BEYOND THE LOOKING GLASS
When the red light blinked on the bedside telephone, a sophisticated recording device was automatically activated in the Paris apartment near the Pompidou Center in the lively Fourth Arrondissement. The light had been wired in by an Israeli communications technician who had flown from Tel Aviv to install the recorder, intended to allay any suspicions neighbors would have about the phone ringing at ungodly hours. The technician was one of the yaholomin, a member of a Mossad unit that dealt with secure communications in the safe houses of Israel's secret intelligence agency.
The one in Paris was like all the others. It had a bombproof frontdoor and window glass which, like the panes in the White House, could deflect scanners. There were scores of such apartments in all the major cities in the world, either purchased outright or rented on long leases. Many were left unoccupied for lengthy periods, ready for the time they would be needed for an operation.
One had been conducted from the Paris apartment since June 1997, when Monsieur Maurice had arrived. He spoke fluent French with a slight Central-European accent. Over the years his neighbors had encountered others like him: men, and occasionally women, who arrived without warning, spent weeks or months among them, then one day were gone. Like his predecessors, Maurice had politely discouraged interest in himself or his work.
Maurice was a katsa, a Mossad field agent.
Physically he was nondescript; it had been said that even on an empty street he would pass virtually unnoticed. He had been recruited in what was still a halcyon time for Mossad, when its legend remained largely intact. His potential was spotted during Israel's compulsory military service, when, after boot camp, he had been drafted into air force intelligence. An aptitude for languages (he knew French, English, and German) had been noted, along with other qualities: he was good at filling gaps in a case study and drawing fact out of speculation, and he knew the limits of informed conjecture. Above all, he was a natural manipulator of people: he could persuade, cajole, and, if all else failed, threaten.
Since graduating from the Mossad training school in 1982, he had worked in Europe, South Africa, and the Far East. At various times he had done so under the guise of a businessman, a travel writer, and a salesman. He had used a number of names and biographies drawn from the library of aliases maintained by Mossad. Now he was Maurice, once more a businessman.
During his various postings he had heard of the purges back in "the Institute," the name its staff used for Mossad: corrosive rumors of disgraced and ruined careers, of changes at the top, and each incoming Mossad director with his own priorities. None of them had stemmed the loss of morale within the service.
This had increased with the appointment of Benyamin Netanyahu as Israel's youngest prime minister. A man with a proven intelligence background, he was supposed to know how things worked on the inside ; when to listen, how far to go. Instead, from the outset, Netanyahuhad astonished seasoned intelligence officers by dabbling in operational details.
At first this was put down to unnecessary zeal, a new broom showing he was ready to look into every closet to make sure there were no secrets he should know. But matters had become alarming when not only the prime minister but his wife, Sara, wanted to peer behind the looking glass into Israel's intelligence world. She had invited senior Mossad officers to call on her at home and answer her questions, claiming she was following the example of Hillary Clinton's interest in the CIA.
The featureless corridors of Mossad's headquarters building in Tel Aviv had echoed with the scandalized whispers of how Sara Netanyahu had demanded to see psychological profiles of world leaders she and her husband would be entertaining or visiting. She had especially asked for details about President Bill Clinton's sexual activities. She had also asked to review dossiers on Israel's ambassadors whose embassies they would be staying in during overseas trips, expressing an interest in the cleanliness of their kitchens and how many times the bedding was changed in the guest suites.
Bemused by her requests, Mossad officers had explained to the prime minister's wife that obtaining such information was not in their intelligence-gathering remit.
Some of the veterans had been removed from the mainstream of intelligence and given responsibility for small operations that required little more than creating paperwork which went virtually unread. Realizing their careers were stagnating, they had resigned, and were now scattered across the length of Israel, keeping themselves occupied with reading, mostly history, trying to come to terms with the fact that they were also yesterday's people.
All this had made Maurice glad to be out of Tel Aviv and back in the field.
The operation that had brought him to Paris had provided another chance to show he was a methodical and careful agent, one able to deliver what was expected. In this case the task was relatively simple: there was no real physical danger, only the risk of embarrassment should the French authorities discover what he was doing and quietly deport him. The Israeli ambassador knew Maurice was in Paris but had not been told why. That was standard operational procedure: if things went wrong, the envoy could plead ignorance.
Maurice's task was to recruit an informer. This was known in the esoteric language of Mossad as a "cold approach," suborning a foreign national. After two months of patient work, Maurice believed he was now close to succeeding.
His target was Henri Paul, assistant chief of the city's Ritz Hotel, who also acted as chauffeur to its celebrity guests.
One had been Jonathan Aitken, a minister in Britain's last Conservative government. Aitken had held special responsibility for coordinating arms sales and had built up a raft of contacts with Middle Eastern weapons dealers. This had led to World in Action, a TV investigative program, and the Guardian newspaper publishing highly damaging reports about Aitken's ties to men not normally found in the company of government ministers. Aitken had sued for libel. The case had come to hinge on who had paid Aitken's hotel account when he had stayed at the Ritz to meet some of his Arab contacts. In court, Aitken had sworn on oath that his wife had settled the account.
Through a third-party source, Mossad had tipped off investigators acting for the defendants that Mrs. Aitken had not been in Paris. The case had collapsed. Mossad, who had long regarded Aitken's activities as a threat to Israel, had effectively destroyed him.
In 1999, after facing a lengthy criminal trial in London, Aitken was found guilty of perjury and given a prison sentence. By then his wife had left him, and a man who walked the corridors of power for many years faced a bleak future.
Understanding if not sympathy, came from an unlikely source, Ari Ben-Menashe (see chapter 8). He had once experienced the rigors of a New York prison after his own fall from grace as intelligence coordinator for Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. The position had given Ben-Menashe a rare insight into how Mossad and Israel's other intelligence services operated. He regarded Aitken as "a man consumed by his own belief that he could outwit anyone. He did for years. But his mistake was to underestimate Mossad. They don't take prisoners."
Unlike Jonathan Aitken, whose life after prison holds little prospects, Ben-Menashe has made a spectacular recovery. By 1999 he had a well-established intelligence-gathering company based in Montreal, Canada. It numbers among clients several African countries as well as some in Europe. Multinationals also seek his services, having assured themselves their anonymity will be protected by Ben-Menashe.
His staff includes several former Canadian secret intelligence serviceofficers and others who had worked for similar Israeli and European organizations. The company provides a wide range of economic, industrial, and protection services. The staff know their way around the arms dealers and well understand the rules of negotiating with kidnappers. There is not a city in the world where they are without contacts, many of them nurtured by Ben-Menashe from his days as a serious player in the Israeli intelligence world. He and his associates constantly update themselves on shifting political alliances and can often foresee which Third World government will fall--and who will replace it. Small and compact, Ben-Menashe's company is in many ways modeled on Mossad, "moving," Ben-Menashe cheerfully admits, "like thieves in the night. That's the way it has to be in our business." And it pays well.
Equipped with a new Canadian citizenship, he has found himself once more working with "the princes and kings of this world ... the famous and those who use their fortunes to buy better protection. For them all knowledge is power and part of my job is to provide that essential information."
In London he is a favored guest at the Savoy. In Paris it is the Ritz that greets him with deference.
In no time Ben-Menashe discovered that the hotel remained a meeting place for Middle Eastern arms brokers and their European contacts. He checked with Mossad colleagues. From them he learned just how important the hotel had become in Mossad's overall strategy. Ben-Menashe, a natural-born acquirer of information--"long ago I learned that nothing I hear goes to waste"--decided he would watch how matters developed. It was a decision that would eventually directly involve him in the fate of Diana, Princess of Wales and her lover, Dodi al-Fayed, the playboy son of the Ritz's owner, the mega-wealthy Mohamed al-Fayed.
Mossad had decided to have an informer in the Ritz who would be able to report on activities. It had set about the task by first obtaining the hotel's staff list; this had been done by hacking into the Ritz computer system. No one at the hotel's senior management level appeared to be a likely prospect; junior staff did not have the overall accessibility to guests for the task required. But Henri Paul's responsibility for security meant every area of the Ritz was open to him. His passkey could access a guest's safe-deposit box. There would be no questions asked if he wanted a copy of a person's hotel bill, no raised eyebrows ifhe asked to see the hotel's telephone log to obtain details of calls made by arms dealers and their contacts. He could know which woman a dealer had discreetly hired for a contact. As chauffeur to VIPs, Paul would be in a good position to overhear their conversations, witness their behavior, see where they went, whom they met.
The next stage had been to create a psycho-profile of Paul. Over several weeks information on his background had been unearthed by one of the resident katsas in Paris. Using a number of covers including an insurance company employee and a telephone salesman, the katsa had learned that Paul was a bachelor in no permanent relationship, lived in a low-rent apartment, and drove a black Mini but liked fast cars and racing the motorcycle of which he was part owner. Hotel staff had spoken of his liking a drink. There had been hints that, from time to time, he had used the services of an expensive hooker who also serviced some of the hotel's guests.
The information had been evaluated by a Mossad psychologist. He had concluded that there was an inherent vulnerability about Henri Paul. The psychologist had recommended that steadily increasing pressure, linked with the promise of substantial monetary reward to finance Paul's social life, could be the best way to recruit him. The operation could be a lengthy one, requiring considerable patience and skill. Rather than make further use of the resident katsa, Maurice would be sent to Paris.
As in any such Mossad operation, Maurice had followed well-tried guidelines. First, over several visits, he had familiarized himself with the Ritz and its environs. He had quickly identified Henri Paul, a muscular man with a certain swagger in his walk, who made it apparent that he sought approval from no one.
Maurice had observed the curious relationship Paul had with the paparazzi who staked out the front of the Ritz, ready to snatch photographs of the more newsworthy rich and famous guests. From time to time Paul would order the photographers to leave, and usually they would do so, circling the block on their motorcycles before returning. During those short trips, Paul would sometimes emerge from the hotel's staff entrance and engage the paparazzi in friendly banter as they passed.
At night, Maurice had observed Paul drinking with several of the paparazzi in one of the bars around the Ritz he patronized with other staff after work.
In progress reports to Tel Aviv, Maurice had described Paul's ability to drink considerable amounts of alcohol yet appear stone-cold sober. Maurice also confirmed that Paul's suitability for the role of informer overrode his personal habits: he appeared to have the essential access and a position of high trust.
At some point in his discreet surveillance, Maurice discovered how Paul was betraying that trust. He was receiving money from the paparazzi for providing details of guest movements, enabling the photographers to be in a position to snatch pictures of the celebrities.
The exchange of information for cash took place either in one of the bars or in the narrow rue Cambon, where the Ritz staff entrance was situated.
By mid-August that exchange had focused on the expected arrival at the Ritz of Diana, Princess of Wales, and her new lover, Dodi Al-Fayed, the son of the hotel's owner. They would stay in the fabled Imperial Suite.
All the Ritz staff were under strict instructions to keep details about Diana's arrival secret under penalty of instant dismissal. Despite this, Paul had continued to risk his career by providing details of the forthcoming visit to several paparazzi. From each he had received further sums of money.
Maurice saw that Paul had also begun to drink more heavily and had overheard Ritz staff complain that the assistant security chief had become even more of a martinet: he had recently fired a floor maid he had caught stealing a bar of soap from a guest bedroom. Several of the hotel's employees said that Paul was also taking pills and wondered if they were to help control his mood swings. Everyone agreed Paul had become more unpredictable: one moment he would be good-humored; the next he would display barely controlled anger over some imagined slight. Maurice decided the time had come to make his move.
The first contact was in Harry's Bar in the rue Daunou. When Paul came in, Maurice was already sipping a cocktail. The Mossad katsa smoothly struck up a conversation, and the security man accepted a drink after Maurice mentioned that friends of his had stayed at the Ritz. Maurice added they had been surprised how many other guests had been wealthy Arabs.
If it had been a shot in the dark, it produced a staggering result. Paul replied that many of the Arabs were rude and arrogant and expected him to jump when they raised a finger. Worst were the the Saudis.Maurice mentioned he had heard that Jewish guests were just as difficult. Paul would have none of it. He insisted that Jews were excellent guests.
On that promising note, the evening ended with an arrangement to meet again in a few days, over dinner at a restaurant near the Ritz. During the meal Paul confirmed, under Maurice's well-timed questions, much of what the katsa knew. The hotel security chief spoke of his passion for fast cars and his liking for piloting a small aircraft. But it was difficult to enjoy those habits on his salary.
That may well have been the moment Maurice began to exert pressure. Finding money was always a problem for such hobbies, but not an insoluble one. Almost certainly that perked Paul's interest.
What followed then developed a rhythm of its own: Maurice laying down the bait and Paul all too eager to take it. The hook in place, Maurice would then have begun to reel in the line with the skills he had acquired at the Mossad training school.
At some point Maurice would have planted the idea he might be able to help, perhaps mentioning he worked for a company that was forever looking for ways to update its database and would pay good money to those who could help do so. This was a favorite opening gambit for Mossad recruiters on a cold-approach operation. From there it would be a small step to tell Paul that many of the Ritz guests no doubt possessed the kind of information that would interest the company.
Paul, perhaps uneasy at the turn of the conversation, may have balked. Maurice would have then moved to the next stage, saying that of course while he understood Paul's reservations, they did come as a surprise to him. After all, it was common knowledge that Paul already took payment for information from the paparazzi. So why turn away the chance to make some real money?
Looking back, Ari Ben-Menashe would judge the operation at this stage as developed along classic lines. "From my personal knowledge there is no one better than Maurice (his name for this one operation), at this. A cold-approach operation requires a real finesse. Move too quickly and the fish is off the hook. Take too long and suspicion is soon coupled with fear. Recruiting is an art all by itself and a European like Henri Paul is very different from hooking an Arab on the West Bank or Gaza Strip."
Maurice's undoubted skill at delivering his proposition and accompanying revelations of how much he knew of Paul's background wouldhave been delivered with a combination of worldliness and persuasion, with the essential undertow of pressure. It would also have had an effect on Paul.
Even if he had not asked, he may well have realized that the man seated across from him at the dinner table was an intelligence officer or at least a recruiter for a service.
That may well be the reason for his response. According to an Israeli intelligence source who has a certain knowledge of the matter: "Henri Paul came straight out with it: Was he being asked to spy? If so, what was the deal? Just like that. No hedging or bullshit. Just what was the deal--and whom would he really be working for? That would have been the point when Maurice would have had to decide. Did he tell Paul he would be working for Mossad? There is no standard operational procedure for something like this. Every target is different. But Henri Paul was on the hook."
If so, Maurice may well have told Paul what would be required of him: obtaining information on guests, perhaps even bugging their suites, and noting whom they entertained. There would have been discussions about payment, accompanied by an offer to open an account in a Swiss bank or, if need be, to pay Paul in cash. Maurice would have given the impression that such matters were not a problem. At that point he may even have revealed that Paul would be working for Mossad. All this would be standard for the successful conclusion of a cold-approach operation.
Paul was very probably scared at what he was asked to do. It was not a question of his loyalty to the Ritz; like other members of the staff, he worked for the hotel because of the relatively high salary and the perks. Paul was understandably frightened he was getting in over his head and could well end up in prison if he was found spying on the hotel's guests.
Yet if he went to the police what would they do? Maybe they already knew that he was going to be propositioned. If he turned down the proposition, what then? If the hotel management learned he had already betrayed that most precious of all assets the Ritz offered--confidentiality--by informing the paparazzi, he could be fired, even prosecuted.
For Henri Paul in those last days of August 1997, there seemed no way out. He continued to drink, to take pills, to sleep restlessly, to bully junior staff. He was a man teetering close to the edge.
Maurice maintained the pressure. He often managed to be in a bar where Paul was drinking off-duty. The katsa's very presence could only have been a further reminder to the security chief of what he was being pressured to do. Maurice continued to visit the Ritz, sipping an aperitif in one of the hotel bars, lunching in its restaurant, taking afternoon coffee in a lounge. To Henri Paul it would have seemed as if Maurice had become a personal shadow. That would have only further increased the pressure on him, reminding him that there was no way out.
Compounding the pressure was the forthcoming visit of Princess Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed. Paul had been put in charge of their security while they were in the hotel, with particular responsibility for keeping away the paparazzi. At the same time the photographers were calling him on his cell phone seeking information about the visit; he was being offered large sums of money to provide details. The temptation to accept was another pressure. Everywhere he turned, there seemed to be pressure.
Though he managed to conceal it, Henri Paul was unraveling mentally. He was taking antidepressants, sleeping pills, and pep pills to get him through the day. This combination of drugs could only have furthered the strain on his ability to make reasoned judgments.
Later, Ben-Menashe felt if he had been running the operation, "that would have been when I would have pulled out. Henri Paul might well have been able to conceal from most people his mental state, but to an experienced operative like Maurice, trained to a high degree in making such observations, the evidence of deterioration would have been all too obvious. Almost certainly, Maurice would have told the man in charge in Tel Aviv, Danny Yatom, he should pull the plug ... let it go. But for reasons only Yatom knows, he did not. Yatom was barely a year in the hot seat. He wanted to make a name for himself. Vanity, like arrogance, is one of the great dangers in intelligence work. Yatom has plenty of both and that's okay--except when it gets in the way of reality. And the reality was Mossad should have pulled out."
It did not. Yatom's consuming need to have his own man inside the Ritz drove him. But other events that no one could have foreseen were moving to their own climax.
The blinking light--signaling an incoming telephone call--which awoke Maurice was timed by the recorder at 1:58 A.M. on Sunday, August 31, 1997. The caller worked in the Paris gendarmerie accidentunit and had been recruited by Mossad some years before; its computers classified him as a mabuah, a non-Jewish informer. On the totem pole of Maurice's Parisian contacts, his caller was somewhere near the bottom.
Nevertheless, the man's news about a traffic accident stunned Maurice. It had occurred less than an hour before, when a Mercedes sedan had struck a reinforced concrete pillar on the westbound roadway of the underpass beneath the place de l'Alma, a notorious accident spot in the city.
The dead were Diana, Princess of Wales, mother of the future king of England; Dodi Al-Fayed, son of Mohammed, the Egyptian-born owner of Harrods of Knightsbridge, the "Royal" store; and Henri Paul. The couple's bodyguard had been critically injured.
Hours after the accident Maurice flew back to Tel Aviv, leaving in his wake questions that would remain unanswered.
What part had his pressure played in the accident? Had Henri Paul lost control of the Mercedes, causing it to smash into the thirteenth concrete pillar of the underpass beneath the place de l'Alma, because he could see no way of extricating himself from the clutches of Mossad? Was that pressure linked to the high level of prescribed drugs found in his bloodstream? When he had left the Ritz with his three passengers, had his mind continued to vacillate over what he should do about the pressure? Was he not only responsible for a terrible road accident but also the victim of a ruthless intelligence agency?
Questions would continue to fester in the mind of Mohamed al-Fayed. In February 1998, he publicly announced: "It was no accident. I am convinced of that in my heart of hearts. The truth cannot remain hidden forever."
Five months later, the British network ITV, screened a documentary that claimed Henri Paul had close links to French intelligence. He had none. The program also hinted that an unnamed intelligence agency had been involved in the deaths; there were dark hints that the agency had acted because the British establishment feared Diana's love for Dodi could have "political repercussions" because he was an Egyptian.
To this day Mossad's involvement with Henri Paul has remained a well-kept secret--the way the service had always intended it should remain. Mossad acted at the behest of no one outside Israel. Indeed, fewoutside the service still have any idea of Mossad's part in the death of the then most famous woman in the world.
Mohamed al-Fayed, prompted by what he saw as a campaign of villification in the English media, has continued to claim that unnamed security services had been ranged against his son and Diana. In July 1998 two Time magazine journalists published a book that included the suggestion that Henri Paul could have had some connection with French intelligence. Neither Al-Fayed or the journalists offered any conclusive proof that Henri Paul was an intelligence agent or even an informer--and none of them came near to identifying Mossad's involvement with him.
In July 1998, Mohamed al-Fayed asked a number of questions in a letter he sent to every one of Britain's members of Parliament, urging them to raise the questions in the House of Commons. He claimed that "there is a force at work to stifle the answers I want." His behavior was seen as the reaction of a grieving father lashing out in every direction. The questions deserve repeating, not because they shed any light on the role Mossad played in the closing weeks of Henri Paul's life, but because they show how the entire tragedy has gained a momentum that only the true facts can stop.
Al-Fayed wrote of a "plot" to get rid of Diana and his son and attempted to link all kinds of disparate events with his questions:
"Why did it take one hour and forty minutes to get the princess to hospital? Why have some of the photographers failed to give up some of the pictures they shot? Why was there a break-in that night at the London home of a photographer who handles paparazzi pictures? Why have all the closed-circuit television cameras in that part of Paris produced not one frame of videotape? Why were the speed cameras on the route out of film, and the traffic cameras not switched on? Why was the scene of the crash not preserved but reopened to traffic after a few hours? Who was the person in the press group outside the Ritz who was equipped like a news photographer? Who were the two unidentified men mingling in the crowd who later sat in the Ritz bar? They ordered in English, watching and listening in a marked way?"
Mossad had no interest in the relationship between Diana and Dodi. Their sole concern was to recruit Henri Paul as their informer in the Ritz. Regarding the mysterious news photographer: in the past Mossad has allowed its agents to pose as journalists. It may well have been Maurice keeping watch outside the hotel. The two unidentifiedmen in the hotel bar may have had some connection to Mossad. It would no doubt comfort Mohamed al-Fayed if that were true.
By 1999, Mohamed al-Fayed's belief in a "plot" had hardened to what he saw as "a full-blown criminal conspiracy." He insisted it had been manufactured by MI5 and MI6, and French intelligence with Mossad "manipulating in the background." To those who would listen, and they were steadily declining in number, he would name a London newspaper editor as well as a close friend of Diana as both having "direct links" to Britain's intelligence services.
The reasons why these services had become involved in the "conspiracy" was clear-cut in Mohammed's mind. "A decision had been made by the Establishment, and at the very top, that Diana must not be allowed to marry a Muslim. Then the future king of England, Prince William, would have an Arab as his stepfather and another as his grandfather. There was also a real fear that I would provide the money to allow Diana to become a rival to the Queen of England. The Establishment would do anything to end my son's relationship with the one woman he had ever truly loved."
Facts were never produced to support an allegation which, if proven, would surely accelerate the end of the Royal Family in Britain and perhaps pave the way to a crisis of confidence that could even sweep away a government.
Nevertheless, al-Fayed authorized his spokesman, Laurie Meyer, a former anchorman with one of Rupert Murdoch's television networks, to state to the media: "Mohammed firmly believes Di and Dodi were murdered by agents loyal to the British Crown and that other agencies were deeply involved in the crime. He further believes there is deep-seated racism within the Establishment."
To confirm that murder most foul had taken place, al-Fayed had employed the skills of a former senior Scotland Yard detective, John MacNamara. By early 1999 the soft-spoken investigator was scouring the world for evidence. Along the way, in Geneva, Switzerland, he met a former MI6 officer, Richard Tomlinson, who claimed he had seen documents at MI6 headquarters on the bank of the River Thames. Tomlinson insisted they described "a plan to murder the Serbian leader, Slobodan Milosevic--a plan that has unsettling parallels to the way Di and Dodi died. The MI6 document stated that the 'accident' should happen in a tunnel where the chance of fatal injury is high.The weapon of choice the document recommended was a high-powered laser beam that could be used to temporarily blind the driver of the target vehicle."
Despite all his efforts, MacNamara has been unable to find any independent evidence to support Tomlinson's claims--and efforts to obtain the MI6 document totally failed.
Then came news, reluctantly confirmed, that the United States National Security Agency, NSA, had some 1,050 pages of documents on the couple. Al-Fayed launched an immediate court battle in Washington to obtain the documents.
"The more he is blocked, the greater is his determination," said the loyal Meyer. But, like others, he is not holding his breath. "It could take years to work its way through the system."
Part of the reason, I had discovered, was that Diana and Dodi had been under surveillance by ECHELON, one of NSA's most sensitive and ultra-secret surveillance systems. This global electronic network is of truly astounding proportions. It links satellites to a series of high-speed parallel computers. The system enables NSA and those it allows to share information--Britain is one--to intercept and decode virtually every electronic communication in the world--in real time. Searching for key words it had been fed, ECHELON can identify and segregate messages of interest to its users.
Following her divorce from Prince Charles, Diana had launched her campaign to abolish land mines. She was blunt, outspoken, and quickly gathered support that was not welcomed by the Clinton administration or in London and other European capitals. She was seen as a meddler, someone who did not understand what she was talking about.
"The reality was that the land mine manufacturing industry provided thousands of jobs. No one wanted to see the mines used--but no one wanted people put out of work because Diana had a bee in her bonnet," one Washington source told me; perhaps understandably he insisted on not being named in return for this insight.
The arrival of Dodi in Diana's life automatically meant he became part of ECHELON'S collection activities. Unknown to them, their every conversation, however intimate, was silently gathered up by ECHELON'S satellites.
By 1997, Mohamed al-Fayed's name had also been added to the global computer search. ECHELON may well have been the firstoutside his family circle to know of his hope that his son would marry a princess of the line--and then later his claim that on the eve of their deaths he had planned to announce their engagement.
There is much in the NSA documents that may still cause further surprise--and provide proof, through Diana's own words, that she had indeed planned to marry her lover.
I only became aware of ECHELON's role shortly before publication of the original edition of this book in March 1999. It was then that I also became aware of just how far the deaths of his son and Diana had continued to consume Mohamed al-Fayed. It was a jolting experience to be exposed to such uncontrolled grief and his anger and belief in a conspiracy that fed it.
On a March afternoon I met Mohamed al-Fayed in the privacy of his private salon on the fifth floor of Harrods. Guarding its approaches were his personal bodyguards. Al-Fayed told me they "are all former SAS soldiers, totally loyal to me. I pay them well. They make sure I live. I have been threatened so many times. My car is bulletproof."
These revelations, delivered in a tense low voice, came as he entered the salon. I was not sure whether I should take his outburst as a warning or a reassurance I was safe to tell him anything he wanted to know.
He did not waste time in telling me what that was: access to all my Mossad contacts. "You give me the names. They give me the information I want. I give you one million pounds in whatever currency you want. No need to pay tax. I will take care of everything."
I had been warned that there is still an element of a souk trader in al-Fayed. For the next twenty minutes he launched into a diatribe that I was not quite prepared for. He attacked the Queen and Prince Philip and well-known figures he called "establishment whores and pimps." He reserved his greatest venom for the intelligence service, branding them "killers."
Picking up my book, which had been marked and annotated in the margin, he said again: "Mossad are the people who can tell me the truth. Bring them to me and I will make you a very happy man." Before I could respond, he launched an attack on Henri Paul: "I trusted him, really trusted him. I would have done anything for him because Dodi liked him. My son, like me, was too trusting. That was one of the reasons Diana loved him, wanted him to be her husband, a father to herchildren. But they didn't want it. The Queen and her husband, her lackeys, that awful brother of hers, Earl Spencer ... none of them wanted it. None of them wanted a Wog in the family. You know what Wog is? A Wily Oriental Gentleman. Only they didn't see that Dodi was a gentleman. They smeared his character when he was alive. They continue to do so now he is dead. Yet all Diana needed was what she told me she needed: someone she could trust after all she had gone through ..."
Those words do not convey the intensity of his delivery, the profanities he used, the wild hand gestures and, above all, the painful torment on his face. Mohamed al-Fayed was a man in pain. I could only listen as he continued to unburden himself.
"Did you know Diana was almost certainly pregnant ... maybe eight weeks ... and that Dodi, my son, was the father? Did you know that at the hospital in Paris, after her death, they removed many of her organs and that she came home to London as a mummy? Did you know that when we last met she told me how much she loved Dodi and how happy they were together?"
I said I did not know any of those things. For a long moment Mohamed al-Fayed sat there, tears close, his face working, lost in some inner world.
Then he said: "Tell me who can help me to find out all the truth about who arranged for my son and his beloved Diana to die?"
I told him I had in mind two people. One was Victor Ostrovsky (see chapter 10, "A Dangerous Liaison," pp. 192-94, 208-10). The other was Ari Ben-Menashe.
"Find them. Bring them to me," commanded Mohamed al-Fayed. At that moment there was more than a hint of an imperious pharaoh about him.
It took me a week to locate them. Ostrovsky was living in Arizona; he would only speak with me through an intermediary, a journalist who works for an Arab news magazine. In the end Ostrovsky had a short discussion with John MacNamara that led nowhere.
Ari Ben-Menashe had just returned from Africa when I spoke to him in Montreal. I told him about my meeting with al-Fayed. Ben-Menashe said "it is not altogether crazy what he says. That much I know already. There was a definite intelligence presence around Diana and Dodi in that last day in Paris."
He agreed to meet Mohamed al-Fayed in London the following week, early April.
Ben-Menashe's account of that meeting echoes what Mohamed al-Fayed had told me at our meeting. Ben-Menashe, a fastidious, unfailingly polite man, had been frankly shocked at the emotive language al-Fayed had used to attack members of the Royal Family. Nevertheless, he had agreed to make further enquiries in Tel Aviv to see how much more Mossad would be prepared to add to the material I had already published in the original edition of this book.
Ten days later he met with al-Fayed in his Harrods salon and told him that a number of intelligence services "might well have a case to answer." Ben-Menashe added he would be happy to put his own staff to work on building such a case and suggested a retainer fee of $750,000 a year plus expenses to be agreed mutually.
Meantime, independent of Ben-Menashe, I had continued to make my own enquiries to establish the role ECHELON had played in the last days of Diana and Dodi's lives.
I discovered through sources in Washington and elsewhere that the couple had continued to be under surveillance during the week they had spent cruising off the Emerald Coast of Sardinia on the Jonikal, the 60-meter yacht owned by Mohamed al-Fayed. ECHELON had also tracked the posse of paparazzi that had chased them in speedboats, on motorcycles, in cars. Time and again the Jonikal had evaded its pursuers. But ECHELON's computers picked up Diana's chagrin at being hunted. Conversations between her and Dodi, between the couple and their bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, recorded by ECHELON, all reflect her tense mood. On that Friday night, August 28th 1997, she told Dodi she wanted to go to Paris "as soon as possible."
Within hours, arrangements had been finalized. A Gulfstream-IV was ordered to fly to Sardinia's private airport the following day. Tomas Muzzu, an elderly Sardinian with many years experience of driving celebrities around the island, was retained to drive the couple to the airport.
Muzzu's account of the conversation in the car is striking confirmation to what an ECHELON satellite had scooped up.
"They spoke in English, very loving words. From time to time Dodi, who spoke good Italian, spoke to me. Then he switched back to English. I do not speak that language very well, but my impression was of a couple very much in love and making plans for their future."
My sources insist that a portion of the ECHELON tapes show the couple talking of marriage and the life they planned together. Dodicontinuously reassured her that he would ensure their privacy by enlisting the services of the al-Fayed protection team.
The private jet left Sardinia after the pilot made an urgent call to European air traffic control center in Brussels to give him a priority take-off slot.
During the two-hour flight to Le Bourget airport ten miles north of Paris, the aircraft's occupants were monitored by ECHELON, the conversations of Di and Dodi once more uplifted to a satellite and then downloaded to computers at Fort Meade in Maryland.
While my source could offer no "smoking gun" proof, he was "in my own mind," convinced that "relevant parts" of the conversation were relayed to GCHQ, Britain's communications center. "From there they would find their way up through the Whitehall network. By then anything Diana said, any decision she made, would have been of prime interest to certain people in authority."
I put all this to Ari Ben-Menashe. His response was gratifying but frustrating. "You're very close to being on the button. How close I can't tell you." Ben-Menashe's position was simple. He was hoping to sign a lucrative contract with Mohamed al-Fayed. Any information would have to go to him first.
In the end, the contract would not materialize. Al-Fayed wanted first to see what "evidence" Ben-Menashe could show him before agreeing to pay.
Ben-Menashe, more used to dealing with governments than "a man with the manner of a souk trader," found himself handling "a number of somewhat hysterical telephone calls from MacNamara insisting I should show him documents. This was very surprising for a man who should have had some experience of how the security services work from his own days at Scotland Yard. I had to tell him that Mossad doesn't hand out documents willy-nilly. I had to explain to him, much as you do to a new copper on the beat, the facts of life in the intelligence community."
Thwarted, al-Fayed refused to retreat into silence. His spokesman, Laurie Meyer, found himself waging new battles with the media who, with increasing force, challenged al-Fayed's view of an "Establishment plot to murder my son and his future bride."
Watching from a distance, Ari Ben-Menashe felt that al-Fayed "was his own worst enemy. From all the enquiries I had made, at no expense to him, the sort of preliminary investigation I made beforeassigning my company to any such work, it was clear that the Royal Family as such has no case to answer. It may well be that privately they would not have wished Diana to marry Dodi. But that is a long way from saying they wanted the young couple murdered. That said, I did turn up some hard evidence that does point to the involvement of security services around the time of their deaths. There are serious questions to be asked and answered. But al-Fayed will not get answers the way he continues to behave. Fundamentally he does not understand the mentality of those he is trying to convince. And worse, he is surrounded by lackeys, 'yes men' who tell him what he wants to hear."
Early in May 1999, John MacNamara flew to Geneva, Switzerland, to meet Richard Tomlinson, a former staff officer with MI6. For four years Tomlinson, who had once been tipped to be a high-flier in British intelligence, had run a relentless campaign against his former employers. Originally recruited at Cambridge University by an MI6 "talent spotter," Tomlinson had been abruptly sacked in the spring of 1995 after telling his MI6 personnel officer of his growing emotional difficulties.
In a telephone conversation he told me that "my honesty cost me my job. The 'powers-that-be' decided that despite my impressive results, I lacked a stiff upper lip."
Tomlinson described how he had tried to sue MI6 for unfair dismissal but the British government had successfully stopped his case coming before a court. Then its offer of a pay-off--"cash for my silence" was how Tomlinson put it--was withdrawn after an Australian publisher to whom Tomlinson had sent a synopsis of a book about his career with MI6, submitted the document to MI6 to see if publishing would lead to legal action. MI6 moved swiftly. Tomlinson was arrested as he was about to leave Britain and sentenced to two years in jail for breaching the Official Secrets Act.
Released from prison in April 1998, Tomlinson moved first to Paris and then to Switzerland. There he began to use Internet cafes to post highly embarrassing details of MI6 operations. This included revealing a high-level mole in Germany's Central Bank claiming the man--code-named Orcadia--had betrayed his country's economic secrets to Britain. He also disclosed details of a plot by MI6 to assassinate President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia in 1992.
Then came the moment he moved from being just another disgruntled former spy into the world of Mohamed al-Fayed, already wellpeopled with conspiratorial figures.
To the billionaire Tomlinson, by now almost penniless, was, al-Fayed told me, "like a sign from heaven." He encouraged Tomlinson to tell all he knew to the French judge investigating the deaths of Diana and Dodi.
In a sworn affidavit, Tomlinson claimed MI6 was implicated in the couple's deaths. Agents of the service had been in Paris for two weeks prior to their deaths and had held several meetings with Henri Paul, "who was a paid informer of MI6." Later in his affidavit, Tomlinson alleged "Paul had been blinded as he drove through the underpass by a high-powered flash, a technique which is consistent with MI6 methods in other assassinations."
Such allegations brought Tomlinson even deeper into al-Fayed's inner circle. The former agent was now more than "a sign from heaven." He had become, in al-Fayed's words to me, "the man who could unravel the terrible truth of an incident of such magnitude and historical importance."
It was to further encourage Tomlinson to continue with his campaign that MacNamara had flown to Geneva.
Ever since he had arrived in the city, Tomlinson had faced increasing insolvency. He could barely find the rent for his studio apartment. His efforts to raise money by writing travel articles had come to nothing. His efforts to be employed as a private detective had also failed because he feared to travel around Europe in case MI6 agents "snatched me." On the advice of MI6, he had been banned from being admitted to the United States, Australia, and France. Only Switzerland had offered him sanctuary on the grounds that any breaches of the Official Secrets Act was "a political crime" and therefore not a subject for extradition.
MI6 sources I have spoken to suggest that MacNamara had gone to see Tomlinson with a view to resolving the former spy's financial plight. More certain is that shortly afterwards Tomlinson had sufficient funds to launch what he called "my nuclear option." Using a sophisticated Microsoft program he had installed in his state-of-the-art computer, Tomlinson began to publish on his specially created and very expensive website the names of over one hundred serving MI6officers--including twelve he said had been involved in a plot to kill Diana and Dodi.
There was no clear-cut, smoking-gun evidence offered against any of those agents. But within hours their names had been flashed around the world.
A stunned MI6 desperately tried to close down the website, but no sooner had they managed to close one than another opened. In London the Foreign Office admitted the breach of security was the most serious since the Cold War--"and the lives of some MI6 agents and their contacts have been put at risk." Certainly those named as working in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and other Middle East countries had to be urgently withdrawn.
But neither Tomlinson or Mohamed al-Fayed could have calculated one effect. So grave was the overall breach of security that the claim that a handful of MI6 agents had been involved in a plot against Diana went virtually unnoticed. It was dismissed as being part of al-Fayed's obsession.
In June 1999 matters took a more serious turn when al-Fayed's Harrods website published the name of a senior MI6 officer. The website alleged that the agent, who was then serving in the Balkans, had orchestrated "a vicious campaign" to smear al-Fayed and "destroy his reputation."
Britain's ministry of defense took the unusual step of publicly warning that publication had endangered the agent and his contacts in Kosovo and Serbia.
The agent's identity had been revealed alongside the site's online book where thousands of visitors have left messages commemorating the deaths of Diana and Dodi.
Laurie Meyer, the Harrods spokesman, promised to have the agent's name removed--"obviously it is an error."
Reports then surfaced in Germany's mass-circulation Bild that Richard Tomlinson had evidence that Henri Paul had installed a bugging device in the Imperial Suite at the Ritz Hotel and had obtained tapes of the "last intimate moments" of Diana and Dodi. Shortly before Paul drove them to their death, the couple had spent several hours alone in the suite.
The tapes, according to Bild, had become the subject of a hunt by MI6 to locate them.
Around this time Earl Spencer, Diana's brother, decided to intervene. He told American television audiences that at best "the romance my sister had with Dodi al-Fayed was no more than a summer fling. She had absolutely no intention to marry him."
Mohamed al-Fayed pointed out, with some justification, that the relationship between Spencer and Diana was hardly close at the time of her death.
None of this was any surprise to Ari Ben-Menashe. He had continued to follow the never-ending saga of al-Fayed's attempts "to prove his fixation that the Queen and Prince Philip organized a plot to kill Diana."
The highly experienced Israeli intelligence officer felt that, "in throwing in his lot with Richard Tomlinson, al-Fayed had lost the plot. He is now reduced to running to the tabloids. Yet I know for a fact that if he had gone about matters properly and organized a serious investigation he would have turned up some very surprising results. There is something very strange about the deaths of Diana and Dodi. No doubt about it. There was a case to investigate. But the trail has been muddied by al-Fayed himself. It may not even be his fault. He is surrounded by people who tell him to look here, not there. For some of them, keeping the whole thing going is a sort of pension for them. They know that every new, half-baked theory they come up with will encourage al-Fayed to spend more of his money in pursuing it. Along the way he tramples out of sight what evidence there may have been to uncover."
A hint of what that could be came in late June 1999 when it emerged that the mysterious white Fiat Uno seen zigzagging way from the scene of the death crash of Diana and Dodi was destroyed in a car crusher. In moments the Uno, from which traces of paint scrapes had been found in the tunnel, had been reduced to a block of scrap metal.
The claim was contained in a secret Mossad investigation that began within hours of the fatal crash. It had been launched by Mossad's then director general, Danny Yatom. He had been concerned that Mossad's determined attempts to recruit Henri Paul could lead to accusation that this had played a part in Diana's death.
The investigation focused on a period that covered the two weeks before the accident--or what al-Fayed still calls "the appearance of an accident to cover up murder"--and the days afterwards.
Mossad investigators discovered that as well as the agency's own presence in Paris prior to the death of the couple, there was a four-manMI6 team in the city. They were based at the British Embassy for the first week, but later moved into a rented apartment--"an MI6 safe house"--near the Ritz. One of the team checked into the hotel itself four days before the death of Dodi and Diana.
The Mossad report reveals that around August 14/15 1997, a CIA team also arrived in the city. The team had been tracking Diana for some time, keeping tabs on her attacks on land mine manufacturers, many of which are U.S.-based.
The CIA reports form part of the 1,051 documents Mohamed al-Fayed has to battle through the American courts to obtain copies of. The U.S. Justice Department has claimed the documents contained material "sensitive to national security."
The Mossad report suggests that sensitivity could refer to why Britain had asked the United States to help in monitoring Diana.
"Britain saw her as a loose cannon," insisted al-Fayed. "In fact she was a woman of great courage who was ready to confront the land mines issue."
The Mossad investigation details how the various intelligence services hurriedly left Paris after the deaths of Diana and Dodi.
Mossad's report contains a detailed timetable of Dodi and Diana's last hours. It is partly based on firsthand observations by Maurice and his contacts. Other information came from Mossad's "back channel" contacts with agents in the French capital, from MI6, the CIA, and French Intelligence.
"I have been told by a former senior Israeli intelligence officer that all those services had a vested interest in Diana and Dodi," Mohamed al-Fayed has insisted.
Mossad's account of the final moments of the lives of Diana and Dodi begins at 11 :45 P.M. Saturday, August 29, 1997, when Henri Paul was put in charge of the operation to whisk them away from the Ritz Hotel.
Mohamed al-Fayed still remembers vividly the instruction he had telephoned to Paul.
"I told him he must drive carefully, that he must never forget he had the life of the mother of the future king of England and my beloved son in his hands. I trusted him never to forget that. God knows, how I trusted him. God only knows now why I did."
The next Mossad entry is 11:50 P.M. In the Ritz bar Trevor Rees-Jones, who was there to body-guard Diana and Dodi, was in a huddlewith other security men from the hotel staff and Henri Paul, discussing the route he would use.
Paul was very bullish. He said the hotel would provide two Range Rovers to act as decoys for the waiting paparazzi. That would give him enough time to get away. Rees-Jones is reported to have said the plan "sounds good to me."
00:15 A.M. Sunday, August 30. In the hotel lobby Henri Paul was using his cell phone to mobilize the two decoy vehicles.
00:19 A.M. The two decoy vehicles roared out of the Place Vendome that fronts the Ritz. Paparazzi give chase.
00:20 A.M. At the hotel's rear entrance Paul arrived with the Mercedes. He was seen by one of the eyewitnesses that Mossad subsequently interviewed as "drumming his fingers nervously on the steering wheel."
00:21 A.M. At the top of the Rue Cambon, a Mossad agent kept watch. He would later report that "a white Fiat Uno passed the top of the street."
The Mossad report states that in the car were two intelligence officers from the French security service, DST. The DST--more formally known as the Directorate for Surveillance of the Territory--is the largest and most powerful of France's intelligence agencies. With several thousand employees, it operates both internally and overseas. Its wide-ranging responsibilities include surveillance of all foreign embassies in Paris and conducting a number of clandestine operations. It reports to the incumbent minister of the interior.
00:22 A.M. The white Fiat Uno passed through traffic lights in the Place de la Concorde. Henri Paul's Mercedes is forced to temporarily stop at the lights.
00:23 A.M. The Mercedes approaches the Alma tunnel. Henri Paul would most certainly have seen the white Uno ahead of him.
00:24 A.M. The Mercedes, traveling at high speed, passed over the dip at the tunnel entrance. In the back seat Diana and Dodi would have experienced for a split second a sensation not unlike that of a plunging roller-coaster.
Seconds later there came a thunderous noise inside the tunnel. A roaring screeching of metal, a reverberating, crumping sound that seemed to go on and on.
Henri Paul and Dodi were dead. Diana was dying.
Moments later, according to the Mossad report, the white Uno had driven into a side street off the Avenue Montalgne. Waiting there wasa pentachnicon, its ramp lowered. The Uno had driven up the ramp. The pentachnicon's doors had been closed.
Hours later the Uno had been gripped in the claws of the crusher. In moments it had become a piece of crushed metal, devoid of any identification.
There, at the time of writing, the matter rests. Can Tomlinson produce anything new? Could Ben-Menashe have found evidence that would finally satisfy al-Fayed's belief in a conspiracy? Was Diana really pregnant at the time of her death? Had Mohamed al-Fayed become so blinded by grief mingled with anger that he was ready to make this thesis fit the facts?
These questions will be revisited well into this new century. But they may never be answered fully enough to satisfy Mohamed al-Fayed or convince all those who believe him a dangerously misguided man who is using vast sums of money to nail down a truth that may, just may, be best kept under lock and key by all those directly involved.
Some of Maurice's colleagues have increasingly felt that the attempt to entrap Henri Paul was additional proof that Mossad has lurched a little further out of control, carrying out reckless international operations without taking into account the potential long-term consequences for itself, for Israel, for peace in the Middle East, and, ultimately, for the relationship with the Jewish state's oldest and closest ally, the United States of America. Several officers claimed that since Benyamin Netanyahu became prime minister in 1996, matters have worsened.
A veteran member of the Israeli intelligence community has said: "People are seeing those who work for Mossad are often thugs masquerading as patriots. That is bad for us [and] for morale, and, in the end, will have a bad effect on Mossad's relationship with other services."
Another experienced Israeli intelligence officer was equally blunt: "Netanyahu behaves as if Mossad is part of his own version of the Court of King Arthur; something new every day or the knights of his own Round Table get bored. That's why things have gone very wrong with Mossad. There's a need to ring the alarm bell before it's too late."
The first lesson I learned during a quarter of a century of writing about secret intelligence is that deception and disinformation areits stock-in-trade, along with subversion, corruption, blackmail, and, sometimes, assassination. Agents are trained to lie and to use and abuse friendships. They are the very opposite of the dictum that gentlemen do not read each other's mail.
I first encountered their behavior while investigating many of the great spy scandals of the Cold War: the betrayal of America's atomic bomb secrets by Klaus Fuchs, and the compromising of Britain's MI5 and MI6 by Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, and Kim Philby. Each made treachery and duplicity his byword. I also was one of the first writers to gain access to the CIA's obsession with mind control, a preoccupation the Agency was forced to confirm ten years after my book on the subject, Journey into Madness, appeared. Denial is the black art all intelligence services long ago perfected.
Nevertheless, in getting to the truth, I was greatly helped by two professional intelligence officers: Joachim Kraner, my late father-in-law, who ran an MI6 network in Dresden in the post-World War II years, and Bill Buckley, who was station chief of the CIA in Beirut. Physically they were similar: tall, lean, and trim, with chins ready to confront trouble halfway. Their eyes revealed little--except to say if you weren't part of the answer, you had to be part of the problem. Intellectually formidable, their criticism of the agencies they served at times was astringent.
Both constantly reminded me that a great deal can be heard from what Bill called "murmurs in the mush": a deadly skirmish fought in an alley with no name; the collective hold-your-breath when an agent or network is blown; a covert operation that could have undone years of overt political bridge building; a snippet of mundane information that completed a particular intelligence jigsaw. Joachim added that "sometimes a few words, casually offered, could often throw a new light on something."
Proud of being members of what he called "the second oldest profession," both not only were my friends, but convinced me that secret intelligence is the key to fully understanding international relations, global politics, and diplomacy--and, of course, terrorism. Through them I made contacts in a number of military and civilian intelligence agencies: Germany's BND and France's DGSE; the CIA; Canadian and British services.
Joachim died in retirement; Bill was murdered by Islamic fundamentalistswho kidnapped him in Beirut and triggered the Western hostage crisis in that city.
I also met members of Israel's intelligence community who first helped me by filling in the background of Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish fanatic who attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul in St. Peter's Square, Rome, in May 1981. Those contacts were arranged by Simon Wiesenthal, the renowned Nazi hunter and an invaluable Mossad "source" for over forty years. Because of his fame and reputation, Wiesenthal still finds doors readily open, especially in Washington.
It was in that city in March 1986 that I learned a little more of the tangled relationship between the intelligence communities of the United States and Israel. I was there to interview William Casey, then the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, as ongoing research for my book Journey into Madness, which deals in part with the death of Bill Buckley.
Despite his customized suit, Casey was a shambling figure. His jowled face was pale and the rims of his eyes were red as we sat in a Washington club; he looked like someone whose ectoplasm was running out after five years of directing the CIA.
Over a Perrier he confirmed the conditions for our meeting. No notes, no tape recordings; anything he said would be purely background. He then produced a sheet of plain paper on which were typed his biographical details. He had been born in New York on March 13, 1913, and graduated from St. John's University in 1937 with a law degree. Commissioned into the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1943, within months he had transferred to the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA. In 1944 he became chief of the OSS Special Intelligence Branch in Europe. Next came the chairmanship of the Securities and Exchange Commission (1971-73); then, in quick succession, he was undersecretary of state for economic affairs (1973-74); president and chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (1974-76); and a member of the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (1976-77). In 1980 he became campaign manager for Ronald Reagan's successful bid for the presidency. A year later, on January 28, 1981, Reagan appointed him DCI, the thirteenth man to hold the single most powerful office in the U.S. intelligence community.
In response to my remark that he appeared to have been a pair of safe hands in a number of posts, Casey sipped more water and mumbled he "didn't want to get into the personal side of things."
He put the paper back into his pocket and sat, watchful and waiting for my first question: what could he tell me about Bill Buckley, who, almost two years earlier to the day--on Friday, March 16, 1984--had been kidnapped in Beirut and was now dead. I wanted to know what efforts the CIA had made to try to save Bill's life. I had spent time in the Middle East, including Israel, trying to piece together the background.
"You speak to Admoni or any of his people?" Casey interrupted.
In 1982, Nahum Admoni had become head of Mossad. On Tel Aviv's embassy cocktail circuit, he had a hard-nosed reputation. Casey characterized Admoni as "a Jew who'd want to win a pissing contest on a rainy night in Gdansk." More certain, Admoni had been born in Jerusalem in 1929, the son of middle-class Polish immigrants. Educated at the city's Rehavia Gymnasium, he developed linguistic skills that had earned him a lieutenant's stripes as an intelligence officer in the 1948 War of Independence.
"Admoni can listen in half a dozen languages," was Casey's judgment.
Later, Admoni had studied international relations at Berkeley and taught the subject at the Mossad training school on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. He'd also worked undercover in Ethiopia, in Paris, and in Washington, where Admoni had linked closely with Casey's predecessors, Richard Helms and William Colby. These postings had helped hone Admoni into a soft-spoken intelligence bureaucrat who, when he became Mossad's chief, in Casey's words, "ran a tight ship. Socially gregarious, he has as keen an eye for women as for what's best for Israel."
Casey's thumbnail sketch was of an operative who, he said, had "climbed through the ranks because of his skills at avoiding his superiors' 'corns.'"
His next words came in the same mumbling undertone.
"Nobody can surprise like someone you took to be friendly disposed. By the time we realized Admoni was going to do nothing, Bill Buckley was dead. Remember what it was like at the time over there? There had been the massacre of almost a thousand Palestinians in those two Beirut refugee camps. The Lebanese Christian forces did the killings; the Jews looked on in a kind of reversal of the Bible. Fact is, Admoni was in bed with that thug, Gemayel."
Bashir Gemayel was head of the Phalangists and later became president of Lebanon.
"We ran Gemayel as well, but I never trusted the bastard. And Admoni worked with Gemayel all the time Buckley was being tortured. We had no idea where exactly in Beirut Bill was held. We asked Admoni to find out. He said no problem. We waited and waited. Sent our best men to Tel Aviv to work with Mossad. We said money was not a problem. Admoni kept saying okay, understood."
Casey sipped more water, locked in his own time capsule. His next words came out flat, like a jury foreman handing down a verdict.
"Next thing Admoni was selling us a bill of goods that the PLO were behind the kidnapping. We knew the Israelis were always ready to blame Yasser Arafat for anything, and our people did not buy at first. But Admoni was very plausible. He made a good case. By the time we figured it wasn't Arafat, it was long over for Buckley. What we didn't know was that Mossad had also been playing real dirty pool--supplying the Hezbollah with arms to kill the Christians while at the same time giving the Christians more guns to kill the Palestinians."
Casey's less-than-full glimpse of what the CIA now believed had happened to Bill Buckley--that Mossad had deliberately done nothing to save him in the hope the PLO could be blamed, so frustrating Arafat's hopes of gaining sympathy in Washington--provided a chilling insight into the relationship between two intelligence services supposedly friendly with each other.
Casey had shown there was another side to the ties between the United States and Israel other than fund-raising and other manifestations of American-Jewish solidarity that has turned the Jewish state into a regional superpower out of a fear of the Arab enemy.
Before we parted, Casey had a final thought: "A nation creates the intelligence community it needs. America relies on technical expertise because we are concerned to discover, rather than secretly rule. The Israelis operate differently. Mossad, in particular, equates its actions with the country's survival."
This attitude has long made Mossad immune to close scrutiny. But, in two years of research for this book, a series of mistakes--scandals in some cases--has forced the service into Israel's public consciousness. Questions have been asked, and, if the answers are rarely volunteered,gaps have begun to appear in the protective body armor Mossad has worn against that outside world.
I spoke to more than a hundred persons either directly employed by, or working indirectly for, Israeli and other intelligence services. The interviews were spread over two and a half years. Many of the key people in Mossad agreed to be taped. Those recordings run to eighty hours and are transcribed to some 5,800 pages. There are also some fifteen foolscap notebooks filled with contemporaneous notes. This material will, as with previous books of mine, find their place in the research section of a university library. Several of those I spoke to urged I should focus on recent events; the past should only be used to illustrate events that are relevant to Mossad's role at the cutting edge of the current frontiers of espionage and intelligence gathering. Many interviews were with participants who had not been questioned before; often no amount of probing could produce a comfortingly simple explanation for the way they or others behaved. Many were surprisingly frank, though not all agreed to be fully identified. In the case of serving Mossad personnel, they are prevented by Israeli law from voluntarily allowing their names to be published. Some of the non-Israeli sources asked, and received, a guarantee of anonymity.
On the organization charts newspapers try to piece together and publish, many sources remain among the empty spaces. They still take their anonymity seriously and some wish to be known in these pages by an alias or only a first name: it does not make their testimony less valid. Their personal motives for breaking silence may be many: a need to secure their own place in history; a desire to justify their actions ; the anecdotage of old men; even perhaps expiation. The same can be said for those who agreed to be identified.
Perhaps the best motive of all that drove them to break silence was a real and genuine fear that an organization they had served with pride was increasingly endangered from within--and that the only way to save it was to reveal what it had achieved in the past and what it is doing today. To understand both requires knowing how and why it was created.
GIDEON'S SPIES. Copyright © 1995, 1999, 2005, 2007, 2009 by Gordon Thomas. All rights reserved. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.