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Mossad seeking fake NZ passports 4/04-Part 1
Posted by: Peace Patriot (IP Logged)
Date: April 26, 2004 01:30PM

Mossad seeking fake NZ passports 4/04-Part 1

Here's an unfolding news story from the NEW ZEALAND HERALD and WWW.SCOOP.CO.NZ about suspected Israeli spies who were just caught arranging fake NZ passports for unknown purposes. It's a fascinating read, given all the issues around the 9/11 passports and fake identities. Two of the current suspects are still at large. A photo of one of them is available (the likely passport recipient for whom the operation was set up, with the probably fake name of Zev William Barkan, and an American accent), and little is known (or has been disclosed) about the other one, who may still be in NZ. To follow, all the articles I could find on this (urls at the bottom of each article--see next post for additional articles):

New Zealand Herald - April 17, 2004

[Photo:] Eli Cara, who says he is a travel agent, has travelled to New Zealand 24 times since October 2000. Picture / Kenny Rodger



EXCLUSIVE - Two men believed by senior Government figures to be Israeli secret service agents have been arrested in Auckland trying to obtain a false New Zealand passport.

The case has set off alarm bells that Mossad spies may be masquerading as harmless New Zealand travellers abroad.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said last night she would not comment while the case was before the court, but confirmed the Government had raised the matter directly with the Israeli Government.

"There will be a strong and public response to this matter once the court action has concluded," she told the Weekend Herald.

Officials, lawyers, police and Helen Clark's spokesman refused to confirm or deny the Mossad link.

The acting Israeli Ambassador, Orna Sagiv, last night refused to comment.

The case is the first known example of foreign agents appearing in a New Zealand court since the 1985 arrest of two French agents who blew up the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour, killing one crewmember.

It is understood the Israeli Government wanted the case kept out of the New Zealand court system, and this issue is likely to have been a point of diplomatic friction.

But the case has proceeded, indicating the Government has not bowed to pressure from Israel.

International security concerns are at an all-time high and New Zealand views the clandestine Israeli secret service activities here with grave concern.

Weekend Herald investigations into the case were stonewalled by New Zealand officials until the men appeared in the Auckland District Court yesterday.

Urie Zoshe Kelman, 30, and Eli Cara, 50, have denied three joint charges including attempting to obtain a New Zealand passport and participating in an organised crime group to obtain a false passport.

Details that emerged in court revealed two other men were involved.

Zev William Barkan, 37, has fled the country and authorities concede they would not know where to find him. A fourth man is believed to be here but police say the others refuse to identify him.

The group had been in and out of the country since last November. Cara, who says he is a Sydney-based travel agent, has travelled in and out 24 times since October 2000.

The court heard the visits since last year were allegedly for the purpose of obtaining a false New Zealand identity for one of the men.

They allegedly made a passport application using a birth certificate of a cerebral palsy sufferer who authorities say was an innocent victim of the scam.

After being tipped off by Internal Affairs, detectives mounted a surveillance operation on March 23, dispatching a package meant to resemble the passport and watching to see who would pick it up.

In the meantime, Cara and Kelman were allegedly carrying out their own surveillance of the package.

Cara was approached by police as he sat in a cafe across the road from one drop-off point. Kelman was arrested after he was seen walking away from another point, throwing a cellphone into bushes.

Kelman and Cara first appeared in court late last month. At yesterday's appearance their case was fast-tracked in highly unusual circumstances. They were committed for trial by consent of the defence, although they did not admit there was a prima facie case.

The men were granted bail by Judge Chris Field who imposed reporting and curfew conditions after rejecting police applications to keep them in custody because of flight risk.

Police were represented by Auckland-based prosecutor Fletcher Pilditch, though Wellington has taken a clear interest in the case and the office of the Solicitor-General, Terence Arnold, QC, has also been involved.

Outside court, Cara denied being a member of the Israeli secret service. Asked if there had been a misunderstanding, he said, "I think so."

As he left the building last night, Cara pulled the hood of his green coat over his head and put his sunglasses on. Kelman, who is a tall, slim man with freckles, short red hair and glasses, refused to answer questions.

During the morning he wore a mauve shirt and carried a plastic Hallensteins shopping bag. Later he had changed into a green T-shirt.

A person at Auckland's President Plaza hotel, where Cara has been staying, said he knew Cara and that he seemed to spend a lot of time in the gym. Kelman has been staying at the Kiwi Hotel in Queen St and the Duxton Hotel. He has Israeli and Canadian passports.

Internationally, there have been cases of Mossad agents being discovered trying to pass themselves off as nationals of neutral countries. In 1997, Mossad agents were caught using Canadian passports during a failed assassination attempt on an Islamic official in Jordan.

In 2000, a Mossad operative was handed a suspended sentence after being accused of espionage and repeated use of false identity documents in Switzerland.

New Zealand passports have become increasingly sought-after on the black market, not just for spies but for terrorists and drug couriers.

Four years ago, a member of an al Qaeda cell that plotted to bomb Los Angeles at the turn of the millennium was uncovered travelling on a stolen New Zealand passport.

It is understood the Government is concerned that revelations that Mossad agents may be using New Zealand travel documents could put New Zealanders at risk.

Helen Clark said last night: "The Government takes seriously any action which challenges the integrity of the New Zealand passport system."


* Mossad is Israel's foremost intelligence agency. It was formed in 1951 and is based in Tel Aviv, with the Hebrew name meaning institute.

* Once highly respected for its skill, the shadowy organisation has been plagued with a series of bungles, from botched assassination attempts to agents being caught using fake passports.

* One of its biggest coups was in 1960 when it found Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi who drove the "Jewish Solution" in Europe, then hiding in Argentina.

* But it has lost manpower in recent years and in 2000 it threw open its doors with its first public recruitment drive.

* A 2001 advertisement invited newcomers to become "a partner in the production of clandestine technology".

* Its latest spy chief, Me'ir Dagan, lost his mobile phone this year when his car was broken into in Tel Aviv in February. Mossad ordered the phone company to remotely erase the phone's memory.


New Zealand Herald - April 24, 2004

[Photo:] Uriel Kelman favours a mask, hooded sweatshirt and umbrella for his appearances at the police station. Picture / Kenny Rodger


Two men, two different ways of reporting to police on bail.

The two Israelis charged with passport offences were photographed in Auckland this week reporting to Auckland police as part of their bail conditions.

Both have been the subject of international media attention since last Saturday's Weekend Herald reported their arrest and court appearance. Jogging up Albert St in shorts, T-shirt and running shoes towards the police station on Thursday, Eli Cara appeared at the station at 9.30am, wearing a cap and sunglasses.

One-and-a-half hours later, Uriel Kelman arrived, wearing a mask, hooded sweatshirt and holding an umbrella over his face.

Kelman, 30, and Cara, 50, have been on bail since March 23 when police arrested them in connection with fraudulently trying to obtain a New Zealand passport.

Journalists have travelled from Australia in search of the men and at least one journalist is believed to have checked into their hotels in an attempt to find them.

Part of their bail conditions are that they do not associate with each other, that they reside at two Auckland City hotels and report daily to the Auckland City police station. Police said they were satisfied that both men where complying with their conditions of bail and that they had not as yet been changed.

A third man, Zev William Barkan, is also accused in relation to the matter, but police say he has left the country and they don't know where to find him.



New Zealand Herald - April 22, 2004

[Photo:] Eli Cara is jointly charged with passport-related offences. Picture / Kenny Rodger


By FRAN O'SULLIVAN, assistant editor

Documents produced at the Auckland District Court show an Israeli man who allegedly tried to obtain a false New Zealand passport previously came to this country on a Canadian passport.

Uri Kelman - facing joint charges with fellow Israeli Eli Cara - entered New Zealand this year on his Israeli passport. But on a visit five years ago Kelman entered Auckland on his Canadian passport, leaving eight weeks later on a temporary replacement Canadian passport he had obtained in New Zealand.

Government officials probed the travel history of Cara and Kelman before their appearance in the Auckland District Court last Friday.

Senior Customs officer Thomas Mitchell used the service's computer system, known as Cusmod, to pin down their movements.

Police also probed the travel history of Israeli Zev Barkman, an alleged "third man" who applied for a New Zealand passport in the name of a cerebral palsy sufferer but left the country without being apprehended by police. Another so-far unidentified man, who police claim to be an accomplice, is understood to still be in New Zealand.

Each time someone leaves or enters New Zealand it is recorded in Cusmod with the person's name and date of birth, their passport number, arrival or departure date and the flight on which they arrive or depart.

Mr Mitchell's search found that Kelman arrived at Auckland International Airport on Qantas flight QF101 from Los Angeles on February 2, 1999, using his Canadian passport CA PC 038241.

On March 30, 1999, he left through Christchurch, flying to Melbourne on QF36 on Canadian passport CA PC 038241.

A police summary of facts presented to the court says the second passport was a temporary replacement obtained by Kelman while in New Zealand.

In two subsequent trips to New Zealand - including his most recent arrival from Sydney to Auckland on QF155 on March 7 - Kelman travelled on his Israeli passport Il6938675.

On November 11 last year Kelman arrived in Auckland by Cathay Pacific the same day as Mr Barkan - whom a police summary describes as a "colleague of Kelman", travelling on a US passport.

The next day, Kelman's fellow defendant, Eli Cara, arrived on his Israeli passport Il 10098226

The purpose of the three visiting New Zealand at the same time was still not known, the police summary said.

Mr Mitchell said the computer printout of Cara's movements showed he travelled to Auckland six more times from his Sydney location before his March arrest. The police summary of facts indicates Cara has travelled to New Zealand 24 times in all since October 2000 using two Israeli passports, Il 8662450, and Il10098226, a replacement.

Mr Barkan also travelled in and out of Auckland twice more before leaving on March 20 - three days before Cara and Kelman were arrested.

Cara and Kelman have pleaded not guilty to three joint charges laid by Auckland police:

* Participating in a criminal group knowing that it is an organised criminal group and that participation contributed to the occurence of criminal activity, namely obtaining a document, namely a false New Zealand passport.

* Participating in a criminal group knowing that it was an organised criminal group and was reckless as to whether participation may contribute to the occurence of criminal activity, namely obtaining a false NZ passport.

* With intent to obtain any property and without claim of right, attempting to obtain a document, namely a New Zealand passport, capable of being used for service.



New Zealand Herald - April 22, 2004


By FRAN O'SULLIVAN, assistant editor

Canadian authorities are looking into the Israeli passport case unfolding in Auckland.

In 1997, Israel gave Canada a solemn assurance it would ensure that Canadian passports would not be used for covert purposes. Two Mossad agents had been caught using fake Canadian passports during a failed assassination attempt on Khalid Mash-al - a top Hamas official - in Jordan during 1997.

Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Reynald Doiron said the Canadian authorities were aware of the allegations in New Zealand.

"They are investigating the information," he said. "It has to be properly, truly investigated by the competent authorities and the passport office plus the usual people in security and intelligence.

"Your people involved in that line of business don't comment on those cases - and our people don't comment either.

"But suffice to say the matter is properly investigated before any conclusion is drawn.

"All the facts have to be unearthed."

Canadian High Commissioner John Donaghy confirmed he had sent copies of the Herald's exclusive coverage to his bosses in Ottawa. Mr Donaghy has not sought separate discussions with Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff, or his officials: "I don't have any instructions to do that at this stage."

The US embassy declined any comment.

The 1997 revelation that Israeli spies had passed themselves off as Canadians during covert operations angered the Canadian Federal Government which feared the practice would prompt vigilante attacks against ordinary Canadians living or travelling on business in the Middle East.

The then Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy ordered David Berger, the Ambassador to Israel, to leave until Mossad promised to stop the practice.

Mr Berger did not return to Israel until after a letter was sent by Israeli Government officials who pledged to "undertake measures to ensure it never happens again".

Subsequent diplomatic incidents involving the alleged use by Israeli agents of fake Canadian passports have been played down by Ottawa.



New Zealand Herald - April 24, 2004 - 1.00pm



Long before George W. Bush declared his war on terrorism, Israel had begun its own. The advance guard in this never-ending battle against foes of the Jewish state lurk near the frontline, but many more are at work far behind enemy lines.

They are the agents of Mossad, Israel's foremost intelligence agency.

Since its inception in 1951, the agency has earned a formidable reputation as a key self-defence pillar of a state which has been almost permanently under siege.

When you think of Mossad, you think of daring missions and rescues. But you also think of assassinations of Israel's enemies.

One of its legend-building operations came during one of Israel's darkest hours - the massacre of Israeli athletes by the Palestinian terror group Black September at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Mossad assassination teams were set up on the orders of Israel's premier of the time, Golda Meir, and tasked to find and kill the people Israel believed were involved in organising the massacre. Within two years of the Munich attack eight of 11 people on the original hit list were assassinated.

But why would Mossad have any interest in New Zealand? This week, the Weekend Herald traced a former Mossad agent living in New Zealand who played a part in the counter-terrorist campaign.

He has lived half his life here, is a New Zealand citizen and holds a respected position in society.

He said he has not had any official role with the Israeli Government since moving to New Zealand.

But his contacts include Israeli Government officials.

The Weekend Herald met him twice last week. He spoke on condition he would not be identified.

He said his reason for coming to New Zealand was to change his life.

"I was fed up with all this bloodshed. I'd spent my life in that environment and I wanted something different."

He emigrated with the assistance of the New Zealand Government, which paid resettlement expenses because there was a skills shortage in the career in which he has since worked.

The Government, he believes, would be unaware of his background.

Mossad operations are well planned, he said, but luck is always a factor. "Sometimes luck kills you and sometimes it saves you."

And he noted that despite Mossad's history of daring "they **** up sometimes".

The former agent is convinced that Mossad's interest in New Zealand is likely to be limited to passports.

He has no doubts that if Mossad were interested in New Zealand passports they would prefer the real thing to a fake.

"They can fake them but here it is the real thing. You get a genuine New Zealand passport."

In the past, passports would be sought in the name of people who had died but with computerised records officials can easily check for death certificates. The next logical step was to find someone who was alive but never likely to travel.

Dr Jim Rolfe, a former New Zealand Army officer and defence analyst who lectures at the Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies in Honolulu, says he thought the era of intelligence agencies obtaining false documents in this way ended with the Cold War, during which Russia had a reputation for snaffling foreign passports.

Clearly, he says, it has not.

The value of a passport to an intelligence agent is the new identity it allows him to assume.

"With a New Zealand passport they can work in international organisations or NGOs in the Middle East as an unsuspected person.

"It's not necessarily that being a New Zealander makes you more trusted, it's just that you're not an Israeli."

Passports could also enable an agent to obtain other useful documents or identities.

"With a New Zealand passport, depending on the true owner's background, that might get you British permanent residency and you might then get an EU passport."

Dr Michael McKinley, an international relations and diplomacy expert at the Australian National University in Canberra, said the value of the New Zealand passport was its "inoffensiveness" - something of which the Wellington-born academic has had personal experience.

About three years ago, he was travelling to Portugal but was told he could not get on the plane with his Australian passport. But when he pulled out his New Zealand passport the problem vanished and he was allowed to board.

McKinley believed it would be prudent to assume that Mossad would have an interest in the Asia-Pacific region.

"Where there is a significant Muslim population which possesses within it a minority of people who are sympathetic to the aims of al Qaeda or Jemaah Islamiyah, or whoever, you will, I think, find Mossad takes an interest."

In Australia, with a large population of Muslims, a few of whom have been known to have fundamentalist sympathies, it would be natural for Mossad to watch closely.

He was not so sure about New Zealand, but said "New Zealand can be thought of as a place where you can hide away - a bit more, I suppose, than Sydney and Melbourne".

This was also known to terrorists, so Mossad could come to New Zealand to check individuals lying low.

Rolfe, too, believed Australia would be more interesting to Mossad than New Zealand. But obtaining a New Zealand passport would make the job of accessing Australia easier.

Rolfe says if a Mossad group was working in Australia, "some of them, no doubt, will be being serviced out of the Israeli Embassy. Some of them will be there as citizens of other countries. Some of them will be there as Australian citizens and some of them [may have been] intending to be there as New Zealand citizens".

The mix of citizenship would make it less easy for outsiders to figure out connections.

"A lot of what this kind of activity is, is throwing dust up in the air. You are trying to conceal all sorts of things, sometimes just for the sake of concealing them to confuse people who try and backtrack."

"Why do it simply when you can add a bit of external complexity so that if someone was trying to put things together they would see two separate operations rather than one?"

McKinley believed there would "almost certainly" be a declared Mossad staff member inside the Canberra embassy. As to who else was helping, it may never be known.

"Mossad, to the extent that public statements have ever been made by people who work for them, seems to rely a great deal on the indigenous Jewish population. That has been an open boast for some years."

The news website Scoop this week quoted sources as confirming that the strength of the organisation was how it relied on help from outsiders.

"Mossad is able to function on a low number of core [agents] due to a loyal Jewish community outside Israel. The loyalists are networked via a system of sayanim, or volunteer Jewish helpers," says Scoop.

"There are reportedly thousands of sayanim around the world. Their role will be specific to their professions: A loyalist in the travel industry could help Mossad obtain documents."

In this way, Mossad's work can be carried out in a low-key way, with the added bonus that its own agents are not put at risk.

As the former agent can attest, there is enough in their line of work that is risky enough.

He admits knowing personally members of the assassination squads set up to hunt the planners of the Munich massacre, and describes them as "the most remarkable people I have met in my life".

The operation was described by George Jonas in his book, Vengeance, an account which the former agent said is accurate. Jonas described the activities of one of the Mossad hit teams whose work led to the killing of eight on the Munich list.

In the process, two of its five members were killed, one after being lured with the prospect of sex by a freelance female assassin.

A second team shot dead an innocent waiter in Lillehammer, Norway, in July 1973, having mistaken him for Ali Hassan Salameh, regarded by Israel as the primary architect of the Munich massacre and Mossad's number one target.

Six of the Israeli hit team members were arrested, five were convicted for killing the waiter and sentenced to serve from two to five and a half years in prison.

All were released by the Norwegians within 22 months.

The killing of the waiter in Lillehammer is cited by the former agent as an example that agencies as sophisticated as Mossad do make mistakes.

He told the Weekend Herald he was pessimistic "for the first time in my life about the future for the Middle East.

The Road Map - much vaunted by the Bush Administration - did not discuss key issues such as the future of Jerusalem and defining boundaries and had been overwhelmed by tit-for-tat bombings and assassinations.

He said terrorist attacks had to be responded to with force but he acknowledged a cycle of violence usually resulted.

"They can't sit around a table anymore. They haven't even been able to finalise a framework to get to a starting point."

He cautioned against New Zealanders thinking the country's remoteness meant it wasn't touched by world events. September 11 had made New Zealand passports more valuable. New Zealand was a small, neutral country seen by the Arab world as sympathetic.

By contrast, the Israeli Government regarded the New Zealand Government as "anti-Israel", he said. That view would have been enhanced by Foreign Minister Phil Goff's meeting with Palestine Liberation Organisation leader Yasser Arafat last year.

McKinley believes the Australian and New Zealand Governments would be "pissed off" if Mossad had strayed into their patch, although Rolfe did not think the New Zealand intelligence agencies would be morally outraged.

More likely, says Rolfe, they would be thinking of what they could learn from the situation.

"What can we learn in terms of our passport procedures? What can we learn about tradecraft generally? Did the Israelis do anything different from the Russians in the 1950s when New Zealand passports were acquired?"



New Zealand Herald - April 20, 2004



Police made a public appeal on national television for a suspected Mossad spy two days after Israelis were arrested for allegedly trying to fraudulently obtain a New Zealand passport.

Zev William Barkan, 37, appeared on the reality programme Police Ten 7 last month as being wanted for fraudulently obtaining a New Zealand passport.

The photo of Barkan used on the programme was the one he submitted for an urgent passport last month in the name of a wheelchair-bound cerebral palsy sufferer, "Mr A", who has name suppression.

But the police now believe the missing man has left the country and admit they do not know where to find him.

Barkan had been in and out of the country since November on a US passport and court documents reveal that he flatted for several weeks with a woman in Sandringham, stayed with a couple in Mt Eden and told people he was here to go on a sailing course.

While in New Zealand he saw a doctor.

People he stayed with called him Jay. They said he returned late at night, always ate out and said his family had a doors and windows business where he lived in Washington DC.

His most recent trip began last month when he began urgently arranging a passport.

The talkative and friendly Barkan used the name of "Mr A", told officials he was in a rush to get a New Zealand passport because he was about to get married and said that he had never travelled. His accent came from mixing with Canadians, he told an Internal Affairs staff member.

The two men allegedly caught up with Barkan's activities are Uri Kelman, 30, and Eli Cara, 50, who appeared in the Auckland District Court on passport fraud charges last week.

Contact had allegedly been made with the pair. It was believed instructions were given for them to ensure a New Zealand passport for Barkan was picked up after he left the country on March 20.

The pair were arrested after police set a trap on March 23.

Detective Sergeant Aaron Pascoe would not comment last night when asked what attempts police were still making to track Barkan.

But the case has set off warning bells for the New Zealand Cerebral Palsy Society, which is concerned people with disabilities will be a further target for such activity.

Chief executive Anne Murphy said it was obvious "Mr A" had been "highlighted" by those allegedly involved. He was a heavy internet user and one possibility was that his identity had been stolen by someone who knew of his status online.

Although he was aware of what was happening, she said, he was not interested in knowing about it.

"We want the message to get out that people with disabilities need to be careful over such personal things such as birth certificates and whether or not they have a passport."

Kelman and Cara have denied three charges, including attempting to obtain a New Zealand passport and participating in an organised crime group to obtain a passport.

The pair have been on bail for several weeks, and have been instructed by the courts to stay in two Auckland hotels.

Staff at both hotels said the men had checked out. Police said they were satisfied that the pair were complying with their bail conditions.

A fourth person is believed to be involved and is understood to be still in New Zealand.



New Zealand Herald - April 20, 2004



CANBERRA - The travel agency alleged Israeli spy Eli Cara claims to operate in Sydney does not exist - or if it does, it is operating illegally.

Cara, 50, and Urie Zoshe Kelman are on bail on charges of attempting to fraudulently obtain a New Zealand passport.

Cara, who rented a large home in Turramurra on Sydney's North Shore in 2001, told New Zealand authorities he was a travel agent.

Telephone calls to his home yesterday were accepted by a machine answering as "Eastward Bound", on which Cara also identifies himself.

No one returned the Herald's calls, although Cara is understood to be living in Sydney with his wife and several children.

Under New South Wales law all travel agents must be registered with the Department of Fair Trading.

No record of Eastward Bound could be found by the department yesterday.

Before they can operate as a registered business, travel agents must also belong to the Australia-wide Travel Compensation Fund.

The fund ensures agents have sufficient money behind them and requires compulsory annual renewal to be supported by audited financial statements. Neither Eli Cara nor Eastward Bound is listed at the fund.

Eastward Bound is not listed in Sydney's White or Yellow Pages, nor on other related databases.

Travel agents in Turramurra were also mystified yesterday by Cara and his alleged agency.

"I've never heard of it at all," said Kim Bourke of Turramurra Travel Associates. "It's not a name or a product I've ever come across, and we've been here for 15 years."

Chris Soupidis, of Blue Dolphin Travel, also said he had not heard of Cara or Eastward Bound. "I've never come across him," he said.


See next post for additional articles.

Mossad seeking fake NZ passports 4/04-Part 2
Posted by: Peace Patriot (IP Logged)
Date: April 26, 2004 01:36PM

Mossad seeking fake NZ passports 4/04-Part 2 (additional articles)

New Zealand Herald - April 19, 2004



Zev William Barkan is among four men officials think may be Israeli spies here as part of a New Zealand-passport conspiracy.

Authorities say he is missing, that he has left the country, and they admit they would not know where to find him.

But detailed descriptions of the mystery man and his stay in New Zealand were revealed during a depositions hearing in the Auckland District Court last week for defendants Uri Zoshe Kelman, 30, and Eli Cara, 50.

Barkan, 37, has been in and out of New Zealand since November, once staying at a Sandringham flat for a few weeks after answering a woman's advertisement for a flatmate. He has also been at a student home-stay.

People whom he stayed with said Barkan would get up early and return late at night, eating elsewhere.

They remember him using the first name "Jay". Others know him by the identity he allegedly stole from a wheelchair-bound cerebral palsy sufferer, who has name suppression.

He is a short, stockily built European man, with thick black hair and has an American accent.

One person said he was friendly and talkative.

He said he was from Washington DC, where he worked for a window and doors company. He had come here for a sailing course.

He allegedly tried to obtain a false passport during his latest trip to New Zealand, from March 3 to 20.

He opened a mailing address under the wheelchair-bound man's name, and also gave the name to a telephone message-answering service.

On March 12, he approached the company Travcour, asking for help to urgently get a passport. The rush was because he was getting married.

Eventually, staff at Travcour received a telephone call from police, who were investigating the case and set up a trap.

Barkan said he was out of town, and that a friend would pick up the passport from an Auckland apartment block.

Police began a surveillance operation, following Kelman and Cara. They arrested both men and eventually charged them with attempting to obtain a New Zealand passport and participating in an organised crime group to obtain a false passport.

Kelman and Cara deny knowing Barkan, but court documents showed they were in the country at the same time and that there was contact between them. A car he rented was allegedly found at Kelman's hotel, and he had the keys. At the time of their arrest both defendants received cellphone calls from an unidentified person with a foreign accent.

Both men refused to say anything about his identity.



New Zealand Herald - April 19, 2004

[Photo:] Eli Cara, one of two Israeli men charged with passport offences on Friday. Picture / Kenny Rodger


In an exclusive report on Saturday, the Herald revealed how an alert Internal Affairs officer questioning a strange accent of a passport applicant sparked a police sting operation in central Auckland, codenamed Operation Cloak, on March 23, resulting in two arrests.

The police picked up Eli Cara, whom they allege was watching the entrance to, and later entering, an apartment in St Paul St to which a passport was to be delivered. They also arrested a man, Uri Kelman, waiting at what was to be the next point in the passport'staxi journey in Union St.

When the police swooped on Cara and Kelman, Detective David Nimmo handled Cara and Detective Sergeant Aaron Pascoe interviewed Kelman. Both men, Israeli nationals, were taken to Auckland Central police station for interview. Here are excerpts from written depositions presented by police in the Auckland District Court:

Ground floor

Detective Nimmo: At 3.25pm we arrived at the ... station. I showed [Cara] to a ground-floor interview room. I told the defendant I appreciated his assistance and he told me: "I will help if I can". [He] was being very helpful and co-operative. He was undaunted and not at all disturbed by the fact the police were talking to him."

[Cara then confirms his identity, room at the Plaza President hotel and where he lives in Australia. ]

Detective Nimmo: How long have you been in New Zealand?

Cara: Since yesterday.

Nimmo: Your purpose here?

Cara: Business.

Nimmo: Who are you travelling with Eli?

Cara: Nobody.

A bit later, Nimmo says: Eli, we saw you hovering around the apartment on our arrival. You were standing outside, just checking out the street. We saw you then make your way to the cafe. You wait there and when the taxi driver arrived to uplift a pack you appeared out of the blue and accompanied the taxi driver into the apartment. What are you up to?

Cara: Nothing. I was having my lunch.

Detective Nimmo asks to see Cara's telephone contacts and asks about a call to a number in the directory listed as Moses.

Nimmo: Who's Moses?

Cara: He's the guy I'm trying to help in New Zealand.

Nimmo: Help, how?

Cara: Arrange a trip/itinerary.

[After a break, in which the detective confers with his colleague Pascoe, who has been interviewing Kelman upstairs, Nimmo returns to ask: ]

Who is Bart? Do you know a Bart?

Cara: No, who Bart, like Bart Simpson?

Nimmo: The number 021 2636 486 is Moses, it's in your phone. I called the number and a phone belonging to an Israeli upstairs started ringing.

Cara: I don't know, I never met him.

[Detective Nimmo then rings the cellphone number, could hear it ringing nearby and subsequently called Detective Sergeant Pascoe to see if Kelman's cellphone had been ringing. He is told that it had.]

Nimmo: Tell me why you have 021 263 6486 in your phone, Eli?

Cara: I got a call from him and I call him back.

Nimmo: He says he doesn't know you.

Cara: (Shrugs)

Nimmo: Why call you?

Cara: I don't know.

Nimmo: Big coincidence one Israeli accidentally calling another Israeli in Auckland.

Cara: He called me to help him out.

Nimmo: How would you help him?

Cara: Preparing his trip, I haven't yet. I've spoken to him a few times and told him I'd do it later.

Nimmo: But he says he's never heard of you.

Cara: (Shrugs) He knows my first name.

Nimmo: Eli, I've told him your details and he's never heard of you.

Cara: (Shrugs)

[They then talk about the police and Cara both watching the apartment in St Paul St and both having entered it when the taxi driver arrived].

Nimmo: The taxi driver then left the apartment and with the package went to another inner-city location as instructed.

Cara: All right.

Nimmo: At the new location police located another man. Have you ever heard of Uri Kelman.

Cara: No.

Nimmo: As the taxi driver approached he called Mr Kelman's cellphone number.

Cara: Yeah.

Nimmo: Mr Kelman saw police and ran away.

Cara: (Pulls a face and nods)

Nimmo: Ironically, like you, Mr Kelman is also Israeli.

Cara: (Pulls a face)

Nimmo: Why would Mr Kelman want to pick up this fraudulent New Zealand passport, any idea?

Cara: I don't know about him.

Nimmo: Well, that's odd because he has telephoned you like I have already told you.

Cara: (Shrugs) I spoke to a guy called Moses.

Nimmo: Who sent you up to St Paul Street, Eli?

Cara: Nobody.

Nimmo: What was your role in trying to obtain a New Zealand passport?

Cara: (Shrugs) Don't know what you're talking about - Nothing.

Nimmo: Can't be a coincidence that the two times during package delivery involve (sic) two Israelis - who've already spoken to eachother.

Cara: I don't know nothing.

Nimmo: Why do you and your friends want a New Zealand passport for?

Cara: (Shrugs)

[The detective then asks about a third man under investigation, who used a false name and was the subject of the actual NZ passport application, showing Cara a photo of that man.

[Nimmo's deposition then says: "I observed Cara look at the photo and say nothing. I observed Cara look again at the photo and swallow hard. He again looked at the photo, then looked me, where he replied: 'I don't know'." ]

Nimmo: You do know him, you just choked when I showed you the photo. Who is he?

Cara: I don't know.

At 6. 40pm, Cara is told he is to be charged with attempting to obtain a New Zealand passport.

[The photo which was shown to Cara had been supplied by Customs from footage taken at Auckland International Airport on March 3 of a man giving his name as Zev William Barkan. This matched the NZ photo in the passport application.

[Meanwhile, upstairs

[Detective Sergeant Pascoe is in a fifth-floor interview room with Kelman. Before arriving at the station Kelman denied any knowledge of the taxi or a parcel. But at the start of the interview he said he did know of the taxi and that he had arranged it to drop off the package, after being asked by a man named Bart, whom he had met twice.

[Kelman is showed Cara's photograph from one of two Israeli passports Cara had been carrying, but Kelman denies knowing him.

[An attempt is made to contact the Israeli consulate, without success].

Pascoe: Why did you walk away [as the taxi approached]?

Kelman: I had something in the back of my mind, saw a police car, thought something wrong. I had only known this person for two days.

[At 4.48pm Kelman's cellphone rings, but Pascoe does not let him answer it.

[Moments later Detective Nimmo calls his colleague to ask if Kelman's cellphone had just rung].

Pascoe: Do you understand your rights?

Kelman: Yes, but I would like to ring my consulate.

Pascoe: We have tried the consulate in Wellington and they are closed. The answer phone is on and the message box is full.

Kelman: Can we try the Canberra Embassy?

[An attempt is made, also unsuccessful.]

Pascoe: Why did you arrange for the taxi to pick up a package from St Paul St?

Kelman: Because that is what Bart asked me to do.

Pascoe: Who is Bart?

Kelman: An American guy, my height, short yellow hair, possibly dyed - lots of gel.

Pascoe: Where did you meet him?

Kelman: An Irish pub downtown.

Pascoe: Do you have his phone number?

Kelman: No, I don't.

Pascoe: Does he have your phone number?

Kelman: Yes, I gave it to him. He said he was here for the last two months.

[They then discuss where Kelman and Bart had met.]

Pascoe: What did he say about you arranging the taxi?

Kelman: He said he needs a favour, he said I want to meet you at 3pm at First Choice Rental Cars. He asked if I could call a taxi company and get them to get tickets from 4 St Paul St.

Pascoe: Why couldn't he do it?

Kelman: He said he was busy.

They discuss why Kelman left as the taxi arrived, and threw a cellphone into a bush.

Pascoe: What was wrong?

Kelman: I was feeling nervous about it. I thought it was stupid.

Pascoe: Why did you also throw away the cellphone?

Kelman: Because I did not want anything to do with this business.

Pascoe: What business, you are trying to say nothing bad was happening but you must have known, to react like that, you threw away your own cellphone.

Kelman: Something did not smell right. I was thinking I did not know Bart very well.

Pascoe: Another Israeli man was at the place where the taxi picked up the package. He has your phone number loaded into his phone. How do you explain that?

Kelman: I have no idea.

Pascoe: I believe you knew you were picking up a false passport and that is why you were hiding under the trees and took off when you saw police. Have you got an explanation for this?

Kelman: It's not true.

Pascoe: As you told the taxi to meet you at First Choice, why were you waiting 50 to 60m up the road?

Kelman: Because it was the only shaded place.

[At 6.41pm Kelman is told he is under arrest for attempting to dishonestly obtain a New Zealand passport.

[At 7.20pm the Israeli embassy in Canberra rang Detective Sergeant Pascoe's phone and Kelman and Cara spoke with its representative.]




Thursday, 22 April 2004, 10:58 am


In many Asian Capitals, New Zealand passports are keenly sought – the price for an entry-level forgery going for $500 USD.

A Scoop Asia-based contact suggests the lowest level market price for a New Zealand passport is $500 USD. This buys the clandestine traveler a “basic job” that entails changing the photograph from the original owner to the buyer’s image, a change of name, date of birth. Alternatively, the original passport owner’s name would remain with a simple photo-swap satisfying assured travel through Asia, Middle East and Pacific Islands.

The next level, would buy a very skilled forgery, using a stolen new generation NZ passport. This would cost the buyer around $1500 USD. While this level of passport would likely provide security for the dodgy traveler throughout many European countries, it would not be sophisticated enough to ensure travel in and out of New Zealand or Australia, or indeed the United States.

Another contact suggests, if a buyer, crook, or sub-government operative wants assurance that a passport would pass checks within the NZ system, he or she would need the real McCoy. Obtaining this level of passport attracts significant risks.

In days past, covert operatives, both criminal and sub-government, have used the old ruse: obtain a birth certificate of a deceased person, build a documentedidentity, driver’s license, passport, bank accounts, if required a tax record.

Today, internal affairs departments worldwide are wise to this method. To establish a sound legend in this information-age requires a higher degree of research. But this, and again, attracts increased risk.

To obtain a new identity that’s hard for authorities to crack requires documents built around a living person – preferably one who cannot or could not travel abroad. A perfect living example would be an intellectually disabled person or quadriplegic.

Scenarios abound since reports surfaced that Zev Barkan remains wanted by New Zealand Police for allegedly attempting to illegally obtain a New Zealand passport.

Zev William Barkan (37), possibly a false name, also answers to the name Jay, was staying at a flat in Sandringham, Auckland City. New Zealand authorities believe he has left New Zealand.

Barkan is a short, solid built, Caucasian male, has thick black hair, an American accent, said he was from Washington DC, worked for a windows and doors company, and was in New Zealand to do a sailing course. Barkan was last known to be in New Zealand March 3 to 20.

Police allege that on March 12, Barkan approached Travcour (Auckland company which specialises in obtaining visas and travel documents) to arrange a passport in the name of a New Zealand cerebral palsy sufferer. Police say Barkan opened a mailing address in the quadriplegic New Zealander’s name, a phone answering service was set up, also in the New Zealander’s name (name suppressed by Auckland District Court).

Barkan allegedly visited a Lynfield General Practitioner, Howard Way, with a “minor ailment” –the doctor was asked to witness a passport application, also in the name of the New Zealand quadriplegic’s name – the doctor signed as a witness to the document.

One Scoop source says this aspect of Operation Cloak suggests an air of sophistication. Why would a group go to such lengths to obtain a New Zealand passport? One scenario, another source says, would suggest an operation specific to the Australasian region: “That's very interesting, the person using it needing to be able to get in and out of NZ through the front door.”

But surely, an agency such as Mossad could print its own passports?

“Mossad could conceivably have a batch (of passports) printed in Israel using itsGovernment’s printers but this poses a problem. Mossad does not employ printers full time and they would have to be seconded from the mint.”

Such a link would expose Mossad to potential scrutiny.

“My take on this case,” the Scoop contact says, “is that these guys would be trying to develop a strong legend for the NZ passport user.”


Enter The Mossad?

Mossad insiders, now on the outside, say the Mossad has just 30 to 37 case officers called katsas operating at any one time. The Mossad is able to function on a low number of core katsas due to a loyal Jewish community outside Israel. The loyalists are networked via a system of sayanim, or volunteer Jewish helpers.

Sayanim loyalists are usually Jewish, live outside of Israel, and are often recruited via Israeli relatives.

There are reportedly thousands of sayanim around the world. Their role will be specific to their professions: A loyalist in the travel industry could help Mossad obtain documents.

Sayanim offer practical support, are never put at risk, and are certainly not privy to classified information. A sayan in the tenancy business would find accommodation, financiers, doctors, civil servants, care-givers employed caring for the severely disabled… all have a part to play without knowing the complete or bigger picture, and will remain silent due to loyalty to the cause.

Katsas in charge of active sayanim will visit once every three months involving both face-to-face meetings and numerous telephone conversations.

“The system allows the Mossad to work with a skeleton staff. That's why, for example, a KGB station would employ about 100 people, while a comparable Mossad station would need only six or seven.”

Many covert activities - mainly in New York and Washington belong to a special division of the Mossad called simply Al, Hebrew for "above" or "on top."


More Questions Than Answers

Were the men arrested in Auckland Sayanim? Was Mossad hovering in a centralised position, keeping itself at arm’s length, operating like a cell to procure the passport? If Cara and Kelman were Sayanim, would they know what the whole picture was? Has a Mossad katsas co-ordinated a semi-underworld group to acquire a clean passport for an operative whose current identities have been ‘dirtied’? This is all supposition. If considered, would it explain the 'cannot be Mossad because of the pick-up bungle' argument?

Examining the alleged operation, it appears the sophisticated part, and arguably most significant, is that the group allegedly researched and targeted a quadriplegic to steal his true identity to provide a secure ‘legend’ for Zev William Barkan. The New Zealander, who almost had his identity stolen from him, is a severely disabled man who would have little chance of ever travelling abroad. Considering the alleged operation, the choice of true identity, as opposed to the picking a dead birth-certificate, would suggest significantly more research, and attract significant risk. Why was this so necessary, so important? Sources suggest this aspect of Operation Cloak is the most disturbing.

Was Barkan the important figure that a legend was being developed for? If so, why was assured travel throughout Australasia essential to the operation? Sources suggest too, a motivation would be more to ensure assured travel into New Zealand as opposed to other nations.

Was the fourth person (believed to still be in New Zealand) a worker in a residential care home, a civil servant, or do they have some other way of obtaining information about people who are severely disabled and likely never to travel overseas?

Here’s a scenario – again it is mere supposition: Were Cara and Kelman simply document procurers whose job was to source and find identities? This considered, they work in with an informant (the fourth person). Then when someone needs a new identity for a mission (for example Barkan) Cara and Kelman set it up so the operative can fly into the country, lodge the application and leave the country soon afterward. Once the passport is issued, Cara and Kelman pick up the passport for the operative and forward it on.

Barkan, or the operative who needs the new identity, has it in his/her hot hands without being exposed too much. If things go wrong, they are nowhere to be found.

Watch this space…




Globe and Mail - September 6, 1999


--Intelligence sources say investigation incomplete because Ottawa did not want to upset Israel--

ANDREW MITROVICA - The Globe and Mail

Toronto -- The federal government has quietly closed the file on its investigation into allegations that Israel broke a 1997 promise to no longer use Canadian passports in covert operations.

The Israeli pledge, made after purloined Canadian passports were used in a failed assassination attempt on an Islamic official in Jordan, was allegedly broken later in 1997 when a Canadian living in Israel was approached by an organization thought to be a front for the Mossad -- Israel's secret service.

A Foreign Affairs official has confirmed that the investigation -- announced by Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy -- has ended with the conclusion there is insufficient evidence to prove that Israel broke its pledge.

But Canadian intelligence sources are denouncing the investigation as shoddy and incomplete. They say the probe was half-hearted because Canadian officials did not want to upset Israel.

"They [Canadian officials] got the answers they wanted from the Israelis and ended it right there. Some investigation," one intelligence official said.

The sources say Canadian officials did not thoroughly check out Israel's explanations about the Mossad's pursuit of Canadian passports. "It is a farce," said another intelligence source.

This is the second time Ottawa has investigated allegations the Mossad approached Leslie Lewis, a Canadian living in Israel, for his passport after Mr. Axworthy received iron-clad assurances from former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right, visiting Auschwitz) in late 1997 that the spy agency would no longer do so.

The pledge came after two Mossad agents were apprehended in Amman in September, 1997, carrying illegally obtained Canadian passports. They had just botched an assassination attempt on Kahlid Mashaal, a key member of Hamas, a militant Palestinian organization. A diplomatic dustup between Canada and Israel ensued, resulting in the brief recall of Canada's former ambassador to Israel, David Berger.

Last Monday, the Amman offices of Mr. Mashaal and several other prominent Hamas members were raided by Jordanian police. An arrest warrant for Mr. Mashaal, who was reportedly out of the country, has been issued by Jordanian authorities.

Valerie Noftle, a spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs in Ottawa, rejected suggestions that the new probe was incomplete or less than thorough. Canada, she said, is satisfied with Israeli assurances that Mossad agents were not involved in further attempts to secure Canadian passports.

"The Canadian government has accepted these assurances and has no basis, at this time, for doubting them," Ms. Noftle said in an interview.

The new probe was ordered last November by Mr. Axworthy after Mr. Lewis, a Hasidic Jew, said Israeli agents approached him to hand over his passport just weeks after Mr. Netanyahu's promise.

Mr. Lewis said he was contacted by agents with the Bureau of Immigration Affairs, which intelligence sources say is a Mossad front.

He also said bureau agents asked for permission to fly his daughter, Devora, to Canada where she would obtain a Canadian passport and then return to Israel to hand it over to agents. Mr. Lewis turned them down.

Mr. Lewis alerted officials with the Canadian embassy in Tel Aviv that Israel had a renewed thirst for Canadian passports. A senior Canadian diplomat visited him at home, took some notes and left.

Mr. Lewis, 56, is married with two children. A former accountant, he moved to Israel from Vancouver seven years ago.

He is no stranger to Israeli agents searching for Canadian passports.

Mr. Lewis was first approached in 1996 by Israeli officials, who told him they needed his expired Canadian passport to help free Jews from enemy states. Mr. Lewis obliged, and also gave them other pieces of identification, including his Canadian driver's licence.

However, when he became aware of the failed assassination attempt, he began to have second thoughts. He told Canadian officials, and was later given a new passport and told not to lend it to the Israelis again.

But Israeli agents were soon back at his doorstep looking for his new Canadian passport and he was back at the Canadian embassy telling diplomats all about it.

Last November, Mr. Axworthy acknowledged that Mr. Lewis contacted Canadian diplomats in Israel in late 1997, but officials concluded that his allegations could not be corroborated. Mr. Axworthy said the original probe was hampered because Mr. Lewis would not permit Canadian authorities to use his name in any inquiries with the Israeli government.

However, Mr. Lewis fully co-operated with Canadian officials during this second probe.

Ms. Noftle said Mr. Axworthy ordered his officials to reinterview Mr. Lewis and raise his allegations with Israeli officials earlier this year.

She said Mr. Lewis was "indefinite" about the dates and locations of the latest "alleged" approach by Israeli agents for his passport.

Israeli officials denied approaching Mr. Lewis for his passport and also denied the existence of the Bureau of Immigration Affairs, Ms. Noftle added.

Contacted by phone at his home in Jerusalem, Mr. Lewis declined to be interviewed.

Attempts to reach Israeli diplomats for reaction were unsuccessful. Last November, David bar Ilan, a spokesman for the Israeli government, denied breaking the passport promise to Canada and suggested that Mr. Lewis may have been approached by an imposter claiming to be a Mossad agent.


Mossad-fake NZ passports-Part 3-discussion
Posted by: Peace Patriot (IP Logged)
Date: April 26, 2004 01:56PM

For discussion, I'm posting the following: 1) A quote from Jacob Bronowski about how arrogance, dogmatic thinking and ignorance lead to mass murder; 2) A quote from David Ben Gurion on Israeli injustice to Palestinians; and 3) An article posted at that suggests possible Israeli complicity in 9/11. (The first two quotes are taken from an extensive commentors' discussion following the posting, at the web site.)

Caution: Some people get nuts around this issue (possible Mossad involvement in 9/11). I think there is good reason to investigate the issue, and I think it needs calm, fact-based discussion. I am neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Israel.


“There are two parts to the human dilemma. One is the belief that the end justifies the means. That push-button philosophy, that deliberate deafness to suffering, has become the monster in the war machine. The other is the betrayal of the human spirit; the assertion of dogma that closes the mind, and turns a nation, a civilisation, into a regiment of ghosts - obedient ghosts, or tortured ghosts. Look for yourself. This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance. When people believe they have absolute right, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. In the end the words were said best by Oliver Cromwell: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken” “.

--Jacob Bronowski - ‘The Ascent of Man.’


David Ben Gurion:

“Why should the Arabs make peace? If I were an Arab leader, I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we came here and stole their country. Why should they accept that?”

--David Ben Gurion, the founding Prime Minister of Israel, from “The Jewish Paradox: Personal Memory” by Nathan (Nahum) Goldman (New York: Grosset and Dunlop, 1978), former president and founder of the Jewish World Congress.

[Note: One poster challenged another poster on the above citation, so I Googled it and easily found: that Nathan=Nahum; that Nahum Goldman was indeed founder and president of the Jewish World Congress, wrote “The Jewish Paradox” (as cited, publisher, year), and early on dissented against ill treatment of the Palestinians.]


World-Crisis.Com: 11/5/03


Meil Mackay

There was ruin and terror in Manhattan, but, over the Hudson River in New Jersey, a handful of men were dancing. As the World Trade Centre burned and crumpled, the five men celebrated and filmed the worst atrocity ever committed on American soil as it played out before their eyes. Who do you think they were? Palestinians? Saudis? Iraqis, even? Al-Qaeda, surely? Wrong on all counts. They were Israelis – and at least two of them were Israeli intelligence agents, working for Mossad, the equivalent of MI6 or the CIA.

Their discovery and arrest that morning is a matter of indisputable fact. To those who have investigated just what the Israelis were up to that day, the case raises one dreadful possibility: that Israeli intelligence had been shadowing the al-Qaeda hijackers as they moved from the Middle East through Europe and into America where they trained as pilots and prepared to suicide-bomb the symbolic heart of the United States. And the motive? To bind America in blood and mutual suffering to the Israeli cause.

After the attacks on New York and Washington, the former Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was asked what the terrorist strikes would mean for USA-Israeli relations. He said: “It’s very good.” Then he corrected himself, adding: “Well, it’s not good, but it will generate immediate sympathy [for Israel from Americans].” If Israel’s closest ally felt the collective pain of mass civilian deaths at the hands of terrorists, then Israel would have an unbreakable bond with the world’s only hyperpower and an effective free hand in dealing with the Palestinian terrorists who had been murdering its innocent civilians as the second Intifada dragged on throughout 2001.

It’s not surprising that the New Jersey housewife who first spotted the five Israelis and their white van wants to preserve her anonymity. She’s insisted that she only be identified as Maria. A neighbour in her apartment building had called her just after the first strike on the Twin Towers. Maria grabbed a pair of binoculars and, like millions across the world, she watched the horror of the day unfold. As she gazed at the burning towers, she noticed a group of men kneeling on the roof of a white van in her parking lot. Here’s her recollection: “They seemed to be taking a movie. They were like happy, you know … they didn’t look shocked to me. I thought it was strange.”

Maria jotted down the van’s registration and called the police. The FBI was alerted and soon there was a state-wide all points bulletin put out for the apprehension of the van and its occupants. The cops traced the number, establishing that it belonged to a company called Urban Moving. Police Chief John Schmidig said: “We got an alert to be on the lookout for a white Chevrolet van with New Jersey registration and writing on the side. Three individuals were seen celebrating in Liberty State Park after the impact. They said three people were jumping up and down.”

By 4pm on the afternoon of September 11, the van was spotted near New Jersey’s Giants stadium. A squad car pulled it over and inside were five men in their 20s. They were hustled out of the car with guns levelled at their heads and handcuffed. In the car was $4700 in cash, a couple of foreign passports and a pair of box cutters – the concealed Stanley Knife-type blades used by the 19 hijackers who’d flown jetliners into the World Trade Centre and Pentagon just hours before. There were also fresh pictures of the men standing with the smouldering wreckage of the Twin Towers in the background. One image showed a hand flicking a lighter in front of the devastated buildings, like a fan at a pop concert.

The driver of the van then told the arresting officers: “We are Israeli. We are not your problem. Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are the problem.” His name was Sivan Kurzberg. The other four passengers were Kurzberg’s brother Paul, Yaron Shmuel, Oded Ellner and Omer Marmari. The men were dragged off to prison and transferred out of the custody of the FBI’s Criminal Division and into the hands of their Foreign Counterintelligence Section – the bureau’s anti-espionage squad.

A warrant was issued for a search of the Urban Moving premises in Weehawken in New Jersey. Boxes of papers and computers were removed. The FBI questioned the firm’s Israeli owner, Dominik Otto Suter, but when agents returned to re-interview him a few days later, he was gone. An employee of Urban Moving said his co-workers had laughed about the Manhattan attacks the day they happened. “I was in tears,” the man said. “These guys were joking and that bothered me. These guys were like, ‘Now America knows what we go through.’”

Vince Cannistraro, former chief of operations for counter-terrorism with the CIA, says the red flag went up among investigators when it was discovered that some of the Israelis’ names were found in a search of the national intelligence database. Cannistraro says many in the USA intelligence community believed that some of the Israelis were working for Mossad and there was speculation over whether Urban Moving had been “set up or exploited for the purpose of launching an intelligence operation against radical Islamists”. This makes it clear that there was no suggestion whatsoever from within American intelligence that the Israelis were colluding with the 9/11 hijackers – simply that the possibility remains that they knew the attacks were going to happen, but effectively did nothing to help stop them.

After the owner vanished, the offices of Urban Moving looked as if they’d been closed down in a big hurry. Mobile phones were littered about, the office phones were still connected and the property of at least a dozen clients were stacked up in the warehouse. The owner had cleared out his family home in New Jersey and returned to Israel.

Two weeks after their arrest, the Israelis were still in detention, held on immigration charges. Then a judge ruled that they should be deported. But the CIA scuppered the deal and the five remained in custody for another two months. Some went into solitary confinement, all underwent two polygraph tests and at least one underwent up to seven lie detector sessions before they were eventually deported at the end of November 2001. Paul Kurzberg refused to take a lie detector test for 10 weeks, but then failed it. His lawyer said he was reluctant to take the test as he had once worked for Israeli intelligence in another country.

Nevertheless, their lawyer, Ram Horvitz, dismissed the allegations as “stupid and ridiculous”. Yet USA government sources still maintained that the Israelis were collecting information on the fundraising activities of groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Mark Regev, of the Israeli embassy in Washington, would have none of that and he said the allegations were “simply false”. The men themselves claimed they’d read about the World Trade Centre attacks on the internet, couldn’t see it from their office and went to the parking lot for a better view. Their lawyers and the embassy say their ghoulish and sinister celebrations as the Twin Towers blazed and thousands died were due to youthful foolishness.
Would friends of the USA jump for joy at the murder of thousands of its citizens?

The respected New York Jewish newspaper, The Forward, reported in March 2002, however, that it had received a briefing on the case of the five Israelis from a USA official who was regularly updated by law enforcement agencies. This is what he told The Forward: “The assessment was that Urban Moving Systems was a front for the Mossad and operatives employed by it.” He added that “the conclusion of the FBI was that they were spying on local Arabs”, but the men were released because they “did not know anything about 9/11”.

Back in Israel, several of the men discussed what happened on an Israeli talk show. One of them made this remarkable comment: “The fact of the matter is we are coming from a country that experiences terror daily. Our purpose was to document the event.” But how can you document an event unless you know it is going to happen?

We are now deep in conspiracy theory territory. But there is more than a little circumstantial evidence to show that Mossad – whose motto is “By way of deception, thou shalt do war” – was spying on Arab extremists in the USA and may have known that September 11 was in the offing, yet decided to withhold vital information from their American counterparts which could have prevented the terror attacks.

Following September 11, 2001, more than 60 Israelis were taken into custody under the Patriot Act and immigration laws. One highly placed investigator told Carl Cameron of Fox News that there were “tie-ins” between the Israelis and September 11; the hint was clearly that they’d gathered intelligence on the planned attacks but kept it to themselves. The Fox News source refused to give details, saying: “Evidence linking these Israelis to 9/11 is classified. I cannot tell you about evidence that has been gathered. It’s classified information.” Fox News is not noted for its condemnation of Israel; it’s a ruggedly patriotic news channel owned by Rupert Murdoch and was President Bush’s main cheerleader in the war on terror and the invasion of Iraq.

Another group of around 140 Israelis were detained prior to September 11, 2001, in the USA as part of a widespread investigation into a suspected espionage ring run by Israel inside the USA. Government documents refer to the spy ring as an “organised intelligence-gathering operation” designed to “penetrate government facilities”. Most of those arrested had served in the Israeli armed forces – but military service is compulsory in Israel. Nevertheless, a number had an intelligence background.

The first glimmerings of an Israeli spying exercise in the USA came to light in spring 2001, when the FBI sent a warning to other federal agencies alerting them to be wary of visitors calling themselves “Israeli art students” and attempting to bypass security at federal buildings in order to sell paintings. A Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) report suggested the Israeli calls “may well be an organised intelligence-gathering activity”. Law enforcement documents say that the Israelis “targeted and penetrated military bases” as well as the DEA, FBI and dozens of government facilities, including secret offices and the unlisted private homes of law enforcement and intelligence personnel.

A number of Israelis questioned by the authorities said they were students from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, but Pnina Calpen, a spokeswoman for the Israeli school, did not recognise the names of any Israelis mentioned as studying there in the past 10 years. A federal report into the so-called art students said many had served in intelligence and electronic signal intercept units during their military service.

According to a 61-page report, drafted after an investigation by the DEA and the USA immigration service, the Israelis were organised into cells of four to six people. The significance of what the Israelis were doing didn’t emerge until after September 11, 2001, when a report by a French intelligence agency noted “according to the FBI, Arab terrorists and suspected terror cells lived in Phoenix, Arizona, as well as in Miami and Hollywood, Florida, from December 2000 to April 2001 in direct proximity to the Israeli spy cells”.

The report contended that Mossad agents were spying on Mohammed Atta and Marwan al-Shehi, two of leaders of the 9/11 hijack teams. The pair had settled in Hollywood, Florida, along with three other hijackers, after leaving Hamburg – where another Mossad team was operating close by.

Hollywood in Florida is a town of just 25,000 souls. The French intelligence report says the leader of the Mossad cell in Florida rented apartments “right near the apartment of Atta and al-Shehi”. More than a third of the Israeli “art students” claimed residence in Florida. Two other Israelis connected to the art ring showed up in Fort Lauderdale. At one time, eight of the hijackers lived just north of the town.

Put together, the facts do appear to indicate that Israel knew that 9/11, or at least a large-scale terror attack, was about to take place on American soil, but did nothing to warn the USA. But that’s not quite true. In August 2001, the Israelis handed over a list of terrorist suspects – on it were the names of four of the September 11 hijackers. Significantly, however, the warning said the terrorists were planning an attack “outside the United States”.

The Israeli embassy in Washington has dismissed claims about the spying ring as “simply untrue”. The same denials have been issued repeatedly by the five Israelis seen high-fiving each other as the World Trade Centre burned in front of them. Their lawyer, Ram Horwitz, insisted his clients were not intelligence officers. Irit Stoffer, the Israeli foreign minister, said the allegations were “completely untrue”. She said the men were arrested because of “visa violations”, adding: “The FBI investigated those cases because of 9/11.”

Jim Margolin, an FBI spokesman in New York, implied that the public would never know the truth, saying: “If we found evidence of unauthorised intelligence operations that would be classified material.” Yet, Israel has long been known, according to USA administration sources, for “conducting the most aggressive espionage operations against the USA of any USA ally”. Seventeen years ago, Jonathan Pollard, a civilian working for the American Navy, was jailed for life for passing secrets to Israel. At first, Israel claimed Pollard was part of a rogue operation, but the government later took responsibility for his work.

It has always been a long-accepted agreement among allies – such as Britain and America or America and Israel – that neither country will jail a “friendly spy” nor shame the allied country for espionage. Chip Berlet, a senior analyst at Boston’s Political Research Associates and an expert in intelligence, says: “It’s a backdoor agreement between allies that says that if one of your spies gets caught and didn’t do too much harm, he goes home. It goes on all the time. The official reason is always visa violation.”

What we are left with, then, is fact sullied by innuendo. Certainly, it seems, Israel was spying within the borders of the United States and it is equally certain that the targets were Islamic extremists probably linked to September 11. But did Israel know in advance that the Twin Towers would be hit and the world plunged into a war without end; a war which would give Israel the power to strike its enemies almost without limit? That’s a conspiracy theory too far, perhaps. But the unpleasant feeling that, in this age of spin and secrets, we do not know the full and unadulterated truth won’t go away. Maybe we can guess, but it’s for the history books to discover and decide.

Wednesday, November 5th, 2003 - 01:26pm GMT

Article courtesy of Scottish-based Herald Newspapers [no url provided]


[This article is followed by hotly argued and LENGTHY commenters’ discussion (with many posts) about Israel and Zionism, US policy on Israel/Palestine, and related topics, that is well worth wading through, to understand the passions and history that have led to war in the Middle East today.]

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