Israeli-Australian Intelligence Relationship in Tatters as Mossad Refuses to Name Station Chief
The Mossad is mad, hellaciously mad. As a result, Israel’s already strained intelligence relationship with Australia going back to 2010, is thoroughly in tatters. Where to start with the story?
When the Mossad mounted its fatal operation to assassinate Mahmoud al-Mabouh, it used cloned passports from a number of erstwhile allied states like Germany, UK, Ireland, France and Australia. The passports helped the 27 agents used in the operation to gain access to Dubai, where the hit took place. That meant that real Israeli dual-nationality citizens of these states were exploited and imperiled. The fraud also violated explicit written agreements Israel had with the UK and Australia not to engage in such behavior, after they’d been caught years earlier doing precisely the same thing.
Australia followed the lead of Ireland and the UK who both, after the crime was publicly exposed, expelled the Mossad station chiefs in their capitals. At first, the government only announced it was doing so. But a month later it actually revealed the spy’s identity when it upgraded its Diplomatic List to reveal that he was Eli Elkoubi. That List showed him as one of two counsellors for the embassy. But it also revealed he had departed the country during the timeframe of the station chief’s previously announced expulsion.
That enabled Philip Dorling of the Canberra Times to put two and two together and put a name to a job. The newspaper has removed that article from its site. Luckily, the link above preserves the original article. Last February, Dorling again published a story that revived the case.
It’s a violation of protocol for countries to expose the identity of the leading spies for foreign countries in their midst. That Australia did so indicates its level of anger at Israel’s breach of etiquette by using Australian government documents to facilitate the murder of the Hamas operative. But apparently, the Mossad both nurses a grudge and has a long memory.
With a new Australian government, the Mossad is now entitled to name a new station chief. But it has refused in a fit of piqué, still angry that Elkoubi’s identity was revealed. All this is rich of course and typically Israeli. They burned at least four governments which are nominally allied with them in killing al-Mabouh. Not to mention the damage the Mossad did to its own reputation internationally. Further, Meir Dagan lost his job at least in part over this. To get pissed at Australia for what it did seems pissy and beside the point.
It is entirely possible the Mossad story is a feint by the Israelis to conceal the fact that Australia may not wish to have a Mossad station chief for the time being. It was only a few months ago that the Zygier affair blew up in the government’s face, placing both Stephen Smith and Bob Carr, the current and former foreign ministers, and their staffs in a highly embarrassing situation, in which they had to explain why they left Ben Zygier to rot and die in an Israeli prison. Punishing Israel by continuing to refuse to name a station chief might be quite a credible possibility.
The drama that played out over this incident in 2010 spilled over to the Zygier case as well. Though Zygier was involved in procuring cloned Australian passports for Mossad under at least three different names, he’s not suspected of any direct involvement in the Dubai murder.
He was arrested by the Israelis shortly after the al-Mabouh case blew sky-high. Because there was no longer a station chief in Australia, the government had no one on the Israeli intelligence side with whom it could liaise. At least in part as a result of this, Zygier got lost in the shuffle. While the Israeli government did inform the Australian embassy in Israel about Zygier’s arrest and the Australians received nominal (and hardly credible) assurances Zygier would be treated decently, the fact that there was no senior intelligence presence in Canberra played a role in Zygier’s ultimate abandonment.
8 thoughts on “Israeli-Australian Intelligence Relationship in Tatters as Mossad Refuses to Name Station Chief – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
Comments are published at the sole discretion of the owner.
In the past, Israel seems to have leaked a lot of American classified technology to China.
Funny how, in the light of this row, China seems to have gotten hold of the plans for the new ASIO headquarters building.
Chinese Red Army cyberhacker unit prob hacked ASIO website or that of architect or construction contractor.
And there was me thinking that all of the world’s greatest hackers worked for Israel.
Seriously, the Lavi fighter project was an exercise in transferring American military technology to China, in return for Israel getting something else, as yet unknown, in return (rare earth metals and other hard to get raw materials would be the best guess, though.) And hacking seldom works completely blind: you need some sort of starting point and that usually involves a bit of human intelligence. Even the basic hacking techniques for guessing passwords require some details about potential profile holders, such as dates of birth, names of children. A page of that kind of data could yield gigabytes in return.
Because the West sees cyber security in terms of giving firms like Lockheed huge contracts to “ensure security”, basic things like not putting unshredded bits of notepaper in the dustbin are being neglected or completely ignored. Personal background information on the people working on a secure project can be absolutely lethal to the cyber security of that project, because it allows the hackers to visualize even one human being behind all the firewalls. If they can do that, sooner or later they can make a break.
This actually predates the internet by some margin: during WW2, a card index on individual German and Japanese officers was a key weapon of Bletchley Park and the Y service or MI8, as useful as any of the high maths and leading-edge engineering of codebreaking machinery. Apparently secure systems come crashing straight down if there’s some security setting which gets decided as a personal choice and you know enough about one of the persons making those choices to try a few educated guesses. Hacking is essentially the science of educated guesswork, which is the truth which the IDF’s propaganda about its hacking unit and super-educated experts was designed to obscure.
With all of this clandestine and bureaucratic mumbo jumbo between Governments and intelligence services, they’ve all seemed to wiggle off the hook re: their responsibility to Zygier. Maybe the message to the youngsters is don’t sign up thinking it’s all glamour working for the fatherland. You will be eaten just like the next guy, and your employer (the fatherland) will be the one doing the eating, and your home country won’t really care because their friendship with your employer will trump their duty to protect you, even if right now they are slightly miffed.
A Facebook page, with photo, was opened in Elkoubi’s name the very day his name was published in the Canberra Times.
Does it still exist? There is a page for an Eli Elkoubi but it doesn’t appear to be for the right Eli Elkoubi.
“It’s a violation of protocol for countries to expose the identity of the leading spies for foreign countries in their midst. That Australia did so indicates its level of anger at Israel’s breach of etiquette ”
But, if I understood your article correctly, it was NOT the Australian government that revealed his identity as a spy, but rather the journalist Philip Dorling, who, as you say “put two and two together.”
@Nikki: The Australian govt made the error & Dorling merely did his job as a journalist. Israel blames Australia & claims the exposure by Australia was intentional. Take it up with Tamir Pardo, not me.