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Prisoner X

Prisoner X

The mother of all mysteries, making Stuxnet look like a B-grade movie, is unfolding in Israel over Prisoner X.

The New York Times has a good summary:

The story had all the trappings of a spy thriller: an anonymous prisoner linked to Israel’s secret service, Mossad, isolated in a top-security wing originally built for the assassin of a prime minister. A suicide — or was it a murder? — never officially reported. A gag order that barred journalists from even acknowledging the gag order. And a code name to rival 007: Prisoner X….

The Australian report, a half-hour segment based on a 10-month investigation that was broadcast Tuesday on the ABC News magazine program “Foreign Correspondent,” identified Prisoner X as Ben Zygier and said he had used the name Ben Alon in Israel. Mr. Zygier immigrated to Israel about a decade before his death at age 34, married an Israeli woman and had two small children, according to the report.

“ABC understands he was recruited by spy agency Mossad,” read a post on the Australian network’s Web site. “His incarceration was so secret that it is claimed not even guards knew his identity.” Mr. Zygier “was found hanged in a cell with state-of-the-art surveillance systems that are installed to prevent suicide,” it said, adding that guards tried unsuccessfully to revive him and that he was buried a week later in a Jewish cemetery in a suburb of Melbourne.

DEBKAfile notes that the reporting only raises questions, with few answers:

ABC reporters left no stone unturned to discover the reason for the extraordinary cover-up by the Israeli government….

A senior Israeli intelligence official, who remained anonymous, told Australian TV that if what Ben Zygier did and knew were made public, it would pose an immediate threat to Israel as a nation state….

The Australian new investigators assumed that whatever crime or sin Ben Zygier committed, it must have involved espionage, possibly treachery, and very, very sensitive information endangering Israel. Still, despite their best professional efforts, ABC’s reporters did not find a single lead to the mysterious story of Prisoner X or verify any wild conjectures.

The Australian Broadcasting Company broke the story, here’s the report (transcript here):


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When did ABC News go back into the ‘news’ business?

If they did? — Now, THAT would be news.

This is the kind of scandal that brings governments down. To jail one of your own without a trial or the ability to see a lawyer and possibly murder him? This couldnt have been done without Bibi’s okay. And he’s having enough trouble putting together a coalition already.

    You are willing to posit a conspiracy to make a murder look like a suicide yet you are certain the conspiracy must include the putative head of the government?

    Why stop there? Why not posit the existence of a shadow government acting beyond the knowledge or control of any PM – one that has been pulling all the strings all along.

      Is it really outrageous to say that Bibi knew? Someone as hands on as that on security matters? Who else in the government would have the authority to make an Israeli citizen disappear? This is not a crazy theory.

        What you suspect is certainly a possible conclusion, but you have not given any specific reason why it is the foregone conclusion.

        Do you really think intelligence agency don’t keep secrets? It is entirely possible that many people in the Israeli government decided it was in their best interests not to know anything.

    “To jail one of your own without a trial or the ability to see a lawyer and possibly murder him?”

    While not pretty, it is certainly something most of us would support, depending on what “due process” was afforded. Note that is not “judicial process” necessarily.

    It would depend a great deal on the stakes, which the information hints were the very highest national security concerns.

    Many of us have no problem with killing jihadist Americans with drone-launched munitions, in principle. We DO have a problem with it being done without any over-sight from other branches, and on the very plastic predicates the Obami have laid out.

    Whether it is a good policy on practical grounds is also another argument, since you waste potentially valuable intel. That is not in play here, apparently.

    After the reporter badly misstated international law and customs it dawned on me this was merely another shabby manufactured anti-Semitic rant. Sorry. No sale.

Maybe he had proof Netanyahu is really a Romanov.

Common sense says this was a suicide. Sure it’s exciting to think that it was a super secret assassination, but if the government really wanted him dead they’d have gotten him out of the 24/7 surveillance cell a while ago and moved him someplace where a ‘suicide’ or other form of death would not be quite so curious.

Or maybe they’d drop him out in the Yemeni desert and trick Obammy into take him out with a drone strike.

My guess? His cell surveillance included some sort of private zone – like the commode. But with the proviso that his monitors had to physically check on him if he stayed in that zone for longer than a designated period. That time being probably not more than a few minutes, and not specifically disclosed to the prisoner.

But one he was still able to figure out, and exploit anyway (trained spy don’t forget.)

    BannedbytheGuardian in reply to ThomasD. | February 13, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    WTF is ‘Obammy’? This is stupid & childish completely independent of logic . Why would there be 2 ms?

      Touched a nerve, did I?

      It’s sort of like Bushitler.

      Only without the overt reference to a genocidal totalitarian socialist.

        BannedbytheGuardian in reply to ThomasD. | February 14, 2013 at 2:01 am

        No , because it makes posts mockable when they are. discused on left sites. It spells weakness.

          Sigh /pedantism on.

          It a diminutive. As noted, we do this to our politicians. Some of us also have little concern for foreigners reading our blogs who lack understanding of our culture. Not to say that I don’t appreciate their interest, just that I’m not addressing them.

          Also, since you seem truly puzzled, it shift the ephasis in pronunciation, drawing attnetion to the ‘bam.’ In the US ‘bam’ is an expression that often denotes a strike or sudden violent action – thus reinforcing the violence inherent in the otherwise sterile act of ordering a drone strike.

          /pedantism off.

      Longstanding American tradition of making fun of our elected officials.

The Guardian is running a story on Ben Zygier, but curiously, it doesn’t mention “Prisoner X” (except in the sidebar). It popped up on Google News, which must mean it’s getting lots of hits. Mossad and Australian spies: how Fairfax reporter homed in on Zygier

Nobody (except a few in the highest levels of Israeli government) has the slightest clue as to what this is all about. It’s fun to speculate, and I’m as curious as anyone to know what this is about, but for all we know, the guy might still be alive. I know he was supposedly buried, and maybe her really did die.

The guy from Human Rights Watch is a real piece of work. Doesn’t have a clue as to what’s going on, but is convinced the world needs to know about it. The Mossad is usually 3 steps ahead of everyone when it comes to these things. The story could have been deliberatly leaked by the Mossad for reasons we don’t even know. Maybe 50 years from now the truth will come out.

Clearly, Mr. Zygier’s father fired the second shot at JFK from the grassy knoll.

Five items and more, strike me as outrageous about this entire post/thread:

1] Using the website ‘DEBKAfile’ as a reference source: a common tool of Mossad.
2] Referencing ‘Human Rights Watch’ within the thread: a common tool of the left, socialists and general haters of Western society.
3] Referencing ‘Mossad’ both in the post and the thread: a government intelligence agency.
4] Appealing to common sense within the thread; a rare and uncommon treasure possessed by anyone with over a basic education.
5] Trusting the VERACITY and truth telling capacity of a media professional (snicker), as if being from a different country than the USA now makes him the Virgin Prince! He’s of the same breed of creature that has historically been called propagandists, gossipmonger, snoop and talebearer. But he’s an Aussie recalling a tip from 2009 and then posting his story in a left-wing British newspaper. Very creditable, Matey!

Now, everyone knows that a broken clock will be right at least twice a day – but 5 broken clocks hooked up in series and then expecting an accurate outcome? Listen, I have some ocean front property right outside Omaha Nebraska that I’ll sell cheap – first come, first served!

BannedbytheGuardian | February 13, 2013 at 5:06 pm

The ‘Melbourne Jewish community is a well ordered discreet & long time financier & friend of Israel. ustralia authorities have long looked the other way in the face of considerable money laundering for over 100 years.

There has been a big split in the Zionist aspect – those who align themselves with the NY Orthodox mentality & It’s Svengali rabbis & those that quietly & steadfastly support the Nation of Israel . hey are not the same – which is why I described Dershowitz as NY centric.

Yankel Rosenbaum was into NY & Ben Zyglier was the Israel Firster. Both came for prominent families.

On a federal level Australia has always been pro Israel. However the left has long memories eg Mordechai Vanunu . Whilst the Left faction ihighly likely to lose influence in the Sep elections , they can do some real a damage .

The current Labor Party ‘s Pm & Foreign Affairs Minister are Pro Israel . They lost the power to vote against the Un ratification of Palestine.They were forced to absent . There is considerable anger over Israel use & abuse of Australian citizen’s passports & the PM almost lost her position .

When I argued how damaging this was for Israel with another poster on here , I could not say that I had heard other rumblings of a more sinister nature.

This is very dangerous for Israel . The Federal Government will not be able to hide what they obviously already knew.

They can kill their own citizens but not ours – even if Ben went willingly into the den.

Any of you can rationalise this all you want , but the ball is in tAustralia’s court & they cannot just bring in the Ambassador for the usual wrist slap. As a member o The Security Council they cannot hide.

BannedbytheGuardian | February 13, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Sorry for a few missing letters , but It is one of those posts that if I it it , I would delete it.

A first reaction is more true than a considered.& revised post.

Ps – I am big fan of the Melbourne Jewish community.. The Sydney community not so much.

AND FURTHERMORE…. Has anyone else noticed (or am I just paranoid) how the Obama Administration does business? It seems obvious to me.

1] They promote a radical approach to a socially touchy concept, such as gun control let’s say. Something that’s really not all that important to them.
2] While the media professionals (snicker) are promoting that conflict, Obama and the Democrats are busy passing a flood of unreported Executive Orders and governmental regulations.
3] This is all very similar to spending the night getting outrageously drunk, then waking up in the morning with the ugliest prostitute ever to walk the earth – and a host of STD’s.

Everything about Obama is ‘smoke & mirrors’ – a good technique for getting something done, eh? Applying that technique to this supposed ‘suicide’… My first question would be, who has the most to gain and who wants to see the leadership of Israel stumble and fall. Hmmm….the list is long, but also specific.

    BannedbytheGuardian in reply to David Yotham. | February 13, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    I don’t see that this has anything to do with Obama even though I can agree with your strategy analysis. Are you here on this thread to serve as a diverter?

    The word here is Zieglier was imprisoned for High Treason.

    Ziegler Is dead at the hands of the Israelis.

    This is the subject .

    Uncle Samuel in reply to David Yotham. | February 14, 2013 at 6:17 am

    I resent the Friday night news dumps and especially the over/mis-use of executive orders and going around Congress to achieve leftist agenda objectives.

    More than anything, I resent the Looting and Destruction (fiscally, morally and militarily) of America is obviously Obama’s key objective.

    But I resent the Republicans most for not stopping him.

Bravo! You done broke the code!

I lost all interest when I find the transcript is based upon an interview with Bill Van Esveld of Human Rights Watch. HRW is anti-Israel, blaming every incident in the middle east on the Israelis.

So I have little faith in anything that the Australian Broadcasting Company has to say about Prisoner X who most likely doesn’t even exist.

BannedbytheGuardian | February 14, 2013 at 2:30 am

It has been confirmed by both Australia & Israel . Amazing what a decent investigation brings out.

You guys can’t & won’t see that Israel f*cks up like everyone else. It is very telling he was brought back & not buried In the Jewish homeland where he had lived for 10 years.

Which is also handy because now they can exhume him & we can check for torture.

His story deserves to be told .

    No. Nobody has a right to have their story told under any and every circumstance.

    Nobody has the right to every story, every fact, every document of state.

    If this story is dangerous to the state of Israel, it must be withheld.

“When did ABC News go back into the ‘news’ business?”

When they found a story that could be damaging to Israel. “Progressives” love anything that could be damaging to Israel.

Here is my take: Israel does not have a history of detaining large numbers of people in this fashion. This seems to be a very special case. It could well be perfectly true that information about this case could be extremely damaging to the country. Judging from the number of different people that have heard different portions of this case in different courts and they all come to the same conclusion … that this case must be kept “black”, I would tend to give them the benefit of the doubt. In other words, we have the loss of one life here. Could revealing more about what happened cost even more lives?

I don’t know what this is about, but I do know that from time to time there ARE cases and people that are very sensitive and in order to save more lives, sometimes drastic measures must be taken. I’m not saying that I know this is such a case, but they went to more trouble and expense in this case for one single person than would indicate some government agency gone rogue. I would feel comfortable not wanting to know anything more about this case.

As for my own personal speculation, this smells to me like someone who did something they shouldn’t have done or did something without orders to do it that would have dramatic consequences if it were known. But in any case, I’m comfortable not knowing. I don’t need to know. Idle curiosity isn’t justification for exposing it and I don’t believe anyone has any inherent “right” to know.

    BannedbytheGuardian in reply to crosspatch. | February 14, 2013 at 6:03 am

    Crosshatch – unless you are Israeli or Australian it is not your call.

    It is between those two.

    You guys cry out for journalism & when you get it – you don’t like the results – you label them progressive. Haha Taxpayer funds used to uncloak their own government as well ! Well done..


      I was expressing a personal opinion which *is* my call, and my call alone. We aren’t talking about a prison with hundreds of prisoners held in secret, we are talking about one person. Israel does not appear to have a pattern of doing this. Several judges have heard information about this case and in each case have decided to keep it quiet. On the other hand, Israel has frequently released hundreds of prisoners at their own peril. There is no need for the public to have this information in my own personal opinion. As much as it might bother some to know that there are things they are not allowed to know, in the real world, that is how things must work in some cases.

      As for DEBKA, a little piece of information: I have not seen one case ever where a DEBKA “exclusive” has turned out to be factual. Not one. Ever. I wouldn’t use them as an information source any more than I would use Weekly World News. Many of their reports seem to be fabricated by the person at the keyboard.

It is possible that Ben Alon/Allen/Zygler broke badly under the strain of his work…that he was unable to maintain self-control and silence… or as the movies say, went rogue.

The secured isolated cell might have been the most merciful thing possible under the circumstances.

Because Israel does not treat prisoners, (or women and children) like Islam does and has been willing to make compromises and consessions for the sake of peace (when I would not have done so), I’m willing to trust them on this.

My understanding is that there was a lot wrong with this report. Apparently the prisoner was allowed access to a lawyer and Australia was informed both of his detention and his death in a timely manner.

Given that these facts were wrong in the report it is hard to know how much of the rest of it to take seriously. Blood libels against Israel are hardly a rare occurrence.

    BannedbytheGuardian in reply to Voluble. | February 14, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    Blood Libel against Israel.? This man’s life is at least as important as Gilad Shalit who was traded for 1000 prisoners.

    But now that he is dead ,Israel can be much safer ?