Thu, May 03, 2018 - Page 9 News List

Israel’s Mossad has long been veiled in mystery

The spy agency is legendary in international intelligence circles. While it has had many renowned successes, it has also had failures

By Aron Heller  /  AP, JERUSALEM

Israel’s seizure of Iran’s purported nuclear program archive and the dramatic display of the documents taken from a facility in the heart of Tehran marked a rare case of Israel going public about the operations of its top-secret Mossad spy agency.

The Mossad, long shrouded in mystery and mythology, is legendary in international intelligence circles for being behind what are believed to be some of the most daring covert operations of the past century.

Only a few have come to light and often only years later. Israel is typically wary of exposing the exploits of the global arm of its vaunted intelligence community out of fear of revealing its well-cultivated sources or undermining its mystique.

On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu displayed what he said was a trove of Iranian nuclear documents collected by Israeli intelligence.

Amos Yadlin, a former chief of Israeli military intelligence, said the seizure was a “very impressive” coup that sent a message that Israeli intelligence can penetrate Tehran’s deepest secrets.

“The counterintelligence in Iran will work very hard to close this gap,” he said.

More often than not, the Mossad’s actions have become known only when something has gone wrong.

Following is a look at some of its successes and failures:

ADOLF EICHMANN

Lifting a half-century veil of secrecy, the Mossad opened its archive in 2012 to reveal the full story behind its most legendary operation — the daring 1960 capture of Nazi mastermind Adolf Eichmann.

On May 11, 1960, a seven-man Mossad team waited near the Buenos Aires bus station where Eichmann arrived each evening from his job at a Mercedes-Benz factory, where he worked under the alias Ricardo Klement.

After he got off the bus, agents jumped him, with one shoving a gloved hand inside Eichmann’s mouth in case he had a cyanide pill hidden in a tooth, as some former top Nazis were known to have to foil their capture.

Eichmann was held in a safe house for nine days until the group flew out in an El Al plane. Eichmann was drugged, dressed in an El Al uniform, seated in first class and passed off as a crew member who was ill.

Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem the following year featured gripping testimony of more than 100 Jews who survived torture and deprivation in concentration camps and brought to life the horrors of the Nazi “Final Solution,” of which Eichmann was the architect.

He was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity and was hanged in 1962, the only time Israel has ever carried out a death sentence.

SYRIAN INFILTRATION

One of the Mossad’s first major achievements was placing one of its men inside the top echelon of Syria’s leadership.

Eli Cohen managed to forge close contacts within the political and military hierarchy of Israel’s archenemy in the early 1960s, ultimately rising to become a top adviser to Syria’s defense minister.

He obtained top-secret intelligence that is widely credited with helping Israel prepare for its swift victory in the 1967 Middle East war.

In 1965, Cohen was caught radioing information to Israel. He was tried and hanged in a Damascus square. His remains have yet to be returned to Israel, where he is regarded as a national hero.

NUCLEAR WHISTLEBLOWER

After Mordechai Vanunu, a former technician at an Israeli nuclear plant, leaked sensitive details and pictures of Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons program to a British newspaper in 1986, the Mossad was given the task of bringing him to justice.

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