New Mossad Chief to Apologise for Use of UK Passports in Dubai Killing
The Daily Telegraph reports that Tamir Pardo will also pledge to British officials that Israeli agents will never again use fake U.K. documents in overseas operations.
The Telegraph | December 25, 2010
Tamir Pardo, who took over as Mossad's chief earlier this month, will also promise that Israeli agents will never again be allowed to use fake British documents during operations abroad.
Mossad insiders say he will make the pledges to officials in London and, he hopes, in private meetings with the foreign secretary, William Hague, and the home secretary, Theresa May, as part of an urgent drive to rebuild relations with the UK government, thrown into disarray earlier this year.
In March Britain expelled Mossad's station chief in London, a key foreign posting, after an investigation blamed Israel's secret service for cloning 12 British passports that were found among 26 forged identity documents used by the hit squad that murdered Mahmoud al Mabhouh in January.
David Milliband, then foreign secretary, told MPs that Israel had shown a "profound disregard" for British sovereignty, adding: "The fact that this was done by a country which is a friend, with significant diplomatic, cultural, business and personal ties to the UK, only adds insult to injury."
Mr Pardo, 57, who was deputy director of Mossad for the past three years, is said by a source involved in the planning of the operation to have argued against using British, Irish and Australian passports for the team sent to murder al Mabhouh in his hotel room.
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But Meir Dagan, the Mossad chief who stepped aside this month, insisted that with so many visitors from those three countries travelling to Dubai, their passports would not be scrutinised. After the Dubai debacle, the source said, Mr Pardo warned Dagan that the "whole business will come home to haunt us".
Mr Pardo, known as "T" to fellow Mossad officers since he joined the service 30 years ago, is said to regard the expulsion of the service's top official in London as a blow to the organisation. Since then official collaboration between Mossad and the British agencies responsible for security at home and abroad, MI5 and MI6, has been badly dented, to the detriment of both.
But Mr Dagan bluntly refused to apologise over the use of the faked passports – let alone offer the guarantee demanded by Britain that the theft would not recur.
Mr Pardo's apology and pledge during a visit to London that is expected early in January would be the first official acknowledgement by Israel that it was behind the assassination of the Hamas leader in Dubai.
He is expected to brief officials on Mossad's plans to provide Britain and Nato with increased intelligence over Iran's nuclear weapons programme. Mossad has a network of undercover agents in the country.
At the same time he wants to expand Mossad's watch over the SVR, Russia's foreign intelligence service, which is an increasing presence in Syria and Turkey – and is using both countries as launch pads from which to enter Europe. In his first briefing to senior staff after he took up his new post, Mr Pardo said Mossad had a key role to play in helping the West win what he called "the new Cold War".
He wants to persuade Britain's intelligence chiefs – Sir John Sawers, the head of MI6 and Jonathan Evans, the MI5 director – that it is now essential for the relationship with Mossad to be rebuilt. Sir John and he are said by insiders to have had an exploratory telephone conversation soon after the new Mossad chief took up his new job.
He has already made his first move to mend fences by deploying Mossad's powerful facial recognition technology to assist in solving the mystery of the death of MI6 codebreaker Gareth Williams, whose body was discovered in a padlocked bag in the bath of a flat in London.
The sophisticated system, known as Faces, is being used to sift through Mossad's vast database of faces to try to match e-fit images of the couple of Mediterranean appearance who Scotland Yard detectives believe had visited the flat in previous weeks. The Israeli agency believes the man is likely to be of Greek origin and the woman to have a Lebanese background.
Mr Pardo hopes to negotiate the return of a new station chief - the top Mossad post in London - who, because of Israel's normally friendly relations with Britain, would be formally "declared" to the Foreign Office as a Mossad officer working undercover as a diplomat at the Israeli embassy. The United States and some other countries deemed to be "friendly" have similar arrangements with the Foreign Office, which allows a spy to meet on a regular – and more open basis – Britain's own intelligence chiefs and senior government officers.
Ari Ben-Menashe, a former national security adviser to the Israeli government, has described "declared" positions as the plums among Mossad's foreign postings. "Socially, especially around Christmas, the station chief gets invites to every government party," he said. "The same with national holidays like Australia or Bastille days. A station chief has his membership for most of the exclusive clubs around Whitehall, and he gets to meet all sorts of interesting people."
Mr Pardo is himself an expert in telephone tapping and the discreet photographing of a target who has operated for Mossad all over the world.
He will brief British officials on how Mossad has placed deep cover agents in areas where MI6 cannot easily operate in Asia, Yemen and Iran. It has also established the strength of China's cyber war ability to attack the West. Mossad also has agents in Afghanistan tracking the Taliban.