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Magic

Illusion and Espionage

At one point in By Way of Decepcion, former Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky writes, "We used to read a lot of magician's books."1 He describes a trick used to smuggle a document past customs: buy two copies of the same newspaper, and glue a section of one of the newspapers over the same section of the other, to form a pouch where the document can be stored. Other simple tricks were hiding places for documents in a home or apartment: the hollow tubes used for coat-hangers, or the inside of a hollow door.2

Tricks like those are just the beginning. Many of Mossad's operations involve elaborate illusions created to deceive individuals, groups, or other intelligence agencies. Techniques used by magicians are repeatedly and consciously used by Mossad: attention control, misdirection, gimmicks, staging, dissimulation (lying), and others.

This section describes particular operations, and the magician's techniques used to bring them to a successful conclusion.

1 Victor Ostrovsky and Claire Hoy, By Way of Deception (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990), 78
2 Ostrovsky, 78

D.G.

A description of a typical illusion - a magic box, in which people and objects appear and disappear - and the various ways the magician deceives his audience.

Mossad's reported use of a transmitter placed in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, in order to fool western intelligence agencies, was a modern version of a nineteenth century theatrical illusion called "Pepper's Ghost."

In September of 1997, a Mossad assassination team botched an attempt to murder Hamas leader Khaled Meshal with a device designed to spray poison into his body through the skin, thereby allowing the world to see a little bit further into the Israeli spy agency's bag of tricks.

In this sequence of illusions, the audience is a single person: an Iraqi nuclear scientist. The Mossad magicians were able to create an imaginary world for him - a world in which he would want to share military secrets with a group of industrialists, who were actually agents of Mossad.