Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Prisoner X: The Latest Version

From Double agent disaster led to spy's downfall, Jason Koutsoukis, Sydney Morning Herald, 25/3/13:

"Australian-born former Mossad agent Ben Zygier was responsible for one of the most serious security breaches in Israeli history, a breach that led directly to the arrest and imprisonment of two of Israel's most prized Lebanese informants. After a month's-long investigation initiated by Fairfax Media and completed by a team of reporters assembled by Germany's Der Spiegel magazine, it can be revealed that Zygier was outfoxed in a game of cross and double-cross that ended with tragic consequences. Unable to bear the shame of his downfall, and facing a minimum 10-year jail sentence with no prospect of a return to the Mossad, Zygier took his life on December 15, 2010...

"Recruited to the Mossad at the start of 2004, Zygier, who took up Israeli citizenship in the mid 1990s, was first assigned to work in Europe trying to infiltrate companies that had business links with countries hostile to Israel, in particular Iran and Syria. According to the chief executive of one company that Zygier infiltrated, while Zygier was 'extremely sharp' he also lacked focus... Unable to achieve the kind of results expected, Zygier was pulled back from the field and assigned to a desk job in Tel Aviv, a psychological blow that proved to be the beginning of his undoing.

"In an attempt to improve his reputation within the intensely competitive atmosphere of Mossad, and get back into a coveted operations role, Zygier embarked on a rogue mission without informing his superiors. Acting on information surrounding the identity of an eastern European man known to be close to the militant Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah, Zygier set up a meeting with the man towards the end of 2008 with the intention of turning him into a double agent who could pass information about Hezbollah activities back to Mossad. Instead the reverse happened, with Zygier becoming the conduit for information flowing from Tel Aviv to Hezbollah's headquarters in Beirut. Contact between the two went on for months, with the east European repeatedly demanding that Zygier prove his bona fides as a Mossad agent by giving up real intelligence. Zygier complied, giving up the names of Israel's two top Lebanese informants, Ziad al-Homsi, and Mustafa Ali Awdeh. Both were arrested in the spring of 2009, possibly thwarting a chance to strike at Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Each was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labour..."

Actually, Homsi's story is as intriguing as Zygier's. A member of Lebanese opposition leader Saad Hariri's Future Party, he was released after serving only 3 years in jail. Here's an account of his arrest in 2009:

"Saadnayel Mayor Ziad Homsi was accused of collaborating with Israel by Military Examining Magistrate Rashid Mezher, judicial sources told The Daily Star on Tuesday. Homsi, who could face the death penalty if found guilty, was transferred to the permanent Military Court. Homsi was accused of leaking information to Israel about Lebanese civil and military locations with the aim of conducting terrorist operations, the source added. Homsi was also accused of leaking information concerning certain political figures and the illegal possession of weapons. Homsi initially fought against the Israeli army in Bayader al-Adas, but the Israeli intelligence service Mossad then [?] tricked Homsi into travelling to Beijing by sending him a false letter from the mayor of a Chinese city, the source said. The accused met with an Israeli agent disguised as a member of the Beijing City Council and agreed to import merchandise from China to Lebanon. Homsi received a monthly salary of $1,700 for his collaboration, the source added. The accused again received an invitation to visit Beijing in 2007 where he was informed that he was working with Mossad. However, Homsi did not end his collaboration with Israel but rather accepted the task of searching for the bodies of missing Israeli soldiers in Lebanon. He was promised a reward of $10 million. The examining magistrate's report also said that Homsi was equipped with a camera with which to film cemeteries, a portable computer and a satellite communication device to facilitate his contact with Israel." (Mayor accused of spying for Israel, 30/9/09)

Finally, here's the kind of background that typically never made it into the Australian press:

"Lebanon's security services say that since November 2008 it has broken up no fewer than 25 Israeli spy rings. The reported arrest this week [2/2010] of a colonel in Lebanese army intelligence... brings the number of those charged to 70-plus; 40 of them are in Lebanese police custody... Aside from the alleged spies, the Lebanese say they netted fancy surveillance and communications gear disguised, among other innocuous things, as Thermos flasks, canisters of motor oil and battery chargers. The gadgetry may be what gave the game away. Security sources hint that France or perhaps Russia helped the Lebanese by supplying sophisticated systems to monitor and analyse the telecom data. The Lebanese then homed in on suspicious signals. Another clue may have pointed to the importance of the signals trail. Last summer, as the spies were being rounded up, a senior man in Unit 8200, the section of Israeli military intellegince tasked with eavesdropping on Israel's enemies, shot himself in his office. Colleagues blamed 'unrequited love'." (Not such a success: A round-up of Israeli spies, The Economist, 25/2/10)

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