Saturday, 16 February 2013

Authorities wait for Zygier story to die

Spies can be anywhere.
New information on the Prisoner X case and Ben Zygier's death seems to have dried up. In a long and informative wrap-up, Fairfax Media's Ruth Pollard discusses what's known so far in the Zygier case, but there's no new facts to leaven the material. Over at Rupert Murdoch's Australian, it's reported via quotes from "a senior Israeli official" that fresh inquiries from Australian authorities would not be likely because the Gillard government "already had detailed knowledge of the case".
"Every day that goes by you see how deeply involved they were," the official told The Weekend Australian.
"They interrogated him, they suspected him, they knew many things.
"It is clear they were in the know long before he died.
"Then when the coffin was returned to Australia, they knew he was not some backpacker who got lost trekking."
But apart from these details, which come from an anonymous source and are, in any case, mostly speculation, no new information enters the story. Both Australian authorities and Israeli authorities are keeping tight-lipped and are just waiting for public interest to wane, which will see media attention falter and cease. In addition, members of Zygier's family are not talking to the press. News Ltd tried additionally to talk with family members of other Australians whose passports were used by Mossad, but came away with nothing.

What seems clear is that attention from Australia's domestic spy agency, ASIO, and an approach by a Fairfax journalist brought Zygier to the attention of Shin Bet, Israel's domestic spy agency. After this it appears that he was incarcerated in Ayalon prison where he would die 10 months later, in December 2010. ASIO was alerted to Zygier because he kept on changing his legal name in Australia, resulting in the issuing to him of multiple passports, a red flag for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Most people watching the case will assume that the use of passports like Zygier's by Mossad in the Dubai assassination of a senior Palestinian figure would have been enough to make Israel imprison Zygier if he was suspected of passing such information to people outside the agency. The question of whether in fact, and for how long, Zygier worked for Mossad remains uncertain.

What is certain is that both governments are keen to maintain the thick blanket of secrecy that surrounds their intelligence agencies, and so they are stying mum. It's a waiting game for them. I don't expect much new material to be released in the near future, unless a journalist is able to make another anonymous connection with someone with inside knowledge.

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