Curiosity, Speculation Surround the Dead “Prisoner X”: Betrayed the Mossad?

The story of the Australian-born “Prisoner X” found dead in an Israeli prison — apparently having crossed his bosses at the Mossad — is starting to fade.  But more revelations would surely re-ignite interest.  Mossad chiefs probably feel angry that some of their methodology has been revealed to Israel’s enemies, because of this incident’s exposure.

But in the modern world of information flow, secrets are very hard to keep.

Here’s most of an Agence France Presse item on February 19 that quoted Yossi Melman:

yossi melman, spies against armageddon, iran nuclear

Yossi Melman

The mysterious arrest and suicide of an Australian-Israeli with Mossad ties in a top-secret prison cell near Tel Aviv has raised questions about how Israel’s shadowy spy outfit chooses its agents.

While some reports suggested the man now identified as Ben Zygier may have been a loose-lipped braggart with psychological problems, a veteran Israeli defence analyst dismissed the claims, saying it would have shown up clearly in the agency’s exhaustive vetting procedures. …

Intelligence and defence expert Yossi Melman told AFP that any flaws in Zygier’s character would almost certainly have been known to his employers. “The vetting is very, very, very rigorous,” he said.

“It can take a year before someone is recruited, just to begin as a cadet. You undergo psychological screening and psychometric exams and you talk to psychologists, you are interviewed, then you are given some sort of tests in the field,” he said.

“If (Zygier) had any past problems … I am sure that Mossad knew about it,” said Melman, whose book Spies Against Armageddon looks at Mossad operations targeting Iranian nuclear scientists.

According to the latest report by ABC published on Monday, Zygier was arrested by his Mossad handlers after leaking detailed information about his work to the Australian intelligence services.

It said Zygier had given the Australians a comprehensive account of a number of Mossad operations, including plans for a top-secret mission in Italy that had been years in the making.

Zygier, who also went by several other surnames — Alon, Allen and Burrowes — was reportedly one of three Australian Jews working for Mossad who changed their names several times to take out new passports, enabling them to travel to Middle Eastern countries where Israelis cannot enter.

It said he was involved in setting up a Europe-based communications company for Mossad that exported electronic components to Iran and to other Arab countries, working alongside two other Australian-Israelis also employed by the spy agency. …

“Whatever he did, he did something that compromised the organisation and compromised maybe some field operation, maybe he even compromised some field agents, I don’t know,” Melman said, basing his assessment on information published abroad.

To his understanding, Zygier would only have been a relatively minor cog in the Israeli intelligence machine. “He didn’t have a serious job, that’s clear for me,” Melman said. “I think he served for a couple of years.”

February 24, 2013

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