Identities stolen by a spying agency?

18 February 2010

The relations between the UK and Isreal are being tested and deteriorating, after it is widely assumed that the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence services, stole and used British citizens’ identities to create fake passports in an operation to assassinate a certain Mr Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. For an agency with a fearsome reputation, the speed with which these fakeries came to light, and the repercussions of the revelation must be quite worrying. It looks like a sloppy job, with too many loose ends, and a diplomatic nightmare to follow. Naturally the Mossad, or any other intelligence agency in its position, would not publicly comment on its operations. But this is ammunition for the conspiracy theorists to spawn more intricate and darker fantasies, and leaves many others with a terrible sense of unease and uncertainty.

The news reports have done damage to everyone concerned. To Dubai, already suffering from the economic hardship, this is another piece of unwelcome news. Whatever activity Mr al-Mabhouh was engaged in, it looks bad when someone is murdered in a plush hotel. Israel potentially has much to lose, especially in good-will from Britain and other countries. If, as is assumed, the Mossad had indeed manufactured and used fake passports, it reinforces the impression that the agency operates out of bounds. All intelligence services probably do, but they have to make their covers much deeper, so they wouldn’t be discovered so easily. Once out in the public, political and diplomatic fall-out is harder to contain. Britain is naturally worried that its reputation and its passports may now be deemed less credible. These covers were used, precisely because they had reasonable credibility. Now, some countries may be wary of letting people in, just because they hold UK passports. The same could be said for other European states whose passports were forged.

There is much in the Middle East that would be difficult to comprehend or approve. There must be a lot of struggles which we do not see or choose not to see, many of them dangerous and nefarious, between the agencies of Israel and various political and military groups in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and other states of the region.