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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Canada, Israel, spooks and killers

Haaretz has published a strange story about an Israeli spy who participated in an assassination in Dubai back in 2010. (In Mossad parlance, squads of this sort are called "Kidon" teams.) The target was a Hamas leader named Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Haaretz reports that the government of Canada granted this assassin a new passport and has allowed him to live under an assumed name in that country. Happily ever after, and all that.

The source for the story is an Canadian-Iranian "businessman" named Arian Azarbar -- who is a very intriguing figure in his own right.

My initial reaction: It's a little odd to see an Israeli newspaper disclose that the Canadian government does that sort of favor for Israeli assassins on the run. Of course, lots of other newspapers around the world carried the same story, so it's not as though Haaretz pulled a Snowden.

This article indicates that Azarbar may himself be a spy -- although he denies the charge. He had romanced a woman named Trina Kennedy, a Canadian public official, who got into no small amount of trouble when the affair was revealed. Azarbar says that Kennedy (who was involved with issuing the new passport) had, in an inebriated moment, disclosed Canada's aid to the Israeli assassin.

But did it really happen that way...?

Just to make things interesting, this piece by Richard Silverstein claims that Kennedy was herself a Canadian spy assigned to seduce Azarbar. Silverstein claims to have confirmed this through his own sources. (A Canadian honeytrap? Maybe that's why they call them "Mounties.")
There are many astonishing aspects of this story. First, in light of Israel cloning passports of dual citizens of nations like France, Ireland, Australia and the UK, it didn’t even have to take the trouble with Canada. That nation perpetrated the identity fraud on Israel’s behalf. Can you imagine a country creating a fake identity for an intelligence agent of a foreign country? It beggars belief. Second, this means that Canada doesn’t tolerate the presence of Mossad agents on its soil, it welcomes them. A country like the U.S. begrudgingly accepts that Israel is the third most intensive intelligence presence inside the U.S.. But not Canada. It’s motto is the old Monty Hall shout-out to the TV prize winner: “come on down!”
Here's an oddity: The name of the Kidon killer who did the Dubai job had not been divulged by anyone -- even by Silverstein, a critic of the Israeli government. Yet journalists covering the story are well aware of this man's identity.

Interesting, isn't it, that Canadian newspapers are willing to disclose Kennedy's name but not the name of the assassin? Particularly since there seems to be something spooky aboot Kennedy herself, eh?

Canada is making a habit of this sort of thing. North Korea claims that, last year, it uncovered another Israeli spook using a Canadian passport. His name is Zev William Barkan. Pretending to be a Canadian named Kevin Hunter, he got into Pyongyang and somehow arranged an explosion on a train, killing a dozen scientists from Syria. The Syrians allegedly were helping the North Koreans do -- well, something bad. I don't know what.

Barkan has had a remarkable history of fun-n-games. Could he be the guy who did the hit in Dubai? Probably not, but I bet Barkan knows who he is.
But in 1997, seven years earlier, Israel-Canadian relations were rocked after two Mossad agents carrying Canadian passports were caught trying to kill Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Jordan. Mashal was injected in the ear with a poisonous toxin.
Something very similar happened to al-Mabhouh, who was "paralyzed" by whatever was injected into him.

The 1997 incident, which was exposed and became something of a scandal, led to a formal Israeli promise that they would stop using Canadian passports. I guess that agreement no longer holds, if ever it did.

And of course, there's Ari. Some time ago, we discussed the strange case of Ari Ben-Menashe, the former Israeli spook who became well-known to everyone following Iran-contra and the October Surprise controversy. He too ended up living in the land of the Maple Leaf.

The Israeli government has long denied that Ben-Menashe was a spy -- but then again, the Israeli government still denies any involvement in the killing of al-Mabhouh.

Although Ben-Menashe is now supposedly in the "grain export" business -- I pause to allow you a good snicker -- his house was firebombed in December of 2012. This happened after he got on the bad side of Dr. Arthur Porter, who oversaw Canada's intelligence services.

Speaking of Porter: Porter has had an interesting life since the last time he was mentioned in this blog. He was detained in Panama by Interpol when Canada issued a warrant for his arrest.
He faces charges in Canada of fraud, conspiracy to commit government fraud, abuse of trust, secret commissions and laundering the proceeds of a crime. Porter's wife is facing charges of laundering the proceeds of a crime and for conspiracy.
I presume that the Canadians did not expect the Porters to return home, or they would have held off on that warrant.

Porter is accused of making sure that a massive $1.3 billion construction contract went to a firm called SNC-Lavalin, at the center of a large scandal in Quebec. SNC is said to have had odd ties to Qaddafi, and they have even deeper ties to both Saudi Arabia and Israel.

No, I can't tie all this together into a single, coherent narrative! Maybe a reader can put a story together, but I can't. Nevertheless, these disparate facts seem worth noting.

More on Canada and Israeli spooks: You don't have to do much research to see the links.

First and foremost is the case of Michael Ross, who was Mossad's liaison to the CIA and FBI (among many other things); he now lives in Canada and has done work for that country's intelligence services.

Canada has also provided cover to Israeli spies in the Middle East.

The Canadian government appears to be quite willing to tell the Israelis all about Canadian citizens who have favored the Palestinian cause.
The ardently pro-Israel Conservative government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly equated expressions of support for Palestinian rights with extremism.
The Conservatives have also strengthened Canadian intelligence cooperation with Israel. In early 2008 Ottawa signed a wide-ranging “border management and security” agreement with Israel, even though the two countries do not share a border. The agreement is rather vague, but includes sharing information, cooperating on illegal immigration, cooperating on law enforcement, etc. This agreement is an attempt to formalize some aspects of the CSIS’s relationship with the Mossad, Israel’s international intelligence agency.
One possible reason for all of this: Israeli has hacked everything worth hacking in the security services of Canada (and other countries, of course). It's fair to presume that they found some material which bestowed upon them the magical powers of leverage.

Maybe that's the reason why Canada is now regarded as the new Spook Heaven:
Canada is today one of the world’s safest and most attractive environments for international spies, according to a former officer in the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

Michel Juneau-Katsuya, who last September co-authored Nest of Spies with Montreal-based journalist Fabrice de Pierrebourg, says that Canada is doing little to combat increasing espionage activity within its borders by agents of friendly and adversary nations alike, including China, Iran, Israel, the United States, and France. Juneau-Katsuya suggests that international spying within Canada is encouraged by the country’s prosperity, its multicultural urban environment, advanced telecommunications infrastructure, as well as by its political or geographical proximity to major world powers, such as Russia and the United States. The former CSIS officer also warns that foreign spies operating in Canada are becoming increasingly daring in their activities, encouraged by Canada’s limited counterintelligence operations –the country has not prosecuted a single foreign spy in nearly two decades. Juneau-Katsuya also claims that economic espionage costs the Canadian economy “an estimated $1 billion a month”.
Really? I'd like to hear more about that.

(Older readers may recall that the original Spook Heaven was a notorious CIA base in Laos.)
What is Canada getting out of it tho? The govt I mean.
On the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, here's a thread to pull on: how did they get through the keycard-protected hotel room door?

Two of the kill team played their part wearing tennis gear. Two-guys-in-tennis-gear has now become a staple theme in Israeli comedy.

(Got to mention here that when Israel blew up the car of Ahmad al-Jabari in Gaza, they put a video of the attack, shot from above, on the front page of their Foreign Ministry's website.)

The way the Dubai economy is run has long struck me as peculiar, given that all that's required to collapse its visitor revenue is a single Israeli missile strike. Why not invest the oil money abroad, like most of the other oil-rich Arab states do (and as, for that matter, Norway does)? DEAL?
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