Is the Mossad a desirable agency?

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Is the Mossad a desirable agency?


Last year, I interviewed a former section chief at the Mossad, the national intelligence agency of Israel, in Tel Aviv. We met at a small cafe on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and I was slightly disappointed by his appearance: He looked more like an old college professor than a former spy. He responded to my questions in a gentle voice. However, when the conversation shifted to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, his attitude changed entirely. He stressed every word as he said, “Israel would not give up on any available option to prevent Iran from possessing nuclear weapons.” His determined tone was chilling.

A young Iranian nuclear scientist was killed in a bombing in Teheran a few days ago. The victim, an expert on gas separation, was working at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility. A magnetic bomb was attached underneath his car as he reported to work in the morning, and he was killed instantly when it detonated. He is the fourth Iranian nuclear scientist to be killed in the last two years. In 2010, two scientists were killed in a similar car bombing, and another was shot to death by a gunman on a motorcycle in July 2011. Every time, the Iranian government said Israel and its Western allies were responsible, claiming that Mossad was orchestrating the attacks. This time Israel maintains its “neither confirm nor deny (NCND)” policy.

Mossad was created in 1949, the year after Israel was founded, and reports directly to the prime minister. Israel needed a capable intelligence agency to ensure the survival of the fledgling state, surrounded by some one billion Arabs in neighboring countries. Mossad is proud to have secured the safety of Israel using all possible strategies. The 1,200-member elite squad is famous for leaving nothing on the table, pursuing raids, abductions and assassinations for the security of Israel.

Gordon Thomas, a BBC writer and producer, had interviewed over 200 people related to Mossad to write “Gideon’s Spies: Mossad’s Secret Warriors.” According to Thomas retaliation and prevention are the two pillars of Mossad’s covert operations.

But is it really okay to kill someone in order to survive? It may originate from the misguided sense of “God’s chosen people.” Some criticize the National Intelligence Service for not being as aggressive and thorough as the Mossad. However, I am not sure if we are lucky or unlucky to have an incompetent intelligence agency.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Bae Myung-bok
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