14 February 2013

Ben Zygier aka Prisoner X - the buzz, the facts and the eggs on faces

It seems that the story which began a few days back under headings alluding that Israel is abusing the human rights of a certain Prisoner X is now taking a sharp U turn, and may lead us back to Australia, where it initially broke cover. While we know that the procedures which led to Mr. X Black incarceration were carried out through the Israeli law courts, as evidenced in the publishing of the court documents and naming of the Judge, we also now know that Mr. X was legally represented, his family notified, we now know that certain Australian officials knew of the proceedings*.

Another very interesting fact emerged on the 13th of February 2013: Mr. X had a meeting with Mr. Avigdor Feldman, a noted prominent top Israeli lawyer also known to be an anti-establishment loud mouth, who found Mr. X to be in good sound health, and considering a plea bargain. Having Mr. Feldman on board certainly lessens the probability that Mr. X’s legal rights would have been stepped over. The Israeli press also revealed that Mr. X had been represented in 2010 in Petach – Tiqva district court by three other legal aids at the time of his incarceration and court case, which places Peter Beaumont’s article in the familiar and often practiced Guardian art of knee jerk fact-lite, assumed journalism…

Before we leave the subject of Guardian's coverage of the issue, it should be stated in favor of Mr Beaumont that his previous article on an Israeli subject was written a whole month ago. The man was chafing at the bit and becoming desperate to have another go at the Zionists, which explains the lack of content, the baseless allegations (accusations, to be precise) and the general brimstone and fire style of that unfortunate piece. Oh well... don't expect a retraction in any case.

As the media speculation turns to fever pitch, we have a few questions of our own, based on statements provided by Jason Katsoukis, in this instance by the Guardian.

In 2009, while living in Jerusalem and filing stories to the Australian Fairfax group, Katsoukis was contacted by an anonymous source with connections to the intelligence world.
While asking Mr. Katsoukis about this “anonymous source” may be futile, one may actually wonder about the nationality of this anonymous chirp, and more importantly the purpose behind this anonymous source’s willingness to come forward and chat with him.
The story was that Mossad was recruiting Australians to spy for them using a front company in Europe. It all seemed too good to be true.
Right, too good to be true. So, can we assume that this info would have been provided by an Israeli “source with connections to the intelligence world” or more to the point, by an agent for another government?

At this point in time, we need to note that Prisoner X wasn’t in custody, in fact we are told the following:
In January 2010, a Mossad hit squad murdered the Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, in Dubai. It emerged that the team had been supplied with false passports from a number of countries including Germany, Ireland and the UK, apparently confirming the very practice Katsoukis was investigating.
So, in October 2009 Mr. Katsoukis receives the tip off, and in January 2010 he proceeds to out the alleged Israeli agent by calling him directly:
The feeling was that we should go to Zygier and put the story to him. It wasn't difficult to find him. He'd was back in Jerusalem so I called him at home.
However, prior to January 2010, presumably, as mentioned in the Guardian piece, along with the initial information he receives in October 2009 from the “anonymous source with connections to the intelligence world”, Mr. Katsoukis reveals that:
I was told too that the Australian authorities were closing in on Zygier and that he might even be arrested.
This in itself may present us with an inadvertent clue as to the nationality and identity of the aforementioned “anonymous source with connections to the intelligence world”.
And here is the other clue:
There was other stuff about Zygier. In Australia you can change your name once a year. He'd done it four times I think, but they were beginning to get suspicious. I also found out that he had applied for a work visa for Italy in Melbourne.
Would an Israeli agent provide this “other stuff”? Do we now understand that the name changing antics raised a flag with certain Australian officials? Mr. Katsoukis information indeed reveals this, but this information in itself then distances the “anonymous source” from Israel. Mr. Katsoukis sources in Melbourne also provide him with visa application information - definitely not the Israeli source here.

Another interesting tidbit came up in the following quote:
Varghese [department secretary - department unnamed] conceded that it was unusual for Australia to use security channels to seek assurances from a foreign government about the rights of a citizen.

"No, it's not normal practice and this is not a normal case," Varghese said.

"The initial advice that came to us on this case was through intelligence channels and the communication on this case has essentially remained through intelligence channels," he added.

He declined to say whether Australia's main spy agency ASIO or the highly secretive spy agency operated out of Australia's overseas diplomatic missions, ASIS, was the Australian intelligence channel that provided the information.
If you take into account the silence of Australian government and the fact that the usual diplomatic channels were not involved, the story points to a serious embarrassment for Australian secret services which, together with Mossad (which, probably, felt the embarrassment as well), agreed to keep the issue quiet - at least until the trial.

We'll probably not know the details of the story any time soon, especially not in the near future, since the story keeps gathering a lot of barnacles shorty after being floated, such as this one:
Western sources "in the know" told Kuwait's Al-Jarida newspaper on Thursday that Ben Zygier, AKA "Prisoner X," was one of the members of the squad which assassinated senior Hamas terrorist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January 2010.

The same sources noted that following the mission, Zygier contacted the government in Dubai and updated it on the details of the assassination in exchange for protection. The sources also said that Israel managed to uncover Zygier's hiding place, kidnapped him and jailed him for treason, and all this while maintaining absolute secrecy. The report has not been confirmed by any other sources.
And if you want more spice, here comes the Guardian, again:
In the midst of an escalating international row with Australia...
Row with Australia? Have anyone but Guardian noticed it? Talk about the power of wishful thinking - if it could be called thinking, of course...

More on the case to follow, probably.

(*) A few quotes from the Haaretz link - just in case it disappears later:
Attorney Avigdor Feldman told Army Radio on Thursday that he met with Ben Zygier – also known as "Prisoner X" and by the aliases Ben Alon, Ben Allen, and Ben Burrows – in Ayalon Prison two days before his apparent suicide and that the prisoner appeared "rational, focused and to the point."
According to Feldman, Zygier’s family had hired him to advise Zygier about a plea bargain that had been formulated with the State Prosecutor’s office. Zygier maintained his innocence, Feldman said.
In an apparent reversal on previous statements, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said on Thursday his ministry had known about Zygier's jailing in Israel as early as February 2010. On Wednesday he said Australian diplomats in Israel only found out about the detention after his death in custody later that year.

By GideonSwort.


SnoopyTheGoon said...

As most of the CBC's news hacks are Guardian readers, this item got aired this AM on the hourly news broadcasts.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Oh. That figures. Now it will take forever to dispel that - if at all.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Nothing is ever dispelled. First impressions are lasting, you know.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Unfortunately you are right. This is proven by Guardian again and again.