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Ayalon Prison where Ben Zygier was held

 Has the mystery swirling around Mossad agent Ben Zygier now been solved? It apparently has, and by Trevor Bormann, the Australian reporter who first uncovered it. Bormann has quoted sources from ASIO, the Australian Security Intelligence Organization:

"Zygier told ASIO about every aspect of his work with the Israelis… Zygier met with ASIO officers in Australia and gave comprehensive details about a number of Mossad operations, including plans for a top-secret mission in Italy that had been years in the making".

 In effect, Zygier was no victim; he violated the most sacred tenet of a Mossad agent – he spilled the beans; or in Mossad terminology, he conveyed 'classified information to people who were not approved to receive it' – that is to the ASIO. In so doing, Zygier betrayed the Mossad and his fellow agents perhaps even putting their lives at risk. In his latest report Borman also noted: "It is unknown who initiated the contact (between Zygier and the ASIO). There would appear to be two possibilities: Zygier approached the ASIO and offered to sell out the Mossad. This is highly improbable because it looks as if the ASIO apparently exposed Zygier by leaking his identity to at least two Australian reporters. Why would the Aussies have done so if a Mossad agent had volunteered to work for them? What is more likely is the ASIO caught on to Ben Zygier and the passport scam. He had gone to live in Israel, served in the IDF, changed his name to Ben Alon and had requested and received a new Australian passport under the name of Ben Allen. According to Australian news reports, this passport found its way to Iran, Syrian and Lebanon. The ASIO might then have arrested Zygier and threatened to prosecute him if he did not tell all which he subsequently did.

Ben Zygier during his service in the IDF

One way or the other, the Mossad discovered that Zygier had gone astray and posed a real and present danger. That was why Zygier had to be prevented from divulging any more Mossad secrets including even the fact that he had been arrested. Obviously this was of great importance if Zygier had assumed a false identity broad. His family was notified, he was represented by several lawyers and the terms of his incarceration were approved by a judge. In fact, a judge oversaw the procedure of Zygier being held in solitary confinement. ASIS, Australia's foreign intelligence, was also notified.

The official Israeli enquiry, conducted by a judge, found that Zygier hanged himself with a wet sheet in his cell's toilet which was not covered by surveillance cameras in order to protect his privacy. However the enquiry also hinted there might have been negligence by Israel Prison officials. A day or so before his suicide, Israeli defense lawyer Avigdor Feldman was authorized to meet with Zygier in his cell. After Zygier took his own life, Feldman said that Zygier did not appear to be suicidal and was primarily interested in his prospects for a plea bargain with Israeli legal authorities. It could be that when Zygier realized just how much trouble he was in, and filled with remorse over what he had done, the Australian decided to hang himself.

Clandestine intelligence is a hazardous and unforgiving occupation and those who make it their life's work know the risks involved. The stakes are very high and agents live in a never-never world surviving on their wits. Certainly for Mossad agents, intelligence work in the Middle East is fraught with peril and they must build lives of deception. But there is one exception – they must always tell the Mossad the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. To make sure they do, a general practice of intelligence agencies is to send their 'employees' to periodic polygraph tests.

From the Israeli aspect, amid the hue and cry for enquiries one thing is apparent – the Mossad's psychological screening process failed to spot Zygier's flaws. If an agent revealed every aspect of his work in the Mossad as well as comprehensive details of top secret missions, then ergo: he was not suitable. One rumor purported that Zygier had even bragged to his friends about being recruited by the Mossad.

Second: if the Australian news reports are accurate about Zygier acquiring new passports under different names this might have been a tip-off to ASIO – particularly if Zygier had served in the IDF and lived in Israel. Maybe some Aussie official decided to put a stop to it by exposing Ben Zygier.



David Essing

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