At Least 2 Mossad Spies were Held in Israeli Prisons: One Committed Suicide, and Now Some Details on the Second Man — a World Exclusive
A Mossad man who was convicted by an Israeli court and has been secretly imprisoned for about ten years – with Israeli authoritiespreventing any details from being published – was accused of treason, because it was charged that he transmitted secrets to a “foreign power”.
Referred to by security-agency insiders as “Prisoner X2,” the man was an importantoperative in the Israeli espionage agency that specializes in secretive and dangerous foreign missions. Authorities felt certain that his actions endangered his Mossad colleagues.
The man, who cannot be named due to the official information blackout on the case, has been imprisoned for approximately a decade. While the precise prison sentence is still a secret, it is suggested that the term could be reduced by one-third because of the inmate’s “good behavior” in captivity.
Hundreds of people were questioned during the investigation of X2’s alleged treason. The investigator who was assigned to the case considered it the toughest investigation of his career. The traitor’s motive, to the extent that authorities understand it, remains a secret: Money? Anger at his Mossad commanders? A personal problem with other secret agents? A desire to damage his homeland, Israel? Severe depression?
The mere existence of X2 became known when journalists started asking questions about another Mossad man who was being held in secret.
Known to some of his jailers only as “Prisoner X,” he hanged himself in a high-security isolation cell in Israel’s Ayalon Prison (near the city of Ramle) in December 2010. He turned out to be Ben Zygier, a Melbourne-born Jew who moved to Israel, became an Israeli citizen, and was recruited into the Mossad. Zygier, according to sources, was part of an Israeli espionage team that was based in Europe, from where it penetrated Iran.
Security officials say it was a mistake to hire Zygier, because the Australian did not have the stability and discretion needed to be a spy.
An Australian radio journalist, Raphael Epstein, has written a book about the case, Prisoner X, and reports that Zygier, while working for the Mossad, gave secrets about the agency to an Iranian businessman, probably working for his country’s security services. Zygier and the Iranian were both studying at Monash University in Melbourne in 2009.
The phrase “Prisoner X” has been used for decades in Israel, mainly to refer to employees of security agencies (including the Mossad) who broke the rules and were arrested and imprisoned. Publicizing those cases was banned, with officials claiming that censors and court-issued gag orders were protecting secrets that might damage Israel. Critics say that banning publication in a free country is really aimed at protecting the reputations of government and security-agency officials.
As revealed and discussed in our books – the best-seller Every Spy a Prince and the current and updated Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars – previous men imprisoned in the 1950s and ‘60s and identified only as “X” included Mordecai Kedar, who murdered his Jewish supporting contact in Argentina, and Avri El-Ad, who betrayed his colleagues in an Israeli-run spy ring in Egypt.
In the 1980s, a Soviet spy – Professor Marcus Klingberg, who had been deputy director of Israel’s secretive biological weapons research lab – was tried and imprisoned in complete secrecy.
Held under false identities, these prisoners were permitted to have visits from family members and defense attorneys, but nothing could be said in public about the men and their crimes.
Israeli officials did not intend to reveal the existence of Prisoner X2 and still are not permitting his name to be verified or published. A mistake in coordinating between court officials and Malmab – the Defense Ministry unit that deals with internal security – led to a failure to erase a reference to a second inmate held in secret from a report on Zygier’s death written by an investigating judge.
The official view that was revealed is that X2 was “a traitor who endangered the lives of his clandestine-operations colleagues.”
As our updated and revised Spies Against Armageddon says, at the end of Chapter 22 entitled “Assassins”: “Activists who press for greater openness wondered if hushing up Zygier’s case – and the more serious one – was aimed at guarding Israel’s security, or the Mossad’s image?”
A revised edition of Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars, Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman’s history of the Mossad and the other Israeli security agencies – updated for events in Israel, Iran, Egypt, Syria and elsewhere since 2012 – is published March 2, 2014.