Would Israel Secretly Imprison a Mossad Man for Telling Australia Too Much? — Yes

By DAN RAVIV in Washington

A follow-up by Trevor Bormann suggests that Ben Zygier’s alleged crime stemmed from his contacts with the Australian security and intelligence agency, ASIO. Bormann is the reporter who scored a scoop on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation by revealing that a so-called Prisoner X held by Israel, who was found dead in his prison cell in late 2010, was an Australian-born Mossad operative.

a screen grab from Australian ABC’s documentary Feb. 12

Bormann’s original report made waves worldwide, but last week on TV he was unable to establish what Zygier — who renamed himself Ben Alon after moving to Israel but also is said to have used other names — may have done to anger his bosses at the Mossad.

Would Israel’s security authorities — both in the Mossad and in the domestic security agency Shin Bet — lock up one of their own covert operatives, on suspicion of revealing secrets to a basically friendly country such as Australia?  Would such an arrest be kept totally secret, with a judge issuing a gag order to ensure that the Israeli news media would never mention the case?

The answer is yes.  If, as the new report from the Australian ABC suggests, the Mossad had an ongoing operation against Iran, then silencing any leaks would be a high priority.  Based on precedents, one may speculate that Israel would not kill or imprison forever such a person.  Keeping him out of the picture for a few years would suffice from an operational point of view, and Israeli prosecutors and judges might add more prison time for punishment and to deter other Mossad people from spilling secrets.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is calling on “everyone” to stop revealing information about the case.  As translated by Joel Greenberg of the Washington Post:

“The security and intelligence forces of Israel act under the full supervision of the legal authorities… In this combination of maintaining security and abiding by the law, freedom of speech is also maintained — but overexposure of security and intelligence activity can damage, sometimes even seriously damage, national security.”

Netanyahu added — and referenced what makes Israeli intelligence and its challenges so unique: “We are not like other countries.  We are more threatened, more challenged, and therefore we must maintain proper activity of our security agencies. So I ask everyone: Let the security forces carry on their work quietly, so we can continue living in security and tranquility in the State of Israel.”

February 18, 2013

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