April 16, 1988, Sidi Bou Said in Tunis, barely after midnight. 12:17a.m. and the unit is commanded: "GO!" Abu Jihad's chauffer is peacefully sleeping in his car. A silenced Beretta is jammed into his ear and fired leaving him slumped over the steering wheel. Code name "Sword" and another member of the kidon detonate a "silent" explosive to blow the doors right off Jihad's villa. His two bodyguards are left dead after being shot with silent pistols. Racing to Jihad's study, Sword discovers Jihad rising to his feet, but stops him with two bullets in his chest. After falling heavily to the floor, two more are planted in his head. Sword and his team vanish in the darkness, leaving behind four dead men. The total time of the attack: thirteen seconds, nine seconds faster than their best practice run.
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Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 1990. The door opens to reveal 61 year old Gerald Bull, a Canadian weapons dealer working for King Hussein. Instantly, five 7.65-mm bullets rip through his skull and neck, leaving him dead in the doorway of his lavish apartment. The three men who fired the shots walked briskly back to their car and made a quiet getaway.
These men belong to the Mossad, (literally: The Intelligence) a civilian service based in Tel Aviv, Israel, much like the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Heading this brutal task force is Meir Dagan, the Mossad's tenth Director. In order to be the leader of the "world's most efficient killing machine", one must possess certain qualities not found in many people. Meir Dagan's career as "Israel's spymaster" began when he was fighting in Lebanon and witnessed the murder of an entire family. The father's head had been split open, and his brain spilled onto the floor. "Before [Dagan] could do anything, one of the murderers scooped up a handful of brain and swallowed it. 'This is how you will all now operate. Otherwise someone will eat your brain'" (Thomas 1). These are the characteristics that make the Mossad successful. "Israel is a nation of warriors, which means that direct contact with the enemy is considered the most honorable approach to take. That makes the Mossad the ultimate Israeli status symbol" (Ostrovsky 83). Assassination is illegal in America, which is why there are never stories on the news about the assassination of a political enemy, but in Israel, everything is different. Former Director Meir Amit declared that the Mossad is "like the official hangman or the doctor on Death Row who administers the lethal injection. Our actions are all endorsed by the State of Israel. When Mossad kills it is not breaking the law. It is fulfilling a sentence sanctioned by the prime minister of the day" (Thomas 1).
The Mossad is broken into eight departments which work together to efficiently protect their homeland. One of the departments is Special Operations (the Metsada), which includes kidons. The agents in this department conduct assassination, sabotage, paramilitary projects, and psychological warfare (Pike 1). The Collections department is the largest of the eight, and directs "the many aspects of analyzing espionage overseas" (King 1). The Political Actions and Liaison committee performs political actions and liaison between friendly foreign intelligence services and with nations that Israel does not usually have political associations with (Allexperts). The research and technology departments carry out the research and create the technology needed to say ahead of their enemies, supporting Mossad operations and "intelligence synthesis" (Allexperts). There is yet another division within the Mossad that is "responsible for psychological warfare, propaganda and deception operations", and uses mental torture to coax information out of suspects (Allexperts). There are two other departments that contribute to the smooth operation of the Mossad, but they are not known to the public.
Mossad agents are not ranked as in the military, however, many were officers in the Israeli Defense Forces, and were recruited by Mossad katsas, or case agents (Allexperts). Katsas are trained to collect information about the Arab world from sources mainly focused in Europe and the Middle East. There are usually thirty to forty katsas operating at a time in one of three regions. The Katsas in the Israeli region cover the Mid-East, North Africa and Spain. They typically stay in their designated region, though "jumpers" move from region to region. Katsas in Branch B patrols Germany, Austria and Italy, while Branch C monitors the United Kingdom, France, Scandinavia and the Low Countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg). There are fewer katsas operating around the world than in the CIA, mainly because each katsa has several sayanim working under them (Ostrovsky). Each station only needs six or seven katsa agents at it, whereas a CIA unit would have around one-hundred. Sayanim, which is Hebrew for "helpers" or "assistants", are generally Diaspora Jews (non-Israelis) who are recruited by the Mossad to aid katsas in legal activities, such as facilitating medical care, collecting money, overt intelligence (versus covert intelligence gathering done by the Collections department). They can be anyone with even the smallest amount of power over others; judges, court clerks, child protective service workers, or police could be operating for the Mossad. There are strict requirements to be sayanim, including heritage: one-hundred percent Jewish but not Israeli. Sayanim are supposedly not directly involved with intelligence despite volunteering to collect information legally for katsas. Visited every three months, sayanim turn their findings over to the katsa over the course of two to four face-to-face meetings and phone calls. One level below a katsa is a bat leveyah, a female agent who lures targets to the assassin.
Those designated as "double-ohs" as MI6 calls assassins, are in the Metsada, the Special Operations of the Mossad. Agents in the Metsada have a number of challenges before them, including assassinations and sabotage by "run[ing] small units of combatants who carry out actions abroad against those considered to be a threat against Israeli security" (Hartford). In the Metsada's words, "it does not matter the dimension of the problem, we will solve it: 24 HOURS A DAY, 365 DAYS A YEAR" (Metsada). However, the problems they are talking are not quite the average conflict. In addition to assassinations, the Metsada offers the following services: "persons locations or goods, espionage, counterespionage, financial and commercial precedents, prenupcial, conjugal loyalty, theft, fraud, falsification and special operations" (Metsada). The Metsada's values include honesty, loyalty, integrity, capacity, discipline, and technology of forefront, in order to stay several deadly steps ahead of their enemies. Their main focus is on "Arab nations and organizations throughout the world responsible for clandestine movement of Jewish refugees out of Syria, Iran and Ethiopia" (Pike).
Within the Metsada, there are smaller assassination teams, or kidons, which means "bayonet" in Hebrew. These assassins are commonly called "the long arm of Israeli justice" and do not know what the rest of the Mossad is doing at the time. Kidons simply carry out assassinations. For the most part, these men or women only use code names for each other, only using real names on a "need to know basis" (Ostrovsky 117). Each kidon is typically broken into three groups: the Combatants or Komemiute Division (literally: "independence with head erect"), the "hard men" and the deep cover men (ostrovsky 117-8). Unlike the kidons, the combatants "very closely in pairs", one being a target-country agent and the other a base-country agent (ostrovsky 118). Currently, about 70 percent of the Mossad's base-country combatants use the pretense of business owners as their undercover identities, usually for a four year period (Ostrovsky 118). There are forty-eight agents in the entire kidon unit, six of them being women. There are two types of assassinations that the Mossad carries out, Operational requirements and specific executions. An Operational Requirement only occurs when an operation goes wrong, and a "friendly life" becomes an obstacle which needs to be removed (Ostrovsky 85). In a situation such as this, a katsa may kill the jeopardizing person in order to accomplish the mission. Specific executions include the last of the escaped Nazis, and current terrorists who are Arab militants and potential suicide bombers who have attacked Israeli citizens and soldiers. Names also on Israel's hit list include men operating for Israel's adversaries, planning to assault Israel. The names that are neatly typed on the two sheets of paper in the safes of the Prime Minister and the Director of the Mossad have one thing in common: they have all targeted and tortured Israel and her people. Israel does not tolerate being targeted and will attack with a vengeance, no matter the price.
Potential recruits are told that once accepted into the Mossad, "[they] were part of its family, protected and nurtured. In return you served the family in any way asked of you" (Thomas 185). Before each person the Mossad recruits becomes an agent, they much go through several mentally and physically demanding tests and rigorous/harsh training. Recruits are initially given psychological and aptitude tests to see if they possess the disposition needed for daily killing and to see if they would be able to handle the intense stress put upon them. If they pass the psychological tests and still wish to become an agent, they are sent to Midradsha, the Mossad training academy in Herzliya, in Israel. There each person will be trained in covertly gathering intelligence for three years. After completing the first stage of training, they are taught how to find, recruit and 'cultivate' agents as well as learn how to communicate underground to their operatives. Avoiding surveillance from vehicles, people on foot and cameras is a very important skill needed to be successful in their missions. Not only do they gather intelligence, but they also do counter-intelligence and set traps for foreign agents, as well as avoid the ones set for them. In addition to skills and equipment knowledge learned in training, katsas must become experts on forming trusting relationships with other people. Being able to manipulate people quickly becomes the most useful tool that an agent has. Former katsa Victor Ostrovsky remarked, "[using people] built a strange sense of confidence. Suddenly everyoneâ€¦became a tool. Suddenly it was all about telling lies; telling the truth became irrelevant" (Ostrovsky 83).
For Cheryl Ben-Tov, an American Jew who wished to become part of the Mossad's family, training was slightly different; she was training to use her body as a lure to the men on the Director's hit list. She was "tutored in deceitâ€¦[and] methods that violated every sense of decency and honor" (Thomas 185). Her tasks were more than objectionable at times, but she was told that "she must always put them in the context of the mission she was on" in order to get through them (Thomas 185). Despite being protected by the government, Cheryl could not tell anyone about the tasks set before her, and could trust no one but her colleagues. Like the other recruits in training, she was taught how to draw her Beretta from a sitting position, cut it out of a dress, and pull it out of a holster on her hip, then fire a full magazine of bullets into a dummy. As names blaze across a screen, recruits have to recognize them as terrorists that could be their next 'victim'. Recruits like Ben-Tov learn how to hotwire cars and steal them, pretend they are drunk, and break into "occupied hotel rooms and steal documents from offices" during practice operations (Thomas 186). Being awakened in the middle of the night to chat up tourists in nightclubs was not uncommon for Cheryl Ben-Tov, and neither was learning how to use her "sex to coerce, seduce and dominate" men (Thomas 186). There are secrets of Islam that every agent must know before they go on missions, and secrets to successful information transfers, such as the mishlashim, or dead-letter box. The female agents in the Mossad are not forced into positions like this; they willingly put themselves into danger for the sake of their country. As Meir Amit once said:
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"A woman has skills a man simply does not. She knows how to listen. Pillow talk is not a problem for her. The history of modern intelligence is filled with accounts of women who have used their sex for the good of their country. To say that Israel has not done the same would be foolish. But our women are volunteers, high minded women who know the risks involved. That takes a special kind of courage. It is not so much a question of sleeping with someone. It is to lead a man to believe you will do so in return for what he has to tell you. That does not begin to describe the great skills that are called into play to achieve that." (Thomas 184)
Every killer leaves his own mark, unbeknownst to him, whether it is his fingerprints, evidence or his technique. Even the assassins in the Mossad leave a mark, though most of the time they do not mind if others know it was the Mossad. In fact, they want the world to know that Israel is enacting revenge on their enemies. For example, after a terrorist group ambushed a Mossad katsa and videotaped him while being eaten by crocodiles-and sent the footage to the local Mossad station chief-the chief retaliated by placing a two-pound bomb under the toilet seat of the terrorist leader. Not only was the leader killed, but eleven other terrorists were killed when the entire villa was blown to bits (Thomas 1).
Agents often use the cover of tourists, lifting passports from unsuspecting travelers, usually visiting Thailand and the areas of Malaga, and Marbella, both in southern Spain (Thomas 2). (After Canadian and U.K. passports were used ties were strained between the countries). When information must be passed from one agent to another, dead-letter boxes are used. In order to protect both parties that are using the box neither side knows the identity of the person dropping off the information. These boxes are strategically placed in public areas as not to attract attention or suspicion, yet the "box" is (hopefully) created to look like something that would naturally be in that area. For example, dead-letter boxes could simply be pieces of paper stuck inside a cigarette butt in an ashtray or inside a paper towel dispenser in a public restroom (Adams).
There are specific trademarks that the Mossad is known for when assassinating those on "the list", since they usually kill in the same few ways. Hotel rooms seem to be one of the most successful locations for a murder, and is a "favorite place to assassinate" for the kidons of the Mossad (Thomas 2). Some of the techniques that have been used and attributed to the Mossad include exploding telephones, poisoned chocolate, bombs (under cars, toilet seats, beds) Imad Mughniyeh, liaison between Hezbollah and Iran, [was] killed by an exploding headrest as he entered a car in Damascus (times online). Israeli spymaster David Kimche said of the Mossad's tactics, "we tried not to do things just by shooting a guy in the streets, that's easy. By putting a bomb in his phone, this was a message that they can be [killed] anywhere at any time and therefore they have to look out for themselves 24 hours a day" (Black 1). Wadia Haddad, an operative of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine was poisoned with chocolate over the course of six months by Mossad agents. The reason for using poisoned chocolate instead of the usual method of assassination was because Haddad was wanted for hijacking and knew that if he was caught in the open he would be shot or bombed. He went into hiding, but had an incredible weakness for chocolate, and had Belgian chocolate sent to him, unwittingly poisoning himself, since each piece had been laced by the Mossad (Copans). The 'standard' way of killing their targets is sedation and suffocation-first the victim is sedated using a modified or "fixed" anesthesia, which acts quickly and also leaves the system faster than normal sedatives. Then the agents smother the victim, usually with a pillow and leave them in bed. Sometimes pills are planted near-by to appear as if the victim had an accidental overdose or perhaps died of natural causes.
The Mossad uses methods "of killing that not even the Mafia, KGB or China's secret service use", resorting to techniques that seem nearly animal-like (Thomas 2). Former chief of special operations, Rafi Eitan stated, "I always tried to kill when I could see the whites of a person's eyes, so I could see the fear. Smell it on his breath. A knife, or a silenced gun. I never felt a moment's regret over a killing" (Thomas 1). Then there is the psychological side to war; the Mossad certainly makes use of mental torture before they make the actual kill. The LAP studies what makes people break down, and then they utilize those weaknesses to break down the opponent. Sometimes a wreath will be sent to the family the day before the person is killed, while other times, an agent will personally offer condolences to bewildered relatives beforehand. The Mossad's LAP division makes certain that there is an "Israeli spin" on media coverage globally, using sayanim to feed false reports to the media. The LAP has created false accusations blaming Arabs and Muslims for the accidental explosion of Trans World Airlines Flight 800 in New York in 1996, as well as the bombings at the Atlanta Olympic Games (Curtiss). Historically, the use of psychological deception has been proven to be almost as vital to waging war as the use of manpower and weaponry. The motto for psychological operations is "capture their minds, and their hearts and souls will follow" (McLamb)There are several reasons to use psychological warfare (PSYWAR) against enemies before using physical methods; PYSWAR reduces morale and combat effectiveness in troops and promotes mass dissention and defection within enemy combat units. By weakening enemies, turning them toward self-destruction and fabricating "better" options for their future, it is much easier to produce the following results: "support[ing] own (and allied) forces cover and deception operations, promot[ing] cooperation, unity and morale within one's own unit, as well as within resistant forces behind enemy lines" (rouse). There are five categories of propaganda used in PSYWAR, two of them being highly effective: face-to-face (interpersonal) communication which includes rumors, lectures, group discussions, entertainment and individual contact. These provide the subject with personal experiences to remember later. Audiovisual propaganda is very accessible to both the "psychological operator" as well as the target; however, the effectiveness depends on how frequently the subject sees and hears the message. These tactics are commonly employed by the Mossad before assassinating someone who is not actively fighting or attacking Israel.
There are many ways that Israel is like other countries, they wish to protect and defend themselves, they have a special defense force, and they have imposing neighbors, but they do differ in a major way: the way they retaliate. The tactics employed by the Mossad are harsh and sometimes cruel, but there is an intense need to get a point across: "Mossad first, last and always. And always for Israel." Even when there seems to be no hope in eliminating enemies and saving Israel once more, the Mossad manages to find a way. After all, they are the world's most efficient killing machine.
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