Another Mossad Book, and Another Mossad Scandal

Another Mossad Book

Thirty-year CBS correspondent Dan Raviv has (with co-author Yossi Melman) completed Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars, a book about the history of the Mossad. The Hebrew-language version is already a bestseller in Israel. This interview in the Jewish Press discusses some of the highlights. Of particular note for me is this exchange:

Switching to more recent times: In 2010, the Mossad assassinated Palestinian terrorist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. A month later, Dubai’s police released the photos of 27 Israelis whom it claimed were involved in the operation. At the time, many expressed surprise that Mossad agents would let themselves get caught on camera. What is your take?

We believe there was really no choice – that in a modern city, you have to expect security cameras everywhere. Therefore, the Mossad operatives altered their appearance – at least slightly – so that police could not identify them. The head of the Mossad at the time, Meir Dagan, is not embarrassed about the mission at all. He considers it a success.

I did hear from at least two senior people in Israeli intelligence, however, who thought it was terrible that the agents were photographed. So perhaps not everybody agrees with Dagan.

One would think that being caught on camera is a career-ender for a covert operative.

The phrase usually is that “you are burned.” But it’s our understanding that at least some of those operatives are still active. That’s all I can say.

This is the incident that inspired Doha 12.

Another Mossad Scandal

It appears, though, that a less-impressive slice of Mossad history may not have made it into the book. Recently declassified documents show that Israel’s Military Intelligence and the Mossad both fumbled/sat on/slept through clear and unambiguous warnings about the imminent start of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

In 1973-4, the Agranat Commission took testimony about the circumstances surrounding the start of the Yom Kippur War, one of the notable intelligence failures in recent history. Some of the testimony by senior military leaders, aides to then-Prime Minister Golda Meir, and an aide to then-Mossad chief Zvi Zamir, has remained classified until now. These transcripts show that an explicit warning from an Egyptian regime insider that Egypt would attack within a week made it to Mossad and Military Intelligence but no further.

According to Haaretz, bureaucratic fumbling worthy of the CIA kept this warning from PM Meir, and it never appeared in her daily intelligence digests from Mossad. Two days before the war’s start, the source tried a second time to get warning to Mossad in a midnight cable to London. However, as Alfred Eini (Zamir’s aide) relates,

“I told the Mossad head that what the MI chief had told him dovetails well with what I’d told him, and then it emerged that the Mossad head hadn’t fully understood my first message,” Eini told the commission. “In other words, he had been half asleep, apparently, and didn’t catch that what I had told him had specifically referred to a warning about war.”

Mossad, asleep on the job? That never happens on television…

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