1/07/2006

Poor Deception

There is a covert intelligence agency in Israel known as the Mossad. It's kind of like if the FBI and CIA were mixed in a blender, its singular goal being the safety and security of the state of Israel. The Israeli government officially denies its existence. No one knows who works for this agency, or what operations they're responsible for. Despite this, the Mossad is probably the worst-kept secret in the world of spies and spooks. Everyone knows it exists. Beyond that, however, is where the mystery lies.

In the late Eighties, a former Mossad agent named Victor Ostrovsky contacted a Canadian journalist claiming he had an important story to tell, a tale of intrigue and deception, of half-truths and outright lies. Ostrovsky wanted to blow the lid off the secret organization he used to work for, to lay bare its inner workings, and to, perhaps, shame Israel into reforming its harsh, arrogant ways.

By Way of Deception is partially Ostrovsky's story, how he was recruited to become a Mossad agent, his training, and his first "official" mission, which quickly went south, though not for lack of trying, and partially an (disgruntled) insider's view of Mossad operations and questionable practices.

Ostrovsky's first (and last) job, apparently, was to signal Mossad when a certain aircraft took off from Cyprus, a plane supposedly carrying nine key PLO officials. Once in flight, the Israeli air force would force the plane to land in Israel, capturing some important enemies. It would have been quite a coup, had it worked.

While on the ground in Cyprus, however, Ostrovsky learned that the PLO knew they were being watched and were not going to be on the plane at all. He attempted to contact his superiors in Tel Aviv, to have them call off the operation, but he wasn't believed. He was told to do his job, so he did, and Israel forced a plane carrying Syrian and Lebanese government officials to land near Haifa. It was quite an international incident, a huge embarrassment for Israel.

Had the Mossad heeded Ostrovsky's warning, he probably would still be working for them, but instead of admitting that they should have listened to him, Ostrovsky was scapegoated by his own government. Internally, Ostrovsky was blamed for the screw-up, even though he tried to prevent it, and was essentially blacklisted within the agency.

Furious, Ostrovsky quit. He settled his family in Canada and contacted a journalist whom he felt he could trust. This book is the result.

While there are many fascinating insights into the world of the Mossad (and spies in general), from recruiting and training to how actual operations were carried out, I cannot help but feel that it must all be taken with a grain of salt. After all, the only reason Ostrovsky felt the need to blow the whistle, so to speak, was because he was betrayed by his government. Right away, Ostrovsky has a grudge against his former employers. One cannot help but think that, despite his supposed good intentions, there was malice in his heart when he chose to tell this tale.

The truth of Ostrovsky's story can never be verified. As with all stories, there is more than one side to this tale, however, since Israel denies the very existence of the Mossad, they certainly will not be forthcoming with details, and you'd be hard-pressed, I imagine, to find someone to corroborate Ostrovsky's version of events.

This is not to say that Ostrovsky lied in his accounts. No one can know that for certain, of course, but keep in mind that he is a (former) spy. It's not like spies don't fabricate stories and lives for a living or anything. It's what they're trained for, after all.

1 comment:

AliKat said...

See what happens when you have a long post about something serious, no one comments. Well except me but I am bored. :)