Yossi Melman Quoted on Spilling Information to Australia: Not Enough to Prompt Secret Jailing

Sheera Frenkel, a reporter in Israel, has a piece in McClatchy Newspapers that includes Yossi Melman’s views on what the mysterious Australian-born man — found hanged in his prison cell in Israel — may have done to anger his bosses in the Mossad.  Here are excerpts:

It’s still unclear why Israel’s Mossad jailed Prisoner X, Ben Zygier

By Sheera FrenkelMcClatchy Newspapers

TEL AVIV, Israel — The most commonly repeated story about why Israel’s Mossad spy agency nabbed one of its own and threw him into prison, where he hanged himself, is probably false or at least only part of the truth, according to people familiar with the way the Mossad operates. In the murky world of espionage, even what comes out in the news is subterfuge, they caution. …

… those closest to the Mossad say that while it’s possible Ben Zygier gave information to Australian spy agencies, there’s no way that sharing information with a “friendly nation” such as Australia would lead Israeli officials to respond in the manner they did.

“Knowing the Mossad, I don’t think they would be so harsh on someone who committed a mistake like talking to the Australian security services. I don’t think that talking to a friendly security service would earn him this kind of treatment, so it has to be something more than that,” said Yossi Melman, who co-wrote the book “Spies Against Armageddon,” a recitation of the Mossad’s triumphs and defeats, with Dan Raviv of CBS.

One Mossad officer, who agreed to speak to McClatchy only on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk to a reporter, said it would take a grave offense for the Mossad to treat one of its own in the manner Zygier was treated: arrested and then held and tried in secret.

…Melman has followed the case since 2010, when as a reporter for the newspaper Haaretz he petitioned the Israeli courts to lift the gag order on Zygier; first in June 2010, when Zygier was still alive, and then in January 2011, after Zygier was dead.

From an operational point of view, Melman said, Mossad would be careful to keep under wraps the true story of Zygier’s espionage activities and subsequent imprisonment. By now, he said, the spy agency probably has dissected what went wrong and thought hard about how to avoid it in the future.

“They are very rigorous in their soul searching when it comes to the briefings and internal investigation of operational aspects,” he said. “Whether they are big successes or failures, this is one thing that is done in house.”


February 24, 2013

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