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Former Israeli MK Exposes Top-Secret IDF Unit Engaged in Foreign Assassinations

carmel shama ha-cohen

MK Carmel Shama Ha-Cohen’s Knesset website

CORRECTION: I write below that a top-secret Aman unit has never been referred to in the Israeli or foreign media.  Thanks to a number of Israeli readers who pointed out it has been mentioned by name once in the Israeli media, though no report has ever revealed what its mission is or that it engaged in assassinations beyond Israel’s borders.  That is exposed here for the first time.

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Even in the midst of the National Security State obsessed with secrecy, you can’t button down every secret.  Israeli Likud former MK Carmel Shama HaCohen has inadvertently exposed the existence of a top-secret military intelligence unit.  It’s so hush-hush it’s never been named before either inside Israel or in the foreign media.  Until this report, no one knew what it did.

secret IDF military intelligence unit exposed

Yediot’s headline plays on the Hebrew phrases “superhero” and “don’t ask” (the latter a reference to the ultimate secrecy of the unit) and may be translated as “The Heroes of Do-Not-Ask.”

Shama Ha-Cohen reveals in his Knesset website what he worked in Aman, the IDF military intelligence department.  He served there in a group that was called the “special unit for counter-espionage and special investigations” (היחידה המיוחדת לסיכול ריגול וחקירות מיוחדות).  As is usual for Israeli spookery, this is spy lingo that euphemizes the real nature of what the group did.  “Special investigations” means it engaged in, among other things, foreign assassinations.  Until now, no one has ever reported that this Aman group engaged in such operations outside Israel (though Sayeret Matkal, another Aman unit, is known to have done so).  But an authoritative Israeli source confirmed to me that this is the case.  When I asked whether operations “abroad” meant only in frontline states like Lebanon or Syria; or whether it reached as far as Iran, he hinted this was the case, though he refused to confirm it explicitly.

This is an astonishing lapse by MK Shama Ha-Cohen.  It would be as if G. Gordon Liddy announced before Watergate was exposed that he was a member of the White House plumbers on his personal website.  It’s also extraordinary that the military censor didn’t discover this major security breach.  It goes to show you that information simply wants to be free.  All attempts to suppress it will fail.  If not now, then eventually, the truth will go free.

As an aside, MK Shama Ha-Cohen used to be just MK Shama.  But he grew disgusted with being confused with a Druze, since Schama can also be a Druze name.  Other MKs were praising him for identifying as a Druze so thoroughly with the Jewish people.  He was also quizzed about relations in the Arab sector and got sick and tired of it.  God forbid a red-blooded Jew should be confused with an Arab.  Not to mention that it would cause suspicion and mistrust among his Likud compatriots to be considered Druze.  So he changed his name legally to Shama-Ha-Cohen to prove his Jewish bona fides.

None of this helped in during the last election cycle when he was demoted on the Likud list.  He did not enter the new Knesset and will not unless someone dies, becomes seriously ill, or goes to prison–any of which are distinct possibilities.

superheroes for aman

Israeli superheroes Batman, Spiderman, Power Ranger and others protest on behalf of military intelligence veterans

Returning to Shama Ha-Cohen’s Aman unit, its veterans have described themselves as men who never existed, with no past and no future.  They live completely in the shadows and cannot tell their wives or children what they do.

Their activities have become public knowledge recently due to an acrimonious dispute between them and the defense ministry.  Though much of the dispute is shrouded in secrecy, the veterans demanded that the ministry honor a clause in their contracts that demanded a budgetary outlay of some sort.  Their lawyer noted that the dispute had something to do with the health conditions that resulted from their service.  The Treasury Ministry balked at the expense, claiming that the original agreement with the Aman personnel was illegal.

To publicize their plight, they hired an attorney and organized protests outside the Kirya (Israel’s Pentagon).  Since they weren’t allowed to show their faces in public, they dramatized their story by hiring models in bikinis to hold signs.  On another occasion, they hired six super heroes to carry placards demanding that Bibi and Barak honor their promises to them.

In the Yediot article I summarized above, the lawyer for the unit mentioned that one of the professional specialties of his clients was “killer,” confirming the claims of my own source.

All I can say is that the buttoned down ways of Israeli intelligence past are slowly breaking down.  In the past, such spooks would never have broken ranks.  And perhaps past governments wouldn’t have dared betray them as this one has.  After all, loyalty ain’t what it used to be.

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{ 37 comments… add one }
  • Fred Plester March 27, 2013, 3:55 AM

    Never mind Iran: active in Connecticut.

  • Zo-zo March 27, 2013, 3:57 AM

    Richard, I agree that former MK Carmel Shama-HaCohen elaborated a bit more than is expected of a former intelligence operative on his website profile, but there’s really nothing newsworthy here. The idea that “Special Investigations” = assassinations is your own interpretation and to present it as fact or as an inadvertent admission by the former MK is shoddy journalism to put it lightly. It may very well be true but there is nothing here to prove it. In any case, as you mentioned it is well known that Sayeret Matkal has engaged in such operations and that unit boasts two former Prime Ministers, not to mention Shamir, Begin, Sharon and Rabin who were all involved in similar operations during the early stages of their careers and most if not all of them actually pulled some triggers. The desk-job held by the former MK seems to pale in comparison…

    • Richard Silverstein March 27, 2013, 1:55 PM

      There certainly is a great deal to prove it. First my own high level source confirmed it. Second, the lawyer for veterans of the unit said in the Yediot article I summarized that one of their professional specialities was “killer.” For unbelievers I can upload a jpg of the actual article.

  • pabelmont March 27, 2013, 6:47 AM

    These people haveg no scruples at all! In the USA this woiuld never happen. When CIA folks tried to sue in court on their conracts — and what, may I ask, IS a contract if not a ticket to court in case of breach of that contract? — they were tossed out, the court accepting the ELEGANT PATRIOTIC (gov’t) argument that the contract itself cannot be made public without breaching national security!

    Gotcha! You AMERICAN CIA-niks thought you had an enforcable contract, didn;’t you! HA! (Well, I guess the gov’t coukld enforce it, but not the little guys.)

    BUT SERIOUSLY, if you join a service in which you are supposed to KEEP YOPUR MOUTH SHUT and be willing to DIE FOR YOUR COUNTRY, how can you later claim for health benefits? SHOULDN’T YOU JUST LIE DOWN, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT, and suffer (or die)? Oh! A contract? Well, duh!

    It’s a funny thing, isn’t it, being (for patriotic reasons or for love of intrigue and carnage) a CRIMINAL, working for your government, not allowed to tell anyone about your wonderful CRIMINAL EXPLOITS, somehow entitled to wages (or not) and to other benefits (or not) according to a contract that — one imagines — must also be kept secret.

    I always thought that the CIA (USA) and MOSSAD (Israel) were the sole external CRIMINAL organizations and that the ARMY was just for fighting wars (altho, these days, that often merges with criminality, too).

    • Fred Plester March 27, 2013, 1:34 PM

      What if the government took advantage of your classified employment and arduous training to use you as an unwitting medical guinea pig for a toxicity experiment? Wouldn’t you want medical expenses, if not exemplary damages?

      • irit March 29, 2013, 2:24 AM

        at last, thanks for bringing the main point, damages to the victims.
        so far, we are hearing about the pensions of the perpetrators, and their lawyers, soon they will request damages for “trauma”, as they had to endure the discomfort of seeing the suffering they caused.
        too bad all the journalists here are working hard to prevent victims from being recognized and compensated. I suspect that victims’ requests will be duly trashed and ignored, but emails from foreigners, at least get confirmation of receipt.

    • Strelnikov March 28, 2013, 9:15 PM

      @pabelmont
      You can’t treat agents like shit or they join the other side or spill the beans, which is why they (CIA, British Intelligence, etc.) payoff people with such large sums if they can.

    • Dana March 29, 2013, 1:06 PM

      So the Aman unit is part and parcel of the mafia state, employed as hit men and death squads. All in the name of some bizarre security concerns of the Dons who rule over the great pretend democracy. Why, the heart breaks for the poor murderers and their not-so-generous pensions.

      What is it they say? you lie down with dogs and you wake up with fleas.

  • Brian March 27, 2013, 7:32 AM

    Umm, there’s no secret here. You have claimed that by posting that he served in this unit, he has exposed a unit that nobody ever knew existed and nobody ever knew what they did. That makes no sense.
    Your claim that the unit has never been mentioned in the media is false. I doubt you even speak Hebrew, but for those who do here is just one example of a news article that mentioned his service in this unit.
    It seems like you’re digging really deep trying to save face from the nonsense you posted about Zygier that turned out to be totally false. Maybe you should spend a few minutes doing basic research on google next time before you post these ridiculous stories…
    http://www.themarker.com/tv/1.591785

    • Richard Silverstein March 27, 2013, 1:48 PM

      The Marker reporter did not recognize that this unit was top secret (which it is). All he did was take the MK’s Knesset web page and copy the information listed there. My source was the one who made news by revealing the unit was top secret & engaged in assassinations.

      The lawyer in the Yediot article I summarized said numerous times that the unit was top secret and he also confirmed that some of its members are killers. BTW, when you noted that previous prime ministers were Sayeret Matkal members and that Sayeret Matkal engaged in assassinations, were you inferring that those PMs themselves engaged in assassinations during their IDF service? We know that Barak did. But do you have information on others? Because that would be news.

      All you have proven is that the name of the unit was mentioned once in the Israeli media outside the MK’s website. Mazel tov, Sherlock Holmes! There’s a Mossad research job waiting for you.

      You’ve also erred in charging me with getting the Zygier story wrong. When the story was Prisoner X I reported he was someone other than Ben Zygier. At that point, no one knew who Prisoner X was. Since the story was exposed I have reported as true nothing that was incorrect.

      • Amit March 28, 2013, 4:47 PM

        “The Marker reporter did not recognize that this unit was top secret (which it is)” – WOA! TOP SECRET! HOW COOL. let’s not ruin the party by saying that almost every unit of Aman (IDF intelligence) is considered top secret.

        “My source was the one who made news by revealing the unit was top secret & engaged in assassinations.”
        If it’s your source that makes the news why do you Present it as if the former MK made them, while he did nothing but mentioning the name of that unit?

        • Richard Silverstein March 28, 2013, 7:33 PM

          @Amit: On the contrary, there are some Aman units that are well known, like Unit 504, which Uvdah profiled last year.

          Shama HaCohen’s website revealed the name & existence of the unit. Once my source saw this he exposed further information about its operational mission (foreign assassinations among other things).

  • yankel March 27, 2013, 9:39 AM

    Carmel Shama is no longer an MK.
    He managed to get himself blacklisted by a powerful gang within the Likud which demoted him to a marginal position on the list. He ended up outside parliament, at least until any Likud MK dies, resigns or jailed for corruption…
    He’s intending to run for mayor of Ramat-Gan (part of greater Tel-Aviv), once its current mayor, Bar – a Likud veteran himself and former commander of the Border-Police – is, at long last, convicted in a bigtime local-government corruption trial.

  • Drew March 28, 2013, 9:54 AM

    What a mix-up Richard!
    I join those who seriously doubt the connection between “Counter Espionage” or “Special Investigations” and “Assasinations”. It serves your agenda but connecting this benign unit (http://www.911pi.co.il/forum/showthread.php?t=162) to anything conspirative is a bit too much.

    • Richard Silverstein March 28, 2013, 7:45 PM

      @Drew: I never connected the unit described in the article to which you linked to the unit in which Shama HaCohen served. You did. But these two units have nothing to do with each other. Shama HaCohen’s unit had nothing to do with staunching IDF leaks, which is what the unit you featured does.

      So the only “mix-up” is in your own head, I’m afraid. But nice try, Sherlock. Keep up the good work!

  • phreddie March 28, 2013, 4:10 PM

    It is a shame, a crying shame, that Israel and only Israel does such things with secret ops and that atleast you have the good sense to make this secret outfit known so that we can be aware of just how immoral Israel truly is.

    • Richard Silverstein March 28, 2013, 7:40 PM

      @phreddie:

      it is a shame, a crying shame, that Israel and only Israel does such things with secret ops

      You’re not for real are you? Only Israel does such things?

    • Rabbitnexus March 31, 2013, 7:49 AM

      Many other vicious and criminal regimes do these sort of things it is true, but nobody does it with quite as much chutzpah and frequency and most commonly, in the name of others as Israel. Its history of assassinations and false flag terrorism is second to none and a matter of particular interest since it most often involves and is against nations who see themselves as allies or even “loyal servants” of Israel.

      Anyway it isn’t the point. This article is about a specific matter relating to Israel’s assassination and spying program and doesn’t need any qualifiers about other nations’ activities in the first place. The hasbara is not surprisingly, very thick on the ground as usual. pun most definitely intended.

      • Richard Silverstein April 1, 2013, 1:54 AM

        Again, saying Israel is the worst or that it’s second to none at assassinations is a distinction without a difference. U.S. crimes are more numerous and more damaging in the long run. That’s not to minimize Israel’s, but I find the need to measure or single out Israel as the world’s worst offender in various categories to be a meaningless undertaking.

  • Strelnikov March 28, 2013, 9:32 PM

    Some slogans:

    Zahal: Like “F Troop”, but in Hebrew.

    IDF: We try to live up to George Patton IV’s line “A damn fine bunch of killers.”

    IDF: What’s a secret?

    The IDF: A National Guard that thinks it’s an Army.

  • jisto March 30, 2013, 9:57 PM

    What nonsense. I have known about Aman for years. It is even mentioned in a books on Israeli intelligence.

    • Richard Silverstein April 1, 2013, 1:57 AM

      Dumb cluck, read the post. It’s talking about a unit within Aman. This unit is secret.

  • Elad R March 31, 2013, 10:21 AM

    The official response of the former MK, can be found on it’s page here:
    https://www.facebook.com/cshama
    חבר הפנה את תשומת ליבי לחשיפה של הבלוגר המפורסם סילברסטין אודות שירותי הצבאי ויחידתי. אין ספק לאיש דמיון מפותח בכל מקרה פעם ראשונה שהיית חלק מחיסול היה בפריימריס האחרונים. צפו אך אל תאמינו לכל מילה.
    this is what he states: A friend brought to my attention the expose of the the famous blogger Silverstein concerning my military service. No doubt Silverstein has a vivid imagination. First time i was involved with assassination was during the last primaries. Watch but don’t believe all that said.

    • Richard Silverstein March 31, 2013, 11:58 PM

      @EladR: Spoken like a true intelligence agent. A non-denial, denial. BTW, I never said that Shama HaCohen engaged in assassinations. I said the unit of which he was a member does.

      • Elad R April 1, 2013, 12:13 AM

        Counter intelligence is usually being preformed in the targeted state, in this case Israel.
        This type of work requires different skill set then the type of work involved assassinations in foreign countries.
        the chances the same unit will deal with both do not exist.

        • Richard Silverstein April 2, 2013, 1:19 AM

          @EladR: If I have a choice between believing you or my source I choose my source. Even Shama hasn’t denied the unit engaged in assassinations. Counter-espionage activities can happen anywhere: inside a country or in a foreign country.

          • Zo-zo April 2, 2013, 9:08 AM

            [comment deleted--off topic. Further comment rule violations may result in curtailing your commenting privileges]

          • Elad R April 2, 2013, 6:44 PM

            I’m sure the folks who serve at Kidon would be more then happy to learn that there is an Aman unit doing their Job as well. :)

          • Richard Silverstein April 2, 2013, 8:55 PM

            @EladR: I wouldn’t be very happy about it myself if I were in Kidon or Mossad chief (what a thought!).

      • Oui April 2, 2013, 10:30 AM

        @Zo-zo :: Both articles were dead on taking into account there was a gag order and no other media dared speak out. Thank you Mr. Silverstein. The Strange Case of Israel’s Mr. X, the Prisoner With No Name [June 13, 2010]

        The other article [December 11, 2010] was an attempt to put a face on Prisoner ‘X’ (shortly before he died in complete isolation). The speculation continued – Missing in Turkey: IRG general Ali-Reza Asgari.

        • Richard Silverstein April 2, 2013, 12:54 PM

          What’s especially petty & childish about this is that I’ve written blog posts about my reporting of these incidents explaining where there were errors & why. I’m not concealing anything. They write these imbecile comments as if they’re dredging up dark, embarrassing secrets.

          • Zo-zo April 2, 2013, 3:00 PM

            You may call this petty and childish but I think that any objective observer would agree that the credibility of your source is at the heart of the matter. As you wrote above, you choose to rely on your source on the subject of this AMAN unit. If your source is the key than anything that casts doubt on his/her credibility is certainly relevant and not “off topic” (deleting relevant posts that don’t tow the party line – pretty ironic on an anti-censorship website, don’t ya think?). I asked you if this is indeed the same source who you claim was duped in the Prisoner X affair. You have yet to answer. If it’s true then this is simply a case of bad journalism. An ethical journalist does not base an entire story on an unnamed source who has been proved to be so unreliable. If it’s not the same source then please let us know.

          • Richard Silverstein April 2, 2013, 9:00 PM

            @Zo-zo:

            You may call this petty and childish

            Hmmm…

            Get over yourself and stop telling me what constitutes “ethical journalism.” When you tell me in which journalism school you took your course in that subject or at which media publication you practice this vocation, then I’ll respect you. Till then, I don’t owe you or anyone an explanation.

            But I will say that my source has a variety of his own sources. While there have been some stories he got wrong, we’ve tried to isolate & avoid those who were sources for those reports.

            Prisoner X was four years ago. Stop dredging up old news. THis subject gets mighty old mighty fast. So this is last you or I are going to say about it in this thread. Capiche?

          • Zo-zo April 3, 2013, 3:03 AM

            Yes Godfadda!

  • Oui March 31, 2013, 1:02 PM

    From an “intelligence” site:
    Agaf ha-Modi’in Agaf ha-Modi’in (AMAN) “Secrecy”

    Aman produces comprehensive national intelligence estimates for the prime minister and cabinet, daily intelligence reports, risk of war estimates, target studies on nearby Arab countries, and communications intercepts. Aman also conducts across-border agent operations. Within Aman is the hugely respected and powerful Unit 8200 (technical/communications). In Eye Spy 60, the magazine carried a most informative feature on this technical intercept and communications organisation (below).

    Director:
    2006-2010 – Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin
    2010-present – Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi

  • Rachamim Ben Ami May 8, 2013, 11:31 PM

    All this nonsense and Mr. Silverstein didn’t even realise that Unit 504 IS THE UNIT the MK mentioned. That is what happens when you pretend to have an insider’s view of Israel from a Seattle suburb. When Amit recommended that you do some very basic research you should have listened.

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