, signaling a possible thaw in relations. Depending on the source, the meeting was either “substantive, professional and productive”, or “made no big strides on the main issues”.
►►Senior Mossad official suspected of financial misconduct. A senior Mossad official is suspected of financial misconduct and has been forced to take a leave of absence until Israeli police complete an investigation into his alleged deeds, Israeli media reported on Sunday. The official, a department head in Israel’s spy organization, has reportedly denied any wrongdoing, but sources said he would likely not be reinstated in light of investigation findings and is effectively being forced to retire. The nature of the official’s alleged misconduct has not been reported, but it is said that the official in question has close ties to Mossad Director Tamir Pardo, who appointed him to his position last year.
►►Ex-NSA official disputes DefCon claims by NSA chief. William Binney, a former technical director at the NSA, has accused NSA director General Keith Alexander of deceiving the public during a speech he gave at the DefCon hacker conference last week. In his speech, Alexander asserted that the NSA does not collect files on Americans. But Binney accused Alexander of playing a “word game” and said the NSA was indeed collecting and indexing e-mails, Twitter writings, Internet searches and other data belonging to Americans. “The reason I left the NSA was because they started spying on everybody in the country. That’s the reason I left”, said Binney, who resigned from the agency in late 2001.

US Senate hearing accidentally reveals Mossad director’s secret visit

Tamir PardoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The chairwoman of a public hearing at the United States Senate, which was televised live across America, accidentally revealed that the Director of Israeli intelligence service Mossad secretly visited the US for talks last week. The revelation took place on Tuesday at a high-profile hearing conducted by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, with the participation of the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus. While addressing the latter, Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein mentioned in passing that “the vice chairman [of the Committee] and I have just met this past week with the director of Mossad”, and that the meeting was classified. She was referring to Tamir Pardo, the newly installed head of Israel’s foremost external intelligence agency. Without blinking an eye, Petraeus responded saying: “Like you, obviously, I met with the head of Mossad when he was here”. Subsequent discussion during the hearing appeared to establish that Pardo visited the United States specifically to discuss the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran’s known nuclear installations. In responding to Senator Feinstein’s comment, the CIA Director said that Pardo’s secret visit was “part of an ongoing dialogue that has also included conversations that I’ve had with [Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and with [Defense] Minister [Ehud] Barak”. No further information was shard on the Mossad official’s visit, and US government representatives refused to elaborate, when asked about it later. Read more of this post

Nuclear Iran ‘not an existential threat to Israel’, says Mossad chief

Tamir PardoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The director of Israel’s primary external intelligence agency, the Mossad, has said that it would be wrong to consider a nuclear-armed Iran an “existential threat” to Israel. For years, senior Israeli politicians and American military planners have described the prospect of a nuclear-capable Iran as an “existential threat” to the Jewish state. But this widespread belief is apparently not shared by Tamir Pardo, head of Israel’s revered Mossad intelligence agency. Pardo outlined his view while speaking yesterday before an audience of over 100 Israeli ambassadors and consuls general, at a conference dealing with diplomatic security issues and public affairs. Lectures at the conference, which is held annually at the Israeli Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, are given behind closed doors. But Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz quoted three Israeli ambassadors who attended Pardo’s talk; they confirmed that the Mossad director rejected the view that Israel’s existence would necessarily be endangered by an Iranian nuclear arsenal, and dismissed the maxim “existential threat” as a “term used too liberally”. The Israeli newspaper quoted Pardo as saying: “Does [a nuclear-armed] Iran constitute a threat to Israel? Certainly. However, if we were to claim that a nuclear weapon in Iran’s possession was an existential threat [to Israel], it would simply mean that we would have to terminate [our operations] and go home. But this is not the case. The term [existential threat] is used too liberally”. The unnamed ambassadors told Ha’aretz that Pardo’s comments did not imply that the Mossad would stop its covert war on Iran, nor that Israel would accept the prospect of a nuclear Iran as inevitable. “However, what [Pardo’s] remarks undoubtedly imply is that he does not view a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat to Israel”, they said. Pardo’s comments closely echo those of his predecessor, Meir Dagan, who last May condemned a possible Israeli attack on Iran as an act that would be “patently illegal under international law” and “the stupidest thing [he had] ever heard”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #632 (Israel edition)

Ari Ben-Menashe

Ari Ben-Menashe

►►What are Mossad ex-chief’s business ties to Uganda? Former director of operations in the Israeli spy agency Mossad, Rafi Eitan, is now a private businessman. Yet he helped organize Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s recent visit to Israel. He is said to have been trying to establish business operations in Uganda and to set up a cattle ranch in the country.
►►Israel FM meets Mossad chief in bid to end row. Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman met on Sunday with Mossad chief Tamir Pardo, in a bid to end the crisis between the two men, which culminated last week, when Lieberman ordered the foreign ministry to boycott the Mossad, to stop sharing information and to refrain from inviting Mossad officials to discussions and meetings.
►►Canada’s spy watchdog’s in shady deal with Israeli businessman. Arthur Porter, the federally appointed chairman of Canada’s Security and Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), wired $200,000 in personal funds to Ari Ben-Menashe. A former Israeli government employee, Ben-Menashe was charged in the United States with illegally attempting to sell military planes to Iran. He said that he acted on orders from Israel. He then wrote a memoir called Profits of War, filled with accounts of international espionage and conspiracies he says he either participated in or was privy to.