Israeli National Intelligence Agency
The Mossad is the national intelligence agency of Israel. It is one of the main entities in the Israeli Intelligence Community, along with Aman (military intelligence) and Shin Bet (internal security). Mossad is responsible for intelligence collection, covert operations, and counterterrorism. In contrast to the government and military, the goals, structure and powers of the Mossad are exempt from the constitutional laws of the State of Israel. However, its activity is subject to secret procedures that have never been published. Its director answers directly to the Prime Minister. Its counter-terrorist unit is known as Kidon.
The largest department of Mossad is Collections, tasked with many aspects of conducting espionage overseas. Employees in the Collections Department operate under a variety of covers, including diplomatic and unofficial. The Political Action and Liaison Department is responsible for working with allied foreign intelligence services, and nations that have no normal diplomatic relations with Israel. Additionally, Mossad has a Research Department, tasked with intelligence production, and a Technology Department concerned with the development of tools for Mossad activities.
Mossad was formed on December 13, 1949, as the Central Institute for Coordination at the recommendation of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion to Reuven Shiloah. Ben Gurion wanted a central body to coordinate and improve cooperation between the existing security services—the army's intelligence department (AMAN), the Internal Security Service (Shin Bet), and the foreign office's "political department". In March 1951, it was re-organized and made a part of the prime minister's office, reporting directly to the prime minister.
Divisions within Mossad
Metsada is a unit responsible for attacking the enemy. Metsada runs "small units of combatants" whose missions include "assassinations and sabotage".
The Kidon is a unit which belongs to the Caesarea department (one of Mossad's eight departments). It is described by Yaakov Katz as "an elite group of expert assassins who operate under the Caesarea branch of the espionage organization. Not much is known about this mysterious unit, details of which are some of the most closely guarded secrets in the Israeli intelligence community." It recruits from "former soldiers from the elite IDF special force units." This unit has been a part of Israel's policy of assassinations, a policy that Israel has used more than any other country in the West, with Ronen Bergman stating it has carried out at least 2,700 assassination missions.
Opinion - "Inspector Clouseau, Bond or the Terminator?" - Mystery is an asset.
It might not be particularly contentious to say that Mossad is the most revered and respected secret intelligence organisation in the world. In fact, amongst their peers and even adversaries, many would still say they are the best at what they do. Why that is, is open to debate. Here are some of our opinions.
Different intelligence organisation’s will have their own culture and therefore their own set of particular prime motivators that drive the philosophy of that organisation forward. Aside from the most common of these which is generally the protection of one’s own nation, its people at home and abroad and then its advancement, one would expect this to be underpinned by a unique identifier common to that nation. Normally this is borne out by its own history and circumstances that have led it to where it is today. In the case of what is now the state of Israel, there are few nations or race of people that will have suffered from the incalculable and constant injustices faced by the Jewish people. So much so, that the drive to protect must be underpinned to a large extent with a drive for accountability. Although some national intelligence organisations will be more co-operative that others, one can't help but feel that when a race of people have been betrayed by so many nations as the Jewish people have, then it would be understandable why the Mossad are far more insular, protectionist, or defensive about their activities even to their own State.
If we were to compare the motivators of those in other intelligence agencies such as the CIA, MI6, the FSB or the German BND, the Jewish people have a unique spot. It would be hard for example, to expect an MI6 operative to have the same burden or weight and personal appreciation of the historical injustices on their shoulders as a Mossad representative. MI6 was formed in the early 20th century and arguably has more of a military based fingerprint, as is the case with the CIA for example. Perceptions of what a Jewish person is, has changed significantly over recent decades largely due to their Military reputation and the significant global successes of Mossad. Prior to that, and especially pre-Munich, the image my well have been that of a more forgiving intellectual than a deadly assassin. That shift has altered perceptions and is a testament to how a people, not only the Jews, can gather and switch roles from being the hunted, to the hunter. The rather useful pairing of fear and respect has worked in their favour for sure, but the mystery and deep state clandestine nature of the organisation gives it even more of an advantage.
"The Talmud says, “If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first.” This instinct to take every measure, even the most aggressive, to defend the Jewish people is hardwired into Israel’s DNA. From the very beginning of Israel’s statehood in 1948, protecting the nation from harm has been the responsibility of its intelligence community and armed services." - R.Bergman¹
There has to come a point in time when, if your family is facing endless, inhumane, unjust, fierce oppression and slaughter, then a line has to be drawn in the sand....and it becomes overwhelming...enough is enough. People that choose not to fight are not cowardly, but brave in their own ways. Often it can simply be a matter of faith. However, the right to be able to choose not to fight and to still live a free life without persecution and in the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge, is one that has to be protected at all costs, bar none. Offering people in that position the gift of plausible deniability is a gift indeed. It also requires a certain level of humility and an acknowledgement of service to something far greater than the self...perhaps those who have fought and died in the past. In essence that is what MOSSAD and the independence it has, is able to give to the Jewish people. It takes on board a burden of responsibility to provide the majority with the freedom to not fight and to not be persecuted. This is all conjecture on our part and is a by-product of writing about an organisation such as the Mossad where the vacuum of secrecy is so airtight that people can literally only speculate. To echo what was quoted above, invariably, as humans, we like a good fireside story and no better a story concocted than one without the benefit of fact. Or, fiction is far more interesting than fact. Forgive the crude attempt a parallelism to underline the point. The upshot of this, is that although for sure there are many secret intelligence organisations that exist to defend those unable to defend themselves, arguably none more so in terms of scale can be compared to those of Jewish race.
It would be difficult but not impossible to compare the persecution of those people to those of other races in other nations. Certainly, mankind and the many barbaric fibres that make up a rich tapestry of oppression, injustice and prejudice, has many examples of the pain and suffering of minorities. However, few have been as long lasting and spanned as many centuries. That historical underpinning simply does not exist in the same way elsewhere. Patriotism or Nationalism as a driver is one thing, but the desire to survive and the desire to seek out accountability for extreme injustice can be far more powerful, especially when the two are combined. It is true that sometimes emotion and reflecting on injustice can cloud judgment and decision making, but not in the case of the Mossad. That rage and burning in the belly coupled with highly intelligent, well trained information gatherers who have quite literally "written the book" on foreign intelligence operations expertise, has led to Mossad being one of the most secretive of secretive organisations....and for good reason.
Who they are and how they are perceived are completely different things of course, and we suspect it is no different in the Israeli secret intelligence services as it is with many others i.e. there cannot simply be one 'type'. Reading and listening to various commentators in the know, also adds to the mystery because there are often minor contradictions. Take for example investigative journalist, and Israeli military expert, Ronen Bergman and his outstanding work carried out over nearly a decade including his book about the Mossad "Rise and Kill First". In an interview² to promote the book it was interesting to hear him on the one hand describe the lethal and deadly assasinations carried out over decades, and then to amusingly refer to the typical Mossad agent resembling Inspector Clouseau rather than James Bond. Again, perhaps an indication that this is not an organisation driven simply by blood thirsty revenge, but one that has the insight and intellect to stand back, understand weaknesses (previous leaders have made mistakes), remedy them, and lead proactive campaigns with precision, based on precise intelligence. One will hear the same said by heads of most intelligence agencies.... these guys just do it better, and our opinion is that it is because of history, time, and strong will. Bergman suggested in the interview that the reason is more down to the fact that the threats being faced in Israel and across the world are not just imminent, but "happening now". Clearly a component, although the weight of the past may be too heavy for it to be the main driver. So, the title of this paragraph was designed to capture the maybe rather obvious conclusion that the Mossad's mystery may be an asset, but the likelihood is that their composition is probably very similar to many other organisations in that they will come in all different shapes, sizes and backgrounds. However one cannot help think that although sometimes the ingredients of a dish might be the same, some just have a little more kick than others.