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A secret South African spy document obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit provides insights into the tradecraft of Israel’s secret service.
South African agents have, in part, compiled the information through counter-espionage surveillance of one of the Israeli Mossad’s individual agents.
But they appear to have also drawn a lot of their information from a well-known book by author Gordon Thomas. Information printed in Gideon’s Spies: The Inside Story of Israel’s Legendary Secret Service The Mossad is liberally quoted throughout.
Among the findings of the State Security Agency’s (SSA) 2009 “intelligence assessment,” were claims that the Israeli agency:
- “Often employs actual prostitutes” and photographs them with Palestinian sources “for potential blackmail leverage”.
- Sends agents abroad to seduce “an international array of embassy secretaries and airline stewardesses, for they can provide much valuable information about the diplomats, airports and cities of the Arab world”.
- Stepped up its assassination programme under former Director General Meir Dagan.
The report also shows the SSA so distrusted Mossad that it assigned counter-espionage agents to watch one of its operatives at work in South Africa.
They followed the Israeli as he carried out day-to-day activities, met with sources, and travelled to Cape Town with his supervisor.
They noted that the Mossad agent:
- Maintains numerous sources within the South African government and police.
- Has “constant contact” with Jewish community members, possibly “to assist… in intelligence activities”.
- Takes basic counter-surveillance steps, including slicing rubbish bags and varying regular travel routes.
South Africa’s surveillance of an individual Mossad agent in the country reveals he is, as expected, a deeply cautious and security-conscious individual.
“When attending liaison meetings,” the document describes the Mossad operative performing counter-surveillance. He “varied his driving speed between 30km/h and 90km/h” and “would also pull over and waited next to the road for approximately four minutes for no specific reason”.
The agent “also changed his access routes to his house every time he used his vehicle”.
He “cut his rubbish bags in such a manner that it could not be lifted from the dustbin without spilling the content”. This presumably makes it hard to rifle through his waste paper without being detected.
The SSA briefing says the Mossad operative had very close links with the Jewish community in South Africa, including the Jewish Board of Deputies, something which “might have been an indication that the Mossad utilised them in its covert collection activities”.
The Mossad agent was also “in regular contact with a member of the South African Police Service” and the cooperation between them “revolved around Islamic Militancy issues in South Africa.”
The counter-espionage officers say the Mossad agent “also had contacts within government departments which included the Agriculture, Trade and Industry, Health and other institutions that deal with research.
“Most of his contacts within these departments were contacting him on his cellular phone precisely because he might have been aware that it was not easy to monitor a cellular phone,” says the 2009 report.
South Africa’s State Security Agency (SSA) even followed the Mossad man as he travelled to Cape Town with his supervisor. They noted that he “had a possible ‘brush’ meeting with two persons in a public toilet, one of them of Muslim origin”.
When he checked out of his hotel, the Israeli agent also paid for another guest, a U.S. citizen. The South Africans say this was “yet another point of concern”.
Clearly, the report shows, South African intelligence are worried about Israel agents’ activities in their country, and go to considerable lengths, at significant cost, to ascertain just what the Israelis are doing, even if they fall back on the details contained in popular books on the subject.
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