Saturday 20th of July 2024

false flags .....

false flags .....

It is a dark underworld of kidnapping and forged passports, of straw companies and assassinations.

A place where young Australians with clean identities become invaluable assets to secretive spy agencies such as the Mossad.

There was no heart string they did not pull. 

You cross a line when you enter this world. You travel to hostile countries under assumed identities and collect intelligence for foreign governments. You befriend and then recruit operatives, you take risks and, in some agencies, you may be required to kill.

It is now clear that at some point during his decade-long career spying for the Israeli secret service, Ben Zygier crossed a line.

But how a Melbourne man with dual Australian-Israeli citizenship went from espionage to being held in secret in a maximum-security prison near Tel Aviv where he ultimately met his death is only now being slowly unravelled.

Nor may the real circumstances of his death - described as asphyxiation or suicide by hanging in a ''suicide-proof'' cell under 24-hour video surveillance - ever be known.

But after two years, which included 10 months of secret detention, a trial conducted far from any public scrutiny, a court-ordered gag on any mention of his existence and a last-ditch attempt to suppress the story in the local media, Israel finally admitted a small part of the truth on Wednesday.

An Australian-Israeli citizen died in one of its prisons and its State Attorney's Office is evaluating whether his death was the result of negligence.

It is only this week that his identity was revealed by the ABC's Foreign Correspondent program. Before that he was known simply as ''Prisoner X''.

Born in 1976, Zygier grew up in the Melbourne suburb of Malvern and was a member of Hashomer Hatzair, a self-described Socialist-Zionist, secular Jewish youth movement.

His parents Geoffrey and Louise Zygier are well known to many in Melbourne's close-knit Jewish community. His father is the executive director of the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission and his mother previously worked for the law school at Monash University.

After studying law at Monash, Zygier migrated to Israel in his early 20s where he lived on Kibbutz Gazit in the Galilee and served in the Israel Defense Forces, news service Haaretz reported. In 2006 he married an Israeli woman, with whom he had two children, one believed to have been born just before he died on December 15, 2010.

Over the last decade of his life, Zygier returned to Australia several times - in 2002 he worked at the Australian law firm Deacons and in October 2009 he was studying for an MBA at Monash, where he was seen socialising with international students from Saudi Arabia and Iran, a source said.

It was during these trips to Australia that he legally changed his name and obtained new passports and other documents. It is believed he changed his identity three times over this period - to Ben Alon, Ben Allen and Benjamin Burroughs - piquing the interest of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

But it is what he was doing with those multiple identities that ASIO was most concerned about.

According to two Australian intelligence sources who contacted Fairfax Media in October 2009, Zygier, with two other men, also Australian-Israeli citizens who had migrated to Israel, had been using the passports to travel to countries hostile to Israel, such as Iran, Syria and Lebanon, to spy on behalf of Israel.

The nature of their espionage work has never been revealed, and phone calls to high-ranking members of Israel's security community this week shed no light on the matter. No one would talk.

Nor could they shed any light on what Zygier may have done to warrant such harsh treatment by the Israelis, although an unnamed Australian security official told Fairfax Media on Thursday he may have been about to disclose information about Israeli intelligence operations, including the use of fraudulent Australian passports.

The three men were also tied together by their involvement in a communications company based in Europe that has a subsidiary in the Middle East, the Australian security sources said.

Offering sophisticated satellite services and secure data management, it is believed by many in the security services to be a ''straw company'' which, under the cover of commerce, allows staff to undertake intelligence gathering, trade-based espionage and other work in the countries it is purporting to be doing business with.

In January 2010, then Middle East correspondent for Fairfax Media Jason Koutsoukis travelled to Europe to visit the offices of the communications company. The office manager confirmed that one of the men - not Zygier - was employed by the company but was ''unavailable''. Soon after, the company's chief executive contacted Koutsoukis - he denied the man had ever been employed there and rejected the allegation that his company was being used to gather intelligence on behalf of Israel.

By now a good deal of what the Australian intelligence sources had told Koutsoukis about Zygier and his colleagues had checked out, and it was time to try and speak to the men directly.

Benji, as he was known to friends in Jerusalem, was emphatic in his denials when Fairfax Media confronted him in December 2009 with allegations that he was working for Mossad.

''Who the fuck are you?'' an incredulous Zygier asked Koutsoukis. ''What is this total bullshit you are telling me?'' Zygier said he had changed his name for personal reasons and appeared genuinely shocked that he could be under any kind of surveillance, Koutsoukis said.

''I have never been to any of those countries that you say I have been to,'' Zygier said. ''I am not involved in any kind of spying. That is ridiculous.''

Koutsoukis said Zygier was ''at first angry, then exasperated that I wouldn't accept his denials at what I was putting to him''.

''He told me he was like any other Australian who had made aliyah and was trying to make a life in Israel,'' Koutsoukis said. ''He was very convincing.''

A day after Koutsoukis first contacted Zygier, he returned home to find the door to his apartment open and his computer, which he had shut down, up and running.

Zygier's response was very different to the other man Koutsoukis managed to contact.

The man, who Fairfax Media cannot name, also denied that he had changed his name in order to obtain travel documents to travel through the Middle East. But unlike the handful of phone calls between Koutsoukis and Zygier, he cut off communication almost immediately.

''This is a complete fantasy,'' said the man, who also held British citizenship and had been investigated by MI6 for applying for too many new British passports, the intelligence source revealed.

It now appears Zygier was arrested by the Shin Bet, Israel's internal security service, in late February, soon after his last conversation with Koutsoukis but before the publication of the story in Fairfax newspapers that revealed ASIO was investigating three men, but did not name them.

He was taken to the isolation cell in Ayalon Prison in the city of Ramla, near Tel Aviv, where he remained until his death nearly 10 months later.

Zygier's arrest also came soon after the assassination of the senior Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Al Bustan Rotana Hotel in Dubai on January 19, 2010.

At first police believed the 49-year-old had suffered a heart attack, but their investigation led to the discovery that he had been poisoned' suddenly the death had all the hallmarks of an assassination by Mossad.

Dubai police authorities claimed Mossad agents were behind Mabhouh's death and revealed that the men had used foreign passports, including three fake Australian passports, to enter Dubai.

The incident would have raised the stakes in ASIO's passport investigation, which began six months before the assassination.

And although there was no suggestion from security sources at the time that Zygier or his two colleagues were implicated in the Dubai hit, there has been endless unsourced speculation this week in the Israeli media that there was a link between Zygier's arrest and the death of Mabhouh.

What is in no doubt is that the Dubai hit placed enormous pressure on Australia's diplomatic relationship with Israel; Australia expelled an Israeli diplomat and cut its intelligence sharing with Mossad over the affair.

The then Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said an investigation by Australian intelligence agencies found the fake Australian passports were the work of a state intelligence agency, leading to the conclusion that, ''Israel was responsible for the counterfeiting and cloning of those passports''.

''No government can tolerate the abuse of its passports, especially by a foreign government,'' Smith said on May 24, 2010.

For the 10 months Zygier was held in Israel's notorious Ayalon Prison in a cell called Wing 15 - purpose built for Yigal Amir, the man who assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 - his jailers did not even know his name.

Israel had gone into a comprehensive security lockdown over his arrest, insisting that the man in Wing 15 be referred to only as Prisoner X, or File 8434.

But such was the concern about sensitivity of Zygier's case that Israel decided to go one step further.

The government sought and received a gag order in March 2010 under the case name ''Israel versus John Doe'', as the ABC revealed this week.

It banned any mention of Prisoner X, Wing 15 in Ayalon Prison, or anything about the prisoner being held there - even the mention of the gag order itself was prohibited.

At the time, an Israeli journalist-turned-politician, Nitzan Horowitz, began raising concerns about the treatment of Prisoner X in a letter he sent to Israel's deputy attorney general in 2010.

''Keeping a prisoner or detainee from contact with all others and from the outside world over a long period of time is fraught with many dangers,'' the MP from the left-wing Meretz party wrote in the letter, which he posted on his Facebook page this week.

''Secret arrests and trials are unacceptable in a free democratic country; they pose a tangible threat to the rule of law and deeply harm the public's trust in the legal system.''

An official assured him the situation was under control. Instead it appears Zygier died in custody soon after Horowitz's letter was sent.

As the 34-year-old sat in his tiny cell in solitary confinement, a space just four-by-four metres with a bed, shower and toilet, under the gaze of 24-hour CCTV surveillance, the enormity of the trouble he was in must have been overwhelming.

But lawyer Avigdor Feldman, who believes he may have been one of the last people to see Zygier alive, described him as ''a good and nice fellow'', telling Walla! News he did not detect any depression or anxiety when they met.

Hired by Zygier's wife to assess the potential for a plea bargain during negotiations with high-ranking figures in the State Attorney's Office, he met the 34-year-old just two days before he died.

He described him in a separate interview with Israel's Channel 10 news as ''a balanced person … who was rationally weighing his legal options''.

Zygier was charged with ''grave crimes", Feldman told Channel 10, but said he consistently denied the allegations against him throughout his period of incarceration.

''His interrogators told him he could expect lengthy jail-time and be ostracised from his family and the Jewish community,'' Feldman said.

''There was no heart string they did not pull, and I suppose that ultimately brought about the tragic end.''

Back in Israel, after two days of intense pressure in which the Prime Minister's office pressured the media into not reporting on the case to save the ''embarrassment of a certain agency'' and left-wing politicians used parliamentary privilege to raise the matter in the Knesset to bypass the gag order, the government relented and revealed some of the details.

''For security reasons the prisoner was held under an alias,'' a statement released by the Justice Ministry read. His family were immediately informed of his detention and he was represented in all proceedings by three lawyers, the statement said.

''Proceedings regarding the prisoner were overseen by the most senior Justice ministry officials and the prisoner's individual rights were maintained, according to law.''

At no point in this process has Israel ever uttered the name Ben Zygier, or any of his other identities.

To get a taste of Israel's obsession with national security one only needs to read its newspapers.

The country is a ''little villa in the jungle'', an opinion writer penned this week, echoing the familiar theme that Israel is surrounded by hostile countries such as Iran and Syria and groups such as Hezbollah who want to destroy its very existence.

''There is a strong current of exceptionalism in Israel's long history on national security matters that is driven by the geopolitical threats it faces, which are obviously serious and real,'' said Ben Saul, a professor of international law at the University of Sydney who has worked on human rights cases in Israel.

But it is also driven ''by a religious dimension because of Israel's perception that it has certain divine rights to that land'', he said.

Saul called for a ''full public accounting'' on the manner of Zygier's death, which occurred against a background of Israel carrying out assassinations in foreign countries.

''You know this is par for the course for the Israelis and if this guy was seemingly such a threat that he had to be kept in solitary confinement … it would be unsurprising if he had been killed by Israeli operatives,'' Saul told Fairfax Media.

There was no evidence that this had occurred, Saul said, but to dispel those suspicions Israel should release the results of its investigation.

''In many ways [Israel] has got a free pass for a long time,'' Saul said. ''It insists that everything it does is in line with international law, but that very much depends who you are. If you are a Palestinian your ability to access justice in the Israeli system and get a good result is severely limited.''

Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard, who represented and wrote a book with one of the country's most famous convicted spies, Marcus Klingberg, is horrified by the revelations about the Zygier case.

''Klingberg got pretty much the same treatment as this recent prisoner,'' Sfard said on Thursday.

But Klingberg's case - in which he was accused (and he admitted under interrogation) of spying for the KGB and was sentenced to 20 years in prison - was believed to be one of the last in which an Israeli was held in secret, Sfard said.

Sfard is also concerned by the discussion in Israel and Australia that assumes Zygier broke the law.

''He was not convicted, the trial never ended - it is very disturbing that there is this prima facie understanding that what the Mossad argues or claims is right - it is not necessarily always right'' and Zygier was not necessarily guilty as charged, he said.

For now, the gag order issued on March 4, 2010, still stands, albeit with a reduced scope, while a family is left to wonder how their son died alone in a suicide-proof cell, entrusted to the care of the Israeli prison service.

Spies, Lies & Intrigue: Life & Death Of Prisoner X


phoney rights ....

Whilst Australians might never learn the truth surrounding the fate of Ben Zygier & whether it was in any way connected to the ultimate downfall of Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, the affair surely highlights some of the fraught circumstances that can arise because Australian citizens are allowed to adopt dual citizenship.


Prior to 2002, when the Howard government changed the law, Australians could not adopt dual citizenship. Once the law was changed, the door was inevitably opened to circumstances where Australians adopting dual citizenship might find themselves conflicted over their loyalties to more than one homeland, as would appear to be the case with Ben Zygier.


Whilst David Hicks, Julian Assange & others have discovered the hard way just how little their country’s government is willing to do to secure & protect their rights as citizens where it does not suit the perceived ‘national interest’, surely no-one would be surprised if our government did nothing to stand-up for the rights of a dual citizen?

the zygier mystery deepens ....

Australia's leading Jewish community organisation has broken a week-long silence on the case of the death of Australian-Israel dual national Ben Zygier.

In a statement issued today, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry welcomed announcements by the Australian and Israeli governments of inquiries into the circumstances surrounding the death dual Israeli and Australian national Ben Zygier, who died while in high-security custody in Israel in December 2010.

''We welcome the fact that the Israeli Parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defence Subcommittee for Intelligence and the Israeli State Attorney's office, part of the Ministry of Justice, have both announced that they will be conducting investigations into the circumstances surrounding Ben Zygier's death,'' Executive Council President Dr Danny Lamm said in a written statement.

''We also welcome the inquiries being undertaken by Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the fact that he has invited the Israeli authorities to have an input into those inquiries.''

Australian Jewish community leaders have been reluctant to speak publicly about the death in Mr Zygier, a former Melbourne lawyer, which was disclosed by ABC TV's Foreign Correspondent program last week.

Mr Zygier, who reportedly served with the Israeli foreign intelligence service Mossad, was arrested in Israel in February 2010 and died in prison 10 months later.

Jewish community sources told Fairfax Media that hesitation in making public comment arose from respect for Mr Zygier's family which, apart from a brief expression of loss and grief to the Australian Financial Review, has not spoken publicly, and because community leaders had no information on the case other than what had been reported in the media.

However, the announcements by Senator Carr of an internal inquiry by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade into the consular aspects of Mr Zygier's case and the Israeli government and parliamentary investigations provided an appropriate opportunity for comment.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has said he saw no reason for any inquiry into the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation's involvement in Mr Zygier's case.

It has been reported that ASIO was investigating Mr Zygier's alleged involvement in the use of forged Australian passports to provide cover for Israeli intelligence operations and that ASIO tipped off a Fairfax journalist who contacted Mr Zygier shortly before he was arrested by Israeli security authorities.

Reportedly charged with "national security"-related offences, Mr Zygier was not tried or convicted of any offence before his death.

"We look forward to the official inquiries publishing concrete information about the circumstances surrounding the death of Ben Zygier in the hope that it will put further rumour and speculation to rest and bring some comfort to his still-grieving family and friends," Dr Lamm said.

Australian Jewish community leaders were privately highly critical of what they considered to be an overreaction by former prime minister Kevin Rudd and then foreign minister Stephen Smith to allegations that Israeli intelligence used Australian passports in an operation to assassinate a militant Hamas leader in Dubai in January 2010.

Following the Government's decision to expel a senior Israeli intelligence officer from Israel's embassy in Canberra in May 2010, Mr Rudd and Mr Smith attempted to defuse tension by inviting six Jewish community representatives, including then Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Robert Goot, for discussions at a private kosher dinner at The Lodge. The meeting was also attended by Labor MPs Michael Danby and Mark Dreyfus.

It is believed that no mention of Mr Zygier's arrest and detention was made at this gathering.

''None of us knew anything about [the Zygier case], and neither the Prime Minister or the Foreign Minister said anything about it," one of the community representatives who attended the meeting told Fairfax Media on Tuesday.

Jewish Groups Speak On Zygier


meanwhile …..


Suspected Mossad agent Ben Zygier was arrested by his own spymasters after they believed he told Australia's domestic intelligence agency about every aspect of his work with the Israelis, sources say.

The ABC's Foreign Correspondent program understands that Zygier met with ASIO officers in Australia and gave comprehensive detail about a number of Mossad operations, including plans for a top-secret mission in Italy that had been years in the making.

It is unknown who initiated the contact.

Sources have told the ABC that on one of four trips back to Australia in the years before his death in 2010, Mr Zygier - who also used the surnames Alon, Allen and Burrowes - applied for a work visa to Italy.

Last week, Foreign Correspondent revealed Zygier was secretly jailed in Israel's Ayalon prison, where it is claimed he committed suicide after 10 months in prison.

His incarceration was a state secret in Israel; the nation's security services went to extraordinary lengths to conceal his plight.

The ABC now understands Zygier was one of three Australian Jews who changed their names several times, taking out new passports for travel in the Middle East and Europe in their work for Mossad.

Foreign Correspondent has been told Zygier set up a communications company in Europe for Mossad, a venture that employed the two other Australian dual citizens.

The company exported electronic components to Arab countries as well as Iran.

Read Trevor Bormann's original story here

Watch the full Foreign Correspondent report on Prisoner X on iView

How Israel's top spies scrambled to keep the lid on the ABC's revelations

Zygier returned to Australia frequently with his wife and children, at one stage enrolling in an MBA at Monash University.

It was during one of those visits he had contact with ASIO.

The ABC believes Mossad became concerned after it discovered Zygier's contact with the Australian spy agency.

Mossad was worried he might pass on operational methods and secrets of the organisation, including information about the major Mossad operation planned for Italy.

Relations soured

The relationship between Israel's intelligence agencies and ASIO soured when Australia expelled an Israeli diplomat in 2010, after an investigation found Australian passports were used in a suspected Mossad operation to assassinate Palestinian arms trader Mahmoud Mabhouh.

Foreign Correspondent's revelations last week have caused a political earthquake in Israel, with prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling for his citizens to support the work of intelligence agencies.

At the opening of a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Mr Netanyahu rejected criticism of Mossad emanating from the Foreign Correspondent report.

Zygier's death has been the subject of a top-secret investigation in Israel that ended only two months ago. A judge found he had killed himself in his highly secured, which was reportedly suicide-proof cell.

The judge also ordered an investigation into whether prison guards were derelict in their duty.

In Australia, Foreign Minister Bob Carr is set to release his own inquiry into the affair, expected to outline to some extent "which agencies knew what" of Zygier's arrest and death, and how the Department of Foreign Affairs managed the case.

Zygier Arrested After Leaking Mossad Work To ASIO

on clumsy cover-ups ....

So, federal Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, can’t see any reason for an inquiry into ASIO’s involvement in the Ben Zygier affair.

Given today’s reports that Zygier had provided ASIO with details of Mossad’s illegal use of Australian passports, prior to his detention & suspicious death, surely questions must be asked as to why action was not taken by ASIO & the Australian government to secure Zygier’s safety & pursue his release?

In the circumstances, perhaps Attorney Dreyfus, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bob Carr, or Prime Minister, Julian Gillard, could advise all Australians as to precisely what value Australian citizenship has?

pigs might fly ....

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation is a secretive organisation, as is its international counterpart, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service. We expect them to be because they operate in the shadowy world of intelligence.

But should these organisations be more publicly accountable for their actions, particularly when things go wrong?

The case of Ben Zygier, a former Melbourne lawyer who was said to have been working for Mossad and who died in a high-security prison in Israel in 2010, illustrates the need for Australians to know how their security agencies conduct themselves.

Zygier's links with ASIO and ASIS and what role they might have played in his detention and death are unclear. He was under surveillance by ASIO and maybe ASIS shortly before his arrest and detention by Israeli authorities at the beginning of 2010 and there is speculation, denied by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that Zygier was arrested for providing secret information to ASIO.

Some in the Israeli media think ASIO bears some responsibility for what happened to Zygier. The veteran Israeli journalist Ron Ben-Yishai wrote on February 17 that ASIO leaked to Jason Koutsoukis, then Fairfax Media's Middle East correspondent, in 2009 a claim that Zygier was working for Mossad and that by doing so ASIO knew it was ''burning'' Zygier and putting his life at risk. That claim may have veracity or it may not, but it needs to be tested by an open inquiry.

Overall, what ASIO and ASIS did or didn't do in the case of Zygier are legitimate questions that require answers. But Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has already poured cold water on the idea of an inquiry, saying that he is content to rely on his colleague Foreign Minister Bob Carr's own departmental probe into the matter.

Even if there were an inquiry into ASIO and ASIS with the current mechanisms, leaving aside the rarely used royal commission device, there is no guarantee that we would be any the wiser. The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security is the ombudsman-type office that investigates activities of security agencies and reports to the Prime Minister. Its reports, if released to the public, are notable for the amount of blacking out of material justified by recourse to that favourite ground of spooks and politicians, ''national security''.

Not only that, but even when the IGIS bares its teeth and criticises security agencies - as it did in the review of Mamdouh Habib, an Australian who, with the acquiescence of Australian security agencies was taken to Egypt in 2001 by the CIA where he was tortured - government swats the report away with a bland media release.

Australians deserve better than this. ASIO and ASIS might be agencies of the state that need to make secrecy a priority in some cases because of risk to life country, but this does not mean that they ought be allowed to hide behind that dark cloak and avoid accountability for their actions.

Particularly given the fact that people's lives are on the line when it comes to much of what our security agencies do each day.

Habib and Zygier are but two prominent examples of this fact and to them can be added asylum seekers who are subjected to secret ASIO assessment.

It is the ''top secret'' and ''for your eyes only'' stamps that ASIO and ASIS use with alacrity to keep parliamentary committees and the Executive at bay. No doubt these ruses will be used to steer away inquisitors of the circumstances of Zygier's death and the events leading up to it.

There needs to be a capacity for ASIO and ASIS conduct to be scrutinised independently and expeditiously by an independent and open authority, be it a beefed-up IGIS or some quasi-judicial tribunal.

The public ought to be allowed to attend hearings of an inquiry and to make submissions. Parties with a direct interest in the inquiry should be able to appear with their legal representatives.

If ASIO or ASIS want evidence heard in private, or have documents censored, then those claims should be the subject of argument and deliberation by the inquiry head.

The case of Ben Zygier requires such an open inquiry because the fact is that an Australian has died in an overseas country, and Australia's security agencies appear to have had an interest in that person not long before he died. That is a matter of public interest and legitimately so.

There ought not, in a liberal democratic society such as ours, be any person or agency that is above both adherence to the rule of law and public accountability for their actions.

Ben Zygier's Death Demands A Public Inquiry

once upon a time ....

Once upon a time, there was an Attorney-General who shared Greg Barnes’ view that Australia’s security services should adhere to the rule of law & public accountability.

Some 40 years ago, Attorney-General, Lionel Murphy, demonstrated the then Labor government’s commitment to such principles by mounting a notorious & glorious ‘raid’ on ASIO headquarters to uncover information being withheld from the government. 

Sadly, the Zygier affair is indicative of the willingness of the current Labor government to eschew principles essential to the maintenance of a robust liberal democratic society central, as well as its own decline.

muddy waters ....

An Israeli agent commits suicide in his prison cell. Was he a traitor? The mysterious case of "Prisoner X," reported to be Australian-born Benjamin Zygier, provides an insight into the workings of the Mossad.

The Milan office building exudes elegance with its stucco facade, brass name plate, concierge service and expensive wooden furniture inside. There's nothing to suggest that the firm based here, which specializes in the sale of satellite communications technology, is a front for the Israel foreign intelligence service Mossad.

But the Milan company is reported to have hired Israeli agents who needed legends for their operations in enemy territory. One of them was Ben Zygier, an Australian Jew and a committed Zionist who emigrated to Israel as a young man. The company is reported to have vouched as Zygier's employer when he applied for a work visa at the Italian consulate in Melbourne in 2005. That, at least, is what Australian intelligence agents claim.

Ben Zygier died aged 34, just four days after the birth of his second child, on December 15, 2010, in a solitary confinement cell in the Ayalon high-security prison near Tel Aviv. He was reported to have hanged himself, even though he was the country's best-guarded prisoner, monitored by four cameras. His lawyer had met him one or two days beforehand and said Zygier had seemed normal.

His case made headlines last week after an Australian news program identified Zygier as Israel's mysterious "Prisoner X." What crime can the agent have committed to prevent even his guards from knowing his identity?

Israeli officials said he had been a danger to national security. His lawyer said the accusations against him were "serious." When Zygier died, Israel issued a gag order preventing media from covering the case.

'Access to Secret Installations'

The agent was arrested in February 2010, shortly after the Mossad had murdered the weapons dealer of Hamas in Dubai. Now there's speculation that Zygier was involved in that killing, and that he may have divulged secrets. Or did he have something to do with the killings of Iranian scientists or software attacks against Iran's nuclear program?

There are no answers, but Zygier and two other Australian Jews who also worked for the Milan firm were reported to have been successful agents. "The nature of their business gave them access to military and secret installations," said an Austrialian intelligence source.

Zygier's case provides insight into the methods of Mossad. It shows how the service recruits agents and masks operations.

As a young man, Zygier got involved with the "Community Security Group" in Melbourne, a kind of Jewish citizens' defense league. These groups often have links to Mossad and are instructed by agents. Ben Zygier was probably recruited in this way. At around the same time, Paul Y. and David Z. were recruited.

Australian Jews are particularly attractive to the Mossad because of a quirk in the law: Australians are allowed to change their first and last names once a year. It's a wonderful way to adopt a new identity.

After he completed his education, Zygier emigrated to Israel. Y. and Z. also moved there. The three of them - all holding Israeli and Australian citizenship - got jobs with the Milan-based firm. Back in Australia, they applied for new names. Ben Zygier got the names Benjamin Burrows and Benjamin Allen. Y. and Z. also changed their names at least twice.

Under Surveillance

But in 2009 their repeated name-changing aroused the interest of the Australian authorities - especially when Zygier handed in his old passports, filled with Iranian entry visas. Paul Y. spent a lot of time in Syria, Iran, Egypt and Dubai. David Z., too, travelled to Iran several times. That wasn't just evident from his passport stamps. During one trip in 2004, he sought help from the Australian consulate in Tehran.

The three men were now put under surveillance whenever they went back to Australia. Britain's MI6 foreign intelligence agency also began to take an interest in David Z., who possessed a British passport as well.

Ben Zygier also attracted attention with his choice of friends. During a trip to Melbourne in 2009, his followers noticed that he was approaching Iranian and Saudi-Arabian students at Monash University.

Soon after that, a source told the Australian journalist Jason Koutsoukis that the three men were caught up in espionage. When he confronted Zygier with these accusations, he denied it. "I asked him why he changes his name so often," said Koutsoukis. "He replied he had personal reasons for that."

They spoke three more times before mid-February 2010. Zygier was getting increasingly annoyed, he said he just wanted to build a normal life for himself in Israel. During the last telephone call he shouted: "Fuck off!"

At this point the Australian authorities already planned to arrest Zygier for espionage. But the Israeli authorities were quicker. On Feb. 24, Israel informed a liaison officer from the Australian secret service in Tel Aviv that Zygier had been arrested.

Zygier died in December. Calls to the firm in Milan are only answered by voicemail. Paul Y. and David Z. are reported to be still living in Israel. Possibly under new names.

This article was originally posted at Spiegel

How the Mossad Works: The Mystery of Israel's 'Prisoner X'

codswallop .....

Gerard Henderson’s thesis that expressed concerns of possible divided loyalties on the part of dual Israeli/Australian citizen, Ben Zygier, are anti-semetic, is both dishonest & offensive.

In taking issue with Tony Walker’s comments on the sacrifices made by countless Australians to protect the privileges of Australian citizenship, Henderson rightly, but nevertheless wrong-headedly, observes that many Jewish Australians “have fought & died for their country”.

That’s the whole point Gerard: a person’s religious beliefs should not trump their loyalty to the state except, of course, where they are citizens of theocracies such as Israel, where such loyalties are inseparable.

Prior to John Howard’s government introducing the right for Australians to hold dual-citizenship, there was no room for any such conflicted loyalty. If an Australian citizen found themselves holding stronger loyalties to a country other than their homeland, it was open to them to take-up citizenship of that country, whilst foregoing their Australian citizenship.

To question the strength of Ben Zygier’s loyalties to both Israel or Australia is simply to highlight the difficulties that might arise for anyone, regardless of their faith, to be unconditionally committed to the wellbeing & interests of more than one country at the same time, & not an attack on their religious convictions.

red herrings ....

Gerard Henderson’s pro-Israel Sydney Morning Herald piece on the Zygier affair is less than gold standard, says Evan Jones.

Gerard Henderson has been an uncritical supporter of Israel since being handed a regular column in the Sydney Morning Herald (and The Age until dropped in 2005) in January 1990. (I lie. In a SMH piece on 31 August 1996, ‘How Gaza can escape the poverty trap’, following a journalists’ visit to Gaza, Henderson elliptically inferred that Israel might be a small part of the problem. But that door of perception was closed many moons ago.)

Henderson is a precious intellect, a self-promoting gold standard of devotion to detail, the historical record and analytical prowess. Well, if practice indubitably makes perfect, this maxim does not apply to Henderson when the brain is decked out in pro-Israel fatigues. Henderson’s 26th February piece on the Zygier affair in the Sydney Morning Herald is Exhibit A for the prosecution.

Says Henderson, multiple uninformed people have rushed to judgment, with zero evidence, claiming that the Zygier affair raises concerns regarding the “dual loyalty” of members of the Australian Jewish community.

‘If the likes of [Law academic, Ben] Saul, or [Australian Financial Review editor, Tony] Walker, had specifically referred to the (alleged) dual loyalty, or divided loyalties, of any other group or nationality they almost certainly would have been publicly rebuked. But it seems a different standard applies when accusations are made against Jewish Australians and Australian/Israeli dual nationals.’

Well, here we have a situation where a young Australian migrates to Israel and, in the meantime, acquires multiple Australian passports under multiple names and travels to some interesting countries. But of course Tom, Dick and Harry (the same person?) do/does this all the time, an everyday occurrence. And one particular country, which can’t be named for reasons of national security, happens to be an inveterate user of other country’s passports for its intelligence work and the odd assassination. Well big deal, same as any other country. Jeez Louise, one has to break eggs if one wants to make a successful anti-terrorism omelette!

‘Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Australia’s Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, said Ben Zygier had no contact with Australian security agencies. Dreyfus had been briefed by the Director-General of ASIO, David Irvine.’

We have it from the horse’s mouth. Their word is gold. What more reliable sources can one find than this? Trust me, nothing to see here, move along folks. (One has to have a sense of humour or, perhaps, a sense of the absurd to write this stuff – and suspend disbelief to read it.)

‘The available evidence suggests Zygier was a troubled young man who committed suicide following his arrest by Israeli authorities on security-related charges.’

A dual-national arrested by Israeli authorities on security-related charges, and who subsequently dies. Absolutely an inconsequential matter of no broad import. Nothing to see here at all, move along.

And ultimately, any criticism of Israel, on any matter whatsoever, is unwarranted, indeed reprehensible, because Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.

‘Writing on the ABC’s The Drum opinion site on February 18, leftist academic Jeff Sparrow suggested Zygier might have been murdered. In the process, Sparrow compared democratic Israel with Stalin’s Soviet Union …

Actually, Sparrow didn’t compare Israel with the Soviet Union. Sparrow likened the blindness of Israel’s cheer squad to that country’s crimes to the blindness of Stalin’s Soviet Union’s cheer squad to that country’s crimes. And an insightful read it is.

Democratic Israel? Henderson has to keep repeating the axiom, as if he’s not quite sure of its veracity himself. In a SMH piece, 25 June 2002 (on the then carnage of suicide bombing, product of the Second Intifada), Henderson claims:

‘Whatever its faults, Israel is a democracy in the accepted sense of the term. Namely it operates under a system of representative government. Meaning that electors choose leaders who are empowered to govern for a specified period until they face the electorate again. It is a matter of fact that Israel is the only vibrant democracy in the Middle East.’

Well, deep, Gerard, deep. Even the first paragraph of the much-denigrated Wikipedia can do better than that. Rather, Israel is an ethnocracy. Apart from the imprisonment without rights of the non-Jewish residents of the Occupied Territories on account of their ethnicity, Arab Israelis sit at the back of the Israeli bus (if they’re allowed on it). Read Uri Davis’ Apartheid Israel, for example, and repeat after me …

Because Henderson chooses to not understand the fundamentals with respect to Israel, he bestows on himself the right to not understand everything that sits on top of them.

Henderson decontextualises the scenario by asserting Zygier to be ‘a troubled young man’. What? Mental problems, a personal and family tragedy, but there’s the explanation. Zygier was a loser, who failed the test of endurance in a tough world. Nothing more to see, to explain, to investigate. The end.

Henderson, master of detail, has strangely failed to ask himself and explain (for the benefit of ill-informed readers overly dependent on disreputable sources) how Ben Zygier turned into a ‘troubled young man’ after stellar success in school, graduating in law and having a reputation as a knockabout friendly bloke.

Zygier went to Wesley College for a period, but then completed secondary school at Melbourne’s Bialik College. Bialik College, as previously noted, has as its motif the:

‘Centrality of Israel: We are a Zionist school that inculcates a love of Israel. We recognise the centrality of Israel and Hebrew to the Jewish people. We support Israel and are committed to its well-being.’

As I also noted, ‘It appears that Ben Zygier learnt all his lessons well, the compleat product of Bialik College’s desired socialisation.’

In the meantime, Bialik College’s new Principal might have to confront whether to prioritise the well-being of its students or the well-being of Israel, because they are no longer self-evidently compatible.

It appears that somewhere along the line, Zygier unlearnt his lessons and ended up dead at the hands of Israel, the entity whose well-being was at the centre of his schooling.

Even given the reams of offerings over decades of Henderson’s unstinting service to Israel, this 26th February article is particularly bilious. Apart from the fact that the article is 100 per cent disinformation, the characterisation of Zygier is shocking.

The correct line demands that Zygier be cast as martyr. Says Henderson:

‘Australia is a remarkably tolerant and accepting society. Yet there has always been a degree of anti-Semitism within it. An accusation of dual loyalties against Jewish Australians from an anti-Semite is regrettable but not unexpected. When such claims are made by those who should know better, it is a matter for genuine concern.’

The anti-Semitism Joker trumps any hand of cards. And what was the response on the SMH Letters Page? This on the 27th February:

‘Gerard Henderson misses the point. Many Australians, including myself, have dual citizenship. The issue of ”divided loyalties” is real. In practice most potential conflicts of interest are purely academic, but there are many cases where problems can arise. … To say that there is a possibility of a conflict of loyalties for someone with dual Australian-Israeli citizenship is not veiled anti-Semitism. Potential conflicts can arise for anyone with dual citizenship and the person might be unaware a conflict even exists until it is too late. Bill Tango Manly’

And this on the 28th February:

‘Bill Tango is quite right: to say there is a possibility of a conflict of loyalties for an individual with dual Australian-Israeli citizenship is not veiled anti-Semitism. But to exploit the issue to cast aspersions on the loyalties of Australian Jews as a whole is. Peter Wertheim Executive Director, Executive Council of Australian Jewry’

And that’s it. Two letters. Given that Tango did not ‘cast aspersions on the loyalties of Australian Jews as a whole’, Wertheim’s letter is a substanceless diversion. I submitted a letter on the substantive issue of dual loyalties, but the letter was not published. The Letters Page, a crucial part of public debate regarding opinion writer’s assertions, has dutifully consigned dual loyalty considerations and the death of Zygier to the ether, disappeared by the timeworn but still seemingly omnipotent anti-Semitism canard.

Subsequently, I sent an email to the SMH ReaderLink:

‘I am concerned about the paucity and character of coverage in the Letters page following the article by Gerard Henderson on the Zygier affair, 26 February. Henderson’s article pushed the hoary old chestnut that claims of dual loyalty were essentially yet another round of anti-Semitism.

The single published letter of (subdued) criticism of the Henderson article (Tango. 27 February), claimed rightly that the anti-Semitism slur was unjustified. Then we have the perennial blanket disclaimer by Wertheim of the ECAJ [Executive Council of Australian Jewry] (28 February) that it is indeed all about anti-Semitism. And that’s it. So it’s all about anti-Semitism, nothing to see here, move along now, business as usual.

The Zygier affair is transparently about dual loyalty, as the courageous reporting by Ruth Pollard has highlighted. My letter highlighting that dual loyalty is at the heart of the Zygier affair did not get a guernsey, and I am quite sure that my submission was not the only one in that vein. …

I read in this blanket permission of the distortion of a crucial matter of Australian sovereignty to be Letters Page censorship.

As for Henderson’s claim that Zygier was merely a ‘troubled young man’ – contemptible and despicable. Zygier was the ideal product of the pro-Israel Jewish ‘faith’ school system.

Nothing to see here? On the contrary.

I have for long seen the Letters Page as the most important page in the Herald. I’m on the verge of giving up on it as a waste of time.’

The reply from ReaderLink?

‘Thank you for your email we value feedback. We invite you to share your comments regarding the story ‘Talk of dual-citizen disloyalty in Zygier affair simply irresponsible’ with our readers via a letter to the Editor, please email’

Send another letter to the SMH complaining about Letters Page distortion of the issues, which of course won’t be published. We say we value feedback, but we don’t, and we aren’t going to respond to your concerns, so bugger off.

Ben Zygier is buried. So, for now, is his story. Thanks to the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent, Fairfax’ Middle East correspondent, Ruth Pollard, and social media for getting us this far. No thanks to the Israeli and Australian governments, their respective intelligence services, and to the ever-unreliable Gerard Henderson (and to his minders on the SMH Opinion page).

Henderson - The Zygier Affair & The SMH

convenient truths ....

Australian-born former Mossad agent Ben Zygier was responsible for one of the most serious security breaches in Israeli history, a breach that led directly to the arrest and imprisonment of two of Israel's most prized Lebanese informants.

After a months-long investigation initiated by Fairfax Media and completed by a team of reporters assembled by Germany's Der Spiegel magazine, it can be revealed that Zygier was outfoxed in a game of cross and double-cross that ended with tragic consequences.

Unable to bear the shame of his downfall, and facing a minimum 10-year jail sentence with no prospect of a return to the Mossad, Zygier took his life on December 15, 2010, hours after a last telephone call with his mother, Louise, in Melbourne.

''Zygier wanted to achieve something that he didn't end up getting,'' says one highly placed Israeli official who is familiar with the investigation into the Zygier case.

''Then he ended up on a precipitous path. He crossed paths with someone who was much more professional than he was.''

Recruited to the Mossad at the start of 2004, Zygier, who took up Israeli citizenship in the mid-1990s, was first assigned to work in Europe trying to infiltrate companies that had business links with countries hostile to Israel, in particular Iran and Syria.

According to the chief executive of one company that Zygier infiltrated, while Zygier was ''extremely sharp'', he also lacked focus. When Zygier started behaving rashly with clients and costing the company important business, a decision was made ''to let him go''.

Unable to achieve the kind of results expected, Zygier was pulled back from the field and assigned to a desk job in Tel Aviv, a psychological blow that proved to be the beginning of his undoing.

In an attempt to improve his reputation within the intensely competitive atmosphere of Mossad, and get back into a coveted operations role, Zygier embarked on a rogue mission without informing his superiors.

Acting on information surrounding the identity of an eastern European man known to be close to the militant Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah, Zygier set up a meeting with the man towards the end of 2008 with the intention of turning him into a double agent who could pass information about Hezbollah activities back to Mossad.

Instead the reverse happened, with Zygier becoming the conduit for information flowing from Tel Aviv to Hezbollah's headquarters in Beirut. Contact between the two went on for months, with the east European repeatedly demanding that Zygier prove his bona fides as a Mossad agent by giving up real intelligence. Zygier complied, giving up the names of Israel's two top Lebanese informants, Ziad al-Homsi, and Mustafa Ali Awadeh.

Both were arrested in the spring of 2009, possibly thwarting a chance to strike Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Each was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labour.

It can also be revealed that when Zygier was arrested on January 29, 2010, he was carrying a compact disc loaded with yet more intelligence files that it is believed he might have been intending to pass onto his Hezbollah contact.

Finally confronted with the allegation that he was responsible for passing such sensitive information to the other side, Zygier is believed to have confessed early on.

When negotiations over a plea bargain ended with Israeli prosecutors offering no fewer than 10 years in a maximum security facility, it proved too much for Zygier to bear.

Double Agent Disaster Led To Spy's Downfall


and ….


One can only speculate as to what went through the mind of Melbourne-born Mossad agent Ben Zygier the night he took his life in Israel's most secure prison cell on December 15, 2010.

Facing a legacy of treachery that is unique in the history of Israel's fabled intelligence agency, Zygier must surely have reflected on the events that moved him to inadvertently betray the country he loved and had sworn to defend.

His dreams of a life of glory shattered, his hopes of redemption crushed, Zygier phoned his mother, Louise, in Melbourne, just hours before his death.

It was after 8pm when warders on duty at the Ayalon prison in Ramla, an inland town south-east of Tel Aviv, realised that Zygier hadn't been spotted in his cell for more than an hour. Monitored by three surveillance cameras, the supposedly suicide-proof cell in wing 15 was originally built to house Yigal Amir, the right-wing fanatic who assassinated then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.

Divided into two parts, the cell's larger area contains a bed, a sitting area and a kitchenette, while the smaller section is a washroom equipped with a shower and toilet.

When the guards entered the cell at 8.19pm, they found Zygier's body hanging cold and lifeless.

"Our job is to isolate him, not to keep him alive", said one of the guards who attended the scene.

Even to his prison guards Zygier was known only as "Prisoner X"; his prison le contained no name, no photo, no legal charges. Thanks to a court-ordered ban on any reporting of Zygier's case by the Israeli media, and his parents' determination to keep their son's death a private affair, only fragmentary details had leaked out.

Aired in public for the first time by the ABC's Foreign Correspondent program last month, the circumstances surrounding his death have remained so mysterious that at least one member of Israel's parliament went so far as to suggest that Zygier had been murdered.

But now, after a months' long investigation it can be revealed for the first time that Zygier – unintentionally – crossed a line that no agent before him had ever crossed.

This investigation began with a phone call to Fairfax Media's Jerusalem bureau in October 2009, and was concluded by a team of reporters assembled by Germany's Der Spiegel magazine.

It involved extensive research conducted in Israel, Lebanon, Italy, Britain and Australia, plus interviews with former friends, business partners, employees of several intelligence agencies and governments, as well as with Zygier himself shortly before his arrest.

This is the story of the tragic downfall of a passionate Zionist, a young man who had so aspired to a life of heroism, and yet, in the wake of his own shortcomings, willingly gave away such sensitive information to the enemy that it represents one of the most serious security breaches in Israel's 65-year history.

Growing up in Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs, Ben Zygier enjoyed the happiest of upbringings. His father, Geoffrey, ran the family muesli company before selling the business and taking on a number of senior roles within Melbourne's Jewish community, including a stint as chief executive of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria.

Educated at the King David School, and later at Bialik College, Zygier joined the left-wing Zionist youth movement Hashomer Hatzair. After high school, Zygier began a law degree at Monash University before announcing to family and friends that he was taking some time out to live in Israel, where he ended up at Kibbutz Gazit.

About 500 people currently live at Kibbutz Gazit – which is in the north of the country, in the hills surrounding the Sea of Galilee close to Israel's border with Lebanon – and they include 40-year-old Daniel Leiton, a tall, strong-looking man with big hands and a thick Australian accent.

"Ben was an amazing man," says Leiton, who describes Zygier as one of his best friends. “Cheerful, friendly, warm."

Leiton recalls meeting Zygier for the first time in Melbourne in the late 1980s. Even then, says Leiton, the two teenagers shared a passionate belief in Zionism, with Ben already making it clear that he would make Aliyah, the act of immigration for diaspora Jews to the land of Israel. The last time Leiton saw Zygier was in Melbourne, early in the 2010 new year, only weeks before Zygier was arrested.

Asked if he noticed Zygier behaving strangely, or whether he seemed tense or anxious, Leiton says no. "He was, as always."

Unable to imagine his friend locked up in solitary confinement in the high-security Ayalon prison, even less that he was a Mossad agent, Leiton still finds it difficult to comprehend the fact of Zygier's suicide. "Unbelievable," he murmurs.

Another friend of Zygier's was Lior Brand, who shared a living space with both Zygier and Leiton at Kibbutz Gazit, and who describes Zygier as "obviously clever, and ready to defend Israel against its enemies, no matter what the cost".

After living at Kibbutz Gazit, and formally taking Israeli citizenship under the adopted Hebrew name of Ben Alon, Zygier fiitted back and forth between Israel and Australia,

in turn completing his law degree at Monash, and completing his military service in Israel.

In this tiny strip of a nation surrounded only by countries either overtly or surreptitiously hostile to its existence, one agency in particular stands ready to accept such people into its ranks: the Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations, known the world over by the Hebrew word for "institute" as the Mossad.

Engaged in a furious shadow war against its enemies, Mossad's most recent exploits include the car-bomb assassination of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh in 2008, the January 2010 killing of Hamas operative Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh and at least five Iranian nuclear scientists in Dubai.

Always on the look out for Israel's best and brightest talent, at the beginning of the last decade Mossad began its first-ever public recruitment drive complete with advertisements promoting "the job of a lifetime".

“The Mossad is open – not for everyone, but for a few. Maybe for you," said the tagline.

The advertisements caught Zygier's eye, and he responded to the Gmail address provided at the bottom of one of the ads.

For an agency like Mossad, which depends on its ability to send its agents unsuspected behind enemy lines, foreign-born nationals like Zygier offer an inherently valuable bonus – access to a genuine foreign passport that bears no connection to Israel.

At the beginning of 2003, after he had completed an article clerkship at the Melbourne offices of corporate law-firm Deacons (now Norton Rose), Zygier took a leave of absence and moved to Tel Aviv, where he won a trainee position at the prestigious Tel Aviv law firm of Herzog, Fox & Ne'eman.

In fact, by this time Zygier was already being screened by Mossad and hopefully awaiting news that his application would be successful.

As part of that screening process, candidates are interviewed by psychologists who are looking for obvious flaws or personality traits that might disqualify them from a career in a clandestine intelligence service.

"We're looking for mentally stable people," says one Israeli psychiatrist who is familiar with the recruitment process.

By December 2003, Zygier had received the good news he was hoping for, and was formally accepted to undergo an intense year-long training program that included mastering such techniques as how to falsify resumés and other documents, as well as how to manipulate people.

By early 2005 he was ready for his first mission. He was sent to Europe, where he was instructed to infiltrate companies that had business relationships with countries including Iran and Syria.

One company Zygier had contact with was a hi-tech firm in Milan, Italy. Despite initial information provided to Fairfax Media that this company might be a front company owned and operated by Mossad, subsequent investigations have determined conclusively that this is not the case.

According to Israeli intelligence sources, Zygier also chased other opportunities in Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

One chief executive of a mid-sized European company with extensive business interests across the Middle East and Persian Gulf – including Iran – confirmed that he had hired Zygier for an accounting position.

The CEO described Zygier as being "extremely sharp", and said that while it became obvious that Zygier was not trained in accounting despite his claims, he nevertheless managed to master the requisite skills quickly.

But, having mastered the job and usually being able to finish a full day's work by as early as 11am, Zygier then started to lose interest in his regular work duties.

Because of Zygier's evident talent, a decision was then made to reassign him to another role within the company that focused on customer relations.

A similar pattern repeated itself. Zygier initially thrived in the new role, but then began to lose interest to the extent that it started to adversely affect customer relations.

The CEO said Zygier began behaving rashly with clients, finally causing one major client to sever its links with his company.

Despite his intelligence, the CEO said Zygier displayed a lack of commitment to the tasks he was assigned to within his company.

"So, we had to let him go," he said.

When confronted with the news that Zygier was actually a full-time employee of Mossad, the CEO said he had struggled to process the news that his company – a legitimate concern that he had built largely on his own – would have been targeted by Israeli intelligence.

The CEO said that while his company had significant business interests across the Middle East, Zygier never travelled as part of his job and had no face-to-face contact with clients.

He said that never at any stage during the 18 months that he employed Zygier were any suspicions raised that Zygier was the clandestine figure he later proved to be.

He said he also remained unsure what advantage, if any, Zygier would have been able to gain on behalf of Israel while working for his company.

By mid 2007, Zygier had, in the eyes of his superiors, performed without much success. He couldn't deliver, at least not enough of what Mossad wanted, so a decision was made to bring a reluctant Zygier back from the field to a desk job.

He was "neither particularly bad nor particularly good, but mediocre," says an Israeli source familiar with Zygier's case.

Inside Mossad's hexagonal headquarters off Tel Aviv's highway No.5, the agency is divided into three main sections.

Keshet, which means rainbow in Hebrew, is the first section, and is responsible for surveillance and other forms of covert intelligence gathering.

The Caesarea department, which is named after the nearby ancient Roman settlement, is home to Mossad strike force, the men and women who prepare and execute attacks abroad.

The largest section is called Tsomet, which is the Hebrew word for crossroads, a more bureaucratic, less glamorous section that deals mainly with the evaluation and analysis of the information coming in.

For someone like Zygier, this must have been a blow to his self-esteem, with former Mossad insiders describing the work for Tsomet as bureaucratic, complete with routines and supervision that an agent can break free from when working abroad.

Over recent decades, say Mossad insiders, organisational changes within Tsomet have meant that the once strictly segregated, smaller units have been merged into larger teams, with the information being handled across the section becoming more visible to the people working there.

Yet, as subsequent events indicated, this concept of transparency within had a fundamental flaw: giving Tsomet employees like Zygier access to so much information actually makes them vulnerable to betrayal.

During the early hours of Saturday, May 16, 2009, Lebanese special forces stormed the house of Ziad al-Homsi? in the village of Saadnayel in the western Bekaa Valley, dragging the startled 61-year-old from his bed.

According to the arrest warrant, Homsi was accused of being an Israeli spy. The warrant even stated his Mossad codename: The Indian.

The arrest came as a shock to many Lebanese, not just because Homsi had been the mayor of his town for years. He was also treated as a war hero, because he had fought against Israel on the side of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the Syrian army during the Lebanese civil war.

But, as his friends and family were to soon learn, Homsi had been recruited to work as a spy for Israel since 2006, receiving about $US100,000 for his services.

Leaked details from Homsi's interrogation underscore how important he was to Mossad, with Homsi revealing that he had told his Israeli handlers that he could lead them to Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Israel's mortal enemy, Hezbollah, who has lived in hiding for years, paving the way for another assassination.

The indictment against Homsi revealed the elaborate lengths to which Mossad went to recruit Homsi.

According to Homsi, a Chinese man named "David" had apparently come to his village in Lebanon, introducing himself to Homsi as an employee of the City of Beijing's foreign trade office, and claiming that he wanted to establish business ties in Lebanon.

At a meeting in Lebanon, "David" invited Homsi to Beijing to attend a trade fair, telling him that the invitation had come directly from the Chinese government. Homsi enjoyed a successful visit to Beijing where he was promised a salary.

Later, he was invited to another meeting abroad, this time in Bangkok, but instead of business, the people on the other side of the table started asking Homsi what he knew about three Israeli soldiers who had been missing since a 1982 battle that Homsi himself had fought in on the side of the Arabs.

"This is the moment at which the defendant becomes aware that he is dealing with Israelis, who work for the Mossad and have nothing to do with import-export companies or services that search for missing people," reads the Homsi indictment.

Homsi agreed to work for Mossad who provided him with a computer and a doctored USB flash drive, as well as a device that looked like a stereo system but was in fact a transmitter for sending messages, all of which were seized after his arrest.

Homsi, says General Ashraf Rifi, the head of Lebanese intelligence, was one of the most important catches his agency had ever made. Homsi was later sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor.

The spring of 2009 was a busy time for Lebanese intelligence, who managed to crack open several Israeli spy rings.

Another of those arrested was Mustafa Ali Awadeh, code name "Zuzi," another important mole within Hezbollah.

For the Israelis, it was the biggest intelligence setback in the Levant in decades. Officials at Mossad headquarters were baffled. How did the Lebanese manage to track down these men?

An even greater stir was created at Mossad headquarters when it received a tip that there had been talk within Hezbollah about a Mossad agent who was currently in Australia, who may be in some danger. It was soon clear that the agent had to be Ben Zygier.

Zygier, frustrated by his desk job, had requested leave of absence to do a masters of management at Monash University. The Mossad personnel department approved the request and by the beginning of 2009, Zygier had enrolled under the name of Benjamin Allen and was back living in Melbourne.

He told a fellow student that he had worked for the PricewaterhouseCoopers management-consulting firm in Geneva, and that he occasionally had to return to Switzerland for the firm. It explained his many trips.

"Ben was obsessed with the notion of keeping fit," a former fellow student recalls. "He always ate well and paid attention to his health."

In October, 2009, Fairfax Media received a tip from an Australian source about three dual Australian-Israeli citizens who were suspected of working on behalf of Israeli intelligence, using their Australian identities as cover.

One of the names was that of Ben Zygier, but when Fairfax Media confronted Zygier with the allegations during December 2009 and January 2010, Zygier vociferously denied any such thing, dismissing the information as fanciful.

In early January, 2010, Zygier's Mossad superiors decided to call Zygier back to Tel Aviv, not because they yet suspected him of leaking information to the Lebanese, but out of concern for his safety stemming from the tip that Hezbollah appeared to know his identity.

Zygier's superiors had also received reports that Zygier had breached protocol by talking openly about the fact that he was a Mossad agent, and wanted to warn him to be more discreet.

It was not until Zygier was back in Israel, where it was thought that there was something odd about his behaviour, the suspicion arose that he might have had a role in the arrests in Lebanon.

By January 29, 2010, that suspicion was sufficient to order Israel's General Security Service, better known by its two-letter Hebrew abbreviation as the Shin Bet, arrested Zygier. The story they uncovered during the internal investigation that followed shocked them.

Zygier, apparently frustrated by his demotion to a desk job, had decided to take matters into his own hands and find a way to rehabilitate his reputation within the organisation.

Under intense questioning from the Shin Bet, Zygier broke down and admitted that sometime in 2008, before he took his leave of absence and moved to Australia, he had flown to eastern Europe to meet with a man he knew to have close links with Hezbollah with the intention of turning that person into a double agent.

Instead, the man reported the recruitment attempt to Beirut, and himself began playing the same game as Zygier, except in reverse. Without Zygier's knowledge, the man was reporting every detail of his contact with Zygier back to the Hezbollah leadership in Beirut. Israeli officials believe that even Nasrallah himself was being kept informed.

The contact between Zygier and his Hezbollah-affiliated contact went on for months.

When the man asked Zygier for proof that he was a real Mossad agent, Zygier readily complied and began supplying him with real intelligence from Tel Aviv, including the names of Ziad al-Homsi and Mustafa Ali Awadeh, Mossad's two top informants in Lebanon.

Israeli officials with access to the investigation say that when Zygier was arrested, he was also found carrying a compact disc with additional classified information from the Tsomet department, which they believe he was also preparing to hand over to the other side.

At a meeting in Tel Aviv, earlier this month, a black limousine with darkened windows drove into a public parking lot, bringing a reporter to a meeting with an Israeli government official. "Zygier wanted to achieve something that he didn't end up getting," says the official, who is familiar with the investigation.

"And then he ended up on a precipitous path. He crossed paths with someone who was much more professional than he was."

At some point, he says, Zygier crossed a red line and went to the dark side. His fate, the official points out, was largely a matter of psychology.

Israeli informants have certainly changed sides in the past. But a regular Mossad employee has never done what Zygier did. It is a bitter defeat for Mossad, but for Hezbollah it is one of the rare instances in which an Arab intelligence service prevailed over its Jewish counterpart.

Zygier's actions are also a heavy blow to Mossad because they raise doubts as to the integrity of the agency's own people – and the manner in which it recruits employees.

Lior Brand, one of Zygier's friends from Kibbutz Gazit, believes that Zygier simply wasn't up to the task. The lies, the silence and the loneliness were too much for him, says Brand, adding that Mossad "made a big mistake" by recruiting him.

He says that he will never forgive Mossad for recruiting the wrong person.

Negotiations over Zygier's sentence were conducted behind the scenes in December 2010.

Mossad and Shin Bet wanted to set an example and demanded that the traitor spend at least 10 years in prison. While he was in prison, in the summer of 2010, Zygier's second daughter was born, and the family was permitted to visit him occasionally.

What truly motivated Zygier? Was it Wounded pride? Vanity? A lack of professionalism? Perhaps his parents could answer these questions, but they have chosen to remain silent. What can be ruled out conclusively is that money played no role.

After Israeli security officials had released Zygier's body, the family invited his closest friends to the funeral, including Daniel Leiton from Kibbutz Gazit.

Leiton went to the cemetery and asked why Zygier had to die, but he didn't receive an answer. "No one talked about why, at 34, he suddenly died."

Leiton says that while he still loves Israel, something went terribly wrong in this case.

The inscription engraved on Zygier's polished black tombstone in a cemetery in Springvale reads: "Blessed be the judge of truth."

How Life Of Spy Ben Zygier Unravelled


back at the ranch ….


Revelations that Ben Zygier was carrying out intelligence operations on foreign soil for Israeli security are likely to raise questions as to whether Israel has again misused Australian passports.

The Fairfax Media/Der Spiegel investigation has revealed that Mr Zygier - known as Prisoner X - was assigned by Israel's intelligence agency Mossad to infiltrate European companies that were doing business with countries hostile to Israel such as Iran and Syria.

If he was using his Australian nationality as cover for this work, it would constitute the type of breach that Foreign Minister Bob Carr warned earlier this month would infuriate the Australian government and could endanger its citizens.

''If Australian passports were misused here, that's something we are forced to take very seriously, because no country can live with any erosion of the integrity of its passport system,'' Senator Carr said when he released his department's internal inquiry into its consular handling of Mr Zygier's case.

''If the world thinks that Australian passports are routinely debauched by another country, then Australians presenting their passport somewhere in the world could well face their lives in danger. We can't live with that. And if that's confirmed, we'll be registering the strongest protest.''

Several inquiries were under way in Israel, he said. He hoped one of these could ''clarify this position'' on how Mr Zygier was using his Australian passport.

The government's concern follows the 2010 passports scandal in which it emerged that Israel had used fake Australian passports in the assassination of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January 2010.

The inquiry by the Department of Foreign Affairs found that senior department officials were told by intelligence agency ASIO about Mr Zygier's case but did not pass it on to the embassy in Tel Aviv, meaning the 34-year-old father of two was offered no consular help.

Releasing the inquiry, Senator Carr branded this situation, ''not remotely satisfactory''.

Australia has sought more detail about the Zygier case from Israel but Senator Carr said this information had ''not been forthcoming''.

Passport Misuse Suspected

So, dual Australian-Israeli citizen & alleged secret agent, Ben Zygier, betrayed his Mossad masters, albeit unintentionally, before taking his own life?

Well, that’s OK then. Move along folks: nothing to see here. No need to worry about how an Australian citizen managed to kill himself in a high security, suicide-proof cell. No need to wonder why our government wasn’t apprised of Ben Zygier’s situation by its own intelligence services – ASIS/ASIO - & how he came to be betrayed by the country of his birth.

No need to worry about the apparent abuse of Australian passports by the Israeli government & no need to worry that there is no-one to speak for Ben Zygier & his ruined reputation.

And, of course, no need to worry about the inane nature of our laws which permit Australians to hold dual citizenships & which must, inevitably, lead to conflicted loyalties & the need for such convenient truths.