Archive: How Israel Caught a Top-Ranking Soviet Spy, Who Has Died at Age 97

[This blog post first appeared here at in June 2012.  It is adapted from an article by Yossi Melman, then a correspondent for the newspaper Haaretz, published April 15, 2008.  Professor Klingberg — exposed as a spy for Communist Russia, tried and imprisoned in secret in Israel, and totally unrepentant when interviewed later in Paris by Melman — died in late November 2015 in the French capital at age 97.]

A Soviet spy-turned-double agent led to the 1983 arrest of Professor Avraham Marcus Klingberg, the highest-ranking Soviet spy ever caught by Israel.

double-agent, Israel spy, spies against armageddon, covert operations

Klingberg, who was the deputy head of the top-secret Israel Institute for Biological Research in Nes Tziona, immigrated to Israel in late 1948. Before immigrating to Israel, he had served and been wounded as a soldier in the Red Army during World War II. Klingberg initially told his Israeli interrogators that he began working as a Soviet spy in 1957, after being blackmailed by a Soviet operative, but Israeli intelligence believes he was already a Soviet agent when he moved to Israel.

In his book published in 2007, he said he was first enlisted in the early 1950s by a pro-Soviet Israeli while at a rehabilitation center, healing from injuries sustained in a car crash.

In his memoir, Klingberg wrote that during his trial for espionage, he saw a note that had been accidentally left on his file by the prosecution. The note revealed he had been exposed by a double agent. The military censor deleted this reference from Klingberg’s memoir.

Klingberg was suspected of being a Soviet spy as early as 1963, but he was exculpated after passing a polygraph test. Further information received aroused suspicion over Klingberg, but after having failed once, Shin Bet officials were reluctant to act prematurely.

The information from the double agent, received in 1983, was considered sufficient to prove Klingberg’s complicity. After being interrogated at a secret location in Tel Aviv, Klingberg admitted he had been working for the Soviets. He was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in jail. After having served 16 years in prison, he was released to house arrest.

In 2003, after the 20-year sentence was over, he was allowed to leave Israel and live with his daughter in Paris.

November 30, 2015

Archive: Anat Kamm, Who Leaked Secret IDF Documents

From, April 8, 2010:

A look at Anat Kamm, who leaked secret IDF documents to a Haaretz reporter.

By  Yossi Melman

Israel’s most famous journalist this month is a 23-year-old Tel Aviv University undergraduate named Anat Kamm. Charged in December with leaking to a journalist some 2,000 classified documents obtained during her army service, she is now under house arrest at her parents’ East Jerusalem home. If convicted, she could serve 20 years in prison. Her case was under a court-issued gag order since her arrest three and a half months ago. Today, on the heels of a blast of international press coverage, a Tel Aviv district court lifted the gag order.

anat kamm, spies against armageddon, israel spyWho is Anat Kamm?

Her mother is a senior civil servant at the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, where she works with the handicapped; her father is a tourist guide. Born in Jerusalem, Kamm joined the Israel Boy and Girl Scouts Federation and attended one of the country’s most prestigious high schools, the Hebrew University Secondary School, known as Leyada, graduates of which include Nobel-winning physicist David Grosman and writer Meir Shalev. Acquaintances describe her as opinionated, very assertive, and politically active from a young age.

Some saw in her the makings of a future political leader. Though by no means a member of the anti-Zionist left, she has throughout her life demonstrated an acute concern with social and political justice, acquaintances say. Her interest in journalism blossomed in high school, where she began writing for several youth publications.

After graduating she began her compulsory military service in the office of Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh, then the head of the Israel Defense Forces’ Central Command, which has responsibility for military operations in the West Bank. Having shown promise in Naveh’s office, she was sent to an officer training course, which she failed to complete because, she told friends, she realized she didn’t want to be an officer.

When her service ended in spring 2007, she found a job at Walla, one of Israel’s most popular news and entertainment websites, owned partially by Haaretz and primarily by Bezeq, a major Israeli telecommunications company. Then, working as Walla’s media reporter, she covered, in autumn 2008, a meeting of Haaretz journalists and editors then trying to organize into a trade union, which the owners of Haaretz did not want to recognize. The meeting took place in the central hall of Tel Aviv’s Beit Sokolov, or Journalists’ House.

At the meeting, she approached the Haaretz investigative reporter Uri Blau, a relatively young man in his mid-thirties, who began his career at a local paper in Jerusalem. Though Kamm and Blau were from the same city, they had never met. Kamm, who admired Blau’s writing, told him she had stolen copies of secret documents during her military service at the office of the head of the IDF’s Central Command. Sometime later she gave Blau some of the documents, which she had been holding for 18 months. (A first attempt to hand off documents to Yossi Yehoshu, a reporter for Yediot Aharonot, failed.) Haaretz published articles based on a few of them not long after, in November 2008.

Kamm’s motive, colleagues say, was to expose the IDF’s egregious violation of Israeli law, clear evidence of which was in her dossier. Of its 2,000 documents, 700 were classified as “top secret” and only a handful were used by Haaretz. But sources familiar with the case say the most damning of them were used in Blau’s reporting.

Blau revealed that in March and April 2007, while Kamm was working at the office of the IDF’s head of Central Command, the army’s highest ranking officers knowingly planned to violate a 2006 Supreme Court ruling that forbade the assassination of Palestinian militants when their arrest was possible. In April 2007, the IDF’s Central Command received permission to assassinate an Islamic Jihad leader named Ziad Malaisha. The assassination, Kamm’s documents reveal, was planned and approved in meetings with the head of the IDF’s Operations Directorate, Brig. Gen. Sami Turjeman, and the IDF’s Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi.

Summaries of the meetings reveal that the officers were aware of the Supreme Court ruling they would soon violate. The assassination, which was postponed because of the April 2007 visit of U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, took place in June 2007, the month Kamm left the army.

Israel’s military censors approved Blau’s article, finding that its publication would not damage Israel’s national security. Yet an intention to do such damage is precisely what Kamm is now accused of.

Whether or not Blau’s article damaged Israeli national security, it appears to have ruffled the feathers of quite a few senior officers: Soon after its publication the military ordered what was then called the Department of Field Security and is now called the Department for the Protection of Information to open an investigation. Ashkenazi, the chief of staff, had said after the Lebanon War of 2006 that it was his mission to end leaks from high-level officers.

The investigation of the leak at Central Command, an operation codenamed “Double Take”—a reference, some believe, to the army’s intention to prosecute both Kamm and Blau—lasted a year before Kamm was arrested. Until then, her life appeared perfectly normal. She moved to Tel Aviv, where she studied history at the university and continued to work as a journalist for Walla.

In September 2009, Israel’s domestic security service approached Blau, who consulted with Haaretz’s lawyers and agreed to cooperate with investigators, who wanted him to return the documents. In return, Shin Bet agreed not to indict him and not to use the documents as evidence against his sources. Now, however, the agreement appears to have broken down, as Haaretz and the Shin Bet accuse each other of violating it. Blau, meanwhile, went with his girlfriend on a previously planned trip to China.

When the investigators found Kamm in late 2009—after obtaining her phone records, which are believed to reveal communication with Blau—she had been a civilian, which is to say outside the jurisdiction of military investigators, for two and a half years. Her case was referred to the Shabak, Israel’s domestic security agency, which promptly called her to a police station, where she was interrogated and is believed to have confessed to leaking the documents. Under Israeli law, providing classified documents to a journalist is no less treasonous than providing them to a terrorist group or foreign government.

After Kamm’s arrest, a court in the city of Petah Tikva issued a gag order forbidding any Israeli media from reporting on the case or on the existence of the gag order. Kamm’s family hired two lawyers, Eitan Lehman and Avigdor Feldman, an articulate leftist and prominent litigator who had previously defended Israel’s most famous accused spy, Mordechai Vanunu, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison for revealing details of Israel’s nuclear weapons program. Kamm was granted permission to serve her house arrest at her Tel Aviv apartment and her mother’s home in Jerusalem, and to continue working at Walla. The judge who issued the gag order, Einat Ron, had served as a colonel in the IDF’s military prosecutor’s office. In 2001, Col. Ron made headlines as the IDF’s chief military prosecutor when she chose not to open a criminal investigation after finding that a group of soldiers had violated army regulations by killing an unarmed 11-year-old Palestinian boy.

Despite the wide coverage of the case in international media, Ron had for months refused to lift the gag order. Pressure from the IDF and the security services forced a higher court to lift it today. But a lifting of the gag order will not ensure leniency in Kamm’s trial. The judge overseeing that trial, Zeev Hammer, is known to be very friendly to the security establishment.

Uri Blau, meanwhile, has not returned from his trip to China. As the case unfolded, he moved to Britain and refused to return to Israel to face interrogation. A lawyer from Haaretz went to see Blau in Europe, where he had gone after visiting China. Haaretz was then negotiating with the authorities to see if he could return without facing arrest. The authorities refused.

More in: Anat Kamm, gag order, Israel Defense Forces, leaks, Shabak, Tel Aviv, Uri Blau, Yossi Melman

June 14, 2012

Archive: Does It Matter Who Gets Credit For Stuxnet?

From, October 5, 2010:

By Yossi Melman

A year and a half ago, the German engineering giant Siemens won a contract to supply the Israel Airports Authority with a new conveyor system worth $50 million. The deal raised eyebrows inside and outside Israel. For years, Siemens had been the largest German trade partner with the ayatollahs in Iran, providing them with sophisticated hardware and software for key industrial plants, including oil rigs, gas pipelines, and refineries, to the tune of over one billion euros. Occasionally, it was reported that some of the Siemens equipment and “dual use” components had found their way to Iran’s nuclear installations. Why was the Israeli government allowing one of its state-owned authorities to do business with Siemens?

stuxnet, cyberwar, spies against armageddon israel spyComplaints about the dubious deal were brought to Uzi Arad, the national security adviser who, together with his boss, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, rarely misses an opportunity to sound alarms over the threat of Iran destroying the Jewish state with a second Holocaust. Arad shrugged the situation off, explaining that the matter was neither under his watch nor part of his turf; instead it was for the Ministry of Finance. But that ministry also did nothing.

The Siemens deal was interpreted at the time as a typical Israeli bureaucratic entanglement—or an example of official Israeli hypocrisy. But with the discovery of Stuxnet, the malicious software—a “worm”—that was eating and damaging Iran’s nuclear computers and slowing down at least two key installations (the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and the nuclear reactor at Bushehr), a third possibility suggests itself: a hidden connection between the Israeli intelligence community and a German company that was selling advanced machinery to Israel’s most dangerous adversary.

More Context

The Stuxnet attack on Iran is a new development in the evolution of cyberwarfare

Spy vs. spy intrigue between the CIA and Israel, centered around the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv

Computer experts agree that the Stuxnet worm was created by a powerful, resourceful, and technologically skillful organization—and not by freelance hackers. The worm contaminated Siemens control software that was sold by the company to Iranian civilian projects but somehow found its way into its nuclear sites despite U.N. Security Council sanctions.

The major question is how the creators of Stuxnet did it. There are a few possibilities. One is that the intelligence agency behind the attack recruited a Siemens programmer who sold his secrets for financial gain or for other reasons. Another explanation could be that Siemens, suffering from a degree of liability and guilt—Germans perpetrating a second Holocaust—willingly cooperated with Israeli intelligence, which in return offered Siemens a way out of being implicated if and when the worm was discovered.

This last seems to be the least plausible scenario, since the German corporation admitted that 15 of its customers have been affected—including chemical and power plants and production facilities. Five of the 15 companies affected have their headquarters in Germany, while the others are based in the United States, other Western European countries, and Asia. But even if Siemens itself didn’t cooperate, it’s also possible that the BND—Germany’s foreign espionage agency, which is a strong ally of both the Israeli Mossad and the CIA and is a partner in the battle against Iranian nuclear program—was somehow involved in the operation.

Whatever the facts are, Siemens has invested extensively in Israeli high-tech and industrial companies.

According to computer security experts, the worm managed to penetrate the Siemens software and find its way into Iran via Taiwan. Two and a half years ago, the writers of Stuxnet broke the security protections of two Taiwanese firms and planted the worm on their equipment. One, JMicron, is a small and relatively unknown company. The other, Realtek Semiconductors, is large and fairly well-known in its field. A few months later, both the Mossad and the CIA filed complaints to the Taiwanese government that Iranian agents had penetrated the market and acquired 100 transducers, which were secretly shipped to Tehran. The transducers, an essential component for operating centrifuges in Natanz, were originally manufactured in Europe and then sold to a company in Taiwan, which then sold them to Iran’s defense ministry.

Can it be that the complaints about the transducers were a decoy to divert attention from the original Mossad or CIA break-in via Taiwan? In the dark world of secret intelligence operations, characterized by disinformation and webs of lies, everything is possible.

There could be, however, a simpler version of what happened.

Iran’s intelligence minister said on Saturday that authorities had arrested several “nuclear spies” who were working to derail Tehran’s nuclear program through cyberspace.

Without saying how many people had been arrested or when, Heydar Moslehi, the intelligence minister, was quoted on state television’s website as saying Iran had “prevented the enemies’ destructive activity.” He added that intelligence agents had discovered the “destructive activities of the arrogant (Western powers) in cyberspace, and different ways to confront them have been designed and implemented.” Behind Moslehi’s vague words was the suggestion that the enemies of Iran had planted the worm using the techniques of classical intelligence work: recruiting Iranian agents and providing them with the malicious software.

If indeed Israeli intelligence independently (or in a joint operation with its U.S. counterpart) is behind this unique and unprecedented cyberattack, they will never admit it. These are the rules of the espionage game. You spy, you steal secrets, you bug phone lines, you plant viruses that sabotage, and you even kill, but you never take the responsibility, even if you are caught red-handed. A worldwide search is now under way for clues to the identity of the creators and spreaders of the worm.

Last week the New York Times reported the discovery of the word “Myrtus” in the Stuxnet code, which corresponds to the Hebrew word for the Bible’s Queen Esther. The article noted that the Book of Esther describes “the Jews preempt[ing] a Persian plot to destroy them.” The computer security firm Symantec analyzed another data point about the worm. It found the digits 19790509. This is thought to be an infection marker, which, if set correctly, allows infection to occur. The digits appear to point to the date of May 9, 1979.

While a variety of historical events occurred on May 9, 1979, one of them, according to Wikipedia, is that “Habib Elghanian was executed by a firing squad in Tehran sending shock waves through the closely knit Iranian Jewish community. [Elghanian] was the [president of Tehran’s Jewish society] and the first Jew and one of the first civilians to be executed by [Iran’s post-revolutionary] Islamic government. This prompted the mass exodus of the once 100,000 member strong Jewish community of Iran which continues to this day.”

These explanations have an anecdotal value. When you plan such an operation, you check and recheck and double check each digit and each letter. Israeli and U.S. intelligence are not so sloppy as to leave behind such clumsy fingerprints. If they wanted to engage in a mind game, they would have done it in a more amusing and sophisticated manner.

The evidence pointing to Israel remains circumstantial. Israel is threatened by Iran, whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, continues to talk about the need for history to wipe the Jewish state from the face of earth. Israelis fear—rightly or wrongly—that once Iran has nuclear weapons, Israelis might be victims of a nuclear attack. The Israeli government has attempted to mobilize international diplomatic pressure on Iran and utilize friendly intelligence agencies to collect data on Iran’s nuclear program. Since Meir Dagan was appointed as head of Mossad eight years ago and assigned to coordinate Israeli efforts, Iran’s nuclear program has topped Israel’s list of intelligence priorities.

Israel has recruited top agents among the upper echelon of Iran’s nuclear scientists and directors. Alone and together with other international espionage agencies, Israeli intelligence has been trying to sabotage Iranian facilities in order to slow down progress toward a bomb. Iran’s uranium enrichment complex is the prime target for any future Israeli or U.S. military assault. A glimpse into the shadow war against the Iranian nuclear program was provided in the sections of James Risen’s 2006 book State of War, in which he detailed joint Mossad and CIA plans to sabotage the electrical grids leading to Iranian nuclear sites—plans that failed to materialize.

Over the past decade, Mossad and CIA planners successfully set up front and dummy companies all over the world with the aim of gaining the trust of Iranian purchasing networks and then selling them flawed components—a method known in intelligence parlance as “poisoning” enemy systems. So, why not try to “poison” Iranian systems further by planting malicious worms?

Israeli intelligence was one of the first in the world to understand the importance of computers and to apply them for military-intelligence use. Rafi Eitan, a former Mossad agent who specialized in covert operations and served as a chief adviser to several prime ministers, told me that already in the late 1970s he realized the significance of the evolving Internet and the virtual world for intelligence-gathering operations. Since then, Israel’s unit 8200 of the military intelligence branch—the equivalent of the National Security Agency in the United States—has been at the forefront of military efforts into technological attacks. Unit 8200 pioneered sigint (signals intelligence—listening to, intercepting, and deciphering enemy communication lines), elint (electronic intelligence), visint (visual intelligence—the collection of data and imagery from satellites and reconnaissance flights), and, in the last decade, netint.

Netint is the art of using cyberspace for intelligence purposes: You engage and try to recruit enemy agents by emails and chat rooms, send coded messages, “poison” computers. A few months ago, General Amos Yadlin, the commander of Israeli Military Intelligence, gave a public lecture at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. His topic was the changing nature of intelligence in the 21st century. The virtual world, he said, is important to the daily work of intelligence in two ways: defending one’s secrets and assaulting the enemy. His lecture was delivered long before the world learned about Stuxnet.



June 14, 2012

Archive: Fact And Fantasy In ‘Munich’ Movie About 1972 Olympics Massacre

From The Guardian, January 17, 2006:

By Yossi Melman and Steven Hartov

Steven Spielberg’s new film is based on the Walter Mitty tales of a former El Al gate guard.

munich movie, munich 1972, Olympics massacre, israel spy, spies against armageddonIn 1984 the blood of the Israeli intelligence operatives and the Palestinian terrorists they hunted in “the war of the spooks” was still congealing in the back alleys of Europe when a young Israeli named Yuval Aviv teamed up with the Canadian George Jonas, a budding journalist. Aviv claimed to be a freshly defrocked Mossad assassin with a true tale to tell, and the game began.

Their resulting bestseller, Vengeance, was a detailed account of Israel’s response to the Munich massacre. In September 1972, PLO terrorists introducing themselves as the hitherto unknown group Black September stormed the Israeli dormitories at the Olympic village and took hostage a dozen members of the Israeli team. They demanded the release of their comrades from Israeli prisons. After two days of negotiation, a failed rescue attempt by German police left 11 Israelis and five terrorists dead. Israel’s prime minister, Golda Meir, summoned General Zvi Zamir, the head of Mossad, and instructed him to kill all the PLO operatives directly and indirectly involved.

Seen through the eyes of “Avner”, Aviv’s undercover persona, the story told by the book seemed to marry well with factual newspaper accounts of how Israel eliminated the Black September killers. It was made into a film – Sword of Gideon – and Jonas and Aviv reaped substantial rewards for their “scoop”.

However, our investigations show that Aviv never served in Mossad, or any Israeli intelligence organisation. He had failed basic training as an Israeli Defence Force commando, and his nearest approximation to spy work was as a lowly gate guard for the airline El Al in New York in the early 70s. The tale he had woven was apparently nothing more than a Walter Mitty fabrication.

How, then, did Steven Spielberg and his producer, Kathleen Kennedy, choose Aviv’s tale as the source for their film Munich? Last July, when we approached the film’s producers, the Spielberg PR machine denied any connection to Aviv. But the film’s opening scene states that it was inspired by real events, and at the end it gives a credit to Jonas’s book.

During shooting, numerous offers to provide the production team with the facts of the case were rebuffed. More than 30 years had passed since those days of deadly cat and mouse (which now seem quaint compared with the daily horrors of the war on terror) and participants on both sides were ready to talk. Yet the men who held the secrets were never contacted. The phone never rang at Zamir’s house, though he could have clarified the myths in an hour. Mike Harari, who supervised the hit teams as head of Mossad’s operations, did not receive an inquiry from Spielberg’s team. The women who represent the families of the murdered Israelis were disappointed not to be approached. Even Mohammed Daoud, the former Black September chief widely accepted as one of the Munich masterminds, was dismayed no one spoke to him.

So far, reactions to Munich have been predictable and essentially emotional. Some find it balanced, while others view it as overly sympathetic to one or other side. But what we find disturbing is that it is substantially a fiction – which, given Hollywood’s influence, may soon be regarded as a definitive account. The troubling question emerging from the film is whether there should be an obligation to historical accuracy in a work of art that portrays real-life figures such as Golda Meir and uses documentary footage to support its thesis. We believe that the answer is yes.

Fearing that influential US Jewish organisations and Israeli public opinion will criticise the film and brand it as anti-Israeli, Spielberg hired two prominent lobbyists: Dennis Ross, a former assistant secretary of state, is trying to persuade the Jewish community in America that Spielberg and his film are not hostile to Jewish and Israeli sensitivities; and Eyal Arad, a powerful PR man from Tel Aviv who works as a special strategist to Ariel Sharon, says that even if Aviv is a charlatan (Aviv himself refused to comment), the film is a piece of art and that’s how it has to be judged, like Marc Antony’s speech in Julius Caesar.

Spielberg is a man of artistic power, and with that comes responsibility. For a director who delivered such historical works as Schindler’s List, his conduct in this case resembles that of a cub journalist who chooses to run a great story rather than confuse us with the facts.

· Yossi Melman specialises in intelligence affairs with the Israeli daily Ha’aretz; Steven Hartov is editor-in-chief of the US quarterly Special Operations Report

June 14, 2012

Archive: When Halevy Took Over Mossad

From Yossi Melman’s article in the Los Angeles Times in 1998 about the appointment of Efraim Halevy to run Mossad, the Israeli covert operations unit:

israel spy, spies against armageddon, Efraim Halevy, Israel covert operations, mossad“TEL AVIV — For the first time since its founding more than 50 years ago, the Mossad, Israel’s foreign espionage agency, has a chief who did not serve in the Israeli armed forces. Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Efraim Halevy, whose heart ailment kept him out of the army in 1952, will run the Mossad. In a society that worships security, in which military service is compulsory and often launches successful careers, to appoint a man who lacks military experience to head the Mossad might foreshadow a new openness at the agency.”

June 14, 2012

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