UPDATE: By a strange happenstance of fate, Marcus Klingberg died this morning, almost at the same time I originally posted this. He was 97 years old. In the Jewish tradition we say: “May his memory be for a blessing” and his family comforted by the life he led.
חשיפה: הלוביסט הישראלי רב-ההשפעה בוריס קרסני הוא הסוכן הכפול שעבד בשנות ה-70 וה-80 עבור הקג”ב והשב”כ, והביא לחשיפתו ומעצרו של המרגל הסובייטי פרופ’ מרקוס קלינגברג
A confidential Israeli source has identified an Israeli double agent originally recruited by the Soviet KGB. This news comes on the heels of this 2008 Ynet report that connects the double agent to the exposure of the Soviet Union’s most successful spy in Israel, Markus Klingberg. A few days ago, MK Mickey Rosenthal exposed the name of the double agent, despite the fact that the censor has prohibited this for years. In response to a question from Yediot about why he did so, he responded:
“I don’t know why the censor decided to prohibit publication, but I did this in order to expose how problematic this prohibition is.”
Klingberg survived the Holocaust survivor by fleeing from Poland to the Soviet Union just before the war broke out. The rest of his family perished in Treblinka. He emigrated to Sweden after the war. There it’s claimed he was recruited by the KGB. After marrying, he moved to Israel and became a leading microbiologist. Eventually, he became the deputy director of Israel’s Nes Ziona biological weapons laboratory. All the while, he provided the Soviets with the results of Israel’s chemical and biological weapons experiments as an agent code-named “Rok.”
In 1983, the Shabak kidnapped him, torturing and interrogating him for ten days. At the end of that period, he signed a confession. He was secretly arrested, tried, convicted, receiving a 20-year sentence. Like Ben Zygier and Mordechai Vanunu, he was placed in solitary confinement for ten years. Foreign journalists who sought him out were told by Israeli officials that he had had a mental breakdown and was in a European asylum. Only his wife knew what had really happened, but she was sworn to secrecy.
Much like Zygier, Klingberg was held in prison under a false name and profession. After suffering several strokes, Amnesty International appealed for his release on humanitarian grounds. 39 Knesset members even appealed for his release. But the intelligence apparatus objected, saying that “his mind might contain secrets even he might not be aware of.” As the Guardian put it: how does a detainee defend himself against a charge that he knows things he doesn’t know? This is the same perverse argument used to punish Mordechai Vanunu and prevent his emigration from Israel.
Israel released him to house arrest in 1998, but forced him to pay for surveillance cameras and guards who monitored his movements. In doing so, he was forced to sell his apartment. Finally, in 2003 his sentence was complete and he left to live with his daughter in Paris.
Klingberg’s attorney, Michael Sfard published the his story, The Last Spy, in Israel and it has been published in a number of foreign languages, but unfortunately not yet in English. It would make an amazing thriller.
The double agent is Boris Krasny, now one of Israel’s most successful business lobbyists. In fact, he was the first and established the entire industry. He is a favorite of prime ministers, oligarchs and CEOs. They include Israel’s major defense contractors and all its cellphone companies–some 90 in all. He’s lobbied for some of the worst, most anti-consumer legislation in the Knesset. He opposed a bill that would’ve forced Israel’s largest grocery chain to list prices on all products. He fought a law which would’ve limited bank fees for his client, Bank Hapoalim.
He’s also defended some of Israel’s most corrupt politicians as a political consultant, including Shas’ Aryeh Deri before the latter went to prison. He’s pals with Sheldon Adelson and Idan Ofer, one of Israel’s richest oligarchs.
And he set his sights even higher. Proctor & Gamble and Goldman Sachs are among his clients who summon him for meetings around the world. He lobbied on behalf of Philip Morris in order continue cigarette advertising. Krasny’s influence is felt in international business circles, one of the few in the Israeli lobbying community to have so many clients and interests around the world.
He’s known Bill Clinton for years. He loves the good life, smokes $1,000 cigars and orders multi-thousand dollar bottles of wine in the finest restaurants. Among the assets he exploits along with his personal charm are secrets, cigars and lots of wine. He’s also not above comparing himself to the “greatest of Russian actors.” On a 1984 grand tour of the U.S. with other young Israeli political activists, he promised “I’ll get rich yet from politics.” And so he has.
He got his start in Kiev in the early 1970s, where he was a prominent Jewish activist. When the Soviet Union opened its doors to Russian Jewish emigration, Krasny was among those released. But he had already been recruited as a Soviet spy.
The Israeli Shabak extensively interviewed Soviet emigres attempting to detect “plants” like Krasny. When they interviewed him, he admitted he’d been sent to burrow into the highest levels of Israeli society. But instead of prosecuting and imprisoning him, they already knew they had another Soviet agent in their midst who they couldn’t find. So they “turned” him and set him loose as a double agent, whose codename was “Shomroni.” He exploited the trust the Russians placed in him, parlaying this into eventually fingering Klingberg.
In 1977, the Israeli scientist had broken off all contact with his Soviet handlers. They were mystified and sought to establish contact with him through alternate means. In the early 1980s, they tasked two former Jewish dissidents Krasny and Shabbtai Kalminovich with reaching out to Klingberg via secret codes left in his Tel Aviv mail box. Kalminovich attempted and failed to make contact. He later was imprisoned by the Israelis for his espionage activities. Though it’s not known precisely what happened between Krasny and Klingberg, somehow the former was able to provide further evidence of Klingberg’s role as a master spy.
When the Soviet Union fell in the early 1990s, Krasny ceased his relationship with his Soviet paymasters (all the funds the Soviets gave him he transferred to the Shabak).
Because of this singular achievement, Israel’s intelligence apparatus has protected his identity until now. But my source has definitely identified him. In 2010, I reported the existence of the double agent based on a report published in News1. We had a blacked out partial image of him, whose uncensored original I failed to find. Nor did we know his name.
Krasny is also known to be a close friend of Avigdor Lieberman, himself a focus of suspicion regarding his own corrupt business dealings. In addition, Lieberman is widely suspected within Israeli intelligence circles of being a Russian asset within Israel’s political élite.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.